Posts Tagged ‘long term relationships’
The couple’s therapy session last night went pretty well, and I think we’re going to see her again.
The therapist mentioned the stages of a relationship, first by saying, “What stage do you think you are in?” and later by reflecting back to us that she thinks (and I agree) we are in a conflict stage, which is completely normal, after 2+ years, for the development of a long term partnership.
I spent the morning looking up articles on relationship stages. I think most of us can pretty easily identify the Honeymoon phase, or the NRE (new relationship energy) phase, which is pretty commonly discussed in my world anyway. It’s clear Kristen and I are past that … though to be honest, I feel a little sad about that, even just writing down that we’re no longer in it, I don’t want to admit that, to myself or to you, I’d rather be one of those couples that says, “The honeymoon never ended,” and be all blissful and gooey eyed at each other. I think I am grieving for that loss a little. We stayed there for a long time, certainly longer than I’ve ever been in it before, and we even were able to get back into that blissful wrapped-up-in-each-other feeling for a good year and a half into our relationship, maybe even a little longer.
I have read many books on relationships and taken some relationship classes, so it kind of surprised me that I’m not more familiar with these relationship stage theories. Some of the articles I read have four stages, some have five, some have five or six, some have eight, but all of them mention this key stage of growth, which is where I think Kristen and I are, and most of them refer to it as The Power Struggle. One place writes that it is “sometimes also known as the “Growth Struggle” by those who like to think positively,” which I think is more apt, not just because I like to think positively but because growth requires the temporary suspension of security, and that as much as many of us gives lip service to wanting to “grow,” most people don’t seem to be capable of doing so. And “growth” is what the Power Struggle actually means—we are struggling against each other, with power dynamics, monsters, whatever, and if we can work through it, it will be a huge stage of growth for us, into the next stages.
So, before I keep going into my personal reactions to these stages, here’s what I understand from my readings to be the major relationship stages, as compiled from multiple sources.
1. The Honeymoon
New Relationship Energy, Bliss, Enchantment, Falling In Love, Romantic Love—this stage has many names, but all the models I read seems to be clear and in agreement about what it does. It brings two people together, blissfully, and makes everything seem great. Better than great—wonderful.
“When you see things that you don’t like, you might deny or at least minimize them. You tend to go above and beyond what is required or expected. You feel energized, alive, and filled with new dreams.” Dawn Lipthrott writes at The Relationship Learning Center. She also explains that, “Your brain is flooded with feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine and PEA (phenylethylamine). Like most endorphins, PEA increases energy, feelings of well being, positive outlook, and diminishes pain. It increases sexual desire. PEA is what allows you to skip meals and sleep. If you usually tend to be anxious, PEA may help you feel safe and calm. If you are usually depressed, you might have more energy and see things more positively.”
Seems like most of these places say it tends to last 6-8 months, but completely vary depending on the couple and can be longer or shorter.
2. Settling In
But I think there is more to the beginning of a relationship than just the blissful honeymoon, and that most of the time, more things happen before going right into the Growth Struggle.
“The initial excitement of being together is subdued so you can actually discover who the other person really is. You and your partner begin to discover each other’s quirks and neurosis, and you uncover things that bug you about each other. You also begin to discover what you truly love and respect about one another. Your communication should deepen to a soulful level, where you begin to open up to each other,” love coach Rinatta writes.
“Roles are established, expectations are set and compromises are made,” Dr. Marty Tashman writes.
I think Kristen and I spent a bit of time in this, settling in to each other, building, working on foundations, having small fights but recovering, still holding that deep bond between us. In relationships I’ve had in the past, we skipped this stage, and I think it’s important for a strong foundation.
3. The Growth Struggle
“Eventually, for virtually all couples, the enchantment phase ends, the drugs wear off and are no longer secreted, the negative traits emerge with a greater impact, wounds and protections from childhood start being activated and the relationship moves into the “Power Struggle”. Where a partner once wanted to spend lots of time and energy in the relationship … now the partner is quiet, pre-occupied, unavailable. … Where a husband or wife was, in the Romantic Phase, kind and respectful and listening; now in the Power Struggle Phase, he or she becomes impatient, authoritative, unresponsive … somehow familiar from childhood or teen experiences. This can be very distressing and even frightening. At some point there is often the panicky thought, “What have I done? I’ve married my Mom!” from Stages in Love Relationships, Gary Brainerd
“This is the stage at which most couples split up. The power struggle can be a gut-wrenching, painful place for a couple to be. This can be a time of arguments or silence, a time that truly will test the couple’s love. Couples at this stage wonder how they got here since it can come on unexpectedly out of nowhere. This can be a shocking stage for a couple,” love coach Rinatta writes. She continues: “There are two prime stumbling blocks. One is that when couples get to this stage they do not realize it is a normal stage for all relationships, and that they can get through it. Instead, the couple thinks something is wrong – perhaps they are no longer compatible or they no longer love each other. The second stumbling block is that the couple can get stuck in this stage, with one or both partners being unwilling to move forward.”
