I woke up this morning with the title of this post, and much of the content, in my head. I didn’t have time to get it written before my work day jumped all over me, and then I had a hair appointment, so it wasn’t til just now, having coffee and a bagel (breakfast at noon) that I was able to pause to a moment to get these thoughts down. How funny to open up my email and see the notification from A Dissolute Life Means… for a post titled “His love language is different from mine.”
What?!? Other people occasionally experience the dissonance that having different ways of expressing – or perceiving – love can visit upon a relationship? (Okay I knew they could, and do, and have even talked about it a time or two here on this blog in reference to the differences in communication styles between Ad, W & I. But it was funny to read about it happening elsewhere in blogland the same day that I woke up thinking about it.)
I was happy to read that Hyacinth, the blog’s author, seems to be making headway navigating the changes in her relationship with “TN” that she recently wrote about, and in finding the sweet spot between her “love language” and his. (If you don’t read her blog, or only look at it on Fridays (“Boobdays”) you really ought to read her writings as well. She writes beautifully, but more than that, honestly…sometimes painfully so…about her life and relationships.)
I’m equally happy to report that I think Ad and I are finding that sweet spot, too.
You probably didn’t even realize that things were a bit rocky between us lately. I haven’t talked much about it here because…well, because there hasn’t been that much to talk about. There’s been nothing that awful; things haven’t actually been “rocky.” Quite the opposite, in fact. But not in a good way. Not in the “everything’s smooth sailing” way. More like the, “no one’s talking about what’s going on,” way.
Ostrich, meet sand, right?
It isn’t, and wasn’t, as bad as all that. In fact it appeared to just be business as usual. There wasn’t anything wrong. But there wasn’t a lot right, either, and I knew something was up, just couldn’t say what, and, frankly, with so much else in my life tipping sideways, I just couldn’t deal with more. So…I ignored stuff, and stuffed stuff, and started to worry, but ignored the worry, and stuffed more, and worried more, but didn’t say anything, and and and…
If you’ve ever been there, you know how that goes.
Until finally, one day I could breathe again. And I took a breath, looked around, and realized…
Ad and I hadn’t made love in months. We were going to bed separately, sleeping on our own sides of the bed with a gulf between us, hardly touching each other during the day. Gone were the little caresses here and there, a snuggle on the couch at night, a pat on the ass and holding hands while we walked. Gone were the early-morning slap-and-tickle games, feeling his hand on the back of my head as I went down on him, the push of his cock from behind as I slumbered next to him. It was as though we were living separate, parallel lives. There was no animosity, and there was still warmth between us, but…something big, something important, was missing.
The other morning I pulled my head out of
my ass the sand, opened my mouth, and…
…lots of words came out. And more than a few tears. And a lot of fear and anxiety.
“What’s wrong with me?”
“What’s wrong with us?”
Those of you that have followed my little adventure here for a while know that Ad’s and my sex life goes in cycles. We’ve been together for 8 or 10 years, and in some ways, we have always had something of a mismatch sexually. Not that I haven’t always been attracted to him, and certainly not that sex isn’t very satisfying with him – in fact from a purely selfish perspective, he is the most attentive, caring lover I have ever had, focused on pleasuring me even before himself, but…our libidos don’t always match, my sex drive is quite a bit higher than his, and what turns us on isn’t always congruent.
Enter W, of course, who was originally meant to fill in those spaces where Ad and I didn’t line up, but who came to be so much more to me. Not a fill-in, but a lover in his own right.
Sometimes, it’s that “lover in his own right” that trips me up with Ad. See….I’m not the best at being, um…not jealous. It’s a challenge for me, every time.
(Er, wait…not every time. Not this last time. But that’s a story for another day.)
So where were we? (Get to the point, Jade!)
The point is… Like most people, I read the world, and people’s interactions with me, through my own filter. I know that everyone out there isn’t me. (Thank god, right?). Ya’ll don’t react the way I do to stuff, you don’t feel the same things I do. And yet knowing this intellectually isn’t the same as internalizing it emotionally. It isn’t the same as believing that he (in this case Ad) isn’t jealous, resentful, mad at me for loving and enjoying another. That he doesn’t feel “less than” W, or sad that I enjoy what I do with W, or unhappy because he can’t do those things to me and with me the way W does. Because, try as I might, those are my initial reactions to having my men be with another. (I said initial…I work through those feelings eventually.)
But it’s hard for me to believe that he isn’t feeling those things, and so, when we go through a “dry” spell, as we have been in for a few months now, I read that as a consequence of him feeling upset with me. Rather than start with the assumption that something is going on with him outside of us, I assume the worst – that what’s wrong is us. Me, specifically.
This is where the “love languages” come into play.
I don’t actually know what all the love languages are supposed to be. Touch, verbal affirmation, gifts, service? Like that. But I do know that I am a toucher. Touch=love to me. I touch you, I hug you, I caress you, I hold your hand, I kiss you, I curl up against your body, I make love to you…I am making love to you by doing those things. And to feel those touches back – including having sex – reinforces that you love me.
When Ad gets upset (I am not talking about anger here, I mean emotionally distraught, depressed, anxious) he withdraws physically as well as emotionally. He curls up into his physical self as tightly as he curls around his emotions.
The past few months have been traumatic and anxiety-producing for him as much as me, perhaps more so, because I have a social network (and W) to lean on for support, while Ad doesn’t. He is fairly solitary, remote even, and while not anti-social, he is not one to reach out to others when in emotional distress. The exact opposite. But when he does that – when he withdraws – I read that as rejection, because the very things he is withdrawing are the things that I need to experience in order to feel loved. My need to feel accepted and loved and supported increases, and because Ad knows he can’t give that to me, can’t provide that, he pushes me toward W, because he knows W can and will. Which should be one of those wonderful synergy things about being poly – having a partner that knows and wants you to have your needs met with the other partner. Instead, I feel guilty, because I’m seeking out love and affection from W, and doesn’t that make Ad upset? Not knowing the source of Ad’s emotional withdrawal, I assume it must be something I am doing wrong (because isn’t it always?) and that (of course) he doesn’t want/love me anymore (ok maybe it’s not that drastic, but you get the gist of it) and I get needier and more anxious, and seeing that, Ad encourages me to seek more time with W to assuage that need, and it just spirals around and around, until it ends up like…well, like it was last week, and like it’s been the past few months.
Until I finally took the bull by the horns and asked what the hell was going on.
And yes, we talked. Lots. And cuddled. Lots. We went to an outdoor concert last night and had a lovely time, and have been opening up the lines of communication – both verbal and non-verbal. And though we haven’t made love yet, I know it’s just a matter of time. I can see it in his eyes and in his face; feel it in his hands when he touches me. And meanwhile…I’m content to wait until he’s ready again, as long as he holds my hand when we walk and pulls me close to him in bed.