Category Archives: Romance

What makes me feel cherished, loved, and secure?

Spending good quality time together. This is not time where we’re sitting on our computers, basically in separate worlds but next to one another, but time where we’re actively engaging with one another, either having a conversation or doing an activity together, or even just snuggled up in bed not talking. Feeling like quality time is a thing that my partner enjoys, craves, desires, wants as much as possible of.

Touch. Touch is so valuable to me. I feel most connected to a partner when we are in physical contact, even if it’s just holding hands while we’re driving somewhere. JJ makes it very clear how much pleasure he derives simply from having his hands on my body, even from things as non-sexual as my cheeks. Sexual touch brings this to another level, especially when combined with verbal affection. Sex can be an amazing expression of love, and cuddles are just as important.

Attention. I’m giving attention separate emphasis from quality time, because attention can be given from afar. Gchatting during the day while we’re at work, or even when we’re spending time with other people, counts as attention-giving, but not as quality time. Undivided attention is very important to me.  Listening to me, devoting your attention to me to the exclusion of everything else.

Affection. Saying we love one another, expressing gratitude for one another’s existence in our lives, saying things that we appreciate about one another, taking the time for kisses in the middle of life routines. 

Future-Planning. Making decisions about a shared semi-distant future makes me feel secure, be those decisions about leases or vacations, etc. Even just speaking about the future as a thing we will exist as a unit in. 

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What do I bring to the table for others?

I offer stability and dependability and rootedness and growth and support and encouragement and love and laughter and silliness and enthusiasm and playfulness and sexual expression. I offer a metric ton of affection, both physical and verbal; it is so important to me to let the people that matter to me know that they matter and why. Oh, and food. I offer a lot of food. I less reliably succeed but try to offer compassion, understanding, and empathy. I offer the ability to build a home. I try to offer the opportunity to embark on an adventure of togetherness. I try to at all times embody an offer to extend myself for the betterment of the people most significantly in my life. I try to offer myself fully in all of my emotionally close relationships; I don’t like to hold back and try to discourage that from my friends and partner. 

These are the things I have offered to JJ. I do not know what that leaves for others outside of him. When I have gone on dates with others or been talking to potential romantic/sexual interests during our relationship, I have often been stumped when said potential interests ask me what I’m looking for. I’m not looking to have multiple relationships; I don’t know what to take from the table I’ve built for JJ to give to someone else. The most honest answer would have likely been that I’m looking for someone to spend time with when I want to spend time with JJ but cannot due to one of his other relationships, and that isn’t much to offer. I usually end up saying that I’m looking for connections and am open to whatever happens, but I’ve never been sure exactly how true that is. I would like to exist in a relationship that does not need bolstering by outside reinforcements.

Are there specific kinds of relationships that I know I am looking for? Kinds that I know I don’t want?

I want a relationship that has all of the elements listed above, and is always progressing towards having more of those things rather than less. I don’t want to regress from one level of life-entwinement to less entwinement. I would like to be as entwined as possible, not to the point where we have to do everything together, but such that we are the people that we spend the most time with, such that we come home to the same place and sleep in the same bed on a daily basis. I don’t want to have to schedule time to spend together or wonder when we’ll next see one another. I struggled with the idea of existing as a periphery relationship ad infinitum at the beginning of my relationship with JJ — I don’t think I would enter into an arrangement like that again. I don’t want to be years into a relationship with a partner and still only seeing them a couple of times a week. I am looking for a partnership that feels like it could last for the foreseeable future, a relationship that isn’t riddled with doubts about its own validity or longevity or health constantly. I want to feel like I am organizing my life around someone and they are doing the same around me; I don’t want to be accessory or supplementary in my partner’s life. 

What do I consider essential, indispensable elements of a relationship?

(I’m answering this from the perspective of a romantic relationship.) Love. Respect. Acceptance. Support. Emotional Intimacy. Physical Intimacy, including both sensual/sexual and non-sexual touch. An enthusiastic and mutually satisfying sex life. A desire to spend time together, and for that time to increase over the course of the relationship. Enjoyment in spending time together, regardless of activity. The intangible mushy fuzzy goofy silly lovey-dovey mildly obsessive feeling that makes something Romantic for me. The potential for life-entwinement, specifically including the ability to build a home together. The ability to spend nights together, to travel together, to spend holidays together, to appear in public together. A sense of stability or predictability, the ability to envision a future together.

Why do I have romantic relationships? What do I get out of them?

This is my first legitimately romantic relationship. I get out of romantic relationships a lot of things that I also get from friendships, but also some things that are exclusive to romantic relationships, and some things that are exclusive to a certain kind of romantic relationship. I’ve told JJ in the past that I think of my romantic relationships as friendship+. By that I mean that in my close friendships I get emotional support, people to do activities with, feelings of acceptance and support, people to help me with problems or issues, people to celebrate and have fun with, and a feeling of love and like my presence and who I am as a person is appreciated or cherished by this person. Many of my closest friendships also involve a degree of easy physical (but non-sensual/sexual) touch, both currently and historically. I am a very touchy-feely person and I crave physical touch — in my previous lives on campus or in high school, my days were full of small touches in the middle of conversation, resting my head on other people’s shoulders, massages, people playing with my hair, etc. So, all of those things exist both within the realm of friendship and the realm of romantic relationship.

