Romance and Gratitude

July 20, 2012 at 9:49 am (Real Life, Relationship, Uncategorized) (, , , )


Earlier this week I caught myself thinking, “I need more romance in my life.” I almost tweeted that silly thought, but I stopped to wonder what I really meant by “romance.” What was it really that I was longing for? I don’t personally feel a need for the candy-gifts-and-flowers commercial brand of romance, so what does romance mean beyond those cliches?

I posed the question to Twitter, and got some wonderful responses:

  • “A text the next day would be nice…” [@QuantumTree]
  • “I leave special notes that say how much I care, in unexpected places. I do things for my loves that may not have thought of.” [locked user]
  • “Knowing what I like and don’t like – especially food-wise…” [@OpenSourceHeart]
  • “Going out of your way for someone, creating for them, & understanding that tiny things make a big difference.” [locked user]
  • “I’d rather have little moments that count than flowers. Finding my chores done b/c I’m behind. Words of affirmation when you think of them. Making time to hang out even if it’s ridiculously short…” [@darkersunshine]
  • “A soft touch, compassion and understanding. Support when you are are you weakest. Passion, Desire and Desperation.” [locked user]
  • “Emotional and moral support. passion that extends beyond the sexual realm. understanding, patience. quiet.” [@anne_athema]
  • “The burning itent to make your mate feel loved; to know how they have become an integral part of your very being.” [@Where_Do_I_Fit]
  • “When they do/make/buy something that solves a minor problem I was having but I didn’t realize they noticed.” [@LadyMadhu]
  • “Less flowers and gifts..more little moments and surprises that show I’m cherished and he KNOWS me. Memories.” [@meditativeme]
  • “A connection deeper than just pure need. Talking about aspirations, desires. Sex at a higher level than just orgasm.” [locked user]

The thread through all the comments is that romance is in actions, not objects. It is how the connection between lovers is maintained, with communication, intimacy, and clear expression of emotion.  I agree with these definitions of romance and would adopt all of them for myself.

So then I wondered, am I receiving these things? What am I missing that leads me to this sense of lack of romance?

And the answer is… well, I’m not really missing any of them. I just don’t always see them. I’m starting to understand that romance isn’t just about what is expressed or given, but it’s about being open to receiving those expressions with warmth, gratitude and appreciation for the intent with which they are given.

I struggle sometimes to see the wonderful things I have in the shadow of what I think I want. When I do stop and look more closely, the things I have shine brighter, and the things I think I want start to fade away. There’s a lack of gratitude in my life sometimes, but not a dearth of romance.

He will walk me down three flights of stairs to his door when I leave, just to have a few more minutes with me and kiss me good-bye one last time.

He will text me on the random occasion just to say “I love you.”

He offers foot rubs and enjoys giving them.

He will agree to be the designated driver.

He will flirt with my friends when they need it, but he’s never insincere about it.

He tells me that my breasts are phenomenal.

He has made me a few little love tokens and notes  that I cherish.

He will talk to me about anything, and he respects my opinion, even if I disagree with his.

Romance? I’ve got it. I just need to be open and recognize it when it is given.

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Earning Love

July 4, 2012 at 8:53 pm (Polyamory, Real Life, Relationship, Uncategorized) (, , , )


I started seeing a new therapist in June to work through some issues that were coming to the surface during bouts of PMDD depression. I’ve meshed with her much better than I did with the therapist I saw last year, and I feel a lot more comfortable with her and the work we’re doing. It doesn’t feel like work yet, four sessions in, but we’re getting to it, and in our last session I had two revelations that created a shift in my thinking. I’m still not quite sure what to do with them, but they definitely gave me pause.

The first came from discussion of a pattern I already knew existed. Since the decision to end my marriage, I’ve said several times that I will never marry or even cohabitate again. I’m very aware of what I do when living with a partner – I very easily shut off parts of myself that I think may displease that person; I become the caretaker, the responsible one; I strive to be as adaptable for and accommodating of that person as possible. Of the four men I’ve lived with in romantic partnerships, I’ve done this every time. I mentioned this to my therapist, and we dug into a bit, and suddenly the pattern came to the surface.

