Okay, so, maybe maintaining a blog while working full-time, going to school full-time, and volunteering at DMS (plus the whole relationship and having kids thing… and wedding planning…) is a little much, but you guys know I still love you, right?
I swear, one day soon, there will be more here than just a brief drive-by apology.
In the meantime…
One year ago today, I was nervous as hell getting ready for a date after work. I took several deep breaths, walked into the restaurant where I was meeting him – the guy that messaged me while I was writing a message to him, and with whom I subsequently exchanged at least another 40 messages with (38? Something like that, I’m not going to go look.). I spotted someone in the corner that absolutely made my jaw drop and I hoped that that was really him. Why would I ask that? Because I had a weird brain problem where I can’t always recognize people by their photographs.
It was. (ohthankthegodsohcrapohcrapohcrappleasedon’tletmeshovemyfootinmymouth)
And then he proceeded to knock my socks off with depth and humor and intelligence and oh my god those lips and eyes. And then he ordered a burger with no bun (wheat-free, too?!?) and then neither ordered a beer nor gave me guff for ordering one. (He had a drink later when we’d worked our way back there, but that’s another story.)
I can’t recall ever having had that kind of a reaction to anyone. Ever. I’m usually the cool one. (I hoped I was still a little cool.)
Whatever the case, however it worked out, something was right. There were some shaky moments even in that first week, and he technically counts our first anniversary as July 4th, but for me, this was the day that I met and fell in love with my future husband. Today was the day that made all the difference in the world, where in span of only a couple of hours, I looked at every single attitude I had about dating and relationships and what I wanted out of any of them and put them all on the chopping block.
Technically, I could say that it was the day before – the 27th, when we were messaging on OKC, when I finally got up the nerve to message him after looking at his profile half a dozen times and cleaning up the drool. (Me?! Nervous to message someone?!? The fearless dating adventurer?!? … Yes, I was.) I could say that because I saw the foundation of something so perfectly matched and amazing that it almost defied definition, but it really wasn’t until the 28th when I was able to look into his eyes that I knew that every word was true.
I felt connected and safe and real. It was instant and defied all rational thought.
But, falling in love is not rational.
Luckily, we got through the bumps and scrapes and monsters, like Tam Lin being dragged from his steed by the Princess. We held on and got through it, and now every day is a little Halloween and a lot of love. We have boundaries and respect and honesty. We communicate – more than just talking – and we love each other madly. We love our new massive family, and we love our only-us-together, and we love everything in between.
We’re making it official on August 25th. With luck, it’ll be available as a live stream for those who can’t make it to town. I’ll post the page to the specifics later.
I adore you, Craig Swain, from the moment I met you. And that was a year ago today.
Sometimes the right answer is not the obvious one, nor the one steeped in conventional wisdom. Personally, I’ve always had an issue with “conventional wisdom” because they’re developed by consensus rather than common… sensus… (just go with it), and, as we know, the “masses are asses”.
So, the Saint and I had a bit of a row a couple of weeks ago and I left, again. That makes it the third time (Saints Row the Third?) and, just as before, it was only a few days before we were both looking at the situation and saying, “Well, that’s not right…”
My first response in any conflict like that is to try to figure out what my culpability is. This, apparently, is an utterly bizarre and strange thing. Yes, he had slipped into a headspace of complete irrationality and was not in a condition to be negotiated with in any form or fashion, but I had to accept that I had triggered some of that response by letting him believe for a moment that he was not the most important person in the world to me.
How do you convince someone who has learned to distrust words that there is no power in the ‘verse could stop you from loving them? What do you do? What do you say?
I offered up the only thing of real value that I have: the rest of my life.
