I really shouldn't read Cord Smithee's Impediments if I'm not ready to cry my eyes out as easily as I might enjoy the sex. Anyone who thinks slash has to be shallow is an idiot.
When I was 15, I realized that jealousy was damaging and began to teach myself to control it. By the time I was with Jeff, I had controlled it almost completely, and I told him early on that an open relationship would be fine as long as he came back to me. It would be a challenge, I said, to make sure that I'd always be worth coming home to.
He never took advantage of it.
Oh, he looked. And he always told me he was looking, and I would ask him what she was like and I'd say go for it. And I'd ask again later if he had, and why he hadn't, and offer suggestions for how to ask. He never asked, he always lost interest.
Towards the end, well. One day we got in a huge fight over a Finnish folktale that I loved which he hated. He was crude about it and cruel, and he stormed out of the house and then called me by cell just to yell at me while I tried to follow after. And it hurt like hell and I realized he didn't get it, that yelling like that was like physical pain for me, worse than if he had hit me. And I slapped him, once, my hand dragging reluctantly through the air, when he got back to the house, right before he had been going to apologize. And the fight escalated, not physically, but bitingly emotional and by the end of it I was asking him why he was still with me and his answer was that he was committed to me. He would never leave me, said in a way that convinced me that he wished he could.
We stopped fighting. We didn't actually fight again for months, our disagreements were very polite and he was very accomodating and treated me as a duty to which he was perfectly faithful.
I started telling him about noticing other men and he treated it with utter unconcern, and occasionally like delusion.
I never felt so helpless in my life as the day I begged to see him and he said next week, and I walked into a friend's apartment with the map of the previous night's dream guiding my steps.
When I told Jeff - I wanted to tell him in person, but he made me do it over the phone - he cited the open relationship and said I hadn't betrayed him, but had probably betrayed myself, and forgave me. Then two nights later, at the end of a date much like our first date, he said he'd talked to his buddy Conor, then to Andy, and decided it was a shame Andy didn't love me because Jeff didn't think he did either, or ever had.
I remember, though, Jeff looking at me as if I was reprieve from all the demons that haunted him, listening as if my words would change the shape of his world. I remember being too tangled in my thoughts to speak clearly and letting Jeff speak for me because he knew exactly what I had intended to say. I remember him telling me that the thing he had always wanted most about a relationship was the chance to lie down beside someone in the dark with all his defenses down.
One night, we had fought, and I had fled naked into the dark living room where I curled into a fetal position and cried, while he stood back at the door and watched me sob out my heart to him as he remained closed and unmoved.
I could not fathom the change except that he was able to forget where I was not. I could not know what he had forgotten, except it seemed that he had forgotten himself, some corner of his soul he had allowed to quietly die.
So I read this story, and I remember how I lashed out, once harshly to tell him he was hurting me, once cruelly to get him to leave me, then later oh so carefully to get him to finally stay away, and I know that I failed utterly in my deeper goals because that part of him that knew that part of me had burned away.
Let me not the marriage of true minds
admit impediments; love is not love
which alters when it alteration finds
or bends with the remover to remove.
Oh no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.