The Eros of Evolutionary Relationships
January 8, 2019
In 2007 I was in yoga class with one of my favorite teachers. I was in the yummy yoga zone, present in the delicious opening of my body and ecstatic communion within my heart. Through my practice I touched into a vulnerable space and I felt a place of incongruence around my romantic relationship. I had been living with my partner for about a year and we had recently decided to move together to a new state. What I then labeled as fear of commitment, I now see as the awakening of a soul image that continues to shape my life. The potency of this image and its accompanying questions send chills through my body and I am moved to tears as I write these words.
Back in 2007 I landed on the notion that there was something wrong with me. That I was afraid of a larger commitment—marriage in particular. And so I told myself that the only way to work through this was to keep moving toward it. Within 24 hours I proposed marriage to my boyfriend.
As my wedding day approached I was standing on shaky ground. There was a way in which what I was signing up for did not compute. Spending my life with one person? A single sexual partner for the foreseeable future? No more new relationship energy and falling in love?!? I shared my hesitations about marriage with my partner and a few trusted others. I decided the only way to know was to go for it and to fully commit. I felt the transformative power of our wedding ceremony. I, and we, were different. The field of marriage became tangible as our friends and families witnessed our vows.
I also felt the aspects of me that could not be domesticated. The ways in which I was different and never quite fit into conventional boxes, including marriage. This was expressed in many ways along the journey. From the way in which I broke gender roles with my proposal, the wedding ceremony itself infused with my tantric yoga spiritual orientation, the fact that we decided not to wear rings, nor change our names and finally the choice not to become married by law.
I (still) have never been able to distance myself enough from or transmute what I learned about the foundations of legal marriage during college. In a class that I took on Women’s Studies and the Law, I learned that in its earlier forms marriage was a contract that deemed women legal property of their husbands and that the practice of a woman giving up her last name was a ritual act of giving up her sovereign identity and personhood.
As I attempted to give my marriage the chance that it deserved, the holy disruptor continued to knock relentlessly at my door. My marriage dissolved over the next year.
In the months following the loss of my marriage I was nomadic, a physical manifestation of my inner untethering. During one house sit I stumbled upon a book on polyamory. Polyamory, meaning many loves, was based on the idea of expansive love, a love that was complex and able to adapt and transform. I discovered a different way of relationship that was an unfolding evolution based on choice, consent, sacred agreements and inter-independence. It was a co-created container that arose from the people within it and the relationship itself, rather than a predestined institution. This book blew my mind open to discover new possibilities of relating and loving. It also offered a big cosmic nod, that I was not crazy or relationally defective, an affirmation that there was indeed another way, or many, to experience intimacy, share love and be in partnership. After all, I had always had many rich relationships that nourished my life. I realized early on that one person could not provide all of the flavors and textures of connection that I needed nor did it make sense to rely on a single other to be my sole provider of support and resourcing. I had always had many best friends, or loves, of all genders in my life.
A decade later full with explorations, initiations and self-learning, a new way of creating love, relationship and family continues to emerge through the living of my life. Like most things, I do not have a neat and tidy label or a particular trajectory for my relational orientation. I do not identify as monogamous, polyamorous or any other particular categories. I prefer the term independent rather than single—or even more precisely inter-independent (a term I learned from Hilary Bradbury). Single would not account for all of the relationships that nurture and enhance my life—those relationships that have been present before, through, and long-after my relationships based on sexual connection or romantic love.
I behold an exquisite image of what might be possible within love, intimacy and relationship while the reality of living that into the world, having been raised and immersed in western culture, is often a messy and awkward process. At the same time, I see the image unfolding as my relationships continuously deepen in honesty, clarity, connection and authentic support. When people ask about where I find myself in the landscapes of monogamy and non-monogamy, here is how I currently answer that question:
I choose a spectrum of intimacy with a variety of people. That might include emotional intimacy, snuggle intimacy, sensual intimacy, spiritual intimacy or any numerous levels of sexual intimacy. Within my opening I have become increasingly discerning about how I share energy and with whom I explore deep intimacy with. I choose relationships that are mature, communicative, compassionate, consensual, transparent and based on the shared values of freedom and relationship as a sacred practice. I would like to be in committed partnership with a person (or perhaps people) that shares the knowing of relationship as evolutionary, a vessel for the soul’s becoming and in service to something much larger than the individuals within the relationship and even the relationship itself. Ultimately, I see myself in a constellation of relationships within a community web that share common core values and the desire to purposefully live those values through greater embodiment and increasing integrity.
How all of this looks in reality . . . I have no idea! I am discovering it along the way as I leave the door ajar for more and more possibility to enter. I do not believe that there is any one way, or a right way to be in relationship. I see relationships as living beings and crucibles for our most essential work. As a birth doula, I know that relationships are necessary for life. In our earliest days we learn to regulate our breath and heartbeat through relationship with our primary caregiver. We are fortified through eye gazing and physical touch. This fundamental contact teaches us to regulate our nervous system and emotional waves. As an adult educator I know that we continue to learn and develop through relationship. We do become whole through relationship but not in the way that we are completed by another person, or two halves making a whole. When consciously tended to, our early childhood woundings are healed through the container of relationship so that we become whole unto ourselves. The level of safety that we feel in our most central relationships and learning environments determines the level of risk that we can take in the world. Relationships can be an alchemical process that evokes more freedom and authentic expression while deepening intimacy and connection.
Mystery is inviting us to do this work now. To expand and diversify intimacy. To heal the pain between genders. To enact caring for those beyond our immediate families and communities. To become collaborative and creative with resources. To bring more consciousness to our relationship with our mother earth.
We are the authors of a new narrative for all of our conventions and customs. We are graced with the opportunity to accept this task meaningfully and deliberately.
I leave you with an invitation to step off of the relationship escalator—climbing the automated steps that were laid out before you—and to turn toward the holy disruptor that might be beckoning you out of the box.
How can you listen for and allow eros, the force of life in its most whole and holy expression, to move through you and your relationships and to be a guide toward what is most real and present?
How can you surrender the constructs of the mind to the body wisdom of deep feeling?
What are the ways that you can be more wakeful and intentional in your connections?
How can you be more truthful and generous in the way that you love?