Men’s relationship advice (I know, cheesy, but I’m only picking what I think is useful and, in my opinion, accurate) says that the Growth Struggle is “a troubled – but necessary (like puberty) – developmental stage.”
Aha—puberty, I like that correlation. Awkward, bumbling, coming of age, growing up, sometimes it feels like the world is ending.
“I like to call this stage, “The Invitation to Growth.” It’s also a struggle for protection. One of the biggest illusions in our culture is that Romantic Love will last forever, if you just find the right partner. We hear that love is supposed to continue happening ‘naturally’ and if you have to ‘work’ on it, it must not be real love,” writes Dawn Lipthrott at The Relationship Learning Center.
I think more commonly in my life there is a sense that “relationships take work,” but also a lot of confusion about how much work is okay, how much is good, and how much is too much. But I like the idea of this being an invitation to grow.
How easy it is to forget that conflict and problems are invitations for growth, change, and evolution in general! This is a basic principle of Buddhism that seems to pop up in my life frequently, but somehow I can’t seem to remember it before I am already dragged down into the mud of, “Oh my god this is never going to change this sucks argh stuck stuck stuck.”
“In this 2nd stage, you might start feeling anxious or disappointed. Things that you once liked about your partner have become sources of frustration and hurt feelings. … Anger and resentment can build. Sometimes it feels as if you are walking on eggshells. Little things seem to so easily turn into big things.” Dawn Lipthrott continues. “For some couples this stage can get to the point of desperation where you’ve tried everything you know and it seems the only option is to get out—temporarily or permanently. … This stage can be the door to deeper connection and intimacy, and a fulfilling relationship, if you learn and use some of the tools to transform it into the path to real love. Conflict is growth trying to happen to help you and your partner realize more of your potential as individuals and as a couple! Conflict can be a door to healing and personal growth. Conflict is NOT the problem. What you do or don’t do with it can be a big problem.”
“There are no simple solutions to a power struggle in a relationship. It’s a complicated phenomenon that is inevitable. But it is resolvable,” Rinatta writes.
“If your relationship is not completely compromised, this is where you need to get help! No, not well-meaning friends or a self-help book – what you need is qualified, impartial third party assistance. Choose [a] relationship counselor in your area,” writes Men’s relationship advice.
“The Power Struggle is growth and healing trying to happen,” writes Gary Brainerd.
I don’t know how people resolve this on their own. Some couples must be capable of it, but I know I can really use some assistance. I’m not sure if any of my relationships have moved out of this phase, to be honest. They always end here, often because, in the past, my conflict resolution skills have been awful, with my tendencies to shut down and run away. I am working hard on that in my individual therapy work, and I’m definitely in a new place.
Because I haven’t really gotten out of this, I’m not sure what the next stages are. But I’ll try to summarize and bring together as much as I can, according to what I’m reading.
It seems like there are two options from the Growth Struggle: unresolved, and resolution. I’m interested in what happens when people stay in an unresolved relationship, it probably would explain a lot of my parent’s marriage, for example, but I’m more interested in a model that I can possibly follow, and a place for which to aim. So you can go read up on the further unresolved stages, though I’m going to focus on what happens when a couple is working toward resolution in this particular relationship stages model.
Assuming the couple makes it out of the Growth Struggle and stays together, which it seems most couples can’t, the next step is work, work, work. And developing skills. And developing a common language to talk about our individual monsters, our needs, and our relationship’s needs.
“Couples who choose this route will find themselves learning a lot about themselves, about their partner, about relationships,” writes Brainerd. “The emotional patterns of each are clear and they have established patterns of dealing with their differences. It is common for problems to arise in this stage, but because you have already experienced a great many shared challenges, you stand the best chance of working through these issues,” writes Tashman.
