What I learned from being unfaithful.
Illustrsations by @kika_canika
If we look at racial segregation, sexuality, and the reasonably flaccid cords around our necks, tying our lives to the prying spheres of our parents — we’ve all had a bit more room to breathe recently. The fingers clasped around self-expression, intimacy and all things good have finally begun to relax.
The ways in which we are now able to present ourselves means that our actions become ever-closer reflections of our inherent selves, our natural characters. These are our fundamental traits (sometimes called constructs) that we must fulfil and express in order to belong; to feel accepted — to have joy.
All going well, in time, all inhibitions restricting the means through which we can explore and enjoy these natural tendencies will be uprooted. Meaning more expression. More joy.
If and when expression is repressed or resisted, however, the symptom is always discord — unease, pain. Directly or indirectly, any emotional or physical conflict results from the denial of someone’s natural character.
A jealous partner, for example, resists the ways in which their spouse’s natural dispositions manifest with other people. Or pigs on factory farms, who chew at each other’s ears because they’re instincts have been cut out of the business model. Or simply feeling miserable, where the misery lies in an inability to accept something — resistance to what is — which casts a shadow of dissatisfaction over your psyche, obstructing your joy.
In summary, the repression of natural tendencies makes us feel bad. Whereas, the freedom of expression brings joy, because our natural way of being is accepted and realised.
Why then, as both people and as individuals, do we still maintain the exhausting notion that something that feels good, isn’t always good?
A perfect example of this is intimacy.
Why, when we all aware of the latent joy stored away in deep physical and emotional connection — love and intimacy — do we reserve so many tiers of human interaction for the bodies and minds of one sole individual: the partner?
When intimacy is honest, pure, it is a perfect expression of our inherent joy. Because, like joy, intimacy knows no prejudice, it holds no expectation, no cost. It is fun and free and natural. To enjoy another’s mind and body is literally to be in joy with them.
Yet the idea of what some might still refer to as free love remains a dangerous and unorthodox concept.
Intimacy is joy expressed within the dance of form. Love is the music of the heart. Yet, these instinctual celebrations are routinely cut short by our fixation with definitions and expectation. It often isn’t long before the ballroom becomes a battleground, and the ballet — a brawl.
I recently slept with someone else whilst in a relationship. I’m sure that many of you upon reading that will be met with the heavy thoughts, maybe even memories that you associate with promiscuity. However, I learned a lot from this experience and it feels right to include what happened, here.
In short, I went to a festival with a friend, a girl. Someone with whom I’d always had a strong affinity with. By the third or fourth day in each other’s company, I decided that the intuited calls to be intimate with her were both honest and loving. I felt, too, that my affections had adopted a new limitlessness: I saw that every moment of connection, physical intimacy or emotional, was nothing but the release of some inexhaustible intuitive energy, like a solar flare reaching out from the sun. I realised that connection is never something that we choose, rather only something we become aware of — a thought, a feeling, a rush — rising to the surface of our consciousness. A voice calling out from somewhere within our being that says hey, there’s joy here.
And so what is the difference, then, really, between resisting the urge to breathe and fighting an opportunity to feel?
Although our relationship could not exist as it had, the love and appreciation for my girlfriend and her ways remained completely. I told the older sister of my girlfriend, who I also went to the festival with, and her boyfriend how I felt. At this point, the girl and I had kissed twice and I told them this too. The boyfriend became angry; I was told I could not come home with them, and the girl, the friend, walked away from the group crying. I took my things and followed her into the crowd. It was the last day of the festival, neither of us had any battery on our phones nor any idea what to do. I said I would get a train with her back to London. We spent the rest of the day together and slept with each other that evening.
I told my girlfriend, who was away at the time, the next day. After that, separated, we met with each other three times following the festival. During these meetings there were many moments where all pain that had flared up, like the burning redness that surrounds a wound, was extinguished. When we held each other or looked into each other’s eyes, the inferred reasons for why I had done what I did disappeared. Once the focus on the meaning behind my actions had shifted, only the causeless, indiscriminate joy of being in each other’s presence remained. The same natural inclination to be intimate, to laugh, to be close arose in exactly the same way as it had with the girl from the festival.
