Risk Unlearning What Has Kept Us Alive

These words feel too small and not entirely accurate, but they’re the best I can find for something really important.

When Gabe and I started dating, in the fall of 2007, I had some decisions to make about personal, psychological tools and strategies. We had a lot of work to do quickly. Neither one of us had been in a polyamorous relationship before, and I had just recently become convinced that they could actually be healthy. We had 3 1/2 years of friendship and longing for one another driving us forward. And we had stressful triggery situations we were each emerging from. We had work to do.

I made a decision at the time that I am grateful for. I pushed myself out to my limits and stayed there. Every day, I stayed out at the perimeter and pushed it a little further out… or a LOT further out. I deferred to Gabe for a lot of the timing; it was his relational orientation that was the newest and most foreign, and the sooner he figured it out, the sooner I would know too. So, he set the pace and I determined that I would keep up until I just couldn’t move anymore (then I’d collapse, rest a while and push myself past the edge again). After we had decided to date but before we’d ever had sex with each other, he called to ask me how far he could go sexually with a friend. Before our long-distance romance was 4 months old, he was on a date with somebody I hadn’t met. In retrospect, with my experience of poly now, I can see how very quickly we were moving and adapting. I didn’t have the perspective to know that my feelings of rocketing forward at full throttle were fairly accurate.

And I’m glad we did that. If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are now, and I think Us would be poorer for it. I may have deferred to him in a lot of choices, but that was still a choice of mine and I’m pleased with it. We have built a fantastic foundation, and learned so much so fast. The speed burned away extraneous obstacles and zeroed us in on what was most important. We have thrived.

I’ve been out at that periphery since… well, up until last week some time, lol! The daily demand to actually push, or to actively be pulled past my previous limits to find new ones, has faded each day for quite some time. There’s been rare need for it, especially the last six months or so. But I’ve been there, in place, waiting. I’ve been gauging daily life by whether I was pushed past my limit yet. When I named something in particular, it was usually because Gabe had presented an idea and I couldn’t conceive of managing it, so my observations were couched in the negative. It was difficult to bring my imagination to bear on planning of my own, it felt impossible to find balance, and I had growing resentment I couldn’t name… all because of this choice of location that had once been a survival skill allowing us to thrive. There were growing extra burdens on Gabe from what I was still deferring, and tension seemingly from several different places actually all originated from this strategy. It now fit more and more poorly each passing day. We’re not by ourselves forging an Us anymore. Us is established, as is another committed relationship of Gabe’s, and we’re a family of three.

So, I’ve focused a lot on my center now, the last five or six days since figuring this out. I have a great deal of experience and skill out on my growing edges; because of my family of origin and therapeutic history, I’ve spent a LOT of time there. And in most of my experience of my center, I’ve probably mistaken it as a passive, static place. It was usually where I rested for the briefest time possible before heading back out. It’s only now that I’m understanding how much space I have for movement at the center of me… how much imagination I have to pull from and build with… how very much I’m likely capable of with this better physical stance of balance. I’m certainly not starting from scratch, even if it does feel quite foreign here.

We did a scene Monday night that from the outside probably looked very characteristic of what we’ve often done before. But it felt so completely different from this inside place of centeredness that I’m still looking for words. I can’t name them yet, but there’s a lot of positive results, a lot of ease and a lot of freedom emanating from this one change.

(The title is an adaption of a phrase by Robin Morgan.)

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