“This is the stage in which you not only recognize that your relationship can be more than it is, but also that you have the power to make real changes. You choose to become conscious and intentional, and begin a whole new chapter in co-creating the relationship you both dreamed of,” writes Lipthrott. “In this stage, when you use good communication skills, you can gain new information and insights about yourself, about your partner, and about the nature of marriage or relationship. You discover the hurts, fears and unmet needs that are the roots of conflict and you can find more effective ways to address the REAL problems, not just the symptoms. … you consciously practice the skills you are learning about communication, stretching into new behaviors, creating emotional safety, etc. You become partners in the healing and growth of the relationship, your self and your partner. You hold in your mind and heart the vision of the relationship you want and you work each day to make it a reality. You also find that you are realizing your potential more in other parts of your life.”
“It takes a lot of soul searching, self-discovery, intimacy work and deepened communication to break out of the power struggle and move beyond it. Now both partners must grow emotionally for the relationship to thrive. Those who are committed to their relationship do grow, no matter what may be required of them. Think of this period as your second chance to create the relationship you have always wanted with a partner you have always wanted to be with,” Rinatta writes.
“Beyond the power struggle, in the transformation stage you understand that avoiding conflict is not an option any longer, as it makes you angry and resentful, shuts you down, and breaks the trust. You realize that guilt trips, justifications, blame, criticism, sarcasm, and violent behaviors deeply damage your relationship, brake your partner’s heart and destroy her respect. As hard as it may be, you must stop wasting time on useless distractions (TV, games, shopping, pointless activities) and start spending time with YOURSELF. Walk, run, or sit in quiet meditation; let go of your mind and enter your heart – the answers you are looking for are here. It is time to find yourself again: your needs, your wants, your passions and your dreams. Write them down. Keep refining and upgrading the old ones until you feel ignited again! Little by little, you start seeing your partner with new eyes: she is your best friend and you are both in this together.” writes Men’s relationship advice
Does that ring a bell or what? It seems like I have almost written that paragraph here lately, at least from the part about wasting time and spending time on myself. I have been feeling a strong pull to do that lately, maybe it will help me pre-build this transformation stage. Or maybe we’re already starting to be in it, since we are finally breathing a little more freely around each other, and I know I feel more hopeful that we can get through this than I have before.
That’s how the therapist last night referred to it, anyway: as in, “you hit gold,” or “you’re golden.” I forget what she said exactly, but it’s The Point, I guess. Eventually. I don’t know how long it takes to get there—probably depends on the Growth & Transformation stages, and maybe even once you hit Gold you still go back and grow and transform sometimes again. That would make sense, given that life is ever-changing, ever-evolving, and that there are always crises to deal with.
“It’s not that there will never be hard work or hard times again, but you have reached a new stage in your relationship – a stage where you cherish and treasure each other, appreciate the good, and accept the bad. You have bonded, connected, joined. Now this is what love is all about. … Life happens to a more mature, seasoned, happy and vibrant couple. You move together and separately through your life and know when you need to connect and when you need time apart. You know how to meet each other’s needs and seek increasingly deeper connection. Your relationship is the rock, the wellspring of love in your life.” Rinatta writes.
“This is the stage of deep respect and cherishing of one another as separate and unique individuals without losing the sense of connection. It is a stage of joy, passion, intimacy, happiness and having fun together. It is the stage of living out the vision of true partnership, unconditional love and safety, and of coming to see your partner as your best friend. It is the stage of moving toward the spiritual potential of committed relationship the journey toward wholeness, the love in which you taste Divine Love in whatever way you imagine or language that,” writes Lipthrott.
“The final stage … is what is sometimes called “Realistic Love”. It is a much higher level of marital or relationship satisfaction, but unlike the Romantic Phase, it is based on a mature, realistic love that is grounded in understanding, healing and growth. It is a goal worthy of the best you have to offer,” writes Brainerd.
“The stage of real love, or blissful relationship, is what follows after the winded journey of discovering each other and consistent personal growth for mutual healing in committed relationships. According to researchers, if you reach this ultimate phase of complete acceptance and love you are part of the lucky 5% of the couples who make it. Much like the first infatuation stage, blissful love is full of joy, passion, fun, and deep physical and emotional intimacy. But unlike that phase of “no control and least awareness” you now live out your vision of collaborative partnership, deep respect, and true friendship,” via Men’s relationship advice.
I know I’m giving you a lot of quotes here, but I can’t write from experience about these stages as much. I can probably summarize them (and maybe I will condense this down and into my own words, and pitch it elsewhere, as I keep thinking about it) but I’m still now just trying to understand what the phases are and how we move through them. I have a much better sense of that evolution than I ever did before—not sure how exactly I’ve skipped this theory in all my readings on relationships, or maybe it just never quite resonated because I never got to the Growth Struggle phase and thought that I would actually get through it, and wondered what was next. It was so clear in past relationships that we weren’t going to get through it, so the struggle was simply to get out, rather than to move on.
