I feel as though I need to do some writing just to try and sort things out in my own head. Suspect that this is being triggered in a large part by the recent death of my father. I'm hoping that writing all of this stuff down might dispell some of the anxiety I feel and also (maybe) provide some sort of clarity about what to do next.
The anxiety comes in the form of thoughts along the lines of OMG – what am I doing with my life?? Here I am – nearly 40, living alone with 2 dogs. No husband and no children.
The end of my life is unlikely to be like the end of my father's life - surrounded by his wife and adult children.
I know my thoughts are usual given the pressure that we are all under to get married and produce children but normally I don't feel them. Many times when I was single, I had people ask me if I was worried that I'd end up old, lonely and that I'd die like that. I wasn't at all. But something about sitting surrounded by family for weeks and watching Dad die has put a few doubts in my mind.
So – I think some writing might help. :-)
I've always been a bit of an outsider in my family – something that I was reminded of when we all spent so much time together. We had many family discussions about why IP is a weirdo – it was always a common family subject. I think that the only time I properly fitted in was during the 10 years that I lived with my ex. (this is not to say that my family don't love me – they do. They absolutely love me and we get on very well – they just don't get me).
My ex and I had a traditional mono relationship. Both had good jobs, large house, 2 cars etc. All as expected and my family thought it was great. He is a wonderful man and the fact that we are not together now is down to me not him.
The thing is, I think I've always felt constrained by emotional closeness that involves only 2 people. For me, monogamy isn't really about sex – it's about emotional connection. And – I think we are pushed down that line way before sex is ever an issue.
For the years when I was between about 9 and 12, I was friends with 2 girls who were best friends with each other. They were considered quite cool in our school and lots of people wanted to hang out with them but they only ever needed each other. I can't remember how it came about but eventually, the 3 of us became close. I remember the friendship being happy and us having fun as a group and also as individual pairs. Was good. :-)
I also remember being told that I was being used by them. That they didn't care about me and just kept me around so that neither of them would ever need to be on their own. I remember clearly being pushed into getting a best friend of my own. Which I did – she's a lovely girl and we are friends today (I'm seeing her this evening in fact). As young girls, though, our relationship was difficult. I felt trapped in it. The expectation that I share all my hopes, dreams and problems with just one person felt horrible and I know that sometimes I was awful to my friend.
I think that friendship and my outsiderness from my family are what has triggered my lifelong need to to travel around and be away from home lots.
When I started being old enough to be sexual, I had a series of what looked like fairly casual relationships, the odd kind of poly-ish relationship and some very short term mono relationships. During that period in my life, I had similar chats with friends about being used by these blokes. And then I met my ex and fell in love.
In many ways the problems were similar to the problems I had with my best friend. Like her, my ex is happy with a small amount of friends. He limits his emotional involvement and keeps it very much for his partner. He was threatened by my need to have several emotionally close friends.
We fought lots about it and gradually, I let lots of those people go from my life altogether or altered the friendships so that the emotional closeness was no longer there. I felt trapped, lonely and depressed. I think my ex probably felt scared and as if he was going to be replaced all the time. I have huge regrets that we were both so young and inexperienced – I think that if I were to go into that relationship today we would cope better and be able to work things out.
As it was, when we split up, I lost my best friend. My ex met a new partner very quickly afterward. He has been married to her for years now and I'm told she's lovely. But she was uncomfortable with him being friends with an ex – so I backed off. I didn't contact him at all for years because I didn't want his new relationship being put under pressure. I want him to be happy – he deserves to have the sort of relationship that is fulfilling to him and the fact that I missed him dreadfully wasn't a reason for me to put that at risk.
And I stayed single. :-) I couldn't bear the thought of being in a relationship again. I didn't want to fall in love with and then hurt somebody else. Plus - even the thought of somebody calling me their girlfriend made me feel trapped. Spending time with couples made me feel trapped (apart from a few exceptions among my friends). I hated talking to people who were in new relationships about how they spent their weekends – their chats about coffee, art galleries and seeing films made me feel trapped.
I associated all of that with loss of friends, loss of freedom and being able to be emotionally close with only one person.
So I carried on with my life. Took up new hobbies, studied for a degree, made new friends, did lots of travelling around. Slowly, slowly, I started to feel better. I started to contact some of the friends that I had let go of while with my ex and many of them rekindled.
Eventually, I got in touch with an old friend, lover and source of epic fights between my ex and I. He and I found we still got on and gradually we fell in love. He is, thankfully, very open to different lifestyles and was very understanding about the difficulties I have with relationships. I find now that I can describe him as my SO without it causing too much discomfort.
We have work to do on our relationship. I have work to do on my discomfort around relationships in general. So – just now neither of us are being sexual with other people. I found at the start of our relationship that I wasn't comfortable with it which seems strange to me – while we were lovers all those years ago, my SO and I both had other lovers without it being an issue. But this time round it was a problem to both of us – so for the moment, we are not.
Apart from anything else – I feel very strongly that if we aren't okay with it then it isn't fair on anybody else. Too easy to hurt people that way.
It seems we have lots of work to do – and me going through a series of losing a couple of very close relationships to death during the past year hasn't helped with that work!
We are – however – able to be emotionally close with other people which is wonderful. I think that for both of us the freedom to be emotionally close to other people is more important than the freedom to be sexually close to other people. In time, hopefully we can do both.
Hmmm – I was right. Just writing down where I am today and how I got here has helped a bit with my anxiety over making poor choices in life.
I'd welcome discussion on this so if anybody feels that they have something to say, please do.