During our last meeting, and after speaking for a while together, the topic moved back to the girl who I had slept with. I had stayed with her in London and had plans to see her again. Somehow, through the conversation that preceded, I spoke of the amazing resonance that the girl and I shared. At that, the stitches holding together our relationship, still barely breathing, were pulled out, and the tide of hurt and distrust that we had managed so far to navigate drowned out the joy of our togetherness, and we no longer speak.
A leaf that falls from the tree gains a new perspective from the ground.
Photo from Stephen Ellis
In light of what happened, I now believe that how we interact with each other should not be confined by the arbitrary definitions we place on relationships. And any attempt to do so, to cordon love off, only invites pain to grow between the cracks.
Of course, I can understand how sleeping with a girl whilst committed to another can and will be seen as both a betrayal of trust and a sign of disrespect. But as it is, must it be so? Were my sentiments and intentions responsible for the entirety of the pain — or are the rules by which we play the game setting us up to fail?
When kindness is free, what good does it bring to conserve it for the people we’re close to? Laughter is not reserved for friends, so why must sex be reserved for lovers?
Ultimately, I think people either believe that love is an internal element within oneself or something that must be acquired from other people.
Whilst it’s true we cannot experience many aspects of ourselves without others to provide a canvas for those aspects to be exhibited, the root of all joy is nonetheless contained within our being. The ability for us to experience love is a permanent and unconditional trait. We love other people because they encourage us to feel and think in certain ways, but the sensation of love can only ever be present when something or someone resonates with our natural character — our joy. You cannot find a joke funny without a sense of humour, just as you cannot love without love.
Really, we do not receive love, we create it.
If someone is giving, for example, the love you feel for their actions is really derived by the appreciation you have for your own charity. Their actions are like a reminder of the virtues of generosity itself, stored within you. On the other hand, if you are inherently Scrooge-like, other people’s philanthropy may arouse feelings such as resentment and anger within your consciousness because they remind you of parts of yourself that you do not love. If someone is malicious, it is your disdain for cruelty as a whole that causes you to dislike them.
The splendour of love is contained within the moment that love is created. Love resides only within the present moment because it is something that we feel — and feeling only exists in the now. By recollecting fond memories we are able to feel love at that moment, so how could love ever be given from someone else?
I believe that the people who understand love’s eternal yet momentary nature are like those who marvel unreservedly at the fleeting pirouettes and explosions of a firework display. They understand that love does not require a purpose; love is beyond reason, existing only to wonder at its own existence, its own complexity. Where those who try to savour and direct love are the people in the crowd taking photos.
To acknowledge love only when you see it in someone else is like enjoying the harvest without any appreciation for the sun: If looking only at the fruit in our basket, we lose sight of the power and greatness of nature; the turning seasons, the perfection and the beauty. Love is no different — we can watch the waves or we can have the ocean. For the moment you decide that you are the source of your joy, never again will you be poor in love.
The Business of Love
In the current paradigm, many do believe that love comes from other people. They seek to possess and protect it, like the assets of a business.
The business of love points all participants in the direction of loss and pain, and revolves around one key principle:
Love is a bit like money.
Firstly, people believe that, like a business, your emotional wealth is determined by what you posses. And so the extent to which you feel loved depends on your relationships — your assets.
Embodying this primary assumption, people then behave in a certain way in order to attract and acquire love. They create an idea of who they are, their strengths, their attractive qualities, like an investment portfolio.
All going well, they will attract an investment: friend, spouse or other. This person will induce certain sentiments that make the person feel good. The individual feels hightened, wealthier.
People then seek to protect their new relationships because they believe that once achieved, love, like money, can be lost. They enter into contractual agreements — boyfriends, girlfriend’s, spouses, friendship groups — in order to ensure their love. Literally to insure it. Each agreement entailing different expectations and obligations, from wedding vows all the way down to agreeing not to flirt with so-and-so.
