I, like most people in Western society, was raised with a pretty strict idea of how a proper relationship was supposed to look. My parents lived that ideal in a very intimidating way. They met when they were both nineteen, dated for three months, then got married. They are still together.
Growing up, a part of me envied them their close, loving relationship. Although they had their struggles, like any other couple, they do really love each other. On the other hand, the close connection they had at the exclusion of others filled me with dread when I imagined the same for myself. To live within a secluded circle, going to bed with one person and socializing occasionally with other couples seemed like a gilded cage. It was shiny and pretty, attractively packaged, but nonetheless a prison. I think I decided early on that I would prefer to be the mistress. Mistresses had their own separate lives and lovers, they traveled the world and had exciting stories to tell. Despite my wanderlust, the desire to love and be loved, and to have some sort of security in an uncertain world, is powerful. Looking back, I spent my late teens and early twenties chasing after that ideal, attempting to recreate that archetype of the sacred marriage, for myself. This resulted in a string of volatile monogamous relationships that, inevitably, ended. Although I learned a great deal from my period of serial monogamy, I found these relationships ultimately dysfunctional and stifling. This was not specifically a problem of monogamy, although monogamy has never felt right or natural to me. It seems so natural and easy to feel attraction to, and love for, more than one person at a time. The idea of being interested in someone else being a betrayal of a partner seemed strange, although I defended it during my time of serial monogamy. It seemed noble to sacrifice my sexual freedom for love. Of course, I would inevitably wind up resenting the sacrifice, and subsequently sabotaging the relationship so that I could go after the next fascinating person to cross my path.
When I was twenty two, I met my future ex-husband. We had a volatile relationship, one part passion, two parts teeth, which I convinced myself was the stuff of lasting, committed, white-picket-fence love. Except for the white picket fence part. I hate that shit. He was tall, strong and handsome. He resembled Antonio Banderas. He was also very kinky, which worked for me in the beginning. As our relationship progressed, it became clear that, although he was primarily a dom in the bedroom, I was hardly a sub. I enjoy playing with power exchange and being submissive on occasion, but I do not have the makings of a subbie princess slut. Still, I did my best to play the game. I wanted to make him happy and I wanted the relationship to work. Although we were monogamous, we flirted on the edges of non-monogamy. We, for example, were both free to pursue meaningful, non-sexual friendships with people we could be interested in. He was a fetish photographer, and I was a fetish, nude and boudoir model, so we routinely were naked around others or in the presence of naked people professionally. I also modeled for art classes. I also had a private client who would pay me to beat him and dominate him. It was not explicitly sexual – we both remained clothed during these sessions – but the sexual energy in these sessions was obvious.
Even though my relationship with my partner was clearly troubled, I started feeling the inexplicable pull towards being married. I started pushing the relationship in that direction. I wanted it to be official. I wanted proof that I was good enough, lovable enough, to be someone’s wife, someone’s chosen one. We had an unconventional wedding ceremony in a Zen garden with a Unitarian minister. I had a best man, he had a ‘second best woman’ as I affectionately called her. Because, hello! The bride is the best woman, doncha know? Even though the marriage did not last, I have very affectionate memories of my wedding day, and, of course, the wedding night. I wore a beautiful purple dress and I was the ultimate unti-bridezilla. I didn’t care about the details, as long as my friends and family were there, and there was food and wine, I was happy.
After the wedding, I fell into a deep depression. I knew I had made a mistake. We were fighting all the time, and I couldn’t imagine not fucking anyone else for the rest of my life. But I had made a commitment. I had dragged my friends and family to a ceremony. They had bought us gifts, shiny kitchenware and Egyptian cotton sheets with a high thread count. Those were the trappings of respectability. Underneath, there were some serious fault lines.
We packed up and moved to Vancouver. He found work almost instantly, while I went from job interview to job interview with little success. He suggested that I stay home, cook, clean, and write, and forget about finding a job. I know he intended this to be kindness, but it only intensified the feelings of isolation and inertia that exacerbated my depression. I was the worst housewife ever. And I was barely writing.
Eventually, I got a job waiting tables at a yacht club in Point Grey. At this time, we decided to open up our marriage. I wanted to explore tantra, and I was finding the strength within myself to say no to the BDSM activities that I did not enjoy. “Go, explore degradation play and bondage with someone else,” I told him. “I don’t want to do it anymore.”
We entered into non-monogamy as co-conspirators, but it soon became painfully clear that our attitudes and needs were not in alignment. I wanted to be polyamorous, and I wanted to be free to love other people. He was fine with me having sex with other people, but romantic love feelings were off the table. This resulted in him feeling insecure and me feeling stifled. Finally, after many explosive fights that pissed off our neighbors, I told him I wanted to end the marriage. “I can’t do this anymore. The fighting is so exhausting. Let’s stop tearing each other apart and split up while we still like each other.”
After that, I fled the suburbs and found a room in East Vancouver in a very old, decrepit house with three roommates. I took only the bare essentials, including my beautiful cat, who has been part of my life longer than any conventional romantic partner. When I left, I discarded the idea of monogamy. Although I would practice it for a few months at a time in the first year following my divorce, I no longer believed in it. And I worked towards being openly, shamelessly, honestly, and ethically, slutty.