The end is nearly as beautiful as the beginning.

It’s been six months since my spouse and I decided to separate. It’s been painful and good and sad and exciting and all kinds of other things. We finally came to a place we both feel good about. We are going to let the romantic and sexual part of our relationship go. We’ll continue to be best friends, co dog parents and in some ways, partners. We are both relieved and feel calm about this decision. I don’t regret one day of our marriage the way it was and I think I’ll always love him. Those of you who know Spouse can understand why. He’s truly a remarkable person and I feel lucky to have shared five years with him. We grew up together. Got each other through degrees and jobs and moves and truly breaking with our families of origin. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in all of that. And so even though we’re planning to stay legally married for the time being and there is some chance there will be romance or sex or love in that way again someday, this is very much the end of our marriage as it was.

I am happy to say I’m discovering and deepening female friendships, truly developing myself as an independent woman and enjoying some new romances. I am also able to enjoy Spouse again for the person that he is and not resent him for the partner that he couldn’t be. This decision has freed me to truly start looking for the love and partner(s) I need. But it’s also very emotional and sad.

I haven’t been writing much lately because it’s a lot to live. But tonight I found myself crying in bed and just really wanted to say these things to someone.

The Single Slut

pexels-photo-89820In the book Ethical Slut, a person without a primary partner is described as a single slut. This person may be seeing no one or may be seeing a few people, but they aren’t really committed to anyone in a deep way.

I had thought Spouse could be my primary partner. But I realized recently that I don’t actually feel that he is. Words like primary only have the meaning we put behind them and only matters insofar as they inspire action. The truth is, I don’t trust Spouse again yet and while I was fulfilling his needs in a primary partner, he was not fulfilling mine.

This became obvious when he forgot to wish me a happy birthday and couldn’t understand why that felt upsetting to me. I should be clear in saying that Spouse is not a jerk or an idiot. In fact, he’s very kind and very intelligent. But certain basic things that come to other people seem to elude him completely. I’ve often theorized that he exists somewhere on the spectrum, but who really knows.

But there was this moment when we finally talked about him forgetting that I realized: this man is not my primary partner. He’s a man I love, a man I grew up with, a man I hope will always be a part of my life. But he is not my person anymore. He cannot now and may never be able to be the kind of primary partner I need.

In the same week, Storyteller, who I had started to become quite close with ended things with me. I started seeing him before transitioning to nonmonogamy and so he really didn’t sign up for this. We both knew that eventually he would choose to be monogamous with someone else. I’m very sad that that day came. But I understand.

So that leaves me with a few things. There is Feathers, who already has a primary and who I wouldn’t want to couple in that way with in any case. Then there is Spouse, who I am disentangling myself more and more each time things like this happen. And then a few relationships that are sporadic and primarily sexual in nature.

And so, I am something of a single slut these days. And that’s a good thing. Losing Storyteller and in some ways, Spouse has made space in my life for whatever is next and I can’t wait to see what that is.

 

Dividing the books

Spouse and I decided it doesn’t make sense to live together in our old apartment again. For years we haven’t slept in the same bed anyway, one of us always ended up on the couch. He snores and we both have serious sleeping problems. We also have very different ideas about acceptable levels of cleanliness at home. And now, with non monogamy, it’s hard to imagine living together again. 

Anyway, it’s a decision we both feel good about. Our lease is up in August and depending on how things are we may move into a two bedroom and have separate bedrooms and hire a cleaner. Or, separate apartments in the same building. Or on the same block. Who knows. 

But, I won’t be moving back into the place we built together. So today, I went to go get the rest of my things. Not every last item.. and it isn’t time to divide furniture or anything. 

The process of packing the rest of my things up, alone, was sadder than I expected. Especially dividing our books. Spouse and I both love to read and own the books we love. 

I remember when Spouse and I moved in together after we got married, we had such a great time combining our books. We were so young and totally poor. In fact, we had a pile of blankets in the living room we referred to as our “couch” for months and we could not afford book shelves. So we sat on the wood floor in the sun from the big front window, categorizing and stacking our books, telling each other the signifance of many as we did. It is one of my most tender memories from the beginning of our marriage. 

So today, as I scanned our bookshelves in our fancy apartment downtown, I felt so sad to be dividing our collection. It was also hard to decide who kept what. Some were mine before but became favorites of his and vice versa. Some we bought one another and even harder, the books we bought together because we both wanted to read them and both ended up loving them. 

