The Un-Couple

Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

-Charles Bukowski

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About Love, Relationships, Dating, and Lifestyles

What Is an Un-Couple? It’s Brand New

Part 2-Continued from the Introduction

It’s hard to describe what an Un-Couple is, but easier to state what it isn’t. It’s not a relationship in the usual sense, because there are none of the typical expectations and commitments involved. It isn’t an open relationship, or a polyamorous relationship, although there are many similar features present. The differentiation between those models and ours, is that we’ve never had the expectation that the other person was Ours. What this means is that we do not need to communicate any agreements or understandings about anything we do; we are completely separate and completely free. We just happen to love each other and enjoy each other’s company. Sometimes, we spend more time with each other and during these periods we seem more Monogamish. Other times we don’t see much of each other, we don’t communicate as much, and we seem more like friends. We don’t have a situationship, as that implies that one party is withholding something the other wants as a means to exploit it for something they couldn’t get otherwise. We aren’t Friends with Benefits, because that implies that the two people do not have romantic love toward each other. It is, however, an unconditional loving companionship without any limits; probably most closely aligned with something called Relationship Anarchy. It may be endless, or it may have an ending, in either case, it is perfect; because it is the journey that matters. To learn more about the different relationship structures mentioned, check out this link.

But it’s wild without rules!

But why? Now, imagine two people who spark excitement in each other, are enamored with each other’s appearance, energy, personality, humor, knowledge, voice, smell, touch–someone you never get tired of, and you cannot imagine ever wanting to be away from them. Have you felt this way before? What happened? What was the first year like? How was it different than the second? The third? The 10th, if you’ve ever been in a relationship for that long?

Many fortunate people can answer these questions and say, “We grew a deeper bond, we became more like family, our appreciation for one another was stronger over time, we became so intertwined, we can’t tell where one ends and the other begins.” When I hear this, it brightens my emotions and I feel happy, relieved, and hopeful. For so many others, this is only a myth, a dream, or a nightmare.

Often, as a therapist, when discussing someone’s relationship, I hear things like, “We got sick of each other. They got on my nerves, I couldn’t breathe. I fantasized about a different life, being alone and independent. I dream about falling in love with someone else. I started wondering how I ever fell in love with this person. We started fighting about everything. I had no independence or sense of self. We grew apart.”

I realized over the last seven years that there were a lot of relational habits that were ushering couples toward this end. I wouldn’t have noticed these patterns if I hadn’t ended up in this Un-Coupled situation. But being free from all of the expectations, habits, and beliefs that guide a majority of relationships today, I had a unique perspective. I’ll share more about what I observed in later posts, but today I want to discuss what I wasn’t doing that truly set me free. In fact, it was what we both weren’t doing, together.

We agreed from the beginning that we always wanted to spend time with each other because we wanted to, and not out of obligation or habit. On one side of that equation, it means we get to choose our time intentionally. When we chose whatever it is that we wanted–spending time alone, with family, with friends, at work, sexual interests, new people, new friends, out of town, or each other–it’s all been respected equally. Each of us has full autonomy to do what we please with our time, at any time, all the time. That has never changed. This brings up a great deal of discomfort for many; and I understand; because it did for me in the beginning, too. I was willing to lean into this, however, because I simply lost too much time and opportunity being tied up in previous relationships of deep commitment. I couldn’t afford to commit any more of my energy and time to anyone except my career and my son. So I pushed through the discomfort, and beyond it I found many treasures that I’ll share later.

On the other side of this agreement, it means you have to think selflessly. There will be times when you want the attention of the other, but your feelings are not reciprocated. This is innately uncomfortable, but for some this could feel unbearable. There are usually underlying reasons for extreme discomfort, that have nothing to do with that person. If you want to know more about this phenomenon, look up Attachment Theory. You can read about how early attachment wounds with your caregivers can lead to insecurity in your later romantic relationships. But if you are willing or able to challenge this discomfort, you can lean into a loving stance for your partner, embracing the idea that they are happy when they do what they want to do, as are you. Let’s repeat that, as are you. Humans thrive in autonomous environments, it is inherent in our psychology. All through history we see how people fought oppression, whether it was political, economic, social, or personal, on a macro or micro level. Humans do not like to be controlled. If your partner wants to do something else besides spending time with you, any attempt to sway them otherwise is a persuasion away from what they truly want to do; in other words, it is an attempt at control. There may be some wins, but over time, many people tire of this type of manipulation, and the end result is an overall dissatisfaction and longing for freedom.

