The turbulant seas between Philotes and Eros January 27, 2014Posted by Shaun McGonigal in Culture and Society, Polyamory.
Tags: friendship, new relationships, NRE, relationship, sex
Because I am poly polyamorous, having friends of the gender I tend to be attracted to can often be an adventure of uncertainty and transitions. Some of them I am attracted to, some I am not, and sometimes that attraction leads to something. Many times it does not. But when it does, the transition can be, well, it’s a lot of things.
With attractive friends, and acquaintances, who are not already polyamorous, the issue is less uncertain as one learns to curb the attraction because it is not appropriate, and usually not wanted. Sure, I might flirt, playfully, but I do my best to leave it at that unless the cues are overwhelmingly in my favor. But then, inevitably, some of those people want to be polyamorous (Who wouldn’t?) or they were already but for whatever reason things didn’t click at first. And if they demonstrate interest in me, the flirtation and the relationship in general takes on a different tone. Interest is communicated, and hopefully requited. Suddenly I find myself in a place between friendship and something else (assuming we accept the distinctions and roles of those mainstream relationship types, of course).
From a Relationship Anarchy point of view, this transition is less significant. Yes, there will be actual differences in how people interact when they stop being merely ‘friends’ and playfully flirting to being sexually affectionate, but if we were to reject the model of relationships of our mainstream culture (in which one is either a friend or a lover but not both) then that difference is less meaningful and often less distinct. And while I have some affinities with Relationship Anarchy, the distinction between these two relationship phases is significant and important to me. This is mostly for reasons having to do with my level of comfort of physical affection with friends versus lovers (something I’m open to being less dichotomous about, as I grow).
I have few non-sexual friends with whom I’m comfortable being affectionate with beyond things like hugging and basic body contact. This is because sexuality is extremely powerful and often overwhelming for me, mostly as an emotional and sensual experience. Being affectionate with a person I don’t have some level of sexual relationship with (especially women, being that I am heterosexual) can lead to spikes in desires which are inappropriate with some people. There are quite a few women in my life with whom I have no sexual relationship, but am still attracted to, and so I minimize my physical contact with them because physical intimacy can sometimes lead to spikes in sexual desire which are uncomfortable for me to have when I don’t perceive them as reciprocated or wanted by those women. Respecting other people’s boundaries is especially important to me, and the vast majority of times I will not initiate flirty touching without making sure it’s wanted.
Of course, one of the exceptions to that rule was the night I met Ginny. And now we’re married. I don’t know what to learn from that, exactly. I do know that the lesson is not to just touch whomever I want in the hopes they like it, because boundaries. Also, non-verbal cues are not always sufficient, because sometimes we mis-read them. Nonetheless, I have chanced it a few times, and it worked out fantastically once. I don’t plan on chancing it again, because some people really don’t want that and I don’t want to be that guy.
So when I find myself in a situation where I’ve communicated my interest, that interest has been requited, I find myself in a limbo between knowing those desires are appropriate, wanting to act on them, and still being somewhat nervous to touch those people affectionately, let alone sexually, it is tough for me. And as the idea of future potential affection and sexual contact hovers over me, the beginnings of New Relationship Energy start to form (let’s call that pre-NRE). And despite the fact that it is potentially premature to have those feelings, they happen (and sometimes they remain in that pre-NRE stage, which is also fine). And for a borderline like me, those feelings are often overwhelming and cause days of anticipatory anxiety and anticipation. I both love it and hate it. I love it when it genuinely does become NRE (which I define as a multi-way magnification of emotions and desires between 2 or more people, and not personal infatuation towards another), and I fear that what I desire might not materialize at all. If what I desire does materialize, but never reaches genuine NRE, that’s actually fine.
This experience of pre-NRE (As well as NRE itself) has another side effect, which I don’t think my current partners mind so much (and I might be wrong here, but I’m sure they will let me know…). It gives my sex drive a huge boost. For me, new sexual (requited) attraction has the effect of making me want sex with my current partners even more. The spill-over effect of being sexually charged is not limited to the source of that desire, at least not completely. In my experience, my desire for one person can only be fully quenched by them,* but that desire amplifies the already existing desire I have for other people.
Of course that level of excitement doesn’t happen always, but it does happen enough to be a thing worth thinking and talking about. Those pre-NRE feelings don’t always become overwhelming in the beginning of meeting and conveying interest. Sometimes, in other cases, the feelings grow slowly. There are some people I grew to love and desire (more), when in the beginning the attraction existed but was not overwhelming, nor did an emotional attraction exist at first. Sometimes, in the beginning I just saw us as incompatible, but later changed my mind about that. I never know what to do in those situations. Mostly, I remain friends with them and wait for what I think will be the right time to say anything. Sometimes that right time never seems to happen. Like I said the other day, I’m not always great at communicating my desires.
Writing all that makes me wonder if any of those friends of mine might wonder if they are one of the people I might have feelings for I’m not expressing. Gah! Blogging is hard! I’m trying to get better at that. It’s scary. No, it’s down-right terrifying sometimes. I have issues.
So, the times when I am swimming between the shores of one way of interacting with a person to the other is always overwhelming, scary, and exciting for me. There is the nervousness of whether it will actually happen, the conversations which cross the lines between friendly and potentially sexual flirtation, and the feeling of fuzziness in my head and flutters of butterflies in my stomach as I think about it. But in any case, I’m surrounded by wonderful, beautiful, sexy people who I love in many different ways. But don’t worry, I’m not secretly restraining overwhelming sexual desires for all of you out there.
Not all of you.
All this makes it really hard to concentrate on tasks. That reminds me, I have to change out laundry and eat some lunch.
*and if it doesn’t happen, that sticks with me for a long time. This situation, which never came to be, still sticks with me now and that was 3-and-a-half years ago! Granted, that was a huge exception to my usual level of sexual attraction