Change in all the areas of my life...
I posted here a few weeks ago, about the end(ish?) of my secondary relationship, but things continue to be... complicated. So I want to keep talking about it but it doesn't really fit in the "Relationships" category anymore.
TheKnight and I haven't been having a good time lately. A bit of budgetary over-extension, combined with a slow period in my business (I'm self-employed) have led to a lot of stress. So I'm pulling back a bit on the business to spend more time with my son and save money on daycare and other expenses (dropping the second car, for instance). Also, his parents and grandfather will be moving up here from Florida in the next few months due to significant health issues on his dad's part.
Adding to that stress, there have been some odd repercussions of Hipster!Boy and I's breakup between TheKnight and I - there were some particular kinks of mine that were met by Hipster!Boy that are, of course, not now met. And since even Hipster!boy ability to meet them was a source of jealousy/conflict, well, me being unhappy about their absence has not gone over well. So there've been a few less than happy discussions about that, though I think those are resolving right now.
Of course, things between Hipster!Boy and I haven't really *ended*. We still text a lot, though not as often as before, but I haven't seen him in 2 weeks now. I'm going to see he and PinkGirl tonight for Cinco de Mayo, in fact. The problem is we left things, last time we discussed our relationship, on a Very Unresolved Note. So he knows I still want more, he said he wanted time to think, and we haven't talked about it since then (it's been about a week and a half). In that time, though, we have had one... confrontation? I suppose that's a good word for it, about our ambiguous status. He used one of our in-house jokes in a text conversation, an in-house joke that was, when we were dating, unambiguously sexual. I told him that wasn't fair, and he apologized and said he was just being "playful" and not trying to poke at me. I told him that I didn't want to have that conversation at that time nor in text, and we didn't talk for 48 hours or so (This is weird for us, usually we text multiple times a day, even since the breakup.). That was last Friday. So tonight will be ... interesting. Especially since TheKnight is out of town for work, so it's just me and my son going over to their house.
I know cutting off contact for a while would probably make it all easier. But I'm apparently a glutton for punishment, or something. Or at least I have hope. Still. And he's still so very important in my life. (Or maybe I just think he is. I've been doing a lot of thinking about the relationship in my head vs the relationship in reality and I haven't really come to any conclusions that stick.)
Meanwhile I'm talking to a few new people on OKC, and have a couple potential drinks dates in the next few weeks. Which is probably in some ways a terrible idea, I'm not sure I'm (in Dan Savage's words) in "good working order" to start anything. On the other hand, I'm hoping that something light-hearted and fun might be a decent distraction and make moving on a bit easier.
Last night was just as awkward as I was afraid it would be.
Pink!Girl and I continue to bond over parenting and fashion and so many of the other things we have in common, with the odd undercurrent of mutual heartbreak over each others' respective husbands. (I mentioned this dynamic to a non-poly friend of mine, and almost made her spit her coffee across the table. And yet it doesn't seem so odd at the moment...)
HipsterBoy and I, though, well. Where there used to be sexual tension between us, there's just tension now, and rawness. I find myself unable to look at him much of the time, I don't want him to see the vulnerability in my eyes. And yet every so often it's as if we forget we're not supposed to be lovers anymore and he meets my eyes with that same smile, and I'm reminded why I can't walk away from this.
The evening progressed as a weirdly hinged threesome - I found myself focusing the conversation on PinkGirl, as did he, I think. But when she stepped out of the room for a few moments, well. He asked me how I was, as though the fact that I was a mess about this was somehow a surprise to him. I told him it varied by day - which is true, and that he had no idea how pissed off and upset I had been Friday by his absentminded flirtations. He said he knew, given I hadn't talked to him for a day and a half (and at this my treacherous heart thought something like "at least he noticed!"). And we talked a bit about the fact that we needed to have a conversation, but this wasn't the time or the place.
At the end of the evening he walked me to my car, and again we talked about needing to talk (of course, my week is kind of booked, so who knows when that will happen.) I asked him if this - our current state of being - was anything like he thought it would be - and he said no, and I told him that this was all his choice and drove off. Perhaps I shouldn't have said that. I don't know that I care about "should" in this case.
