Two Roads Genexhibitionist | Maya Dexter Planet Waves for August 2000. Portrait, "Maya's Alchemy," by Via Davis.
I have a confession to make: I've been holding back from you. I've been skirting the real intense, transformative stuff and talking about nice G-rated experiences because I didn't want to upset anyone.
See, my mother (and who knows which other members of my extended family) comes to read this column every month. Because of that, my husband once asked me not to be too revealing, though I think he's starting to give up on any notion of privacy. And then there are my dear friends who, love them though I do, are prone to gossip and I do not want to be the subject. So each month as I try to process my growth to you I am simultaneously juggling the reactions of everyone I know. Codependent, yes, I know. But even for me there comes a point when the only way to keep from stepping on toes is to cut off your own feet. I like my feet -- I'm a Pisces and Pisces rules the feet. So toes be damned, I'm going for a walk. My family can gasp, my friends can talk and Kevin can blush. If I really want to explore this and make some sense out of this person who seems to be different each morning when I wake up, then I need to process it. Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long one; I've been holding plenty in.
I would love to be able to give you an "it all began when" story but I can't put my finger on the exact beginning of this saga, rather, it seems to have begun again and again. It began when I was born and started relating to others. It began when I had my first friend, my first boyfriend, my first falling out. It began when I felt the lightening touch of another person; it began when I felt the thunderous touch of my own hands. It began when I learned that there are other forms of spirituality out there than the one I was born into, it began when I made my own. It began when I came to Planet Waves and started writing. It began when, on Beltane this year, I suggested to my husband that we consider opening our relationship up to more love.
I realize that it may make me sound impressionable (and maybe I am), but I didn't know the first thing about polyamory a year ago when I first came to this website at a friend's suggestion. I dared myself to read Eric's articles on sex and relationships because they scared me. As I read I flashed back to relationships that ended because one of us was attracted to someone else. I flashed back to the more frequent relationship situation I would put myself in, where I would have three lovers at once, none of whom knew about the others. I remembered being in love more than one person and feeling so shameful about it because somehow that made me weak. I wondered what would have been different if I had not felt the need to hide my passionate self behind an image of social normalcy. I remembered the pain of trying to push away my feelings for a man that I became attracted to right after I was married. A seed dropped into the soil of my mind and began to prepare itself.
The next nine months brought tremendous growth, some of which you've read about. In some ways it was as though I was coming to life for the first time. I started to learn to live for myself. I made my own dreams, found things that I enjoy doing and learning, took more time away just for me. I began to analyze my reactions and work back to the roots of them, unraveling my own paradigm, thread by thread, and weaving it into something new and completely foreign to me.
As a picture formed in my mind of the person I wanted to be, a long-dormant fire re-ignited within me. I funneled it into creative endeavors like art and music; I even formed an artists' retreat this past spring. So suddenly and passionately alive, I found myself blazingly attracted to every person who walked down the street. I flirted with the girl on the elevator and the guy who serves me Chinese takeout with equal abandon. I focused that energy back inward, cultivating a genuine soul-nourishing, guilt-free romance with myself for the first time ever. I was filled with so much love and energy I thought I might burst. And each time I focused that love on myself, confidence and purpose and compassion took a stronger hold on my life. Unbeknownst to me, my spiritual autonomy had hidden my sexual autonomy in its suitcase. We were well down the road before I noticed, and by then there was not much I could do about it but keep driving.
On Beltane this year, the second anniversary of our commitment, I brought up to Kevin the idea of changing our monogamous relationship to one with more autonomy and love. To me it seemed perfect. I felt so ready, and I missed the touch of women. Besides, Kevin had started back to college and was already feeling stretched to his limits on the number of things he could give proper attention to, and given to fits of guilt for feeling like he was neglecting me. I reasoned that we could all win this way: I could open myself to a side of me that had been beckoning and he could let go of his guilt and focus on what he needed to without me feeling so lonely. And if he ever found himself in a position where he wanted someone else, great! To my complete surprise, he said "okay". We agreed to talk about details after the semester ended.
I floated in a state of bliss. It felt as if I was preparing to have a baby; I was making room in my life and my understanding for this new thing. I talked to friends who had embraced a similar lifestyle about how to handle inevitable things like jealously and balance. I read articles and showed them to Kevin. After about a month of repeatedly bringing it up he began to look profoundly uncomfortable. Finally, he admitted that he thought he agreed to "talk about polyamory", not to make any actual changes in our relationship.