Even though this isn’t the end of our marriage, it is the end of our marriage in the way it had existed. I tried to remind myself of the months I spent crying myself to sleep out of pain and loneliness in that apartment. I tried to remind myself that this is the right choice for us both. I tried to remind myself that we are happier now. But it still hurt to separate those books and bring them to my new place. 

I also took some things from the walls. I had carefully constructed a collage above our king sized bed of pictures of us, our dogs, our families, our vows written out in beautiful calligraphy and framed, dried flowers from our wedding day, and some of our favorite art. I just took two small things from the collage because disturbing it too much felt wrong. Although our marriage wasn’t working, it also needn’t be destroyed. Just reworked. Which this collage will also need now. 

So I spent a lot of the day crying to sad music as I sorted. But. I finally feel fully moved into my new place. I’m glad I did that alone. I am truly on my own for the first time in my life. I still relied partially on my parents before I met Spouse and then when we got married I took on so much responsibility for our lives. So even though he’s still in my life, I don’t know that we’ll ever combine lives the way again. 

And so, dividing the books was emotional, but as I’m laying here in bed looking at my full collection of poetry, I feel calm. 

Intro: Martina J & the Relationship Escalator

Hi there. So far, you’ve been reading posts from the creator of this blog, Sasha X (or, SX) the 20-something Chicago-based female recently separated from her spouse and exploring non-monogamy. Today, we introduce a new character: me.

Let’s call me Martina J (or, MJ). I’m a friend of SX’s who lives in San Francisco. I’m also trying out non-monogamy for the first time.I am also a female, and also a twenty something. I’ll be using pseudonyms for the people I date, too. I have never been married, and all of my serious relationships have been monogamous. Yet I’ve been thinking about polyamory for the last three and a half years — or at least since that time I watched my friend’s eyes sparkle as she gave me the rundown on polyamory at my going away party, as I prepared to leave the East Coast for SF.

“Love isn’t finite!” she gushed.

I’m so thrilled SX invited me to contribute here. I started being serious about researching and practicing non-monogamy a few weeks ago. I had been dating someone I met on Tinder for 6 months. Let’s call him Designer.

Our relationship was mostly about chilling, watching TV (meh), and having sex. Really rough sex that was even sort of scary sometimes, but always safe and exciting. He was charismatic but it was clear he hadn’t met himself very deeply. He never really listened to me talk. So I was totally fine with this casual construction.

We never talked about our expectations or boundaries or goals with our relationship at all. So much went unspoken. I was pretty sure he didn’t want to be serious with me, but sometimes he would act like maybe he did. I was confused about what he wanted, but was sure I didn’t want something serious with him. He wasn’t right for me emotionally.

One night we were finally pushed to have The Conversation About How We See Us. Although neither of us was seeing anyone else, we were on the same page. We wanted it casual, open. Not trying to be serious with one another. Great. I was already going on a few other dates.

Then he got distant. Two weeks later, Designer called me up and said he didn’t want to see me anymore. He said he felt bad and guilty. He said he couldn’t get the nagging thought out of his head that we weren’t “going anywhere.” “What’s the point?” he asked. Yet he contradicted himself too, and also said he wasn’t even sure he even wanted a serious relationship! He was all over the place, and upset, and seemed quite mixed up inside. I felt badly for him. It ended up being an amicable separation.

I started reading into polyamory shortly after. I realized Designer was upset because we weren’t riding the “Relationship Escalator.” Here is how this site defines it:

Relationship Escalator: The default set of societal expectations for the proper conduct of intimate relationships. Progressive steps with clearly visible markers and a presumed structural goal of permanently monogamous (sexually and romantically exclusive), cohabitating [sic] marriage — legally sanctioned if possible. The social standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant, “serious,” good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing.

I was sort of blown away when I read this (seriously, read the whole page). Finally, language that describes why monogamous relationships have always ended up feeling like a cage to me!

I’m mostly Buddhist. I strive not to be too future-focused beyond practical life matters. I believe in the power of the present moment. So I was never upset that Designer and I weren’t “going anywhere.” I read this somewhere: If you’re having a casual fling that goes on for 3 years, who’s to say that isn’t a serious relationship, anyway? If you’re enjoying it and having fun, what’s the rub?

The relationship escalator is a personal choice, but also very, very heavily societally ingrained. It is the default social order. That’s why Designer became upset at our casual thing. He had different goals. He wants someone to ride the escalator with him. And that’s fine.

