This whole relationship/sex/life thing is humbling. I’ve made massive mistakes, I’ve been turned down, and I’ve had some near-death-by-embarassment moments during sex. Add multiple partners and it’s exponentially easier to screw up. Opportunities for humility abound.
Few things are more humbling than negotiations around non-monogamy with my husband. We’ve been together for a while and quite a bit of history gets whipped up in to a present-day disagreement. I’m guilty of using our shared history as a barometer of my husband’s reaction to a situation, despite the fact that he’s moved on, learned, and (gasp) changed a little. I assume how he will react, and adjust accordingly.
It’s from a loving place. I swear.
Nothing happens in a vacuum. He has made his own mistakes as we’ve navigated non-monogamy. His lapses, however, are often “in-house.” He has been judgmental and inflexible. He has used his family’s rigid boundaries of matrimony and womanhood as a lens for non-monogamy. He has tried to wield control from a fount of insecurity and fear.
It’s from a loving place. He swears.
I have seized my husband’s missteps and etched them in to the Rosetta Stone of his person-hood. I have kept him at arms-length and made assumptions, all in the name of saving his feelings. I try to protect him against myself and my desires.
My mistakes are typically external and usually omission-of-fact. I am saving face and/or avoiding, what I’m certain will be, his stern judgment. Instead of primping for a date with him in the house, I’ll get it all done before he comes home from work, so I don’t look like I “care too much” about my other partner. I gloss over details so he won’t feel left out. I have withheld the truth of my desires so that he will continue to feel as though he offers me everything I need.
The end result? He feels left out, alienated, and as though he’s unable to fill any needs at all.
Knowing my husband as I do – he is more sensitive than I am – I am loathe to hurt him. He is an even-keeled man with a depth that can be frightening for both of us. Nature, nurture, and habit take us to a place of baffling misunderstanding sometimes.
By denying him the truth I’m denying him the opportunity for an authentic response. In fearing his authentic response, I’m denying both of us the chance to initiate change. We are living documents, people who are trying their best. To assume that one of us isn’t changing, thinking, or re-calibrating undermines the relationship that we’re endeavoring to sustain.
Whether you’re monogamous or not, it’s brutal to tell someone you love, “I don’t want you there.” It’s embarrassing to admit that you broke an agreement. These are hard truths for anyone to admit to their primary partner, no matter whom or how you love.
My husband wants to know me. He is asking for an intimacy that precious few humans can abide.
I am humbled.