I've been thinking a lot lately about relationships. All of them, really, but mostly the romantic kind. I've been single since somewhere around August of 2014 and I've been so by choice after taking a good hard look at my pattern of serial monogamy so far in my adult life. Well, really since coming out as gay. My straight life didn't work because I wasn't straight. Go figure. But since coming out as gay and since my first girlfriend, I've been in a pattern of serial monogamy. One relationship after another with little time in between to recover or learn any sort of big lessons about myself. So this period of being single has been an incredible growth period for me all around.
I've learned so much about myself and who I am now as a person. I feel more solid and confident in myself than I ever have before. I've forgiven myself for the mistakes I've made in the past and feel like I've learned some really hard lessons from those mistakes. I am much more aware of myself, my thoughts and actions and so much more focused on being real and open with myself and those around me. Real, vulnerable and authentic.
I've also come to accept and embrace the introverted, autonomous part of myself and have finally come to realize that I'm not broken. I'm also at times an extrovert and have embraced that aspect of myself. Really, I'd like to discard the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” altogether because they are so very binary and black and white. I prefer the term a good friend of mine used just a few days ago during one of our conversations around this subject: ambivert. I am an ambivert. Depending on the day or the situation I move along the spectrum of introvert and extrovert. I'm very rarely all the way on one end or the other. Sometimes I recharge around people. Sometimes I recharge in solitude. Ambivert. I love it. I'm claiming it.
A lot of my life has been spent as an observer. I've always been curious about people in the world and how they relate to others. I've watched countless friends and family members move in and out of romantic relationships, as well as myself, of course. For me, each one brought its own lessons, its own gifts. I've learned along the way that I loved too intensely, I wasn't butch enough, I was the love of someone's life but something else was more important, I got lost in my partners (and their lives) and I wasn't real or honest enough with myself or my partners. All very true and valid lessons that I will always carry with me. Plus, the one common denominator in all of those relationships was me. Not that they all failed only because of me (some did yes, but not all) but I was the common denominator through all of them.
I've finally come to realize that, for me, monogamy feels like a whole lot of pressure. It feels heavy and it also feels completely unrealistic to me. We couple up with these expectations of marriage and a house and kids and the white picket fence or something else that society has built for us and pressure ourselves to constantly run after those goals, if you want to call them that. Not everyone wants those things, of course. But, we also seem to want to fit each other into these roles where we pretend like we're not attracted to anyone else on the planet but our partner. Or, we feel that we can't have a close, intimate bond with anyone but our partner because we're part of a couple. Or, we profess our undying love one moment and the next we've fallen out of love. I've seen it happen over and over and over and over again. Not only with the people I know and love but with me. Why have I tried so hard to make something that seems so unrealistic to me work? (I say “we” in a lot of this paragraph. That “we” meaning the people who this sort of stuff doesn't work for. It isn't a generalization about all humans.)
I am a human being who is constantly growing and changing. I was in that space where I wanted to find “the one” that I could marry and grow old with. Someone to be my everything and who wanted me to be their everything. But, now I find myself in this space where that feels completely illogical, unrealistic, unauthentic and, frankly, terrifying.
I've spent time these past couple of years either trying to figure out how I wanted a relationship to look or how to just completely stay out of them. When I thought about how I wanted it to look, what I wanted didn't seem like a possibility within a typical monogamous relationship. I don't want to be someone's everything. I want to be their something and I want to be special to them but not their everything. That absolutely terrifies me and feels like a ton of weight that I just am not interested in carrying. Also, I want to keep a sense of autonomy within a relationship. As in having our own bedrooms if we live together or I would also be perfectly happy not living together. I still want my tiny home, piece of property and dogs. Whether in a relationship or not they are what make me happy and they are important to me.
Even just in explaining those basic things one can see that I don't want a traditional monogamous relationship.
Up until just a few months ago I believed that I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of polyamorous relationships. They clashed with my idea of what love was. How could you 1) love more than one person at a time (in the sense that I knew love, aka “I give you my whole heart”) and 2) share those people with other people without feeling like they were taking something away from their relationship with you? But, as I've explored and read and chatted with friends who are experiencing or have experienced polyamory, I've learned that there are different ways of being poly. I also know that there isn't a set amount of love that we can share and feel. When done with respect, understanding, compassion, honesty and openness polyamory can be an amazingly loving experience where love grows.
I've also learned that there are others like me in the world who want to keep their autonomy within their relationships and don't want to be one person's everything and guess what? They have successful relationships. They're also very real about relationships being a temporary thing. Something we come together to experience, to make a connection, to learn and grow with and sometimes they end and it's not a bad or terrible thing. It just is. They recognize their own humanness and embrace and accept it. Some more fully than others, but still. They go into a relationship without the goal of coupling up, shacking up and struggling to live “happily every after”.
Of course, there are plenty of people in the world for whom monogamy works and lasts. I'm not saying that isn't true. What I am saying is that it's not true for me. Have I “given up” on the fairy tale? No. I just have a much more authentic to me realistic tale.
What's most exciting to me about this realization is that I went from feeling like I was completely shut down and walled off from love and romance to feeling completely open to the possibility of it happening again in my life. Of course, whether or not a relationship does happen again for me remains to be seen, but it feels so good to be open to it. My heart is open, I am confident in myself and who I am, and I am open to more growth and learning. It feels incredibly freeing and really fucking fantastic.
Also, if it doesn't happen, I'll still be happy with me. I have an amazing family and a couple of close friends who fill my life with so much love.