Anniversary

Soundtrack

A little over a year ago, I found myself in hysterical tears on the steps of a church in Streeterville, Chicago.

It was a month into Spouse’s residency and I had never felt so alone in my life. I was in a new city, trying to figure out the basics and Spouse was married to the hospital. We had intended to go grocery shopping together, but as was so common, he was asleep before 8 PM and I was left to go it out alone.

Before leaving, before he fell asleep, I had expressed a need for some emotional reassurance, some closeness and words or actions of solidarity. He couldn’t give them to me. I know he wanted to. And that fact made it harder and more painful. So I got out the grocery cart, took it down the elevator and began the 15 minute walk to the store as he fell asleep and began to snore in our new, king sized bed.

While I walked, I called my big brother, J. J has always been there for me, fully and without judgment. This is when I fell apart. Somewhere en route I had to stop because I was crying so hard. I tucked up into the church steps, hoping darkness would conceal me a little bit on the busy streets. At least three people stopped to be sure I was OK. Including the doorman from across the street, who brought me tissues. I suppose being on a church’s steps made it seem like a very different kind of breakdown.

I thought of this tonight as I walked a similar route, this time headed back to the el after my weekly therapy session. You see, tomorrow is Spouse and my 5th wedding anniversary. Or, I guess it would be. Do you stop counting after you decide the marriage is over?

I cried, albeit not as hysterically as a year ago, all the way home. There is actually something really beautiful about walking around the city, listening to music, and crying. Now I’m sitting on my front porch, still teary eyes, but calmer.

When I tell people our marriage is over, they often ask if I will stay in Chicago. Outwardly, there is nothing keeping me here. I work remotely, after all. I could do my job from anywhere in the US and none of my family or closest friends are here.

But the truth is, I have built a life here. In only a short time and under relatively traumatic circumstances, I have grown into this city. I have an incredible roommate, a growing group of girlfriends and a kooky little dog. I have had more new experiences in the last year than I thought I even wanted. I have had tastes of love, companionship, friendship and great sex with men and women across the north side and am fostering the beginnings of more. I know how to live in this city. I can get around and enjoy myself and I know there are opportunities for me to do anything I want here. And I’m really proud of that.

Last year, our anniversary fell on the night before residency began. We got dressed up and ate at a nearby Italian joint, taking a moment to pause about getting here and what beginning this life would mean. At that moment, we still had a fair amount of blind hope, firm denial and the only thing still true this year: a lot of love for each other.

This is not how I expected to spend my fifth anniversary. But, it’s a lovely night. A warm wind is pulling my hair across my face and the tears are gently rolling now. Last year these tears were futile and frustrated, broken and tragic. This year, the tears are leading me somewhere.

 

Being a Unicorn: Adventures in Emotional Tourism

In the world of kink, Unicorn is a label prescribed to people, mostly women, who enjoy or even prefer being the third in a sexual or romantic endeavor with a hetero couple. We’re called unicorns because we’re hard to find and therefore very special. When I first began my sexual exploration, I may not have described myself this way. But now, I embrace the term fully.

I don’t think that it is my defining characteristic as a person, even if we’re speaking strictly sexually. But over the last few months I have been surprised at how much I loved being the third. I have had a half a dozen threesomes with different heterosexual committed couples and each experience has been unique and beautiful. For a few hours, you get to step inside someone else’s relationship. You feel the love they have for one another in a really safe way.

When I told Spouse about this – yes, I tell him about my sexual exploits and he loves hearing – he called it emotional tourism. And I think that’s right. You get to visit a relationship, feel and enjoy and be involved in their dynamic for a short time, but you don’t have to move there. You can even visit frequently, but it isn’t your home. For me, at this moment in my life, that has been really beautiful.

I have also been lucky in never having found myself in a situation where one partner had been more or less coerced into the experience. In all cases, each partner was invested in my involvement.

Sexually, it was a wild adventure. So many hands and bodies. It can be a bit overwhelming. One of the hottest things is when a the male part of a couple teaches me how to give his woman an orgasm. Because I have not been with women outside of these experiences, I have no idea what to do with a pussy. But, I can follow instructions! And it is wildly fulfilling to give someone that intense pleasure.

Participating in threesomes, especially the experiences with women, taught me something else about sex and pleasure: it’s not hard to be “good” at sex, all you have to do is care about giving pleasure to the other person. I don’t walk around thinking about sex with women the way I do with men, but I really enjoy pleasuring women in bed because I enjoy pleasing women and people in general. It’s like giving a gift.

Each couple I was with did a really good job at making me feel both wanted and safe. I knew that I could consent or withdraw consent at any idea. This is an important dynamic when it’s essentially 2 on 1. I think I also did a really good job giving both parties in each couple equal attention. I knew that if I was in a couple and we invited a third, I would hate for that person to give one of us more attention than the other, so I tried to stay cognizant of that. It’s pretty easy really, you can always have at least a hand or something on each person.

