I had a conversation with a girl I met at swing dance a while back. We were talking about the phenomenon where when someone gets married or you learn someone is married it often seems to put a damper on interacting with that person. Not that you necessarily enjoy it less, but, in my and my friend’s experience, your drive to do it takes a hit. Maybe it’s just a lack of shared experiences—life being so different that you feel like you have barely anything in common with that person. Maybe, in the case of people of the gender you’re attracted to, it’s just the subtraction of the possibility of romance or sex. Also in that case, at least for me, I think some of the reason may be that it can be much more complicated getting close to someone for whom romance or sex is off the table in that way, because I’m afraid of developing a closeness with someone that might be perceived as a threat to that person’s relationship.
I really want deep, meaningful, vulnerable, powerful friendships with people. For better or worse, most of the people I find it possible to experience that with are women. Sometimes women in relationships. Sometimes women in relationships for which the level of closeness that I want in friendships as much as relationships could be perceived as threatening.
I’ve never been able to figure out how to deal with this.
A while ago, I was talking to a guy in swing class about some of the regulars we hadn’t seen recently. He mentioned that a girl had stopped coming because she had a new boyfriend who didn’t want her swing dancing with other guys. We shared a, “What a douchebag”, moment, that I’ve never forgotten. It made me think.
Dancing is sexy. Dancing is sexual. I feel like the distinction between monogamy precluding outside sex partners and monogamy precluding outside swing dance partners is a difference of degree and not of kind. Why is new boyfriend an asshole for not allowing her to dance with others but not an asshole for not allowing her to have sex with others? It’s something that I both do and don’t understand simultaneously.
For me, feelings of romance and sex and friendship all seem to bleed into each other too much to draw these weird, hard lines that people draw. This is why the lines confuse me so much. This is why I don’t really understand the distinction between sexual monogamy and partner-dancing monogamy. This is why I have so much trouble figuring out, if there are people in monogamous relationships that I’m interested in being close to as friends, how to do that, or if it’s even possible. I know how to respect stated boundaries. If someone tells me not to kiss them, I can not kiss them. If someone says we can kiss this way but not that way, or kiss but not fuck, or cuddle but not kiss, I’m fully capable of adhering to those restrictions. I can’t intuitively feel where the lines are, though. I only know what to look for because I see the same lines drawn by so many different people. Why people draw those lines in particular, though, escapes me.
Not understanding the why makes me uncomfortable because it means I know how to adhere to the letter of the law but not the spirit. Generally, I think being able to adhere to the spirit of the rules is the more important of the two. It also seems, generally, to be the easier of the two. If you understand the reasoning behind the rules, you don’t have to remember each and every rule. If you don’t, the best you can do is remember each and every rule, and even then it’s possible to violate the spirit without violating the letter.
I suspect that part of the reason for my confusion is that a lot of people in relationships don’t know why they draw the lines that they do. Whatever the reason, though, it’s something I’d like to be able to understand better. It would make having friends who are in exclusive relationships an easier thing for me to process.
Sidenote: At some point, I’m going to make a post about rules that I do and don’t understand. Nutshell, though: I find it much easier to comprehend rules that are about the relationship that they are about. Analogy: if I have full time job, my boss can say “You can’t have another job”, or they can say “I need you to always have 40 hours per week for this job”. The latter is a rule about the job, and makes sense. The former is a rule about other things, and doesn’t make a lot of sense (to me).