Playing By My Own Rules (aka: Adaptability)

(This is a candid post and may contain inappropriate content for readers under the age of 18)

Here’s the part where I may disappoint you.

You see, I adapt.

Changes come, and I learn to lean into it. Ideas shift, and I shift mine, too. When needed. With each new decade, I learn to love the music (though the oldies are always near and dear, too).

When I was a married woman, and sex meant pain and discomfort and never pleasure, I found a way to adapt. Through fantasy. Harmless daydreams about some other man, in some other place. Fantasies that lifted me up, up, and away from that dreaded marriage bed where my ex-husband did his thing and got his fill while I lay there, suffering for the sake of fulfilling my “wifely duties,” as he put them. Because that was what a good Christian woman was supposed to do. Take it. Submit. Give over her body, because it belonged to him, you see.

But I didn’t have to give over my mind.

Harmless fantasies, so I thought. Until I confessed it to the ex. Because isn’t that what married couples should do? Be honest, and truthful, and share everything, and work through everything behind closed doors?

Nope.

I was punished for my honesty. Punished for my imaginary affair. He even threw out my vibrator. My tiny, self-absorbed world of sex maybe not being the worst thing ever, destroyed. (Ironically, I was punished even more when he actually began cheating with other woman — his whipping boy, as he was unable to punish himself).

So I changed the rules.

“Z,” the wonderful man I dated over a year ago, confessed in the end that I was not the only woman he had been dating from the dating app where we both met. He chose her, he told me. And then, he left.

But know what? I was not devastated to learn that he was not dating me exclusively. I had already suspected it. It was not a big surprise. I was not jealous. That isn’t my way. I was only devastated that he left.

Perhaps you wonder, what would I have done? Stayed with a man who was disloyal? Well…yes. On this condition. He would have had to agree to an open relationship. And to brutal honesty. I’d want to know every detail of every fantasy or encounter. And to safety, because I’d rather not wind up contracting an STI.

Disappointed yet?

Well too bad. These are my rules.

Here’s what I learned: my ex-husband’s infidelity led to my being punished. My fantasizing about some other man led to my being punished. My ex-sort-of-boyfriend was dating another woman, which led to him leaving — aka, my being punished.

So it only seems logical that the way for me to avoid being punished by people crossing some invisible, man-made barrier is to…remove the barrier. Ta-da! No jealousy. No fear that one’s partner may be straying or having thoughts about someone else. No worries that I, being not very good in bed, and not very into sex, would be unable to meet my partner’s sexual needs, because he is allowed to get them met elsewhere — as long as he comes back to me.

(And no, I wouldn’t want to barriers removed so that I can stray. With my low sex drive and indifference about sex, I wouldn’t need that.)

None of the bad stuff. Just absolute trust. Absolute honesty. Absolute intimacy between two people who understand each other enough to admit that perhaps it’s not enough to keep it between two people for life. Freedom for two people who love each other to figure out how to make it work in our own way, by our own rules.

I know. For many readers, this kind of thinking is way too outside the box. But I am a problem-solver. A solutions-seeker. A highly adaptable human being who dislikes pain and prefers to make as many people happy as possible. Myself included.

Anyway, this is nothing more than a thought experiment. As I have mentioned before, “Z” will forever be my last, because I love him, and met my true match in him. I don’t ever wish to be in any relationship with anyone else, whether open or closed.

That, too, is adaptability.

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21 responses to “Playing By My Own Rules (aka: Adaptability)

      • I gave this a lot of thought, and lost some sleep over it, because sometimes when we try to understand others, it makes us look at our self. I admire your strength, and refusal to let bad situations, or people, define you. You also recognize the great and important things in your life; your health, your children, having a job that fulfills your ambition…but I feel that it’s a thin line between adapting and settling.

        There was a scene in Seinfeld where Elaine and Jerry blurred the line between lovers and friends and things got complicated. Jerry asked Elaine, “So, what do you want?” Elaine: “This, that…and the other.” Jerry replied something like, “Sure, who wouldn’t want that. You deserve it.” That’s what I want for you.

        If “Z” was truly your soul mate, he could not function without you. Love and devotion requires a certain degree of obsession, a queer form of madness.

