Tuesday, February 23, 2016

2-23-2016 Entry: Learning How to Trust Again

Hello my darlings. Really, right now, I should be writing my “I’ve been on estrogen for 1 year” entry, but for some reason I just don’t have the energy for it. I hope to do a progression of HRT pictures so you can all see the transformation I’ve gone through over the last year, but I do not have them all in one place, so it’s going to take some virtual sleuthing to figure out where they are all hiding.

Anyways, no, I’m not here to talk about hormone effects. In fact, I’m not even here to really talk about gender things, although gender is part of every interaction, especially the realm of dating. Yep, that’s right, more discussions on dating as a transfeminine extraordinaire… a least sort of.

What I really want to write about tonight is the topic of learning to trust. Trust is extremely important to any relationship, whether it be a friendship or a family tie, but it is especially important when you are in a romantic relationship. That trust is paramount because it is most often our romantic partners (or at least it probably should be) with whom we share the truly intimate and vulnerable sides of ourselves. No one usually knows your flaws, imperfections, insecurities, and traumas more than your partner/spouse. It’s important to have a truly trusting bond with that person because when another person knows your vulnerabilities, they have the potential to really hurt you.

My trust, as we are all probably painfully aware of after months of me ranting about my divorce, was utterly destroyed when my ex-wife cheated on me and moved out two weeks later. She knew more about me than anyone has ever known about me. She knew me better than perhaps I even knew myself in some ways. She had all of my heart and complete trust. She’d never really hurt me, not in any irreparable way that I couldn’t forgive after a short period apart where we could both chill out. No, she had all of my trust. I knew, yes I’m deliberately using the word *knew*, that my wife would never hurt me. I trusted her utterly.

Perhaps that was my mistake about her character, or perhaps people are just flawed human beings usually doing the best they can, and those flawed humans fuck up sometimes. Either way, her actions devastated my trust in her, and really my trust in most people. I had been more vulnerable with her than I’d ever been with anyone and she not only hurt me but in many ways rejected my very being with her infidelity. She didn’t want to be a lesbian and although she was happy for my transition, she didn’t want me anymore as a result of it. If someone I loved so much couldn’t be trusted fully, then how could anyone really be trusted? If my partner of 7 years could so quickly throw away our relationship then how could I ever trust a new person to not do exactly the same thing?

As you are all likely aware, I have been testing the waters of polyamory for a while now and have not only become involved with Rose but have also had dates with several other people as well. What you may not know, at least not explicitly, is that a major reason I have gravitated to the world of polyamory is because of the safety it offered. I’m sure some of you are out there scratching your heads wondering how becoming romantically involved with multiple people at once, some or all of whom are in other romantic relationships could at all be considered the safer route in dating, but I assure you that it has been. It has been the safe route because it has also been the route that required the least amount of commitment. Without commitment to making the relationship last as long as it can with the eventual goal of getting married, it was much safer to become involved with people.

I adore Rose, I really do. I have almost never not enjoyed spending time with her or talking with her on the phone. She understands me and I understand her in ways we don’t get from other people. I could list a great number of reasons why that is, but suffice it to say that we complement one another and one another’s current emotional needs in a lot of ways. One of those emotional needs on my end is the need to not be at risk of really being hurt. True, Rose could hurt me if she wanted to. True, I did have to lower my guard a bit with her to even become involved with her, but I was able to lower that guard because of the low risks associated with our relationship dynamic.

Rose and I will never fall madly in love and want to spend the rest of our days together in monogamous bliss with kids and a house and… etc. etc. No, Rose and I do not even really have that as an option on the table (a key agreement you should come to before you enter into any polyamorous relationship unless it is intended to be polyfidelitous). What this means is that it is easy for me to trust her, not only because of who she is at heart and the boundaries we have agreed upon, but because she can’t bring ruin to my life on a whim. She can break up with me. She can lie to me. She could do all sorts of mean things, but because we have agreed that the love-story ending isn’t even a possibility between us she cannot devastate my trust the way my wife did. She will never be as close to me as my wife was, simply because she and I will never agree to make our lives a joint-venture until the end like one does in a wedding vow.

Any of the people I dated who knew I was polyamorous also had a minimal ability to hurt me because they too understood that things between us were really only casual. Neither of us were searching for the one we would fall in love with and neither of us expected the other to be that person or to want us to be that person for them. No, we were going into the dates under the mutual understanding that no matter how close we got to one another, we would never really make our lives a joint-venture until the end like you do in a marriage.