In each case, I was careful to have a pretty detailed conversation in advance about what each person found compelling in this situation. I wanted to know if one person wanted to watch the other with me, or if they had a specific thing in mind, or a specific thing they didn’t want to do. These conversations are awkward at first, but get easier and are ultimately extremely necessary to the success of a multi-person sexual experience, in my opinion.

The other aspect that made these past few threesomes more like tourism was that it was very clear that this was a sexual experience, we weren’t trying to date one another. So at the base of it all, it’s a true friends-with-benefits situation.

I’m not longer on the hunt for new threesomes, but I’ll stay open to the idea, and will absolutely repeat with some of the couples I’ve been with.

The End

I married Spouse with a sincere belief that we would grow old together, husband and wife. But alas, it isn’t true. Instead, we will grow old together as dear friends, confidants and one another’s constant champion. I imagine that will look differently over the years.

I refuse to see the end of our marriage as a failure. Quite the opposite, in fact.

At the beginning, we fell in love quickly, madly and without hesitation. We founded and ran an advocacy group in our conservative college town and community. We held hands and walked together away from a religion and culture we now condemn. We gave one another the confidence and bravery to be the truest versions ourselves.

The first night we kissed, he was about to drive me home for the night when he came around to my side of the car, opened the door and asked me to please get out. He said he couldn’t wait and he pulled me close to kiss me as the first snowfall of the season began around us. The first time we had sex, I cried. It wasn’t my first time, but it felt as though it was.

For months, I would lay naked in bed, watching him play guitar and sing Iron and Wine or Sufjan Stevens and he would pick me wildflowers on the way to my house each day in spring. We spent hours on his roof discussing philosophy, poetry and religion. We both felt fully seen for the first time in our lives.

We were married  barefoot in the foothills of the Wasatch mountains not 8 months after meeting. We wrote our own vows and my pastor grandmother officiated as we stood beneath an arch Spouse and brothers had built from found wood in the mountains.

We moved in together and out of state simultaneously after that. We were so poor we had to borrow $400 from his parents just to buy a bed. We laid on a pile of blankets in our living room for months, referring to it as our couch. That first year of marriage was bliss and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything. He built us a raised bed in the front yard and we adopted a dog together.

But then we began to grow up and through the things of life. Spouse embarked on the arduous and in my opinion, abusive, path of medical education while I held many jobs and finished my undergraduate degree. We supported one another the best we could. There was always love and respect and a good degree of emotional connection through these challenging years. But we were also growing into ourselves. And that means figuring out how we wanted to live and what kinds of things we could give and needed to get within a romantic relationship.

I don’t feel that I can pinpoint a moment where our marriage headed south, because it really didn’t. Part of our vows had a promise in it to hold the space for one another to grow and change as individuals and I feel proud to say that for the most part, we did do that. There is more to it than this, but I think it boils down to the fact that we just aren’t what one another’s needs anymore. Not in this way.

So even though I am palpably feeling the heart break of the end of our marriage these days, I find solace in the knowledge that a broken heart has cracks in through which more love can enter. And in the end, I still have my best friend and words cannot express how grateful I am for him.

Relief

We sat on my porch to discuss the disentanglement of our finances a few Sundays ago. It was just getting warm and he brought beer to ease us through a very annoying but important step we’d been intending to take for a while. We’d been discussing counseling a while. It was clear that although non monogamy seemed to be a good thing for me, it wasn’t solving the problems that existed in our relationship. So the conversation started there. Should we do counseling? What do we want out of that exactly?

Then sheepishly, Spouse said “I mean, maybe this is crazy, but what if we were just best friends?” I immediately began to cry. These were the words I’d said over and over to my therapist. What if this marriage that made so much sense at one time didn’t have to end in divorce and hate? What if we could transition into best friends? That’s the part of our relationship that always felt seamless. It’s the whole reason this separation and the last few years have been largely peaceful and always respectful.

I responded through my tears “that’s what I want to do too!”. He began crying too and saying “oh honey” in the most tender, loving voice. It’s the voice that soothed me when I worried I had said something dumb or wanted something dumb. It’s the voice that held me during many a panic attack, late night school work complaining and every other life hurdle Spouse has held me through.

I climbed onto his lap the way I always do after we’ve reconnected and we held one another on the porch for a long time, just sitting in the relief and love at the idea that our marriage the way it was is truly over, and that’s OK.

After a long while he said “you know what this makes me think? I want to hear about your boyfriends.” What a strange sentence to come out of my husband’s mouth. But it was the final piece to things. I could finally let him in on my whole self again, the way best friends do. It’s true that he may never meet another partner of mine and I will probably never discuss sex with him in that way. But, I spent the next 20 minutes debriefing him on the wild ride of the previous six months.