My spirits went into free-fall. How could we have misunderstood each other so profoundly? What did this mean for us? How could I back up now that I had come this far? I called an emergency discussion to sort it out -- I couldn't bear this uncomfortable state of limbo. What followed was another beautifully positive conversation laying out what it meant to have an open marriage to us as lovers and as people, we worked out some basic respect-oriented ground rules, primarily establishing that we needed to keep the lines of communication very wide open around this change. We agreed that we could work out any other details and feelings together as they came up.
I was so relieved. We had worked this out so well together, and I felt content and in love and giddy with excitement about our new future, which I imagined as this peaceful and empowering intimate network. But like any emotional rollercoaster, what goes up must come down.
Over the next few weeks a flirtation that had developed between a friend and me began to grow into a very intense, very sexual attraction. It was a natural development, this friend and I could speak comfortably about life and dreams and our deepest, scariest fantasies. He encouraged me in my relationship with myself and with Kevin. He supported me so sweetly to grow into the skin of the person I am, but could not yet feel myself as very well. Our conversations were fun and interesting, and I felt so strong and equal in his company. He lives far away and eventually we began to discuss getting together.
Let's talk astrology for a moment. When this all came to a head, Mercury was retrograde and we were in the middle of the first solar eclipse of July, which was conjunct my natal Saturn and inconjunct the Pluto/Chiron conjunct natal Neptune thing. The pressure of resolving this, of getting to the bottom of it and moving forward was so urgent that every moment went slow-motion and I desperately wished I could herd time forward like a crowd of sheep. At the same time all of my insecurities and all of my emotional control and sexual healing issues fidgeted under a huge and unforgiving spotlight. So of course I chose that day to realize I could not and should not keep my growing affection secret a moment longer.
During the first July eclipse I sat down with Kevin and told him about what was happening with my friend. Suddenly this polyamory business didn't seem like such a great idea to him anymore. Our communication troubles had sent us to our first marital counseling session that day and he didn't think it was a good time to enter into a new relationship paradigm, that we should wait "until things were better." And what's more, he said didn't know how to incorporate it into his philosophy or, honestly, if he really wanted to. We spent the entire afternoon talking, moving from room to room working through scenarios and talking in circles, defending our cases and getting what seemed like nowhere. I was beginning to feel like an astronaut strapped into one of those gyroscopes that tests their tolerance for disorientation and I was growing very, very disoriented. It seemed to me that every time I got the go ahead, the rug got pulled out from under me, and that Kevin was only agreeing to expand our relationship to put me off. When he was cornered into a definite answer, the real truth of his feelings came out -- he did not want to do this. Nonetheless, some of his points in our conversation seemed genuinely valid to me, which made me even more confused. After hours of conversation I felt tired and backed against a wall and since all this talking didn't seem to be changing anything, I let it drop for the day.
A couple days later I called my friend to tell him what was happening on the homefront, seeing as it sort of affected him too. I kind of dumped all of my frustration and confusion in his lap, poor guy. He was very patient with me and offered a lot of advice to stiffen my spine enough to stand my ground. He tried to tell me that compromising myself and my sexuality wasn't healthy, but I was scared enough of losing what I already have that I couldn't hear or comprehend what he was saying. I'm sure I must have frustrated the hell out of him. All I could think, though, is that I couldn't measure up to what he was asking of me. I thought that if I continued to pressure Kevin he would slip away. But then, if I didn't pressure him I would lose this new and beautiful thing before it began, not to mention losing the chance to know the freedom of making my own choices without feeling the need to ask permission. I felt the planets switch that gyroscope into high gear. I felt downright nauseous.
I walked around for days listening to their dissonant voices echoing in my head, feeling like I would lose no matter what I did and feeling like, in spite of all my recent efforts, a victim. I didn't have anyone to turn to who could tell me unequivocally what to do and I was devastatingly confused. About a week later, I caught myself actually thinking that and I felt this strange cross between amusement and shame. I realized then that I have always allowed someone else to make up my mind, but no one could do that this time. This was a situation where no one could decide but me. I dared myself to shut off both voices and listen to the really quiet one telling me what I want, independent of everyone else.
My still, small voice urged me to be patient, to give it some time. An old-growth tree doesn't spring up overnight, it takes time to develop a root structure to support itself; without time to take a strong hold in the earth it would blow over in the first stiff breeze. I figured that Kevin needed time to let this idea take root for him, since obviously the instant tree service had been ineffective. And I would rather wait for a real understanding then go for another round on the rollercoaster. However, I know too well that someday soon it will be time to make a choice. But oh, I am so afraid of that day. In my mind I have already written the script where I lose my sweet and encouraging husband to his insecurities. It breaks my heart, but I cannot keep my desires in a box forever.
That is the most painful part -- shelving my desire is like trying to freeze a fire. I am sad and angry that I have been asked to do that. I guess desire is really what this boils down to, and who gets the rights to it. I spent several fruitless hours justifying to Kevin why this is about more than sex, but actually sex is inextricably tied to what I want. And somehow that has made this harder to defend, and I don't understand why. I guess society will have to answer to that one. But I wish I could make Kevin understand that my passion is not a limited resource to be rationed -- that my desire for him will not go away.
In truth, my marriage has improved dramatically over the last month. Our daily life is wonderful, we work well together, we play and laugh a lot, and we are communicating better than ever. He encourages me to seek freedom and expansion in every other aspect of my life. But all of these improvements sit in the shadow of this huge and painful need that I have for THIS expansion, which he can't seem to accept beyond placating me. It makes me doubt his sincerity -- is he making these improvements to try to show me that I don't need anyone else? If so, it's not working. I have so much I want to share and even if monogamy is what I end up wanting, I want to be able to choose it. Having one option does not make a choice. Right now I feel like my only choice is between my freedom and my love for my husband. That makes me so sad because what I really want is to choose both.
I am quickly running out of patience. I asked Kevin last night if he had been thinking about polyamory and how it was going and he admitted to me that he had not thought about it at all. I implored him to please start thinking. I cannot keep ignoring this. I cannot bring myself to once again point out the lovely carpet when there's a great big fire-breathing dragon sitting on top of it. I need to acknowledge this and do something about it. It's hot and my hair is singed and I can't just sit daintily and be thankful that it keeps my tea from getting cold. I am tired of spinning in limbo and I miss my friend. I don't hear much from him anymore, I won't presume to guess why. Oh, how it hurts. Kevin says he's sorry I'm hurting, but apparently not sorry enough to alleviate my pain.
But that is the angry part of me speaking, the doubting, frustrated part of me who does not want to imagine what it must be like to have your wife change into a completely different person in a year, and to ask you for something you never imagined and certainly didn't sign up for when you said 'I do'. When I get too fed up, too wrapped up in the expectation of outcome I try to remind myself of that. I get so turned around sometimes that I almost see Kevin as the enemy, but he is one of my dearest friends and he has put a lot of energy into our becoming happier together. I imagine it must hurt him to read how much I have doubted his intentions. Most of the time I don't. In my clearest moments I see us walking together toward a common point, holding hands and feeling so big that we fill the world. There is nothing about me Kevin has ever rejected and I have to believe that given time to work it through that he will want for me what I want with as much vigor as I have wanted what he wants. Maybe he senses that some days I'm still not sure what I want. I will just have to keep trying and keep this vision close to my heart.
There is no conclusion to this story yet. I'm still so confused; I can't even decide what to do next. Part of me feels like I am procrastinating in order to resist the inevitable truth of my desires, and part of me feels like being a bull in a china shop will do no good. All I can do is continue to nurture my relationship with me, it's the only thing I'm sure of and it makes me feel less dizzy. I suppose we'll all have to wait and see, but I promise I'll let you know what happens.
For what it's worth, I think I have another piece of this Pluto/Chiron puzzle. I see Pluto and Chiron as crossroads, one of which leads to hiding, the other to healing. They look pretty similar at the outset, and they both have really painful rocks that cut your feet as you walk. One of them seems familiar because it has led me back to the beginning over and over again. The other one looks scarier but it's got some of the most outrageous scenery you ever saw, and it leads to somewhere completely different. If I can just make it through the hard part and not cut through the woods to get back to the familiar path, I'll soon be able to stop to bandage up my poor feet and put on some boots. And we all know what boots are made for...