Sometimes It’s Okay to Hate Your Ex

In the queer, polyamorous, and kink communities, we like to eschew many cis-hetero-mononormative relationship tropes. One of those is the idea that you must hate your ex.

I think letting go of this trope is a good thing. Relationships end for many reasons, most of them nothing to do with one party being a garbage human. Our communities and friendship circles and dating pools within these subcultures are small, so if we go out of our way to avoid our exes, we might end up not going to a lot of things.

But sometimes I think it’s okay to hate your ex. Sometimes I think it can even be a source of power and healing.

I don’t hate you because you’re my ex, I hate you because you abused me

At this point in my life, I’ve had quite a lot of relationships varying in seriousness from “very casual” to “genuinely thought I’d marry him”. That means I’ve amassed quite a few exes.

I don’t hate, or even dislike, the vast majority of my exes. There are those I remember fondly as a beautiful presence in my life that lasted a limited time. There are those I think of wistfully once in a while, allowing myself to think of what might have been in another life. Some I can happily wave or chat to when we bump into each other at the occasional event. Others I really don’t think of much at all any more.

But that ex? Him I hate. Viscerally and deeply and with a power that sometimes frightens me. Not because he’s my ex, but because he abused me. Because I sometimes still have nightmares. Because I had to wade through so much pain and spend so much money on therapy to escape him psychologically long after I escaped physically.

I don’t hate him because he’s my ex. I hate him because he abused me. (I’m reliably informed he hates me, too. That’s fine – his feelings have no impact on my life whatsoever at this point.)

Anger and hate aren’t always toxic

Toxic positivity would have us believe that “negative” emotions are always bad and to be avoided. I don’t believe that’s true at all. Yes, anger and hate can hurt us and eat away at us. But they can also be sources of incredible power.

My friend Sarah wrote this incredible post about not forgiving their abuser. I return to it again and again when I need a reminder that yet another well-meaning “forgive him for YOUR sake, hun!!!” is not good advice for me. I return to it when I need reminding that:

“Survivors never need to forgive our abusers. We don’t need to accept any apology, no matter what others think about its strength or veracity. We don’t need to be thankful or grateful or appreciative. We can be as angry and disgusted and unforgiving as we want to be.”

Sarah Brynn Holliday

I don’t forgive my abuser, either. I’ve tried. I have cried and yelled at the sky and punched pillows and been through years of therapy and burned everything he ever gave me. But I do not forgive him. If anything, the older I get, the less I forgive him.

But that anger gives me strength. It helps me to keep myself safe, to ensure that I will never again ignore the parade of bright fluttering red flags I ignored to be with him. It allows me to support other survivors, to speak out against intimate partner abuse in all its forms.

You’re allowed to hate people who hurt you

Whether they abused you or cheated on you or emotionally neglected you or something else entirely, please hear this loud and clear: you are allowed to feel anger, resentment, and even hate towards people who hurt you.

Being friends with your exes can be great in some contexts. But it’s not mandatory and sometimes it would do more harm than good to even attempt. Don’t feel obligated to listen to the people who tell you that forgiveness is the only way. It isn’t.

You are allowed to feel indifferent. You are allowed to be cordial but distant. And it’s okay to hate your ex if they caused you harm.

Will I ever stop hating my abuser? I don’t know, but I know I will always hate what he did to me.

On Suttard, Fundamental Incompatibilities, and Happy Ever After

This post contains spoilers for all five seasons of The Bold Type! Stop reading now if you don’t want to be spoilered.

Like many fans of Freeform’s The Bold Type, which just finished its fifth and final season, I was rooting for a happy outcome for Sutton Brady-Hunter and Richard Hunter (known collectively by the fandom as “Suttard.”) They’re the best straight couple on the show by far, from their Bluetooth vibrator sex date to their incredible Paris reunion in the season 2 finale.

At the end of season 4, the newly married couple have a blow-out argument when Sutton realises she doesn’t want to have children, causing Richard – who longs to be a dad – to leave her and then (at the beginning of season 5) begin divorce proceedings.