        While riding to work this morning, listening to an old Sade album, the following song came on just as I was about to turn off the engine:

        “You’re Not The Man”
        Sade

        You’re not the man who gave me everything
        I’ve ever wanted

        You’re not the man
        Who stepped inside my life
        And haunted every, every day

        You’re not the one
        Who said he’d never leave
        Couldn’t breathe
        And could not sleep without me
        That was someone who you left behind
        A long time ago

        You’re not the man
        Who would bleed for me
        You never shed a tear
        You’re not the one
        Said he’d always be near

        You’re not the man
        Who threw me a lifeline
        And you’re not the man
        I am so proud to call mine

        And you’re not the one
        Who said he’d never leave
        The one who made me believe in me
        That was someone who could do no wrong
        But you lost him

        You’re not the man
        Who would bleed for me
        But never shed a tear
        You’re not the one

        Said…

        I read some of your older posts, and they filled in a few blanks–you are certainly not shy–but there are still other questions that I feel are too personal for this space…

      • I’m sorry to hear that you lost sleep over this. 😕 I do understand, though. Sometimes, I come across topics presented in others’ blog posts that really dig in deep, and make me question my own perspectives as well as theirs.

        I’m not saying that “Z” is my soulmate. I try not to use that term lightly, as I believe that a soulmate is a very rare thing to find in one’s lifetime, and that few people manage to. I believe that it’s possible to come across the love of one’s life, and perhaps more than once, even though such a person may not be a true soulmate. I am certain that is what Z is to me, even if it is unrequited. He was right for me in every possible way. Our temperaments, our interests, everything. I felt like I could be myself with him, and yet he also inspired me to push myself more in some ways. And the level of devotion I have felt for him, even during this past year and a half that we’ve been apart, is quite deep, almost to the point of madness, even though he’s done nothing to encourage it.

        My interest level in other men is zero. Less than zero, even. The very idea of thinking about anyone else romantically makes me feel physically ill. In part because I am still waiting for Z, even while knowing that he won’t return to me. I would wait forever. Any other man who even tried to take his place would only fall desperately short, because you can’t do better than “perfect for me.”

        Now let’s assume that I could move on to someone else, that Z remarried and seemed perfectly happy, and that was the thing that broke the chains for me (which, as far as I can see, has not happened yet). Then I would still not seek another romantic relationship. Some people may have the ability to crash and burn, then learn to fly again. I believe that I never had wings to begin with. There is no reward in loving people. Not for me, anyway. It is so rarely returned, and never with the depth that I feel. Not from my parents, not from family, not from my kids, not even by my ex husband, whose version of “love” was mostly lust, perhaps mingled with the selfish love one might feel for one’s possessions. I honestly thought that in Z, I had maybe found an exception, someone who I not only loved, but may have been developing similar feelings toward me. But he left, and the pain of that has overshadowed almost everything good in my life ever since. Why would I ever want to experience that again?

      • What you are describing is not at all adaptable; letting the pain define you. You are letting the selfish actions of one individual, however wonderful and perfect they may seem, rule your actions for the rest of your days on this earth. All of us, no matter how long we’ve been alive, have a very limited experience and it is dangerous to draw conclusions from anything we’ve seen or felt. You need to move forward with the pain and mourning, maybe replace it with some well-placed anger, then set it aside and open yourself up to the possibility that there is something, or someone, even greater out there.
        What was right for you 20 years ago, wasn’t right for you a couple of years ago, and you will not be the same person two years from now. The cells in your body are constantly being rejuvenated, and yes, in some cases, dying, but the point is that you will continue to grow and change physically, mentally and emotionally, and as a result, your needs will change. It’s a big world; don’t shut yourself off from any of the possibilities. Pain will find you, no matter your intended safeguards. Be fair to yourself and allow happiness to sneak up on you from unexpected places as well.

      • It is not that I am not open to the possibility that somewhere out there, another man may exist whom I could love just as much as I love Z. It would be foolish to deny the possibility. But I am also acutely aware that I may find and fall for that person who is just as good (no, I still do not accept that one could possibly be a better match for me than Z); yet that person, too, may reject or abandon me, only adding to this well of pain that never seems to heal. (No, I can’t redirect the sense of pain and loss into anger. No matter how I frame it, I can’t find any anger in my heart toward Z. How can I be angry because he found someone he connected with better? I’m not even angry that he didn’t share with me that he was seeing someone else at the same time, because we never set any ground rules or expectations about exclusivity. I am disappointed that he didn’t trust me, but not at all angry). I know and love and accept myself enough to know that 1. I can’t deal with that and refuse to risk such pain ever again. 2. The pain of chronic loneliness is far, far easier to bear than to love and not be loved in return.

