Monday, 1 November 2010

On-off non-exclusive romance?

This blog post represents something very rare: outside of a drinking game related situation, me talking about my private life. It's not something I do often. I don't think it's any of anyone else's business but mine. Besides, as you'll see, it's kind of complicated...

So why now? Mostly you can blame Stephen Fry. His ill judged comments - however misquoted - about how women don't enjoy sex and only do it to somehow trap men into a relationship made me quite indescribably annoyed. They were so ignorant and so spectacularly wrong it was almost physically painful. Not quite as painful as reading Yasmin Alabi Brown's response, which compared Fry to a wife beater, in today's i though. My disdain for YHB aside, Fry's comments did get me thinking about the nature of relationships and sex for women today.

The other thing that's inspired this post happened to me in W H Smith today. I was buying a Christmas card for The Bloke. One of those needlessly soppy World's Best Boyfriend things, you know the type. Whilst paying I was making small talk with the cashier, as you do. She asked me how long we'd been together, how we met etc etc. The conversation was amiable, to the extent that these things ever are, until I mentioned one detail about my relationship with The Bloke which killed the conversation completely. It's a detail that isn't important to us in any way but seemingly the rest of the world thinks it's amazing.

You see, we're not an exclusive couple. We've been together for five years, on and off, having been introduced by a mutual friend after an eyes across a crowded conference bar moment at Lib Dem spring conference when I was still at Uni. We've been an item ever since and, mostly, very happily so. So why does the fact that we both see other people sometimes matter?

Frankly, it doesn't. Not to us. I know he loves me and I love him. We have our ups and downs, as anyone who follows me on Twitter will have seen recently, like any other couple. But the stuff we argue about is the same stuff everyone else argues about - him not answering his phone, the amount I spend on clothes, how little we see each other.

We don't do jealousy. I know he's sleeping with another woman but it doesn't bother me. I leave my Facebook relationship status as single but it doesn't bother him. Why? Because when we're together it's all about us. He treats me like a princess and, though I say it myself, I'm one of the best girlfriends ever! We're one of those irritatingly couple-y couples, unashamedly so. He's the most loving person I could hope to be with but for reasons of geography and employment I can't be with him as much as I want to be. That's hard on both of us, so we don't begrudge each other getting close to other people. Amongst those who know what we're like as a couple we're renowned for being an extremely happy, adult and functional couple. Because that's what we are.

Maybe you think that's disgusting (although what right do you have to judge me?) or
representative of a lack of self confidence/respect from one or both us (it isn't). I really don't care. At the end of the day we're very happy exactly as we are.

There's one other reason, I think, why we are so contented at the moment. Both of us know that we're not going to last forever. I should explain that there's a significant age gap between me and The Bloke. When it comes to the whole marriage and kids thing he's been there, done that, got the t shirt and doesn't want to go back. I've never been there, and I do want to go. We both know that eventually I'll meet the person that I'll spend the rest of my life with and that will be that. I think this realism is incredibly healthy. We know we ultimately want different things in life and are facing up to it rather than trying to bury the fact and pretend it's not going to cause problems down the line. The Bloke and I will split up, but when we do it will be on good terms and I'm sure we'll remain close friends.

In the meantime my on-off non-exclusive romance makes me very happy indeed. And when Anton finally turns up at my door to sweep me off my feet, I'll be able to welcome him with open arms without a twinge of guilt. Why are you laughing?! Hey, a girl can dream!

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