There are devotees of The Ethical Slut who are militantly opposed to dishonesty anywhere in or among relationships among the poly world. There’s often a judginess that accompanies this that rubs me wrong.
I wrote, almost three years ago, about a date I’d gone on with a woman who wouldn’t fuck me because, at the time, my wife and I had an explicit “Don’t ask, don’t tell” agreement. Oddly, while she wouldn’t fuck me, she did want to kiss me (even though kissing a person in my situation was also, per her agreement with her husband, verboten, for moral/ethical reasons).
I’ve been thinking a bit recently about various women with whom I’ve got pasts. One is in a committed monogamous relationship. She and I recently engaged in a brief flirtation that was excruciating for both of us because, in the end, we couldn’t (she wouldn’t) consummate it. Initially, I told her I wouldn’t go to bed with her if she wasn’t being open and honest about me with her partner. Then, I revised my position. Admittedly, self-servingly. I said, basically, “Only if you’re deliberate and mindful.” I wanted her to be choosing to engage with me, rather than simply falling into my arms (to her knees) after a few drinks. We flirted a bit, and it became clear that neither was she prepared to fall to her knees nor was it tolerable for her to engage with me if that wasn’t her (near-term) destination.
L, you may recall, I dated for a while at the very beginning of this blog’s life, and she and I have remained close friends long since we stopped going to bed together. Her husband and I are friendly, if not friends, and I think there’s generally good feeling among all of us. But last year, L had an affair. A secret from her husband, illicit and exciting affair. Of the type she and I didn’t have. And it made me sad. It even grossed me out a little. Not that it made me think less of her (or anyone).
Somehow, the fact that I couldn’t have what I once had with her, in large part because of our openness, while some other guy could have whatever he had with her – while she could have something with this other guy, because they were being secret rather than open – just made me feel icky.
This thought is relatively unexamined. I don’t really understand its hydraulics, but it really rubbed (rubs) me wrong.
And then there’s Isabel. Isabel and I have been on precisely four dates. Two, mostly chaste. Two, not so much. (You’ve read about one of those not-so-chaste dates, but not the other. Suffice it to say, the second date also featured much drawing by her – drawings that I’ve been carrying around in my bag, waiting for the moment to write about the date. I fear the date was too hot, the drawings too numerous, and you may never read about it.) Anyway – Isabel is single, dating. But on the prowl. (“Not on the prowl,” she tells me. “Openly dating, looking for her partner.”) Recently, she hooked up with a guy – a friend of a friend, who’s definitely boyfriend material. They had a great first date (mostly chaste), and a great second date (not chaste). And this just brings up a world of shit for me.
It’s not (just) that I’m jealous. Or envious. Though I am both. I’m jealous, fearful that I’ll lose her to this guy. I’m envious, that he got to fuck her more recently than I did. (And that his dick is bigger than mine, and he’s taller than I am, and younger than I am, and so on, and so on, and so on.)
But those aren’t what dominates my reaction. The dominant part of my reaction is a sort of recoil. I see her moving toward a relationship with which I might be incompatible, and I withdraw. First, I withdraw because I’m a married guy, with a family, and a life. Far be it from me ever to stand in the way of the development of a relationship. (I felt this way about Sofia, and I think I wrote about it too, at the time. It just doesn’t seem fair for me to be an impediment to a single woman’s progress toward being in a couple.)
Second, because there’s something about a single woman’s progress toward being in a couple – and particularly, a couple with which I would be incompatible (i.e., a monogamous relationship) – that just leaves me cold. Again – I don’t understand this well. I’m simply describing it.
And third, perhaps most important, there’s fear: I don’t want to be abandoned. It’s much easier to leave than to be left, and so I find myself, unconsciously, pulling back. This last one is an especially double-edged sword. Because as much as I don’t want to be left, neither do I want (can I even bear) to be the reason a potential monogamous relationship is forsaken. As bad as it is for me to imagine Isabel leaving me for her new guy, it’s even worse for me to imagine her leaving him for me.
I know. I’m fucked up. 😉