Or, What To Do With The Rest Of Your Life, When Valentine’s Day Is Over
By Liam Scheff
A song for the proceedings…
A friend wrote me asking what she should do about her current sort-of relationship. She likes him…no, she ‘really’ likes him, though he’s a bit of a womanizer – to boost his ego (she explained), to compensate for some missing pieces of self he lost somewhere along the way…but they really ‘connect on so many levels.’ The problem now: she’s not sure if she can trust him. It seems he popped in to see his old gal-pal (uhm…’fuck buddy’), RIGHT AFTER my friend poured on the “can it just be us?” pitch for a serious relationship.
Now she’s absolutely certain that he connected bits-and-pieces with his old stand-by girl-in-a-pinch. But he denies it. She thinks he’s lying…and what’s a girl to do?
She laid this on my table, knowing I’d have something to say – and I did, and I do. Oh, one more thing about my friend – she’s a lovely sweetheart, and if she reads this – this ISN’T YOU!! I promise. Sort of. But she’s a lovely, athletic and active human creature, filled with life, and that’s all you’ll get out of me on the specifics…except this: she’s just lost someone very close to her, a family member, and is most definitely in pain and mourning – and you have to know that to understand the rest of the conversation.
Loss, pain and desperation may suck scorched donkey asshole, but are also wonderful kindling for a mind-blowing set of rib-expanding, back-stretching, pelvis cracking super-fucks. Just ask anyone who’s ever been stuck on an office floor during an extended blackout; or huddled together in a shelter during a hurricane; or ask me (or anyone else) who watched the 9-11 nightmare farce unfold on live TV and Howard Stern on that Tuesday in September. Immediately following, many of us canoodled for no particular reason that we could understand.
I was tutoring piano and music theory in college at the time (my second time through, I dropped out the first time because escaping high school just to watch trust fund jerk-offs strike poses and puke up the dorm hallways felt like a huge letdown; I wanted real world experience – stories for another time), and one of my regulars, a woman a year older than me who worked in the merciless no-future world of catering pulled up in her car, said hi and have you heard the news, and a half a conversation later, we were wordlessly rolling back to her place to unwind our angst together. Which we did. (I love music theory. I miss that world.)
Which is to say that my friend, mourning a greater personal loss than a hurricane, is vulnerable to the needs of being a modern human. Which is to say – being a tribal mammal in a non-tribal world, and needing some reassurance that the world is not actually ending, though death of a loved one sure as hell makes it feel like it is, or at least that it damn well should.
To recap: She’s into him, he’s into her – but he probably plays around. And there’s an aside: I know my friend, which means I’m well aware that she has been a kind of athlete of the bedroom – and is no virgin to sporting escapades with selected playmates. But not this time. This time she wants to lay down the heavy letter “M.” Monogamy.
What changed her tune? And what could I respond that would make sense, value her needs, paint a clear assessment of her situation – and help her see him (and herself) more clearly?
Turns out all I had to do was look at myself. I’ve been this guy (though I’m more honest), and I’ve been this girl (wanting, needing, praying for a stable love to quiet the demons of our haunted world.)
So I answered her, and I’ll expand that answer here:
First: Why do you want to be monogamous? You think he’s playing around. Do you really want to make him do something he’s clearly not a natural at? How’s that going to work out. Feel like baby-sitting much?
At the same time, do you want to limit your own activities in the future? Why set a trap – then walk into it?
Second: You’re hurting. You want to mourn. Sex is not mourning, and even if it is an aid in mourning, the person you screw has served their purpose by helping you cry-fuck it out of your system. Is this someone you want to go grocery shopping with daily? Raise puppies with? Or someone whose penis you want to use as a grief-portal to transport yourself out of pain and into a transcendent moment of forgetful sweaty bliss? You know, someone you want to hold fondly in your heart for being there in that dark moment…but not buy a car with.
The answer isn’t to put more restriction on him. You already think he’s not being honest – so why not upend his game and beat his move? If he’s keeping his side-dish-in-a-pinch girl, then accept it. Accept it because it’s who he is. Accept it because it’s probably who you are, too.
Of course, accepting our human tendency to wander – and then come back – raises a set of questions. First: health. STDs. Pregnancy. Second: What will the neighbors say? And what if he likes her more than me???
Fair questions, each and every one. For health, you need rules. Rules about sex protect your genitals from burning fiery demons from the blood-soaked Red planet of “Does this look…weird to you?”
