Femme Brutal and GenderCrash

In my last post I mentioned that I was going to my first queer burlesque show. I was super excited because I saw a documentary about local women in a queer burlesque group and thought it would be a fun evening seeing them perform live. Alas, the night didn’t turn out to be what I thought it would be, but I had a great time nonetheless.

The event was called GenderCrash, and though many of the women whom I had seen in the Femme Brutal documentary were at the venue – one of them even co-hosted – it turned out that the friend who had invited me and I had been confused about what GenderCrash actually was. In the end, it was a queer performance party with several musical acts – some of which didn’t appeal to me – and delightful hosts. Despite my initial disappointment that the Femme Brutal girls weren’t performing, it was a fun night that gave me a chance to meet some new people and have my first look at the queer scene in a long time.

What was nice was that I didn’t have the same sense of discomfort that I generally used to have at queer events. I can’t say that it inspired me to start going to queer events all the time, but it was fantastic to see that when such events come up and friends invite me, at the very least I know that I won’t feel awkward being there. It was also a pleasant reminder that contrary to what some would tell you, it’s a scene that – while catering to non-heteronormative individuals – is not dictated by one’s sexuality. You don’t have to be interested in the same sex to go, and being interested in the same sex doesn’t at all mean that the place will suit your personality.

One of the ladies in the document actually made a comment about that, about how she saw straight and gay as lifestyles, and heterosexuality and essentially everything else as sexualities. How some non-hetero people actually feel more at home in the straight scene – which I would say applies to me – but how we as a society often assume everyone who sleeps with the same gender is automatically comfortable in the queer scene. It was one of the things in the documentary that really resonated with me.

Next year will be the 10th anniversary of GenderCrash, so I’m sure I’ll stop by if the friends who invited me this year remind me it’s happening. And I’ll definitely go if Femme Brutal is part of the line-up. Apparently they’re performing sometime in the upcoming months, so if that happens and I go, you’ll get a full report on it. For now, watch their documentary (German with English subtitles), I thought it was fascinating.

 

 

Where the blog is heading

So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about where I want to go with the blog, which explains why I haven’t posted anything in a few weeks. But I’m starting to get a handle on the direction I want the blog to take, and since I’ve also received emails from readers wondering when I’m going to post, I figured I should address the subject.

Before I started omniwhore I had another blog where I posted about nothing in particular, about whatever took my fancy. About the only thing I didn’t post about were things related to my sex life in particular and sex, gender, etc., in general. And the reason back then was because I wanted to keep it PG.

And then I started omniwhore, in part because I wanted to talk about sex, in part because I wanted to participate in a discussion that I didn’t think was happening openly or often enough. But the problem then became that I felt the need to only write about things that pertained to sex, sexuality, and related topics. And admittedly there are plenty of things to talk about with regard to those topics, but it closed me off from talking about things that interested me but that didn’t have anything to do with sex.

When my friend Sam first started calling me an omniwhore, it was because of my sexual proclivities and openness. But the thing is, the shoe also fits in my life in general. There are a wide range of topics that interest me, so why can’t the omniwhore also write about all those non-sexual moments in which I omniwhore my way through life (yeah, I just made that into a verb). Should I expand the scope of the blog to include life in general, or should I keep it pigeon-holed into the world of sex, sexuality, relationships, and gender?

I’ve decided that from time to time when I really have a hankering to share something not related to sex and relationships, I will. After all, if people don’t want to read those things and prefer to only read the sex-related posts, they are free to do so; me posting about other topics in no way forces readers to read those posts. Nevertheless, I still do think that discussions about sex and relationships are important, and since that was one of my original goals with this blog, I think it makes sense to keep the primary focus of the blog on those topics.

Another thing that’s been holding me back has been a reticence on my part to write about every sexual experience I have. Not because I’m not open to sharing them, but because sometimes the stories would be very similar. I read some blogs where people talk about sexual experiences that are practically identical to many of their others, and they can be fun to read. But if sex with person X was pretty much like sex with person Y and I’ve already written a story about having sex with X, then why write the story about having sex with person Y?

So while I’ll still write about my personal experiences often, I think that I’ll start including a lot more posts about books and articles I’m reading or thoughts I’ve had as a result of conversations. Of course I did that before, but there will be more of that. Not that I’m going to go all Social Justice Warrior on you all. I just don’t see the value of essentially rewriting posts about sexual experiences I’ve had that are similar to newer experiences.

Another thing I’ve been toying with is whether or not I should remain anonymous on the blog. There are pros and cons to the anonymity, and I couldn’t really make up my mind. For now the decision I’ve reached is to remain anonymous, at least until I’ve got a clearer idea of where things are heading and I’ve made some headway in that direction. Ultimately though, the plan is to not remain anonymous forever.

I also wanted to tackle issues such as the layout of the blog and things like should I include photos (not necessarily of me, but of other people, things I see or do, etc.). But the thing is, the layout is superficial anyway, as is the extent to which I post photos. The decoration I can change at any time; not being able to decide how I want it to look right now doesn’t mean I should hold off on posting. The blog, like me, is a constant work in progress, so I shouldn’t postpone textual progress just because I can’t decide on the visual look of the blog.

Long story short, you can expect more posts, some about my personal sex life, some about things I read about sex and relationship, and sometimes about other things entirely. You also shouldn’t be too surprised if I dick around with the layout and changes seemingly come and go at whim. I know it can be annoying for a website to constantly be changing its layout, but bear with me as I figure out how I want it to look. After all, if you come to the blog, you probably come to read, and there’s that old saying about a book and its cover, so hopefully any mercurialness on my part in terms of the layout won’t scare you off.

Tonight I’m going to my first queer burlesque show, and I’m pretty excited because I recently saw a documentary about the ladies who put on the show. I’ll write about it in the coming days. J

 

 

A Leap of Faith that Ended with a Splat, Chapter Two: The Lessons

Now that we’ve had the story, it’s time to talk about some of the lessons I learned from the whole experience. Originally I was going to split this up into two parts like I did with the story. But somehow it just doesn’t make as much sense to do that with this part. So even though it’s long, I’m still going to include the whole text in one post.

To start I think it’s important to say that despite how disastrous the whole experience ultimately turned out to be, I essentially knew from the very get-go what I was getting into and what the risks were. In a previous post I discussed how things had developed between Max and me, and I talked about making a leap of faith into the relationship we had rekindled. As the saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Not that I’m claiming anyone was maliciously fooling anyone else, but the sentiment that I should know what I’m getting myself into the second time around definitely applies. So while I may say that someone shouldn’t have done something or that I reacted in a situation based on what another person did, at the end of the day it was my decision to make that leap of faith; as such, the consequences of my experience are mine to bear.

What’s more, some of the things that happened shouldn’t have come as a surprise. And in fact, they aren’t all that surprising—at least in retrospect. In the moment several incidents confounded the hell out of me. In part because I thought we had dealt with some of the issues that reared their heads, and at other times because words and actions just seemed so disparate. Nevertheless, at it’s core it was more of a disappointment than a shock.

Let’s begin with the easy one: there’s no way I should have ever tried to be in a monogamous relationship—and I knew that. Particularly when I’m not having sex with anyone in that relationship. So why would I in my right mind opt for sexless monogamy in the face of staunch conviction in sexual openness?

One of the reasons is that this wasn’t just three people coming together, it was also the merging of two existing relationships: Max and my relationship, and Max and Aster’s relationship. And according to the parameters of their relationship, sexual monogamy was one of the most significant ways of showing dedication to the relationship. Both had said individually that they understood and to a varied extent shared my perspective, so I thought it was important to play by the rules first and then change them. I meant it as a show of good faith, but it was backward thinking.

