it isn’t up to her, OR waking up to a bright new day

I’ve been reflecting on this sentiment, what with the election and all, and our dear, Glorious Leader declaring himself the winner, because, well, of course he is. It’s an odd thing, having a narcissist in your life and living with a narcissistic President in your White House. Taught me quite a bit about life and human nature. And one thing I’ve learned,

It’s not up to him.

So said the man who will likely be my next President said to the American people. It’s not up to either of them, him, or his predecessor, to declare their preferred reality. It’s up to the American people and the votes and the courts and…you, see…this is a bit personal for me, because of my own narcissist. And it’s the same with her and what she wants, not only for herself but for me and my family.

It’s not up to her, anymore.

I have to remind myself of that on a daily basis. Every time she pulls something new. It’s not up to her anymore. The kids say things here and there: “Mom says [oldest] can’t have in person activities unless she also does in person learning at school.”  (It’s not up to her) “Mom says if [oldest] doesn’t go to school in person, it doesn’t count and she doesn’t get celebrated for any educational achievements, like doing really well on a test.”  (It’s not up to her) Mom says, Mom says…”  (It’s not up to her)

I’m so used to everyone doing what she says that I struggle to even acknowledge that this is the new reality. But it is. She’ll say something– and it doesn’t happen. She’ll tell the kids, “This is what it’s going to be.” She’ll make announcements over dinner. Issued like commands from an officer. But then it doesn’t happen. Whatever she says is going to happen, doesn’t. And slowly, all of us around her are starting to understand this.

It’s not up to her.

When a narcissist can no longer control you, (s)he tries to control how others think about you. I think about this saying quite often. When they lose control, it’s difficult, even confusing for them. So they grasp for whatever they can. It doesn’t always (usually?) work, but still they try. So they’ll keep trying to convince you that life is whatever it is they say. Except…life doesn’t work that way.

You can’t just say, “This is how life is” and that somehow becomes the truth. You can’t say, “I’m the President” and, miraculously you are the President. And you can’t tell your children “This new man is now your father” and he suddenly becomes your new dad and your old dad conveniently fades into the background.

It’s not up to her.

Like a mantra, I tell myself this. Every time another one of these…incidents…pops up. This isn’t her home, this isn’t her house rules. And she no longer gets absolute authority over what happens when it comes to the children. It’s different now. Whatever happens, it will always be different. I wonder if our dear President is realizing this. He’ll be different, as he’s always wanted. It’s not often a sitting President is ousted.

It’s not up to them.

You don’t know what the relief is like, if you haven’t felt it, but, America, I think you’re feeling it now? To know that those who make demands are not instantly obeyed? That they are challenged. That they are told no, or more than likely, simply ignored. It isn’t easy for the narcissist to be ignored. It’s worse for them, I imagine, than being told, “No.”

No, Mr. President and family. No, evil psycho ex. Things are not going back to how they used to be. We’re moving forward. You can accept that, or not, but it doesn’t matter. We’ll move forward with or without you.

Whatever happens now, America. Whatever happens now, I tell myself, with your own personal demons and battles. Life has changed.

Because it’s no longer about them. It’s about us.

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her web of lies: a story of caution, aka putting my past behind me

This is her life.

She no longer has anything but a tightly cordial, transactional relationship with someone she used to claim was the love of her life.  If she has a relationship with her children, they never speak of it in kind terms.  She believes the last decade of her life was a waste- as evidenced by how passionately she tried to replace it with something new in every way. Since her old life was mostly built on false premises and flatteries, she’s probably right.

Oh, she’s kept a few friends from her old life. If you can call them that. She needs human objects to listen to her misery. It appears she still has a few who will absorb her words in exchange for her validating their own problems. She has a new husband. This relationship, too, is based on multiple lies, but, after all, what else does she know?

She’s stopped the big lies, for the most part. She still clings to the biggest lies that nobody but herself believes anymore– but as the little one tells me, “She can’t let go of anything.” Mostly she offers small, inconsquential lies that appear to have no benefit to herself, but do cause minor annoyances to those around her. It’s probably not just to annoy people, though. She probably doesn’t notice she’s doing it.

Why does she do this, you might wonder?

She is desperate to keep herself safe. To me, she is trapped in her own, pretty web. To me, the spider has long since moved on. But she’s still there. Just sitting there. Nobody will hurt her while she’s in her safe space- though she’s convinced the spider is a real and immediate threat to her- but there’s not much else. She fights the ghost of something that never existed. Still. Her life is isn’t bad. It’s hardly over. She reminds me of the Garden State movie.