Then the enterprise changes: someone in the relationship no longer reflects their original portfolio, or they start failing to honour the terms of the contract. They become interested in different things, wish to become more intimate with other people, offer less time and energy to their partners, and so on. In short, they no longer perform how they’re expected to. “They aren’t the person I married,” is an expression often used at this stage.
Like the shares of a stock exchange, the value of the relationship starts to fluctuate when the worth of the partner is reviewed and questioned. People begin to feel poorer because they have grown to expect the same emotional income from their partners.
Rather than allowing the relationship to mature, expand, change hands — to become enriched — the coupling suffers as it remains bound to the initial ideals and expectations laid out first-off, like a business that refuses to diversify.
If the change in the partnership is deemed as a loss, the investment may proove no longer sound and unworthy of maintaining. If so, like a company declaring bankruptcy, the relationship ends.
Then, akin to the bursting of a financial bubble, the love that has been “lost” creates a great psychological void. The love is quite simply gone because we believe it left along with our partners.
In the end, there is confusion, outrage and heartbreak because people feel less valuable. They invested a huge amount of their belonging into one body, and no longer feel as desired, loved, accepted, appreciated or enjoyed without it. This absense creates pain.
- We all have natural tendencies that when experienced bring us joy.
- When our natural tendencies are denied we experience the resistance in the form of unease or pain.
- When we experience our joy with other people we call this love and intimacy.
- These experiences are the result of our ability to create love.
- Sadly, many people believe that these feelings come from other people — not the realisation of their own loving essence.
- This belief leads to the formation of committed relationships, in order that love and intimacy are assured. The ability to explore joy, namely intimacy, is then confined to the terms of the relationship.
- The relationship becomes a symbol of an individual’s emotional wealth — and pivotal for continued access to their joy.
- Then, when one of the participants within the relationship does or becomes something beyond the expectations of the relationship, the relationship fails.
- This creates a psychological “void” (pain) because we believe this love has been “lost”. Or, in order to save the relationship someone’s natural tendencies are resisted and denied.
- Either way, in an effort to guarantee our joy we give life to the only thing that kills it — confinement.
How can we reconcile the idea that committed relationships lead to the pain with things like raising children or purchasing a house?
Society reflects the way we think and the way we behave. We have all bought into the idea of individualism and small family units, and so the structure of our countries continues to embody those ideals. Still, as we grow ever more estranged from our neighbours, we understandably hope to raise children within the most secure framework available to us: a committed relationship with one individual.
However, to recognise that any attempt to define or secure love does not work is a sign that a shift is taking place within our belief system. We are beginning to realise that current relationship conventions are not conducive to expanding the expression of our inherent joy. For one, polyamory (having many consensual sexual partners) is becoming far more common. And so, as we move ever close to what feels natural, we will also hopefully begin reconnecting with people on a deeper, more intimate level. And so, providing an environment of interconnected but unbound individuals in which we can raise children without the need for static relationships.
But what about now — how do I conduct myself within relationships in such a way that honours love’s illimitable nature?
There is nothing you need to do other than respect your true character. Through the people we meet and the experiences we have we are constantly changing, evolving. As we change so will the people that we resonate and spend time with. So the cycle repeats. We are all in a constant state of flux, so to commit oneself to any expectation only reduces the space in which we can continue our journey of self-exploration.
The trees that produce the most fruit will not be found in pots.
The only promise you should make is to discard all other promises. Whichever relationship you find yourself a part of — raising children, a fling, and everything in between. The only guarantee you should ever make is to honour your own evolution, whichever road that may take you. If it feels right to propose and marry somebody as an expression of your joy, then by all means do it. Go forth and be merry! All the while paying mind to the ungovernable nature of that which brought you together in the first place — Feeling.
Does feeling need a reason?
No one chooses who they are drawn to. Lover, friend — whomever. There is no explanation for the affection that is awakened within. It just happens. So why not permit these notions to proceed as they are always — in all ways — to be enjoyed in whichever form they adopt on the surface?
No conditions. No expectations. No resistance.
I am not talking about sex. I am talking about intimacy, laughter, love. The stuff we feel for other people that in one-way-or-another screams: I enjoy you!
Do you ever need more reason than that?