When I know that there is little to no risk that my relationship with a person will grow into a “let’s get married” level of seriousness, it is easier to trust and be open. When I know that I’m not at much of a risk of falling helplessly in love with someone, it’s easier to be somewhat vulnerable with them. I’m not saying it’s not scary after the divorce and I’m not saying it was necessarily all that easy, but it was certainly easier than the alternative. I can say that with some degree of certainty because the alternative has potentially crept into my life again.

I do not want to ruin what may turn out to be a very good thing by blabbing too much about it on here before I know what it even is, but suffice it to say I’ve met someone truly amazing. She is just completely awesome on so many levels. It’s the kind of person that you just seem to click with right away. Neither of you likely understand why it is happening but both of you find yourselves pulled together like magnets and are unable to resist the attraction. Somehow, despite all the warning in your heart and your brain, you put yourself at risk of getting hurt even after so much devastation has happened so recently.

It is then when you realize just how broken-hearted you still are. When someone finds their way past your defenses and you aren’t even sure how they did it, you start to get scared. I, my darling readers, am terrified right now. I’ve only just really met this person but her uncanny ability to get past my defenses tells me that I am at risk of getting hurt, and I feel so uncomfortable in that position. When I am with Rose, I know that she will not devastatingly hurt me because of the nature of our relationship and the quality of her character. I cannot say the same thing with as much certainty about this person or the nature of our relationship. I believe, whole-heartedly, that this person has character and that she has an enormous heart that’s filled with loving kindness towards others, but I also know she has managed to get a lot closer to me in a much shorter amount of time than Rose (or anyone for that matter) has. Add to that uncanny ability to evade my defenses the fact that our relationship is as yet undefined and without boundaries, and you can likely see why I feel afraid.

I set boundaries with Rose before I allowed myself to really trust her with my vulnerabilities. I have done the exact opposite with this new person. I have given her my trust with absolutely no discussion of boundaries. The only discussion we had about anything related to relationships was that she was thinking that she didn’t want to do polyamory anymore and was strongly considering just being monogamous with someone. That discussion happened before we started moving outside of the realm of “just friends” into the realm of falling asleep in each other’s arms and/or making out. We have no label on what we are doing. No clear direction on where this is going. The only information I really have at this point is that she doesn’t regret anything we’ve done and wants to see me again.

This situation would be completely fine were it not for the fact that I feel so vulnerable around her and I feel vulnerable around her for one major reason. She makes me want to open myself up again to the possibility of love. After what happened with my ex-wife, I pretty much convinced myself on a deep level that I would never love again. I vowed to never allow myself to fall in love again, at least not for many years. I vowed to keep everyone at a healthy distance so that I’d never put myself at risk of being hurt the way I had been before. This person undermines every one of those vows I made to protect myself.

I’m not saying that I’m in love with her, (I’m not a crazy person) but I am saying that this is the first person I’ve met since my marriage ended 4 months ago that has made me want to be in love again. I was so certain that I would never want to be in love again. Even as I sat alone, feeling lonely and missing my wife and marriage, I never really believed love would find its way to me again. Even if it did manage to find its way to me, I was fairly certain I would turn my back on it. Why fall in love if the end result could be devastation and heartbreak? Why trust someone that much when they are almost certain to let you down? Why put your heart into the hands of another person when it’s been broken so many times before?

When I went to meet this person, I had pretty much decided that I was only seeing her as a friend. I didn’t expect for anything to happen besides conversation and maybe some good company. I knew where she was in her life and how wounded she’d been by those that had claimed to love her, and I knew she needed a kind friend. I knew that she needed to have her faith in the goodness of people restored, so I wanted to be a resource for her. I had gone through a heartbreaking divorce, and so had she. We had common ground to meet on and having someone else there who understands what it’s like to have your life descend into chaos so quickly, is really wonderful. It makes it seem a little less lonely, even if each situation is 100% a solitary venture. I knew that I was in a better place than she was and I wanted to be the person who could show her that she wasn’t doomed to some miserable fate. I wanted to help restore her faith that her life was not over because of these terrible things and that, eventually, things really do get better.

It says something about this person’s ability to circumnavigate my defenses that me going into this interaction with 90% platonic intentions (I’m keeping 10% because she’s amazingly gorgeous and a total sweetheart, so how could I not at least be somewhat interested in more?) resulted in her falling asleep in my arms and us kissing goodbye when I decided to leave in the early hours of the morning. Can you see why I would be alarmed? I go with the flow, sure, and I’m usually not too quick to turn down the affections of a truly beautiful and charming person, but I also don’t jump into these kinds of interactions on the very first night we meet.

