May You Live in Interesting Times.
I was in a monogamous relationship for most of my undergrad years. My girlfriend kept a diary and wrote in it every day, without fail.
It was a consistent repository for her personal thoughts and feelings.
She trusted me to respect her privacy.
One day, a selfish feeling got the best of me.
I opened her book, and rushed through the pages.
I found stories, collages, magazine clippings, poetry, feathers, glitter ...
But mostly her journal read like a pleasant stream of consciousness; filled with affirmations, hopes, frustrations, lessons.
In a more recent post, I found a lengthy entry about a classmate. She wondered - in written form - about his lips, his cologne, and the feel of his broad shoulders. A string of fantasy and curiosity.
I was pissed. Took the book, and confronted her about what I'd read.
I was hurting. The goal, of course, was to make her feel guilty for that.
She sat and listened. Sulking a bit, as my lecture dragged on.
I can't remember if I was altogether finished - but she took an opportunity during a brief pause in my speech.
"Billy", she said.
"... I'm sorry that the words in my diary caused you pain ... but, I'm entitled to my private thoughts. Right?"
She was generous enough to make it a question ... sort of.
Her reply ended with an uptick, usually associated with inquiry.
But the meat of her phrase, I have to say, had a more assertive tone.
"Wow." I stared at her, blankly.
"That's a crazy fact for you to bring up at this time, for real."
I had enough sense to apologize for violating her privacy that day ...
But it would take years to understand the full implications of her words.
My girlfriend's diary entry wasn't causing me pain.
It was my belief system, at the core of my own suffering.
A belief that my girlfriend's thoughts and inner most feelings were not her own.
That she only had license ... to feel, behave, and even think in ways that gave me and my ego, comfort. A set of assumptions that must have, somehow, been learned or inherited.
Years later, I would meet Sheba, on a dating app.
We promised each other very little, at first.
Several hours of raucous debauchery, at most.
She had an event in the morning.
"Perfect", I thought.
That our parents now plan to vacation together, is an amazing twist. March 2021 will make two years, since first meeting.
Sheba also has a diary.
Once in a while, she chooses to share an entry with me. They're often hilarious, sometimes erotic, and always very clever.
We stole a relationship strategy from the comedy show, "Broad City".
At the top of EVERY month, Sheba and I stage a "negotiations meeting".
A night out, drinks, delicious food ... and lighthearted discussion about our performance as partners, in the previous month.
Sheba sometimes brings a literal binder of notes and suggestions, 'cause she's silly.
I like to think that there's never a bad time for judgement-free honesty ... but our scheduled meeting removes any doubt.
For us, the action items can range from the kinky & blush-worthy, to the frivolous & mundane. No request is unachievable, no feeling taboo, no issue inconvenient.
By creating a safe space for her honest desires, I gain the reciprocal benefit.
Our monthly session boosts communication, and serves as an active demonstration of interest in the ever-evolving truth of each other.
The arbitration gives way to laughter.
We end with another round of Old Fashioneds, and a figurative blood oath to "keep this thing going" for another month.
Without hesitation, I'm in.
She agrees. :)
The difference between the stories is sixteen years of experience and awareness.
Plus, an ongoing personal effort to marginalize ego, and value truth/honesty above all.
Her honesty, as well as my own.
My theory on relationships continues to evolve, but this to me seems clear. The deep, inherited ideas and inane rules around love and communication are much like our political systems ... or that show, "Whose Line is it Anyway?".
Drew Carey reminded us, "Everything is made up, and the points don't matter".