It would have been backwards enough to cede non-monogamy if I were having sex with at least one of the two other people in the relationship. But doing so without a sex option in the relationship was just asking for trouble. It initially stressed me the fuck out, and that bled over into the relationship. Eventually I talked myself into believing I was cool with waiting – and for a time it worked – but all of the stress it caused was pointless.

One point I kept making was that in my opinion, compared to sexual fidelity, so many other factors were more enriching in terms of gauging the depth of a relationship. The important thing was being able to be myself, to come home and talk about any and all of my experiences, including sexual experiences with other people. Rather than just talking about it, I should have lived this point. Part of my reasoning behind non-monogamy is that it’s less stressful, yet instead of going with “Hey, look how relaxed it is here in non-monogamy land” I opted for “Look how stressed monogamy makes me.” It may have been a show of good faith on my part, but if the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, this was definitely one of the cobblestones along the way.

I had had sexual ménages à trois before, but this was my first one with a significant emotional component. During one conversation Aster had mentioned that she had once been in a three-way relationship that was based on love, so of the three of us, she had the most experience. Since I had no idea how to do what we were doing, I unfairly expected her to be able to guide us. She later rescinded and said that her other three-way relationship had been all about sex and not love. As far as experience went, she was as green behind the ears as I was.

Since she was the one I thought had experience, I cast her in a role that she couldn’t fill. By the time I figured out that my expectations of her didn’t suit the person in front of me, the damage had already been done.

Initially she seemed like a really strong person, an individual. She had a sexy personality and was beautiful. I loved that she radiated a goodly nature with a streak of playful wickedness and a healthy helping of curiosity. It was the same genderless character that attracts me to many of the important people in my life. I fell for her hard.

And often I thought that the interest was shared. But over time I got the impression that it was primarily driven by a need to understand the relationship between Max and me. I don’t doubt that there was some genuine interest there to get to know me, but I think the main objective was more of a “know thy enemy” sort of thing. Not out of malevolence, it was simply more important to know me in order to better understand her man. Which would be fine except that in a three-way relationship I kinda hope getting to know me is fundamentally about getting to know me and not about getting to know another person through me.

As time progressed we seemed to butt heads more frequently, and it became clear that while our worldviews overlapped in some instances, there were also several areas where they were at odds. I should have thrown in the towel, but I wasn’t ready. I thought we could overcome our hurdles. Or at least that’s what I wanted to believe. So instead of backing off I doubled down. Insanity, really. And it only prolonged what was at that point inevitable. So why do it?

I guess the reason is two-fold. Firstly, I had fallen hard for Aster, and I didn’t want to have been wrong about that spark I had initially felt kindle inside me. I don’t fall for people very often, and to then have it fail so spectacularly was a hard pill to swallow. How things turned out between me and her broke my heart, and holding on a little longer meant I could pretend my heart wasn’t in pieces for just a little bit longer.

Secondly, I was afraid of losing my bro; our connection was important to me. Yet within the three-way relationship – where arguably my concerns should be given equal weight as everyone else’s – I felt like my concerns increasingly didn’t matter, were relegated to “let’s see how Aster copes with it”. In short, it felt like a repeat of our previous situation a few years prior. My logic was that if everything about our connection was subject to Aster’s approval in a relationship where all three of us were on the same playing field, there was no way we would be able to work out our issues when we weren’t on the same playing field. Which is pretty much how things went.

It hurt that someone who once cherished our openness couldn’t talk to me about his life. It hurt that one by one every aspect of our relationship was cut—according to him not because he didn’t want that with me, but because Aster couldn’t understand it. It hurt being told quite literally that I was expendable. I simply couldn’t fathom how this person who had shared so much with me could be telling me that I was disposable.

So of course when he told me the next day that he hadn’t meant it, I jumped at the chance to believe it, to embrace it as if the night before had never happened. It’s why I dared to believe the promises that this time we would figure it out. The blind optimist was driving when the pragmatic realist should have been behind the wheel.

It was also too easy to believe that this all came down to Aster’s inability to deal with the connection between Max and me, to take “Aster doesn’t understand it” at face value. But I should have been reading between the lines. What he was really telling me was that he couldn’t cope, that he didn’t want it. Here I was expecting him to fight for us, and he was trying to convey his disinterest in doing just that. I wish I had seen that a lot sooner.

It’s interesting because at some point one of the things Aster said to me was that she didn’t think Max would defend her in a situation where someone was threatening her physically, and that bothered her because that was the sort of man she wanted. I responded that while it was true that he wasn’t really the type of guy to jump into a fight, that was part of who he was, and if she or I were willing to fight in such a situation, then he wouldn’t need to. But I wonder, is her disappointment that he wouldn’t stand up for her physically any different from my disappointment that he wouldn’t stand up for me emotionally? And is my disappointment not equally the result of blindness to Max’s non-confrontational attitude?

In my defense, I’ll say that I was basing my expectations on how Max and I interact when he didn’t have a girlfriend, when he would stand up for us. I already had experience regarding how he acts when he has a girlfriend, but I still failed to adjust my expectations accordingly. I couldn’t wrap my head around the disparity between standing up for our connection when he’s single – which would imply an ability to do so – and not being able to stand up for it or even communicate with me when he’s not single.

But honestly, whether or not I understood it should have been irrelevant. I refused to accept that that’s just how he is and once again continued to try to figure things out when I should have thrown in the towel. It really got me nowhere trying to get him to meet an expectation I thought he was cable of meeting for a criterion – the ability to stand up for something – I deem important.

And that really is a key criterion in my book. If someone is important to me, I’ll stand up for what we have, no matter who the person against it is. I’ll give you an example of what I mean.

Ten years ago my dad and my step-mom Sabine were going through a divorce. I met her the summer before I took off for university, and over the years we had developed a bond. Sabine wasn’t just the person married to my dad, she was a close friend, completely independently of her relationship with my dad. So when they decided to get divorced and my dad spent hours on the phone talking to me about it, I made it clear that while I supported him, I also supported her and wouldn’t be cutting off my relationship with her for him, which he had requested. He seemed to understand my perspective and left it at that, and over the next few months I continued to be a shoulder and an open ear for him.

I had booked a flight to visit him over the Thanksgiving holiday, and my intention was to see my step-mom as well as my mom while I was there. But the storm started brewing a few days before I was to fly to California. My dad once again asked me to refrain from seeing Sabine, and I reiterated my stance. He told me that he would like me to give him my final answer the following day.

When he called, my final answer was the same as it had always been. For three days we repeated this cycle, him telling me to give him my final answer the next day, me standing my ground. Finally he frustrated me to the point where I called my grandma – his mom, with whom he wasn’t speaking because of her continued relationship with Sabine – to discuss how she saw things. Then I called Sabine and talked to her about everything, and we decided that since she and I had recently seen each other in Germany and I hadn’t see my dad in a couple years, maybe it would be best if we acquiesced to his demands and didn’t see each other this trip. It bothered the fuck out of me that we had to accommodate his asinine request. It was something he had absolutely no right to ask. Still, I called him that evening and gave him the answer he wanted. And then I boarded a plane.

The mood was tense when he picked me up at the airport. I had nothing nice to say, so I seethed in silence. After a while we got into it and I told him how bogus I thought it was that he felt he could dictate the terms of my relationship with another person based on his relationship with that person, that doing so didn’t at all take into account the actual relationship that Sabine and I had with each other. We stopped before our words became acrimonious, but nothing had been settled.

It didn’t get any better later when Sabine came over to drop off my little sister and I could only wave from behind the living room window. So close, and yet so unnecessarily far.

Later that night my dad, my sister and I went to dinner in the home of one of my dad’s friends. Afterward we got into in the car again, and I had the distinct impression that if my then six-year-old sister hadn’t been in the car, he might have struck me. Instead, he told me that if that’s how I felt, I could pick up my shit and get out of his house. By then, I was only too happy to oblige.

