I have a girlfriend.
That may be neither new or news to some of you. I haven’t decided which camp I fall into yet. See, I knew she existed, I knew we were involved with each other in some capacity and I knew that we each thought one another were something spiffy. Translating that into readily digestible words was a process in itself. We’ve been seeing each other for a while. Coming up on 6 months in a day or two. “Seeing each other” as it stands, was the phrase I used as a stand-in for other options. I think I can say we’re “dating” without standing on any toes, but the hesitation to do so has only receded recently. I can say that we’re in a relationship without it feeling weird to me. It feels natural, in that the word tumbles out on its own when I think of the connection we share. The term “girlfriend” has only lately felt fitting because it’s planted itself subconsciously in my dialogue. For a while it was “lady friend”, which felt comfortable, low-key and safe. It felt quaint without laying down too many expectations. It meant we saw each other slightly more than casually and if she happened to take her leave, that I’d somehow linguistically guarded myself from taking it as a slight. If she was only a “lady friend” rather than a “girlfriend”, that had fewer serious connotations.
The word shifted to “partner” for some time, which I amusedly realised probably made people think I was talking about another guy. Funny, I thought, and made no move to correct them. Still, partner for me held less weight. Once again innoculated against loss if she skipped out, I could find my comfort without worrying about investing too much. This was an ongoing theme. Try as I might, whatever baggage I still clutched from my previous relationships, innately I felt it necessary to hold back in case she suddenly decided I wasn’t fit for her. It was only another permutation of my common leave them before they leave me mentality. If I didn’t invest too much in the first place, it wouldn’t sting quite so much when she went. So I did what I did without thinking and linguistically controlled my frame of reference. It’s almost shameful the time it took me to even think in terms of being in a “relationship”. I was, but somehow I thought that by failing to use the words, it didn’t make it true.
Let’s pump the brakes for a second here, because it sounds like I’m just a “typical guy” with frigid feet, entirely afraid of commitment. I’m not a robot (but the time I spend telling myself and partners this gives me pause) and I do have feelings. When I get invested I really do, but fear of future hurt leaves me tentative to do so. Hence by ascribing to labels, nebulous as they are, it deludes me into thinking I have even a modicum of control over my emotions. The illusion breeds comfort and here we are. Still I feel like you’re not getting the whole picture, which makes me feeling like I’m skewing a little Koenigian. So here’s that missing piece of the jigsaw that’ll link it all.
My girlfriend (my current go-to descriptor) is polyamorous. I’m not.
At some point you’ve gotta wonder if I just seek out complicated situations. It’s not the first time I’ve been in this arrangement. Usually the way I respond is to be upfront and honest. Dating a polyamorous person as a monogamist for me means that they’re free to date others, but when I find someone I want to pursue romantically, it’ll be time for me to move on. It’s difficult terrain to navigate. I have no issue with a partner dating other people if that’s established as the deal. I’m not gonna invalidate or infringe upon someone else’s life choices. That’d be barbaric. That’d be like telling an LGBT person that dating within their gender is wrong. If you’re conducting yourself in a way that your choices aren’t hurting anyone else, why would I oppose that? Pursue your own happiness. So that’s the arrangement I entered into this time. It worked. She kept dating others, I loved her company when she was around. I met one of her partners, who was equally lovely, and things went well. I was happy and didn’t put much stock into meeting anyone else for the time being.
Then I met somebody else.
So we know the plan, right? I meet someone, I say “thanks for the hospitality” and go out with the new gal. Easy. After a super promising date that left me humming with excitement, I was all ready to pack up my things and move on. Easier said than done. The problem with words is that they’re so malleable, while feelings are staunch and uncompromising once they’ve made themselves known. Ecstatic from having met this new gal, feelings meant I was forced into confronting how I felt about the current gal. I realised that despite the casual way I’d been treating the relationship, there was a depth of connection and I’d merely been paddling at the surface. I couldn’t just drop my things and run when I hadn’t even explored my current situation. So rather than opt out, I invested.
It’s been something I’ve come to over time. She makes it easy. She’s a wonderfully accepting woman. She knows how to play in any situation. She’ll yes, and… at a moment’s notice and I get an earnest sense that we’re capable of making each other pretty damn happy. We challenge each other to try new things that might be out of our comfort zone and give as much support as we can along the way. She’s a nuanced, three dimensional person who communicates easily and clearly. The fact that any insecurities we might have over the arrangement are talked about and understood in depth means that neither of us is confused about where we are. Wherever that might be. It’s naive to think that any of this exists on a fixed point. The way things are right now gives me no reason to want to go anywhere. I’m at a good place and there’s far more in this relationship that makes me want to dive in than paddle about. I may stay content with our arrangement thus far. I may even dip into polyamory myself (given that everyone I meet involved in it seems to be such a great ambassador for it) and see how that suit fits. Who knows where I’ll be? I certainly didn’t expect to be here. Wherever I am, whatever’s happening here, I know that I’m not worried and the words I use matter much less than the intentions behind them.
I think The Animals said it best.