Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kinds of Love

I was chatting with a friend this morning, and you know how dykes are. We talk about work, The L Word, affairs, who's hot and who's not, who recently came out (this summer's new flavor is country music singer Chely Wright), and, since it's June, Gay Pride. You know. The usual.

But it all got me thinking about love, how we express it, its many forms, and where it can go wrong. I thought about all the women (and some men--oh lord, I hear the thuds now as some fall over in a dead faint) I've been romantically involved with. Well, "romantically involved" may not be a fair way to put it, especially where the guys were concerned. Look, here's how I know for a fact that I'm gay. I have never, in 48 years, ever fallen in love with a man. I have liked certain men, been attracted to certain men, had sex with certain men, but I've never actually loved a man. At least not in the romantic sense.

But women. Ah, the girls are a different story!

And yet, when asked to pin it down, I realize that, in all honesty, I've TRULY been in love with only four women. I was romantically involved with all four, but only two of these were actually people I was/am in a long-term relationship with. And not everybody I've been in a long-term relationship with I actually loved in this way. This realization started me ruminating on kinds of love. Clearly, wires get crossed, things that could've worked out don't, and vice versa, and time passed makes that plain. (Huh. Isn't that a line in an Indigo Girls song?!)

I have been in long-term relationships for the right reasons and the wrong reasons. The wrong reasons, in no particular order: She loved me. She was nice and likable enough. I felt safe. She rescued me. I was trapped and couldn't get out. I wanted to prove to all the naysayers that yes, I was in a good relationship (even though my guts told me otherwise). We had a child.
The right reasons: We had a child. I loved her and she loved me back. I was passionately attracted to her. We understood each other. We granted each other the right to follow her own path. We did not see commitment as a contract to control each other.

Unfortunately, what tends to have happened in my relationships of the past that have failed is that the wrong reasons eventually came to outnumber the right reasons, or the bad came to outweigh the good, and we were unable to find a way to work it all out. Either a foot got placed down that set a non-negotiable boundary one of us couldn't accept, or we realized we had too many differences to be able to maintain sufficient peace, or one of us lost interest sexually (or wasn't having a sexual need met).

The women with whom I've actually been in love: I left Jenny (it was an affair, and after one year of waiting for her to leave her partner after numerous broken promises to do so, I walked); I left Beth (that story, or much of it, is here); I broke it off with Evan (although really there was no commitment between us as we were just dating and it was a mutual, kind of sad agreement that it wasn't going to work...and I still love her, always will); and Chelle, with whom I am delighted to say we are still together despite my most tremendously stupid acting out efforts to wreck us entirely.

Something I've learned: people have really goofy-assed ideas about love. Many toss that word out way too quickly (and I am guilty of that, too). But it's really easy to confuse intense sexual attraction and liking with actual love. It's because that FEELS LIKE love. But as Trisha Yearwood sang, "Fast doesn't last." Those lesbian U-Haul jokes are funny because they ring true for so many of us. How many dykes have you known to, essentially, show up on your doorstep with a U-Haul on the second date? You may THINK you know you love this person 'til death-do-you-part, and it sure FEELS this way, but baby, check in with me in ten years. These relationships usually unravel once you live with each other for a while. Somebody who seems completely loving and flexible and kind can, in two years, turn into someone who is selfish, controlling, and mean-spirited because of a bushel full of unresolved issues they've never dealt with that you never knew about until about...oh, a year after you moved in with them. Been there, done that.

I'm not saying these whirlwind courtships can't end well ... actually, Chelle's and mine was kind of one of those. But one difference is that we moved in together with the understanding that the relationship could turn into just a friendship. We decided to risk it since we were, basically, at one or the other's apartment every night anyway and it didn't make sense anymore for both of us to be paying (at the time) $1300 each month for an apartment when we could share a two bedroom for $1750. I don't think I even said "I love you" to Chelle until we'd been living together for a while.

Because it's also true that you really don't know someone inside out until you live with them. Sometimes you'll uncover things that aren't pretty, or they'll uncover those things about you. Chelle, for instance, had no idea the extent of my drinking problem. I was a fairly normal drinker for the first couple of years we were together. It became a severe problem only when we moved to Spokane together for a year. She put up with me for three years as I hurtled my way towards my bottom. She has had to swallow a lot of crap that I put her through when I was using. Yet she believed in me enough to pay for rehab out of pocket (Blue Cross still can't bring itself to reimburse me the $9,000), and that woman wrote me every single day I was at The Farm. On Fridays, she'd mail me two things so on Saturday or Monday I'd get an extra piece of mail to make up for Sunday. And every Sunday, she was there for family day, driving two hours each way and bringing a picnic and the San Francisco Chronicle. She would sit through an AA meeting with me and then we would go sit in her car with the AC on and read the paper together and eat. We talked--finally--like we hadn't talked in years. And we smooched. Ha.

Rehab reset my clock. Sobriety let me see she really did love me, very much, when all I could see before were flaws when I was drinking.

The bottom line: love is not like Fitzwilliams' idolization of stars shooting out of her lovely new vagina. Because it involves two independent individuals, there will be conflicts; ergo, work is required. Good nookie ain't gonna be enough once the passion wanes a bit. But nothing is insurmountable, as long as there is mutual respect, trust in each other's judgment, and honesty. (The honesty part takes two things: honesty with her AND honesty with yourself. If you're lying to yourself, then you're lying to her, no matter how well-intentioned you may be.)

And when these ingredients come together, you find yourself falling in love all over again, and again, and again, with the one you love.

I don't fall in love so easy
I don't even know where to start
I don't fall in love so easy
I don't understand my own heart

It's so hard to drop my guard
I don't know how to just let go
But what else can I do
I don't fall in love so easy
But I'm fallin' in love with you
I'm fallin' in love with you
Yes, I'm fallin' in love with you


IV League Grad said...

very nice post -- excellent writing. in case you are wondering, i used to be a regular sober blogger about two years ago. i'm just coming back to it now and the blog is in the process of coming up.
i'll keep reading you. thanks for sharing yourself. you helped me tonight.

Joyce said...

Thank you. Let me know when your blog is up and I'd be happy to swing by for a visit ... or two...or three ;-)