I love my ex-partner very much. We were together for nine and a half years and had a lot of great times. We grew up together. As I’ve mentioned, we were also in an open relationship, a decision that suited us both—sometimes one more than the other—and remained a consistent feature in our partnership for the full duration. I have nothing negative to say about her.

In retrospect, our decision to have an open relationship, while it enabled some independence in our otherwise chokingly entwined lives, was something I liken to having designed a home with drafts… on purpose. The home of our love had the drafts built-in and, bit-by-bit, through repeated hurt and betrayal, our love leaked out. While I learned a lot about jealousy, insecurity, possessiveness, and pure honesty throughout the experiences, it was eventually impossible to live in that house anymore. It just got too cold. One of us had to leave.

In meeting Guo Jian, I realized that I had yearnings in my heart for a sealed home. I know I was at fault for choosing to live otherwise for so long—hell, I was half of the architectural team!—but when he said he wanted to be with me and me only, I felt my heart’s window sills lock into place with a snap. I didn’t recognize the feeling. I hadn’t realized how much I wanted that. It shocked me.

(And let’s not even talk about my skepticism. Could I really believe him?)

I wondered if somehow I was losing my edge. Isn’t there something revolutionary about celebrating love without the constraints of monogamous partnership? Aren’t queer people one step ahead in our alternative approaches to relationships? Had I stepped backwards in terms of social evolution?

It descended into a value judgment against myself. I was tired of the drafts and I was ashamed to admit it. I felt old and weary. I wanted to have a sealed home and my heart to be my guide, without the cumbersome weight of relationship politics and philosophy. I felt incredibly guilty for that desire, too, like I was abandoning my long-fought-for “poly(amourous) post.”

Guilty and, not to mention, boring.

Add to that this enormous reality of having had a man uncover that desire in me. No only was I waking up to my need to be in a different kind of partnership, but I had been awakened to that need by a man. How could this be possible? I had no idea that a man could touch my heart. It freaked me out.

And even though she didn’t say it, I could see that it freaked her out too. Yes, we had both discovered love outside of our partnership and so, yes, we could relate to each other finally, but there was something more biting about the news that he wasn’t a she. The double standard angered me, but it didn’t stop the winter winds from cutting deeply that season. Who can control the wind?

But, to be fair, the thickest layer on this pile of confusion was the reality of having discovered a place in the world that felt like my home, like a memory of a past life—China—and how much I wanted to be there, learning and exploring all of the cultural connections that I could feel were linked like whispers to my spirit that was straining to hear them.

My ex partner couldn’t share in this with me. How can one person compete with another person’s love for a place?  I betrayed her with geography. The drafts were now letting in cold air from the other side of the world.

By then, it was too late. Everything was crashing down around us and it was too late to run around trying to stuff the drafts and re-stabilize the structure. Truth is just truth. It can’t be denied. Watching the home of our love crumble made us both heartsick in ways I cannot begin to describe here.

I know now that I’m allowed to believe that two people can be enough for each other. Having that makes me no less of a strong queer activist or an enlightened, evolved being in this modern world.

Since getting married (two years after falling in love with Guo Jian in late 2009–more stories to come about that!), I feel a sense of calm that I’ve never felt before. Despite the fact that Guo Jian is male, straight, Chinese (and all the other things that make us an unlikely match), he and I are more alike than any of my ex-partners and I ever were, believe it or not.  And, it’s nice to know that I have someone in my life who is willing to go through it with me and me only, no matter what, for better or worse. Living with that calm makes every individual day just that much better. It keeps me present.

It keeps the windows sealed.

Roller Coasters

©2024 Ember Swift. All Rights Reserved.
Design by Janine Stoll Media.