Of course, what do I know? Maybe her life is more alive than I think. Beautiful, fulfilling, active. I thought she was happy one time. “She wasn’t happy,” little one tells me. “She looked like she was happy,” I say. “She was pretending. She’s good at pretending.” I hope we are both wrong, but I can’t grasp a single point of surety to convince me otherwise.

This is your life.

“I’m not cheating,” you say. “This is different,” you insist. You’ve read stories about cheating spouses with secret families. But you aren’t like that. You have an arrangment where you’re allowed to date other people and do whatever you want, you just “don’t want the details.” Fair.

“It’s not a big deal,” I’ve heard it said.  “DADT is someone’s choice.”  And it’s true. Everyone should have the ability to make that choice for themselves. Do they share a very little bit? Everything? Something in between? Everyone, it is true, deserves their right to privacy. To their own level of comfort. I would never argue against that.

But I wonder at the choice some make.

DADT is not the same as privacy. Privacy is a right and sometimes a luxury. DADT is a choice. It’s a choice that means you never know if your partner is telling you the truth.  Are they at the convenience store?  Or did they go to a lover’s home, spend an hour with her?  Did she give your partner a plastic bag as he left with some shampoo and razors to safeguard the deception?  Will he show up one day, so it’s over, say he loves her and he’s moving in with her and he hopes you’ll understand?  It won’t happen to you, you say. I know you mean it. My partner never thought it would happen to him, either. Never thought she would change and move on.

Put yourself in the girlfriend’s shoes. Would you still be okay with it? Your boyfriend tells you that his wife says it’s okay, they have an arrangement, you just can’t ever talk to her or openly be affectionate with him in front of her (yes, sometimes the secret girlfriend is brought around the wife as a “friend”). You’re totally cool with this, right? You’ve never heard that story before, right? He said it wasn’t cheating, no cheating husband ever used that line. That would be lying!

You’re supposed to change.

Supposed to grow. Whether or not you believe in it, people change. Your partner will change. Who do you want him to tell about his new desires, fears, and self discoveries?

I know you think you’ll still talk. And you will. You might not even notice what you’re missing out on, and it may not be much. Heck, you might not have anything to worry about– which is great.

But then I think about her. I don’t know that she knows about her daughter’s first jump off the diving board. Her daughter gets in trouble if she shares any stories that don’t involve her mother. Of course, it’s stupid, really, such a small thing. Or maybe it isn’t. Maybe I’m projecting my own feelings on her, thinking of what kind of relationship I have- and want- with my mother. But I think it would be nice if they could talk about it. Swimming is such a huge part of this little girl’s life. And she won’t be little forever.

I don’t know what’s right or what’s wrong, but I know what makes me feel uneasy.

I make stupid jokes on forums. “I don’t want the first time I talk to [your partner] for it to be, ‘Hey, I’m your boyfriend’s fiancée, maybe we should get some ice cream and get to know each other? Oh, you thought he would propose to you first? Well, you see we thought we should get married before the baby is born………………….Anyway, do you like mint chocolate chip? I was going to pick up some ice cream from the store. I think I might be going through a tunnel. Gotta run!”

Okay, so that’s probably not going to happen. Life isn’t a movie script. Like you say, it’s no big deal. Your partner isn’t going to fall in love and have a secret life. You just don’t want the details. And that’s lovely, truly.

But, you see, life doesn’t have to be dramatic to be devastating.

It’s the little things that build a relationship. The little pet names that you thought only you and he shared. The silly songs in public that you thought were just for the two of you.

It’s the little lies that erode the relationship. “Oh, I’m just picking up a few items from the convenience store.” “I’m working late tonight.” “I need to swing by my mother’s house to change the outdoor bulbs.” “I love you, sweetie.”

People will tell you a relationship dies on a single lie.  That, in itself, is a lie.  I’ve gotten over plenty of lies before.  I would venture to say almost everyone has— but at a certain point THAT lie DOES destroy everything.    

It isn’t just one lie. 

It’s THAT lie, after a million others that happened, but you didn’t catch them.  No, it’s never one lie.  It’s the whole, goddamn environment that is BASED on lies.  Because where do you even go from there?  When you can’t trust a single word they utter?  You stop believing even the truth.

