The wonderful thing about sleeping with people while you’re in an open relationship is that the boundaries are clear and delineated, at least for me. If I’m with someone, I don’t leave them for another, no matter how appealing the fantasy on the other side. Why would you ever leave something so comforting and solid, the place you can settle.
But when you’re single, it’s different, and being single is so new to me. The first round of dating was largely people I’ve known and seen before, and so it was relatively easy and fun. Then it was people I’ve known but maybe not slept with before, which brought about it a world of trouble. As flattering as it is to be told I’ve been waiting nearly a decade to tell you that I love you and I want to be with you for the rest of my life it’s also overwhelming, it doesn’t feel good, it doesn’t give me space to feel out how I feel about the person in question, because there’s so much pressure to answer the question.
I’m so inclined to want to make people happy and knowing someone for that long I already know the broad strokes of what a relationship might be, the conflicts and the sweet moments, how I’ll hold them at night and what we’ll eat for dinner on Friday, but also how I’ll hurt them, how they won’t understand why I need to travel, why I need such space but also such intimacy and presence when I’m there. And I think, maybe that would be fun, maybe it would be beautiful even, and imagine it all out, and then know I couldn’t do that to someone, say I’d be with them like that while knowing that I didn’t love them like that.
And for most people that’s probably not important, knowing before you dive in, but for me it is. People ask how I keep so many relationships spinning at once and it’s because no one feels a lack of love on my part. Even if we’re not terribly serious I still adore the romance of it all, and even if it’s a fling I’m happy to be seen together, happy to share lavish dinners and getaways and presents. If I sense someone can handle it, I tell them I love them on the first date. And it’s true. I don’t think I’d see someone regularly if I didn’t love them, and if they called me and they needed help, I would be there. In the end, that’s what most people need, for most any sense of insecurity at me seeing other people is totally assuaged by knowing that I’m totally obsessed with them, I love them, I have their back.
But a primary sort of relationship is different, the type of person who makes me want to settle down. That type of love is not so easy. One girl who I loved like that I waited years and years to tell her how I felt, despite the fact that we were so entwined, because I loved her so much it made me feel sick. There’s something so vulnerable about letting someone know that depth, because once I am in that deep, there’s almost nothing they could do that could tear me away, not without deep, deep cuts.
So it’s strange being single, different than in previous years, in the past knowing when one relationship was ending who would pick up the refrain, but this time there’s no one I like who’s pursuing me quite the way I need, with that combination of nearly complete availability whenever we’re making plans and close to radio silence otherwise. The type of person who’d travel with me across the world on a whim and then understand why I disappear for a bit, who never asks for more but who never flakes, who never pushes me away, who forgets their phone exists when I’m in the same room. Who lets me pursue them and leaves themselves totally open to the pursuit.
Writing this even I realize that that’s such a deranged thing to need from anyone, a totally unrealistic expectation. But at the same time, maybe it just is what I need, because I myself am so intense. At first I thought being single would teach me how to chill the fuck out, how to lower my expectations, but maybe it’s doing the opposite, and maybe that’s okay, maybe it’s not such a terrible thing to know exactly what I want. There is a time and a place for compromise, but right now, I am just so not in the mood.