My relationship with my soon-to-be-ex-step-mom – which some would deem less important than my relationship with my dad purely because I sprang from his loins – cost me my relationship with my dad, but it was the right choice. He had no authority to tell me with whom I can and cannot be friends. He could have simply accepted it while not liking it. Instead he gave me a “me or her” ultimatum, forced me to make a choice I never should have had to make.

Had the roles been reversed – if Sabine had tried to tell me I shouldn’t have a relationship with my dad – I would have stayed loyal to my dad. Ideally, I should have been allowed to stay loyal to both. I shouldn’t have to sacrifice one relationship to satisfy another.

For me, loyalty is connected with trust. I could trust that Sabine had my back because she also stood up for our relationship against my dad. If she had been like “well, it’s cool, I won’t see him if you feel that’s best”, then I wouldn’t have trusted her enough to let her into my inner sanctum. My dad lost that trust when he decided he was a better arbiter of the people I let in than I am.

And this doesn’t just play out in such “pick one of us” situations. For example, I’ve heard from some people who were diagnosed with cancer that the moment they found out marked when they knew who their real friends were because the others stopped calling. The ones who stuck around, the ones who were loyal to their friend despite the horrible turn of events are the ones you know you can rely on.

This works internally in a relationship as well. About a year ago I had a big argument with one of my closest friends. We had known each other for years at that point, but it was the first time we had ever had a serious dispute. We ended the conversation pissed off as fuck at each other. But we agreed to come back to it the next day and work it out.

I would have been hurt if he had decided not to even try to work it out. But since we not only tried but succeeded, my trust and loyalty increased because he’s not just a fair-weather friend; I now have first-hand experience of riding through the rough times with him, of it being worth it to both of us to find our common ground.

The question is, when do the rough times become too much, at what point does that loyalty to a relationship teeter across the line into blind devotion to the illusion of a relationship? I admit, this question is difficult for me to answer.

In Max’s case, what in my opinion could have been a small rough patch stretched into a rough loop around the sun. And yet for a long time I persisted in the belief that the wall of silence I kept crashing into would come down and that we would finally figure things out. Such affectionate loyalty coupled with such a protracted absence of justification for it. But since it was my decision to hope against hope for a resolution, all the pain in that period was self-inflicted. I’m not a masochist, so why put myself through it?

It would be easy to say it was because Max kept telling me we’d get to it soon, he just had to take care of this or that first. Yet while it’s true that he did keep saying that, I had heard it often enough to know it wasn’t actually going to happen. I should have insisted on setting a time when we could resolve everything. But you can’t insist on something without consequences in the event of non-compliance; otherwise it’s just a request, and requests had gotten me nowhere. So it becomes an ultimatum: work together to figure this out, or I’m done trying.

I have a hard time with ultimatums because they’re so final. And quite frankly, coming back from an ultimatum is a struggle for me. Let’s take my mom, for example.

Before I came out as non-hetero – back in my good-Mormon-boy days – my mom and I were extremely close, but that closeness shattered when I told her, and it never recovered. But I loved her, so for the longest time I tried. Yet no matter what we talked about, it always came back to me needing to consult people in the church and work this shit out of my system. I could be telling her about having a picnic in the park with friends and she would want to know why I was still doing this gay thing, and bawling her eyes out in the process.

It hurt me to hear her question my character, it hurt me that I was hurting her. But I also couldn’t stand calling just to get the same earful as the last call, couldn’t stand how miserable it made me feel. Still, I kept it up for as long as possible because I hoped relentlessly that she would find a way to accept me so we could be close again. So finally I told her that it had to stop or I couldn’t call and try to share my life with her.

I still called occasionally for birthdays and holidays, but I simply couldn’t bring myself to share more than the most basic information about what was going on in my life. She had broken my trust by rejecting me as the person I am, so I withdrew my loyalty to our relationship. In finally admitting that I had let myself feel bad for too long, I drew a line in the sand, and unless she agreed to my terms, I wouldn’t allow myself or her to cross it.

And I think this was a good decision. My overly optimistic desire for her to reconcile her religious beliefs with the person I was – or at least to accept that she couldn’t talk me out of being the person I was – was harmful, and extricating myself from the situation was a healthy thing to do. But what about after time has passed?

At this point it’s been more than 15 years since I came out to my mom. She’s told me several times that she misses our conversations, but I still have no clue how to let her in. I’ve long since forgiven her, but I can’t forget.

Of course, one factor is that when we do start to venture into less superficial territory, she’ll still bring up my sexuality and my leaving the church. And when it comes time to share, I can’t seem to get past that. I can’t separate enough “safe” topics from the fabric of my life, and tepidly dipping my toe in the water occasionally reveals the same issue between us. I remember how much it hurt to let her in so far only to have this thing come between us, so if that wedge is still there in the form of her attempts to get me back in the church and straight, why open myself up to the pain?

I would be open to the idea if she were to ask something as banal as “do you have a boyfriend?”, for example. Some indication that she could accept the line I drew all those years ago. It could even be something to the effect of accepting it but not liking it and leaving it at that. But without that happening, if all signs point to her still refusing to come to terms with my sexuality and the fate her religious beliefs would have befall me, I can’t let myself open up.

Just as she is repeating the cycle each time she questions my sexuality, so too would I repeat the cycle by hoping we could work past it and talk to each other for real again. That cycle wasn’t healthy for me then, it wouldn’t be now, and I can’t imagine that it ever will be in the future. I broke the cycle by putting down an ultimatum and standing my ground. Having made the ultimatum, I have to stand by it for as long as the reasons for making it persist.

This demonstrates a level of rigid inflexibility on my part, and it contrasts starkly with the flaccidity I exhibit in the hoping-against-hope phase, which is in turn very different from the malleability I otherwise evince. Malleable is how I try to live my life, but like everyone I have places where I’m unbending. Flaccid is what I become when I don’t stand up for myself at a time when I should, and like I said, all of the pain I feel in that phase is because of my own obstinance to see the writing on the wall.

Loyalty to someone for a shared past is one thing, as is optimism that a conflict can be resolved. But I need to get a lot better at recognizing when no understanding is possible, when the closeness of the past is meaningless in the face of current expanses. It might not change the outcome of losing the intimacy with someone, but it would skip over the hoping-against-hope phase, which would save me a world of pain. It would also cancel out the secondary function of that pain.

I’ve often said that I go through that period of trying to find resolution even when my efforts don’t yield results because in the end I’m glad that I at least gave it my all and tried my hardest. And I think that’s true to an extent. But I think I also use it to build up additional defenses against the person.

Standing up and saying this line cannot be crossed, of saying this has to stop or I’m gone, means putting up walls to keep people we were close to out. But if the conflict between two people is represented by the walls we put up in defense, then the pain caused by dragging out the inevitable are the barb wire-filled and land mine-bespeckled trenches I inflicted on vast swaths of the countryside surrounding my walls. It’s as if during the construction of the walls I say, “well, if we’re not letting you in, then we need to be impregnable.” The walls are fine, but the trenches really are overkill.

The question is, without the trenches, if I were to call it quits before that pain was inflicted, would it be possible for someone to get past the walls again? Is it right for me to make it so impossible for a person to even make a try at the walls?

Let’s take my mom again. Instead of dragging things out because of vain hope and hurting even more in the process, what if I had just made my ultimatum pretty quickly after it became clear that I saw no way around our impasse? Would it have made it easier for me to remove sections of the wall for her later?