When they say they care about you.  When they say they love you.  They show it, yes, they nurture your love languages.  Words of affection were never yours (and God help your relationship if they WERE!), but every time he buys you a present, he peppers it with the words, “I got this because I was thinking of you.”  But he doesn’t pick QUITE the right gift, so you wonder,

Was he thinking of me?  Or of someone else?  She massages your shoulders at the end of a hard day, but she also whispers to you, “I love you,” as her fingers expertly manipulate…your muscles.  Yes, your muscles.  It’s like if every moment becomes ever so slightly tainted, at best, and absolutely ruined at worst.

It’s the lies that lead to stress, anger, and fights.

It’s getting mad at finding a condom in your partner’s suitcase, because they aren’t supposed to be sleeping with anybody else– so maybe next time the partner just doesn’t use them, because then there’s no risk of getting caught and there’s no fight.

Perhaps you believe you can control it. Maybe you’re even right. I hope so. That you can navigate that delicate balance between what they can tell you and what they can’t. Perhaps it works for you.

…but my very smart, competent, professional metamour thought the same thing. So you never know…

I might be living a DADT right now, unwittingly. 

I don’t interrogate and tail all my partners. Perhaps they pretend to go visit their sister, when really they are seeing me. They don’t have to lie to me, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.

I can only hope for, and ask for, them to not deceive me, lie to me outright, tell me they are at a convenience store when they are with another partner.  Not even under the guise of “polyamory.” I can only hope that I haven’t met their partner, because it hasn’t been convenient. Not because I’m not allowed to, or they are not in the open relationship they claim.

But I am cautious.

I allow myself privacy. I don’t have to share all my text messages or sexy pictures with all my partners. I’m always free to post anything I like (so long as I respect the privacy of the individuals in the photo and do not show identifying marks or faces).  I can keep some things entirely to myself.  The right to privacy is a sacred right to me, a Constitutional right I believe in wholeheartedly. My partners have the same right (even if I sometimes get nosy, they can always tell me no.)

I just won’t do a relationship where I have to hide what I have with you (this only applies to the persons directly involved; you don’t have to tell the world, but you do have to tell anyone you are in a romantic relationship with). You ask me to trust you that it’s okay. That you and your partner have a solid relationship that nothing could break. But I know that nothing is unbreakable– and I don’t want any part of helping that happen.

I worry, too, that you might find another partner willing to be your consensual dirty little secret– and they will be more drama seeking than I am.

Do I trust they will be like me, confident, allergic to drama, and open minded? Or are they are the type that think “polyamory” is just another word for cheating and are turned on by the idea that they are pulling the wool over your spouse’s eyes? I’ll give you three guesses– but I’ll give you this clue: I care who my metamours are and I want them to be people I can respect. I also don’t want to find out you are dating another girl because SHE accidentally tells me at a munch (because you are so used to DADT you “forget” to tell me this little detail).

Call me stubborn, if you like. Unmoving. Unsympathetic to your situation. I won’t offer any less, and I won’t accept any less. I’ll compromise and settle all over the place, because I think that’s what mature human beings do when it comes to dealing with other mature human beings. But not when it comes to this.

You don’t have to make the same choices as I do, of course, but I hope you heed my warnings. Because I’ve seen the consequences and they broke my heart.

Dear ex metamour,

This is my promise to myself to remember the cost of what happens when you lie to yourself and to allow myself to let this relationship go, with closure or without, and not let it poison my own life any further.

I wish you the best, but I cannot hurt myself any longer in order to help you. The brief conversation we shared at the end of this year tells me you will never change, never forgive, never let go. I’m not bitter. I’m exhausted. So I need to do it myself.

Thank you for everything you taught me.

Note: I may not like or accept everything that people do– but that is their lives, not mine. Not my business. DADT is different for me. This is my only true dealbreaker and the one thing I will not accept as a “choice,” because the ones it hurts are the ones who have no choice in the matter. The ones who are burdened with the emotional labor you refuse to do. Think before you choose it for yourself. Is the pain others feel worth the peace of mind you think you are creating for yourself?

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when hate is too much, try indifference

Hate is poisonous.

Hate sets your soul ablaze. It seethes and festers. Hate falls down upon the accuser, rarely the accused. Hate is depleting.

I know two people that spent millions in their divorce. The money didn’t mean anything to them. One was a high profile lawyer, the other a heart surgeon. Two angry dragons spewing hot flames back and forth.

“Would you hurt your ex like that if you could?”

I asked M. He said he didn’t care enough to bother.

“True,” I reflected. “Plus, it’s so easy. You don’t have to spend a million dollars to attack your ex. I just have to let it slip that I once walked into her hallway entry, and she’d have to move houses.” It’s petty, but it’s true.

