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We are three adults living in a polyamorous triad family. The content here is intended for an adult audience. If you are not an adult, please leave now.
Crone Conversations #3
"We've known each other for over eight years," says Joan, "and I really don't know anything at all about your life outside of work. Who are you really?"
Joan, I keep my private life private, and as you have surmised, there are reasons for that. My world outside of work is really not as bland and featureless as I try to paint it. Sharing my inner world with people on the outside is just too risky, and so I do not do it. I like you. I've shared your many joys and sorrows over the years, and cheered for the good things in your life. You have assured me that you are willing to listen to what I have to say; to reserve judgment; and to keep what I tell you in confidence. I am trusting you, then, with my life.
Joan, the who are you really question is, simultaneously, very simple, and quite complex. The simple answer is that I am an adult, capable of making my own choices, and fixing/living with my own mistakes. In that, I'm really no different than you, or nearly all the other grownup people that I know.
What makes the answer to your question more complicated is that, at nearly every turn, I've made choices that are different than the ones you (and most other women our age) have made. I don't think I set out to do it all differently, but it seems I tend to do exactly that. So, maybe the beginning answer to your question is that I am likely to be something other than what seems normal and expected.
When you graduated from high school and went off to college, you majored in English and graduated in four years with a teaching degree. You met your future husband, found a teaching job, married, and started a family. You raised your wonderful kids to be good, solid, god-fearing citizens, and all the while, you worked to teach other people's kids how to read and write and spell. You and your husband have had your ups and downs. I know. You haven't shared details, but I know it hasn't always been smooth sailing for you two. He seems like a good guy, and you two have made a good life, but I hear how you talk about him. He is your life partner, but he isn't the "love of your life." I know that you would, generally, prefer to spend time with your sisters or your girl friends than with this man to whom you have been married for nearly 40 years. To me, your "successful" marriage is a puzzle. I can see what it is, but I cannot understand why you choose to keep doing it. Perhaps that will help you understand a little bit of what I have done with my life.
Like you, I graduated from high school with good grades and a sense that I could do anything. I wanted to go to teaching college (or maybe off to the Peace Corps, but my father would not allow that. He insisted that I go to engineering school. He was quite sure that for me to spend my life teaching would be a waste. So, I went off to engineering college, to study geological engineering. I was, for the two years I was there, one of only a very few female students. We were vastly outnumbered, and learned how to cope as a sexual minority in an overtly hostile environment. Like you, I met my future husband there, at college. Like you, I was committed to practicing my childhood faith all the way through my college years.
I was so naive. I'd never been away from home; never had a date; never been kissed; never been to a dance, or even a boy-girl party. Away from my very strict parents' home for the first time in my life, I found that I had way more questions than answers, and intense sexual urges and drives that the "good sisters" never warned me about in all of those religion classes. When the man that I would eventually marry pressed me to have sex with him, I found I didn't have any good response to that beyond what I'd been told in church -- "It's a sin" just didn't seem to cut it (for me or for him). To tell you the truth, I couldn't figure out why something that we both wanted so desperately, that felt so "right" in the event, was something that the "god" who supposedly created both of us -- and the sexual intimacies in question, should have a problem with. The logical, rational, scientific bent of my thought process just couldn't work its way through that paradox.
Becoming sexually active was something that I jumped into with abandon and great joy. I loved sex from the very beginning. There was never one single moment where I felt that it was bad, and I never regretted the choice. Not once. Of course, I did get caught by the naivety thing. I knew that sex could lead to pregnancy, but I had no clue how to prevent that possibility. That information was not taught in my Catholic school, and it was never discussed by my parents. I had NO information, and if the boy-man that I was fucking had a clue, he never let on. It wasn't very long at all before, inevitably, naturally, I was pregnant. Given everything I'd been taught, the only thing I knew was to marry him. Which I did -- As quickly as I could. It was a huge mistake for us both, and in the end, for our two kids.
What I found out, Joan, was that all that sexual energy; all the desires; and the dark fantasies stayed with me. Marriage did not change me, and the years of my marriage were a long, frustrating struggle between my very ordinary, very straight-lace, very unimaginative husband ... and me. I didn't manage to make him happy, and he could not make me happy -- not without betraying everything he was. The marriage was a dark, dismal descent into despair and self-hatred for me. For him? I can't say, but I know it wasn't a good thing. All of the stories I'd been told throughout my whole childhood and adolescence; every single thing I'd been taught about life and love and sex and being female; all of it turned out to be a lie -- at least as it played out in my life. And it wasn't his fault, or mine. Neither of us knew what we were walking into. We believed the fairy tales we'd been given, and we had no idea that our own story had no relationship at all to those stories. None.
It took me years and years; nearly three decades, to know that I could choose differently. One day, Joan, I opted out of that marriage and into a life that I'd only vaguely imagined possible for all those years and years and years. I chose to align myself with a partner who had sexual and erotic needs and drives that were a close match to my own, and not at all like what the fairy tale stories promised. I chose to commit myself to a relational style that allowed for a model that was other than the one man and one woman, married for life, happily ever after, church-sanctioned, sacramental, expected social contract style of marriage that was the only model I'd ever known for adult love and sexual relatedness. It was exciting and scary all at once, and the path I've followed has been far from smooth or easy.
No matter how difficult it has been however, I have never wanted to turn around and retrace my steps back into a life that looks like yours. I am glad that your choices work for you and your family, but I know in my heart that that life is not for me. So, when you discuss your wedding anniversary, or your family Thanksgiving dinner, or the weekend gatherings of family members for football or baseball, I am reduced to silence. It isn't that those events don't happen in my life. Well, OK, no wedding anniversaries... but there are plenty of events and celebrations and signpost moments, but most of them happen very privately. I can't announce and invite the outside world inside for my important moments, because most of the outside world will react with shock and horror. Letting my life be seen puts me at risk. Because I choose to construct my relationships differently from most; because I have sexual appetites that are viewed as different (at best), and perverse (at worst), I am liable to be subject to persecution, discrimination, and social ostracism.
Some days, I long to be able to be open and easy and secure in my life and my choices. There are days when I envy you -- not for your so called normal marriage, but for the fact that you can have it and live it freely and openly and without fear of the judgement of strangers. I cannot imagine the pure joy that would be.
There's more, of course. Lots more. We will talk again, and tell more of the story.