Saturday, March 17, 2012

Triangulations of the Heart

I was under the weather yesterday. It's a situation that's always a bit unnerving since I live alone. What if something went very wrong? I always wonder about that when I don't feel well. Fortunately yesterday I realized whatever virus was passing through me was mild, hence was able to turn my mind to other things.

I've been thinking about the love triangle (because I'm finally watching Mad Men on netflix, probably). It is an essential human dilemma in this culture at least, which is why it appears in virtually every story, book, movie, song, and poem. The truth that most of us are not monogamous but we live in a society that expects monogamy, that demands stable, long term, exclusive relationships, puts people between a rock and a hard place. The heart opens, but if we follow our hearts, there will be hell to pay. Prior to that hell is a lot of lying and sneaking around.

Lately I've wondered whether any choice is "right" in these situations. What is a measure of having done it right?

The situation of the love triangle reminds me of the difficult stories in the Torah that Rabbi Manewith said are meant to challenge and provoke, make us examine and re-examine our values and ethics. There are tests in the military and elsewhere that do not have correct answers and can not be aced. They're tests of character rather than knowledge or expertise. Perhaps in our society, the love triangle provides rich opportunities to plumb the depths of our hearts, minds and bodies, to discover the things we need to change, or to understand our deepest desires, or both.

In my prime, I occupied every corner of a number of romantic triangles. Perhaps I learned from these experiences, perhaps not. What I remember about them is that they are very challenging but very compelling, too. I don't think back happily on these experiences when I look at them whole, but I treasure bits and pieces, blissful moments spent with the person I wasn't supposed to be with, or the way in which the affairs I engaged in helped me appreciate my primary relationships. It worked that way sometimes, it really did.

At least for me, there was never a happy outcome because according to the rules of monogamy, taking part in this sacred drama meant someone would betray, or be betrayed. What a set-up!

What's the alternative? Some people choose to keep their hearts closed to all except the chosen partner, and it seems to work well from what I've seen, though I feel sad imagining all the possible expressions of love these people denied themselves. Polyamory is another option. There are plenty of people who believe it's best to bring it all out into the open. They toss out the conventional rules and seem to live quite happily with the openness. I'm the first person to admit I'm not monogamous, but polyamory has no appeal. Even one relationship is impossibly time consuming and difficult to manage. But consciously taking on more than one at a time? Whoa. I always feel for the #2 wife in these situations because she must yield to the #1 wife in all things. That can not enhance self esteem, hey? But maybe I just don't get what polyamory is about.

Is it any wonder that I've spent most of my adult life single? Ha!!

Shabbat shalom, y'all.


ellen abbott said...

I think you can love another person without being sexually involved. I do. I have a very close male friend who I would venture to say we have been/are in love but live far apart, maybe only seeing each other every 3 - 5 years and never alone, always with our spouses about. We met before either of us met the ones who would become our life partners. We wrote frequently, sending little gifts, stealing a kiss when we could but never going farther. His wife told me once that she really didn't understand the relationship, the obvious connection but she finally had to accept that there was something there that we needed from each other. I always tried not to make her feel threatened. Now 42 years later the frequency and intensity of our communications has tapered off, but I still hold him in my heart and I am there in his too.

Jo said...

What a provocative post, Reya.

I know very few people who escape some sort of triangulation eventually. Is it human nature?

Does it really depend on our values and ethics, or do we sometimes just simply "fall" for another person? As the word implies, it may be completely unexpected and accidental, yes?

Is acting upon those feelings the true test of our ethics, or is simply having those feelings for another person unethical?

Like the good rabbi would have us understand, I think some things in life have no simple answers. The conundrum itself is a lesson in compassion and humanity.

steven said...

hmmmmm it's cool to read this from your rich perspective reya . . . i've had close female friends all my life . . . i prefer them to men . . . i like the way women think . . . triangulations . . . ha! i never threw the geometry over top of the details . . . that sort of perfection has always escaped me . . . it's always been much messier . . . steven

Reya Mellicker said...

Ellen how precious, in the truest sense of the word. How beautiful. Wow.

Jo, no one can control their feelings. As you know I believe love is a force of nature like the wind that "comes over" sometimes, sometimes not. It's what we do about it that reveals so much about our characters, at least I think so.

I had wonderful, spectacular affairs. What I couldn't handle was the requisite lying and sneaking around. It wore me out. I have no idea what that says about my values!

Steven oh yeah messy messy messier! Messiest!! Oh yeah. The creative process is always messy, hey?

Steve Reed said...

I think as we get older monogamy gets much, much more appealing. (I don't know how people marry young!) And everyone feels attraction for others who are not their partners -- that's lifelong. It's the human condition.

But you realize that your partner is worth more than that attraction -- and if feelings for others are there, you don't act on them. Are you then denying yourself love, or deepening the relationship you already have? I think the latter.

(I'm no expert, having been in a relationship a relatively few years, but that's my take on it!)

Reya Mellicker said...

Steve you are very mature - and you have a real marriage. I never experienced that. I am in awe.