Saturday, July 07, 2007

Post Thoughts

Something about my last post, as honest and as soberly written as it was, scared me. I read it and re-read it. I checked for signs of smugness and inflated stability, but I couldn’t find any; I wouldn’t change a word. And yet I woke up feeling cautious this morning, a feeling that this whole thing could come back to bite me.

I think it was the way I ended the post, the way I so soberly stated the possibility of a marriage crumbling that stuck in my craw. I don’t take that lightly, though the possibility is there in even the best looking marriages.

Last year, when I first got together with my lover, his wife made a comment early on when she realized that the feelings her husband and I shared were bigger than just the sex she had expected us to get together for.

“I hope I’m not going to lose my marriage over this,” she told me over the phone. And I said, “You might lose your marriage, but not over this.” Which is to say the ending of a marriage won’t probably, in our case, be the result of our open marriages, but instead because of the marriage’s own trajectory over time; the issues, the potholes and the changes couples go through.

You could blame the open marriage but I think that would be a mistake.

So it’s not the open marriage that scares me so much, though it does trigger painful experiences, which is why you have to have your eyes wide open if you’re going to do this. As I said in my earlier post, because it operates in the theater of love and intimacy we bump up against our deep woundings all the time; mommy and daddy stuff and who loved you and who didn’t and whether you got enough. But the opportunity here is to wake up, to realize that we each create dramas and stories in our life that mirror our deeper work, our wounding, so that we have something tangible to work it out with. The mistake most of us make is confusing the story and the drama with the deeper work. The mistake we make is hoping that other people will make changes that will make us more comfortable, rather than realizing that we created the very world we inhabit. Manipulating other people to change only keeps us from doing our deeper work.

So if I’m scared about anything, it’s that I’ll get trapped in the story instead of recognizing the deeper river of my work that runs underneath the drama. If I’m scared of anything it’s that I’ll focus on the ways people aren’t loving me enough and I’ll forget that my job is to show up for myself, because people will never love you the way you want to be loved, even if they love you very much.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Regarding Open Marriage, Just a Few Things

If you can, you must allow yourself to fall in love a little. That’s where the juice is. You have to be willing to have a little skin in the game. Sex without love falls flat after a while. It can’t only be a good time; you have to be willing to unpeel yourself, put down your guns and not be so pretty all the time.

Managing that love can be tricky; to care, but not too much; to feel, but not be overwhelmed with feeling; to be able to remember in detail what he feels like inside of you, but still be able to make summer camp sandwiches and take a walk with your husband, to reach for his hand.

You can’t want to leave your marriage. If you’re looking for a supplicant or for a way out, you’re going to be sad. If you want to be trusted you can’t want to take someone’s husband away. Sure you want them to fall in love with you a little, but you can’t be hoping that your lover will solve all your problems or be your new daddy.

Which means that you need to work on your marriage and work on yourself. Open marriage can’t replace that work. Ideally your lover wakes up something sparky and delightful in you, something your own marriage has a more difficult time conjuring because of the 101 things that make it so perfectly domestic; kids and dishes and bills and did you water the garden? And didn’t I ask you to return those videos? The idea is to wake up and to bring that awakening home to your marriage and to yourself.

And speaking of waking up, Triggers R Us, which is to say, you will get hurt or confused or be full of longing or the desire to strangle someone. We’re in the land of sex and intimacy now, and if you thought you had that shit handled, if you thought 16 years of marriage gave you an E Ticket that bypassed heartache think again brother. You will return to every issue you ever had about who loved you and who didn’t. You will find yourself checking your cell phone. You will be distracted, sometimes unable to sleep, you will swoon and it will remind you at times, especially in the beginning, of your teenage years. But mostly you will return to the uncooked parts of yourself, which means welcome home to some very juicy unfinished business and a chance to grow.

Tell the truth and stay in excellent communication with the players; your spouse, your lover, his spouse. Check in. Ask permission. Email or call to thank the spouse of your lover after a date. Try not to take your time with your lover for granted. His wife is the gatekeeper; if they’re doing well she’s more likely to share him, but anything can happen, so play nice. Your job is to return your lover back to his wife neither dented nor disturbed; you can make an impression, but you shouldn’t leave a mark.

Spouses have veto power. You have a date you’ve been patiently waiting for, but there’s a crisis at home or a change of heart. Let it go, the marriages come first. Less is more. Let days and weeks pass, then find your lover. A major part of what makes this special is the unavailability, the great passionate gaps in between your time together. Want it, long for it, let the hunger happen, that’s what keeps it alive, because in the end we’re just people and our lovers are not so incredibly different from the people we married, which is to say over time we all become tedious. So enjoy that you don’t pay bills or do laundry or share a carpool schedule with this person. Enjoy the small amounts of time you get to see each other, savor those sessions and leave your date just a little hungry.

It’s all good until it isn’t, and each person has to make that decision for themselves. Sharing your spouse, getting intimately involved with another person is not for everyone and if it’s not for you, make a change. Get out and hopefully with everything you came with. But you can’t say. It’s a slippery slope, a Pandora’s Box, and there are no guarantees, but then there really isn’t in marriage either.

These are just a few things for now.