Here, though, the struggle is to move forward, to open up, to face the growth and transformation, and to keep turning toward this wonderful person who has chosen me, as I’ve chosen her.
I’ve asked a couple people recently what their secrets were for their successful long-term relationship, how they keep the passion alive, how they keep walking that delicate line of having enough space and still being connected to each other. Coming together, going apart, coming back together, over and over through the years.
One friend answered, “Do you really want to know? We sleep around. We’re both big sluts. The commitment, to me, means that we are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. We don’t believe in possessing each other. I am always on the sidelines yelling, ‘Go you!’”
I find possession kind of hot, personally. In a playful way. But I love this cheerleader idea, the ways that a relationship can be built to support each other through our individual personal trials. And as long as the possession stuff can be fun and consensual, and not interfering with each other’s sovereignty, I think the two—cheerleading and possession—aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. It reminds me of the quote in that relationship article I ran across long ago:
“Create for yourself a new indomitable perception of faithfulness. What is usually called faithfulness passes so quickly. Let this be your faithfulness: You will experience moments, fleeting moments, with the other person. The human being will appear to you then as if filled, irradiated with the archetype of his/her spirit. And then there may be, indeed will be, other moments, long periods of time when human beings are darkened. At such times, you will learn to say to yourself. ‘The spirit makes me strong. I remember the archetype, I saw it once. No illusion, no deception shall rob me of it.’ Always struggle for the image that you saw. This struggle is faithfulness. Striving thus for faithfulness you shall be close to one another as if endowed with the protective powers of angels.” -Rudolf Steiner
I think that perspective of cheerleading can also be seen as rooting for the other’s highest self, for what they’re capable of, at their best. So that part, yeah, I totally support.
The other part, though …
I have read all good the books about polyamory, I’ve been a proponent of The Ethical Slut and Opening Up by Taormino, I’m a big fan of Dan Savage who is constantly talking about how frequently monogamy fails, and I remain firm in the opinion that my significant, intimate partnering relationship should be open, but the degree of that openness, I’m still not really sure. In part, that’s where the other person comes in, but another part of me thinks that I am actually interested in a semi-monogamous relationship. Monogam-ish, as someone put it to me once.
I do believe in open relationships because, frankly, I’m a little bit of a slut. I have enough experience sexually to know that sex doesn’t actually have to mean anything, that it doesn’t have to necessitate a precursor to a relationship, that if I want to have sex with someone more than once, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to love them forever and shack up with them and share our lives intimately. And I don’t think that we, realistically, just stop feeling attracted to anyone else, ever, just because we’ve made a life-long commitment to another person. And that physical desire for someone else—or even intellectual or emotional desire—is not necessarily an indication of some deep-seated problem in the relationship.
I know it’s possible to be attracted to or interested in more than one person at the same time, and that one does not necessarily take away from the other. Most importantly, though, I recognize that just if or when I or my partner feels an attraction, I want us to be able to talk about that, to puzzle through it, to figure out if it’s important to go sleep with that person or if flirty coffee dates or making out is enough, or if it’s a temporary infatuation, or if it should become a bigger friendship.
Why do people cheat when they’re in a relationship? They cheat because they, ultimately, are feeling unfulfilled, sexually, emotionally, or otherwise. Because their relationship was sexually (or otherwise) incompatible from the beginning, but they made the decision to commit anyway, or because their relationship used to be sexually fulfilling, but isn’t anymore, because something changed (be it someone’s body, ability, health, sex drive, etc). This often leaves one person extremely unhappy and unfulfilled, while the other is guilty, apologetic, or withholding (or all of the above). But under the strict rules of monogamy, one can’t possibly go seek sex or comfort outside of the committed relationship without doing this awful, home-wrecking thing: cheating. Which is, according to most people, unforgivable.
But what about being so withholding as to not allow your partner their sexual fulfillment? How is that not the thing of which we are unforgiving?
And under the strict rules of relationships in this day and age, it isn’t just the monogamy that’s a problem: it’s the culture that de-emphasizes sex as not important, while simultaneously using it as the be-all end-all status symbol. Think about it: how many times have you heard someone complain that “the rest of the relationship is just fine!” And there’s “only” a problem with the sex part.
As if that was just this little, teeny piece.
Well, if you’re talking about a monogamous relationship, sex is pretty much the definition of what you are going to be doing with this person that you are going to avoid doing with every other person on the planet. And if you accept the premise that you are a sexual being and deserve to have your sexual needs fulfilled (though, I know, that’s a stretch for most folks), then by definition the key component of this monogamous relationship is to be sexually compatible.