As the massive nontraditionalist that I am, I popped the question first. I felt pretty confident in the answer since there were a few little slips of the tongue recently, but I admit to a certain trepidation and nervousness anyway, especially in light of the row we’d just had. After all, I did move out… and we were on the precipice of a really bad scene…
But in the end, that’s not what matters. What matters is that when we’re together, when he’s with me, I feel stronger, healthier, happier than I ever have in my life. These little moments of fear – the ones that we all have at some point or another – are such a small fraction of our total time together that, if they weren’t so loud, could easily be ignored. How enormously powerful is that joy the rest of the time? There’s a wisdom that says that you don’t marry the man you can live with, you marry the man you can’t live without. I’m not such a delicate flower that I wouldn’t or couldn’t live without him if I had to, but I’d just as soon not because it sucks.
I never expected someone to come to me ready-made and perfect, because how boring would that be? This is going to be a hell of a challenge, and some monster-slaying must be done, but it’s completely worth it to me.
Still poly? Yeah, I suppose, but I don’t know when I”d have time for anyone else. If he’ll have me, then I’ve found the Carl to my Ellie, the Gomez to my Morticia. What more could a girl ask for than someone who will build and dress up in crazy costumes for the heck of it, someone who will wear costume horns around the house just because it’s Sunday, or who will run out and grab samosas to eat while I finish my homework? We play video games together, love the same movies, can talk about those movies, can pun together, can snuggle together, and he takes my freakiness as a plus instead of a point to tolerate…
It’s past nine months together, over seven of those spent living together. Ups and downs and sideways notwithstanding, how amazing is this!
Amazing enough that I want it indefinitely.
“Forever could never be long enough for me,
To feel that I’ve had long enough with you…”
I’m so certain that I will shout it out, beyond all chance of obfuscation:
Craig Swain, will you do me the honor of being my husband?
I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to the relationship type of the “Rescuer”. We all know that I am by nature a bit odd in that I take in strays and try to do my best to help down-on-their-luck cases, but I can proudly say that recent years have mitigated this habit a great deal. I only have two cats, no dogs, one roommate, and I’ve turned people away with regularity. I’ve even learned to not offer help unless I feel really confident about the outcome.
In a certain sense, that did make me a “rescuer”, but in talking with other folks about that, I realized that there is a massive difference between the kind of rescuing that women like me do and the kind of rescuing that men do. For women, we’re trying to fix someone up so that they might be motivated to be nice to us (in the most general terms), and that’s why we do most of our “fixing” on people who are more prone to be abusive, dismissive, or big meany-heads. (This, too, I have changed in myself, I’m again proud to say.)
Men, on the other hand, have the Knight in Shiny Armor thing going on. They travel the countryside, seeking Damsels in Distress, hoping to earn the love of the Fair Maiden by defeating the Evil Dragon.
Unfortunately, this archetype is inherently broken to the point of being useless. Guys do it anyway, either because they have some fondness for ideals of chivalry or because they want to stand out from the crowd, but the underpinnings of the ideals are probably more destructive for them than they are for the ladies they’re trying to rescue. Let’s look at some observations about the KISA problem:
1. “Armor” is another word for “Shell”. I won’t go so far as to say that all armor is “one-size-fits-all”, but it is pretty standardized. The goal is to be as completely covered as possible so as to protect you from the dangers of the world, and there’s hundreds if not thousands of years of technology to tell us which of the tender bits need to be protected. When you have all the bits – the helmet, visor, breast plate, gorget, besagues, gauntlets, greaves, cuisse, sabatons, tasset, fauld, etc. – you have essentially created an exterior image of yourself that bears absolutely no resemblance to who you are inside. Even if you’re speaking clearly about who are you – about your dreams and aspirations, goals and philosophies, fantastic movie collection – if you’re wearing armor, everyone’s going to hear, “Wahn-wahn-wahn-dragon-wahn-wahn. Sword-wahn-wahn-wahn-wahn-tower-wahn-wahn-lady.” And then you’re left saying, “But I rescued the Damsel, and she doesn’t even respect me enough to know that I’m allergic to mushrooms and she almost killed me last night, but I didn’t say anything because she’s been through so much with that whole being chained to a rock thing…” You kinda signed up for that, man, because especially if your armor is really shiny, the Damsel can’t see past the shiny to notice the vulnerable, crunchy little guy inside.