Over the course of the final season, Sutton destroys her wedding dress, throws a “divorce party,” starts therapy, and quits drinking in an attempt to get over Richard. Then they meet up to swap divorce papers, predictably fall into bed with each other, and Richard realises how much he loves her and that he doesn’t want a life without her, even if it means giving up his dream of having children.

So far, so romantic? But…

Fundamental incompatibilities

No two people will ever be perfectly aligned on every issue or desire. That’s impossible because we’re all multifaceted, nuanced, and complex creatures. But there are, I believe, a few fundamentals. Things you need to agree on (or at least be genuinely, wholeheartedly happy to compromise on) in order to have a functional relationship.

Having children is one of those things. (Others might include getting married or not, being monogamous or not, and possibly even political affiliation.)

Some things are just deal breakers. Some things should be deal-breakers. Because in reality, much as we want to believe that love conquers all, it doesn’t. Love doesn’t conquer wanting different things in uncompromisable situations. You can’t have half a child. You can’t be half married. Love, however real and powerful, doesn’t make these incompatibilities go away or create the potential for a compromise where there is none.

Fairytale endings: fantasy vs. reality

I’m glad the writers chose to end The Bold Type the way they did. Ultimately, this show is escapist fantasy – a Sex & the City for millennials with little grounding in the real world. Suttard fans were crushed when the couple split up and were rooting for them to get back together and somehow find a way through their conflicting desires.

The writers gave us what we wanted. Find me a single fan who didn’t let out a collective “awwww” at this moment:

GIF of Richard Hunter and Sutton Brady (Suttard)

But it really is just fantasy. In reality, fairytale endings like this don’t happen. Or if they do, they cause intense resentment and bigger problems down the line.

I admit that I struggle to relate to Richard, personally. As someone who decided early on that I will be childfree for life, I find it very difficult to imagine wanting to have children more than wanting to be with the person I love. (And my god, these two really do love each other – Meghann Fahy and Sam Page have incredible on-screen chemistry!)

But many people do feel like that, and it’s valid and real. Many people want to be a parent more than anything, even if it means they can’t be with the person they thought was their forever person. And those people can’t just switch that off the way Richard seems to in this too-neat-to-be-real happy ever after.

Happy endings don’t exist

A much younger, more naive version of me thought that I’d find a happy ending someday. When I left my abuser and fell in love with Mr CK, I wondered if I’d found it – if everything would be plain sailing from here.

What I can tell you now, years later, is that no. I hadn’t found a happy ending. Not because this relationship isn’t wonderful. It was then and it is now. But because happy endings of the fairytale kind don’t exist.

Real relationships require constant communication, ongoing compromise, and recalibration as you both grow and change. You can decide to be together, to commit, to go all-in, but that doesn’t take away from the very real work required to make love work long term.

Love is messy, love is nuanced, love is the best thing in the world. But it is not magical. It does not remove all obstacles or effortlessly sweep them aside. And some obstacles are too big to overcome.

So I’ll enjoy the Suttard happy ending for what it is: escapist fantasy wrapping up five seasons of escapist fantasy. But I’m glad it’s not real. Because as much as I want someone to love me for the rest of my life, I would never want them to give up their greatest dream to be with me.

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What is Commitment Without Entanglement?

I’ve been thinking about commitment a lot recently. What it is, what it means, and how I can ethically incorporate it into my life in a way that aligns with my needs, my values, and my partners’ needs and values.

As a polyamorous person and an ethical slut, commitment matters a lot to me. Does that surprise you? Many people assume that true commitment is impossible in a non-monogamous context. Of course, I don’t agree.

What is commitment, anyway?

Oxford Languages suggests the definition of commitment as “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc”. I think this is actually a pretty okay definition.

We all think we know what commitment means in a relationship, especially as it relates to mononormative culture. People often equate commitment with things like getting married, living together, and raising children together. Our society also strongly equates commitment with exclusivity. (Hands up every polyamorous person who has been asked “when are you going to commit to one person?”)

