An ex-lover of mine, who I dealt with on and off for several years, couldn’t see himself settling down with one woman. We were very close friends, but we never evolved into anything more meaningful than Fuck Buddies. The crudeness of the term diminishes years of bonding and emotional intimacy, but at the end of the day, that’s what it was.
Frustratingly, it appeared that the more emotionally intimate we were with one another, the more he desperately began to build walls in order to keep me out. If I tried to walk away, he’d come running after me, only to push me away again. He wanted me close, but not too close. He wanted me far enough away from him that he could freely fuck other women, but not so far away that I got too close to another man.
It was a very strange and unhealthy situation despite what I perceived to be our closeness as friends. We spoke for hours, daily. I was familiar with nearly every aspect of his life and who he was. I was his best friend and only confidante. There was this neediness about him. He needed me near. He needed to hear my voice at night before he went to bed. He needed me to help him make life decisions. He needed my input. He needed me physically. He needed me by his side, and to never leave him. Yet he didn’t want me to feel as though we were closer than buddies. The intimacy was way beyond that of a sexual nature. We were emotionally enmeshed. And yet the closer we became, the more difficult it was to deal with him. The walls he built weren’t keeping me out—they were enveloping me completely. It was as though the cement had been poured over me and I was trapped, fearful that if the walls were broken down, I’d break with them.
Despite his actions and the feelings he expressed, which his male friends interpreted as love, he insisted he wasn’t in love with me. He wouldn’t even say he loved me. He could say he loved my pussy, but as for me, Tamara Kellam, the human being, friend, and the woman he counted on time and time again, he could only admit he “had love for me.”
Granted, I’m just as capable as anyone of wishing something were true so badly that I start to believe in lies, and as of right now, I can’t consider the ups and downs of our interactions as anything but an unhealthy entanglement, much less, love. However, at the time, it wasn’t just me who was confused by his apparent contradictory behavior. His friends were also convinced that he loved me, but felt he refused to admit it, even to himself.
I remember having a conversation with him about commitment and being in love with someone. He said, “If I were in love with a woman, I wouldn’t want to sleep with other women. I wouldn’t be attracted to other women.”
And there was his reasoning for why he didn’t love me. He wanted to sleep with other women. And according to him, you can’t possibly love someone if you find other people sexually attractive.
I think those of us who have a healthy, realistic view of relationships, know this ideology to be false. The idea that we will never want someone else sexually is an impossible standard to live up to, and one that will surely keep a person from allowing themselves to develop a loving, committed relationship with another human being. Some men are waiting for a woman who can stamp out any sexual desire for another woman. Someone so sexually satisfying, so physically appealing, so intellectually engaging, and so emotionally nurturing that he will never find another woman sexually attractive. And for a lot of people, men and women alike, that is their barometer for compatibility. Anything less is just settling.
There are 2 possible outcomes for this kind of thinking.
- The first outcome is a life of loneliness and disappointment. A continual passing up of potential greatness in search of perfection.
- The second outcome is the inclination to carry out the very action you are adamantly trying to avoid—settling. You don’t want to settle, but you end up settling because the loneliness and disappointment becomes so overwhelming that you say, “Fuck it.” You settle for something good because you already passed up something great in search of perfection. Ironic. And these are the relationships that mostly mimic situationships. The union is founded on an underlying tone of resentment because the person is so far from your ideal. As a result, you justify cheating, or find ways to sabotage it in order to break free from a self-imposed prison.
Another ex of mine who also had similar commitment issues said,
“I’ve never felt as though I couldn’t live without someone. And that’s how you know you’re in love—you feel like you can’t live without that person. I’ve never been in love before. Anytime a relationship has ended, I might have felt sad, but I’ve never felt like I couldn’t eat or sleep without someone.”
I asked, “Why do you measure love against your ability to suffer?” I told him he had a very warped idea of what love was supposed to look like.
He also claimed to be confused about monogamy. He had similar issues as the first guy I mentioned—he tied love to sexual desire. The idea that he might want to sleep with other women kept him from actually being emotionally available to building a real, loving relationship with me. The closer and more emotionally intimate our relationship became, the more inconsistent he began to act, until he ultimately ended it with one of the biggest cop-outs a man can give a woman he worked so hard to convince he was worth her time and love: “I can’t be the man you deserve.”
I believe in monogamy, but I don’t equate monogamy with love. I don’t think that they are mutually inclusive. I don’t think that whether or not a couple decides to practice monogamy or polyamory will dictate their ability to be happy together. I think the success and happiness attained in a relationship is predicated on the individuals in the relationship—their commitment to continuing to grow as individuals, and their commitment to each other (helping their partner grow, and working together to grow the actual relationship). Whether or not you choose to bring other people into the bedroom has little bearing on the determination of how successful a relationship can be, in my opinion.
I say all of that to say, the decision to be poly-amorous or monogamous is exactly that—a decision. It is a choice. We make this decision based on numerous factors, like personal experiences, cultural & religious beliefs, and more.
The willingness to be completely engaged, emotionally, physically, and mentally, specifically in a romantic relationship, is also a choice.
Love is a verb, not a feeling.
The feeling we associate with love is a series of chemicals relating to desire, sexual attraction, admiration, etc.
But love—choosing to love someone, is a decision.
Relationships are about choice.
And often times, I have experienced or have witnessed men forgoing this choice because they are waiting for the choice to be made for them. They are waiting for that inexplicable attraction that forces them to want to be “faithful.” They are waiting on this goddess-like woman who can fulfill them in every way imaginable so they don’t have to decide to love or choose monogamy—the choice will be made for them.
The main problem is this woman does not exist. Another problem is it completely overlooks the right and responsibility that comes with love and relationships: choice.
I’m not saying love at first sight doesn’t exist—what I mean by that is, there are a number of men who are happily married who will tell you, they simply knew at first sight that they were going to marry the women who are now their wives. I believe there are intangible qualities that make a person decide to commit to someone. But when I speak to these men, or hear them talk about their wives, they never describe these women as fitting some perfectionistic ideal of womanhood. The qualities they find most endearing about their wives happen to be their flaws and imperfections. It isn’t that they saw a perfect woman and felt compelled by her perfection to marry her. Not at all.
Upon further investigation, it appears that these men were already in a place, emotionally, mentally, and financially, where they were ready to decide, to choose, love. And the woman who was right for them happened to show up at the right time.
So if you have been looking, and yet every woman you meet somehow misses the mark, maybe the fact that you haven’t found Mrs. Right is really a reflection of your un-readiness, and not their unworthiness.
By the way, this isn’t an indictment—it’s simply a perspective I am asking you to consider. In the same way that women are being advised to reconsider our standards and our ideals about love and marriage, I’m asking that single men who also tend to have failed relationships do the same.
Women are given a bad rap for buying into unrealistic romantic ideals. While we were fed these ideals against our wills as children, much like the Santa and Easter Bunny myths, there comes a time when we must let go of the idea that Prince Charming or a tall White Knight will come swooping in on his trusty steed and rescue us from that awful, crazy, and single cat-lady existence.
And what about the unhealthy ideals that men hold on to when it comes to love and romance? What ideals stand in the way of allowing a man to acknowledge the Mrs. Right standing in front of him, or the Mrs. Right he let go of too soon, all because of the idea that she wasn’t perfect enough to make him lose his desire for new pussy?