In the vibrant city of New Orleans, our friendship blossomed during our time at the graduate school. Seven months into this companionship, our relationship took an unexpected turn when we engaged in intimacy. At that time, he was engaged to someone living in another state. Mardi Gras played witness to our mutual attraction, evolving into a clandestine affair fueled by shared beers and unbridled passion.
Navigating Complex Emotions
Our mutual attraction had been evident for some time. Before Thanksgiving, we had a delicate conversation near Pontchartrain Lake, addressing the delicate matter. I chose a humble approach, unable to interfere with his commitment. I made it clear that I held no moral qualms about infidelity; it was just a physical act. If he sought intimacy, I would willingly accept it.
I promptly communicated my stance on juggling emotions for two women simultaneously. He hesitated, glancing down at his shoes, admitting he might not handle such a situation well.
Wrong answer, I thought.
However, our attraction was so intense that we brushed aside potential issues. Unconcerned about his upcoming meeting with his fiancée the next day, we ignored the complications. I reiterated my willingness to understand and hoped he would agree. Instead, he insisted we
The Complexity of Consent
His choice of words, “We shouldn’t,” made our sexual relationship even more inevitable than “can’t” or “won’t.” A few days after our Mardi Gras encounter, he expressed no regrets but declared a one-time event. Over the next two years, we engaged in sporadic and clandestine intimate encounters, hidden from his fiancée. Each time, he would later inform me that we should not repeat it.
None of this meant anything to me. We enjoyed it—why the constant push and pull? I never anticipated he would leave his fiancée, but I hoped for some acknowledgment of reality.
Revisiting the Past
Five years have passed since our last encounter. I recently messaged him about a phone call. It was a Monday, and he mentioned visiting his unwell father, suggesting Friday for the call. I agreed, but Friday slipped his mind. Balancing work, travel, parental responsibilities, and a changing dynamic made him forget.
This scenario, common in all relationships, prompted me to ponder the difficulty of resolving conflicts with someone who doesn’t recognize their partner as an intricate personality. The lack of labels in our relationship doesn’t make navigating disputes any easier.
Unraveling the Layers
For me, all relationships are like dolls from childhood, with patterns etched within. The core remains the same, irrespective of the roles—be it owner, relative, friend, lover, spouse. If the foundation is solid, understanding how one can transition from one role to another becomes apparent. I ceased using clothes as labels to categorize my relationships.
When he forgot to call, he promptly apologized. When I explained my hurt feelings, he speculated that perhaps my dissatisfaction stemmed from what he offered not being enough for me.
This incident brought back memories of Pontchartrain Lake, reaffirming that anyone can, or at least should, consider the emotions of two individuals. So, I genuinely contemplated it.
Assessing Relationship Dynamics
Is it possible that their evaluation was correct in this matter? Is satisfaction a security that I do not allow myself to experience in living this way?
For most, marriage implies ending the current relationship before embarking on an intimate connection with a different person – a one-at-a-time rule. I’ve known him for three long-term partnerships. Had I waited until he had no other partner, we would have missed out on this relationship, 90% of TV jokes, and “Best Man” quotes. When we make each other laugh uproariously, the pride that usually accompanies it is absent. Or let’s debate a film, one disliked by one and liked by the other. Or gossip about people we recognize in the theater.
She has heard about my career, something I never share with anyone else. I’ve discussed her physical insecurities, assuring her successfully that she remains attractive. We advance each other in our creative ambitions. I send descriptions of celebrity encounters to her, and she fills my inbox with pictures of her children.
And we fight. I make sharp comments that sometimes border on cruelty. She doesn’t study enough. She procrastinates. I am critical and harsh. She is envious. In truth, we both are.
In other words, a regular relationship.
After contemplating her comment, I returned to where I usually reside. If I followed a more traditional relationship model, I’d neither be more nor less satisfied. Dolling her up might make things more comfortable occasionally, but that wouldn’t be right according to our experiences. And sometimes, we need to think about what we’re paying for to ensure it’s still working. Alright, I’m ready to pay that small price.
Since the experience of undergraduate relationships with them, I’ve not trusted marriage. It sent me down a path that has informed my life since. This means I never think about romantic relationships in an ambitious way. It means I get the opportunity to maintain my relationships with men and women for extended periods when sex dwindles, or as relationships ebb and flow in and out of romance. It means I get more than “just friends with a former lover”. It means the intimacy I share with others develops naturally.
I take pleasure in maintaining diverse relationships, as that is the reality for many, even if they lack the words to articulate their understanding. Many, bound by tradition, lack someone to question the centuries-old relationship model. As a relationship anarchist, it is my responsibility to reflect unconventional truths and challenge social norms. Initiating a conversation about relationship models deeply ingrained in our society may be difficult, but if we don’t start discussing it openly, it will never be easy.
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In various relationships, I am a non-monogamous woman. She and I are still life partners. It’s not at all how most people understand partners or life.