Yes, I Have a FWB. No, I’m Not a Slut

At 2 a.m. on a Saturday night last summer, The Canadian walked into my life. He waited for the creepy guy hovering over me to head to the bar, and then he slipped right in as he said, “You’re the prettiest girl here, why are you talking to him?”

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The Exclusively Nonexclusive Relationship

In a matter of days, Mr. Possibility returns from his overseas two-month business excursion. I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t incredibly nervous and maybe even more confused. Not by him, but by myself.

Since he’s been gone, there have obviously been some developments between us and certain things have changed. I have missed his company, but my life has also become increasingly busier and fuller. My career has started to grow, along with my group of close girlfriends and contacts. I’ve placed more effort on my running time, indulged in more brunching, and meeting a collection of new interesting people. Within the next couple of months, not only will I continue through this 12-step program, but I’ll also be moving to a new apartment, and at last, Spring will be here and all of this cold weather will be a distant memory.

Have I changed since the start of December when he caught his 10-hour flight? Absolutely. Do I still feel the same way about the possible relationship I thought we could have? I don’t know.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks really thinking, considering, and determining how I truly feel about whatever it is that we are, or we were doing. When I met him, I was at a point of complete self-discovery where I was determined to leave not only the past, but the bad habits I developed from old relationships and my own doings, far behind me. I had made a distinctive decision to be the captain of my own soul, to lead my life without worrying or stressing about men, and finding love –or even the chance for it – was miles from my mind or priorities. Instead, I was embarking on the journey of sincerely learning to accept myself.

And then, as they always seem to do, a man came into my life. Not just any man at that, but a tall, attractive, and successful guy who made me laugh, who was intelligent and charming, and for whatever odd reason, we connected in a way that I don’t believe either of us could describe to give it its full merit. It wasn’t love at first sight, or maybe even love at all, but it was something. And even though I was concentrating so diligently on being a single gal, I also promised myself I’d never turn away from what could-be, just because I was afraid of what I may find.

However, I never got to the point where I wanted a relationship. Where I couldn’t stand the thought of being with anyone else. Where I wanted to introduce him as my boyfriend to my friends or my family. Where I felt the need to have “The Talk” with him that every man on this planet intensely fears (and women too, for the matter). Where I hoped to accept a relationship request on Facebook.

On the other hand, in keeping with the “no rules” rule – I decided to give myself sexual liberties. The power to free myself and my own thinking about when it is okay and not okay to have sex with someone. Before, I needed to be head-over-heels, practically in love, to even consider getting down to my skimpies. I needed to have commitment. Stability. The absolute, undeniable promise that this man did care about me, did have my best interest at heart, and I could rest assured that he’d be there not only the next morning, but next month, too. In all the times before Mr. Possibility, even when I sincerely had the desire to sleep with someone, I refrained to protect my heart, protect my number from going up, or maybe, just protect what I was afraid would break if I gave in.

But then, Mr. Possibility showed me that I don’t need a ring or a title to have an orgasm. Maybe, I just need to have a connection based on honesty with someone, know who they are as a person, and most importantly, trust that if something goes awry, I can still depend on myself to pick up the pieces, should anything shatter.

However, as liberated as I became as a single woman – I didn’t reach the point where I wanted to sleep with an additional man. Nor did I feel comfortable to balance two (or three or four) different beds. And when I discovered his explorations in other possibilities, I was sincerely hurt. I felt betrayed and like the hope I had in whatever we were creating was damaged. I had agreed to a no-strings attached relationship, even though I knew both of us were starting to tie our ends together. I had agreed to casual sex, even when both of our feelings were a little more serious. I had been an active, willing, and happy participant in a relationship that didn’t require or demand monogamy…until I discovered it wasn’t, in fact, sexually monogamous from his perspective.

Yet, even after knowing, I still didn’t want to be his girlfriend or set boundaries within the confines of a relationship. I just didn’t want him to do the deed with anyone else. Basically – I wanted an exclusively, nonexclusive relationship.

Is this a complete double standard? Am I fooling myself into thinking I’m capable of the friends-with-benefits relationship? I wasn’t the only one developing emotions, but were mine far stronger than his? Or is that sex just really does complicate everything? Or is it that defining a relationship places pressure on the developments of dating?

I will say there are genetic differences between men and women in many ways, and especially in sex. In my experience, men are able to jump more freely from woman to woman, where a lady has trouble shutting off feelings or projections from man to man. I could go into detail about the hormones released and the scientific studies, but I won’t.  I refuse to generalize every man and every woman, for I rather believe we’re defined more by being individuals than our genitalia. Regardless, getting naked – either emotionally or literally exposes you to someone else in the most intimate of ways. And with that intimacy, comes a certain level of trust. That faith, that reliability, regardless if its for a night, for a few months, or for the time your partner is across many oceans, needs to be nurtured to keep not only the possible romance (if there is one), but the sex, preserved and healthy.

Somehow, even with all of the progress I’ve made, all of the love addict qualities I’ve kicked to the curb with my Louboutins, I’ve discovered there are certain non-negoitables, particular charactertiscs and dare I say, moral obligations that a person makes to him or herself. And those, even in the span of progress can’t be compromised. I’m not sure how things will be when he comes back, how I will react to seeing him, and I’m positive we can’t just jump right back in where we left off. Though with possibility comes a hope for something more, it also opens up the opportunity to see what’s possible and acceptable for yourself. Maybe I don’t feel the need to have a boyfriend or to call Mr. Possibility my one-and-only, but when it comes to traveling the jungle of single sex, I’m more of a two-person safari gal. Perhaps he’s more of an explorer. Or we’re both somewhere in between, trying to decide what’s best for each of us. Or for the “us” we both thought there could be, or potentially still could be.

If there’s anything I’ve learned in his two month absence and all that’s happened in the weeks we’ve been connected only through technology and not touch – it’s that relationships, in their truest forms, are of course fleeting, but also indefinable. Monogamy may be easy to explain, but the interpretation changes as quickly as a polygamist’s bed. Cheating has all sorts of different levels and doesn’t just involved banging boots, but can encompass emotions beyond what we anticipated. Benefitting with a friend is dangerous territory, just like rebounding with a handsome stranger. The point between talking and dating, casual and serious, picturing the future and living it, and the time where a hard place comes into play and the rock goes on the finger – are all lines that are easily blurred.

Maybe, the only relationship we can truly have on our own terms, without compromising or bending the rules or our standards, is the one we have with ourselves. And even that one is also complicated, and is neither exclusive or nonexclusive. Because at times we open up ourselves to possibilities, and other times, we’re completely content with being in only the company of ourselves. But most of the time – we’re somewhere right in between, deciding which turn, which page, which road, to take next.

PS: Confessions of a Love Addict is considering a Q&A Sunday where Lindsay answers questions from your own stories about the journey of self-love (and the men along the way). If you’re interested, send her an email.