As a non-monogamous person, I suggest we look at commitment a different way. Instead of asking “what does society tell me a committed relationship looks like?”, ask yourself “what does commitment mean to me?”

Here are five things commitment means to me.

  • Commitment means I will prioritise you highly. This does not necessarily mean I will always put you first, and I will not necessarily prioritise you to the detriment of other important things in my life. But I will always consider you and strive to behave in ways that honour our connection.
  • Commitment means I will attempt to work through problems that arise in our relationship, engaging in good faith and seeking solutions that work for everyone involved.
  • Commitment means that I honour the ways in which you, I, and our relationship will grow and change. I want to grow along with you, not away from you.
  • Commitment means I want you to be in my life for as long as it is a happy and healthy choice for both of us. Ideally that means “for life,” but I accept things change. If our relationship is no longer good for one or both of us, I will let you go.
  • Commitment means that your happiness matters to me. To the best of my ability, and to the extent it doesn’t harm me or anyone else to do so, I will behave in ways that faciliate your happiness.

Your answers may be different. But I encourage you to think about what commitment is to you and maybe write down a “commitment manifesto” like the one I’ve shared above.

What is entanglement?

When I talk about entanglement in a relationship, I’m broadly referring to what is often known within polyamorous communities as “the relationship escalator.” Coined by writer Amy Gahran, the relationship escalator is described thus:

The default set of societal expectations for intimate relationships. Partners follow a progressive set of steps, each with visible markers, toward a clear goal.

The goal at the top of the Escalator is to achieve a permanently monogamous (sexually and romantically exclusive between two people), cohabitating marriage — legally sanctioned if possible. In many cases, buying a house and having kids is also part of the goal. Partners are expected to remain together at the top of the Escalator until death.

The Escalator is the standard by which most people gauge whether a developing intimate relationship is significant, “serious,” good, healthy, committed or worth pursuing or continuing.” (Source.)

The relationship escalator isn’t inherently bad, if it’s something you genuinely want (as opposed to something you’re following because of social, cultural, or familial pressure). But holding up the escalator model as the pinnacle of relationship achievement is deeply damaging to many people.

On or off the escalator?

Even though I strongly identify as non-monogamous, I’ve always valued having a core, deeply entangled relationship in my life. This is what Mr CK and I have. We live together, we share bills and cats and household chores, we are at least somewhat financially entangled. We’re each other’s next of kin at the hospital. We make big decisions together, and we hope to be together for life.

I also do not want all my relationships – or indeed any others – to be this entangled. The beauty of non-monogamy is that relationships don’t have to be all or nothing. If you have great sex but don’t have romantic feelings for one another, you can have a great friends-with-benefits arrangement. If you love each other but don’t want to live together, you can enjoy the connection for what it is without pushing for it to be more. When you have a need one partner can’t or won’t meet, you can get it fulfilled elsewhere.

This means you get to choose whether each relationship is on or off the escalator. It means you get to choose what level of commitment you want, and what that means for you and your partner(s).

You can even decide to take certain steps on the escalator but skip others, if you want to. For example, “we want to live together but no kids,” or “we want to get married, but monogamy isn’t part of our arrangement.”

Commitment without entanglement

When you try to define commitment without the trappings of heteronormative, mononormative, escalator-driven relationships, it gets complicated fast. It also gets really, really diverse.

Here are five things I’ve learned about how to do commitment without entanglement.

Create milestones that matter to you

Every serious relationship has meaningful milestones. What these look like and what they mean to you both/all will be different in each relationship. A few common milestones that don’t necessarily imply entanglement include the first kiss, the first time you say “I love you,” the first time you have sex, and the first night you spend together.

Unromantic milestones matter, too. In my relationship with The Artist, I remember feeling like our relationship had turned a corner the first time we navigated a (non-relational) crisis together. It wasn’t fun at the time, but in the long run it cemented our bond even further. I felt similarly after the first time they saw me in the middle of a major mental health crisis and didn’t run away.