The reason that this scenario is so common, I think, is because of the kinds of ladies that put themselves in a position to be “in Distress”.
2. Damsels who look for Knights are definitely about the image, not the substance. It’s the romantic notion perpetuated by poorly-explained fairy tales that the Damsel in Distress, after suffering some kind of horrific and terrible injustice, is powerless to rescue herself from circumstances of unspeakable tragedy. In modern times, since we seem to be a little short on labyrinths and minotaurs, this manifests in very different ways, such as financial destitution, abusive relationships, isolation, or severe drama. Because Damsels have bought into the romantic notions, and they really, really want the Knight to come along and rescue them, nine times out of ten they’ve put themselves in that crappy situation. And what’s worse, because it’s a problem of their own design (albeit usually subconsciously), they are reluctant to change it, so it takes a lot of extra effort to get them properly “rescued”.
They don’t actually want to be rescued, they want to a Knight. They want a protector so that they don’t have to protect themselves. They want a provider so that they don’t have to provide for themselves. They want someone who also buys into the romantic ideas and might therefore miss their flaws. Damsels who look for Knights will only know a “good man” by the armor he wears, and they will not give two hoots about the man inside the armor. It’s all about the rescuing, really, and to hell with “happily ever after” – especially after they discover that HEA takes work. (But that’s another article altogether…)
3. Armor requires polishing, but after a long day of slaying monsters, the Knight would be so appreciative if he didn’t have to do it himself. If a Damsel (or other not-so-damsely lady) does find herself rescued, another major peril thereafter is that the armor of the Knight requires maintenance. See, the “armor” in question is, of course, a contrived shell of ego that the man in question creates usually because he somehow does not believe that his true self is worthy of receiving unconditional love. And egos, as you probably already know, are very delicate fragile things despite their hardened steel appearance. A Damsel now owes it to her Knight to keep that armor shiny, to “fluff the ego” as much as possible, and in the meantime, this whole process interferes greatly with either side actually learning a damn thing about the other.
A remarkable number of modern relationships emulate this “buying the relationship without the emotional connection” routine. You know those guys that go to work and bring home a paycheck to pay the bills, spend all their free time with the “boys” or doing some other non-family thing, and then wonder why their wives are vacant and disinterested during the two or three times a month they wanna get busy? That’s a Knight. He thinks he’s earned his fluffing in perpetuity, but the Damsel has realized that armor doesn’t make the man, and that’s going to end up messy. In a certain sense, though, the particular Knight is lucky…
4. Armor can act as an excellent cooking container when facing real dragons. You’ve heard of “dragon ladies”, right? Those impossibly sexy Asian women who can topple the strongest man with a flick of a cigarette holder? There are lots and lots of Western equivalents to them, except that we call them “man-eaters”, “ball-busters”, and occasionally “feminists”. Gods help you all if you mistake a Dragon with a Damsel while wearing your armor because you will most definitely get roasted alive. These ladies are not necessarily in the business of roasting Knights (not all of them, anyway), but they won’t mind visiting the pain upon your fragile little ego if you step over their boundaries. They don’t mind stepping out together or taking care of problems together, but they will not be relying on you until you’ve proven that you are reliable – and in this context, “reliable” refers to respect, responsibility, maturity, emotional stability, etc.
The problem is that not all women fall into either the Damsel or the Dragon category. Many women are neither, and some women will masquerade as one while truly being the other. I would launch into a nice little speech about how to track game and read the signs, but that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.
5. Chivalry was invented because a bunch of guys couldn’t figure out how to treat ladies nice all on their own. Finally, we come to the crux of the whole “Knights are meant to be chivalrous” problem, and that is that chivalry was invented so that Big Dumb Boys could stop being Doodyheads to Fragile Little Girls. It created a way for a grossly patriarchal (feminine-repressing) system to make the ladies feel like they were somehow getting the better end of the bargain in exchange for not being able to own land, ascend to the throne, elect for divorce, or operate their own businesses. And you guys are buying into this why?! Seriously, the main message that any woman gets from a man who adheres to closely to “chivalry” is that he doesn’t respect her own power to accomplish things for herself.