When I had my date with Kate that resulted in us snuggling on her couch and holding hands (before awkwardly having to come out to her) it was our third time seeing one another. We had gotten to know one another and had graduated to that minimal degree of affection rather slowly. When I had a super flirtatious and affectionate interaction with another girl at the bar, that interaction only escalated to a fairly mild point and there was definitely the diminished inhibitions resulting from alcohol involved (not to mention the atmosphere of a very affectionate group of non-monogamous friends). In both of those interactions I was terrified and nervous. I didn’t know how to react to such affections and was honestly afraid to engage in them. I was so afraid of where they might lead and how unprepared I was for that.

It is precisely the opposite with this new person. Let’s just give her a pseudonym… hmm…  let’s call her Lilo (she loves stitch, so it’s fitting). When I am with Lilo, (and we have spent more than one night together as of me writing this) I am not afraid of where things are going. I am not nervous by her affection. I am not terrified of being with her in an intimate way. The fact that she is completely gorgeous and is this totally amazing person doesn’t intimidate me. In many ways it is like she has helped me to rediscover the rhythm I was afraid I’d lost forever.

Not dating for seven years is like not dancing for seven years. Chances are, you are going to be pretty terrible at it, at least at first. I used to be really good at dating. I used to be really good at the beginning stages of a relationship with the kissing and cuddling and the fooling around. I used to have confidence in my ability to be a noteworthy lover in that regard. I had rhythm so to speak. After my divorce and before Lilo, I had lost that rhythm. I had lost that confidence that gave me the poise, patience, and skill as a potential lover. I forgot what it was like to lose myself in the throes of passion and to feel my body move in unison with another’s as we embraced and kissed. Somehow, Lilo has helped me to find that rhythm again, and that scares me.

It scares me because I want to keep rediscovering that rhythm. It scares me because I want to keep allowing her to circumnavigate my defenses. I want to keep allowing her inside where she can see my vulnerabilities. I want her to tear down the walls I’ve built around my broken heart. I want her to help me rebuild that broken heart with affection and loving kindness, just as I want to help her rebuild her broken heart with my affection and loving kindness.

I am afraid because I want to put myself at risk of being hurt. I am afraid because I want to trust her in a way I believed I’d never allow myself to trust again. I am afraid because in many ways I already do trust her to that extent.

I know that the only way I will truly move on from my divorce and the pain that my ex-wife caused me with her actions is to put myself out there again. The only way to recover from a broken heart is to offer it to another person. I can rebuild my own heart with self-love and self-care to a certain point, but before it can be truly healed, it needs the glue provided by the loving kindness of another. The only way to rebuild the ability to trust another with your vulnerability is to do exactly that, entrust them with it. Shutting myself off, barricading myself in, and keeping everyone at arm’s length will never restore what I have lost. Only by trusting someone with my vulnerabilities and by putting myself at risk of being hurt can I finish rebuilding what was broken.

All I can do is trust that Lilo will not hurt me, at least not intentionally. Outside of that, my only option is to push her away out of fear. I believe to push her away out of fear would be a tragic mistake. Even if our blossoming connection fizzles out and we decide to stop seeing one another, the fact that I am willing to even try to open myself up to the possibility of love means I am making progress. It would be a shame, I think, to shrink back in fear now.

No, Lilo both excites me and scares me, and I know that when something excites you and scares you at the same time, it is the thing you have to do.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek” –Joseph Campbell

Letting myself become vulnerable to Lilo by continuing to see her and continuing to put myself at risk of being hurt is the cave I fear to enter, and as such, I know that I must do exactly that. All I can do is have faith that I will find what I am looking for and that I will be able to provide her with the same level of trust, affection, and loving kindness that she is giving me. No matter where our journey takes us, even if we only end up as friends, I know that I will be glad that I did not shrink back in fear by not allowing myself to embark on the adventure ahead.

So, my darlings, as a final word I want to say this: if you are out there, suffering from a broken heart or broken trust, the following is what I want you to take from this entry. It is terrifying to put yourself out there after you’ve been hurt, and while it is truly important to be cautious in the matters of love and trust, don’t be so cautious that you forget to actually live. A life of isolation and mistrust is hardly a life worth living. Yes, you might get hurt. Yes, you might have your trust broken again, but when you risk nothing, you also gain nothing. Do not shrink back in fear. Bravely enter that cave and find that treasure you’ve been seeking. I promise you that if it scares you and excites you at the same time, it will be worth the risk.

Well, that’s all I have for now. I’ll check back in soon to write my one year HRT update, so definitely keep an eye out for it. Most of you haven’t seen my face in a while, let alone my new tattoos and nose piercing. What can I say? I’m a sexy devil these days, lol.

 With love and affection,


-Emma

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