For pregnancy, you need a guy – or girl – with enough common sense to…cross your fucking fingers and pray. I mean, that is..shit. It’s hard to figure. You can use condoms, but I’d never trust them. I’d pull out, but people say that doesn’t work (though it has for me… I think. Any little Liams out there? Probably not.) As a guy, I do recommend earlier-in-the-day pre-sex e-jerk-ulation-off. That is, take a bullet out of the chamber. It’ll increase your time on the track. (Always works for me, but I’m not a scientist, remember. I’m anti-scientist. So, whatever. Mostly, pull out, and don’t spill the wine in the cask. If you take my meaning. Wine being semen. Casks being… Come on. The vagina. Jesus, do I have to spell it all out for you??)
But what about appearances? What will the neighbors say? I guess you just have to roll with it. You’re a polyamorous 21st century freaky-duo, and you accept that you’re both hot in the trousers and can’t always manage to turn down a good thing when it chews on your buttons.
But that’s a bit of snark, so let’s bring it down to earth.
There are rules. They are as follows:
Among conscious, conscientious adults…it’s okay to have other relationships, friendships, kind-word-exchanges, flirtations, dirty-talk sessions, and picture sharings. It’s fine. It is so normal that it’s practically required. Put it this way: if all the dirty talking, picture sharing relationships we maintain across the world wide web were suddenly curtailed, ceased and desisted…the internet would deflate from crippling lack of electrical pressure – and break into a million pieces – and we’d be forever back on landlines, asking each other, “Soooo….what are you doing later?”
So, it’s normal, whether your programming allows it or not. And it’s going to happen. C’est la vie. Discuss it, consider it, and once you’re okay with some boundaries in your particular set of horniness….Enjoy it.
That said, for being normal, I truly, madly and deeply suggest that you not rush to discuss everything that ever happens when you’re blowing off steam. (That sort of takes the purpose of ‘blowing off steam’ out of the equation, doesn’t it?) That is, your at home partner is not a priest and not a confessional. If you have shit to work out, talk to someone who isn’t so attached to every move you make for his or her psychological stability. Vent it to a counselor or a trusted friend who can keep your counsel. (And choose those carefully.)
How to achieve this imperfect state of being? It means that you’re doing something very European. You’re giving each other a longer leash. At the same time you’re discussing what it is that you’re truly with each other for.
Are you business partners? Best friends? Or massive horny fuckaholics who can’t get enough of the taste of each other’s frog and nuts? It takes a certain kind of honesty to figure out what you are. But once you do, you may find that you love this person even more for describing your love honestly, instead of trying to squeeze it into the razor edged cookie cutter of suburban American suppression-insanity.
Here’s the primary mistake we all make – because we’re all encouraged to make it. Call it “Tied-Togetherness.” It goes like this: There are things you love to do together. And wow, do you LOVE doing those things. So why wouldn’t you love doing…EVERYTHING together?
Because, genius, you won’t. You don’t! And you know it. So stop it. Do the things you love to do. Let each other off the hook for what you can.
Do what every group of tribal and “ethnic” people on earth have done, since time immemorial.
Take. Time. Off.
Yes, it’s okay to take days off from each other. In fact, it’s imperative that any couple that thinks they might have a future… and really hear this, dear readers…take a few fucking days off from each other.
Do not have dinner together every night. Do not do the errands together every time. Do not weigh each other down with the tasks of managing the home AND expect to have the most romantic night of your life, then cry for no reason when you hear “Baby, Where Did Our Love Go” in the bank waiting to pay your mortgage. (It happens more than you think.)
Give each other space. His world and Her world. That’s what made it fun in the beginning…you were visiting each other’s space. (Maybe having separate bedrooms would make sex more fun – remember, it was the visiting that made it exotic and new.)
You want time apart – every day and every week. You want – from the very beginning of the relationship – weekends where you just disappear and don’t keep endless track of each other.
You don’t want to be the couple who finishes each other’s sentences, cuts each other’s peas, and spoons them into each other’s mouth on a daily basis. They end up breaking up in a facebook-cracking splitting of friends because she, in a trance state that psychiatrists are still struggling to understand, threw herself on the cabana boy and managed to get pregnant – while on her 15th reunion Jamaican getaway with her surprised husband (who has, it must be said, been masturbating to Frankie Valley records since he saw “Grease” when he was 12 – but, said the priest during confession, “It’s probably just a phase. Five Hail Mary’s.”)
Don’t be that couple. Don’t be blind to your un-Jesus-approved human needs. Love, touch, affection, validation, psychological ease, being heard, and that most scorned of concepts: Variety.
But Liam!!! This is positively …. heartless!! Unromantic!!! Un-American!!!
But dear reader. It is un-American. And that’s why you must listen. Because America is a hideously broken and unfixable cesspool of psychic hypocrisy, and you do not – I repeat – DO NOT want to emulate anything you see as instruction on relationships from any American standard cookie-cutter role-model-making authority.
