The ability to worry is a curse on the human species. Sure, other animals may stress about immediate needs like food or shelter, but we have taken the ability to fear the unknown and perfected it to an art. We’ve morphed a necessary survival skill into a crippling stream of conscience that allows us to play out our worst fears in vivid details right inside our over developed brains. Plot twists and dramatic story lines that have little to no likelihood of ever actually happening plunge us into the depths of despair.
What’s particularly fascinating is the irrational nature of worrying. For example, when people find out I’m not monogamous, they immediately start spouting off about increased risk for STIs or heartbreak. The facts prove neither one of these risks is higher in the world of non-monogamy. Recently, I saw a forum where a couple in the process of a divorce was arguing about the effect the man’s non-monogamous lifestyle would have on their children. The mother was concerned the children would lack stability if their father dated multiple people. However, unless she hitches up with the first man she dates, it will be no different with her.
Monogamy is associated with stability but this is a false premise. I thought I would be with my ex-husband forever. That’s the word associated with true love after all. After we split I immediately went in search of my next forever love. Forever turned out to be four months. It took two years of successive heart breaks to make me wonder if maybe there was another way.
I know I haven’t escaped future heartbreak by embracing non-monogamy and evading the relationship escalator. The illusion of forever is no longer associated with my feelings for someone. It took me a little while to figure out this doesn’t make those feelings any less real. What’s hard, though, is knowing at the back of mind there is an end date.
Most of the time I can focus on the present, but my worrisome brain occasionally plays an apocalyptic movie that shows the possible futures with painful violent clarity. There doesn’t have to be a trigger. It could happen when the reality of my life is a Norman Rockwell painting. I think part of the problem is I lack the framework for this type of relationship. Cognitive dissonance allows married people to feel safe even though the numbers are not in their favor.
A little over a month ago, my partner called and asked how I felt about cohabitation. After talking it over, we decided to move in together. We found an amazing apartment with a panoramic view of the Salt Lake Valley, surrounding mountains, and downtown. Moving is a pretty mindless task so I’ve had a lot of time to think the past few days. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to create a shared space with him. However, I’m scared to feel too happy because I know nothing lasts forever.
As soon as I see those words in writing I can see how ridiculous it sounds, but my brain doesn’t care. Fortunately, another thought occurred to me that has alleviated a lot of my stress. I need to frame my relationships in terms of a vacation. Vacations are blissful escapes from reality that allow you to rediscover yourself in the context of new places and experiences. Knowing they will end does not cause you to enjoy them less. In fact, it’s knowing they will end that makes them so special. The end is bittersweet, but not traumatic to scale with the apocalypse. If I think of my relationships like a vacation, I can focus on enjoying them as much as possible without the inevitable end spoiling all the fun.
So instead of thinking about our end, I’m going to think about how to arrange my books I insist on dragging around year after year every time I move. We are going to watch the sky change like moving art from our living room. We will cook amazing food in our kitchen and brew beer while listening to music or watching The Office. In the morning, we’ll cuddle with the cat. This is my life right now, and I am going to enjoy the fuck out of it.
Who Needs Forever by Astrud Gilberto
Who needs forever
Love me today
Let’s forget tomorrow
It’s too far away
So hold me
Don’t waste this moment
Let’s live this moment like it’s the last
Time goes so fast
Love Shouldn’t linger
Love shouldn’t wait
When fates allow a choice of now or never
Who Needs Forever