Word selection and nuance are super important in managing open relationship communication. One simple example has been wrestling with the difference between jealousy and envy. Another, more recent revelation, has been the difference between equal and balanced.
One of the most important aspects in our open marriage is that neither Jeannie nor I are looking for partners to replace each other. Instead we’re looking for partners that supplement or compliment our relationship while fulfilling some individual needs or desires. For example, Jeannie likes some aspects of impact play, but not all the same ones that I enjoy. Therefore, my partnering with Justina to play with canes, for example, complimented my relationship with Jeannie. It allowed me to satisfy a craving I cannot satisfy with Jeannie while taking nothing away from Jeannie and me.
This, is balance. This is what open relationships should seek.
I was recently asked to write a guest post for Dr. Marie Thouin’s blog: What is Compersion?. It was a pleasure to have met Marie and learn about her research, which she completed as part of her Ph.D. studies. I enjoyed sharing my story with her along with my thoughts on this complex topic.
For those unfamiliar with the term compersion, it originated in the 1990s in the context of ethical non-monogamy to describe feeling joy or happiness at seeing one’s partner happy as a result of their connection with another partner. In other words, if I am compersive (read my post to find out if I am), then I should derive pleasure at seeing Viktor happy when he spends time with an FWB or a new paramour. This is a very simplified version and I would highly recommend that one check out Marie’s blog and research to learn about compersion in much more depth.
While Viktor and I have written about compersion before, this was an interesting exercise for me as I examined my current state of mind regarding compersion. In this regard, I found it useful to look at a broader application of the term because, for me, compersion can be applied to other connections and relationships beyond romantic partners.
This has been a busy and productive time for Viktor and me as we spent the past several months committed to ourselves and to our marriage. And, while things are great now, it took a long time to get that way.
In early November, we each broke up with our respective partners. Those first few days were rough for both of us, having cut off all contact with Justina and Alex. As we joked, it was an elimination diet as we went through the symptoms of withdrawal.
As we struggled to deal with our break-ups, there were times when we thought we were on the brink of divorce — not because we wanted to, but we wondered if we were really still on the same page. Did we both want the same things going forward? And if so, what were they?
I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions. However, I’m all about setting intentions and desires. Intentions can be a lot like resolutions, but they must be very achievable and I’ll only set a few. Desires can span from the achievable to the “out there” hopes and dreams. But if you don’t put desires out into the universe, how can it provide?!?
When we first opened up our marriage, I never considered the possibility of either of us falling in love. I know that to many this might seem preposterous (if not simply naïve), but I had a very narrow view of love. To me, love fell into three different, and distinct, categories: familial love (love for parents, siblings, children and other family connections); friendship love (I will watch your cat for you when you travel even though I don’t really like cats) and romantic love (the all-consuming, heart, body, mind and soulmate love that I have for Viktor).
Consequently, when Viktor first told me that he was in love with Justina, I was devastated because I couldn’t understand how his love for her fit into one of my categories without eclipsing his love for me. This obviously wasn’t familial love; they were having sex so it went far beyond friendship love; so it must be romantic love and thus, a replacement for the love he had for me. I tried to wrap my head around it and to make sense of how these two things could co-exist simultaneously: Viktor’s love for Justina and Viktor’s love for Jeannie. I repeatedly failed and it continued to eat at me, causing significant pain, confusion and loss.
Almost two weeks ago, Jeannie asked me a pretty simple question. “What do you miss most, Justina the relationship or Justina the person?” I thought about it for a moment and responded pretty definitively “Justina the person.” I said this because what I miss most is having a friendship with her – a friendship that was based on the person that she is. Of course I miss the relationship, too. But at this point, I’m very clear that I don’t want the relationship that we had – I do want a friendship.
The next day we were eating lunch and watching Lucifer. A line in the show made me deeply emotional. The line was something like, “she loves me for who I was, not who I’ve become.” It was super weird that it made me emotional. But then I had my epiphany:
Justina was the first person to truly love me for who I’d become and I got lost in that love because I thought Jeannie was still loving me for who I once was.
While I fully understand the sentiment in the adage “if you love something, set it free” this is ultimately a terrible bit of life advice. It’s an oversimplification and likely to cause more heartache than not. While it’s true you should always be careful not to smother and kill something with your love, that’s just not how most of us love.
As I faced the need to break up with Justina, I didn’t think much about this adage. All I thought about was the pain and suffering we’d both have to go through in the wake of the breakup. Only through that pain, which is ongoing, have I finally given thought to the importance of Justina’s freedom.
This is a painful realization for me, and I still have a lot to process. But perhaps this will begin to bring me some inner peace.
With Thanksgiving’s arrival, I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a roof over my head, food on the table and a life partner who truly loves me. Yet, it has certainly been one of the most challenging years of my life and not just because of the obvious pandemic stuff. Yes, that has definitely added to my strife, but it is almost beside the point.
No more rainbows and unicorns
So much of what I have experienced and endured over the past months has been censored from this site because I was afraid to share what I was feeling knowing that metamours and others were privy to my thoughts and feelings. I didn’t want to share these raw, vulnerable emotions with them, nor permit them to feel superior to me as I admitted my faults. In some ways, I still don’t — my pain and suffering is none of their business and yet I feel compelled to share my story; I want people to know that it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Accordingly, this is a bit of a mashup of unpublished posts and notes from February through November in an attempt to make sense of all that has happened over the past year and how we’ve come to this important juncture in our journey.
When Jeannie and I took the plunge to open our marriage, we were pretty well versed in the risks. This is why we discussed this topic for about four years before finally taking action. I’ve also said since opening up that “getting through the challenges will only make us closer” many, many times. Generally, I’ve been right. Jeannie and I both still feel this way, too.
But what happens when the challenges mount and begin to break down your core trust and security? What happens when your struggles aren’t clear, and things continue to build up before you can make corrections? And what happens if you find yourself doubting, not just being open, but the core relationship with your spouse? Even letting the word divorce sneak into the conversation?
Whether COVID related or not, this is what has happened and it has resulted in us questioning everything. Read on for the story…
I know we’re all feeling this, but times are weird since The Great Pause. I have some great stories to share, some sexy updates that have been a terrific foil to COVID Times. But in reality, I can’t bring myself to tell these stories. I’ve been trying for a couple of weeks, but the words won’t come.
This is the “COVID Confusion”
The COVID Confusion is when thoughts and feelings are completely misaligned. And, frankly, this is what most days feel like lately. Some are better than others. In fact, some are truly great! But this confusion is terrifying and exhausting. It feels as if I can’t enjoy the good things in life. And sometimes, it numbs the bad things.
I don’t want to be numb. I fear that any numbness used to get through these uncertain times will carry into The After Times and that will not be good. I want to feel, and I want to feel it all. The joy, the pain, the euphoria, the depression. But it is so confusing and I’m not sure how to get through this.
That’s all for now – I just wanted to share this quick thought while noting that there are good things happening, too; they are just masked in all the COVID Confusion.