What you want, you don’t have; what you have, you don’t want. NSA. No Strings Attached. “It’s just sex,” you say. I’ve heard it all before. You assume that the grass is greener in your neighbor’s bedroom. Admittedly, I’ve gone through that phase in my life. I’d even pondered whether my next relationship should be closed or open.
The Open kind tend to be divided into one of two camps. There’s the “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” variety and the “Whose Sorry Now?” syndrome. What neither understands about relationships could fill self-help books and clog up the Bestseller’s List from now until Armageddon. Stories of several friends have helped me make an informed decision. Let me briefly share their stories.
My good friend, Ralph (That is not his name and I wouldn’t want it to be unless I could pronounce it Ralph Fiennes) has had three relationships. The last two were with absolute nutcases who wouldn’t know what commitment is if it had been tattooed on their own petard. His first relationship, however, began as a closed one—i.e., monogamous. At the urging of his partner, they opened up their bed to others, promising to play together. His partner invited someone into their bed. Then, his partner fell in love with the invitee and moved out. Suddenly, Ralph’s relationship was kaput. Try as you may, tweezing sex and love apart is futile. They are permanently and unalterably entwined. Now Ralph believes that true love is fiction and has settled for FWB (friends with benefits.)
Another friend, Raymond (Again, not his real name. But why do gay men always have to use the formal version?”), has been in a ten-year open relationship from the start. Both play outside the confines of their relationship. When another (not one, but two persons) entered his life for “play”, he almost paid. He fell in love with them. Meanwhile, Raymond’s partner loves him deeply and is committed to him without question. Raymond stays, in part, because he would have compromised his standard of living, partially because he still cares for his partner. They are best friends but do not have sex together. It leaves Raymond sexually confused and estranged from his partner. Now, he wants the emotional underpinnings of a closed relationship without giving up their philandering.
Pardon the cliché but. . . . “Better the Devil You Know.” While I’m not in the position of being a psychologist or a Leatherman’s answer to “Dear Abby,” I think it is a unique couple that can navigate the perils of these two styles of relationships. Still, I feel it is akin to the Super “Psycho” Mom who wants to have children and work full-time. You can’t have it all. There is a price. To get something, you have to give up something.
So on this Valentine’s Day, I’m hoping that each one of you experience both the challenges and rewards that an unselfish love can bring. Relationships—those that are worth their salt that is—end up with the other person knowing you better than yourself. It is perfectly natural. Why? In our dotage, is it not comforting to know that there will be someone who cares and loves you in spite of all the wrinkles, stiff joints and other ailments that come with age?
And to all those who have never experienced love because of your commitment-phobia or fear-of-being-hurt psychosis, I want you to know one thing: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. Real love gives. To those who wonder if they could do better, stop and realize how good you have it.
I wish I had listened when somebody told me that a year ago. For the first time in sixteen years, I celebrate this Valentine’s Day without my soul mate. Life is short. Our relationship was far from perfect, but our play had a good, long run. Until I see you again, Tommy.