…it’s funny, but indifference seems to piss people off more.

Breathe. Just breathe. Like Danielle in Ever After. I am a princess. I can fly. I am a gentle, meandering, bubbling creek. I am dark waves, ebbing and flowing. I am yin and yang.

I want to loose hell as the dark Phoenix. But I can’t. Because it wouldn’t do me any good. So for now I snap, burst…anger dissipates…and the next day I start anew. But every day I get better. Every day I get closer to being my inner Queen, ruling benevolently over my realm.

Patience, young padowan.

Karma, as they say, is a bitch. But not a ravaging harpy. A chillingly calculating vixen. Trust me. You do not want to be on the wrong end of her gaze.

Yes, the slow victory is agonizing. Your reward is the surety of the successful outcome.

Pray you never are so fortunate as to drink that heady elixir.

….and breathe.


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how i speak about my past

This is for anyone to use as a template if they have trouble with how people talk to them about their trauma and abuse– and would rather stay silent than deal with second hand trauma from having poor reactions from people who are trying to help, or make it worse.

We speak of victims and abusers as if they are two distinct categories. As if victimhood is a rare experience that we must help the unlucky few overcome. But I’ve found nearly every person I’ve grown close to– and some who just needed someone to listen– has their story.  

The truth is that few of us manage to avoid abuse in our lifetimes.  It wouldn’t hurt if we could learn to speak with each other more effectively about this.  Even better if we could do so in a way that is sensitive to those of us that have already gone through hard times and specific traumas. We need to be heard and supported– and that doesn’t always come naturally. Sometimes we need to learn how to hear someone’s words.

I can’t control how others speak to me.  I can only control how I speak to them, and how I respond.  This has helped me:

I share the good, before the bad or the ugly.

I’m not saying you have to do it my way. But this is how I do it– and that doesn’t mean everything about my life is wonderful. It’s just something I’m not ready to talk to you about.

This is about more than not saying, “Hi, I’m ______, my ex so and so did such and such to me.”  Nobody— or at least nobody I know or have heard of— introduces themselvese along with their trauma.  When a survivor speaks of their abusive past, it’s as much to help others avoid the same as it is to gain some kind of self therapy. It’s not bragging rights.

But it also may not be something I bring up for literally years. This is about me needing to build trust with the person before confiding in them (assuming this isn’t something actively happening to me or an urgent matter).  Because I have no right to a stranger’s belief in what happened to me.  I won’t demand their unwavering faith in me, when they barely know me.  I do ask for politeness and respect.          

But because of that, I’ve had people speak to me like perhaps my past wasn’t real or “that bad,” because I wasn’t forthright about it and I “hid” it.                                                                                  

I don’t appreciate and will not tolerate aggressive questioning, but please talk to me! 

I’m not seeking validation or support (although I cannot say I won’t appreciate it, if you’re so kind as to give me that). When I do finally bring it up, I’m trying to do something nice FOR OTHERS. A warning about what happned to me, so it doesn’t happen to someone else.

I might not give every single detail right away, or on an online comment. That doesn’t mean it’s not real, or I want you to immediately hassle me for every single gritty detail. I’m not going to take the chance on sharing my trauma, just to have YOU, a stranger, further assault me emotionally.

However, I’m okay answering questions and talking about it.  If it’s asked politely. It’s okay to ask questions. All I ask in return is that you are kind and polite.  That you don’t merely question me in order to bully me, but that you listen to my answers. If you don’t, I will check out and I won’t hear anything you say.

Anyone can do this for a person. If it turns out that I’m gaslighting you, well, there’s karma. And I believe karma is real. What comes around, goes around. 

Please remember that sometimes my trauma isn’t all my own, but also- or even mostly- that of those I love.

I am hesitant to share details that may not be mine to share. So I might leave out a lot of details.

I can’t help but feel empathetic, even to someone who has hurt me. Or who has hurt someone else. I get inside their head as part of my process in understanding what has happened. Sometimes this might make me appear sympathetic to the abusers’ side– and sometimes I even am sympathetic!

But that doesn’t mean I’m taking their side, that I forgive them, or anything that might lessen my support towards their victim. It’s my way of protecting myself against accidentally siding with an abuser against a victim (abusers will pretend that they are the true victims to further alienate their victims from getting support). Or maybe that’s just how my brain works. I can’t really help it.

It can be especially hard when I say something against someone you like. Someone well liked in your circle, perhaps.  It might be hard for me to tell you anything, knowing I might well be the one blamed.  So I might stumble a bit as I try to get my words out.  On your part, I know it’s hard to hear how someone who has always been good to you might have harmed someone else.  I am grateful that you are even giving me the chance to explain.