If she can’t even get close to the walls because of the trenches, then a simple question like “do you have a boyfriend” might not be such a simple question after all. The way is just as fraught with pain for her, and not having the trenches might have made it easier for her to ask, to give me the sort of sign I needed. That being said, now that I’m older and have filled in the trenches, now that she can at least get close enough to know that I would hear through the walls, I still have yet to feel like she’s interested in accepting all of me.

The inflexibility in certain aspects of my life and standing up for those aspects is totally fine—we all have aspects of who we are that we can’t change, and protecting them is vital. What I need to eliminate is the hurt I do to myself. And to do that I need to get much better at knowing when hope is legitimate and when I need to face the music and cut my losses.

Being better at this would have saved me a lot of heartache in Max’s case as well. Again, I don’t think it was wrong for me to put up the walls after my attempts to get him to talk. But those attempts went on too long and I once again took the pain of losing my best friend and augmented it with unnecessary self-inflicted wounds. The former was enough to confront without the added complication of the latter. Hopefully the lesson will stick and the next time I’m in such a situation I’ll be better at deciphering when things shift from justifiable hope to self-deception.

But I also see ways in which I’ve improved compared to how I was 5, 10, 15 years ago. One thing that’s always been a struggle for me is letting people I’m close to see me when I’m down. A large part of this was my fear of my own emotions and the disquiet the idea of sharing them with others caused me. But as I’ve grown and accepted that the whole gamut of emotions is an integral part of the human experience, I’ve also shed the fear of opening up to others, and that was a big victory for me throughout this whole experience. There’s still room for improvement – I was much better at it, but still not superb – but the process is ongoing and I’m pleased by the progress I’ve made along the way.

I’m also glad I didn’t pull away from circles of friends that Max and I both run in. Pulling away would have imparted on them a sort of guilt by association, and that’s not the right way to handle things. One example of another  time this was an issue was when I left the Mormon Church. There were so many people I was close to, many of whom didn’t have a problem with my sexuality. In fact amongst my circle of friends, there were really only one or two hostile youth amongst us who had a problem with me. The rest might not have all agreed with it, but they at least accepted it.

Yet despite their acceptance, I pulled away from the group—not to stay away from the ones who didn’t care, but to avoid the ones I didn’t want to see. I gave up good friends – I was disloyal to people who cared about me and whom I cared about – all because I was too weak to deal with a couple of people in the group who I didn’t get along with.

And it’s not like I’ve never been in group situations in which I don’t quite hit it off with someone or they rub me the wrong way. The difference was the couple of people in the Mormon group had previously been really good friends. When it’s people I don’t know or barely know whom I don’t particularly care for, I’m polite but distant. With the two in the Mormon group I was distant, but the distance made me uncomfortable. And that discomfort made my politeness more like disinterest.

The thing is, the discomfort would have eventually worn off and I would have adjusted to the new situation; I could have hung out with the ones I still got along with and it wouldn’t have mattered that the two I couldn’t talk to were still around. But I didn’t give myself a chance to acclimate, and so I distanced myself from the whole group.

This time around, I made a conscious effort to not pull away from the group just because the distance between Max and me made me uncomfortable. It was difficult, obviously. But these were people I had come to know over years, and sticking to it was worth the temporary unpleasantness of adapting to the new situation between me and Max.

And of course there were awkward moments along the way – where politeness manifested as something more akin to disinterest – but after a while it stopped feeling weird not being able to share a laugh or occasionally catching each other’s eye with a smile. The uncomfortableness faded and I got on with enjoying spending time with my friends. It wasn’t as easy in the short term as simply walking away from the group would have been, but the difficulty was worth the effort.

One thing that has become very apparent is that when it comes to conflict resolution, I need the solution to involve the voice of both or all parties involved. Obviously there will always be things that each individual needs to confront on their own as each person continuously discovers more about themselves over the course of life. But if there are problems in a relationship, they’re created between more than one person; as such, for me the solution must entail discussions where everyone involved can enunciate their perspective, can better understand where the others are coming from. Over the long term the solution can’t be “go figure it out on your own and then we can have some fun again.” I could and should – and to the best of my ability do – figure my own shit out. But those are my problems. Our problems mean figuring out how we fit together, and that’s not something I can do on my own.

That’s not to say it’s wrong to be the sort of person who prefers the non-communicative approach, who can put things in a box and not think about them for months before finally getting around to dealing with them. Hell, for a long time I thought I was one of those people. But over time I’ve learned that while some people are naturally suited to such a disposition, I am not.

And in truth, whether the non-communication is part of your personality or if you are just afraid of what you would communicate – which was the case with me back then – doesn’t really make a big difference. At the end of the day, both scenarios result in a lack of communication, and no matter how much I want it to be otherwise, sometimes that’s just how it is. Recognizing this sooner won’t keep me from needing to hash things out or wanting to understand why things happened, but it will keep me from unnecessarily drawing out the final curtain.

I think it is good that I’m reserved with people I don’t know, and I think it’s fantastic that I’ve stopped hiding behind fear and open up to people I trust and let in. I need to improve in terms of damage control when things end. And I also need to work on making sure the distance that ensues does not creep over into giving someone the cold shoulder.

I also acknowledge that ultimately, I would rather occasionally get hurt than go back to hiding behind the fear that allowed me to keep out even the people I trusted. Having let someone in, my tendency will probably always be to try longer than I should in the event that things come to an impasse. I don’t want to completely reverse that tendency; I just need to get better at knowing when it’s time to pull the ripcord and land safely on my own.

Things may not have turned out how I would have hoped, but the entire experience was at the very least instructive and insightful. It gave me a chance to think about lots of other things that have transpired throughout my life, to appreciate the growth and the pitfalls along the way. Over time I’m sure I’ll draw even more lessons from the experience, and I hope I’m able to apply them in similar future situations. In the meantime, I’m still a work in progress – and will be until the day I die – but I’m glad to have been able to take another step toward understanding the threads that weave the fabric of my life.

 

A Leap of Faith that Ended with a Splat, Chapter One: The Story, Part 2

If you haven’t read part one of this story, start here.

 

Aster’s birthday had been in July and now it was mid-August. We had celebrated together on her birthday, but we had also planned a party at our place for the weekend after Max and I got back. We thought it would be a good chance for our friends and her friends to mingle, and at first it was a blast. Until it wasn’t.

At some point Aster was dancing with a girl friend of hers, and they started lightly making out. Nothing too crazy, but it set off a burst of sexual energy. I thought it was funny and went with the flow, dancing with Aster and Max. But then two people started getting frisky – one of whom was in a relationship – and Aster flipped out. She couldn’t believe the one in a relationship was messing around with the other, they were supposed to be one of those people who didn’t do that and how can you trust anybody?!? She went off to one side of the room to cry, and several of her friends went over to console her – she didn’t want Max or me to console her – and then started insisting that both of the people in question leave the party. I couldn’t believe it. To me it was harmless, but several people were aghast – to be fair, the two of them did start to escalate – so I decided maybe the best thing to do was to acquiesce to Aster’s wishes.

Of the two, one was Aster’s friend, one was Max’s and my friend. She was more concerned about her friend leaving, so I tried to talk to Aster’s friend first. That conversation went nowhere quickly, with the friend telling me that “your relationship problems aren’t my problems.” I didn’t get the connection between the three-way relationship Aster, Max and I had and what was transpiring between our two friends, yet Aster’s friend refused to stop being belligerent. So I tried to get my friend to leave, but that conversation didn’t go well either. My friend wasn’t belligerent, but was definitely hurt at being asked to leave. I really was at a loss and didn’t know what to do. A long time later Aster’s friend took off of her own volition, Aster recovered, and the party continued, with everyone seeming to have forgotten what had transpired.