What relationship milestones feel significant to you and your partner(s)? Think about both things you’ve already done (“the first overnight we spent together felt really significant to me”) and things you’d like to do someday (“I really want to introduce you to my best friends.”)

Have each other’s backs

For me, one of the biggest signs of commitment is when someone is by my side through difficult times. I enjoy the sex-with-no-expectations brand of relationship with some people. But I want to know that my inner circle people are there for me.

If you’re around when you want a hot shag but then disappear when I’m sobbing on the sofa because my depression is so bad, I won’t see the relationship as a committed one and will adjust my expectations accordingly.

Having each other’s backs isn’t the same as expecting the other person to drop everything to care for you in every crisis. But it does mean stepping up when you can, being there for the bad times as well as the good, and going out of your way for the other person at least some of the time.

Ask, don’t assume

When was the last time you asked your partner what love and commitment means to them? It’s easy to assume other people define these things in the same ways that we do. But assumptions are the fast-track to hurt feelings and miscommunications.

If you’re not sure what your partner needs or wants, ask them! If you’re not sure how they’re feeling, don’t try to guess. Just talk about it.

Learning each other’s love languages can be useful here. People often make the mistake of assuming that everyone gives and receives love the way they do. The love language framework isn’t perfect. But it gives you a way to explore and communicate your needs to your partner and to understand theirs.

Asking isn’t unromantic! Asking someone what they need or want is actually a huge sign of love and respect. Mononormative culture holds that we should be able to read our partner’s mind. This is bullshit. Don’t try. Seriously, I cannot emphasise this enough – just fucking ask.

Stand up for the relationship

When I was with my ex, one of the things that stopped me ever feeling safe was the fact that his wife had veto power. Even after years together, she could have told him to dump me at any time and he would have complied. Even though it was only ever hypothetical, we talked about the possibility at length. One of the things that really hurt was the knowledge that, if push came to shove, he would not stand up for our relationship.

I won’t date anyone with a veto arrangement any more. I believe that longer-term and more entangled partners should absolutely get a say and be able to voice concerns. But I cannot be in a situation where my relationship could be unilaterally ended by someone who isn’t even in it.

If you want to show commitment to your non-entangled partner, that means being willing to stand up for your relationship if you ever need to. This might mean telling your spouse or nesting partner that no, they don’t get to slam a veto down. It might mean speaking up when your friends or family (if you’re out to them) dismiss your non-entangled relationship as not real, not serious, or not important.

Keep the promises you make (and don’t make ones you can’t keep)

To my ex, promises made to me were always breakable if anything better came up (or his wife just had a bad day). This prevented me from ever feeling truly important to him.

In general, if you make a promise or commit to a plan with your partner, you should do everything you can to honour it. Emergencies happen, of course. Part of being in a long-term relationship means being flexible enough to roll with the punches when crises arise. But breaking promises or cancelling plans for minor reasons impedes building a true sense of commitment in a relationship, in my opinion.

The other piece of this is not making promises you can’t keep. My ex used to tell me that we – me, him, and his wife – would all live together and I’d be an equal co-primary someday. I eventually realised this was never going to actually happen. If I’d known that earlier, I could have adjusted my expectations accordingly. Instead, by promising something he never intended to actually follow through on, he deprived me of the ability to make an informed and consensual choice about how much I wanted to commit to that relationship.

If your non-entangled partner is asking for something, it can seem kinder to say “yes, someday” then just keep pushing it off into the distance. But if the real answer is “no, never” or “probably not,” it’s actually much better to tell them that. Hearing “no” to something you want is never fun. But it’s much better than being strung out on a false promise and then being let down again and again.

What does commitment without entanglement mean to you?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’m so curious how other non-monogamous people handle this.

