romantic relationships

Marriage, Re-marriage, and how I’ve never been afraid of commitment

During that strange period between when my former partner and I had decided that we would be getting divorced and when we actually separated, I (obviously?) had a lot of conversations about marriage and divorce with various friends and relations.

In the midst of one rather long and freewheeling conversation, I had one friend mention that – while they liked the idea of marriage in some ways – they didn’t understand how people could ever make the decision to do it. Because, after all, how do you know it’s going to work out?

I didn’t manage to articulate an answer at the time, but at it’s heart, this question always seems to miss the point for me. Because, um, of course you don’t know for sure it’s going to work out. Whether or not it works out isn’t ever going to be entirely in your own control even, since there’s another person involved, plus just the unpredictability of life in general. And anyway, in my case even if I had thought I knew for sure when I got married, I was proven wrong in the end.

But I never thought that in the first place. I actually went in with a very clear awareness that we might not be married forever, that getting married was just one of many choices we were going to be making throughout our lives about our relationship and what togetherness looked like for us.

I went into that marriage not knowing where it would lead us. But I also went in knowing a whole lot of other, much more important things.

I knew it was what I wanted.

I knew that the idea of us being together for the rest of our lives, as married people, made me happy.

I knew I liked the idea of sharing our lives and growing old together.

In short, I knew that if it did work out, it would be great.

I knew that based on the information I had available at the time, I was making a good decision.

I knew that if I didn’t at least try to have this thing with this person, I would regret it.

And because of all of that, I also knew that if for some reason it didn’t work out, I wouldn’t regret having made the decision to try.

And even now, I know that it was the right decision.

I know because, when we were married, I never doubted that it was what I wanted. Every day, I knew I wanted to be with this person, for the rest of my life.

And, nevertheless, it didn’t work out. I still have feelings about that, because of course I do, it’s an emotional sort of thing. I spent a lot of years planning for and make decisions around building a life that is no longer an option, and that will never come to be.

That really sucks. It just really, really sucks.

But, all of this also means that now, more than ever, I trust myself to make good decisions about who I want to marry.

So, while experiences of divorce – whether it’s our parents’ or our own – most often make people more reluctant to make that leap again (or at all), everything that has gotten me to where I am now, planning my second marriage, just makes me more sure that I’m doing the right thing, for me.

Because I know what I’m getting myself into, and I know that it’s what I want.

I know I want to try to have this thing, with this person.

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Casual physical intimacy, and “cuddle dialogue”! May 2017 Carnival of Aces submission

[This post is a part of the Carnival of Aces. This month’s carnival is hosted by From Fandom to Family on the topic of “Kissing, Hand Holding, Bed Sharing, etc.”]

I was vegging out with my nesting partner recently, cuddling on the couch and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for umpteenth time, when my brain coined the phrase “cuddle dialogue” as I was trying to articulate something about our compatibility as cuddlers. Because the thing is, for me at least, the best cuddling very much is a non-verbal dialogue of sorts: it’s active, and responsive to each other. And this partner and I have got it down, to be honest. Our bodies comfortably communicate very well with each other, without needing to cerebralize it. And it’s a beautiful thing!

It’s also a significant thing, because when it comes to romantic relationships, casual physical intimacy is honestly one of the most important things in the world to me!

This can seem a little strange, because I am not a particularly touchy-feely person in general. Although this has softened somewhat as I’ve become (marginally) less socially awkward in transitioning from young adulthood to regular adulthood, I am still reticent to initiate physical contact with people in general.

Once I’ve established a level of physical intimacy with someone though, all bets are off (within the boundaries of what the other person is comfortable with, of course!) Basically, if a romantic partner is within reach of me, I’m going to want to be touching them, even if it’s just putting my hand on their arm while passing by them at home.

This all seems clearly related to my demisexuality, since I basically work on an all-or-nothing basis in terms of how I feel about physical intimacy with people – cuddle-attraction definitely goes hand-in-hand with sexual attraction for me. Which is to say, such desire doesn’t exist at all for me with most people, most of the time, until suddenly it does – and then, boy howdy does it!

However, this doesn’t mean that sensual and sexual touching are the same for me! Cuddling, in and of itself, is incredibly important to me, and in particular it is absolutely necessary for me to experience non-sexual physical intimacy in my romantic relationships. Touch that isn’t fraught by my partner’s desire to have sex with me is a must-have.

The paradox with that, though, is that this kind of unfraught touch will inevitably lead to me wanting more sexualized touch as well. Or at least, it does provide a necessary framework of safety and comfort for me to be open to that kind of desire.

My relationship with physical intimacy seems very simple in some ways – my internal experience of my bodily and emotional responses are largely unambiguous (though I still sometimes struggle to trust them), but becomes a complicated mess when I try to put words on it. So this post has been a struggle for me to write, and hasn’t wound up looking like what I thought it would, but here I am at the end of the month and I want to get something out, so yes. Those are some thoughts I had in response to this month’s prompt!