The funny thing is, at the time we had two Airbnb guests staying in our guest room. We had made sure they knew the party was happening before we confirmed their booking, but I was mortified that they had to witness all of this. Nevertheless, they had a fantastic time. Apparently no one throws house parties in Taipei, so they were thrilled by the house party experience and didn’t even really notice the drama unfolding. At least there was that.

So later that night all the party guests were gone, the Airbnb guests had gone to bed, and Aster, Max and I were chilling in the lounge area of my bedroom, our legs intertwined and our bodies in a cuddle as we talked about what had happened. And then all of a sudden we were all making out. I have no recollection of who initiated it. Aster later told me Max had initiated it, but honestly, I have no clue. One thing led to another, and we moved to my bed. And we all just went with the flow.

All of our bodies were enmeshed, all of us were playing with each other, completely out of our heads and just living in the moment, with no real idea who was doing what to whom at any given moment. To be honest, it was hot, in large part because we were all just in the moment. At some point I was fingering Max while he went down on Aster and she went down on me. And then the bubble burst.

“Omni,” rasped Max. “Yeah?” I gasped. “You were right, this feels really good.” I couldn’t help myself; I started laughing. Aster playfully smacked me: “Be nice!” It was a fun moment, a moment of release. But it also killed the magic. Suddenly we were all aware of what was going on. We continued for a little bit, but then stopped. Bathroom breaks ensued, and then we were all back in bed.

Aster and I wanted to play though, so we asked if it was OK. Max said he was cool with it. He made out with me and her and then just watched. But then Max started to cry.

“If you two can have sex, then what do you need me for?” The question confused the fuck out of me; I thought, is sex the only thing you think you’re good for?!? Both she and I reassured him, told him that we loved him. He calmed down, and the three of us curled up together and fell asleep.

The next morning we cuddled for a bit, then they had sex while I lay beside them watching and jerking off. After that we chilled for a bit, and then the two of them started whispering. It was clearly a conversation and not just a good morning, and I wanted to make sure everything was alright. But when I asked, I got a “yeah” and they went back to whispering. I asked again and got the same response. So I didn’t say anything for a while, and then asked again what was going on. And they still kept whispering to each other. So there I was, lying in my bed, completely out of the loop. I clearly wasn’t wanted in the conversation, but I didn’t want to leave the room in case the Airbnb guests were up, so I went over to my lounge area and chilled. They continued to talk for a while, and eventually Aster called over to ask if I had got all that. “How could I?” I asked, “You two were whispering the whole time!” I felt left out, and considering that I was involved in the night before and in the morning, it hurt.

They called me back over and filled me in on the gist of their conversation. I expressed myself in terms of how being shut out of the conversation had felt, and left it at that, trying not to make a big deal out of it while still making my perspective clear. We got up and had breakfast, cleaned up after the party, and then settled onto the couch to watch some series. I wish we had left things to cool off, but unfortunately, that was not to be the case.

Aster was horny and wanted to play. So she started feeling up on Max and me. I was nervous, not ready for this at all. I should have said something. I should have stopped it. But I didn’t. Things started getting heavier, and then we heard the Airbnb guests. So Aster got up and pulled us back to my room. Again, I should have taken the opportunity to stop it. But I was panicking a bit, and couldn’t use my words. And so I got to have one of the most traumatic experiences of my life instead.

Mentally, I froze. And Aster really wanted things to happen. She thrust my hand to Max’s ass, pushed my head down on his cock. I felt paralyzed, and I couldn’t vocalize my discomfort. She wanted me to fuck him. I couldn’t even get it more than semi-hard, but she wanted it to happen. So she got on her back, Max slid his dick inside her, and I struggled to get my dick inside his ass. With him blocking my view I couldn’t see her, but she was crying. Finally we stopped. I felt so dirty, so disgusted with myself for freezing and not saying no, so sickened that things had gone so far. I can’t remember what was said. I just remember being so thankful that it was over.

We were supposed to all drive out to a town outside of Vienna to spend the night and the following day together. Instead, I think Aster went home and I stayed in my room. I have no clue what Max did. I think maybe he went to Aster’s too, but I really have no idea. The next day we all met and decided that sex was definitely off the table for the time being, which I was extremely happy about. I had never felt so sexually unmotivated in my life. In fact, it would be months before I could bring myself to have sex again—even once our three-way relationship was over and I was free to roam.

Over the next couple of weeks we had a bunch of conversations trying to figure out how this would all shape up. Whenever the sex came up I would say that there was that brief period when we had all enjoyed what was going on, in large part because I couldn’t mentally handle the psychological devastation that had come after and needed something to have been alright with the experience. I also reiterated that to me sex wasn’t what should be the defining factor of how we love each other. Aster wanted to know what I would do if Max didn’t want to have sex with me, and I said that would be fine. She wanted to know how I would feel if he wasn’t OK with me and her having sex, and I said that would suck, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I wanted to focus on getting to know each other, wanted to focus on the emotional side of things, on the (in my opinion) vastly more important parts of a long-term relationship.

We decided that one of the (admittedly many) problems was that we weren’t always all together when we had conversations, and we hadn’t always done a good job keeping everyone informed of the pertinent information. So we agreed to make more of an effort to keep everyone in the loop.

One day we went for a hike during the day and were going to spend the evening together. Aster wanted to go home first, so she went to her place and Max and I went to our flat. Aster texted that she was on the way, and the smileys indicated that everything was copacetic. Max and I were sitting on the windowsill in my room smoking, rehashing shit. It wasn’t a new conversation, really just a rehashing. And then he leaned over, kissed me, and hugged me. We were both excited that Aster would be there any minute because we were going to make dinner and play one of Aster’s and my favorite games – Carcassonne. The bell rang and we buzzed her in. As soon as she got upstairs I knew something was wrong.

But she didn’t want to talk about it. At this point I had learned enough to know that it was better to leave her alone until she wanted to discuss it because she would just shrug off any attempts we made to ask her what was up. So we made dinner and ate in stony silence. When Max got up to go to the bathroom, she asked me if Max and I had been talking. I told her we’d been chatting, and she blew up at me, telling me she had seen us kiss and why hadn’t we told her what we were talking about. I tried to calm her down, told her we hadn’t said anything new, that it was just a chat, but she wasn’t hearing it. Max came back and she wanted to talk to him alone. So I left them alone, but was upset because again there was a conversation that involved me and I was being excluded.

About an hour later they came over and Aster let me have it: I should have told her what we were talking about the moment she came in the flat. I told her that since she was upset when she arrived and because Max and I weren’t talking about anything she didn’t already know, I had been more concerned about why she was upset—not to mention that she hadn’t even given us time to say anything because she was already pissed when she arrived. I wanted to know if I was really supposed to immediately share every last detail of every single conversation we had when she wasn’t there, even if it was just shooting the shit, and she screamed at me that yes, that’s exactly what should happen. I never did get all the details of what they had been talking about though.

Flash forward a few weeks after rounds of conversations. We were all sitting on the couch talking about how we wanted it to work out, weren’t sure if we could, but we still wanted to try. Aster had to study for exams and had previously asked me to help her study since all of her reading material was in English, so we collectively decided that we would all focus on helping her pass her exams and deal with our shit after that. The plan was for me to go over and help her study and spend the night, or I would leave after helping her and Max would go over and spend the night, or he and I would go do something. It worked for a bit, but then the shit hit the fan again.

I had pulled my calf playing with kids at kindergarten. Max was out of town for work, and that Saturday I met up with Aster and her friends. The plan had been to hang out before heading to some museums (once a year all the museums in town are open until midnight). She and I sat on the couch like a couple, sometimes holding hands, and everything seemed fine. In the end I didn’t go to the museums with them though because I was limping and didn’t want to slow them down. She and I kissed goodbye and said we’d see each other the next day to study.