Romantic relationships have elements all their own as well. In a romantic relationship, touch becomes the norm, and sensual/sexual touch is on the table at pretty much any moment. Romantic relationships have a level of entwinement that doesn’t exist in close friendships — I structure my life around them on a daily basis. I have romantic relationships when my feeling of wanting to be around someone goes beyond the way I feel about friends and into a space that wants to be sensual/sexual and life-entwined, when the pleasure I feel from spending time with someone feels like a thing I want to have as much of in my life as possible, a thing to be prioritized over others. Romance goes beyond friendship to say that I want to exist with this person as some sort of a unit, a we. It adds dimensions to the love I experience in close friendships, growing past a love for me as a person and my presence to include a love for my body and a love for the life we are building together. Entwinement brings love and touch and appreciation and companionship and the pleasure of experiencing life with this person into my everyday life, especially when the relationship progresses to cohabitation, which feels like the natural direction a healthy relationship flows towards to me.

What happens if I connect with someone in a way that differs from how I want my poly relationship to look? What message does that send to someone who doesn’t fit neatly into my dreams?

I don’t know what would happen if I were to develop a connection that feels romantic with someone else. It feels sort of impossible. I don’t know how I could develop that sort of connection while being in a relationship with JJ. To do so feels like it would be or have required giving up on some aspect of our relationship. I don’t feel romantic connection…easily or frequently or lightly. It’s not something that just happens for me. Sometimes I think about why I didn’t feel a romantic connection with HB — he fit so many of the boxes that I think I would like in a partner; I was fond of him as a person, we were affectionate and cared about each other as humans, we had amazing and frequent and adventurous sex, but when the time to end it came, I experienced some sadness at the loss of these things in my life but it didn’t feel like a breakup. It hadn’t felt like a Relationship. I didn’t want to pair-bond with him, and he didn’t want that with me; I didn’t think of us as a unit; I didn’t feel goofy and silly and happy when I thought about him or he messaged me — just turned on. I think that my connection with Jerome eclipses the opportunity for that to happen elsewhere.

I don’t walk through life experiencing crushes on a regular basis. I have had exactly one crush in the three and a half years since I graduated college, and one real-life connection that led to an expression of romantic interest by someone else whom I felt interested in as a person enough to go on a date with. Both of these happened prior to my connection with JJ blossoming; not sure if that’s coincidental or correlational. I had more crushes in college, but they were always sort of like I wanted to spend more time around this person and maybe touch them and try to figure out if they liked me, not necessarily with dreamy visions of us dating or being in a relationship or even hooking up; I had no experience with any of those things and could not imagine them, really. Coming to college with almost no experience being desired by someone made holding hands or leaning on someone’s shoulder while we watched a movie a Big Deal to me in a way it definitely is no longer. It should also probably be stated that I pretty much exclusively date/have felt romantic interest in Black folk (with coworker crush from my first year of DC life being the major exception), and I don’t exist in predominantly Black spaces with any sort of regularity any longer, so maybe my lack of interest is in part due to a lack of access. But then again, I felt nothing romantic towards HB, and I don’t think SG existed in my life long enough (or physically/sexually enough) for me to determine whether my interest in spending time with her was platonic or romantic. 

Am I focusing on an idealized fantasy more than on making organic connections with real people?

I don’t think so. Multiple romantic connections don’t feel like a thing that could develop organically in my life. Nothing about what my life looks like with JJ feels forced to me; this wasn’t what I expected us to become when we got together, but this feels like the right level for us to find for me. More than Two advises letting relationships seek and find their own levels without trying to prescribe a direction they should go/grow in, but what happens when the involved parties find different levels natural? Trying to prune our relationship back into something smaller or less entwined would feel much less organic to me. Whenever I ask, he says he doesn’t want me/us to be smaller, but I don’t see a way around that; if he has other partners, I have to fall back and give space and disappear. The things about our daily life that we currently share exclusively will be chipped away at, cut up and divided and distributed among others — I don’t know how to not feel neglected at the very thought of that, let alone the execution.

Him going on dating sites and seeking out new partners makes it feel inorganic on his part as well; he’s working to create this, rather than meeting someone by chance and wanting to explore a connection with them. But I understand that it is important to him on a fundamental level, that it feels like a part of his identity, so it makes sense that waiting for things to happen organically with someone wouldn’t be what he wants, especially when you consider how organic connections in the real world happen and the fact that he is a person with social anxiety.

