Sex, Love, and Relationships Revisited

Nearly six years ago, I wrote my original essay on sex, love, and relationships. For many years it was a freestanding page on Planet SOMA before I merged it in with the journal entries on this site. I think it stands up rather well, but I also think it’s time I revisited and reexamined some of my premises. Things have changed in my life in the past six years, and very significantly in the past six months.

I’m now in love with someone and in the midst of the most serious and most satisfying relationship of my life. It was not something I planned or was even really seeking. It was just one of those random events which happens in one’s life: I answered a bit of email from a reader, started a bit of correspondence with him, eventually met him, and realized pretty quickly that he was someone special. Someone unlike anyone I’d ever known. And someone with whom, from the very beginning, I wanted to spend a lot more time. Things progressed pretty quickly from that point on.

For years and years, I clung to the notion that sex and love were not necessarily related, and very often were best kept separate. Imagine my surprise at meeting someone for whom I felt both an intellectual and an emotional attachment. And imagine my even greater surprise when (a) it was mutual and (b) it endured.

No more longing for the “wrong boy” who was unavailable or a bad choice for whatever reason. No more wanting to spend my time with one person while preferring to have sex with anyone else interesting who came along. To be honest, it took me a while to get used to the idea. But the really surprising thing is that it didn’t take me nearly as long as I might have expected.

A couple of big barriers in my past relationships have been the twin curses of my difficulty in trusting people and my inability to communicate what I was feeling in a direct manner. These two weaknesses have often resulted in relationships which caused me more pain and heartache than actual happiness. And I’m pretty sure my anxiety was readily apparent to its targets, especially when I bottled up my frustrations and only communicated through passive-aggressive outbursts.

My past relationships have also seemed a bit one-sided. In other words, one partner seemed more involved than the other. Note that this partner was not always me. But the imbalance (and the lack of any real communication about it) always caused a certain level of anxiety for both parties and ultimately strained things to the breaking point.

It’s so much different this time. Perhaps because we’d discussed our premises to some extent even before we met the first time, if only in hypothetical terms (since I for one was not sure what I was getting into, although I had an idea). We’ve been pretty honest from day one, and it’s eliminated the need for me always to be “on guard” and to agonize over every word and every expression of affection. I feel like I can talk to him about anything.

Maybe it’s because I trust him completely in the way that I trust my other closest friends. Which doesn’t mean that I trust him not to “screw around on me” or whatever. It means that I trust him not to do anything intentionally which would cause me pain or damage. And to recognize (or at least to discuss with me) the difference between the things which really would and the things which are trivial. And I trust myself to do the same for him.

Maybe it’s also because our views are not completely at odds. And because we haven’t had unrealistic expectations of each other. We took each other at face value, and continue to do so. I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not. And any changes I’ve made in my life have been completely consistent with my own values and ethics. We have grown together in many ways, but we’ve managed to retain our individuality and our own lives, which is perhaps the most important thing to me.

And lastly, maybe it’s just because he’s such an amazing person, and possesses his own strong sense of self and of life.

An admission which will surprise many of my friends and readers: I haven’t seriously considered a sexual fling with another person since the night I met the current object of my affection. It’s not because we decided that “we must be monogamous or it won’t work” or any other such nonsense. In fact, we’ve never said as much and probably never would.

It’s been no effort nor sacrifice to me. In fact, it was never even a conscious decision per se; it’s just that no one else quite seems to measure up to the level of emotional, physical, and intellectual stimulation I’ve found. It’s sort of the way that I know one certain restaurant in San Francisco has the best collard greens: I may very well eat them somewhere else at some point, but I’d prefer to have them at this one place, because I know they’re better there.

From 1996:

I have really high standards for the people I call my “friends”; very few manage to make it for the long haul. But what happens when someone meets these standards and there’s also a “romantic” connection? Is it time to reevaluate the concept that the people I really like and the people I have sex with should be completely separate? Is it not possible that I’m not always after “the wrong boy”?

In short, I guess it is. It seems to have happened through the exceedingly rare combination of trust, intellectual stimulation, respect for each other’s individuality and need for occasional solitude, and, yes, sexual attraction. With this foundation firmly in place, I think the subsequent levels will fall into place quite nicely.

I hope so, at least. The next level is cohabitation. I’ve never even seriously considered it before. Not once. Now I really want it, and I think I’m ready for it. It’s most likely one of the most significant steps I’ve ever taken, and it’s amazing that I’m not particularly apprehensive about it. It seems like the most natural thing in the world.

Look for another update in 2008…