Blog Notes: Nomenclature?

Just a lil post to let y’all know that the person I’ve been referring to as “former spouseperson” (formerly just “spouseperson” (formerly “my spouse” (formerly called by a gendered spousal term because that’s how long I’ve been writing this blog :P))) will henceforth be known as my “complicated lifeperson“.

Because titles are hard sometimes, but that’s what feels right.

That is all.

Relationship anarchy and me: November 2016 Carnival of Aces Submission

[This post is in response to the November 2016 Carnival of Aces, hosted by It’s An Ace Thing on the topic of Relationship Anarchy]

Oh boy, do I have thoughts about this month’s theme! I suspect this post will be a bit of a rambly mess, but at least some of y’all seem to enjoy my rambly messes, so I guess this one’s for you!

Before I dive in, though, a quick(ish) definition: relationship anarchy is best described as the attitude that the only rules governing the function and form of your relationships with others are the rules set by the people in those relationships. In practice, this means consciously relinquishing (though not necessarily going against the tide of) societal rules and definitions for what relationships (of whatever kind) should look like, what they should mean, and how they should be valued.

The relationships a relationship anarchist participates in could look like anything: they may make monogamous sexual and/or romantic commitments, or they may not; they may prioritize biological family, or romantic partnerships over other relationships, or they may not. The point in relationship anarchy is not to fit  or to defy any particular relationship models, but simply to try to build relationships without any regard for those models in the first place.

Hopefully that makes sense?

Now, me!

I have long felt a great deal of affinity with relationship anarchy – because a lot of societal norms around relationships don’t work for me anyway (I’m not straight; I am demi*; I’m … um, just don’t ever tell me bio-family relationships are inherently valuable, mmkay?), I’ve naturally gravitated toward trying to finding my own path through the wilderness of human relationships.

I’ve also been thinking about this stuff a lot, because I’ve been dealing with a lot of disruption in my romantic/sexual (the two very much go hand-in-hand for me – at this point, I feel it safe to say that I don’t experience sexual attraction unless I am falling in love with – or already in love with – someone) entanglements over the last 1-2 years, and I’ve been actively trying to figure out what sorts of relationship structures I want to have in my life.

I haven’t had an exclusive sexual or romantic commitment in more than a decade, but at the same time I don’t take ‘polyamorous’ as one of my identities, particularly. Polyamory is something I’ve been practicing for some time, but it’s not fundamental for me; it’s the way my relationships have been built over the last while, for a complicated bunch of reasons, none of which are as cut-and-dried as they once were. For the first time in a long while, basically, it’s something that’s at least open to negotiation for me.

Weirdly, I started writing this post thinking I was going to get around to the reasons that I don’t really identify with relationship anarchy when it gets right down to it, but I actually think it’s a perfect fit for at least the way I try to approach all my relationships. While I’ve definitely internalized some of the messages I’ve been raised with about what various kinds relationships ‘should’ look like, and that impacts my own approach and desires within relationships, but ultimately my relationships are reasonably collaborative efforts, and I’m not bothered when they don’t look like the norm.

I also kind of suspect that this is true for most people when you get right down to it. Even those that feel the pressure of norms very often flout them when it is convenient; some people are more likely to hide the non-normative aspects of their relationships than others, I guess, but I’m not sure that’s a relevant distinction here.

What this says to me is that relationship anarchy is more important as a concept than an identity (at least for me). I think it is important to actively talk about how it’s ok and probably even important to let your relationships deviate from norms, because trying to use a one-size-fits-all model is a recipe for disaster in most cases. Relationship anarchy is a great model because it centres mutual consent and active communication rather than assumptions around relationship questions like sexual and romantic exclusivity, what does and does not constitute a breaking of any such commitments (since there is often a great deal of disagreement about this), and many other things.

I also think that the principles of relationship anarchy is particularly important and potentially useful for ace and aro people, simply because it is a model that inherently creates space for whatever kinds of intimate/interdependent relationships people want to build. The idea of making a lifelong commitment to someone that doesn’t involve sex and/or romance is still strangely revolutionary/unthinkable to many people, for instance, despite that fact that it may very be an ideal for many ace and/or aro people.

So, I guess I’m very happy to have this as a topic for the Carnival, and I look forward to reading everyone else’s submissions!

*er, ok, some kinds of relationship norms actually fit better with demisexuality than allosexuality (wait before having sex! Don’t do it with lots of people! or whatever), but nevertheless, within the (largely non-religious) dating eco-system where I find myself, it’s more of a problem than not.

Your first queer crush or relationship: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge Part 25

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s prompt: Your first queer crush or relationship

This is a weird prompt to be a part of a genderqueer challenge, because um, wouldn’t any romantic/sexual crushes or relationships we enbies have be queer? They sure can’t be straight. Add to that the apparent prevalence of ace and aro identities in non-binary people, and it seems even more out of place.