When I’ve pushed myself to form sexual connections with others, even under the guise of romance, I was unable to develop any sort of romantic feeling for the others, even if I genuinely liked them as people, enjoyed spending time with them, and felt able to be fully myself and vulnerable with them — again, these things are not associated with romance to me in any way. Sexual connection and romantic feeling are not linked for me in any way; the overwhelming majority of my experience with the former has been in the absolute absence of the latter. I recall JJ once telling me that he can’t really have physical intimacy without emotional intimacy; for me it’s more like, emotional intimacy raises the experience of physical intimacy to new heights, but physical intimacy can exist on its own and still be enjoyable.

When I visualize the kind of relationship I want, how much space does it leave for new partners to shape their relationship needs?

When I visualize the kind of relationship I want, there isn’t really room for other partners to exist for me. I can see myself bending to a point that would allow for a person who wants a less entwined relationship with him to exist within a fairly rigid structure. For instance, I could maybe deal with like, two nights a week regularly being his nights elsewhere with [other person]. Again, it’s not what I would prefer, but that might be an amount of space I could give. I don’t know for sure that I could, though, so trying to offer that would be scary. That still feels like I’m losing out on something; there is probably no reasonable way for him to have other partners without me losing out. I don’t know what would happen if the other person didn’t feel like that was enough space, though. I don’t want to feel like I’m left with half a partner when he gets to have multiple parts that make a whole. That just feels unfair on a basic level. The kind of relationship I want is towards the highest end on the scales of cohesion and entwinement. I don’t want to or feel capable of mixing and matching parts of several different people and relationships to create the levels of cohesion and entwinement and closeness and intimacy and companionship that I desire — everything in me wants to have as much of that as possible with one person, with a strong preference for that person to be JJ, as he’s the first person I’ve ever wanted to be that person. To mix and match and slide different people and relationships in to fill gaps in another feels like turning my need fulfillment into a bar graph, with separate lines that reach different levels, none going even close to the top, instead of a pie chart where everything comes together in one whole circle.

ventestempestas:

We are not interchangeable. I could never replace you. Yes, I want to be part of their day to day life. I want to deeply know them. But I want those things from you too.

I want to intertwine our lives. I want to build my life with all of you. I love each of you deeply and intensely and in completely different ways. I love being surprised by each of you but more than that I find comfort in the knowing. In the not being surprised.

I like that we can talk without words, even a little bit. I like that I don’t need either of you to translate for me every time something happens.

I like being comfortable. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be very slowly moving past being the new shiny thing. Because the more that wears off, the more I know you and you know me, the less I’m scared that it will crash down around me.

I love you more than words can say and I want nothing more than to kiss away your worries. I can’t do that so instead I’ll just keep holding your hand and whispering these words over and over and over.

(via PolyLove Girl’s Blog)

I do not understand the above sentiments. I don’t understand how it is possible to feel them. I don’t understand how someone can want to build one’s life with multiple people. I don’t understand how to be comfortable existing within such a structure, how to have only parts of a whole and feel fulfilled. I want these things from you “too” feels inherently like a lessening, a devaluing, and accessorizing to me; I don’t want to be an accessory in anyone’s life. I don’t and cannot understand loving multiple people romantically in different ways as a person who has only experienced romantic love once, and rarely experiences romantic attraction. I do not understand how the above sentiments are desirable to have or to have expressed to you. I do not understand.

I read Franklin Veaux’s The Game Changer: A Memoir of Disruptive Love yesterday, and one of the points he kept coming back to was that a fundamental problem in his 18-year relationship with his monogamish wife was that his wife “genuinely wanted to learn how to be more comfortable with polyamory. But she did not really understand the implications of her decision, because she did not, ultimately, understand [his] ideas about family. Celeste and [he] were deadlocked; try as [he] might, [he] did not (and still [doesn’t]) understand monogamy, and she did not understand polyamory. It’s difficult to trust someone you don’t understand.” (180).

I have read a lot of books about non-monogamy, alternative relationships, and polyamory, and this was the first that made me feel like this is definitely not for me and I have no parts trying to find a way to make it otherwise. I don’t know whether to believe it. I don’t know where the lines are between cowardice and bravery, between hopefulness and delusion, between trying our hardest and masochism, between being defeatist and recognizing the truth, between flexibility and being a doormat, between what I want and what I need. I feel overwhelmed by concepts I don’t understand.

But there is a shadow around this image: who is to say whether a love relation is real or is really something else, a passing fancy or a trick someone plays (on herself, on another) in order to sustain a fantasy? This is a psychological question about the reliability of emotional knowledge, but it is also a political question about the ways norms produce attachments to living through certain fantasies. What does it mean about love that its expressions tend to be so conventional, so bound up in institutions like marriage and family, property relations, and stock phrases and plots? This is a question about subjectivity too, therefore, but it is also about ideology. The difficulty of determining love’s authenticity has generated a repository of signs, stories, and products dedicated to verifying that the “real thing” exists both among people and in other relations — for example, between people and their nations, their Gods, their objects, or their pets. But these signs of love are not universal, and their conventionality suggests, in addition, that love can be at once genuine and counterfeit, shared and hoarded, apprehensible and enigmatic.

–Lauren Berlant

(via Square Dancing with Giants)