Many people think this concept of complete freedom is morally and ethically wrong. That is because we have been taught what a relationship is supposed to look like instead of learning about what actually makes humans work well in a relationship. We are taught that monogamy is moral, and opening up your whole self and whole life is the standard. Anything we are taught from a young age will most likely become our values, beliefs, and we won’t even realize we never had a choice. The primary belief system–that people do better in monogamous, long term relationships–is also referred to as a type of amatonormativity. I’m not saying that monogamy is wrong, or that opening yourself up is wrong; I’m saying there are more options, more ways to do things that are equally right. For people who have different types of needs, they require these options in order to be satisfied even if they don’t know it. These type of people have gotten labeled as emotionally or sexually selfish or flawed. But history has taught us this lesson, that what we once thought was moral–was just a paradigm that we bought into. Women once couldn’t vote, and landowners had slaves; we look back at these things with abhorrence and clarity. Isn’t it possible then, that perhaps monogamy isn’t any more moral than consensual non-monogamy? (Okay, okay, I feel you burning about jealousy. That’s another post on another day.) Today is about challenging old beliefs and re-evaluating values. You may discover that you are aligned with the traditional expectations of a monogamous and committed relationship, but I suspect many will find that is not what you resonate with. YOU, have options, as long as they are consensual and mutual.

In order to bypass the myriad of complications that promises, agreements and rules create, we avoided requiring each other’s time or attention. We wanted our time together to always feel brand new. We wanted to appreciate the other person when they were around, to always look forward to seeing one another. We never wanted to be guilty of taking the other person for granted, or manipulating them into wanting our company. We didn’t want to create opportunities to be upset or disappointed with the other, so we never set any expectations. We held true to those principles, even when it was uncomfortable, for the greater good. We also didn’t want to lose our independence–our freedom to explore this life entirely for ourselves, to remain open to whatever may come our way. We believed life was an adventure, and we didn’t want to sacrifice that to each other.

This kept us on our toes, we had to watch our actions and reactions much more closely, to ensure that we were someone the other wanted to be around. Seven years later, I still get butterflies when I see him walking toward my front door, when I see his name on my notifications, when I think of him when he’s away, just like in the beginning, when knowing him was Brand New.

From this post, let’s look at some key points for self-reflection. Are you engaging or pursuing the type of relationship that deeply suits who you are?

If you are already in a relationship, do you attempt to control how your partner spends their time? If so, what are the reasons? Sometimes this is necessary, particularly when raising children or living together. It’s important to evaluate the why, and avoid the more self-focused drive to control.

Are you being a person that someone wants to be around? We tend to get very comfortable with our partners, and lose sight of the energy and presence we bring to the room. It’s part of the phenomenon of taking someone for granted, that happens in couples.

Do you have a difficult time with separation from your partner? If so, this may be something rooted in deeper issues. This can be painful to live with, it may be time to seek professional insight to find relief in this area, and it can also benefit the relationship.

Do you feel a strong sense of jealousy when you think of your partner spending time with someone else? I’ll write more about this later, but jealousy is a great teacher. Feeling jealous is perfect opportunity to take a deeper dive into your beliefs about yourself, your partner, and the world at large. Read, talk, write, and learn about this jealous feeling, even if you are in a monogamous relationship—just for self-exploration.

Leave a comment if you have thoughts, experiences, or questions. I’d love to hear your perspectives.


One response to “What Is an Un-Couple? It’s Brand New”

  1. I’m still in the process of reading this but I must say this is truly fascinating. Everyone should do what works for them for thier own happiness! You are an amazing writer!

    Liked by 1 person

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