In my opinion, certain chivalrous acts are fantastic and wonderful, but I propose a radical rethinking. If you believe that chivalry is a way to show your respect for a lady, why don’t you wait until after she’s earned your respect to show it? Compulsively being chivalrous to any Thomasina, Dickette, and Harrier detracts from the value of being that kind to the Lady you truly desire. Absolutely, yes, always treat your Lady as an equal, but when she’s really yours and you get that warm glow every time you see her, that’s when you break out the Really Nice Manners and trot out the Olde Schoole Romance-e.
I’m not saying that there’s no hope for Knights or Damsels or Dragons – they all can be repaired with a little bit of self-awareness. (Well, except the Dragons, but that’s yet another story.) It just takes a little work, but especially at this time of year, you’re going to be so glad to be out of that sweatbox and into a cool breeze. Just remember: Chivalry is what most people do when they don’t know how to respect boundaries all on their own. Watch your step, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.
Here’s a little heads up, a general reminder to people at large to be aware of the consequences of their actions.
If you break someone’s heart, you do not have the right to waltz back in without explanation. You are obligated by your previous actions to provide some kind of reason (not excuse) for your thoughts and words. “It was my problem, I got over it,” does not qualify as a reasonable answer. What was the problem? How did you get over it? And more importantly, what does that mean for future “problems” you might have? Did you learn anything about how to deal with your problems? Are you now willing to not let someone else pay the price for your process?
If you hurt someone’s feelings, regardless of what you think they mean to you (or don’t mean, as the case may be), it’s a matter of human decency to at least acknowledge that you’ve hurt them. That uncomfortable, sometimes embarrassed feeling that comes over you when you think about talking to them again is not an indication that you should avoid them – it’s a sign that you know you did something that caused hurt. It doesn’t even matter why you hurt their feelings or whether or not you feel justified. In fact, it’s probably more important if you did feel justified because then you can explain what your thoughts are. If they don’t know – if you don’t make sure they know – then you have done nothing to help them grow, in addition to stacking up your own negative karma.
We all know that the first person we have to love is ourselves, but when someone else has agreed to do that, too, there’s a whole process of exploration that is really important. Everyone has a different definition of love, a different style of expressing it, and experience shows that many people/couples who could be fantastic together don’t make a serious go of it because one or the other demands or expects that their lover express love a certain way. This is dangerous and flawed for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which is that when we limit what we are willing to receive (assuming a relatively healthy manner of delivery), we are also limiting what we are willing to give and what we are willing to accept (which is slightly different from “receiving”).
Something that all people have in common is an idea in their hearts of what the perfect lover/partner will be for them. There’s another process that we go through when we mature that demotes the shallow things (height, hair color, eye color, weight, etc) and focuses on or defines the deeper things (philosophy, patterns of appreciation, love styles, values, etc). Sometimes a person we meet has some or all of what we want, but sometimes they have just enough that we are intrigued – and it turns out that they also have things that are not on our “list” that we ultimately would find more satisfying than if we’d gotten exactly what we wished for.
The overall purpose of this discussion is that, especially as we date and expand our potential of romance/love, we absolutely do have to recognize that we are pursuing our own interests and needs – but we also have to recognize that we are taking someone else’s hearts into our hands as well. In hearing tales of love gone wrong, things going sideways, crazy exes, and freak-out break-ups, it occurs that if we remembered some of these things above – all based in the universal principles of Unconditional Love, Respect, Honesty, Honor, Integrity, and Compassion – then even when a couple isn’t a perfect match (or even a “good” match), some good can come of it anyway.
The fact is that the pursuit of love is inherently selfish – you want to find someone to be with to make you feel good, to make you feel wanted, loved (ideally) – and that is completely acceptable. Just be aware that every single person that you are going out with or exploring or considering or even just talking to with romantic potential is also on a selfish quest. This is not a bad thing, this is necessary and fantastic to realize. The consequences to the actions above, though, come from taking the selfishness too far, from closing off from the needs of others. This single problem is why so many marriages fail, too: that when each person is championing their needs selfishly without accepting the needs of their partner, they do not bring the two sides together that are meant to make a good partnership.