I was feeling contemplative the next day, so when she texted me to ask where we would study, I said I would come to her place. She wrote back that it might be better for her to come to me because of my leg, but I said it was fine, it would be good to move a bit. Her response was that Max was coming back and she wanted to see him. I didn’t want to spend the evening with the three of us, but I didn’t want that to mean they couldn’t see each other, so I suggested that maybe he could just go to her place instead. She answered, “hmmm, OK.” For me, that meant that it was settled.

I went over to help her study for a few hours. Once we were done I packed up my stuff and was gonna take off, and she told me to wait, she was coming with me. I was confused because we had discussed this earlier and it had seemed clear to me that Max would be coming to her place. I tried not to let it bother me, but it did anyway. I asked her why she had decided to come over, and she told me that she thought it would be nice for him to sleep in his bed. She hadn’t even mentioned to him the conversation she and I had had. I asked her why she’d even bothered to ask me what I wanted in the first place because it didn’t seem to matter. She got pissed. I went home, and Max went over to her place.

A few days later Max and I went for a walk to discuss things. All of a sudden the story from him was that we had all decided not to pursue the three-way relationship that day we had talked about helping Aster study. This confused the fuck out of me. I mean, we were saying, “we want this to work”, not “we would have liked it to work out.” There was nothing about “it didn’t work out, let’s call it quits.” It was all about working to find a solution. And yet here he was telling me that we had indeed ended the relationship. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?

Granted, at this point the conclusion of the three-way relationship was long overdue. But don’t insult me by saying we already ended it when the conversation in question was about making it work. Don’t pretend just because you can’t deal with shit.

That has pretty much set the tone for my relationship with Max since then.

As for me and Aster, we talked about meeting up to discuss how everything had gone down, but she wasn’t going to have time for a few weeks. The day approached, and she cancelled. The time after that, I cancelled. Then she cancelled again. After that, I finally wrote that neither of us seemed to have much interest in actually meeting up, so it was probably best we just leave it.

Over the next few months she would occasionally send me a text inviting me to parties. I always declined, sometimes by saying nicely that I wasn’t interested, sometimes by saying I didn’t have time, sometimes by saying that I didn’t see what the point was. Sometimes I didn’t respond at all, and other times I said it didn’t make sense to me until Max and I had had a chance to smooth things out. At one point I told her we could meet up if she wanted to talk about something in particular, but I didn’t have any interest in just hanging out. She just wanted to hang out, so we didn’t meet up.

Throughout this entire period Max had de facto moved out and was living with Aster and her flatmates. I never saw him, and he rebuffed my attempts to sort things out between us. We went from using ‘bro’ as a term of endearment and ending messages with ‘love you’ to him just calling me man or dude. When I asked him about it he told me that he switched it up with everyone, completely erasing the fact that both of us had exclusively used that term of endearment with each other for a long time, relegating me to “everyone else”. And the reason he gave for not being able to work things out: “Aster can’t deal with our relationship, she doesn’t understand it.”

To me, it’s important to own my relationships, to stand up for them. If someone doesn’t like a particular person that I choose to spend time with, that’s their issue to deal with, not mine. Likewise, I may not like a particular person, but I won’t stand in the way of anyone else hanging out with that person. My relationship to any given person is mine just as much as anyone else’s relationship to that person is theirs. So hearing that he couldn’t stand up for having me in his life, that he would rather write it off and erase that depth, to hear “I want to be close, but Aster can’t handle it” or “I still love you and want this to work” hurt terribly. At one point I asked him if I was really expendable and he said yes. The day after he retracted his statement saying he didn’t really mean it, and I stupidly chose to believe the retraction because hope is an asshole that encourages willful blindness.

I also tried asking him how he was, but there too I met a brick wall. My questions were genuine, yet he claimed I was only asking pro forma. So I couldn’t have conversations about what had transpired between us, I couldn’t ask him how he was doing. He didn’t really ask how I was doing and offered nothing. It made for a really inviting atmosphere, let me tell you.

When he told me in November he was moving out, I was relieved. He was never there anyway and when he did make a rare appearance conversation was a no go, so I was glad that I could make other arrangements. I told him that I hoped we could still talk things out since for me the communication was far more important than whether or not we lived together, but alas, he continued to throw up roadblocks. Finally around New Year’s Eve he wrote to apologize for ignoring everything, and I thought, well maybe now we can start the healing process.

We did have a talk, and he kept telling me that he had to focus on Aster, that he really couldn’t do anything until she was comfortable. I tried to wrap my head around this, but I couldn’t. I should have read between the lines: what he was actually saying was “I don’t want to be that close to you anymore.” But constantly hearing “it’s not that I don’t want to be close, it’s that Aster can’t cope” instead of listening to the subtext gave me hope that he at least wanted to sort everything out, and damn it, hope is a bitch to kill.

The move out didn’t make things any easier. At first I wanted to stay in the flat and find someone else to share it with, but I at least wanted to sort out everything that was mine and his. True to form, he kept putting it off. Hell, he wasn’t even packing up his stuff, so I guess it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that there was no time to sift through all of our shared shit. I had had someone lined up who might move in, but she was concerned that his stuff wasn’t out yet and opted to find a different place. At that point I decided it wasn’t worth the effort, and decided to find my own place. I felt like a bitch for constantly harping about the need to get everything taken care of, but it wasn’t just my stuff, and initially not getting any cooperation and subsequently having him change plans to sort or throw stuff out stressed me out. At one point I thought, fuck it, if he can’t make time, then I’ll just walk away from it too, and we’ll both have to deal with the consequences. Eventually it all got done, but things could have gone a lot smoother with better communication and not “forgetting” that we were supposed to pack stuff up. By the time I moved out at the end of last July, I was absolutely over it.

Sometime during the summer he and Aster broke up, and on one of the rare occasions he found time to talk to me he told me one of the reasons was because of how things were between me and him. And I thought, on the one hand maybe now we could finally work shit out, but on the other, I don’t want to go back to the situation of being the ersatz girlfriend. If him having a girlfriend meant that he couldn’t be close to me, then why should I let him back in when he’s single just because now he doesn’t have a girlfriend who feels threatened by it? And when we talked, there still wasn’t much information coming from him, so really, what had changed?

At the beginning of August I was settling into my new place when I got an email from Max. In it he said that we would be able to have fun again, we just needed to get settled into our new flats. He ended the email with “Love, Max”. Suddenly we were back to love again. I wrote back that it wasn’t just about fun; it was about the trust, mutual consideration and communication everything had been built on. I said that we couldn’t keep pushing things down the road. Yes, everyone on the planet avoids certain things at times, but if something is important, then you just have to deal with it. To me it would have been important enough to deal with, but that wasn’t the impression I was getting from him. I would be open to the idea of sorting things out, but it needed to be a mutual effort.

A little more than a week later I wrote again, this time because of things related to the old flat – the last electric bill, etc. A week after that – the day before the electric bill was due – I wrote again to ask for a response to at least the second email. He finally wrote back and said that he had a lot of emails at work, and so he hadn’t felt like dealing with emails in his free time. But he would get to it in the upcoming days. Well, that pretty much said it all. And what that email didn’t say was said quite clearly by the absence of a response in the “upcoming days”. Another promise to deal with stuff, another promise broken.

That was the end of August, and in the middle of last month I wrote to let him know that I would be re-launching my blog and that I’d be writing about how things had turned out between us. In all that time he couldn’t be bothered to address the issues, and I mentioned that fact to emphasize why I wouldn’t be sending him posts about him so he could review them and discuss them with me, something I had done in the old days.

Which brings us to now.

 

In the next chapter we’ll talk about the lessons I learned from this wonderfully instructive experience.