Reunion

Have you ever just fallen into someone and held onto them as if you would drown if you let go? That’s how it felt to me when I saw my secondary partner[1] for the first time in sixteen months this last weekend. Throughout the 30 hours or so we spent together, I had to keep touching them just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

The last year has not been kind to many people, including us. We’ve survived many things in the four and a half years we’ve been together, from a terrifying car accident to my mental breakdown in 2019. But a pandemic that separated us for almost a year and a half was a different beast entirely.

Of course, our relationship wasn’t on hold during all this time. We couldn’t see each other physically, but we kept in touch with Skype calls and sexting and app-controlled sex toys and online theatre and movie dates. But it’s not the same. Sometimes I wanted to hug them so badly it hurt. Often, actually.

Even so, I went into our reunion not really knowing how it would go. So much has changed in the last year. Life is not the same. I am not the same. I’ve changed not just my hair and my body, but also my career and my relationship with myself in the past year. In some ways, I am far better. My self-esteem and my relationship to my work are both hugely improved. But in other ways, I am carrying the inevitable scars of the last year. I am jumpy and scared of things I was never scared of before. I don’t always know how to people any more, after almost a year in such isolation.

So no, I wasn’t sure if we would still fit. Because when people and circumstances change, relationships do, too. I think it’s fair to say they were more sure than I was, but I think they also had their doubts. How could we not, after all this time?

The doubt dissolved the moment I saw them, the moment we clung to each other and I buried my face in their shoulder and I remembered all the ways we fit together. Every time I looked at them, I wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time. Because yes, it still works. The love is still there. Our connection was tested but never severed. Our hearts and our bodies remember each other, and that matters more than days or months or distance.

Sometimes, in the sea of everything changing, you just need something that still feels right. You just need someone who will hold you as though they felt every damn second of all the months you were apart.

__________________________________________________

[1] We use “secondary” as a descriptive term, not as any kind of pejorative, and we love each other deeply and fiercely despite not being on the relationship escalator with each other.

I Don’t Believe in Soulmates (But…)

“A true soulmate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert

I don’t believe in soulmates.

Well, it’s not quite that simple. I don’t believe in soulmates in the “one person on earth for everyone who will complete you” kind of way.

Aside from the previously discussed mathematical absurdity of imagining there’s exactly one person designed for one other person, the One True Soulmate thing doesn’t account for polyamory, or people who are widowed and then find love again, or just people who have multiple serious relationships in their life because something isn’t retroactively less real because it ended. Then there’s the fact that we are all whole already and don’t need another person to complete us.

I’m not sure I even believe in souls, at least not in the metaphysical or religious way the term is often used. I’m both an atheist and fundamentally quite cynical.

So no, I don’t believe in soulmates. That doesn’t mean I am cynical about love. I’m not. I do believe in powerful connections between people, which might happen quickly or might grow over years.

When I hear “soulmate,” I think it implies a situation where you’re so made for each other that everything is easy. It’s the Disney-fied, romcom-style happy ending where all problems vanish and you live blissfully ever after.

But that’s not real. It’s a seductive lie, a dangerous fiction, a marketing ploy that leads real people to believe their relationships are inadequate.

I don’t want always-easy, because always-easy does not exist when it comes to meaningful relationships. What I want is someone who sees me completely. Someone who sees everything – the good, the bad, the ugly, the broken – and loves me anyway.

And, yeah, someone who can call me on my bullshit.

I don’t believe that anyone can know us better than we know ourselves. That is a fallacy. No-one else will ever be in your head or your body and you are always the ultimate and final expert on you. But I do believe that another person can see the bits of us that we’re not seeing, or choosing not to see, or trying to choose not to see.

Of course, it requires trust and vulnerability to let someone in that far. I’m not very good at either trusting people or being truly vulnerable. It takes me a long time to get there and the rest of the time, there’s a protective layer around me. Sometimes it’s a steel wall a foot thick, sometimes it’s barely perceptible and almost permeable.

A soulmate, in that fiction, would be someone who immediately fixed all those issues with their True Love. That doesn’t exist. What I want is someone who takes the time to see everything that is behind that wall, makes the effort to understand it, and wants to stay even then. Someone who does not expect pretense or perfection, but who embraces all that I am and – and this bit is important – all that I will be.