But most of this stuff, for me personally, is theoretical-in-the-future. Because right now, my girlfriend and I are sexually compatible, are highly communicative about our needs (and continuing to practice and hone our communications skills), and very committed to both our sex life together and to our individual erotic fulfillment.
So we’re open.
But not because we want to sleep with other people. Well, threesomes, sure—we are both slutty enough and interested enough in interesting new sexcapades that doing sexual things together with other people is totally an option. And, sometimes, we have cashed in on that option, making dates with hot queers who, to our thrills, have agreed to come home with us. We might be willing to play with other people at a party, and I have dreams of orchestrating a butch gang bang for her, where I just get to sit back and watch. Or maybe be the first and the last in a string of butches who get to take advantage of her.
But what about sex outside of this relationship, sex with another person on our own, without the other person there?
We’ve been talking about this, lately. From the beginning, we’ve claimed that we were open, and for a while that meant we could do whatever we wanted when we weren’t with each other, and we didn’t need to know about it. Then, as things got more serious between us, we decided we wanted to know, which (chicken or egg?) meant that neither of us were sleeping with anybody else.
But what does it mean now, a year and a half into our relationship? I guess we’re still working that out. By “regular” standards, we are open because most folks would consider things like threesomes or making out with another person potentially crossing the lines of monogamy. Oh yeah, and we have both attended erotic energy retreats, which others could (and have, for me) consider “cheating,” but which we are both fine with. And we are open because we are acknowledge that sexual desire for someone else can happen, and we should be able to talk about that, that desire for someone else doesn’t have to have repercussions within our own relationship, and that sex can be fun and playful and, ultimately, meaningless.
As our lives become more entwined, though, and as we continue to be cheerleaders for more and more things in each other’s paths and trials and triumphs, from our sexual fulfillment to our careers to our emotional hurdles, we are less interested in other people. And playing with other people sexually, alone, without each other, just … doesn’t sound like much fun. We’ve both articulated that, recently. My sex life, at this point, has to do with her, and hers with me, and for a while anyway I want to be sure that she is a part of it.
For me personally, when I sleep with someone, I want to learn something. About myself, about the other person, about sex, about erotic energy exchange. For a long time, I was sleeping with people while looking for a person against which to form myself, I was looking for the particular magical orientation combination of femme-bottom-submissive to match up with my butch-top-dominant, while being in a person with whom I was also emotionally and politically compatible. Someone who would challenge me, someone who brought a lot to their side of the table, someone who took responsibility for their own shit. Someone that I could work on my own shit with, someone I could grow with, someone who will listen if I say, “I’m unhappy, and here’s why, and here’s what I think we should do about it.” Someone fierce, strong, capable.
If it sounds like a tall order, well … it is.
So for a while, I was just trying to find her. Searching and playing and refining what it was that I wanted by learning about what I didn’t want. And now that I’ve found someone like that, all I really want to do is play with her, in that delicious dynamic that I’ve been craving all this time. In our year and a half together we have already come to some fascinating new places in our sex life, and every time I find myself even remotely thinking that I’m bored or unfulfilled, I just quickly ask myself: well, what do you want? I bet whatever you ask for, she would be interested in doing it. And I quickly realize whatever momentary restlessness I felt was not about actually unfulfillment, but usually something else entirely. Usually something old of mine, rearing its ugly head.
And now that I have all of that, now that I have this relationship that continues to blossom and show me new things about myself, her, and the world, why would I go back to one night stands? I look back on my one-night stands, and even two- or three-night stands, and though they were fun, often a delight, they were also occasionally a disappointment. What would I learn, now, by sleeping with someone outside of my relationship?
I suppose it’s true that I am no longer looking for the be-all end-all package of my compatible girlfriend, so perhaps my standards for playful, casual are different, or should be. I think this is the question I should be asking myself: now that I have what I’ve wanted, and it basically works for me, what’s next? How do I continue to deepen my sense of self, my connection to erotic energy, and my connection to my girlfriend? What else can I—or do I want to—learn about sex?
Well, that’s a million dollar question. I will keep investigating.
That’s where that whole online writing project (aka blog) of mine started, really: in an attempt to write myself into a better sex life, and into personal relationships about my own sexuality, gender identity and expression, and sustaining relationships. For the first three years, I was attempting to write myself into a long term, stable, sane relationship, in part because I wanted to have a better sex life and in part for all the rest of the good stuff that comes with intimacy, cohabitation, and love.