But it’s okay, even if you don’t believe me, so long as you listen, because, you see: 

I don’t expect you to believe me, nor will I ever require that.

This is very important. Please read my words carefully; twice, if need be. Because this might sound like I am not sincere about my claims. “If she’s not telling you so you know what happened, why is she telling you at all? Is this just some stupid story or fantasy to her? Some game she’s playing?”

I promise you, that isn’t it at all. It’s merely that the general expectation, it feels like at least, is that you won’t be believed. It’s taught to us when we’re children. We trust the first therapist we’re brought to– and that person merely sits and looks at us as we brave ourselves to tell the truth. Stumbling through our tears. And then tells us we’re making the whole thing up and tells our parents we need medication. Or the first person we tell about the friend that raped us, and the friend calls us a slut who asked for it.

I probably won’t consider that you might believe me, but I would like to have you listen, anyway. Maybe once you are my friend, I’ll trust you to believe me. But again, that takes time. For now, I just need to get the words out. I don’t need you to attack or verbally abuse the other person, either. Just listen for a moment.

Because what if the person who hurt me, one day hurts someone else you know?

Just maybe, you hear my story again. From someone else. And you wonder if maybe it is true. Or maybe you hear a similar story happen to another person, in another circumstance. And something in you compels you to help that person.  Maybe my story helps you believe another victim.  

Don’t think that you could have been fooled by that guy, he was so nice? Don’t think that girl got drunk and assaulted me? She doesn’t seem the type? Okay.

But when your friend hangs out with that girl who just “can’t hold her liquor, but you can’t judge her for it!”, can you at least warn her of what you -heard- happened to this other girl you knew? Help your friend protect herself?

I’m not sharing to gain your belief. I’m sharing to stop it ever happening again. Because I can’t unmake what happened to me, but I can try to stop it from happening again.

For what it’s worth, another reason that it doesn’t matter if you believe if I’m the sort of person to tell the truth is because I trust myself. I don’t lie about important things. Stay around me long enough and you’ll see the veracity of my words yourself. You won’t need me to say another word. I’m just doing this to help protect you, but if you don’t need my protection, that’s fair.

I want to hear your stories, too.

Sometimes it’s easier to share when we can mutually be vulnerable with each other.  I do hope you share your stories with me, however raw or painful. Let’s share our experiences. The good, the bad, and the ugly.  Life is hard enough, let’s help each other.  

It’s not a competition.  Maybe you went through worse. Or not nearly what I did. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. I share, because it helps me. I hope it helps others. That’s all. I don’t mind you telling me about your pain. If I want you to listen to my story, I should listen to yours.

This is how I deal with speaking about myself and my past.  

If all of this helps you, great.  If it doesn’t, please let others know how you, personally, would like to be spoken to about your past.

Thanks for listening.  

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love isn’t always consensual but it can be ethical

She didn’t agree to me falling in love with him, with HER love. She owns him like she owns her ring, and she sees no need to share on anyone else’s terms.  She allows him to sleep with other women, if she approves of them. In her mind, this is good enough.

In the car,- her car- she asks me if I want her “blessing.” I don’t answer.  Truthfully, I don’t want it.  I don’t want her permission, I don’t want her fucking blessing. I have no idea what she is going on about.  I’m only twenty-five, and, to me, if you are open, you are open.  You don’t get to mail order your partner’s other partners.  I just want her to let me know what’s going on, so I know if I can be a part of it. But she won’t tell me that straight out.

It’s two years after our talk in the car.

She’s left him like a discarded couch in the alleyway, emotionally separated, if not yet physically (that will happen shortly, within a year, but for now, they merely share separate bedrooms, which they have since shortly after I met them. To this day, that is a red flag for me). For some reason, she still resents that I never asked her approval. I don’t understand her, but I know her feelings are real.

I feel a twinge of guilt that I can’t do what will make her happy. But I am not sure anything I do will make her happy, not even abandoning my current life. At least, this way, one of is happy.

It’s three years after we’ve talked.

I tell him that I love him, for the very first time, not knowing how he’ll respond. I just want him to know. It’s not a ploy to get him to call me his girlfriend. I am patient-ish.

One day, he doesn’t respond to my, “I love you,” with a cool, but gracious, “Thank you.”  Instead, he tells me, all on his own, a dark whisper that floats by me as he holds me at night, “I love you.”

