|The view from Emma's apartment, |
by Edwin Bullen
I've always had two steadfast rules about sex and dating:
1) Stay away from other women's boyfriends.
2) Stay far away from husbands.
Late last year, I broke both rules at the same time.
I met Matt when he tagged along with Terisa to a brunch I hosted. Brunch was originally meant to be dinner at Terisa, Scott and Larry's, but life and construction interfered and we all eventually got together at my place on a rainy Sunday morning. When I opened the door and saw Matt standing on the steps with Scott, Larry and Terisa, I thought "God he's handsome. Shit, I don't have enough chairs. Smile so they don't realize how panicked you are, and invite them in." Brunch was lovely, everyone seemed to have a nice time, and I was really glad that we had finally managed to get everyone together after a few false starts. Throughout the day, Matt struck me as an especially gracious guest - stepping in to open the champagne, chatting with me while I sorted dishes into the sink, insisting that I friend him on Facebook immediately - and I left it at that.
When Matt invited me over for lunch on the next Sunday, I expected that we'd have a pleasant conversation for an hour or two, and then maintain an acquaintance consisting mainly of "Like"-ing each other's Facebook posts. Lunch did not go as I expected. By the time I left, after several hours of conversation, Matt and I were certain that we would begin dating; I don’t think that was ever in question. But the last thing I said to Matt when I left lunch was "I want to date you. I just don't know if I can handle the whole wife and girlfriend thing. I want to try, but I may have to walk away." Matt's reply was, simply, "I understand." I let myself think and feel for the next few days without making any decisions, until, one morning, on my way to work, I realized that I never once asked myself IF I could date Matt; I had spent all of my time figuring out HOW to date him.
And, the thing is, it ended up being pretty easy to date Matt. He’s really good at balancing his partners’ needs, so I never felt that his other relationships were interfering with the progress of ours. And I was glad to see that our time together was not taking him away from Vee, Edwin, and the rest of his family and friends too often. Early on, if I started to get impatient or uncertain about how our relationship was progressing, I would ask myself “Would this expectation be reasonable if I was dating someone monogamous?” or “How would I react to this if I was dating a single father with custody?”. I learned that perspective really is everything. It also helped that I was reminded of the “perfect relationship” image that I’ve carried in my head for years: my partner and I would live in a 3-bedroom house - my room, his room, and, in the middle, our room. “My” room is an introvert’s dream, where I could read or knit or sit quietly and recharge, before falling asleep. “Our” room is for closeness and intimacy. And it wasn’t until after I started dating Matt that I realized that it never occurred to me to consider what was going on in “his” room. When I mentally inserted “wife and kid and partner” into that space, it felt OK, it felt plausible, and it felt like something I didn’t want to walk away from.