Love infinity?Posted: September 14, 2017
I tried to be cool. I tried to be chill. I tried to just accept what I had now, with no expectations for the future. I’d been trying to quit drinking, but every time I thought about Papa Bear and his inability to not fuck millions of girls, I wanted a drink. Or 5. And so the Friday night before our third anniversary I went over to his place, as usual. I told him I wasn’t going to quit drinking right now after all. If I was going to pretend everything was fine and I didn’t care, I’d need to numb.
Drink in hand, I asked him if he knew where the Isle of Skye was.
He responded with an enthusiastic “Yeah, I’ve been there.”
“Of course,” I laughed bitterly. Because he’s been everywhere. The Isle of Skye. Wales, London, Rome, Crete. Thailand, the Maritimes, Haida Gwaii. But never with me.
This has been a sore point between us for awhile, because when he was married, he traveled with his wife, but since he and I have been together we’ve only done road trips. He knows how wanderlust-y I am and keeps talking about us going somewhere awesome together, but it never happens.
I tell him about my plan to start aggressively saving to go away, again. I have some money in an account, but I tell him that I’ve done some research (angrily, as I’d accepted the fact that we were never going to go anywhere since I wasn’t his wife and if he couldn’t afford to take me now he wasn’t going to be able to once he had another girlfriend), and I’d found lots of cheap trips that I could save for within a year.
I said the words “By myself,” a lot.
“There’s a lot of places I can afford to go by myself.”
“I think that’s a place that would be safe to travel by myself.”
“I wouldn’t be comfortable driving to the port by myself, so I’d take a greyhound then ferry to the island.”
He asked if I still wanted him to go with me.
I said “Sure, if you want.” The unspoken message was clear: I give up. Do what you want. I’m going to live my life with or without you.
Then, working a pretty good buzz, I wondered aloud if I should join Tinder. “You know,” I said, “I only lasted about 30 seconds on there last time, but that was because I was afraid of people I know seeing my profile. Now that I’m trying to care less about what other people think, I think I’ll go ahead and join.”
And I did. Right then. I joined Tinder and immediately started swiping, completely missing the fact that I was swiping the wrong way on all the men I liked until Papa Bear showed me how to do it right.
I was kind of being a bitch. I didn’t even want to meet anyone on Tinder. Papa Bear had told me during one of our last discussions on him being way more actively poly than he is (me, preferring not to look for other partners but to be open to more love if it comes along) that he didn’t want me to feel like he was always looking, and would shut down his dating profiles. He told me he’d shut down his OkCupid, but he still had Tinder (though he was only getting men because he’d switched it to BFF mode) and I didn’t know what other apps he was using. Still, he’d made an effort, and I was kind of telling him it didn’t matter anymore. Once again, I don’t care.
He kept assuring me he wanted to be with me. Telling me the reason he hasn’t traveled with me is because he’d put the trips with his wife on his credit card and was trying to be more responsible and pay off his debt before we went away. That he wasn’t looking for other women anymore and he didn’t know what else he could do to prove that even if I didn’t care, he did.
And I just started to blubber. “Do you remember,” I asked him, “When you were still with The Wifey, and you said that if you broke up with her you’d be heart-broken, but at least you’d know you’d had a great life together and you’d always be grateful for that?”
“Yes,” he said, confused.
“Well, I don’t know if you and I are going to be able to stay together. I love you, but we might not be able to make it happen,” I sniffled. “And if we can’t, I just want to know that you and I had a great life together, while we were together. That’s why I don’t want to travel with you in a few years, I want to travel with you now. That’s why I get frustrated when we don’t go more places and do more things. Because I want to be able to look back and say, at least we had that. And if you find another serious girlfriend, that’s never going to happen because you won’t be able to afford it. So I don’t know what to do, except give up on ever having a life with you.”
“I don’t need another girlfriend,” he said, on the verge of tears.
“Yes, you do! You keep saying ‘it’s who I am, it’s who I am.’ You’ll never be happy with just me. I used to think that when we could be together all the time, you wouldn’t need anyone else. But that’s obviously not true. I’ll never be enough for you.”