I gave him the basics of the important men. Barista, who he knows. We laughed cause he of course had picked up on the fact that we had probably dated. I told him about Storyteller and Filmmaker and Feathers. The most bizarre thing was that it actually felt normal and comfortable. I know that as we navigate going forward things will not always be this easy, but it felt nice to let my best friend in on my life completely.

Since then my world has opened. I spend some nights crying. I spend some nights with new loves. But I’m feeling it all.

 

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.

 

Female Friends

I’m on the plane back from four days in Southern California with my best friend from college, L. I haven’t felt this calm and confident and relaxed in I don’t know how long.

We each have different human needs to be met. We need to feel seen and heard, we need to feel desired, supported, encouraged and like someone is proud of us. I have found that these needs can be met in different ways by different things and people.

I’ve been told my whole life not to depend on other people for these things, I was told that I must be self-sufficient. I should be able to keep my confidence, health and happiness up all by myself, and only then could I truly begin to rely on others for some of them. But lately, I’ve been thinking that’s too simplistic. It implies that there is a beginning and an end to each portion of life and development.

I don’t buy it.

The most beautiful things come from opening oneself up to uncertainty and the possibility of being let down. Self-reliance is a part of this. Self-reliance is the knowledge that you can handle whatever comes your way. I have this. I do have confidence in my ability to sort it all out, no matter what.

But that’s largely because I know how to ask for help. The most nourishing and rich moments in my life have come from the truly frightening act of letting people around me know that I’m Not Okay. I choose to believe this is a strength, not a weakness.

There is all sorts of shame mixed up in a struggling marriage. It’s a very hard thing to admit is going on. It takes a tipping point of unhappiness and someone to confide in. L was the first person I admitted much of this stuff to. Once I said some of what I had been feeling out loud to L, I knew that it was real. It was in the world and she received it with such grace and understanding and love. No judgment, no hatred towards Spouse, just a genuine supportive attitude and willingness to listen.

The last few days were extremely healing. We laughed and lounged and talked about everything from men to careers to family of origin. You just can’t underestimate the power of a true female friendship. I am returning to Chicago in a really good place because of it.

Strong Woman

*originally published 12/1/16

Today, for the first time since I can remember, I felt that strong woman feeling. The feeling you get when you look great, you own your choices and your future and you *know* you’re going to be OK.

I had coffee with a dear friend who lives in another city yesterday and talking to her I just felt empowered. She is a badass and chasing her dreams and it reminded me that I could do the same. I could own my choices, my lifestyle, my sex life. I could choose it all. This friend is also an incredibly talented photographer, so she took my portrait and the results have had me riding high.

I had been telling myself a story about my life.  I had talked myself into settling. I had told myself that all the things that bothered me about my life and my marriage were just par for the course. But about a month ago something just snapped in me. Enough was enough. I was extremely unhappy and something had to change.

Well, things have changed. The way I feel about it changes day to day. But I’m on the up and up. I get to design my life. And I get to do it in red lipstick if I want to.

The happy people

I left North Carolina early. I wanted desperately to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law. But, they’re so happy. And all of the sudden I was this pathetic, unhappy person who couldn’t stand to be around this happy couple. Even though I genuinely want these two to have deep happiness. It was quite literally painful to be around. They are not even an obnoxious kind of couple. It was just so clear that they lived a life where they both cared for each other. They are a team. And it’s something I want so bad. I’ve been the mother and manager and caregiving for so long I had forgotten what true team work looked like.

After dinner with my brother and sister-in-law, I ducked out for an hours long nap. I couldn’t even be normal with the other guests. I wanted to be around them. But I couldn’t. I needed to be alone and sleep.

There is a lot of that going around now. I want to be alone and I want to sleep with only the occasional break to eat.. But I still have to work and care for S and maintain the appearance that I’m am handling this all so well..

Good thing I’ve recently acquired 2 pairs of black pants. It’s time to live that All Black Everything life,

Harder than I thought

Today was harder than I anticipated. Before the separation, I was looking at yet another Thanksgiving planned by me but a the whim of Spouse, who can barely get it together enough to learn what his work hours might be in advance. It would have been miserable. Our time together of late was disconnected and routine and devoid of much love are caring.

I didn’t miss him today, I didn’t even want to be with him. But he sent me photos and videos of S (our dog) at his family’s Thanksgiving. And somehow, it just made me angry. I was angry I wasn’t there. I was angry things got so fucked up that I didn’t want to be there. I got angry that I couldn’t be with my dog and that I don’t trust my husband. But just below the surface of anger is hurt and sadness and those quickly swept in.

I spent midday crying in the bathtub. How did this happen to us? Why did this happen to us?

I think there are a lot of reasons and we’re just now beginning to look at them. I Facetimed him after my bath. The conversation was actually useful. We both have a lot of pain, anger, and personal issues to sort through. Whether or not that will happen and we can reconcile, I’m not sure. But I feel calmer that we’re at least on the same page now.

It’s the right thing and navigating it for now is a day by day task. But today really really sucked.