Things are looking up...
Last week - Wednesday - HipsterBoy and I finally talked about "the state of things", and it was the conversation that needed to happen. Not a long one, really, but at least not text. I still feel like I may have been pushing a bit harder than I should have been, and told him so, but while he didn't know what he DID want from the two of us it wasn't the platonic thing we've been trying to do for the past two weeks.
So we're in a state of... comfortable ambiguity, at the moment. Love is there, attraction is there, we can talk and touch and it's not-weird now. Which is really important for me - I was discussing a friend's relationship and in the course of the conversation ended up taking that "5 love languages" test, and I maxed out on touch and words of affirmation. So deliberately not touching someone I still loved was the hardest thing about the "platonic experiment".
I'm not sure when we'll go out again, nor when we'll be intimate. I don't find myself to be impatient about that though - while I look forward to it happening, it doesn't have the urgency it once would have, nor even the urgency that getting things resolved between us did.
Elsewise... went on an interesting first date last night with, hmm, guess I'll call him MartialArtist. He's an OKC high match who turned out to be the sibling of an acquaintance and friend of some of my other friends. That coincidence had the potential for awkwardness but turned out to just be amusing. Good conversation, and some fairly delicious chemistry - the date ended up with a fair amount of making out in a secluded corner of the bar. :D
I see this turning into quite a fun-but-casual sort of thing - very lighthearted and giggly - no real potential, I think, for the sort of connection I had/have with HipsterBoy but I don't want that right now anyway. I'm still very much looking forward to seeing him again, and he knows I'm in a slightly re-boundy headspace and just looking for fun, and is apparently ok with that. So yay.
I've been having a lot of conversations with TheKnight about the nature of sexual attraction/compatibility/chemistry. One of the most wonderful things, and yet the biggest challenges, about our relationship is that we were each other's first sexual experiences. And as you can imagine NRE + 16/17/18 yr old hormones were an insane mix. Like any relationship, though, that NRE has waned, and we've had our ups and downs as far as sex is concerned.
A lot of those issues are my fault - I have both self-esteem issues as far as attractiveness is concerned, and a somewhat submissive / passive approach to sex. I suspect most people get off on being wanted, but I think I'm probably worse than most on that front - my level of desire tends to be directly proportionate to how much I feel my partner is attracted to me. This can be awesome, especially at the beginning of a relationship, but in a long term relationship does tend to me being a bit of an emotional vampire on the sex side of things. If I don't feel wanted, I don't put energy into seduction, which is a bit of a death spiral for a sexual relationship.
It's not a pattern I've figured out how to break, though, as "going outside my comfort zone" on that one is an active turn off. So that's a problem.
The other problem with TheKnight and I is that we've slightly grown in different directions, sexually - I crave intensity, he tends towards a somewhat more playful/fun style in bed. Not that playful isn't fun, part of the time... but it's still not my number one choice. Even trying to use kink to hit that "intensity" button doesn't seem to work, and while I can find others to hit that "intensity" button, I hate that I can't seem to have it with my husband, especially when we once did have it.
TheKnight, on the other hand, is frustrated that I am still stuck on something from 15 years ago, a bit jealous that I keep looking for that and/or finding it with others (it was the one real point of conflict over my relationship with HipsterBoy), and really *wants* to be able to hit that button on me and can't figure out how to. And he becomes more and more frustrated that he sees me as not putting energy into our sexual relationship that I did/do put into other relationships, not understanding that my actions were direct reflections of the energy I was getting first. (A concrete example of this is that I took more pains with my appearance when going out with HipsterBoy than I have in the past while for dates with TheKnight. True, unfair of me, and yet it's hard to bother going all out on hair/makeup/lingerie etc when the reaction is the same if I do or if I don't.)
I'm not sure this is a problem that's ever going to resolve well - it's something that's been an issue our entire relationship and poly does tend to ... expose that flaw. Still trying to figure out solutions...
Spent last evening with HipsterBoy. Pink!Girl and TheKnight decided to go get drinks and try to figure their relationship out, and since we were both sans-spouse, I figured it'd be nice to hang out.