And now, I’ve found the girl I’ve been with for a year and a half, Kristen. And the longer we’re together, the longer it seems we’ll last.
So, now what? Is my quest for a fulfilled sex life over?
To some degree, yes—many of the problems and questions that plagued me as a single butch top, such as, “When am I going to get laid next?” and “Who’s it going to be with?” and “How do I know if she’ll be into what I’m into?” are no longer a factor. I love that I am with someone as open and eager to explore sex as I am, if not more so. I love that our sex drives are pretty well matched. I love that I am with someone whom I can try out new toys with (it was much harder to be a toy reviewer when I was solo, that’s for sure).
But that is not necessarily a recipe for perfect sexual compatibility, or ongoing sexual fulfillment. Note the key word there: ongoing. A sex life is just that—a LIFE—which means it happens every day. And like any other aspect of life, it is interwoven tightly with all sorts of other aspects, and can be different, feel different, or present unique new obstacles at any time.
How does one navigate fulfillment with all sorts of other things—bills, work, health, family, projects, friends—are also vying for attention? How do you keep the spark going?
Perhaps this relates to my theories around general relationship intelligence and the lack of depiction of many stable, sane, healthy relationships in the various storytelling arts. Most romantic comedies or dramas, for example, focus on the part of a relationship story where the couple is overcoming obstacles in order to begin their life together. At the beginning of the film, the couple is not together; the dramatic action focuses around their miscommunications, struggles, possibly sex, expectations, who called (or didn’t call) who, and who can get over their issues in order to fully embark on a committed monogamous relationship; then the end of the movie shows the couple, triumphant, and we are happy, having been rooting for them all along.
But we see very little of what happens next in the relationship. How the couple communicates, negotiates, reaches consensus, struggles, forgives, fights, and maintains a balance between their individual separate selves and their collective togetherness. So rare is a film where the couple is together at the beginning and the end, where the dramatic action centers around the relationship trials or the couple coming together to solve outside problems.
Without such good models of problem solving in long term relationships, and with such high divorce rates, meaning that for folks my age it is rather rare for our parents to still be together, or even to have an older couple in our lives as mentors, how can we be expected to have the relationship skills to sustain our own long term relationships?
And isn’t it similar with sex: when we are single, we expect getting into a relationship will fulfill our sexual needs. The smarter folks among us know that getting into a relationship isn’t quite enough, but that we need to get into a relationship with a person with whom we are sexually compatible. A subtle but key difference!
Yet still—life happens. Even if you find that special someone, there is still ongoing navigation to keeping it up and getting off. And sharing a life with someone means distractions, miscommunications, unforeseen occasional tragedies, and our ever-changing bodies and lives.
This is what I have been puzzling through in my own relationship, as we are increasingly sharing space and continually sharing our lives.
My relationship with Kristen started as almost purely sexual. She lived a few hours away from me, and worked in another state, and would come visit on weekends. She’d lived in New York City before and planned to move back, which is how we met in the first place. We spent whole weekends in bed, rarely leaving my apartment, rarely leaving my room except to eat and shower and rest our bodies. After she left, I would spend the whole week playing over and over the last weekend, often writing about what we’d done, how we’d played, and planning some new ways to play when she came back.
I would pounce on her as soon as she walked in the door. Already hard packing and waiting anxiously to feel her again. Not even letting her put her things away before shoving her up against something, so eager and grateful to have someone who let me play with dominance, someone who was open to play.
It was erotic, connected, passionate, heated sex, full of longing and relief and release. Plus, we continued falling in love, discovering all the ways we enjoyed each other’s company outside of the bedroom.
It’s easy to look back and see the bliss, but equally present was the ache of longing, the fear of the fragility of a new relationship, those days when we would have given anything to come home to each other, all the fetishizing and idealizing of a shared domesticity. I brush over those feelings now because that wish was granted, I no longer have to long to share other parts of my life with her, as our lives are increasingly entwined.
Now we have the new obstacles of sustainment: Am I getting what I want in bed, in this relationship? Are we having sex often enough for me? Are we having the kind of sex I want, or am I longing for something else, something new? How do I ask for more, or different, sex? How do we keep the spark of eroticism, passion, longing, and eagerness when we are available to each other, in so many ways, constantly? How do we keep it fresh and new when we’re willing to do, and have done, so much experimenting already?
Maybe this sounds like a trite problem, especially to those who don’t have partners, don’t get laid, or don’t prioritize sex as a serious hobby the way Kristen and I do, but I suspect many people in reasonably satisfied relationships ask these questions at some point or another.