And this critical balance should and must be established from the very beginning to set the tone to maintain and celebrate it throughout the whole relationship, no matter how long or short it is.
The caveat is that some people will not read this, will not learn these lessons, and will lose, will carry around wounded hearts, will bemoan their fate, and other similarly selfish activities. There is nothing to be done for them until they’re willing to grow. But those of us who do know and remember these lessons will find a truer love, often faster, and if nothing else, serve as an example to others who have an opportunity to see it.
Because having a broken heart sucks, sure, but knowing that it’s really doing you a favor makes it a little easier.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It was a bone of contention in past relationships where I compromised it for the sake of my partner’s comfort zone, and while it’s something that’s still important, I’m finding that my polyamorous needs are redefining themselves as I move through the final stages of my recovery from that relationship.
First, for those that aren’t quite as familiar with polyamory as others, know first that it means different things to different people, but the common threads are honesty, respect, and (obviously) openness. For me personally, it means that I reserve the right to carry on a relationship with someone to the logical extent of the emotional energy we share, and I allow myself to do that potentially with multiple partners. That means that if Tom and I share a moderate sexual chemistry and like to geek out but there isn’t a lot of practicality in becoming solidly primary, then we’re going to enjoy each other’s company without a stated commitment, and if we meet other people, that’s totally cool. If George and I share an intense or specialized sexual chemistry but have little else in common, we know we can call each other for a potential hook-up to “scratch an itch” and it doesn’t have to be more than that. Likewise, if Harry and I are deeply compatible on many levels and find ourselves experiencing a deeper emotional bond naturally, we might take that to a more committed and serious level.
The high point of all of this for me is that excusing myself from the social pressures to try to make every relationship a “forever and always” allows us to each be far more honest with ourselves and with each other. If Harry and I decide to make a stab at a long-term thing, it’s because that’s what we feel is right for us – not what’s right because that’s what it says to do in the script.
All that having been said, of late, I’ve been thinking more about what kind of long-term thing I might one day like to enjoy. As my emotional needs change, I find that I have a lower tolerance for the lifestyle incompatibilities of Mr. Right-Now, and I feel a little guilty monopolizing the time of Mr. Sometimes. Mr. Right is still a figment of a poorly-formed imagination, but it’s becoming more and more clear by the day.
This is new for me.
At the same time, I’m hesitant to actually state clearly that if Mr. Right was everything I ever wanted and needed, I’d consider monogamy because what if someone thinks that he could be that but falls short? Granted, that’s just a side-effect of dating in general – you go out, you learn about each other, you decide if this is something that you want to pursue, and a lot of times it doesn’t really work out. But when there seems to be more on the line, when something appears to be more desirable and there’s a greater “reward” at the end, getting let down can be harder.
Ironically, the man that would understand this would probably also be closer to my ideal…
As I write this, I also realize that probably the best place to start with defining Mr. Right would be that he’d have to also be poly, and that he’d have to have some experience in it first. (I am not a start-up company willing to train from the ground up, usually.) And he’d have to be honest and self-assured enough to be up front about it. (I’ve met a few poly guys who have become gun-shy because while they may or may not be dating other people at that moment, they still want to explore with a person that may or may not be okay with it.)
I freely admit that a great deal of this impulse of late has a lot to do with time constraints and evolving job schedules. I had to pretty much stop dating altogether when I started at the car dealership because when you work 60 hours a week, kids come before nookie – and that doesn’t leave hardly any nookie time that also couldn’t be better spent doing laundry. Now that I’m shifting to a more regular schedule, I don’t really want to give up my kid and writing time, so what the heck. Maybe I can settle on one fellow for a while, until, of course, things change again – which is why mutual polyness is probably necessary.
Who knows? Maybe this is all a ruse to fool myself into settling down again.