I am so glad I found it. Love is a mysterious, magical, wonderful, and very ordinary thing.  

I am sure she would not approve.

It’s almost ten years later.

Today, I wish I could go back and say, I don’t believe anyone consented to your boyfriend.  The oily one that can’t talk about anything but cars and ice cream.  Whom you insist that your kids call family and love, like family.  Forcing them to hug him, because that’s what you expect.  I tell the kids the truth; they don’t have to hug anyone they don’t want to touch; but they say they can’t do that with her.  

It would be nice if every mix of romantic relationships between an interrelated group of people worked harmoniously. But it doesn’t always. Sometimes you have to accept that they love someone you will never like. Sometimes, if it gets bad enough, you may have to question your decision to stay with your partner, rather than their decision to date, say, a racist homophobe. …but you can’t choose the person for them, unless they willingly agree.

My love for him, back then, wasn’t consensual in any shape or form, though today, we’ve both consented to our mutual love.

  1. She didn’t consent to it.  In fact, she hates that it exists.
  2. He didn’t consent to it.  He didn’t ask me to love him, or want it, and he wasn’t shy about the fact.
  3. I didn’t consent to it.  I didn’t want to fall in love, I chose someone with whom I believed love would be impossible.  Stupid, young me.  I thought that was how it worked.

After almost a decade, I think maybe it doesn’t matter, anymore.  That she’s got her life, and we’ve got ours.  That sometimes it’s messy, and that’s okay.  I no longer resent her asking me to get her blessing.  I just don’t care.

…to this day, she still refuses to consent to our love and she still hates it.

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when you’re just a little different from your metamours

When I first started dating my master, he was with Someone Else.

I know, this isn’t your typical fairy tale, but it’s mine. I hope you listen, because it’s difficult to make this short. Anyway. Let me tell you about her.

Someone- in every typical, measurable societal standard- more “valuable” to him than myself.  Someone I saw as beautiful, confident, and powerful. Someone I looked up to, and placed myself, naturally I believed, below.

She got more of his time.  More of his attention.  He loved her more.  Her needs were more important to him than mine.  Her priorities were his priorities.  He spent his vacations with her, his holidays with her, everything. Everything about him was hers. She had everything I’d been taught I should want– and, moreover, she made it clear it would never be mine.

For better or worse, I didn’t expect anything different. 

I believed theirs to be the model open relationship, as this had always been my experience in the past. The “primary couple” was most important. Any other relationships were just fun, extra.  I expected to get spoiled by them, or at least one of them.  I wouldn’t have any responsibilities.  I wouldn’t have to put aside my vacation days to share with them.  I wouldn’t have to listen to their bad days.  That was what they had their partner for. If I didn’t get this, I would leave. After all, what else was there for me?

Oh, he floated ideas about a triad between me, her, and him— which would allow us all to be, more or less, equally important to each other.  But he knew that meant she and I would have to get along. I think, even then, he knew HE barely got along with her and wasn’t going to force her on me. My point is I want it to be crystal clear I had no reason to suspect I might have more; this was not a matter of, “Well, I’ll be okay with this for NOW, because I will have more in FUTURE.” Nope. What I have with him today is completely not what I ever imagined.

I wasn’t even THE girlfriend.

Sometimes the person makes a point of saying, “I have a wife and a girlfriend.” They see that as the model, the primary+1.

Not in my case. I wasn’t second best, heck, I wasn’t even third best. I probably came…fourth or fifth in his priorities? Even though, even back then, I could tell he had feelings for me. Feelings that did not mean any less, for my lack of “status” in his life. After all, I had my life that came before him, too.

He had a few girlfriends, at the time. More accurately, he had a regular play partner in the cities he traveled to for work. I was his local play partner. I guess I should have felt awful. Some days I did– but I wonder how much of that was me. How much of it was societal pressure that wanted me to feel bad. That pushed me to only want what they told me to want.

“Well, okay, you were just the girlfriend, but you probably had something else special. Like, you were the freaky, kinky playmate offering him things that nobody else did?”

By about six months in, yes, I had become his definitive Kinky Playmate.  I was the first, and only, woman who had submitted to him.  I was his travel companion.  His confidante.  Whereas, she was his wife.  The woman who accompanied him to special events, raised his family, shared his bed at night (sometimes).  We were now Different.

But for that six months, I was nothing but a much lesser version of the relationship he had with Her. He never lied to me, but he never sugar coated our relationship.

So, you might ask, why did you stay?