The “soulmates” ideal implies something static, something immovable and permanent. Real love isn’t necessarily like that. Our souls – our selves – are not static. Instead, I want a person who commits to growing alongside me. Someone who is all in, for the messy as well as the tidy, for the worse as well as for the better. And honestly? Someone who will walk away if it is truly no longer working, rather than someone who is so attached to an ideal that they stay to the detriment of both of us.

So no, I don’t want a soulmate. I want people who will do the work, make the effort, and show up again and again when it’s hard as well as when it’s easy.

It might not be quite so picture-perfect, but at least it’s real.

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Things That Matter More to Me Than Looks

I won’t pretend that looks are completely unimportant to me in a relationship. There does need to be a level of physical attraction – I need to be physically into my partners and have them be physically into me. But looks only get you so far and they’re so much less important than a great many other things.

I have met people I was physically attracted to, only to have that attraction greatly diminish or completely switch off due to some other trait in the person. At least a couple of crushes have been snuffed out when the hot person turned out to be an asshole.

So here are a few things that are ultimately way more important than looks.

Kindness

When it comes to dating someone or having them as a close person in my life, this is probably the single most important attribute they can possess. If someone isn’t kind, I’m unlikely to want to get close to them.

Even if I’m not immediately physically attracted to someone, kindness is one of the most reliable indicators that attraction could grow.

Things in Common

Obviously, no two people have everything in common. And separate interests and activities can be healthy in a relationship. But if we don’t have enough in common that we can share at least some hobbies and enjoy doing some things together, that’s unlikely to be a good fit for anything more than a very casual fling.

Matching Goals for the Relationship

I’ve been in relationships before where we wanted wildly different things out of it, and this is its own special kind of hell. While some things are open for negotiation, our core hopes and goals for the relationship should match. If one person wants a very serious, entangled relationship and the other wants friendship with casual sex, that’s likely to lead to resentment and frustration on both sides.

Compatible Kinks

Sex is important! If I’m going to have a romantic relationship with someone, chances are that sex and kink are going to be a part of it. That means that compatible kinks matter.

Again, no two people will have 100% crossover. Kinks and preferences are far too unique and nuanced for that. But there needs to be a pretty significant overlap for things to work.

I’m primarily a submissive, so while I enjoy dating switches, dating someone who wanted to bottom a lot of the time wouldn’t work for me. Likewise, dating someone whose main kink is my hard limit is unlikely to end well for either of us.

Similar Politics

Some people believe you can have very different or even opposite politics and still have a relationship. I do not believe that. I need someone whose politics are broadly aligned with mine if we’re going to be partners, lovers, or even close friends.

We don’t need to agree on everything. I think nuanced discussion and learning things from each other can be a wonderful part of a trusting relationship. But realistically, no-one who is right of centre is ever going to be a good match for me. We need to be on the same page about the important stuff.

What matters more to you than looks? Let me know in the comments.

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Reflections on Four Years

Yesterday (11/11/20) was the fourth anniversary of my relationship with my secondary partner, The Artist. This year has not been easy – we only live an hour from each other, and at the time of writing we haven’t seen each other in a little over 9 months. (For context, in non-pandemic times our average was once to twice a month.)

In honour of them and all they’ve given me in our time together, I thought I’d share a few reflections on our relationship.

It’s possible to have a secondary relationship that is truly, deeply joyful

Years ago, I wrote a defence of hierarchical polyamory and how people need to lay off judging it as Always And Absolutely Unethical. I said at the time that I was happy being The Artist’s secondary partner, and I stand by that now.

We have no desire to be each others’ primary partner. We each have our person that we live with and have entangled our lives with, and we love them very much. What we have with each other is different.

When people decry secondary relationships, it’s usually because they’ve been in one where they got burned. And I’m sorry for that, because I’ve been there. But this relationship has affirmed what I’ve always believed: that it’s possible to have a secondary relationship that is loving, nourishing, and joyful.