I'm still trying to figure out what we are to each other now. The sexual tension that was such a defining part of our relationship for so long is just ... mostly gone. Not sure how or why. Perhaps it really did take both of us to sustain. I can't tell whether he wants it to be back or not. I don't really know where the line between romance and friendship is though, in its absence. I still want to touch him in ways that I don't want to touch truly "platonic" friends... and if I was given the option to go back to "the way things were" I'd take it.
We're back to able to cuddle while sitting on the couch now - I sort of wonder whether I am taking too much advantage of that, I was a little aware that I was touching him more than he was touching me but that may be personality and mood (he was coming off a couple days of work conferences, which for someone who's a bit of an introvert...) rather than me being too pushy. I don't know. It's hard to tell - I'm bad at body language and this is still a really unique situation compared to anything I've ever dealt with.
For that matter, we fell asleep on the couch together for a little while, since I was waiting for TheKnight to come back to go home and that ran a (lot) later than I expected. I don't know whether it's lovely we are comfortable enough to do that or sad that even though we so rarely see each other these days we aren't taking advantage of every minute we have. Maybe I shouldn't over-think that.
I had a very odd interaction on OKC today. My "main" profile picture is a selfie taken as I was getting ready to go out with TheKnight during one of the many low points of our relationships with Pink!Girl and HipsterBoy - it happened to be the best picture of me with my current haircut I had. So this morning I got a message about having a different "aura" in that picture vs. my other pictures, as though something was missing. My curiosity being piqued, I asked for more details, even added a newer picture for more commentary.
It's interesting the perception a stranger can have from a few snapshots - the most telling quote was this: "It's like you feel you lost something special to you, that you don't ever think you are going to get back or find again.". And that was, in fact, a pretty decent description of how I felt at the time about HipsterBoy, and still do, a little (and apparently it still shows in the most recent picture, if less so, which makes sense given there are some other good things going on in my life but there are still things I treasure and want back about that relationship).
The trick, of course, is figuring out which parts are about me and which parts are actually about the relationship. I met HipsterBoy at a time that I was "coming out from under a rock" about a year and a half after having a kid, pulling way back from a hobby and social group that was really important to me (because of my son) and moving from a full time job to a work-at-home business. So I was pretty primed to let things get intense due to some serious gaps in my life. Doesn't mean there wasn't (isn't?) something real there, but does make... proportion and perspective difficult.
Anyway, the random conversation this morning put into perspective how very unhappy, in some ways, the relationship with HipsterBoy had made me in the past few months. When it first started - say, May-October of last year - it was pretty much pure joy. There were a few bumps, but overall it was good. But since then it really had been spiraling in many ways - the moments of joy got rare and got lost. I hadn't realized just how often the answer to "how are you?" from friends was "Tired", or "My life is crazy", or otherwise just not great. And that wasn't all him - there were lots of other things involved. But I was wasting so much mental energy on trying to decode us, or cling to something that had become logistically unfeasible, or pour energy into something flagging... well. I'm very much glad I'm not doing that now. Maybe that means I am moving on.
Certainly the next few days seem to indicate that. TheKnight and I are having a close friend/once-and-future-FWB over for dinner and possibly a bit more tonight. Probably seems sudden, in the context of all this, but that sort of "waiting-is" status has always been true for her. Let's call her TheBride, since I'm one of her bridesmaids next year. TheBride was, when we met her, a "unicorn", getting over a VERY bad relationship. In many ways she was our first foray into "true" poly as opposed to just non-monogamy - we met through a mutual hobby rather than through a dating site or the like, she was openly poly and had been for years, and dating us, as a couple, was both safe and healing for her. It very much stayed on the level of friendship/love with some fun, not romantic at all, and when she met her now-fiancé they went mono for a while and we all stayed friends. Once they opened back up, the four of us got together a few times but that didn't really work the same way, and then TheKnight and I went mono for a while because of my son. She and I remained very close, though, and there was always a (occasionally spoken) understanding that we might get back together at some point, either just TheBride and I or perhaps all three of us. And really that probably would have already happened in the past year or so, except that Pink!Girl was uncomfortable with TheKnight having other partners. So now that they're done...well... options open again. So I'm looking forward to that - we'll see if we still have as much fun together as once was the case, as it's been 3+ years now since we connected that way.