But once I had language for it, I immediately knew I wanted to eschew the relationship escalator. And I feel so peaceful. Like a weight, a burden I’ve been unknowingly carrying around for years, has been lifted.

I always knew marriage didn’t have to be a goal for me. Yet I admit I clung to marriage and at the very least, cohabiting, as potential milestones that would boost my self-worth and value. But I’ve let it go.

I don’t have to ride the relationship escalator anymore, or try to find someone to ride it with me. I can enjoy relationships for what they are, not hope and strive for more or try to mash things into boxes where they don’t fit. I can be free. I can just be.

– MJ

My first twinge of jealousy (i think?)

As I tell people (mostly just very close friends) about my decision to try non-monogamy, the first question or comment they usually have is about jealousy. It’s a huge thing that one must sort through and deal with in order to truly live like this with the least amount of damage to all involved.

Usually, the question is about Spouse: will I feel jealous if he starts dating? It’s hard to answer since it hasn’t happened. Right now, I think I’d be really happy for him. He needs to have some experiences, sexual and social, to figure himself out. But I don’t really know. Maybe I’d really fucking hate it. I guess we’ll see.

But over the last few days, I had a twinge of jealousy in another, very bizarre, place. With Filmmaker! You know, the married guy I went out with a few times and had a great time and then he and his spouse realized they rushed into opening up and needed to do a bit more prep.

Well, even though Chi-town is huge, a friend of a friend matched with him on Tinder and has been texting with him. We realized it because his job is so unique. But hearing that he was still chatting with another girl made me worried that the reason he wants to just be friends does not actually have to do with him and his wife, but is simply he doesn’t want to see me romantically. He hasn’t met up with this other person and whether or not he does is not actually of interest or importance to me, unless he felt he had to pin the change on his marriage when it was actually just me. I can handle either reason, but it makes me feel bad if he felt he couldn’t be straight with me.

Ugh. I hate that I even spent the time to write that paragraph. But alas, I had a feeling, and I needed to sort it. One thing everyone seems to advise in entering nonmonogamy is that feelings will come up that don’t logically make sense to you. You need to feel them and sort them or they’ll turn into nasty and disproportionate problems.

So here is what I have learned and am feeling about this unanticipated reaction:

  1. Whatever his true reasoning for changing his mind on what he wanted for our relationship, it isn’t really my business in this instance and I can respect it. We went out exactly two times. hahaha
  2. I am actually OK with just being friends. Like, I truly feel OK about that. I enjoy his presence beyond the physical and romantic aspects and feel I can glean some insight into Spouse and people in general by talking with him.
  3. I am not immune to jealousy but am able to sort through it.

Yikes. I promised  I would be honest on this blog. So there it is. I had a bizarre feeling that I didn’t like. But I feel better now just having admitted it. More on jealousy and insecurity soon.

 

 

Compartmentalizing Relationships is V. Tricky

It’s easy to get excited and see only the pros of a new idea or choice. I do think I’m approaching nonmonogamy in a pretty level headed way. But love and sex are not simple and I’m not coming from a super put together romantic place anyway, given that I’d been in a sexless, lonely marriage for a few years.

So when I met Filmmaker last week, I think I saw Spouse in him. Here was a married guy, about my age, who had decided with his wife, who he loves, to try this open thing. She had developed feelings for a coworker, just like I had developed feelings for Barista. She was feeling unsatisfied because Filmmaker works so much and often travels for weeks on end, just like I was feeling lonely with a spouse who works 90 weeks. And she brought up opening up, just like I did.

And the way Filmmaker had taken it in stride, just as Spouse has. It’s an attitude and willingness to learn and self-examine that I find attractive in all kinds of people.

Although I can never know the nuances and intricacies of filmmaker and his wife’s marriage, it felt so similar to my own. We saw each other for the second time and it became clear that Filmmaker had not fully prepared for and thought about this lifestyle and was having a hard time with it. He was at my place and his wife had her coworker over at theirs.

After a few minutes of fooling around, he went flacid and asked if we could talk a minute. He told me he was having a hard time because he realized his wife was probably doing the same thing and on some level, even though he intellectually didn’t feel that was a problem, he said he felt like “that should be us”. In that moment, it didn’t actually hurt my feelings. It’s clear to me that he finds me attractive and interesting and this was only our second meeting.

