I’m in love. Again. With someone new. It is not going according to plan.
To be fair, I really didn’t have a “plan,” this is all pretty new to me – the amour part of poly. I fell in love pretty quickly with Mr. A – it was really intense, emotional and I fell hard and fast. Maybe it was the depth of the connection, maybe it was that I saw him a few times a week over the summer, maybe it was that I hadn’t felt this good about myself as an attractive, sexual woman in years, but it happened for me and it happened for him and he told me that he loved me about 2 weeks after I had told him. That was about 3 months into my relationship with him. And it has just grown deeper and wider since then.
But now there is a new man on the emotional scene. Tyler. We met via OK Cupid online in October. We exchanged multiple messages confirming early on that there was at least some level of interest, and it was clear from out first meeting that we had that ephemeral “chemistry.” Plus we liked each other. We’d established the intellectual connection electronically and the way that my bones turned to jelly when he kissed me at the end of our first meeting left no doubt about a physical attraction. We live more than an hour apart and neither of us – until quite recently – was able to “host” for intimate or just hanging out time. We are both very busy people, each with children and complicated, time-consuming careers, so we haven’t seen each other the couple of times a week that I typically had been seeing Mr. A. But we’re making it work. The things we talked about were quite varied and I didn’t feel like it was an effort to maintain the contact. I told him early on that I thought he was a “keeper “ and that I was going to continue reaching out to him unless or until he told me to stop. He has often thanked me that I keep making that effort – the one that I don’t see as an effort at all. We’ve texted and emailed very often – by my mail program’s count, it’s been over 700 emails sent and received in 6 months. Probably more than that in texts. And they weren’t basic, perfunctory, “Hey, how was your day?” emails or texts, either. We shared: things that were painful, frustrating, scary, funny, interesting, and cool. When we sexted, it wasn’t a simple litany of what we wanted to do to each other. These were long, detailed, sensual pictures painted with words. We talked about the dates with others that worked or didn’t; about music, food, movies; about our jobs, our families, our histories. We made each other feel less alone while we made each other laugh. Getting a text or an email from Tyler was just about guaranteed to make me smile and make my heart happy. When we did get together, whether for vertical (no sex – or none planned anyway) or horizontal (sex planned) dates, the time flew and we both left smiling. The sex was scorching, luminescent and there was also an emotional intimacy that was connecting us which made it deeper than just satisfying our physical needs.
He was exiting a longish marriage and was learning that the messages he’d received and internalized in the last few years of it were complete and utter bullshit. He has a normal sex drive. He does not have anything resembling an addictive personality. He is a genuinely nice person. He is attractive and very desirable. He is exploring ethical non-monogamy and having fun being a kind, bright, handsome, funny, cultured, sensitive, thoughtful 40 something man. Yeah. Like I said, a keeper. But he is still finding his footing. Learning how to ask for help. Gaining confidence in the power of open and honest communication with partners current, past, and potential. In the year since his separation, Tyler has grown and is beginning to feel good about himself and his continuing evolution towards happiness and away from the guy he barely recognizes who’d squished himself into a very small and confining box.
I realized that I had fallen in love with him in January. But it took me until April to tell him. Why? Good question. I was almost certain that he was not in the same place – which was OK – and I’ll come back to that in a minute. But I was afraid. I was worried that if I told him that I loved him, he would run. I think it was my own insecurities that drove that particular line of thinking. But I examined my fear and decided that if he couldn’t handle me loving him, and he did run, that he wasn’t who I thought he was. So I told him. I had planned to tell him in person but through a series of semi-fraught communications about fears of STDs, I ended up revealing it in an email. The jury is still out as to whether that method was appropriate.
As I said, I was almost certain that he did not return my feelings in that way. But that’s OK with me. I wanted him to know what he means to me, how important he has become to me. I was saying, “These are my feelings for you. I want you to be aware that an amazing woman (me!) doesn’t just think you are astonishing and great fun to be with and hot and an incredibly giving lover. It’s become more. I love you.” And it wasn’t, “I love you and I expect you to return those feelings in precisely the same way. “ It wasn’t, “I love you so now the dynamics and the mechanics of the relationship become drastically different.” It was, “You rock my world. You’ve taken up space in my head and my heart. I love you.” Full stop.
And it was a full stop. If there was a soundtrack to this story, here is where the sound of a needle scratching and skipping violently across the vinyl record, music stopping, would be what you’d hear. I’d totally blindsided him. He had no idea that I had these feelings for him. He was taken completely by surprise. He didn’t have those feelings for me and didn’t know how to react, didn’t know what to do other than to tell me that he didn’t know what to do. We were both unprepared – him to hear that I had these feelings – me to his being so surprised and bewildered.
The good news is that we practiced what I am sure we’d both told our children, “Use your words!” Instead of him running, he shared that he was at a loss. Instead of me shutting down and withdrawing, I shared that there was really nothing to be afraid of and that nothing needed to change in the relationship. I told him that I had no expectations of any sort and that the only thing I wanted to change was to try and spend a bit more time together. I didn’t want to have his babies (thank God for that since neither one of us is capable of procreation any longer) and I wasn’t planning for us to move in together (thank God for that since there are significant barriers to that as well). I love you. Nothing more complicated than that.
He asked that we shelve the sex for a while. He thought that might make things more complicated and confusing for both of us. Fair enough. I’ve told him that I realize this is new and different and that he should take all the time he needs to work through what it means to him. The better news is that now, almost 4 weeks since telling him, I think he is starting to feel a bit more comfortable. A poly male friend who I texted in a slight panic when I realized the extent of Tyler’s distress calmly advised that “Maybe he just needs some time to get used to the idea.” I think my friend may have been right. Tyler and I have seen each other again and we’ve had two perfect evenings – talking, laughing, sharing, making stronger whatever it is that draws us together.
The best news is that what could have been terribly awkward and even potentially relationship-ending has been neither. It hasn’t gotten weird. Just as I said, nothing in terms of how we talk, what we talk about, or how often has changed. We still share. We still are interested in the good, the bad, and the ugly of each other’s lives. We still make each other laugh. He notices when I am wearing something provocative and his laugh makes me weak with desire. We still both feel supported and like we have a connection in the world. Like I said, there isn’t really a plan – we’re figuring it out as we go.
It just makes me love him more. Fingers crossed that it’s OK with him.