Because secondary doesn’t mean “just sex” or “less important” or “I don’t really care about you.” In the last four years, The Artist and I have had some amazing experiences together and shared mutual care and support in crises. We’ve held each other up and we’ve had each other’s backs. It might be secondary, but it still matters. A lot.

Taking it slow works out well sometimes

There’s been a post sitting in my drafts for over 2 years that I might publish eventually that explores this point in more detail. The working title is Fucking is Easy, Loving is Harder.

Because it took me a long-ass time to fully open up in this relationship. I got very adept at slamming a lid on my real feelings, keeping my emotions in check, because I was still convinced there was a catch. That I liked them more than they liked me, that they’d get bored with me, that I’d fuck it up. Saying I love you took me just shy of two years.

Because love is high stakes. The highest. Letting someone in is fucking hard when you’ve been hurt multiple times, especially when you’re an abuse survivor. By taking it slowly, my brain had time to catch up to my heart. And the trust we built was real, not based on impulsivity or rushing headfirst into something without thinking it through.

We can get through a lot

As I mentioned at the start of this post, we haven’t seen each other since February (it’s now November.) We currently have no idea when we’ll be able to see each other again. The UK is back in lockdown, and COVID-19 cases are still soaring. At this point, I’m expecting the total length of our separation time to stretch to a full year or more. If it doesn’t, I’ll consider that a pleasant surprise.

Is it easy? Fuck no. Does it suck? Yes. A lot. But have we got through it so far and do I believe we’ll keep getting through it? Yes and yes.

It’s not all been hot sexting and mushy online dates, either (though there has been some of that.) Some days, it’s been nothing more than an “everything sucks, but I love you” message. Of course there have been moments I’ve wondered if our relationship could survive this, if the long separation will result in them deciding they don’t need me any more, if one of us will just get too fucking depressed to keep this thing going.

But overall? I feel like if we can survive nine months to a year of lockdown, we can survive a lot of things.

I love them super-much

Basically, I think that’s what I’m trying to say, here. This is a fucking weird love-letter, but it’s a fucking weird year, so this is what I have right now.

I love you, sweetheart. Here’s to the next four.

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Pancakes

I love making people pancakes the morning after a night of filthy sex.

I don’t know quite when this tradition or this association started, but it’s now firmly entrenched in my mind that an overnight date should ideally end with a lazy, late-morning pancake breakfast.

Food is one of my love languages. I love the ritual of making a loved one a cake for their birthday (or, let’s be real, any other special occasion.) Adding flour and eggs and chocolate chips and infusing the whole thing with love. I love dashing around the kitchen whipping up a feast for a group of friends. God, I miss dinner parties. Years ago, I taught myself how to cook vegan (I wasn’t yet even vegetarian at the time) because a dear friend adopted strict veganism overnight and it seemed like a good way to show support.

And I love making pancakes the morning after the night before. Whether we’re grinning at each other across the kitchen table with filthy, hot memories still fresh in our minds, or balancing trays on our laps and trying not to spill syrup on the bed, there’s something delightfully intimate about eating breakfast together.

If I’ve let you stay over (or I’ve stayed over with you,) it means I trust you to see me at my most imperfect. It’s one thing to get dolled up and go out to a restaurant and then go home and fuck and slip out before we fall asleep. It’s another entirely to let you see me with bed hair, morning face, pre-coffee blearly eyes.

A lot of my sex is pretty casual, but I still care deeply about everyone I get naked with. Whether we’re long-term partners or friends who also fuck occasionally, I want you to know how loved and valued you are. Making breakfast is my little way of saying “I want to do all kinds of hot and dirty things with you. But I also want to hang out in our pyjamas and eat pancakes with you.”

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Loving Someone You’ve Loved Forever

“We had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”
– Louis de Bernieres (from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin)

I won’t knock New Relationship Energy for a second. It’s fun and it’s wonderful. Who doesn’t love that part at the beginning of a new relationship, where you’re feeling each other out, learning each other’s bodies and minds, figuring out how you fit?