From childhood onward, I’ve been driven by an enormous desire to please others, to earn praise, respect, and love. I’ve always seen love and caring as things that must be earned, that I must prove myself worthy of. In my romantic partnerships, that same inner drive pushes me to give, give, give – particularly in the form of actions, taking responsibility for things, getting things done, being the stable, consistent, reliable partner, being helpful. I’m very conscious of the inner hope that by doing the things I do, I can earn the love I crave. But at the same time, this leads to a heavy doubt… am I only loved for the things I do, the help I provide? Am I only valued for what I give – my time, my money, my willingness to carry the burden of responsibility – and not actually who I am? So I become fearful through this doubt, and even more hungry for signs of love and affection, which drives me to do more, to give more, which leads me to more doubt. It’s the dog chasing her own tail in a sad and frustrating emotional circle.

So the first revelation was how this pattern was of my own creation. The next step is to try and break it. Stop giving unless I really want to give out of simple love and happiness. Stop taking responsibility for things that are not my responsibility. And learn that love probably won’t be taken away because I stop doing those things.

That one is pretty clear, and on the surface at least, pretty easy to do something with. The second one I’m not so sure about, but it took my breath away and leaves me with a lot more questions to explore. It was regarding a brief relationship I was in late last year, and how I felt in that relationship, in comparison to my current & ongoing relationship and how I feel in it. There have always been distinct differences to me, and as I started to dig into those with my therapist, I realized with that person, I had never felt the need to give, to do, to try and earn his love. In the brief span of that relationship, I knew exactly how he felt about me. I never doubted, wondered, longed for affirmation. I didn’t feel like I had to work for it. I didn’t feel unworthy, either. I had no doubt that I was loved for who I was, not what I might give.

I realized in one big flash that I had never felt that certainty with anyone before. Every man I have ever loved, I felt like I had to work to be loved in return. But he saw me as I was – he knew more about me leading into our relationship than probably anyone else ever has – yet he chose to open up his life to me, and himself to me, knowing exactly what my flaws were. He saw me clearly and he loved me and never asked for anything except for me to be me and to let him love me.

I don’t know why I felt no drive to earn his love. I can’t say that others haven’t freely given their love to me, and I just felt for my own reasons that I had to work to deserve their love. I don’t know why it was different with him, other than maybe it was just who he is, and who I am, and the circumstances that led to our relationship, and the points in life where we both were at the time. I don’t know. I’ll be thinking about this more, asking more questions with my therapist, digging in to why it is so hard for me to just open up and be loved without trying to earn it. I want to. I want that experience again, that confidence and comfort of being held, emotionally held, with love that doesn’t ask to be earned.

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My Year on Twitter.

December 20, 2011 at 2:46 pm (Polyamory, Real Life, Uncategorized) (, , , , )


I started my Twitter account on January 1. My hasty first tweet, now lost to all except the Library of Congress, contained a mortifying language error for someone so obsessed with the written word. Over 6,000 tweets later, I don’t care so very much about those mistakes. But I do care very much about Twitter and the friendships I have formed there.

Twitter was, from the beginning, my hiding place and my outlet. Alice Digitalis is the expression of my id, sloppy and sexual and loud sometimes, serious and contemplative and introspective sometimes. I didn’t hold many thoughts back. I wasn’t trying to entertain anyone, but I built a small following anyway, I suppose by being real – not always about sex, not always about self-examination, but an odd mix that showed I was human. 

It was intended to be a place to share my sexual thoughts, discoveries and adventures, primarily. At the time that I started using Twitter, I’d realized how much I’d let my sexual self stagnate, how much I had turned off in favor of being wife, wage slave, caretaker, supporter of others. I missed my sexual self and I wanted her to come out and play. I didn’t intend to use Twitter to meet sex partners, or even to flirt, but just to express the desires, needs, memories and fantasies that I couldn’t express anywhere else. This blog came about as an extention of that, a place for longer ramblings about sex and relationships.

A few months into the year, I met someone with whom I felt a real connection, for the first time in years, and began the first true polyamorous relationship in the context of my open marriage. Some of the ups and downs of that relationship have been chronicled via Twitter, for better or worse. A lot of the self-examination necessary in maintaining open relationships has spilled on to Twitter. My emotional breakdown and my work to regain emotional strength at the end of summer also found its way onto Twitter. My discovery of an intense new love and the sudden snuffing of that flame have also been exposed to readers’ eyes.

After that last event, however, I felt stifled. I started reconsidering what I was doing on Twitter. I found myself more frequently deleting posts that never made it to the timeline. I censored myself, and I hated doing it, but I was afraid. I was feeling exposed and vulnerable and raw. I knew things I said could be twisted and misinterpreted. I was suddenly hyper-aware that once the words left my fingers, I couldn’t control them. I lost my enthusiasm for sharing my random thoughts, my sexual drives, my lonely contemplations, my moments of weakness and wanton desire.

