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Fantasy without desire?

October 10, 2016

Desire is always for the other, I have been told. I felt like I ought to know this from the amount of interest I have shown in psychoanalysis and Freud, over a time, but I had never noticed it. Now a few years on it suddenly seems to matter a lot.

I separated from my partner of nine years and naturally, for me, I am now passing through phases in my attitude to sex. For a long run up towards the end I thought: ‘No, we can’t possibly break up, the sex is good, worth fighting for, we deserve better and we can achieve better, including in our sex.’ When we broke up: ‘Oh my god, now no sex. It doesn’t matter though, everything else in life added together is surely more important!’ Concurrently with this phase: ‘Hooray! Now I can have sex with anyone in the entire world (ish) whenever I like, including non-serious, casual, once only, even anonymously.’ Still not interested in animals though, sorry.

There was also briefly: ‘I’ll never have sex that good again.’ But now there is more a sense of: ‘When I began to feel more and more the frustrations with our sex why did I still hang on to dreams of our developing together for so long, instead of adding that to the mounting evidence that we were flaking away?’ Recently the fantasy of unlimited fun sex has made way for: ‘What if I never find anyone I am particularly sexually attracted to again?’ But the worst, the real terror, maybe it’s one you know: ‘What happens if I slowly fall head over heels in love with someone and they tick all my boxes (developing checklist for another blog), but then, in the sack, we just don’t do it for each other?’ Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhhhhhh.

I have started remembering previous casual encounters more clearly. One night stands can be fun but I can’t remember many where I had an orgasm. Am I therefore too old for that now? I don’t want to spend ages cruising for hot men, in order to satisfy the idea that I can express free agency, only to find all I have is freedom to choose to be vaguely disappointed. Am I being pessimistic? Probably. I can imagine hooking up and having good sex because I can’t possibly imagine getting into bed with anyone that I don’t really, really like, and that narrows things down a lot. And, if I do remember my one night stands clearly, it’s what makes sex incredibly satisfying whether you come or not: giving pleasure in the hope of simply exchanging it. Giving pleasure to someone you really like is good. It’s obvious that what you share or get back is unknown.

Suddenly a terrible thought occurs: ‘What if I have sex with someone who is critical, or disappointed?’ Oh dear, better go into hibernation for good.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Christ why doesn’t she just buy some toys and have a wank?’ Well, of course that’s a good option. One I was far too distracted by to have been able to write this blog first; although I have resisted making rash purchases. But guess what? I even managed to let my theorising get in the way of that.

I am aware of plenty of times I have enjoyed sex alone without a fully fledged fantasy in my head, in fact it’s rare that I fully fledge a fantasy, being really too lazy for that sort of thing, a bit of visualisation is normally enough. But it got stuck in my head that I would always need to rely on an image of someone real, and someone I desire, to get off. During the last few phases I have drawn in and spat out lots of potential fantasy material, leaving me with the unhappy question: What if every time I masturbate my head fills with images of people I don’t want to masturbate about? What if I betray myself? What if I get off thinking about my ex; will that compromise me in my recovery? What if I get off thinking about that guy who … (this, that or the other)? Will it mean I develop stronger daytime feelings that aren’t any good to me?

Marvelling at my own ability to make things that should be simple, wholesome and fun (and potentially healing and stress-reducing), into things complicated, stressful and serious, I have kept falling asleep unwantedly. Then yesterday, out walking, the penny finally dropped.

My anxiety, with apologies from the heart to all the people in the world with actual problems (I am ashamed), has been that fantasising about people I don’t really fancy will affect me in life, or reveal to me that I do fancy them, and this stems from my belief that fantasising strengthens feeling, and that I will inevitably fantasise, confronting me with things about my desire which I am denying. So I asked myself whether there was actually anything or anyone so important that it would really matter? This involved a run through of potential fantasy objects, and guess what … it turns out that none of them I fancy.

Does it matter? Yes, it’s a total breakthrough for me. In my parallel questioning about future romantic entanglements, I tell myself (if I can get a word in with all the other people telling me, and reminding me), that I need to take a long break from relationships. I believe us all. I worry only slightly that I might slip. These thoughts frequently lead me back to casual sex, but also to its perils.