I’m sure all of our relationships have a unique set of circumstances behind these questions. For me, it seems to be that my girlfriend would like to have sex more often than we do, and in part because of our dynamic and the sexual roles we like to play with of Daddy/girl and domination/submission, she has a hard time asking for more. She feels greedy and unwarranted. I know I also have a hard time allowing myself to be seduced, so even when she does feel bold enough to make her desires clear, I don’t always respond with what she wants. I adore our dynamics and they are a key important part of this relationship, roles I have been eager to explore for years and I am grateful to do so. But precisely those dynamics erase my own desire for the chase, since she is constantly available to me, sometimes my desire runs a little low. I crave some denial, something to conquer, something to come up against in order to create friction.
We have discussed this; and of course I don’t want her denying me just for the sake of denying me, of turning me down when what she’s really interested in is playing, but we are still working out the details of dynamics we have chosen.
I’m pretty confident that we’ll figure this out, but I’m not exactly sure how. For now, we’re talking about it (though hopefully not too much), being open with each other, being honest about where we’re both at and what we want, and of course, working on our own shit in therapy. Every relationship is complicated. Every relationship has triumphs, low points, complications. I don’t know how things will get resolved, but things are improving, we are talking well to each other, still having great sex, and enjoying each other.
Really, does it get any better than that?
She looked so damn hot yesterday.
I don’t know what it was exactly. She was in an outfit I’ve seen, tight slim jeans, her girly black tank top with the silver star pattern, little yellow sweater with the clear buttons. Maybe it was her hair, she’s been letting it grow and it’s getting longer, almost to her chin, it’s thin so it’s starting to flip up at the ends. So. Fucking. Cute. Maybe it was the earrings, simple large silver hoops, the ones she’s worried are a cliche but I keep trying to assure her they’re classic, sexy.
Off hand, she said yesterday that I am obsessed with my hair. I said ‘obsessed’ was a bit strong, but I see her point. Maybe it’s not just my hair, either, but hair in general. Still, I don’t want to pressure her into doing things like growing her hair long because that’s what I like – I hope it’s okay for me to state my personal preference while at the same time accepting however she prefers to present. Because while it’s true, I do prefer long hair, even more than that I prefer her to make decisions based on her own wants and needs and personal expression, not on what I desire.
Still. Her hair was so much shorter when we met, nearly as short as mine is now; I’ve been growing mine too, going for that early Elvis look. I’d dye it blue-black like his but I really like the few strands of gray that are coming in at my temples.
I guess I really am obsessed with hair.
Point is: she looked so, so good. Fun, flirty. Femme.
We chatted on the couch after I got to her house. How are you, how’s your day, how’s your sister. Maybe it was that I hadn’t seen her in more than a day after spending many days in a row with her. I felt my appetite for her growing, bubbling up. At one point she tipped her head just slightly sideways, her hair doing this little flip on both sides, the lines of her silhouette so perfect, those big hoop earrings brushing her neck, and she gave me a little smile, eyes twinkling. If I’d been on a TV show, it would’ve cut to a shot of me, my spine becoming jelly, my hands to my face, crying OH GOD as I slide off the couch before springing up and throwing myself on her, wrapping around her and kissing her hard, my mouth wherever she’d let me put it, then the camera would snap back to the shot of us on the couch as we were before and nothing would’ve actually happened, just me, sitting there blinking, in awe, probably totally transparent and readable and ooey gooey in love. Am I so obvious? Moments like that I feel oafish, bull in a china shop, too big and awkward next to such grace and elegance, like I am certain how much she knows she’s got me wrapped around her little finger.
Oh and here I am being all dramatic and admirational again. Are you bored of this femme-worship yet? Three and a half years of Sugarbutch and I only love femmes more, I am only more certain of my orientation to them in such a specific way. Only three and a half years of Sugarbutch, but I met my first femme nine years ago, and I knew then … what? Something. The way she shocked me to life, lit up the night like a shower of sparks from fireworks.
And I’ve never had it this good. I tell myself that every day: every day of this relationship I am grateful, so appreciative of every minute we have together. I’ve not known a bliss like this and I’ve never known it to last this long.
When Jesse was here, she had a brief little snag with Violet, some conversation where it wasn’t quite perfect, but she didn’t let it phase her or lose her unwavering faith in their relationship. “We’ve always been able to talk it through, whatever it is,” she said. And so far, Kristen and I have that too – not big explosive fights and feelings getting deeply hurt, but conversations of honesty and self-awareness and accountability and care. There are some things looming, a little, I’ve felt their weight lately, our differences and complications and inadequacies and places where we need more support, but we have always been able to talk things through, even if the journey is more illuminating than the destination, even if the only conclusion is, “well, now we know, that’s how we work, that’s my particular quirks and assumptions coming up against yours in our unique relationship way. We’ll just have to watch how this plays out.” We still come back together, appreciate each other, speak the deep truths. I feel like I am heard, always. And oh how important that is, what a relief to have it in my relationship, with her.