Fair question. And I do have answers. But the answer that rises to the top of my mind is, “Because why should I have left?” The truth is that I felt good around him. He made me feel special, in a way that none of my previous boyfriends (and sort of girlfriends) had done. I didn’t want to go, because I didn’t have a reason to go.

I didn’t care what my friends said. My poly friends told me, “You should feel just as important as she is, you’re also his partner.” My vanilla friends said the opposite; I should feel bad for being less than her and I should find someone who would put me first. I brushed all of it aside. Because, as he said to me one evening, “Who is in this room?” I answered, “You and me.” That’s all that matters, he said. I lay there, questioning this and myself, but in my heart I believed him. Or at least I wanted to believe him. Something told me it was the right thing to do.

It helped, I think, that, for a while, it was just him and me. That I had time with him, before I met any poly folk. At first, there was nobody was telling me I should feel just as important as the wife. Sure, I had vanilla people telling me how miserable I should be. But these same people also happened to be in pretty miserable relationships. I wondered who they were really trying to convince was being treated well. And for myself? I wasn’t sure if I felt special, but I didn’t care, because I thought I was his really good friend, not competition to her. (Okay, not always true, some days I did feel down. But never down enough to actually leave.)

I didn’t need sugary words. I needed to hear the truth. 

I needed to know that I could handle my reality.  That sometimes, I’m in the same role as one of their other partners, and it’s not as strong of a role, but that doesn’t make me any less valuable as a person. 

We’re not taught this life skill, to find uniqueness in ourselves, rather than our roles.  Oh, we’re told it.  Stupid memes that tell us we’re beautiful and unique. But we’re also taught we need to be someone’s True Love.  That message hits us far more often. We say we respect the workers, but it is easier to gain respect when you can attach a “the” to your title.  “I’m the CTO.”  “I’m the owner.” “The” is better than “a.”

(Perhaps you’ve already learned this lesson somewhere. If so, I am glad for you. Or maybe you’ve learned this, but have not thought to apply it to romantic situations. Personally, I find life lessons are useful in any context; I’ll frequently draw on experiences in my non romantic life to help me with my romantic dilemmas and vice versa. Not sure how to handle your metamour sleeping overnight at your home? Well, how would you handle it if your boyfriend’s cousin and their girlfriend were staying the night?)

I learned something in our relationship that none of my others had taught me.

As our relationship evolved, so did I. I realized I could be happy either way. With him as one of my few, close friends, OR as one of my many wonderful, but more distant, acquaintances. Or as anything at all, because while our time together might have been limited or constrained (no vacations, no expectations of time with his or our friends, none of what you might expect in a Romantic Relationship), it was quality.

It’s true that today we’re connected as closely two people can be. But there are other people in my life with whom I have not grown that close. And yet they are still important to me, and they will always be someone with whom I will share my time. If he had gone that way, just another friend, he would still be my friend. Do you know how rare deep, lasting, and intimate friendship is in this world?

Sometimes you are not their One True Love. Or even their Super Best Most Closest Friend. 

Sometimes you are “just that friend.”  It is your choice how to perceive this.  You can let the jealousy eat you up.  Or you can realize your own specialness and be glad you can share it with them— as you recognize their specialness and are grateful for the exposure.  You can step up and earn your own place.  The choice is always yours (and sometimes the other person won’t step up with you, and you’ve got to figure out if you just want to let it go).

I can’t promise it’ll turn out well every time.  Putting that trust in someone to treat you well, without the promises. Hoping they won’t disappoint you. Sometimes I’ll even enter an intimate, romantic relationship with someone, and it turns out this person has no place for me.  That I will never, ever have any real importance.  That they have no intention of capturing my mind, but merely toying with my body. They are just another girlfriend collector.

But so life goes. Sometimes people use me. Sometimes I use them. I try, because I wish to be considerate, to ensure I have consent to use people for fun. But misunderstandings happen. Still, at BEST, I find these sorts of relationships boring and disposable. They serve a purpose, but rarely turn out “well” for me. They are just…something to pass the time.

Some days I wonder what my life would be like if it had gone differently.

If I had been simply a fun toy for him to spend time with. Or if I had been another of many of his friends, always there, but never in any particular capacity.

Because, you see, yes, I had become Different than her. Great, right? That’s the goal? I guess, but also bear in mind that he and she had a super unhealthy relationship.

Suppose that he and his wife already shared a deep, bonded M/s relationship?  Suppose they did everything together that I would want to do with him— but he wanted to do those things with me, too? Suppose he and she had, in fact, been good for each other?