And of course I have a second date with MartialArtist tomorrow night, which I'm very excited about. I don't knowhow things will go, there, but our first date had a level of giggly and unabashedly attracted to each other physically that I've missed. Actually, no, I haven't exactly missed it, as looking back at it, even my first couple dates with HipsterBoy there was an undercurrent of seriousness and a slight undercurrent of potential-for-drama. (For instance, I came home that first night and told my husband "I don't know what this is going to be, but I think it's going to be very different than anything else we've ever been around." And there was weirdness with Pink!Girl - we all had a drink before HipsterBoy and I went to dinner, I even have the World's Most Awkward Selfie with the three of us. )
Part of that awkward was because none of us were used to dating other people yet, but I still wonder if I should have seen how this was going to go and never gotten involved...
I'm also trying very hard to not internalize Pink!Girl's attitudes towards sex/relationships. Sounds funny, doesn't it? She is a woman of very strong opinions, and has, when it suits her, this idea that having more than one partner outside one's primary relationship is greedy or unsustainable and there's more than a little bit of sex-negativity associated with it - a level of not really being comfortable with her own desires, if one is honest about it. While I certainly have my own issues with regards to desire and sex, as I've mentioned in previous posts, I don't have some magic number that I consider "too many" or "enough", assuming everyone is playing safely and everyone's needs are met. But I'm going to have to tell HipsterBoy - and by extension Pink!Girl - about TheBride, at least before I'm intimate with HipsterBoy again. Though it perhaps won't be much of a thing given I've always been frank and honest about my desire to have female companionship in my life as well - had things not gone weirdly, this could have been Pink!Girl, but things went completely off the rails between her and TheKnight just as she and I were trying that, and it got too weird. I'm... not looking forward to that conversation, in any case. It's a little screwed up that I don't want HipsterBoy to think I don't care about him because I'm moving on too quickly after he dumped me... but, well, it's still complicated. The problem is that he's saying he's fine with me seeing other people, Pink!Girl is saying he isn't and that he agrees with her on the "one other partner should be enough" front.
I don't know if I'm throwing away the chance for he and I to be together by moving on, but I also don't want to sit here and pine for something that will never be. No, I'm *not* going to sit and pine. Especially since I was willing to not have another partner while we WERE together, he told me he was fine with it if I did, and now, regardless of the slight ambiguity of our relationship, he's even less entitled to an opinion on that one. But nonetheless, I overthink things...
I went to bed early and very tired last night, but it's a satisfied sort of tired instead of the emotionally drained I've been so often in the past few months.
Friday night was a date, of sorts, with TheKnight and TheBride. It was lovely hanging out as the three of us - I cooked dinner, we ate off the good plates (life is uncertain, use the china and silver for no reason other than it's pretty), it was very comfortable in the way that people who have known each other for years and have been naked around each other can be. The only problem is that the spark in bed isn't quite there any more, for me at least - I suspect this may be less of a problem for them. So perhaps that won't happen again, or will happen rarely, or perhaps they'll see each other without me. In any case I'm glad she's in my life, in whatever capacity it might be.
(Sometimes I'm a little confused as to how bisexual I really am. I know I'm not a 50/50 mix. I'm far more often attracted to men, but every so often the right woman comes along. And yet sometimes even when I end up in bed with a woman I find gorgeous and sexy, I get so terribly nervous and to some degree lose my turn-on when it comes to anything past making out. Perhaps it's just lack of practice, especially since most of my experience has been in the context of a multiple-partner encounter.)
She didn't spend the night, which was sort of fortunate in that I had an early morning shopping-date with Pink!Girl. I find it so ironic that we've built this strangely intimate and yet guarded friendship in the rubble of our relationships with each other's husbands, even though while those relationships were going well, we were so amazingly prickly and defensive around each other, to a degree that caused problems, occasionally. One of the many things I might have changed, were I to start over, though I don't know how I would have - the very thing that broke the boundaries WAS that she didn't have a lot of people to discuss the problems between her and TheKnight with. Go figure. Now, if only we could all manage to move on a bit and quit processing / dissecting...
