Yes, I recognize the voice of the critic. The thoughts of doubt in the present that arise from a broken sense of idealism of the past. The character that reminds you to calm your hopes and excitements about the future because, well, maybe it won’t come to pass. The self-sabotaging actions that are your way of destroying before you get destroyed. The heart that has walled itself up because it was broken in the past. A wound that is covered by the protective thought, “I am smarter now”.
There is something satisfying about guising the critic as thoughtful advice for another. Hearing of another’s idealism touches on a nerve within us. It’s the wounding of our own idealism, bandaged temporarily with stories as to why we are wiser to have let that nonsense go. They are the stories that keep us comfortable in a life we settled into living. Sure, it’s nice to have dreams, shoot for the stars, fall madly in love… but eventually you have to come back to reality, right?
Let’s bring this into the realm of intimate partnership. If you are like me, you grew up with the exclusively dominant relationship story of two people. The path was mapped out for me: meet, fall in love (if it was a movie or book, usually in some way involving the man saving the woman), move in together, get married, have a family, and grow old and die together. It’s what is given to us as the normal thing to do to be happy. Anything else and you will probably be sad and lonely.
Underlying this story of relationship, let’s call it the only one for life story, are a few unspoken assumptions – many of which I will let you explore within yourself as this blog is focusing on a specific few. Namely, that there is one specific person out there you will spend the rest of your life with. We call them husbands, wives, soul mates, twin flames, life partners, and the like. True love. The ultimate connection. The perfect partner. Our knight in shining armour. If you are like me, that was the only story of partnership you heard of growing up.
The Great Divide
At some point in our recent history (I remember it starting with a few families while I was in Elementary School) divorce became more culturally accepted and regular in occurrence. A new story entered the frame: you might think you will grow old with someone, but your heart could change later on. For the first time, only one for life was being directly challenged.
I want to enter a disclaimer at this point that I do not mean to say the story of one for life isn’t true – only that when a story is being challenged by another, it is important to uncover what is true for you. That may be “till death do us part” or perhaps even a solo life adventure – the point is that one thing doesn’t work for everyone.
When divorce entered my awareness through others (my parents are still together), I added to the life relationship story: only one for life, but you might choose wrong. How would I know who it was supposed to be? I have yet to feel this love told in tales, but I am told I will know it when I feel it. There will be a magical moment when I come to some girl’s rescue and find my perfect soul mate.
When I look back on where I was in this story’s progression, I can’t help but feel how destructive and backwards some of the underlying assumptions within this story are. They taught me love is scarce – if there’s only one for me, what are the odds I will find them in time? It’s a big world after all. What if I don’t find them and die alone?
They taught me to reserve and withhold my love for others. I need to make sure this person is deserving of my love, first. I need to conduct a comparison – does this person meet all of my criteria? I don’t want to make a mistake and choose wrong. Life is a long time after all. What if I invest in this person and it doesn’t work later on. Then I’m just left heartbroken having wasted all that time when I could have used it looking for my true one-and-only? Better hold back until I know for sure.
A New Story Emerges
The concept of a more open, or polyamorous, relationship entered my sphere when I started my twenties. Something about it attracted my attention and a new addition to the relationship story was added: one can share in love with more than one. This new part to the story came in conflict with the perception of scarcity held as an assumption within the story of only one. The truthful addition told me that love is abundant and can come in many forms, expressions, shapes, sizes, and colours – between multiple people. Connection, attention, and intimacy (even if it’s simply in the form of presence, non-sexual touch, or just being heard) are deep human needs, crucial to a meaningful experience of life. Is it silly to question whether such needs should or even can be filled by only one other?
At the time of first hearing about open relationships I was beginning my longest monogamous partnership. It was deeply fulfilling to me, but as time went on I felt more limited and restricted within myself when it came to connecting in any way with people outside of this relationship, and as a result, polyamory drew more of my curiosity. I had an unmet need that required investigation. After over five years together, I knew our relationship needed to be let go of and a more open space created for me to explore this curiosity. I had to uncover what forms of love felt authentic to me. I had to find out how I express love to all people in complete freedom.
The completion of that relationship was the first time I found myself letting go of someone I loved deeply and thought I would spend the rest of my life with. I was facing my deepest fears – what if I made a mistake and let the best woman for me go? What if I never find love again? The underlying assumptions of scarcity of love within the story of only one were coming up to be heard. I had no choice but to replace them with the new story of abundance: Love is everywhere.