She likes the guy. He plays around. She does too (or, she will be again when her heart is healed a bit and her insecurities less inflamed). Which means: these two better decide to cut each other a little slack, and hold to one important rule above all:
“If you’re not going to lie to each other about being monogamous – then you must put a day of rest between anything you do with anyone else and your homecoming sexcapades.”
That’s the commandment. You need to protect each other from the bumps and bruises of those age-old human barnacles such as herpes and hepatitis and whatever varieties of chlamydia await the intrepid muff and penis diver in the age of cell-phone hookups.
Dear readers, friends and citizens of the steeple: You don’t have to be monogamous. What you have to do is promise not to be assholes. You have to be brave enough to say: Not tonight – I need to let the iron cool for a day or two, just to be safe.
Exchanging knowing glances across the bed, you’ll pass through the legion of emotions that have been beaten into your head: a spasm of jealousy; a tickle of curiosity, the bloom of appreciation that this slutty baboon next to you has enough regard for your bits and pieces so as to protect them from any unwanted ocean bottom lice. I mean.. life. I mean… you know what I mean. And if you don’t, you don’t want to – so heed my advice.
But what do I do about jealousy?
Answer: Shut up. Honestly. Most of us raised since 1970-something have been in so many relationships, seen and done so much that wasn’t in our “Clifford, the small red puppy” easy reader, that to even begin to feign anything other than knowing bemusement at a friend or partner’s occasional bouts of humanity, well…are just plain disingenuous.
Or, you know, talk about it and figure out that you’re not going to stick each other with the mortgage, car payments and child-care. And mean it. Look out for each other’s well being…and do so – without becoming slaves to fear and shame (you know, fear and shame – “the American way”).
But…but… but.. But what if he falls in love with someone else?
Answer: He will. And so will you. It’s inevitable. Everyone falls in love from time to time. It blooms, blossoms, and the flower shines brightly for a week or two, or a few months if you’re lucky. And then shit happens, bills have to be paid, schedules conflict, one of you realizes the other is a: control freak, emotionally unavailable, a nervous wreck, an activity junky, manic depressive, a narcissistic blamer, an emotion-avoider…or any of the other completely normal, standard-issue disasters that describe ALL OF US in one way or another.
But what about honest communication?
Well… it has its limits. I don’t recommend crucifying each other with the details of a third wheel. It’s not important. We all have “other friends.” These are the people who, in our ancient tribes, would have been our tribal peers, our unrelated brothers and sisters, who would have gone on the hunt, or the expedition with us, or done the pounding of millet or cassava, or gone up-river to find the honey-bee nests – or whatever you would have done in your tribe.
We’re not monogamous. Not in our hearts, not in our heads, and most of us, frankly, not in our bodies. What are you gonna do about it? My answer:
Accept it. Love the people you like a lot for the reasons you like them. Let them off the hook for the things they can’t do. And keep your tribal life active with those you feel are in your group. Sounds hard, and it is, because America rewards the big stinking lie: that we’re “supposed to” be naturally grouped into two-person till-death pods of bitterness, failure and personal shame. This bastardization of late-Victorian fictional identity – which we now thing of as “conventional marriage” is nothing of the sort.
The ancient world (up to the modern era) has always permitted men and women to take time off from each other. They treated each other’s lives as, in many important ways, entirely separate. Those things that were “together” were all the things you need in a tribal partner: someone to be there for the children, in emergencies, and when all the good-time friends are too busy or drunk or occupied with their “serious” partners.
We’ve lost the thread of human identity in this last 40 years of feminist blow-back onto the corrupting marriage system. Feminism demanded that women be treated better than slaves – but instead of liberating women from ownership, men came to be treated as badly as women – making both “equals” in a system of slavery.
I’m not saying you don’t love your at-home partner. I’m sure you do. I’m not saying you don’t have good times, good conversations and even good sex. I’m glad for you. You can love all of these things. But after a time, you’ll want your days off. This time without will help you remember who you are, be a happier person, and importantly, give you space to remember what’s special about your friend – this person you “click with on so many levels” with, whose dreams you’ve so often shared and supported – and whose life is dear and precious to you.
To my friend, and those like her (and like me), I recommend a long leash, but one that still circles back to a place where you can talk and feel supported. And maybe in time this becomes a natural place to call home. And maybe one day, you’ll be so non-plussed by your sensual humanity that you’ll need no more jealousy to guard your love for your very human friend.
Good luck. We’ve all been programmed to fear our own souls and to embrace self-hating shame whenever our humanity peeks out from under the rock where the Popes, Rabbis and Imams have shoved it. It’s a giant mind-fuck we all have to get over. But, with a little love…and practice…
You can do it.
At least you can try.
Next time: the Huffington Post-Driven “Epidemic” of New Narcissists
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