        I met Z after making a decision to try and end a years-long cycle of chronic loneliness. I haven’t had any close friends since my best friend dumped me in 2011. I met a lot of people at Meetup.com events, at indoor soccer, while playing tennis, and at work. And though I had one brief romantic post-divorce fling that meant nothing to either of us, and though I generally get along with people in every environment, and though I’m generally well-liked, I have not made even one close friend. Someone I would call or turn to for support. Someone I spend time with, having fun, sharing texts or phone calls. Someone to invite along to a sporting event or concert or to try a new restaurant, or whatever. Either no one “clicked” or no one showed interest, or I was so afraid of being vulnerable again that I remained closed off and inaccessible. Z was not just a man I was dating. He also became the first close friend I’d had in many years. So when he left, it was not just about losing a lover, it was also about that same, still-fresh wound ripping open and bleeding all over again, along with the new wound. Over and over, all i could think was, I was right to not try. I was right to not be vulnerable. I was right to stay lonely instead of trying to form close friendships or relationships of any kind. Opening myself up to possibility, and dating, and as a result, falling in love, was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I will never, EVER do that to myself again.

        What, or who was right for me two years ago would have been right for me 20 years ago, if only I had known myself better. Two years from now, I will be 45, almost 46 years old. My hair will continue to gray, my looks will continue to fade, my almost non-existent sex drive will probably keep plunging, too. I will probably still be quite similar to how I am now in many ways, as I haven’t changed much as a person in the past decade, except to mature. I don’t need to have a close relationship with anyone in order to find some happiness in my life. I’ve already proved that to myself during these many years alone. I am not afraid to be alone. It’s something I have learned to do well. I don’t need romance in my life, and I certainly don’t need sex. I refuse to ever again be foolish enough to open myself up to close relationships of any kind. My sense of self-preservation is far too strong for that.

      • What we gonna do with Jupiter Girl

        The girl with the curl

        Will the world ever see

        The pearl born of friction

        Or the diamond from pressure freed?

      • I swear I don’t plan this stuff; I’m just a fan of old school R&B. Listened to this on the way in this morning and brought me back you where we left off yesterday:

        “Don’t Want to Be a Fool”
        Luther Vandross

        Love, what have you done? Oh, wow
        I was sure up to now that she was a friend
        I stayed ’till the end (don’t be a fool again)
        I once believed that love was fair
        But I don’t anymore, she said I’m a bore

        My heart hit the floor (don’t be a fool anymore)
        Each time around
        I tell myself it’s the game of love
        Ignore the signs and risk it all in the name of love
        Well, I’ve decided I can’t let nobody hurt me again
        So I’ll say to the end
        I just don’t wanna be a fool (don’t want to be a fool)
        Said I don’t wanna be a fool ever again

        Whenever a fool’s in love he doesn’t know he’s to blame
        He’s caught in the game
        It all ends up the same (he doesn’t feel the shame)
        He looks at love in a diff’rent way
        It breaks his heart ev’rytime they all turn out strange

        But he’ll never change (he’s never gonna change)
        Next time around I’ll tell myself it’ll be better than before
        I won’t look back
        There’ll be no one tearing my heart out anymore
        I just decided I can’t let nobody fool me again
        So I’ll swear to the end

        I just don’t wanna be a fool (don’t wanna be a fool)
        Said I don’t wanna be a fool (ever again)
        No way (I mean no more) never again (ooh, no never)
        I can’t be a fool, can’t be, no way, no way, no way
        I don’t wanna be
        I don’t wanna be a fool, no

        I can’t love anybody (I can’t love nobody)
        Walking on a one way street (any way, any way any, way no)
        If I don’t (if I don’t) find somebody (somebody body)
        That’ll be alright with me (know, I know it’ll be alright now)

        ‘Cause I decided not to let nobody kill me again
        So I’ll say to the end

        I just don’t wanna be a fool (don’t wanna be a fool)
        Said I don’t wanna be a fool (don’t wanna be a fool) ever, ever again
        (Don’t wanna a fool can’t be a fool)
        Don’t wanna be a fool (don’t wanna be a fool) ever again
        (I don’t wanna be a fool) never oh never oh never again
        (Don’t wanna be a fool) can’t be a fool

        Songwriters: Marcus Miller / Luther Vandross

        Don’t Want to Be a Fool lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

      • Yes, well, there are lots of love songs about broken-hearted people. I’ve listened to many, and identify with quite a few. It’s a universal human experience, I get that.