Truth be told, I SHOULD have been the Lite version of her. She shouldn’t have just been the Wife. The person on his arm to give him respectability. She should have been his friend, his confidante, even his Submissive. (Now I’m not saying all wives need to submit, but somewhere out there is a Wife that submits to her Husband, and also there’s a submissive Girlfriend. It’s just an option.) And she’d have years between them that I could not, and would not want, to compete. And it would be beautiful. And it would not make me any less beautiful myself.

Suppose I continued to be just the Relationship “Lite” version of his wife. That no matter how our relationship had grown, I would not have been unique or special. Would it have been enough to be Me?

…suppose my life had gone down another path?

Let me revisit the first six months, year, whatever it might have been. I don’t remember exactly. Before I’d developed a single special role. Before I started traveling with him as his sexy secretary and emotional confidante.

Let’s imagine that, instead of her and I diverging into very different paths, we’d instead gone along the same trajectory. Both of us continuing to build and deepen our own relationships with him.

I thought about this, because I love to overthink.  What if I’d become, oh, his rope bunny…and so had she? What if every step forward I took, she took the same one?  Or, “worse,” if she had taken the initiative and I had merely followed in her footsteps. It’s reasonable that she, like me, would have similar interests. He did take interest in us both. It stands to reason he might even- gasp!- have a type (one day she and I showed up at the same even in the same outfit. I found it hilarious).

Were that the case, I wouldn’t be able to tell myself, “Well, she’s his wife, but I’m his rope bunny.”  Or, “She’s the one he goes on vacations with most of the time, but I’m the one he travels abroad with on special occasions.”  Instead it might go like this, “She’s his wife, and I’m…the person that is at a stage far, far lower on the totem pole.” 

Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, it doesn’t make me unhappy imagining that life. I didn’t want to be the one providing love and comfort to the guy in a sexless, loveless relationship. I imagined a world, in fact, where she and he were in a wonderful relationship and she and I were friends.  In my dreams, she smiled at me.

…if I were not in a unique role today, would that mean I meant nothing?

I was in a weird place, romantically speaking. I didn’t want the responsibility of being loved. I actually enjoyed the relative, pressure free position I held of NOT being as loved and needed. But I think it was more than that that got me through that particular trouble. And it taught me so much.

I didn’t ever think I needed him to feel special. I was already incredibly special just being able to handle the kind of life I had. I knew I had something amazing to offer anyone lucky enough to share my life. Not arrogance, but a simple acceptance of myself (this, of course, an attitude I wish I had every second of every day; some days I feel completely worthless).

I’m absolutely important and special and unique to him- now.  I wasn’t then.  And I didn’t need some stupid pat on the head and false sweet words to soothe me. I’m a little, some days, but I’m not a child.

The truth is I am always special– but not because of Him.

I am -almost- always confident in my self worth. I am always living my life- with or without my partners by my side, but hopefully with them!

I’m not defined by who I’m dating, so it doesn’t matter how important or unimportant I might be to them, but how important they are to ME. Sometimes, luckily, it goes both ways. Sometimes it matches up so perfectly it’s mind blowing. Sometimes we figure out a way to carve out a role with each other. But sometimes we do not.

There are people in your life that you, I pray, are lucky enough to one day meet.

People like him. It doesn’t matter the Role you hold with them. It doesn’t matter how Significant the Role. This person possesses the ability to make you feel incredible and special and valued, even within the short time you are able to spend with them. And within the limited context (no vacations, no regular date nights, but still whatever you’ve got with them is quality).

Oh, I know that sounds crazy. The girlfriend on the side feels special? But I didn’t see myself as the side piece, however others might have seen me, or, for that matter, still see me. I saw, and see, myself as one of his most special friends, among many. Someone who he trusts and confides in. Someone he trusts enough to be naked in front of– and I don’t mean just in bed.

And every single time I meet someone who reminds me of him, in this way, I take them under my wing and cling to them like my life depended on it. Because one day it might. I trust them with my life. And, truth be told, there aren’t many people like this. So if you meet one, please, hold on to them.

Always, I have myself and my life. That is where I find my happiness.

I think I’ve said enough for now.  

Just think about it, please.  

After all, how many people do you, or I, have the time and energy to be their most important person (or among their most important persons)?

Remember, above all, that you might not be Most important, but you are still Important!

(Note, there are many, many cases where each person grows to be just as important as anyone else in the relationship. Where everyone does, in fact, have unique roles. I may write on this later. For now, I want to acknowledge this kind of relationship, because it is so rarely talked about, and, in my experience, far more common!)