But my masturbation anxieties, that I need a real object to get off (so to speak!), and that I am probably hiding something from myself, have shown me that for possibly the first time in my life, I don’t care that I’m not attracted to anyone. It’s a total mindblower. I didn’t even realise how essential it has been for so long, to have that mental sexual object. Still eyeing (or lining) people up is the fading reminder of my long term obsession with having another person to be in love with and to desire. And I’m not the only one.

Men’s problems first? Go compare

August 12, 2016
Alex Lozupone (Tduk) - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

bell hooks by Alex Lozupone

10 minute read

There have been at least a zillion times when I have asked myself one of these two questions: 1. How can I articulate my belief in the importance of foregrounding men’s oppression, without sounding like an apologist for the men’s movement (and being hated)? And 2. Why do I repeatedly focus on the oppression of men, when it’s bound to get me hated, and when frankly there’s a shit-ton of women’s oppression to be getting on with? At times, the impetus to pursue this theme feels like a masochistic sentencing to a lifetime of being hated and misunderstood – chosen because it seems ethically better, that is, psychically more bearable, to be hated, than to be calling oneself a coward. After all, it’s myself I actually live with. But it’s okay, don’t feel sorry for me, because I think I may be getting somewhere.

A friend shared this bell hooks quote earlier this year, which immediately made me want to upload all her work into my brain:

“The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. Instead patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself,  he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”

Although I’ve repeatedly exposed myself to this quote (gotta love a hard copy), it is only today that the word I needed most jumped up and grabbed me. Do you want to guess? Go on. Just have a guess. Just guess! No, not emotional, the magic word is first.

Just pick a side?

My hurdle in crossing the bridge (!) from the desert of impotent conviction to the fertile jungle of engaged public debate has been how to avoid comparing the oppression of men with that of women. Feminist women are quite naturally suspicious of anyone ‘championing’ men’s oppression, partly because we know where this story goes: women needing to be more considerate in asking men to stop oppressing us, because men have problems too. It’s hard to change. And anyway now that about 52% of graduates (in the US) are women, society is clearly destined for a total collapse, so there’s not much point whining about equal pay any more.

But giving illustrative examples of how men are oppressed is incredibly tempting, if your conviction is that a collective conscious awareness of these dynamics would further feminist goals no end, and ultimately render feminist campaigning redundant / successful, which is what feminists want. Right?

To exemplify or not to exemplify? In itself this is a fascinating question, which if memory serves me correctly, Plato had a lot to say about. What I say is this: when you exemplify men’s oppression, people hear you comparing it to women’s, whether you do or not. I bend over backwards to avoid it. Someone sensible do tell if this relates in any way whatsoever to the philosophical debate on exemplification…

Until today this has felt like an internal stalemate, because I do view comparison as a treacherous device, convenient for its rhetorical ability to distract us from even leading the horse of an abstract sharing of ideas, to the water of engagement with material reality. Have a drink? Forget it. Instead, repeat after me: “No of course I don’t think men are the real victims.”

According some primacy to the oppression of men within the patriarchal system has seemed beyond the pale politically. As a result I’ve bent over backwards (yoga teacher check me out: all this working out while working), to redefine the terms of my own thinking. Embrace feminism more fully: this is a seductive option. Pick a side. Belong. Eventually the issue of primacy became the red herring. If only I and we could stop comparing and get to work. Let us join hands in a big circle and simply hear everyone’s personal oppression story. Keep no tally. Release the pain and embrace everyone for their honest sharing. Enable everyone to realise the falsehoods of contemporary gender roles, the contingent truths of embodied manhood and womanhood in all their situated pain and glory. Celebrate those who make a profoundly individual choice of identity. See through the total time-wasting sideshow of the ‘war of the sexes’ and practice solidarity, at home and away.

The importance of age

Over the past few decades we’ve stepped from theme to theme to grasp oppression, creating intersectionality to keep our heads above water as we go. Age may not be the last parameter we wake up to, but it was new and exciting not so long ago. Viewing men in general as oppressors – as collectively responsible for holding and maintaining a system of privilege which by its inception disadvantages women socially and economically – may seem fair. Powerless and disenfranchised men may seem like an inconvenient minority, at best the exception that proves the rule. But hooks’ truth, that the first act of violence men are required to perform is on themselves, in order to make every other, subsequent act possible, puts the primacy where it belongs: in age. It is not the same for those born female. It is different, not comparable, completely different.

