Relationships are work. Our situations and environments change. We change. Communication requires time, listening and observation, thinking, and empathy. And inevitably, our relationships change. I don’t like the terms better or worse. If we want a dichotomy, maybe the terms closer and more distant, but even those are so nuanced and can encompass physical, emotional, intellectual attributes.
Sometimes those changes are small or gradual, and sometimes they are bigger, faster, or feel more encompassing. Sam and I have literally been breaking up since we met. Our long term goals never aligned. We learned this before our first date, and yet we agreed to get to know each other and have fun. Of course, we eventually fell in love and things got a bit more complicated.
We immediately saw three big roadblocks: that I already had kids and an ex-wife. She understandably didn’t want that baggage at this point in her life. My gender. She believed her parents in China would not accept me, especially if I transitioned much more. She said they already didn’t accept me due to me having kids. And the third thing was that she might want kids. She had literally just gotten her eggs frozen because Warner Bros had a really good deal for that. I had gotten a vasectomy after Joaquin was born, and I was taking estrogen. When I got the vasectomy, the doctor warned me that even if it could be undone, science still doesn’t understand why, but the chances of reproducing would be significantly diminished. Of course, the long term effects of me taking estrogen and having almost zero testosterone also wasn’t good for that. Finally, I really don’t want to raise babies and kids again. Joaquin and Aurora were both finally out of diapers and were becoming self-sufficient. All of that made me a poor candidate. We both understand that she could have kids through either adoption, or donor sperm, but the “biological kids” roadblock was the lowest of what we referred to as “the three biggies”. There were another few things that would eventually crop up as well, including my attraction to lots of women and me not having a “type”, as well as my thoughts and experiences with love. She struggled to imagine that I could love more than one person at a time.
I haven’t explored polyamory significantly, but in theory, I think it fits me. In practice, I have no experience, and I feel like the complexity of maintaining multiple romantic relationships might overwhelm me, especially if sex is involved. That said, maybe I’m putting too many boundaries on the term, or maybe if there are such boundaries, I need another term. Either way, I have a lot to learn there.
I think I have practice in loving multiple people simultaneously already with Sam, Aurora, and Joaquin. I deeply love all of them. I feel like with each person I deeply love, my capacity for love grows. This was a legitimate concern for me when Joaquin was born. I was concerned that my love for Aurora wouldn’t allow me to deeply love Joaquin. But within the first week of his life, I remember being very pleasantly surprised to find out that I loved him just as much and that my capacity for love had expanded. I had previously thought of my capacity for love as a fixed bucket.
If she struggled with me finding other women attractive, I know it can’t have been fun. I experienced jealousy with Sam a few times and it was not a feeling I enjoyed. In past relationships, jealousy isn’t something I saw often, at least not significantly. I recall telling myself if my previous partner finds someone else more attractive or funny or something, then that’s just what it is. If she had to be with that person instead, it might suck for a bit, but I would find someone else. I really didn’t even think that very often though because jealousy was so rare. Now I wonder if maybe I just hadn’t allowed myself to grow as close with those past partners. Also, most of my partners didn’t seem to experience much jealousy either, so it worked out quite nicely.
The first time I recall feeling jealous with Sam was when we had gone to see an Android Jones show at the Wisdome LA. We had both smoked weed and I think the jealousy mainly arose from a mild paranoia brought on by the weed. She bumped into a friend and seemed to be acting extremely interested in him, more so than I had seen her act before, probably also due to the weed. Her actions and my feelings weren’t significant that night, but the needle had moved and it was unusual enough that I remember it. The next time I recall was when she went to Tetro’s birthday. I had the kids and couldn’t attend. I experienced multiple different types of jealousy that night. First, I wanted to go to the party and meet her friends. I also wanted to go out, but I was unable to find a babysitter. There were drugs and sex toys at the small party, but looking back on it, I’m sure it was just friends and more goofing than anything else. I didn’t know the guys and I was jealous that she might find them “better” than me in so many ways. I spent a lot of the night on the phone with her. My jealousy and discomfort that night was pretty intense. She maintained that they were all just friends goofing around and that she had no interest in anyone there. I believe her, yet that didn’t alleviate my discomfort. Only time did. After that, my jealousy only seemed to occur when she swiped, texted, or went on dates. I eventually got used to those things too as we considered ourselves “broken up”, and it generally stayed dormant.
