Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. What ever happened to that addage of "If at first you don't succeed try try again"?
In January of 2009 I met the most amazing man: intelligent, charming, attractive, affectionate, doting...beyond that, a sense of humor that strongly appealed to me, outstanding interpersonal and communication skills and amazing chemistry in bed. We met online (surprise surprise!) and from what I'd gleened he'd been and still was at the time a party boy. Honest sometimes to a fault, but after the end of his marriage, fully enjoyed all of the benefits of bachelorhood. Lots of women, zero commitment. When we met, I assumed he was at the point in his life he was ready to tone it down.
Imagine my surprise a little more than a month in when he explained he would like to try something akin to an 'open' relationship. Hmmm.. Intriguing. I've never been one to completely dismiss an idea without having experience with it. Since the end of my marriage, I suppose one could call me a serial monogomist. I recall giving him a challenge as well, "We'll see, I'll try it but I'm not sure you will be okay with everything" In some respects I was correct.
The connection and love between us was undeniable, but I think we were both fumbling around with our own definitions and with our own expectations of what it meant to be in something that was defined by two socially contradictory terms: "open"--which by popular definition means non-exclusive and casual + "relationship" which has a strong emotional component and implies commitment.
I have to say, the first 6 months were eye opening for both of us. We had some crazy good times under this umbrella of tolerance. But we were also adjusting. For me, there was the struggle to let go of my ingrained patterns of possessiveness, insecurity, and moral shakles so that I could possibly recieve the benefits of the freedom afforded me. I'm not necessarily UNattractive, so I had opportunities abound to explore within the freedoms of the relationship. For him, it was the struggle to realize there was now another vested person in his life that he must consider...after years of bachelorhood and unaccountability. It was no longer do whatever, whoever, however and wherever the mood strikes without consequences. I do believe he wasn't expecting to become so attached, to really care for someone--this was an adjustment.
After about 6 intense months filled with love ,joy, passion, excitement, warmth, frustration, passive agressive behaviors, jealousy, misunderstandings and miscommunications we called it quits. End-Round 1.
About two months later, enter Round 2. The reconciliation happened more out of the fact that we missed our emotional connection and knew...after about 4 decades on this earth, that we had finally met someone extra-ordinary. We spent some time discussing where we went wrong the first time, but not nearly enough. We abandoned the heavy conversations fairly early, just assuming the other undersood what the issues were. We re-entered again in an open situation, and very quickly picked up where we left off. Again met the unforgiving consequences of not aligning our expectations. Mistakes were made again...but this time, what became clear was that our ways of coping and communicating were ultimately sabataging. I engaged in some very passive agressive behavior...and he, naturally, shut down and became more self focused. Round 1 was about respect, Round 2 was about communication. Round 1 and Round 2 both had periods of absolute bliss...marred by occasional very intense downturns. It was a rollercoaster.
Again a break down and break up, and a period of respite from the insanity. Again a period of realizing there was just too much good to let go without a fight. We've since realized the importance of not only verbalizing, but writing down our agreements---a kind of rules of engagement in the 'open' relationship. Drawing on our experience floundering around about-- what has made us feel good and what has made us feel like rank fecal material. We all are socialized to many of the rules of engagement for monogomous relationships, they seem intuitive by the time we start actively exploring relationships. But 'open' relationships, are, as my other half termed it, like snowflakes. They are all very unique...custom fit so to speak. They MUST be explicit as they are less natural given our socialization. They MUST be followed--if not it is a BB fired at the fragile glass house of trust. Just as there is the implicit agreement of fidelity in monogomy, new rules customly crafted for both party's guidance must be adhered to. The ramifications of breaking agreements, implicit or explicit, monogomous or open, are great.
SO-here we go with Round 3. It has been a month since we parted ways and only in the last week or two have communicated with very intensely with the intent of reconciling once again. This time feels different. This time we are communicating more about what went wrong. Identifying the deeper source of the problems, getting into the nitty gritty. We are having to face and own up to our own parts, and try to figure out why...and how to avoid. We both acknowledge some work that needs to be done in ourselves. One thing is for sure, this experience has magnified and made clear to me areas of myself I really need to work on....no longer subtle speculation in a relationship post morteum.
We have FINALLY recognized the extreme importance of very expicitly stating what we are comfortable with, and very meticulously stating arrangements might work to mitigate threats to the relationship and ensure time and focus stay on our primary partner and relationship, to compromise so that both of us recieve our own life enhancing "rewarding social interactions" (as he's referred to it), to feel secure and important to the other, to support each other in the spirit of compersion, to break free of social dogma-defend-stand up for each other and be proud, and most of all, to enhance each others lives in ways others may never experience. Neither one of us are interested, at the moment ,in polyamory which involves outside emotional attachments. Our own comfort level mutually excludes emotional attachments. (A kind of emotional monogomy). But if we can get this down..our relationship may evolve to being very fluid...we may evolve towards a polyamorous bent..or we may completely close it off and become conventionally monogomous. The relationship may fluidly evolve from one end to the other. In a perfect world..practice remains to be seen. But the fact is, with honesty, appropriate communication styles, and not denying each other our feelings we may find our relationship more flexible then we think. The important thing is being together, being true partners and companions in what remains of our lives.
Only now have I done research and actually ordered literature identifying the ways to approach 'open' relationships, the challenges involved, how to overcome them. I wish I'd done this type of study sooner. From the experience of so many people 'we', my parnter and I, would have avoided so many growing pains only to get to the exact same point. Perhaps the experience is the only way to drive it in. Like the parent that preaches to the child sometimes it is all theory and lip service, but the child messes up anyway and learns the hard way. Hard Knox is a brutal neighborhood--you never forget it.
The love we have for our children is unfortunately the purest form of unconditional love. Friendships are also a close form, but all in all, our chosen relationships tend to be filled with many expectations--some very merited and necessary to keep from being taken advantage of--but some that inhibit a love state that is, forgiving, safe, unconditional and far more enduring.
Ultimately isn't that what all of us want? Why must we force and enforce it with expectations that tend to operate against us being human.
Stay tuned for Round 3.....