“Happiness is only real when shared.” – Jon Krakauer

Historically marriages happened for a lot of reasons, most of them cultural or financial. Sometimes the couple in question had a choice and sometimes they did not, but very seldom did it matter to anyone if they loved or even liked each other. It was expected that at a certain point in life you would fulfill the social contract and enter into the transaction known as marriage. 

Today in most western cultures marriage is seen as the ultimate sign of love for your partner. In many cases there are still legal, social, and economic benefits involved, such as enlarging your family, combining resources to purchase and maintain property, or having the financial support to stay home and raise children, but those are now seen as the benefits of finding someone who you love enough to marry rather than the reason for marriage itself. It is no longer an obligation; now it is a desire. Plus you get to have a big party with presents and cake, and who doesn’t want that, right? 

I have been in love a few times, and at least once in love enough that I did everything in my power to be with that person for the rest of my life. It didn’t work out, but even when it still looked like it would somehow the topic of marriage never came up. Not because I was waiting for him to bring it up, but because it never really crossed my mind as something we needed to consider. We chose each other every day, we made plans for the future, we were happy, and that was enough for me. What could marriage give me that I didn’t already have? 

Over the last couple years a few very close friends have gotten married. These marriages did not occur because my friends are planning to have children, need financial support, are particularly religious, or felt some kind of cultural obligation to tie the knot. They happened because they wanted to be married, not because they needed to be. Because they love each other, and because expressing that love through marriage was important to them.

I love my partner. The reasons I love him could fill a blog post of their own, so I won’t go into that here. Our relationship is the healthiest one I have every been in; we support each other when it’s necessary, make room for independence when it’s not, question and challenge each other to ensure we keep growing as people, plan for the future and accept our pasts, live and own property together, talk about everything, explore new things, and have a fantastic sex and social life. I genuinely can’t think of anything we are missing, and I feel like the very best version of myself when I am with him. Looking ahead I can imagine situations that will present us with challenges, but if we continue as we have been I can’t imagine anything we can’t get through if we try. 

Does all of this mean we should get married? I honestly don’t know. I find the idea of marriage intriguing in a way I never have before. In the past it looked like a trap blocking a person from experiencing new things with different people. Being polyamorous any marriage I entered into couldn’t fall into the standard rules marriages have traditionally followed, which I think on some level is why I have never really wanted it. But what if we could write our own definition of marriage, and make our own rules about what that looks like for us? Create something that makes us both feel protected, loved, and heard, that still involves choosing each other every day, and that leaves room for us to have experiences outside of the two of us. Definitions and rules that grow and change as we do, evolving as our relationship does, supporting and nurturing each other without limiting one another. 

I don’t know if it’s possible, or if it’s different in any way that what we are doing right now, but it sure is interesting to think about. 

Something a Little Different

About two months ago I met a man through POF. His profile caught my eye because of the honesty in his write up, because of his height (yes, I can be shallow too), and because of the style and quality of his profile pictures. Not what I could tell about his looks from the pictures mind you, but the emotion that he managed to convey in them. It appealed to the amateur photographer in me, and left me interested enough to want to know more.

We messaged a bit and then set up a meeting. My favorite type of first meeting actually, a walk through a local park. I think he even suggested it. The meeting went well; the conversation flowed naturally, there was enough light teasing and laughter to suggest the presence of chemistry, and we never seemed to run out of topics to touch on. He was comfortable with my polyamory, and seemed like he might be on the edge of looking for something similar, although for different reasons. It was definitely one of my more successful first dates. He was going to be working out of town for a bit, so we set up an early dinner date for the next day, just before he left. The second date went as well as the first, cementing the fact that there was a connection worth pursuing, whatever that connection might be.

Between him working out of town and my schedule it was about a week before we saw each other again. He was pursuing other relationships and so was I, but we continued to grow the one we were building as well. Our third date was something I wouldn’t normally do that quickly; we planned to hang out at his place, just to spend time together and see what would happen. I was so comfortable with him so quickly that I wasn’t even judging myself, I was just letting things happen as they would. They did, and it was great. No pressure, no expectations, just two adults enjoying each other’s company and planning to continue to do so. He went out of town again for the week, and when he got back we had a great night out followed by a great time in. Things were going really well. Then we hit a hiccup.

I have a habit of adapting to the needs of my partner, and I was getting the sense that he wanted or felt like he needed a relationship. Not an exclusive one, and maybe not even one with me, but something with feelings and future potential. I was happy with what things were, but felt strongly enough about him that if he wanted to try then I was willing. So I let him know that. It turns out I was wrong, and my assumption and ensuing declaration resulted in some anxiety on his part and some hurt feelings on mine. I think if we had less of a connection then things would have ended there, and we each would have gone our separate ways.

Instead of running away we wound up having a series of conversations, and out of those we were able to figure out what we wanted from each other. Not a romantic relationship, that wasn’t something either of us felt would work out long term. We each had our own reasons for that, some of which we discussed and others that we did not. What it really came down to was the fact that that particular spark wasn’t there, for either of us. Sometimes it just happens that way; everything else can be a perfect fit, but if one piece isn’t there the whole thing doesn’t work.

So if not a romantic relationship, then what? Friends, obviously. But friend is such a broad term and encompasses so many different levels of relationships that it seems too general. In the short time we have known each other we have shared things, supported each other, and connected in ways that I haven’t with people I’ve known for decades. Friends with benefits is too harsh, it sounds cheap and like we were using each other. When our other relationships allowed for it and when we chose to enjoy each other’s company physically it was as an add on to what we had; never an expectation or a pillar of the relationship. If it never happened again it wouldn’t change anything.

We were out for a walk the other night, chatting about our lives, other relationships, and various thoughts or experiences we had over the last few days. Just enjoying each other’s company. He turned to me at one point and said “I do love you, you know” and I replied with “I know, and I love you too”. Because I did, and I do. It wasn’t a big declaration, there weren’t any tears or giant smiles or passionate embraces or promises made. It was just a quiet verbal acknowledgement of something we both felt, something that had grown without effort or intent.

When I started online dating I expected to make friends, I even hoped for it. I also expected misunderstandings, and that some would go well and others would not. It happens. What I could never expect was that a mistaken assumption on my part would lead to a series of conversations that has allowed me to find one of the best friends I have ever had in my life. Would we have gotten here without that hiccup? I honestly don’t know. And really, it doesn’t matter. We are here. I may not have a word for exactly what we are to one another, it’s something a little different, but I do know that it’s special and that I wouldn’t trade it for anything.