He told me that I am enough. That I am more than enough. That I am everything. That his being polyamorous doesn’t say anything about whether I am enough. How could something about him, define me? “Furthermore, I’ve told you over and over that I’m not looking for another girlfriend. I don’t have the emotional energy. I’m not dating any of the women I’m seeing. I just like sex.”
“I’m sorry, then how is that who you are? How is that polyamory? You keep saying you’re polyamorous and it’s who you are, but I don’t get how that jives with having a constant stream of meaningless sex with women you barely know.”
He didn’t have a great answer for that. He knows he can love more than one woman at a time, but he doesn’t need to, and right now he doesn’t want to. It’s an ego boost knowing other people want him, but he admits he shouldn’t be ruled by his ego.
“Look,” I said. “I am not monogamous either. But the difference between us is that I don’t have to be with more than one person at a time to be happy. If looking for other women, or being with other women, is something you will always, always want–and not just a lifestyle you can choose to engage in or to not engage in, depending on the circumstances–then I just can’t imagine a future with you. In a decade, my kids are going to be grown up, and I am going to leave. I have spent my entire life settling for relationships that weren’t right, just because I loved the person, or because my life made it so that was the right thing to do. I’m not going to do that forever. Every day is a fight and when I’m done raising my kids, I’m done fighting. I’m done with the stress of being paired with the wrong person. I’m done with stress, period. Even if it means I move to Greece and live alone forever, at least I won’t be crying. At least I’ll have peace. At least I’ll be free.”
“But can I come? Like we talked about?”
“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering who your next girlfriend is going to be, and what’s going to happen, and if its all going to be okay. I’m going to get tired. I’m going to be too old for this. I don’t want my whole life to be a house of cards that can crash down at any moment because we keep adding unknown elements. At some point, I want to know what my future is going to look like and who its going to be with, even if the answer to that is no one.”
He admits its hard for him to feel restricted, but maybe he needs to stop trying to recapture his 20’s. That he knows he will not have the energy for multiple women forever, and that when he looks at his future, all he sees is me.
I still don’t believe him, so as I drink and cry, he goes back inside and comes out with a red velvet ring box, shaped like a heart. I stare at it, stunned. He flips it open and inside is a ring. A sparkly, diamond ring. And all I can think is that the gold and the diamonds are arranged into the infinity symbol–which a lot of people think of as the symbol for polyamory, because love is infinite.
He holds out the ring and talks about how he loves me and wants to be with me forever. How no matter who he is with, it’s never been as good as when he’s with me. How we connect on so many levels and he truly believes we were made for each other. How sleeping with other women is just sex, but with me, from the very first time, he was shaken to his core and thought “holy fuck, what just happened?” That he’s never had that kind of connection with anyone else, and he’s never been so deeply in love with anyone else, and I need to believe him.
I burst into fresh tears, as the truth of the matter, the question that has been at the core of all of this, finally crystallizes in my mind.
“What happens when that’s not true anymore?” I ask, my voice breaking. “What happens when the next girl or the next girl or the next does touch you that way? What happens when you meet someone you click with more than me? What happens then?” I bawl.
And he gets it. He finally gets it.
I don’t take the ring. It doesn’t fit and the infinity symbol freaks me out and the timing is wrong. He puts it away and tells me he will get me a better one, one he hopes I will wear for the rest of my life.
And we compromise. We have twelve years until we can run away together. For the next twelve years, we can experiment and be as non-monogamous as we want. But when we are finally able to be together the way that we want to, the way that we were meant to, it is just him and me. Of course, if he falls in love with someone else before then that would complicate things. Who knows, I may like her enough to want to bring her with us. Or he may decide to stay here with her. But what I really needed to know is that someday my life will stabilize. That I will have my person (or people) and won’t need to deal with more.
Regardless, I know what I’m doing and I believe he wants to do it with me. Somehow I feel that all-elusive peace, which is all I really wanted to begin with.