        In my case, it goes beyond simply not wanting to be a fool (aka rejected) in love again. I simply do not want to ever be with anyone else but him. I don’t care how many other men are in this world, or that maybe one would love me back. I have no interest in them, because they are not “Z.” I’m nearly finished raising my children. I have a great career and solid income. Sex is not something I need. So I certainly have no need for a man, or for a romantic relationship. If I can’t be with the one I love, then I am content to stay alone.

  1. I feel this is a beautiful post!! (And I love the photo also!!)

    Alanis Morrisette had a song on one of her later albums, and the refrain went something like “and you owe me nothing in return”. This post reminds me of that song.

    My father had a cassette that he played for me in the car driving up to Mt. Ashland, and it was like this philosophical advice. And it started out by saying, “The first rule is that there are no rules.”

    Sometimes there are consequences. And there are tragedies and pain and stress and anxiety and illness, and all the other ordinary vicissitudes that life throws at us… the many forms of suffering. And also constraints based on our life circumstances, the country we’re born into, the genetic lottery, our temperament, and the ambition (or lack of ambition) we’re born with, etc.

    But that concept has always stuck with me: there are no rules. I believe we’re free (within all those constraints) to adapt and create whatever lives and whatever rules we choose to live by.

    The other thing that strikes me is that you’ve traveled a great distance – from an abusive, miserable marriage and a conservative Christian view, subjugating your career and your preferences about where to live, and your own thoughts and hopes and dreams, and being a SAHM, to obtaining your freedom and living a much much much healthier, more authentic life, with a great career and great family, losing a lot of weight, exercising, being true to yourself and creating a lot of aspects of the life you want … you have made numerous improvements!!! And the improvements have been unusually substantial.

    I know it’s still far from perfect, but the improvements are remarkable and they would not have been predictable 25 years ago.

    • The first rule is that there are no rules. Yes, yes, yes! Sounds like the start to a good philosophy. It reminds me of one of my favorite all-time movies, The Matrix. It’s funny how we all grow up inside of our own small bubbles of rules, and cultural expectations placed upon us by others. But once we wake up, once we become aware that those bubbles don’t really exist, it’s a game changer. The hardest part is realizing that the people around you, who are still asleep inside their own little bubbles, don’t understand how or why you are changing, growing in ways they can’t relate to or understand.

      Yes, there are some constraints. It’s true. We all have something that may hold us back, or make it harder to achieve what we want. For example, nature gave me many reasons to not be athletic. A body that was not “built for running.” An exercise-induced allergic reaction. Anemia, which affects oxygen intake. So many obstacles! But I was also blessed with an inner drive that will not let me quit when something is really important to me. I don’t know if drive can be taught. Or dedication. Or determination. Only discipline. And self-discipline is something that all of us, even those with the strongest drives, can’t succeed without.

      Thank you so very much for your perspective, and for reminding me of how far I’ve come on this journey! I owe you my gratitude, because seeing my growth through the eyes of another is such a boost of encouragement. I often think that I’ve accomplished so little in my life. How quickly we forget the mountains we’ve climbed and the old skins we’ve shed to get to where we are. I enjoy this healthier, more authentic life, and my career, and my kids, and hope to continue striving for excellence, day by day.

      • Yes!!!!

        And getting yourself into a career that you like that also pays well is an enormous accomplishment!! Lots and lots of people never find that – they hate their jobs, or they love their jobs but don’t make any money and struggle financially.

        I am reminded of another quote:
        “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

      • Love that quote. 🙂 And yes, it feels so good to know that you will be compensated well for the work you do.

        (It also makes me feel a bit guilty sometimes, because I know that there are many people who work just as hard as I do in their chosen careers who make far less money, and it seems a little unfair.)

      • Yes, I feel a little guilty too. I recognize that I am way overcompensated compared to the amount I contribute to society. And lots of people work much harder, and contribute more, for less pay.

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