But I digress.

My first romantic relationship was queer, even relative to the gender I identified with at the time. When I was 18, I told my best friend from high school that I was in love with her, and it turned out that the feeling was mutual! We dated long-distance (she was in Toronto for university, and I was living in Nova Scotia at the time, a whole tiem zone away) for a little over a year before she broke up with me.

It was my first love, and it was beautiful and mind-bending and gave me so many feelings I had never had before and it was great. It was also scary and I was had no idea what I was doing, and I wasn’t as good a partner as I could or should have been.

Yeah. Not sure how interesting that is to anyone, but there ya go!

Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

Rethinking what works

A problem I am having right now: even though I am feeling a very strong urge to be *doing* things to move toward the life I want to be living (specifically with respect to the building-a-family part of that), because I always feel less anxious about things when I am actively taking control of the things I can control, I also just, like, really, really (really) am not into the idea of dating.

Part of this is almost certainly that I just need to be nice to myself; I am still very much in the midst of healing from having my marriage end, and that is taking up a lot of emotional bandwidth, and it will tke time tomove through that.

But I also know that there has never been a time when the prospect of dating actually seemed exciting to me. It is just stressful to think about really, almost all the time.

To clarify: by ‘dating’ here I don’t even really mean ‘pursuing romantic relationships’ in general – actually hanging out with and developing relationships with people I like is great and not stressful. It’s the part where I go on first dates with people that I don’t know how I am going to feel about that I hate.

Ok, I mean, maybe most people hate that? I guess what I mean is more, like, it just straight-up doesn’t work, because that kind of dating doesn’t give me the emotional space I need to connect with people in the first place, somehow?

And I actually read a thing recently that threw thse feelings into relief for me. It’s a comment from this reddit thread:

Dating isn’t for everyone, I think. It definitely wasn’t for me. Friend-to-relationship is the only thing that’s ever worked for me

Which, like, this both does and does not apply to me. I don’t really need to have a developed friendship with someone first, and I don’t even think that’s the ‘best’ thing for me, but I kind of think that *all* of my romantic relationships (even with people I met on OKCupid) have come from a place where on first meeting the person, I wasn’t really looking for something romantic necessarily.

My first two romantic relationships were with people I had known for years. Then there’s my ex-spouse, who I met on OKC, but I wasn’t looking for anything serious at the time (oops). I had another short relationship with someone I’d known for years. I met another person on OKC (again, with a very “well, whatever” attitude going in). And my current boyfriend I met at party for a mutual friend.

…I don’t even really know what I’m saying here. The main point I wanted to make, though:

For whatever reason, reading the above quote suddenly made me give myself permission to reconsider the way I’ve been trying to think about approaching finding new partners. It’s ok for me to say “this approach doesn’t work for me”. That’s ok.

I hate that it takes someone else saying it openly and with self-acceptance for me to also accept that in myself, but it did.

Anyway, I think that for now I will be focusing my energies on doing things that let me expand my social circles and meet new people in non-dating contexts. And I’ll probably be taking even that slowly for now.

And I’m writing it down because I’m more likely to remember it this way.

Dating while genderqueer: “Who cares if you’re genderqueer?”

A while back, I wrote a response to someone who had tried to reassure me about my dating prospects by saying “who cares if you’re genderqueer?”. The person’s point was that I shouldn’t sweat the folks who won’t date non-binary people, because I wouldn’t want to date those assholes even if I was cis. Which is true, but also misses the point.

My primary response, which is that my genderqueerness is actually important to me, and someone down-playing its role in my life and relationships isn’t really a good thing either, also missed the big picture, though.

I’ve since realized that my genderqueerness impacts my relationships in ways that go well beyond questions of allyship and affirmation. The thing is, even someone who totally gets me, and is into me and everything, might (unless they are genderqueer themself) ultimately decide that pursuing something serious with me is nor worth it. Because I am genderqueer.

Let me explain that.

What my genderqueerness does is makes the bar higher even when people are into me, because by dating me (and especially, y’know, parenting with me, since that is the thing I am really looking for), they will have to have more awkward conversations, potentially face bigotry, and their lives will be made harder in many of the ways, big and small, that being genderqueer makes my life harder.

Choosing to be with me isn’t just about choosing me, it’s also about deciding I am worth dealing with all of the other crap that comes with me, which I can’t wish away, but which they might decide they can’t handle.

And when I read this post on Neutrois Nonsense, it resonated with me deeply.

I worry a lot about my partner: that by choosing to love me, she has chosen difficulty. She has chosen awkward pronouns, chosen tricky explanations, chosen to allow my identity as a genderqueer person to shape hers as a queer woman, chosen a life that will come with footnotes and caveats.

It matters that I am genderqueer. My life is harder because I am genderqueer, and the lives of those around me are, in some ways, made harder by their association with me.

So, yeah. Can we just fast forward ourselves into a post-cis/hetero/patriarchal world already? That would help.