A Leap of Faith that Ended with a Splat, Chapter One: The Story, Part 1

In a previous post I mentioned that there had been a lot of stuff going on in my life that led me to stop posting here for a very long time. Since then I’ve been working on the posts explaining what exactly happened. I would write, then put it off to work on other pieces, but I couldn’t really focus fully on those other pieces and kept getting drawn back to this one. So it’s taken a few weeks to write and it’s a long one that I’ll break up into different sections.

If you’re familiar with my blog then you’ve probably read my post on my secret relationship with Max, which I wrote in the fall of 2013. Taking those first steps towards admitting that Max and I had a relationship with each other was a difficult task for me, but it felt nice to open up and share with my friends and the world. A few people were surprised, but most thought it was great that we had finally admitted to being in a relationship that they already saw. It felt right to have taken that leap of faith.

We decided that one of the things we would do was create “Omnax Day”, a sort of monthly date night where we would spend time just the two of us so that no matter what else was going on in our lives, we would always have a time at which we could enjoy the bond we shared. Things settled into place, with us having our Omnax Day, spending time with all our friends individually and together, focusing on the things that interested each of us and giving each other the support that two bros give one another.

Fall became winter, and Max starting hanging out with Aster, a girl he had met one night when we had gone out dancing. At first it seemed like one of his typical sexcapades, but as the new year began it became clear that there was more there. I tried to talk to Max about it, but in his typical fashion all he would say was, “I’m interested in her—and not just sexually.” Well, considering how important Max is to me, I wanted to meet Aster. Not to give my stamp of approval, but to get to know this new person in his life, the same way we all want to get to know people who are important to the people who are important to us.

But Max was hesitant to let us meet. Some of the fears I mentioned in the post about my relationship with Max regarding how he treats me when there is a girl in the picture showed their ugly heads, and it started to cause some stress between us. We had planned to spend a week in Berlin in the beginning of February, but suddenly I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go. Despite my reservations I decided I wouldn’t skip the trip, and in the end we had a great time together. We spent time talking about what was going on, Max explaining that he really liked Aster and me reiterating I was happy for him and my desire to get to know her. And so he agreed that we should all hang out together so she and I could get to know each other.

The first time Aster and I met was Valentine’s Day 2014. It was a fun night out, and the three of us spent time chatting and dancing. At the end of the night they took off for her place, and I headed home, happy to have finally gotten a chance to meet Aster.

But over the next couple of months we didn’t see each other at all. Max apparently didn’t feel comfortable with me and her hanging out, and from the way he told it, it seemed to be primarily the result of her insecurities. He said they needed a chance to work things out, and I didn’t push him on hanging out. I did, however, at least want to clear up what was going on between us.

I wasn’t interested in being the ersatz girlfriend for the times when Max wasn’t interested in someone with an actual vagina. He was my best friend, my bro, family, and I wanted to make sure we were on the same page. So sometime that March I wrote him an email explaining how I felt. Unsurprisingly, it took forever to get a response. In total we both wrote something like three emails each, and that conversation literally took months. It was frustrating, to say the least, all the more so because we were still hanging out as if there weren’t serious things that needed to be sorted out. While I wished that the conversation could have gone faster, I also knew that a) he struggles to communicate and b) he was also involved with Aster. So I suspended my need for a quick resolution for the sake of compromise and waited it out.

One of the things that came up in this drawn-out email exchange was something I’ve mentioned in other posts, namely that the sexual component isn’t an important factor to me in terms of a long-term relationship, and that I could potentially see us staying in a really intimate relationship. When he finally responded, he said that he felt the same way. But I wanted to make sure everything was crystal clear, so I asked him if he meant that in terms of us knowing each other when we’re old and decrepit, or in terms of us going through all the various life phases together, of working, raising children, retiring, etc. His response: he wanted to go through all the life phases together. In this regard it seemed like we were on the same page.

Then we got around to talking about what that would look like, and his main concern was that we would never find a woman who would go for being in a relationship with two guys. I told him that while it’s true that not every woman would go for something like that, there are definitely plenty of women out there to whom such a relationship would appeal. To me, the more important hurdle was whether or not he and I were interested in something like that; the rest would fall into place when it happened.

While these email exchanges were going on, Max was also having similar conversations with Aster, and in turned out that part of the reason he took so long to write back to me was because he needed to feel her out first. In one of their conversations she told him that she had been involved in a three-way relationship once before with a man and a woman, but it hadn’t worked out so well in the end. Apparently, this was part of the reason why he would later tell me he thought finding a woman who would have a relationship with two men would be difficult.

And throughout all of this, Max still kept Aster and me from hanging out. At this point it’s May – three months after she and I first met – and I once again commented that it would be nice to get to know this person who was becoming increasingly important to him. She had expressed the same desire about me, so she and I finally made plans to meet up one evening.

It ended up being a really fun evening with her. We talked about our lives, got to know each other a little better, and laughed a whole lot. We both thought it was funny that we had both been some what nervous beforehand, but we left the meeting looking forward to hanging out again. We decided we should find time when all three of us could hang out and talk.

I guess in some ways this freaked Max out. He still hadn’t finished our email conversation, and here we were planning on having a conversation with all three of us. What’s more, it was apparent in his last email that he wasn’t putting the same amount of thought into it. It seemed rushed, like he wanted to write something, anything, prior to our meeting. He said the best option would probably be the sort of arrangement where I was part of the family but not directly in the relationship because Aster wouldn’t go for it. It seemed odd that the email was so rushed, but if that was how he felt, that was fine.

And then came our meeting, on the 13th of June—a Friday, which amused me to no end. I’m not superstitious, but maybe that was one of those times when being superstitious would have actually paid off.

We started off just chatting about whatever, but eventually we turned to the topic of where things were heading. One of the big issues for Aster – something she had talked to me about at our meeting and to Max prior to the three of us meeting – was why Max and I weren’t having sex. Both of us reiterated that it was because that wasn’t what we were looking for with each other. This would eventually become a huge issue.

She also talked about her experience with her previous three-way relationship, about how it was based on love between all three individuals (she would later change tack and claim it had only been based on sex). She said that she was open to a three-way relationship, which surprised me since Max had told me the opposite. And so the conversation turned to the three of us trying it out. In retrospect this was a big mistake; I mean, I hardly knew her, and though I was attracted to her and thought there was a connection, I’m not usually the sort of person to get into a relationship with someone whom I’ve only really hung out with a couple of times. But it seemed that we were all open to the idea, and so we decided to give it a go.

At first things went well. We knew that we would all need time to get to know each other and see what kind of dynamic emerged, but Aster suggested that we at least greet each other the same way – with a kiss on the lips – so that outwardly it was clear that we were in this thing together. Max and I had only kissed on very few occasions, but I don’t see a kiss as inherently sexual or romantic, so I was OK with incorporating this into our relationship. And so the three-way relationship started.

The three of us would cuddle on the couch while watching films or hang out, we would meet up and spend time together out and about in the city, and we also spent time in the various two-person constellations. But things went sour pretty quickly.

One of the things that seemed important was that we were sexually exclusive. If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I am the antithesis of a monogamist. But against my better judgment I decided that for the time being I wouldn’t sleep with anyone outside of the relationship as a show of good faith. However, Max couldn’t quite get over the possessiveness of being the only person sleeping with Aster, despite she and I expressing a sexual interest in one another. And he and I weren’t looking to have sex with one another. Which left me in a state of abstinence. The Mormons would have been proud, but it was difficult for me.

We would have conversations about why sexual monogamy was important and about what other barometers we could use to gage loyalty. Both seemed to understand what I meant by “unfaithful but not disloyal”. But when I discussed it with Aster she would say that while she understood, Max didn’t seem OK with it, and she had a predilection for the typical male/female roles in a relationship. For his part, Max would say things like, “you and I don’t have a problem with having sex with other people, but Aster isn’t like us.” I found it odd that he himself was OK with having sex with other people but wasn’t OK with Aster doing it, and I found it antiquated that she would simply “let the man decide.”

