First tip? Don’t be torn between two lovers.
I was happily partnered to a man I’d loved for years, a man who fathered my two children.
And I was falling for a man who stirred feelings of love along with a renewed, life-affirming sense of fun. Hell, I’d even been dreaming about him.
But I didn’t even find this newcomer all that physically attractive. It’s just that I, well, wanted to merge with him—to melt into him until neither of us existed any more.
In college, I spent many hours talking about open relationships with my friends, debating whether it was possible for marriage and freedom to co-exist, wondering if it was possible to keep the flame of sexual attraction alive after years of being together.
It seems my life since then has led me on a journey of having to find answers to what, at 20 years of age, seemed impossible conflicts to resolve. Looking back I know the 20-year-old would have loved to think that she could fall in love, and stay in love, with the same person for the rest of her life without losing the romance or sexual chemistry.
The 20-year-old also wanted to know that she could have commitment without restricting her own or another’s sense of individual freedom.
When, decades later this philosophical speculation turned into a real life dilemma, I went inward. I know how to take back my projections and own them, how to look at situations from different angles. And so the self-interrogation started.
Was I looking to replace an existing relationship I’m unhappy with? Well, I hadn’t been entirely happy but nor had I been looking to leave. Was he showing me attention that I’ve been missing? No, most definitely not. The questions eventually ran dry but the feelings of love inspired by this man didn’t.
For whatever reason, this man carried just the right energetic charge to spark the flame of life in me and draw through me even more love than I had been allowing up until then. I glowed in his presence, feeling life and love overflowing through me.
Yet, until I brought his attention to it, he was unaware of the gift he was bringing me—and certainly had no intention of playing that role in my life. Simply, his energy matched mine in a way that brought something special to life for me.
And yes, I would have explored it further had he been open to it. But taking it further might have been a stroll by the sea hand-in-hand, soaking up his energy. Or it might have been looking into his eyes in a deep, meditative surrender. Or possibly even a sexual sharing, if it felt right for both of us in the context of our other relationships.
As my mind finally gave up, I found myself laughing at the absurdity of a society that tries to insist love should only flow in certain channels and through particular people.
Love is energy and it will flow where the channel is open. And it is always a gift.
But perhaps, at its deepest, acknowledging that I am capable of intimately loving more than one man means that my primary relationship isn’t based simply on being in love or on sexual intimacy. It has to have a different foundation.
If I can love in plural at that deep level, why would I commit to one? And if I don’t need a relationship for money or sex, and don’t believe that children necessarily need a modern two-parent family structure to thrive, then what is my basis for long-term commitment?
Our entire model for relating shifts deeply when we acknowledge the futility of trying to dictate to love, especially if our belief system includes the desire to be channels of love into the world.
We are all unique. regardless of the universal need for love and acceptance, and so what might work as a basis for our relationships also differs. It’s only through our own honest soul-searching and understanding of ourselves that we know what might make us commit to one person beyond simply love, sex or practical necessity.
If I were to sit with that 20-year-old self now, I’d tell her:
1. Believe in love. Believe in deep, heart-filling, mind-challenging love. It is a gift. Be humble in its presence. Allow it to shake your foundations, to blow you out of your comfort zone, to show you what you’re capable of feeling when you give in to it.
2. Believe in your own innate freedom. Believe in a scary, infinite, self-dissolving freedom that will always show you how and where you are holding yourself back if you truly try to act according to this belief.
3. Know that the presence of love doesn’t mean we have to form a relationship or leave one. It doesn’t mean we have to sexually express it or that we shouldn’t. All it really needs is for us to acknowledge it and get out of its way.
4. Know that both of these, love and freedom, are simply universal truths.
5. Understand that romance, sexual expression and commitment are choices that help you explore love and freedom. They are our human side, and you can choose how and when to weave them together in your life, regardless of how others may choose to combine them.
6. Know that you are free to play with romance, sexual expression and commitment in different ways as you travel through life. But always stay dedicated to love and freedom—and to discovering how it is that they want to find their unique expression through you.
Even without my own advice to my 20-year-old self, I learned as a deep soul-searcher that my long-term commitment to love is based on a mutual acknowledgement of being together as partners on a spiritual journey—one that inspires us both and makes us grow. Honesty, humor, love of the outdoors, music, food and shared interests are all bonuses.
Oh, and of course, so are romance and sex.
Freya Watson is a mother, writer, shaman, yoga teacher and author of The Beautiful Garden, which explores ways of reaching beyond the ordinary to raise intimate relationships into the realm of the extraordinary. In her spare time, she reads, dances, travels, messes about with oil paints and takes photos. You can find her blogging at her website, SingingFlute.com and on Facebook .
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Editor: Lori Lothian