Dacia has a piece she’s read in public a few times lately which has the lines, “I write about the relationship I wish I was having,” and “I buy my own bullshit.” I’ve done that, here, in the past. I’ve written myself into love, used this site to woo and court. I haven’t wanted to do that with Kristen. It’s too precious, too real; I’ve learned from my mistakes, or rather, I am learning, I am trying to learn. That is a major reason why I haven’t written about her like I have others.
Plus, I’m all the more protective of my heart these days. How many heartbreaks is one heart made to withstand, anyway? I love writing about my relationships, but it can also be a crutch – I become obsessed with micro-articulating my feelings and emotional landscapes in writing, sometimes to my own detriment, overdramatizing and letting the articulation of the emotion be more important than the experience, the story, the audience, the effects.
I don’t want to do that anymore.
So I am protective of this relationship, as it has swelled and sometimes burst, its ups and downs. I haven’t chronicled it all here, preferring instead to articulate it to her as best I can. And there are things, snags, places between us which are murky and lurking a little for me right now, things that have come up and we’ve said “we should talk about that more later,” but now it’s later and I don’t even remember what they were, so that makes me all the more nervous. The unknown rather than the known. I should’ve kept a list, I keep thinking. But I’ve got to calm my nerves about this, not let it affect the really good highs inside of which we still so easily slip. So far, we’ve been able to talk through everything, and for now I’ll rest comfortable on presuming we’ll be able to do that in the future, too.
Yes, I was high when I reached out for her upper arm and pulled her onto my lap, and she’d just told me about how she’d done her homework this morning by playing with her ass while getting off, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t also in love, wanting to make love, wanting to be inside of her, drinking her in as I sucked her nipples into my mouth and left bite marks on her neck and shoulders. She cried out and I thought, someone should be videotaping this she is so goddamn hot.
In the bedroom we slipped off her clothes. “Take off your shirt.” I slid her tight jeans down her legs. She was in this matching bra and panties I hadn’t seen her wear before – she does wear the bra, a little white one with pink polka dots and pink satin bows, very femme, but the matching panties have layers of ruffles. I’ve never seen her in them.
I didn’t take them off.
“I want to see your ass. Turn over.” She does, gets on all fours. “Show it to me. Get down on your elbows.” She parts her knees a little and arches her back, I run my hand over her curves and feel the outline of her cunt and ass under the thin fabric. I let my fingers trail over her softly, slowly. My mind raced. There’s so much I wanted to do to her, with her. All that ass talk earlier made me want my fingers in her there, to get out the little plug I’d brought to leave at her place (her further homework), wanted to plow her ass hard and make her scream. I won’t do that, yet, of course, it’ll take some time to work up to it. I wanted her to stay on her knees, ass in the air, while I gripped her hips and fucked her slow and hard. I wanted her on her knees, mouth full of spit eyes looking up at me as she sucked me down.
But most of all I wanted to be close, pressed against her, kissing her, wrapped around each other. So I strapped on, peeled off her pretty bra and panties, told her to turn over, slid inside, and got lost in her, got lost in the way we wind around and hold each other. We barely spoke, just felt each other, just took it all in with our bodies.
There were a few times I slowed down, savored her, looked at her, but the vibration was so strong between us, I
couldn’t didn’t want to stop. Sometimes I wondered if I should, if her hips were okay, if she needed more of a break, but I kept getting so close and ultimately was able to come inside of her for the first time in a long time, I was glad I didn’t stop. (I don’t know why I haven’t been coming lately. I broke out the Spartacus harness I’d retired hoping that would help. It did, apparently.)
Later, she said, “I thought you were going to stop … but you didn’t. That was good.”
Yeah, that was good. And I’m glad she said that. Always affirming to know I wasn’t pushing her. I want to push her, I want to have that kind of power and trust and knowledge and skill, but that has to be earned, that has to be worthy. I want to do so much more with her, to her, want to take her to all sorts of dirty places and cradle her and worship her and honor her and fuck her and smack her around and force her and hold her and let go with her and trust her.
There’s time. It’s been almost a year, but I know enough to know that we’re in this. And that we’ll keep building, and exploring, as this keeps getting deeper and stronger.