Acknowledging that the laying down of psychic rules which foreclose parts of the mechanism we inherit, which make us capable of a fully human flourishing, comes before we are then able to oppress others, is not the same as saying that the simple fact of our having endured this process means our problems become primary over any problems we inflict on others. That’s completely mad. For a start, in this context, we know girls are just as heavily conditioned into gender roles. If we focus on emotional expressiveness, it’s tempting to say that girls are given more freedom. However, there are other lenses through which to view a fully rounded human. More pertinently, girls are often refused anger and disdain just as boys are refused sadness, fear or vulnerability. Nevertheless, tackling the taproots of oppressive behaviour may avert some of the despair that comes from seeing hard won social improvements get lost over time. And that means helping domineering men to undo their programming. Letting go of our identity is almost impossible, it requires a massive safety net. A lot of women know this from the experience of personal battling with men, and ourselves. Becoming meaningfully equal depends on becoming well rounded.

Adults act out not only from our own childhoods but from and through the social structures we see around us – we absorb, repeat, get suspicious, panic, challenge, tire, absorb, repeat. When we collaborate we can break down old structures that no longer serve us and replace them with something new, or with empty space where things might grow unpredicted. But breaking down parts doesn’t equate to things getting better. If we want to effectively challenge men’s oppression of women, we can challenge social structures forever, or we can challenge the gender programming of children at the same time and change things.

I realise most people understand this. What we need to spend more time on is understanding where the particular fashions for programming the girls and boys who are currently adults lend themselves to an entrenchment, or to a loosening, of certain social and interpersonal structures that delay or oppose the increasing economic and public equality of women. We are no longer working with a uniform mass of similar men, as if we ever were. Now there are some men who get this as well as any woman. The deep insights they can have into how gender scripts damage men are an essential ingredient to add to any that women may gain from observation.

When is too much sex not enough?

June 12, 2016

Pile of threaded metal countersunk screws with a Philips head screwdriver on a white background for DIY and carpentry

Okay, so when is not enough sex for me too much for you? When I forget about quality and focus on quantity? Or when we have fundamentally different levels of libido? And what is the truth underlying the apparent universality that men want sex more than women?

Person A is pained when their partner says he thinks they have sex less than they used to, or that she doesn’t initiate enough. Painstaking discussion reveals that they are in a vicious cycle where he has been making it harder for her to initiate sex (by going straight to sleep) to protect himself emotionally from her not initiating. Is her not having been more insistent, say, waking him up to complain, or chasing him faster to bed at night, evidence that he is right? Or is it just a lot of disappointed person A?

Person P says: my partner wants sex more than I do. It has always been that way. Is this an unsolvable function of their libidos, or a long term chain reaction, triggered by a seed thought that goes unnoticed, like Person A’s ‘not enough initiation’? Is it a gendered problem which happens to loads of couples?

Maybe there is a problem of quality versus quantity. I don’t mean that they have crap sex, or not enough quality sex; I have no idea and don’t want any clairvoyant comments filling me in on that either, kindly thank you. I mean that if they have never completed a conversation about how much sex would be enough, not enough, and too much, by working out a perfect compromise on quantity and frequency of sex, to make them both feel as close to satisfied and as far from put upon as humanly possible, then maybe it’s because without realising it they have settled on a shared idea of what sex is that is just quantitative.

Let’s indulge stereotypes and call Person P ‘she’ and assume they are hetero. Maybe she doesn’t want sex as much as he does because she doesn’t enjoy it as much as he does. Maybe she has not-enoyed it more times than he has. Maybe he doesn’t even know she has not-enjoyed it as much as she has.

I don’t know about you but I think sex is fucking brilliant and I can’t think why anyone would not want to have sex all day long, every day, unless there were some pressing reason not to do so. Some of the reasons I don’t actually do this in my own life are: having to eat, cook, clean, look after others, go out to work, buy or grow food, pay bills, mend stuff, answer the phone, menstruate, socialise in public places and/or with people who are no good for having sex with. I would probably stop having sex to vote. I won’t count laundry because if I did have sex all day every day I wouldn’t bother to get dressed.

There are other reasons I don’t have sex this much, including: movies, books, conversation, