Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Grown Up Kind of Love


Everybody loves recognition, but when it comes to my writing, I only seem to get attention when I piss people off. I like a good argument. I don't want to hurt people's feelings. I hate it when people take intellectual arguments personally, but to engage in a discussion about what is true and real has to be one of my favorite endeavors. So the blog has truly widened my opportunities to have intelligent arguments about issues. Unfortunately, it's also gotten me into a lot of trouble that I'd love to avoid, but I find myself incapable of doing so. I think it's because I'm stubborn. I don't like to lose, especially when I know I'm right. M3 has been one big learning experience, the greatest of which to date has been how to give up trying to convince someone of the truth.



Editing the blog has led me to many conversations about relationships. With so much that separates the gay community, relationships are what tie us together. I'm in a relationship. I've been single most of my adult life, so I find myself in an unusual position. James and I are extremely good to each other. I'm beyond happy. He's my inspiration, my partner, and my best friend. When I mention that I'm a proponent of open relationships, I almost always get a negative reaction. This is understandable... for the most part. For most of my life, I wasn't a fan of the idea. I believed in monogamy, even if I didn't believe most men were capable of it. When I talk to proponents of strict monogamy it's like talking to a wall. I say some words, they pretend to listen, and then they go on with their tirade about how dysfunctional, disgusting, or immoral non-monogamy is. Some people are respectful, admitting that it's not for them, to each his own, but most are dead set against it and almost want to scream at me or vomit.

It's hard, if not impossible, to convince anyone of anything if they're not open to the idea. It's gotten me to a point that I'm only trying to understand where this mindset comes from. Why do they have to be so forceful in their opposition to something if it has nothing to do with them? Why would it literally threaten a friendship just because he thinks differently than you do? I can't say that I'm open to everything, but I am open to hear their side of the argument and try to understand where my friends are coming from. It seems that they have been hurt by someone they loved. It seems like all my friends who tried to do an open relationship failed miserably. Rather than blaming themselves for doing it wrong, they've decided that the whole idea is wrong and can never work. I would never say that to their face, after all it would be like pouring salt on an old wound, but in my writing my curiosity is leading me to the origins of the bias and its psychological roots.

Love, for some people, is being held captive by an emotion. I started to realize that the discussion about open relationships goes a little deeper than the argument over traditional relationship styles. It's got everything to do with the way some people love. The word passion is an interesting way to look at it. For many, passion is what they're looking for in a relationship, but most times they don't understand the meaning of the word. When the snuff film Passion of the Christ came out, many Christians didn't know the connection between words that described the desire they felt for another and the suffering and death of Jesus. The words passion and passive have the same root. A passion is a set of events that are outside of your control. So for many, being in love can feel like their emotions are taking control of them, or at the very least they give into that passion and let it take control.

From this perspective,  I can truly see how open relationships would be inadvisable. Being monogamish (an open relationship that is mostly monogamous)  is far more likely to work if the two parties in the relationship are acting rationally. For some, rational behavior and relationships are like oil and water. Of course, a clear mind and understanding of the situation will still have to make room for emotions like fear and jealousy, but we need not be controlled by them. If you're so in love that you feel you might die if your lover leaves you, making decisions about your relationship is being done under duress. This love style, which I've also heard called a manic love style, is one in which sexual fidelity is everything. People literally lose themselves inside another's world. That person becomes everything to him. He gives up his friends and family as though he's been on a drug binge. The analogy isn't a bad one since he is literally high most of the time he is with his lover.

High times come with inevitable depression. It's the price you pay whenever you trip. It's an emotional loan that has to be repaid. Those lows truly can hit hard when you realize that the man you love is also having sex with someone else. It's incredibly painful because you've basically given yourself completely to this person, and his loyalty isn't being repaid. The idea of becoming one flesh has really happened for you, or at least in your mind, and the separation can be extremely painful. This where I used to be. I know the feelings of passionate love are intoxicating, but being strung out isn't how I want to live. There's a way to be happy with a lover without having to control him. Your happiness doesn't have to be dependent on his sexual fidelity. A reality-based relationship is when two people who love each other can see themselves as two separate people who make each other happy. Sometimes, part of making that other person happy is letting him be with other people sexually. As long as it's actually what two rational people can incorporate into a relationship.

I realized that when talking to a person who believes in the manic love style, talking about non-monogamy is a dead end. It's not even on the table, nor should it be. Monogamy is the only way that sort of love makes sense. So while I keep coming back this topic of non-monogamy, that is not what this is about. I'm now going to argue for a different kind of love, what I'd call a grown-up kind of love. A rational approach that some would call jaded. I'm arguing that far too many people are slaves to their emotions. When it comes to relationships, it seems it's the way people would prefer to be. I'm writing this to let you know that there is a better way to love.

Would you be okay if you ended up single for the rest of your life? The answer to this question is the test I use to determine love styles. The rational side would say yes, of course I'll be okay. I might rather be in a relationship. Having a partner who is on my side will make my life better, but I'll be okay on my own. So when these two styles are in a relationship, the manic lover will go to unreasonable lengths to stay in a relationship that isn't working. There may come a day when one of you may change your mind. There isn't any reason why the two of you fell in love with each other, so logically there isn't any reason why one or both of you might fall out of love with the other. It will be a sad day, but ultimately the sooner that choice can be made the better for both of you so the two of you can find someone else who is more compatible with you. The manic lover can never see it that way.

It doesn't matter how much you love an asshole or a broken man, your love won't fix him. It doesn't have magical powers. It isn't a balm that cures the world's ills. It's a feeling. It feels like magic. I know it does. I've been there. That was until I fell in love with a sociopath. There's no amount of love that will make a man without a conscience right for you. There are people in this world who actually are unlovable, and yet we can still fall in love with them. There are men who feel nothing for anyone else but for themselves. They exist and they will make you miserable if you fall for one. That is until you realize that the emotion you feel for him isn't a magical force of destiny. It's simply a chemical reaction. Once you realize that you still have a choice, you'll be able to make better choices.

So if this makes me jaded, so be it. It's not a bad way to live. I've never been happier. It make sense to appreciate the good in other people and foster the emotions that bring stability. The passionate love of our youth is an illusion. It makes us do irrational things, which is good at that time in our life when everything is new and the fear of the unknown might win the day. Some of us are still too scared to make a move even as adults, at least not until we've felt that drive that forces us to take chances. Fear is normal when we've felt it enough times. And when you fall for the wrong person, you'll learn the lesson that love doesn't make everything better. Being vulnerable to another person is difficult, sometimes impossible, but until you have enough bad experiences that you've recovered from you won't want to give up the passionate love style that makes young people take risks.

My boyfriend is my best friend. I've never been happier with anyone in my life. It's not just because I love him, but it's because he's good to me. Not everyone you love will be. It's something I've learned from a lot of heartbreak. It seems like when I tell people this they want to feel sorry for me. It's not something I'm sad about anymore. I've been taught a valuable lesson that it takes others decades to learn. I feel privileged to be at this point in my life. In so many ways I've set aside my childish ways to be a mature lover. It's not a judgement on those who can't or won't take control of their emotions, but I can tell you it's no way to live or love.



MALCOLM TRAVERS
Male Media Mind