I’m slowly getting it back, that freedom of expression. It will probably never be the same. But my relationships will never be the same. I will never be the same. We change in every moment, with every breath.

I can honestly say I love Twitter, the short form, the need to be precise in each expression. It helps me think and focus. It has helped me grow. It is not the safe place I thought it was, but sometimes I think all safety is an illusion. I’ll keep taking the risk. I’ll keep yelling small stories and bad jokes and sorrows (to paraphrase The Weakerthans). I’ll keep sharing the messy highs and lows, feeling sorry for myself, finding moments of peace and contentment, and sharing what passes through my brain. In a world where perfection is unattainable, it is the perfect place for my sort of nonsense.

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Desire is so much worse than need.

July 22, 2011 at 10:39 am (Uncategorized)


This post is inspired by a Tweet from @writebastard. He said, “DESIRE is so much worse than NEED”. To be exact.

One thing I love about Twitter is that random things like this pop up that coincide with how my brain is already churning. I’ve been muddling over desire and need this week. I am settling into a pattern of seeing the boyfriend on Mondays, and it seems that at least one topic of conversation tends to become my meditation theme for the week.  Then, this Tweet appeared in my timeline and reinforced the course of my thinking. I enjoy how these things happen.

In short, what I’ve been pondering is a discussion on our differing needs for time together. We agree that quality is the most important factor. For me, especially in the early days of wooing, I crave time in the physical presence of a new partner. It’s part of the discovery process. While I enjoy other forms of communication, especially written ones, and those can help maintain a close feeling with someone, I want the face-to-face interaction, the physical engagement, the ability to observe him and touch him. It’s about more than sex. In some ways, it’s recording a person to memory. I want to study him. I take what I learn and spend the week sorting through it, absorbing it, learning from it. I learn about both him and myself this way.

If I could have more of his time, I would take it. Logistically that’s not very feasible.

He told me that his needs are different; that he probably would be comfortable and satisfied even if we could only see each other once a month or so, with a fair amount of communication in between.

This was said with kindness, as a simple statement of the fact of our differences. It doesn’t mean anything more than what he said. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t enjoy my company, or doesn’t care about me, or doesn’t find me lust-worthy, or doesn’t want to see our relationship grow. It just means he acknowledges his need to be in my physical presence is different from my need for his physical presence.  And, gently, he was asking me to acknowledge it, too.

Seven or eight or ten years ago, this kind of comment would have crushed me. I would have read War and Peace into it. I would have concluded all those negatives and rolled up in my carpet and flown home to wallow in self-pity: I know I’m unlovable… message received loud and clear, loud and clear… and I would have gotten drunk on weird vodka things and sulked.

But, y’know, I’ve grown up a little since then.

I desire his time and presence. (I desire a lot of other things about and/or from him, but those are other stories, other posts.) Desire can be strong, and it can be greedy, and it can easily overtake you and rob you of your senses and leave you propped up bleeding in an alley where the bums go to piss. Desire is absolutely worse than need. I think it’s important to separate desire from need clearly in my mind, just as I carefully separate limerance from love.

I don’t need to see him as often as I desire to see him. In all relationships, a degree of faith and trust is required, and I have faith that, with seeing each other on the frequency we currently do, and even if it were to become a little less frequent, we’ll be able to continue to develop this thing we’re doing, explore each other, and each be enriched by the time we spend together. He’s not going to forget about me or how he feels about me if we do have 14 days or even 30 days between our jointly shared hours. I’ve entrusted part of my heart to him, and I have faith he’s not going to lose it. He won’t vanish from my mind, heart or life in the gaps, either.

Relationships aren’t about equal balance. It’s not a list of credits and debits that have to remain aligned. Desires won’t always line up. Needs won’t always march in perfect order, either. I think if you’re going to play the poly way, that has to be something you respond to with emotional maturity, and say, “Okay, I accept that. I’ll appreciate the time and attention you can give me and make the most of what we have together. I’m responsible for filling my own needs, and I’ll find other ways.”

It might be easier to pout and whine and try to make him feel bad for not wanting to spend more time with me. It might make me feel momentarily powerful if I could do that. But that kind of behavior would very, very quickly wear thin on both of us. We have lives; we have jobs, friends, responsibilities. We both have other partners. Why play games? Why exert that emotional energy? I’d rather focus my desire on making sure we both walk away from every meeting feeling lighter in spirit, more connected, and made better by having the time together that we did.

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