Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Open Relationships

A young woman meets a man. She had already been traumatized by a series of men who had dumped her, so her confidence was not exactly in the clouds. So, she met a wonderful man and engaged in a wonderful loving relationship with him. I know, it already sounds a bit mushy, but, hold on.

After a few months he announced that he wanted to sleep with other people. Presumably, that means other women. But that he still wanted to continue his relationship with the woman who calls herself Just Not Enough. He was willing to accord her the role of main squeeze. If we are to believe Ask Polly, open relationships are something of a thing among sophisticated urban professionals.

Today’s letter writer explains her situation. When her boyfriend told her he wanted to sleep around she told him to take a hike. Can you blame her? And yet, she is dogged by the feeling that she was just not enough. She is in therapy and what good is therapy if it does not teach you to beat yourself up for someone else’s bad behavior. Because, after all is said and done, the man in question treated with extreme disrespect.

Just Not Enough writes:

Several months ago, after a long string of 30-year-old guys dumped me unceremoniously after our fourth dates (you could pretty much set a watch to it), I met someone I adored, and who I’m pretty sure adored me, too. He was a brilliant listener, open and kind, had a great career, a sense of humor, and an affection for me I’m not sure I’ve felt before. But a few months in, he told me he needed to see other people. He wanted to see me, too, but he said there had always come a point in his relationships when he wanted to sleep with other people, and now he needed to make a lifestyle shift, and would I like to be his primary partner? He told me all this in a fog of emotion after I opened up a what-are-we-doing-here conversation; he got shifty, quiet, had a hundred weird other reasons not even worth repeating, cited his depression, said he didn’t know who he was or what he wanted, exactly, but that he had to try this. It’s funny, because in the hours and days before this happened he told me that what we had was incredibly special and rare, that he felt “understood” by me and that he hadn’t felt this way in a very long time, and also that the sex was better than any he had before. Anyway, I said no. I didn’t want an open relationship. It pained me then and it’s killing me now, but I couldn’t do it, especially not when the decision felt so fear-based and not before we had a chance to build a basic level of trust.

My therapist told me that we can give my now-ex credit for being honest about the fact that he needs to be with other people. Okay: good for him. Credit where credit is due. But as much as I am trying to applaud his resolution, I don’t understand it, never having had real issues being loyal to anyone (even to the wrong people). And what’s more, it makes me feel horribly inadequate.

Because the truth is I wasn’t enough. He needed more. More what? More sex, I guess, despite what we had getting a pretty glowing review. More conversation, maybe, even though he said he felt he could tell me anything. 

More beauty? I’m not Miss America, but I’m not an ogre, either, and that seems like a dumb reason for a good guy to bolt. Until everything fell apart, this man looked me in the eyes and told me how much he cared about me, and I could see — am I crazy?? — I could see he was beginning to fall for me. I felt so safe, and then it was over. He seemed 100 percent in, until he was out. I’ve come a long way as a woman, a human, in the last few years, and I think I know I am enough. But still I feel like I wasn’t. He needed something, someone, more….

I looked at him and saw a big, beautiful mess with a million jagged edges, but also someone who naturally made me peer into the future, and who made the future look like a place that didn’t seem so scary. After a difficult 20s and a long string of disappointments and a lot of hard work and a few losses and a few gains, I look at myself and I think: I contain multitudes. Aren’t multitudes enough?

Just a quick thought here. Of course, it's better to discover this now, rather than later. Better to discover his character flaw now, not later. And also, what happened to anger? Why should she feel that there is something wrong with her? Why shouldn’t she feel that there is something wrong with him and that he has treated her appallingly badly? Why is her therapist giving him credit for being honest instead of letting her feel angry for being mistreated?

I will spare you Polly’s paean to romantic love and great marital sex. In another context it would be called: too much information. And yet, she informs us us that open relationships are the plat du jour in some of our urban centers.

In her words:

We happen to be living in a moment when lots of young urbanites believe that open relationships are the way and the light. There’s this very common notion that sex always gets very old with the same person, and once that happens you’re fucked, so why not structure your life differently? Young people regularly talk about monogamy like it’s this trick that the Man plays to get the sheeple in line, or it’s some dying gasp of a conservative, religious world that had yet to be emancipated by the infinite choices and glories of Tinder.

Free to be used… liberated to be one of several mistresses… is this what women’s liberation was about? Why are sophisticated urban women accepting these conditions? Is monogamy really a patriarchal conspiracy? If it is, are women accepting open relationships because they can now have sex with all the men they want?

Strangely enough, or not, neither Just Not Enough nor Polly considers that the new arrangements will allow women to have more sexual partners themselves. Could it be that this is not what women want?

8 comments:

Sam L. said...

The guy needed "more", which is what Rico wanted in "Little Caesar", except it was more women, not just "more". The woman is lucky to be rid of him. She'll be luckier if she can rid herself of Ask Polly.

Ares Olympus said...

Well, I have two cases to consider, no kids in either case.
1. A female cousin was asked by her husband to allow him to explore his homosexuality with MEN, so "Other people", may not necessarily be women. She said no and they divorced. She remarried and had kids.
2. A sexually frustrated extroverted female friend was considering divorce and asked her husband if she could date other "people", in the polyamory sense, men and women, and he agreed, and they've been married for 10 years since. I believe the husband has also tried seeing other people, specifically women, although I know nothing more, and I never asked if these were all pair-encounters or not.

This female friend did try to explain to me about polyamory, and she thought I'd be understanding, but apparently my questions came out a little too judgmental. She does keep it secret from her family, who just see an ordinary marriage from the outside. I did get the sense that it wasn't all about sex, and there were a lot of rules, so they actually signed contracts on what was being agreed upon.

Overall I concluded that humanity sexuality is vast, and too large for my imagination or interest. Perhaps its more men who want more, and only women who feel inadequate. I can't guess where the statistics would end up.

I'd agree with the therapist the "open relationship" request is the right approach, the honest approach. However its no different than any other sex question. If a husband asks for oral sex, or something else, and the wife says no, she also knows she's not enough, and there's no way to unask such questions. How does an adventurous person comfort an inadventurous partner after such a no? But the attempt must be made if you want to stay.

Ares Olympus said...

p.s. On polyamory contracts, here's an example. People are creative when they really want something.
http://www.polyamorysociety.org/Ron_and_Robin_Relationship_Agreement.html

ted said...

For love to go deeply, it must be one-pointed toward the other; otherwise it becomes diffuse and shallow.

James said...

RUN!

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"Why shouldn’t she feel that there is something wrong with him and that he has treated her appallingly badly?"

Because our entire sophisticated civilization has a value system based on blind tolerance. We tolerate everything, because who are we to judge? What is there to be angry about? If you're angry, you have an anger-management problem, you defective, despicable creature.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"Free to be used… liberated to be one of several mistresses… is this what women’s liberation was about?"

Yes, once you arrive at the logical conclusion that women's liberation was designed to give wealthy, bored, unattractive women access to mainstream society. For the real liberators, they got a pulpit, with journalists salivating to capture each word uttered.

Rich men think this is a great system. Vegan antisocial BLM lesbian liberal arts professors think it's the berries. Who should complain? When all you have to do is chatter "Patriarchy!" at every challenge, it's a great gig. You don't engage, you silence. Fun!

Polly was indoctrinated by our modern academy. Are we really surprised by the output? And to think... this is an ADVICE column. Good grief.

n.n said...

This is why "=" excluded polygamy among other orientations. We already have a de facto polygamy, albeit without commitment, in the form of friendships with "benefits". Ironically, while modern couples do not sleep in separate beds, they do sleep in separate houses.