I met my wife when we were both young. I married the first woman I fell in love with. I knew at the time we started dating that we were incompatible, but it didn’t stop us from getting together, because (a) I truly believed there was nobody else in the world who was like me and would be compatible with me, (b) we both believed that if you love someone you have to be with them, and (c) true love overcomes everything, right? Right? Isn’t that what Disney movies with talking animals say?
When we got together, she wanted a traditional monogamous relationship. I am not monogamous, and have never been in a monogamous relationship. She knew that, but we tried anyway.
So we had a relationship where we could both have outside lovers (and did; she had other partners too) but only with strict rules. She said I was not allowed to love someone else, I could not do things like spend the night with another lover or make commitments to another lover, and so on.
You know, all the things that naive, inexperienced, insecure couples do when they try to open a relationship.
The problem? I didn’t realize that you can’t pass rules on feelings (if that worked, why not just pass a rule saying “nobody is allowed to feel insecure”? Derp.)
More importantly, I never thought about how that disempowers other people, how profoundly it objectifies them, and how hurtful it is to them. It reduces them to the status of walking sex toys, tells them their feelings don’t matter, and tells them that they can never have a voice in what they share with me.
Which is really fucked up, and it’s why, when I speak and teach, I advise people “never date or get involved with couples that have these rules.”
I hurt other people, who became attached to me (as people often do when they have sex) only to have the door slammed in their face, and to be told their feelings don’t matter.
It took me way longer than it should have to see how I was hurting other people, something I still regret to this day. Finally, when I did see it, I could not in good conscience continue to do it and still look at myself in the mirror.
My wife and I tried to find a new foundation to build our relationship on, but by that point we had 18 years of history, and a history of dealing with problems and insecurities by passing rules leaves a relationship brittle and weak.
She had spent that eighteen years truly believing that I didn’t really want to be with her and that I would leave her when I found someone “better.” Having a partner who truly believes, year after year, that your love isn’t real and you secretly want to leave is soul-killing.
So I asked for a divorce.
We are not close any more, but we are still friendly and do talk to each other from time to time.