Saturday night, on the other hand, was something of a chance to channel my inner high schooler, in a deliciously naughty sort of way. I had a date with MartialArtist, dinner with no real plans after. So we ended up at one of my favorite restaurants, which he hadn't been to but appreciated - this is sort of a test. I tend to think one's approach to food and one's approach to sex are entwined. Probably this is because food is so important to me - it's my art, in many ways - but there's a level of hedonistic abandon to appreciating good food. And food, like sex, is one of those experiences that must be lived, can't be captured for a later time. And so then after much really good conversation - the sort that makes me feel interesting despite my fairly introverted life - we ended up sneaking into a local landmark park to wander around and make out - ah, the logistics of poly when both people have partners at home and you haven't QUITE gotten to the point of a hotel room with a partner but are seriously considering it...
(In an entirely related note, TheKnight and I are accelerating the "finish the extra room upstairs so we can have a guest room" project. Ha!)
The whole thing with MartialArtist is so exactly what I needed right now. Light and fun and sexy and no potential I can see for drama. So much easier to balance with the rest of my life than the level of semi-obsession HipsterBoy was there for a while...
Thoughts and progressions
Life has continued in much the same vein as before, in many ways. I can't help feeling that HipsterBoy is rapidly becoming "somebody I used to know", despite my best efforts.
We tried to have a cookout with the four of us - me, TheKnight, Pink!Girl, and HipsterBoy - on Sunday. There was this theory that we could all still hang out... and that really isn't true. Pink!Girl is still too raw about everything that happened with TheKnight, and he's not much better. And when there's that much bad vibes in the air, HipsterBoy gets quiet and worried about Pink!Girl and pays no attention to me, which means that the only shred of conversation we had that wasn't strained and weird was while the two of us were making drinks in the kitchen and left the other two alone. Bad for them, good for us, and the real answer is we just need to not hang out with the 4 of us and probably not the 3 of us - I can hang out with either of them separately but in combination it's just too weird, and TheKnight just shouldn't hang out with either of them.
Of course, whether that's still even relevant is a bit of a question. Pink!Girl isn't talking to me right now, I think, because she started rehashing things - again! - about the end of things and when I wouldn't agree with her characterization of what happened, and cut off the conversation before she was done, well... haven't heard from her since. So there's that.
As for HipsterBoy, well... I'm feeling very judged by him right now over my fledgling relationship with MartialArtist. Ironic, given HipsterBoy has a date with someone else tonight, but when I flat out asked him whether he was judging me over having a more FWB relationship, he hasn't answered. Guess that's an answer in and of itself, isn't it?
I was reading an article this morning that really made me think about whether I even wanted to try and re-establish some relationship with him as lovers, right now, though. Well, I was already thinking it, but some of the phrasing in this crystalized my thoughts. Maybe falling in love with him - or even the love I still have for him - isn't really enough anymore.
Do you shine in the presence of your lover? Do you radiate warmth and light? Do you feel loved to the extent you become love? ... More importantly, how does being with this person make you feel? Insecure, threatened, guilty, unhappy? Or vibrant, brilliant and illuminated?
He... doesn't make me shine anymore. There was a time when being with him made me glow. There was a time when the hours we spent together, and to a lesser extent the conversations we had on text, were the thing that made me feel most alive. And even in those heady days the ... hangover, for lack of a better phrase, of wanting AFTER we were together, and all the weird conflicts that under-lied our whole relationship... in some ways the highs were almost too high and made the lows too low and I'm not sure the whole thing was EVER emotionally healthy, really. Nor, after everything, do I have a clear idea of how to make it so.
If we feel anxious, unsettled and blackened in the presence of another more than we feel exuberant, excited, and optimistic, then it may be time to reevaluate.
All the drama ... yeah. this. And I'm so very angry that everyone else's drama caused all that anxiety, but I'm not sure that we would have EVER really gotten to a place where I really felt settled and confident about things.
