[Scroll to the bottom for an audio I recorded about untangled love several months earlier–it expands and elaborates on much of what I share below.]
I am single, and divorced, and for the first time in my adult life I am allowing myself to *not* be seeking (or in) a relationship in which my life is deeply intertwined with another person’s life. For much of my twenties, I was seeking that, and for the last six years I was in a beautiful and intense relationship with Jena. For now, I am wanting to develop my relationship with myself.
And yet, I am also not wanting to be alone all the time; I am wanting to connect, to share my heart, my soul and my body with others–without necessarily wrapping my life up in another’s life.
Society gives men and women in my position several options, none of which quite “fit” for where I am right now:
1. Casual hook-ups. I had plenty of that in my 20s. I’m no longer interested in sharing my body without also sharing my heart and soul.
2. Dating. But the premise of dating is that it is potentially leading to a relationship. So to tell a woman I’m “dating” would be a lie, because I’m wary of intertwining my life with another’s life right now.
3. Polyamory. This is probably closest to the right “home” for where I’m at. While I respect that practice, and the people who practice it (of which I have been one), for a variety of reasons, I don’t particularly like that term. Part of it is that I’m a writer and I simply don’t like the way the word sounds; as a word it is not sexy to me, and I want the term describing my sexuality to feel sexy to me. A more substantive not-liking comes from seeing that many people involved with polyamory seem to being going for *multiple* deeply intertwined relationships–which is the opposite of what I want! I want (for now) *zero* intertwined relationships. (A committed poly person could say what I want is “poly with secondary lovers but no primary,” or “solo poly,” which may be accurate, but those just aren’t descriptions I’m likely to use about myself.)
What I have come to instead is the concept, and practice, of what I call “untangled love.” It could be thought of as a form of poly, but I prefer to simply call it untangled love.
The basic idea is this: we have come to see romantic/sexual love as inextricably linked to a whole bunch of other things such as: (a) Are we in a committed relationship? (b) Are we eventually going to live together? (c) Are we eventually going to get engaged, married, have babies? (d) Are we going to pay each other’s bills, take on each others’ debt, buy real estate together, who is going to support whom financially? etc., etc.
I call these extra considerations “tangles”. They are ways our lives get tangled with another. I do not mean this word pejoratively. Tangles can be both delicious and agonizing, and give us some of the deepest, most meaningful experiences we can have as humans, tangling our lives and hearts with another; for six years my life was deliciously tangled with Jena’s, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
But what if you want to love, without the tangles?
Untangled love is the practice of opening your heart as widely as possible to another person, while both committing to remaining untangled in other areas of your life. It *is* a form of commitment, in a sense: it is a commitment to opening your heart, *without* getting tangled in any external considerations other than the love you feel in each others’ presence. Not for the faint of heart.
A cynic might try to slut-shame me (yes, slut-shaming of men is absolutely a reality), and say that this just sounds like a dressed-up way to be promiscuous, a convenient way for a man to explain wanting to sow his wild seeds without commitment.
Contrary to this cynical view, however, I have found that when I tell women I talk with about this concept, many of them tell me they are looking for exactly same thing in their lives.
It is a cultural myth and stereotype that all women are looking to get shacked up with a man, and that women only want erotic intimacy in the context of a committed relationship. Many women are, like me, coming out of a relationship and needing space. Or they are, like me, free spirits and modern nomads, not sure where (or when) they will settle down again, if ever. Many women are (gasp!) excited by the idea of erotic and romantic variety.
They may have high standards for whom they would settle down with, and are not currently finding men who meet their standards for settling down… but they still want to *get* down. But casual hook-ups feel too emotionally disconnected to them.
Perhaps they are, like me, divorced, and are questioning the wisdom of professing again to another person life-long marriage, after seeing just how quickly both parties can change in a way in which that commitment no longer makes sense to either person. (Perhaps one of the best ways to respect the institution of marriage, is to know not to re-enter it if one has doubts about one’s ability to maintain it.)
Whatever it is, I have found that this concept of untangled love feels like a breath of fresh air to many women who encounter it. And it is a breath of fresh air to me.
Thank you to the women who have been dancing with me untangledly. I love our freedom together. We sexy mis-fits are co-creating a new option, for those for whom the currently-existing options don’t fit.
(Note: There are a lot of comments on this topic in my original post of this content on Facebook here.)
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