The next big time I felt jealous was when she started to get serious with someone; multiple dates over a number of weeks. This guy was starting to look like he might be “the one”. I had quit my job a few months earlier, and even though I made what most people thought was a lot of money, my money had been very tight since my separation and divorce due to child and spousal support. I compared myself to him. He was younger, he had a powerful position at Amazon, and he made more than I did before I left my job, but he had zero financial obligations. I found myself comparing myself to him. He had no problems with his gender. No baggage. This jealousy was less of a sharp pain. It became more of my dull aching acceptance of the end of the possibility of her changing her mind and choosing me as a long term romantic partner. I did and didn’t want to know all the details of the relationship at the same time. I still carried a fantasy of her choosing me. But it was starting to strike me as strange, because I realized we were still best friends, even though she was pursuing someone else.
The term breaking up didn’t seem to make sense anymore. We saw and spoke to each other every day. We shared our deepest thoughts and feelings, and we even occasionally had sex or would fool around. On occasion, we would decide that we had gotten too close again, or we felt like we had enough, or when Sam started to fear her ability to find a suitable long-term partner before she got “too old”. At those points, we would decide to stop talking, which would result in one of us crying. But those times never lasted long. We tried cold turkey. That failed. We tried simply dialing things down. That failed. In the end, thanks to remote work, she was able to move up to San Francisco. That helped with us not seeing each other, but we still spoke on the phone and texted daily. I really thought we had succeeded. I thought we could both conceivably start dating someone new and not have to deal with jealousy or sadness.
I recently connected with someone who I’m interested in and I can see a possibility for a long term romantic relationship with. It’s still fantasy at this point, as we’ve barely seen each other, but this possibility is apparently and understandably very painful for Sam. I think it’s the first time she’s had to face this. What she described to me sounds so familiar as jealousy. Wanting to know and not wanting to know. In her pain, she asked me to stop all contact with her.
Sam used the term “move on” a few times, as in, I have moved on, or she just wants to be able to move on. I struggle to connect with that term. It has been well over a year that I abandoned the possibility of a simple long-term monogamous relationship with her. Maybe that was me “moving on”. I really don’t think so though. I have spent that same time exploring, in my mind, ways in which we can remain close, even best friends, while we each engage in romantic relationships with others. Sam seems to think that she can’t maintain this. That jealousy will cloud her ability. She also can’t seem to understand how I could have ever loved her, or could continue to love her while opening myself to loving another. If that’s truly the case, maybe there is a significant difference between us. Maybe that’s what marks the difference between someone who is monogamous and someone who is polyamorous.
Another best friend, Young, told me recently that even though we don’t see each other very often, that doesn’t mean we’re any less close and friends. I want to see a parallel here, in that even though Sam and I won’t be in a romantic relationship together, it doesn’t mean that she and I can’t remain as close as we are as friends. My hope is that we can simply drop the parts of our romantic relationship, like fooling around and sex, at least for now, to releive the jealousy, and maintain the friendship aspects. In practice, we have done that since she moved to San Francisco a few months ago. In fact, the last time we had sex was a few months before that. So by the measure of some, we have been just friends for a while.
Instead of the ideas drawn to mind by the term “moving on”, I would like to see this as a reconfiguration. It’s a house cleaning. We remove and filter out the parts that weren’t working, or that weren’t compatible with our goals, and we continue with the parts that do work and are compatible. The tricky part seems to be jealousy, and perhaps the way to overcome that is with true time apart for a while. This time without communication is Sam’s idea and I respect it, but it is so difficult at times. She has been my best friend for over two years. I just started a blog and started to blog some really personal stuff and I want to share it with her. I just had a funny interaction with another friend and I want to text her about it. I just read an article I think she would find really interesting and I want to hear her thoughts. I’ve been reading the Three Body Problem series by Liu Cixin, partially because it’s a Chinese author, and I thought it would be neat to see if it gives me more insight into Chinese culture to better understand and relate to her. I realized near the end of the first book that it reminds me of The Foundation Series by Asimov, and just today, in the middle of the second book, the characters just made a bunch of references to The Foundation and Seldon! My head almost exploded and I wanted to call her to share that with her, even though I know she would probably laugh at me and call me a geek. I am kind of craving being called stupid by her and having her poke me.
And at the same time, I find myself thinking about my new relationship, that (so far) is only a little bud on a branch. It’s still more fantasy than reality. I want to dive into that more deeply and explore. I am being cautious and taking it slow and thankfully she is too. My reasoning is that I don’t want her to be an escape, a distraction, or a replacement. I don’t want to try to fill a gap left from one possibility with another. Instead, I am hoping to understand myself with this time, and explore this new thing slowly. I think if I were to jump right in, I might actually find myself doing something that looks like moving on. Instead of moving, I hope to view what I’m doing as growth. I can remain where I am so that Sam will always be a part of me and my life, while I also expand and explore and possibly integrate this new thing. Kind of like how my capacity for love expanded when Joaquin was born. I want my capacity for all kinds of love to grow. So instead of the term “moving on”, I want try to use and maintain the ideas around “growth”.