Obviously this caused stress because they both knew that I was horny as fuck, but we just weren’t at a point where Aster and I could have sex without it causing problems with Max. Both of them said I should have sex outside the relationship, but I insisted that if sexual faithfulness was the means by which we were determining each person’s dedication to the relationship, then it didn’t feel right for me to go out and bone other people. To me, it was more important that we all agree on a different barometer of loyalty first. Eventually I got to a point where it didn’t stress me so much – and by extension where I didn’t cause them corresponding stress – but that wasn’t the only issue.

Characteristic of his behavior in a relationship, Max had a hard time opening up and constantly told me he had to deal with Aster first, that her concerns had priority. When I would try to deal with things between the three of us – which made sense to me since we were in a three-way relationship – he would push me off. This didn’t happen all the time, but it happened often enough that I had the impression that how I felt didn’t matter.

He also struggled with showing all the guys in out circle of friends that we were in a relationship. So often he would skip the kiss greeting in front of them, and while I had some understanding for this since I also had a hard time kissing dudes in front of cis guys, over time that coupled with being made to feel like my feelings didn’t matter took its toll. Add to that the fact that we would make plans and then he would change them without telling me because Aster didn’t like certain people or riding bikes or whatever—it just didn’t create a good environment. This all became the topic of conversation when he and I went on a two-week holiday just the two of us, which came on the heels of him and her going on holiday just the two of them.

The first week of our holiday sucked. I didn’t feel like I was being heard, and he kept saying that he had to get to know Aster’s side first. I would say that I understood because I also needed to get to know her, but that I didn’t understand why that meant my feelings were deemed essentially irrelevant, or why we couldn’t also do it between the three of us since we were supposed to be in a three-way relationship. We had spent that week in southern Austria and were heading to Munich for a weekend before going camping for a week. On the drive up to Munich I told him that I was going to get a hotel for the first night so I could take some time to think.

I checked into the hotel and then took off for a really long walk through Munich. I didn’t want to cause problems because of my insecurities, and I needed to assess how much was in my head and how much was something that I really should be concerned about. I also didn’t want to push too hard when I knew full well that Max struggles with emotions in general.

I decided that I wanted to head up to Erlangen, a city not too far from Munich where I had lived as a child. It had been almost 30 years since I had lived there, and I figured if I was this close, I should drive up and see it. Having moved around so much throughout my life, it was the first time that I would go back to a place I had lived before I was even in kindergarten. I toyed with the idea of going by myself, but then I decided that if a relationship is about sharing who we are with the people in the relationship, I should take Max with me. The next day I spent most of the day walking around the city before eventually meeting up with Max. He said he thought it was a thoughtful gesture on my part and would be honored to share my trip down memory lane and discuss at length everything I had thought about on my walks, and so the following day we took off for Erlangen.

We didn’t arrive until evening, so it was getting dark by the time we found the building in which my old apartment was located. I was flooded with memories, but we said we would come back the next morning when the sun was up. We went back to our hotel and had a really intimate evening talking. He acknowledged that he had been holding back from me unfairly and understood why it had hurt, but couldn’t explain why it only happened when a girl was in the picture. I mentioned that it was hurtful that we were trying this relationship but he still referred to me as his flatmate. He said that he didn’t see me as his boyfriend, but he did see me as his partner. And this resonated with me because I also didn’t see him as my boyfriend and also felt that partner was a lot more suitable to what we were since it didn’t carry the romantic baggage that boyfriend or girlfriend does.

Nevertheless, I didn’t think we should use the term. Neither of us were at a point where we would call Aster partner, and if he and her being boyfriend and girlfriend while I was just the flatmate put me on unequal footing, then he and I referring to each other as partner while she was just the girlfriend would put her on unequal footing, and I didn’t think that was right either. I can’t remember what we ended up deciding, but it probably doesn’t matter since he still ended up just calling me his flatmate once we got back to Vienna.

We talked about a lot of other things that night as well. About how us getting to know each other, while not romantic, still had some elements that were similar to a courtship. About how this relationship was the longest one either of us had had and how funny it was that neither of us would classify it as a romantic relationship. About how much we both appreciated having someone we could talk to about everything, even if we both struggled with it to different degrees. About how he understood how, those things being so, why it hurt me when he pulled away because of his own fears and insecurities. It was a good talk and it cleared the air.

The next day we went back to my childhood stomping grounds and had a look around before heading off to the campsite where we were spending the next week. That week was also good; we did a lot of talking, and at one point Max talked about how I was his Adventure Buddy on this crazy thing called life, how Aster was also a great Adventure Buddy to complement what we had. We also talked about the possibility of the two of us having sex, since it was a topic Aster had confronted both of us with on several occasions.

Aster really couldn’t come to terms with the fact that Max and I weren’t having sex. Many times she had told me she feared that he would one day say that he wasn’t interested in her and wanted to have sex with me. I thought that was preposterous and told her so, but she just wouldn’t let it go. It was also a constant topic of conversation between her and Max, and from him she got the same response. Yet she still wouldn’t relent. So he and I talked about trying things out slowly, about him overcoming his fears of what others would think if he had sex with a dude. We also talked about why he couldn’t deal with me and her having sex, and there too we decided to take things slowly rather than continuing to leave it off the table.

Our last night there we decided to go into town because they were having a summer festival. He had spent a lot of time in the town during his time as a camp counselor, so we hit all the spots he used to go with all the other counselors. There were a couple things that stood out in my mind that evening.

The first came while we were dancing on a plaza. Pharrell’s Happy was blasting on the speakers, and I was dancing hard and free because it fit my mood perfectly. A girl in the crowd was digging my vibe and so we danced together, not grinding, really just dancing around with each other. At some point she went right and I went left, and at that point I glanced over at Max, who was gazing at me with that same hungry look I had seen on his face so many times—a look that I had only seen on his face when he was looking at girls he wanted to fuck. It threw me off because I wasn’t used to having that look directed at me, and it made me uncomfortable. But I brushed it off and went back to dancing with the girl. The song ended and she went off with her friends, and he and I danced for a while before heading off to a bar.

And then came the second thing. We were at the bar for a while, and eventually decided it was time to go home. In the bar we had met another girl who was all about Max. When we left, she came with us. And trouble arose when we were looking for a taxi. She really wanted him to go home with her, and he really wanted to go with her. But according to the rules of our three-way relationship this wasn’t allowed, and I knew it would hurt Aster. So I tried to get him to say goodbye and head back to our campsite. It took me some time, but eventually I was able to convince him to leave it. She jumped into a taxi alone, and he and I took the next one.

We returned to Vienna from holiday, and the next day Max spent the night at Aster’s because she wanted to talk to him. I didn’t think anything of it because at this point we both would spend the night at her place individually when she didn’t come over to our place. But early the next morning he came home and crawled into bed with me. He was clearly upset, so I asked him what was up. He said that Aster had once again confronted him about me and him not having sex. He let out his frustration, at some point angrily saying we just need to get this over with so she finally gets it. This scared me. He and I had talked about taking things slowly and staying relaxed. But this was coming from a place of anger and frustration, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. I was cool with a relaxed setting, but this sent an icy chill down my spine. I did my best to calm him down, and later he left for work and I opened my laptop to translate. That night when I spent the night at her place I talked to her about it and my concern deepened. But I didn’t worry about it too much because I didn’t think anything would happen anytime soon, that we’d have time to make sure we were all approaching it from a relaxed perspective.

I was so wrong.

 

Stay tuned for part two of the story!