Consider some options to all or nothing when changes happen in a relationship. You have choices.
It happens to all of us. When we're least prepared, at times. I've been in a six- month relationship with D., which has been very satisfying. We talked back in December about his inner need to explore his sexuality with other women. That didn't make me feel too
good—it felt like I wasn't "enough." Still, I asked for a 2-month commitment to monogamy. He agreed, for which I am grateful. Well, the two months are over, and he knows that sexual exploration is still his need. He said he doesn't want our relationship to change. He's not "looking for a different girl friend," but needs to figure out and
internalize some nagging incompletes about his connection with women.
It's been very interesting watching my reactions. Since I knew in December there was a 50-50 chance he would make this decision, I wasn't caught off guard. It's always been easy for me to be reasonable, and to see both sides. So of course, I supported him in doing what he was clear he needed to do. He had been in two marriages the past 15
years, and wasn't ready to settle down. I feel a bit embarrassed to admit I probably didn't ask him back in September if he was looking for a committed relationship. Perhaps we talked about it, and I just hoped for the best. But now I was dealing with REALITY. We came home that February night, took a relaxing bath together, and we talked and I cried. He spent the night, and the next morning, to my surprise, I initiated lovemaking. It doesn't matter the reason. It DOES matter that I listened to what I was feeling, not to what I thought was appropriate under the circumstances. Since I've always been one who likes having and offering options, it wasn't surprising that I would do the unexpected.
A few crying times later that first week, I got a very sore throat. I took echinacea, Vitamin C, etc. and it left that night. I talked to friends to get some perspective. I could guess what Dr. Laura, or Ann Landers or Dan Savage might say, but I only really cared what felt good to me, after I had gotten some objective feedback. One of my friends, who believes I should not ASK others' opinions about personal matters, nonetheless said, "Moreah, he dumped you!"
Now it doesn't matter to me if you think I am foolish. But I don't feel dumped. I kept to myself much of that first week. I had been accustomed to spelling out love notes on his pager, and I certainly didn't feel like sending them now. I heard an inner vindictive voice
that said, "If he wants to keep our relationship as it is, let him make the effort." So I was withholding a couple times when I found myself wanting to contact him.
In the meantime, another friend asked, "What do you want?" He wasn't making a judgment about D's choice, but let me know I needed to take care of my needs, as D. was taking care of his. Then another man friend asked, "How does he treat you?" I liked that response also. D. has always treated me very well. I have felt respected, unconditionally accepted as I am, listened to, supported in my goals. The more I sat with "What do I want?" and "How does he treat me?", the more I realized there didn't have to be only one way to react to his decision.
So I chose to float downstream on this boat. A week after his choice, I was feeling unmotivated, uninspired, sorry for myself, wronged, and lonely. That morning, I placed personal ads in the Seattle Times and The Stranger, both free. Then, to my surprise, when we got together, I felt like things hadn't changed. I know he wants to see other women. I know I don't want to stay in a committed relationship with someone who is not committed to me. Still, we've gotten together a few times since the end of February. We ushered at ACT and saw Power Plays. We went to a class on Conversations with God.
To my surprise, when I wasn't in resistance to the change happening in our relationship, I felt okay about still spending time with him. The good thing that has come out of this is that we are still friends and still love each other. I don't know if he will act differently
toward me when he is seeing other women. Maybe I will be meeting other men through the ads by then. As I am writing this in mid-March, I am looking forward to new men less than I expected. I am awed over and over by how much I love this man, perhaps as
unconditionally as I have loved anyone. Over our six months, we have talked a lot, been silent together, danced, had picnics on my bedroom floor, supported each other's To Do goals.
We had perhaps the best week of our lives in October traveling through Vermont and the East, taking in fall colors. The second week I was sick, but I got to experience him as loving and helpful rather than frustrated.
One of the sadder things to me in all this was that he told me he had held back part of himself, "ten percent", so he'd be less likely to be hurt. I had gone through several weeks of ambivalence in November, wondering if we had enough together. I didn't have the intellectual challenge I wanted, but realized there were only about three people in my life who offered that probing, confrontive, in-yourface dialogue with me. When I figured that out, I made a commitment to who he was, not to who I wanted him to be. I had dived in, and was swimming into the deep, and now he was telling me he had stopped short of that. So yes, I did feel a bit cheated.
But one thing became very clear. I could be righteous and say, "Buzz off, buddy" or I could say, "What learning or meaning is there for me in all this?" It has been an ongoing lesson in honoring the truth of the moment, in going deep within to see what my heart says to me. What would I gain by pushing him out of my life? His caring words and actions toward me have not changed. If I am being naive, hurray for naivete. If I am rationalizing, thank goodness for rationalization. All I know is that D. is a very good man, that we still love each other, even though he needs to be free, and I want to be in a committed relationship. It doesn't have to be either-or for us to remain close friends.
I don't promise consistency to him, to myself, to anyone. It would be nice if I could count on my feelings and be disciplined enough to act consistently. But I'm not making that demand of myself or of D. Rather, I'm immersing myself into this experience of nojudgment, no-ultimatums. Who knows where it will take us? I think that having done co-counseling, where I can discharge my feelings, has made it much easier to stay in the boat as it goes back and forth between rough and calm stretches. If this "go with the moment" boat capsizes, I'll get wet. But I'll learn where the rocks are and where the
smooth water is. And the next trip down the river may be more harmonious because of what I learn now.
I even caught myself thinking of our changing relationship like I would about a trip in a foreign location. When the bus breaks down in Bali, or the sunset tour leads us to a rainy site, I don't say, "All foreign travel is a bust." Nor will I make any generalizations
about men or commitment. We both created this relationship, and I will keep my hands on the paddles until I get to a place where I want to drop anchor. For now, I am choosing to welcome whatever change this leads to. Rev. Rodney Romney once said, "My highest response to this moment is welcome." So, welcome, Change. Make yourself at home.
To explore some situation in your life around change or new goals, go to http://communicationcoaching.net/can_coaching_help.htm. You can also call me at 206-938-8385 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Moreah Vestan