So we talked for another hour and I shared with him some of my experiences and things I’d learned from reading books like “The Ethical Slut” and blogs like morethantwo.com. It was pretty clear that they had had some of the crucial conversations, but not all. And, Filmmaker is just like Spouse in that he so prefers to “go with the flow”. So it’s possible he caught a bit caught up in it without preparing or fully considering things. It also became clear that he thought opening up was going to be pretty easy since it was what they both wanted. Ha! That one made me laugh out loud, and also made me think of Spouse. It’s the kind of dumb, cute, naive thing he would say, too.

We did end up fucking and that was nice. I finished myself with a toy, which apparently he had never had a woman do. The truth is, I’m just now getting confident enough with certain partners where I feel like I can be like “that was great, but I think I can cum, will you watch me and talk dirty to me while I do”. That isn’t something I would do with Spouse or any partner before him. But it’s wildly empowering and Filmmaker was all about it.

Anyway, we ended that encounter with sort of an understanding that he really had some work to do, but if he decided to continue on this path, we’d like to keep seeing each other. Well, in the days since he’s had a lot of ups and downs. But finally, he and his wife decided to slow things down, do some reading and thinking and feeling before continuing on this path.

I wish I could know how she was feelings, but I can’t. I wonder if she is thinking “get with the program dude” or like “you didn’t think to consider this more fully before saying ok?” or “but I really still want to pursue my coworker”. Or maybe they are truly in the kind of marriage that doesn’t have the amount of damage mine did when making this shift and so slowing down is actually mutually beneficial and more important that individual needs for now.

When he told me this yesterday, I was intellectually 100% fine with it. Even happy for him, because he’s doing it so intentionally. And, I had only seen him twice. But. He’s lovely and because he reminded me of Spouse so much, I got pretty invested too quickly. So, emotionally, it stung a bit.

Because I want to believe that this choice will be the solution to the issues in my marriage, even though I know that’s insane. And I’m trying to parse out the difference between the issues with my marriage and the issues/challenges with nonmonogamy in general and whether I can and should make either work. And that’s just gonna take time. And this experience sort of poked holes in the fantasy I have of how this is all gonna shake out.

Between that convo and coming down from the adrenaline of just having spoken publicly for my job, I had a bit of a breakdown. I walked back to my hotel and curled up in bed for a good, long cry. I really needed it. It was International Women’s Day and I wasn’t feeling particularly powerful. But then again, there is power in vulnerability and power in making choices for your own life.

There is also power in relying on your support network, so I proceeded to text G, J (my big brother), Storyteller and Feathers all with some variation on the theme and with varying details of “I’m having a rough day”. G and she sent me the most soothing, lovely texts and told me just to feel it. She encouraged me to order room service and watch a silly movie, which I did. J told me exactly what food I should order from the city I was in, ever the self soothing expert. I told Storyteller my heart hurt and he asked how it hurt and I said in the “I’m a failure and going to be alone forever” kind of way. I’m so dramatic. *eye role*. But alas, he sent me this lovely journal. I just asked Feathers for a meme, of which he seems to have an endless supply. He sent me several politically themed oddball ones that really made me laugh.

I have so much love in my life.

Filmmaker and I agreed to see if we could just become friends, which I feel very comfortable with. He is very interesting and nice to be around and because we’re both going through a similar experience, I think we’ll be invaluable resources for one another. No hard feelings towards him, and another layer off the onion of my feelings towards Spouse.

 

Uggghh

I feel like a little kid in the middle of a tantrum. I’m so frustrated and it’s so uncomfortable that I just want to whine about it. Not even copious television and junk food are soothing me. I just feel irritated and angry and like pouting.

I had a wonderful distraction in the form of a sweet boy. I had told Spouse I needed to date while we were separated and so I did. And it was nice. He was lovely; a friendship turned more. Exactly what I needed in order to remember some things that are important about me and to me. I am beyond grateful for this person. But now it’s over. And that’s good and right and honest, but it fucking sucks. He softened the blow of the pain of my separation and now I’m feeling the blow fully and it hurts.

And I’m alone.

I had felt alone in my marriage too, but at least then I had a story to tell myself. Now it’s just this. And me. And I don’t like it and I don’t want to do it. I want to run away from it. I want to sleep for five weeks, I want to numb it and ignore it and believe me, I’ve tried. But it isn’t working and it isn’t helping.

I am a petulant child and my inner-grown up seems to be forcing me towards a nap or vegetables.

I cry every day.

There are two iterations of a mantra that I keep thinking about:

1. The only way out is through.
2. If you’re going through hell, keep going.

I guess that’s all I can do.