Oh, and as for MartialArtist? The more I see him, the more I like the way our relationship is going. We talked for hours over drinks last night, before a bit of making out. He... does make me feel shiny right now. And I know that's just dopamine talking, but it's so damn refreshing. I still don't know whether I feel there's any potential that he'll become a lover instead of a FWB ( per LoveBunny's definitions), but I do feel like there's more of a potential connection there than I had given credit to. It's just one that's growing gradually instead of instantaneously. I don't think I could handle instantaneously right now, so that's lovely...
Finding the gaps...
Part of the problem, I think, is that I think I was getting more out of the relationship than he was, or at least more... uniqueness. The things we did were not things I do with TheKnight, while they ARE things that HipsterBoy and Pink!Girl do. I think. There are exceptions, of course, she and I are different people, but it does mean that the end of the relationship leaves more gaps in my life than his. And I can't ask TheKnight to fill them - not fair to him, they're very different people with different interests / personalities / everything. That was not a minor part of the appeal, that delicious contrast between my loves.
Doesn't matter now. But if there was always that limit? well. Part of me begins to feel like I let myself fall far too hard on an assumption of reciprocity that was never even there.
Guess I need some more nicknames... and possibly I'm hitting poly-saturation...
So I had another interesting first date last night - someone else I met on OKC. We'll call him DinoActivist for now (I'm so bad at the nickname thing, so it's a combination of bits of his okcname and job). He's really fun, and he's possibly the person who has pursued me most *charmingly* ever off of that site. We emailed back and forth for a few weeks, and in the course of our conversation, I sent him a website with a historic bread recipe of mine. (I'm involved in a reenactment group and do a lot of cooking related to that). Well, a few days later, he sent me back a photo-essay of sorts about his attempt to make said bread... perhaps it was a little borderline over-the-top, but that seems to be his personality - fun and Wildly Enthusiastic about whatever interests him at the moment. I tend to be the same way...
So there's definitely intellectual chemistry there; I'm a little bit concerned about the physical chemistry side of it - he's quite attractive, but also quite... cautious? He has some experience in both the kink and social activism worlds, where *really* explicit consent is the norm, so he asked permission to even hug me at the end of the evening. I'm SO very not used to this type of interaction, and it's sort of... nice on an intellectual level but it makes it difficult to tell much about how things might be on a sexual level.
And there's another complication. Sort of. Her name is Sunshine, she's DinoActivist's partner, and she's interested in TheKnight - they haven't met yet but have been corresponding for a few days (she's apparently the first girl to message him directly on OKC, rather than "starring" him and waiting for him to make the first move). Which is making TheKnight and I go "omg, not again, but so tempting..." - the quad-that-works thing has SUCH amazing potential for awesomeness and crazy, all at once. The only reason I'm not running screaming into the night on this one is that DinoActivist actually asked me about it before she even messaged TheKnight, and we had a really good, really open conversation about it - he knows about at least the existence of the crazy with HipsterBoy/Pink!Girl and that we're a bit... twitchy about it.
But from what I can tell from initial conversations, well, there's a lot more openness and better communication there. What a surprise. Or not. Seems to be a pattern in my new relationships. Guess I've learned something? Though I don't know that even had there been better communication on my side that it would have fixed anything.
And I only really text HipsterBoy every few days now. I don't know why it's like that, I can't even say it's just him as I'm not forcing it either. So much for staying friends. I only sort of care. I miss the good times desperately, still, but don't think there's much I can do to bring them back. "The scars of your love / they leave me breathless / I can't help thinking that we could have had it all"...
As fun as my new possibilities are there hasn't been that... instant plunge into the deep end of NRE that there was with him. Maybe I'm just too cautious for that now - if that's it, I hate that that's been killed in me and I may never forgive him for that. I used to be a hopeless romantic, of the sort that believed that one way or another love would be enough to keep a relationship alive. And I had every reason to believe that was true about me - after all, there were SO many reasons that everyone said TheKnight and I shouldn't have ever worked - met at 16, poly, etc etc etc... and here we are.
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