Why is it that some women who are sexually dominant assume that they have license to make everyone they meet do as they please, or that women who are sexually submissive are expected to defer and automatically be interested in them sexually? I’m not saying that all, or most, dominant women are like this, but I encountered one casually (not in a romantic/sexual context) and it really baffled me. My understanding is that kinky relationships are something to be negotiated, based on trust. So perhaps that sort of dynamic would evolve within a relationship, and I can respect that. What I don’t understand is someone who assumes that because they take on this role they should suddenly have everyone wait on them hand and foot. That’s called arrogance.
Now that I’ve come out of my hermitage once again, I have so many thoughts to share with you!
I was thinking about love in the shower (no, no, not like that) and I came to an interesting conclusion. I was thinking about what the function of “I love you” is in a relationship, particularly when said for the first time. When I was dating my college boyfriend, he said those three words after about six months. We hadn’t been friends first – we met, we started dating, and we’d been cruising along for a while when he dropped the bomb. I said “I love you, too” instinctively, but later in the comfort of my dorm room I started freaking out with my roommate. Do I love him? Do I, do I? The next morning I decided that I did, but it was something of a foregone conclusion.
So what does love mean in such a context? A lot of things, but two major ones come to mine. (1) The people involved have come to a certain level of intimacy and affection. (2) It’s a signal of commitment, possibly monogamy, that you’re in it for the long haul (or feel that way at the moment). The reason it has to serve that double function is the assumption that you didn’t start out intimate or affectionate. Mark and I were not friends in advance, and I never would’ve come to love him on that basis – we just aren’t that compatible. This is why I really like my current approach, i.e., I don’t have sex with anyone I don’t consider a close friend. The fact is, I already love my close friends. We’ve reached that level of intimacy and affection and I already trust them. I know that I like that individual as a person before we move into relationship (or just sexual friendship) territory. “I love you” isn’t some huge revelation. I already did! We love each other, yes, and I don’t mind communicating it, but it doesn’t have to serve function (2). It’s not some big bomb-dropping. I think it’s best not to conflate love and commitment or love and long-term relationships because there are so many forms of love. I could name about twenty people that I truly love, and none of them am I in a relationship with. I like being a bit more practical about it. If I feel that I want to be long-term with someone, then we can talk about it. It doesn’t have to be code words that confuse everyone and require long conversations with a third party. Communication, it’s what’s for dinner.
Off to the Iowa City Women’s Music Festival: Like Michigan, but with Shirts!
(shouldn’t that be their motto? seriously?)
I just finished Nancy Polikoff’s recent book on her “valuing all families” approach to family law. It’s an interesting thesis, but rather than talking about the book at the minute I’d like to share an observation. One of the thing the book does is briefly traced the history of the marriage institution and how family structures have changed in the past thirty or forty years. I started thinking about the people I know who are in some sort of serious relationship and how a legal system that didn’t make heterosexual marriage so legally significant might benefit many of them. Here’s a sample of relationships among my friends and family as food for thought. Try thinking about the people you know, and I bet you’ll come up with similar family diversity:
- A heterosexual couple in their late twenties who plan to spend their lives together but don’t want to marry and own a home together
- A married heterosexual couple in their late fifties who have never wanted to have children
- A married heterosexual couple in their late forties with two young children
- A divorced man and woman who are best friends, have a child together, and list each other as health care proxies and sole inheritors
- A lesbian couple in their fifties who were recently able to marry in California and have no children
- A lesbian couple in their thirties/forties who plan to have children, one of whom is here on a student visa and is afraid of deportation after ten or so years with her partner
- A heterosexual married couple in their their mid-twenties with a two year old child
- A heterosexual couple in their late fifties who don’t want to marry but may have to for health insurance reasons, in which case one member of the couple would lose subsidized housing despite not living together
When I think of all these people I love, and of my own lack of a desire to marry, it’s easy to understand the “valuing all families” approach. I think doing away with marriage as a legal entity is unlikely, but she has a point.
I wouldn’t say they’ve come entirely full circle, but they’re definitely not what they once were. When I was a kid, I fully bought into the whole hearts and flowers romance thing, in the traditional sense of two people, committed to each other. I’m strongly opposed to cheating and honest to a fault. I still feel that way – if I have an understanding with someone that our relationship is monogamous, I won’t cheat and I don’t want them to. I’d rather be completely honest – if you’re considering cheating, then let’s talk about it and evaluate what this means for our relationship.
But aside from that, I’ve started thinking more and more about the poly option. I’ve had poly friends since I was 18 or so, and while respecting that choice, I’ve never identified as poly. After all, I know that I can do monogamy, and I don’t have a need to have multiple relationships or an open relationship. But as I get older and become more and more sure of who I am and what I want, I know that my idea of a relationship does not match that of most people. I’m very unlikely to have a live-in situation, and a relationship is unlikely to be the number one priority in my life. Sure, it could be up there, but other things are at least equally as important. Someone I’m with has to be okay with the fact that I could move thousands of miles away, or get wrapped up in a project, and for most people that isn’t “fair” in a traditional sort of relationship.
So, for those reasons, I’ve been thinking about other options. Part of why I’ve been so happily single for the past few years is that I feel perfectly fulfilled by my friendships, whatever romantic encounters do come along, and my interests. And I also am starting to realise that “relationship” is just a word we use. Saying you’re someone’s girlfriend has different values for different people, but for me a lot of it is about rules and presentation to the rest of the world. I may like to be in a relationship if I were to find someone compatible, but I’m very picky. I don’t have a problem with keeping the labels and definitions away from my love life. I also for these reasons can now see myself in a poly relationship – I would have no problem being with someone in a long-distance relationship, for example, who lives with someone else. I don’t have a problem with relating with people as friends but feeling more romantic about them sometimes. Maybe I’m an odd duck, but I’m starting to think that my sort of relationship philosophy may not, in many cases, be compatible with monogamy.