An Opening to Trust
Since that time of opening myself to the freedom to express and share in love and intimacy with others I have been in both monogamous and polyamorous relationships. In fact, I dislike even using those labels, making it sounds like an ‘either or’ selection. I see it more on a continuum that shifts over time and depends on the individuals forming the unique relationship. Boundaries are fluid and communication of these establish the comfort and safety to open up the heart’s within the relationship. Let’s say I have been exploring the spectrum, finding the balance point of authenticity and integrity to me. (More on the topic of boundaries in part 2)
Along the continuum of relationship boundaries exist both dark and light, limiting and expansive perspectives. One is not wrong, good, or more right than the other. The devotional attention of a monogamous, soul mate, or only one relationship is quite beautiful and rewarding if it is not restrictive or clingy. The lustful and selfish desires to have multiple partners for sexual accomplishment are the hurtful and destructive patterns of polyamorous relations. It’s all in one’s intentions and actions. Both can be, and are often, incredibly rewarding experiences.
A Time to Confess
When there are two competing stories or belief systems within the mind we experience what is called cognitive dissonance. It’s like trying to mentally grasp a paradox, when the most appropriate response is to dance with the truth’s of both perspectives, allowing them to shift as we move through life.
The dissonance in my life between the stories of only one and love all has been a voice in my head during every intimate partnership I have been in since. It doesn’t take long after getting to know someone that I begin to hear the usual thoughts, “They aren’t right for you. They are too different. Look at all these things that don’t make your criteria. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life with them. End things now before someone gets hurt. Someone else will be a better fit.”
These are the thoughts of the critic. The wounded heart within me that screams at me to run away when things are going well. To sabotage and skedaddle. To look for reasons to leave. Sometimes I choose to turn these thoughts into action and give them voice (speaking them or writing them, like I am now). Sometimes I choose to thank them, release them, and open myself to deeper love of the person I am with. Just because they are always there, doesn’t mean they are always true. You don’t give up on your dream because you have thoughts it might not work later on. If I had always listened to these thoughts, I would have never fallen in love with anyone.
I would have never laughed till I cried or cried till I laughed with a lover.
I would have never experienced falling in love in days, nor the grief and pain of heartbreak.
I would have never learned to love another by learning to love myself.
I would have never remembered how to love myself had I not remembered how to love another.
Because I chose differently, I have been blessed with each of those and more. I have loved others as a wife, life partner, lover, soul mate, or twin flame. I have felt such devotion with multiple people at different times of my life. I have experienced and integrated more of the truth of the abundance of love and connection. And I wouldn’t take any of it back.
Why I Can’t Be Your Superman
Because of the predominant relationship story of only one, we are on a lifelong hunt for this magical person. I know that within myself and I observe it within my relationships with others. If we think we found this person we clamp down and hold tight to them. Never let them go we are told! We end up in a perpetual search for our soul mate and end up limiting that potential person’s love for us by caging it for ourselves. Allow your soul mate relationship to grow and blossom organically, it cannot be forced or boxed. Also, stop looking for it! Let go of the need for an image of forever and to just allow the relationship to shift as it needs to.
I have lost count of how many time I have people tell me about how connected they feel to me, often in a way that is different than anyone before, and quite often interpreted to mean we shared a past life together. It’s the same thing that leads to the image of a perfect match forever into the future. And you know, maybe they are right, maybe we did share a past life together – I’m certainly not as intuitive as many women I meet. But the inner critic loves to count how many times something is called “special”, how often people say they think that me and another are a “perfect match”, and to then point out how none of it is real. The wounded critic says they are making something up that does not exist.
I see the truth to the felt connection expressed to me from others (written above) and experienced within myself. Whether or not we shared a past life together or whether we might be soul mates or not doesn’t really make a difference to the love and connection we share here and now. It’s as real as we choose it to be.
Yes, we are all connected. Yes, we do experience different connections with different people. Yes, we can choose how deeply to love one or how to love many. Yes, as we learn to open to loving others we will experience a world of deeper meaning and fulfillment through the abundance of intimacy and connection available to us at all times, be it with another human, a pet, tree, mountain, or our Lover Earth. Yes, it’s okay to jump in with both feet, to trip and fall, and to keep on walking.
And yes, I am willing to admit this whole thing is just me being cynical because I am not aware of having found that one and only. Either way, I am still enjoying my life’s play!
Love with all of your heart and you will find treasures beyond measure!
This is part One of a Four part series exploring the concepts of soul mates, intimate partnership, and the spectrum along the monogamous/polyamorous continuum.
Click to Read Part Two – The Fullness of Boundaries
Click to Read Part Three – The Love Seeds of Genie’s Wisdom
Click to Read Part Four – Why we are all Polyamorous (Coming soon)