I just ended a two-year affair. It wasn't a relationship in the sense of being partners or lovers, it was different from that, but it had endured, and it was good most of the time. He already has a lover, and we were clear about the limits on what we did.
And even though we weren't "in love" we did love each other in our own way. You can't really keep on hooking up for that amount of time without caring for the other guy.
But in the end I decided that it just wasn't good for me. It took up a lot of my emotional energy, yet in the cold hard light of day, I could see that it was time to move on. He was surprised and wounded at the rupture, and so was his partner but obviously to a lesser degree. Yes, it hurt , but I know I made the right call.
And it made me think about the huge weight we tend to put on love these days, our expectations that love is the answer to everything, that love makes it all ok. That's asking love to carry a lot, and is a relatively new way of thinking.
In the past relationships were formed more around ideas of how to build a stable family, how to work the farm together, keep the community going, and were often set up by families - the idea that we should fall in love first, then settle down, is a very new one.
Of course, for homos, it's different. We get to chart our own way through the world, as we don't have thousands of years of patterns of same-sex relationships to look back on and model ourselves on. We have the chance to form new ways of relating. I know men who happily manage living as a threesome. I know others who have different networks of lovers, more part of a group than a couple. And I know lots of couples who will never marry, they have been together decades and see no need for it.
But of course, because of the way we're raised, being a couple is seen as the gold standard, and the appeal of the romantic "Love is forever and once" model is strong. It also explains the rise in popularity of gay marriage, something that simply wasn't even on the horizon 30 years ago when Gay Lib was at its most active. Then settling into a couple was almost seen as a bit strange, a bit limiting, blindly following straights, pretending to be like them in a sad little parody of suburban life, when gay men could be out there fucking and loving in all sorts of new ways - or so the theory went.
I know a lot of guys my age and older who are dismissive of gay marriage, see it as conformist, giving in, simply apeing the straights. But for many young guys it's obviously much more important, and I understand and respect that. It is a lovely thing to have your relationship celebrated by the most important people in your life, whatever the gender mix of the couple. It's important to have legal recognition as well. And standing up in front of everyone you care about and committing yourself to another person is a big thing.
But love - that magic word - we ask so much of it. We had both told the other we loved each other, in our own way, we both cared for and liked each other. But in the end, I could tell it wasn't enough.
I know I will love again, and everytime it's different. But as I age, I see more and more, love alone isn't enough.
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