sex, love, and relationships for those of us who don't quite follow the rules

Posts tagged ‘Athena’

the other shoe

It’s a cardinal rule of life, isn’t it, that whenever you smugly announce that something is easy for you, you’re shortly destined to encounter snarls and snags and all manner of complications that make you wonder what you were smoking when you used that “e” word.

In the 48 hours since I wrote my last post, Shaun has asked Athena to be his girlfriend, and she has almost accepted. “Almost” in the sense of “a work in progress nearly completed” rather than “a possibility narrowly avoided.” She has reservations, and she makes decisions as cautiously and reluctantly as I ever have (which is to say, very), but I feel fairly sure she’ll say yes before long. Which puts me smack dab in the middle of the new territory that I admitted, last post, that I’d yet to explore.

What that territory is is a little hard to define. I’ve shared Shaun with another girlfriend before (the short-lived Bess), so it’s not that by itself. This situation is very, very different from the Bess situation, and in fact is dramatically better in just about every way I can think of. Better, but also harder. The swirl of feelings I’m having, some positive and some negative, is one of the more intense emotional cocktails life has mixed up for me.

Here’s the biggest hard thing. My relationship with Shaun, as I’ve described before, began when he was an emotional wreck. He had very little to give me, and I expected even less. From the outside, I’m sure it looked like something that would never last, and I’m still not sure why it did. But for whatever reason, those early days of clinging together from need (his much greater than mine, but mine was there too) turned into a relationship of deep trust, comfort, and affection. We’ve only been together for 4 to 6 months, depending on how you count it, but in many ways it feels like we’re an old, cozy, established couple with years of history behind us.

That’s very nice — it’s the kind of relationship I trust and desire most — but the down side is that we completely missed the giddy infatuated stage. I’ve known for a long time that this was how things would look, and I’ve felt some pangs of sadness over that, but not too much. I’m happy for what we have. And one nice thing about polyamory is that, even if I’m with Shaun till the day I die, I’ll still have the opportunity to go through that giddy infatuated stage with someone else… hopefully several other people.

Here’s the problem, though. With Athena, Shaun gets to go through the giddy infatuated stage (poly geeks, which is most of us, call it “new relationship energy” or NRE for short), and because of the level of chemistry between them, it’s going to be intense. I’m really happy about that for him, especially because I feel like it will be another important step in healing from his breakup. But there’s that voice in my head, and today it’s been shouting very loudly, and what it says is, “It’s not fair.” Because it isn’t. I missed out on the NRE, and it wasn’t because of anything I did or anything I am (although one of my biggest insecurities is that I’m incapable of arousing those giddy feelings in anybody, and although I know it’s not true, you can bet it’s not helping this situation any.) I wouldn’t want things with Athena to be any different, and I agree that she’s totally deserving of all the intense feelings he has toward her (I’m a little infatuated with her myself), but watching her get what I would have liked to have is just not going to be easy on me.

But nobody said this was going to be easy. And the rewards here far outweigh the burdens: I get to have this fascinating, beautiful person in my life; I get to see Shaun finally getting something he’s wanted for a good nine months now; and I expect I’ll be taking part in some very hot threesomes on a regular basis. On the whole, I’m happy and excited and eager to see what the next few weeks will bring. But being happy and excited on the whole doesn’t preclude having some strong sorrows and anxieties in the midst of it. I’m just trying to deal with each feeling as it comes up. Stay tuned?

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suddenly slutty

Fashion puzzle for the new millenium: what to wear when you’re about to meet the woman your boyfriend is dying to have sex with?

Six months ago, a question like this was nowhere on my mental landscape. Yesterday night, it was the first thing I had to figure out upon coming home from my work. So has my life changed. Six months ago, polyamory was an interesting lifestyle that a friend of a friend of mine practised; unless I was talking about that particular friend, I didn’t give a thought to it. This morning, I woke up in a bed with my boyfriend and the aforementioned woman-he’s-dying-to-have-sex-with.

The surprising thing to me is how easy it is, how natural. (People who have entered into polyamory with great struggle and agony, feel free to throw things at my head.) In fact the aforementioned woman (okay, she needs a name: Athena is appropriate, I think) commented last night on how I’d gone from conservative Christian virgin to polyamorous, bisexual, and kinky. It sounds like a dramatic change, but to my mind it’s quite simple. Growing up, I had exactly one rule about how to do sexual relationships (only within a monogamous, heterosexual marriage), and exactly one source of that rule (because God says so, and God knows what’s best for me.) I never absorbed a lot of the secular cultural prejudices against nonmonogamy, BDSM, and homosexuality, because I had no need for them.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense without further explanation. To start: I think most human beings have an intuitive sense of the inherent danger in sexuality. Certainly there are a lot of cultural voices preaching this danger, but I think those are generally dressing on an innate instinct. And the instinct is true: sexuality is powerful, and everything powerful carries at least a seed of danger. Yes, it gives pleasure, it creates life, it strengthens human bonds, but it also has the potential to cloud rational judgement, to fuel violence, and to carry disease. So. Our brains are formed to crave sexual activity, but also, at least a little bit, to fear it.

And think about the experience each of us has in going through puberty. Our bodies and our brains change dramatically; scores of things happen that we can’t control, some of them pleasant and some of them unpleasant. Even if we welcome the change, it’s profoundly unsettling, and I think most people instinctively reach for some kind of rules and structure in order to help mitigate the feeling of being a helpless plaything of biological forces.

So. According to my ad-hoc, shamelessly subjective psychological analysis, the need to have some kind of rules about sexual behavior is pretty common to human nature. Even people who don’t have religious bases may internalize rules like “only if you’re in love” or “only with one person at a time.” Me, I didn’t internalize any of those, because my “God says only have sex if you’re married, and God knows best” was ironclad protection against that sense of danger. So once I stopped believing that, the only thing I had to consult was my own inclination.

And my own inclination seems to be decidedly polyamorous. I liked having a thoughtful discussion with my boyfriend about whether he should answer a booty call from his ex. I liked sitting with his hand on my knee while I flirt with his friend across the table. I liked lying on one side of the bed and seeing the parallel curves of Shaun’s and Athena’s neck and shoulders as he lay with his arms around her. (He wants her so badly. They haven’t had sex yet. I relish the tension, the drama of unfulfilled desire, even as I hope it ends soon.)

It’s only been six months, and I know there’s a lot of territory for me yet to explore, and I’m sure some of it will be more difficult. But it’s going well so far.