But for me, the best things in a relationship have always come with time. Things like learning how to move around each other in the kitchen as we make a meal together. Knowing exactly what treat to bring back from the store to make the other’s day a bit brighter. Hearing I love you in words like “drive safely” and “you need to rest“. A whole shared language of jokes, memories, experiences, trips, fights and resolutions, fucks, films, friends, and so much more.

And sex with someone I’ve loved forever? For me, that’s where the really good stuff is. When there’s no pressure to be perfect. No worries about what if we don’t fit, what if it doesn’t work, what if what if what if

No fear I won’t be good enough, because they’ve already seen me at my worst and they still love me. Knowing that if I don’t come, they won’t think my body is too finicky or complicated. Knowing that if a body makes an unsexy noise, we’ll laugh it off and carry on. Being 100% certain that if I say no, they’ll respect it and still love me. Not being scared to take my clothes off, because I know they find me hot, stretch marks and body hair and all.

All other things being equal, I’d far rather have sex with someone whose body I know. Someone who knows mine. The creativity that comes with keeping the lust and the spark alive over years. Morning sex when we’re still half asleep, afternoon sex when we’re both working from home, giggly sex when we’re just on the right side of tipsy, sex club sex when we’re getting off on showing off.

I’ve never understood people who think long-term relationships are boring, that forever love is unexciting, or that sex with someone you’ve loved for years has to be less passionate.

So yes, casual sex is fun and NRE is wonderful. Give me the breathless excitement of fucking someone for the first time. Give me the heart-skipping moment when one of us finally moves to kiss the other. Bring it on – I love that stuff. The ability to enjoy that stuff over and over, without hurting anyone, is part of why I’m polyamorous.

But more than that? Far more than that, give me waking up next to someone I’ve loved for years. Bodies that can keep rediscovering each other every time we come together, again and again and again for years. Give me the two puzzle pieces that know they fit together.

Give me roots that have grown together underground. In the face of all that, the pretty blossom is just decoration.

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This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!

[Quote Quest] Love is Many Things

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself- and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.”

Love is many things.

Yes, sometimes love is red roses and grand gestures. But more often than not, it’s the quieter things that speak so much louder.

Fingers reaching for yours as you walk side by side. A hand on the small of your back as you wait in line at the supermarket, or resting on your knee as you watch TV.

Sometimes love is, “I love you”. But other times, it’s let me know you got home okay. It’s you’re exhausted, why don’t I pick up takeout on the way home? It’s I set the coffee pot up for you.

Love is the silly trinket they saw and couldn’t not get for you, because it spoke to some inside joke. It’s the meme in your inbox that they knew would make you laugh.

Sometimes, love is the person you’re fucking. Other times, it’s the best friend who peeled you off the floor when you were at your absolute worst and loved you unwaveringly anyway. Sometimes it’s a person who will hold you with strong arms until you feel safe again. But other times, it’s a gently purring cat who somehow knows exactly when you need a cuddle.

Sometimes, it’s I just met you but you’ve completely commandeered my thoughts. Then again, sometimes it’s also I’ll wait patiently for two years for you to fully let me in, because I know how badly you’ve been hurt before.

Love can be lavish dinners on special occasions, but it can also be homemade pancakes the morning after a night of filthy sex… or the morning after you’ve handed in your Masters thesis and all you want to do is fuse with the sofa and never move again.

Love is having your back and fighting by your side when someone has wronged you. But it’s also calling you out on your shit, because they love you and they know you’re better than this. It’s respecting your boundaries, and communicating theirs. It’s saying what they mean, so you don’t have to play guessing games.

Love is letting you feel your feelings. It’s allowing you to be where you are, without trying to fix you. It’s listening with curiosity and empathy, letting you define your own experience. Letting you sit in a space of uncertainty, not knowing, figuring things out.

Love is many things.

Love is not all you need, but it’s a damn good start.

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This piece was written for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see who else was inspired by this week’s quote! And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!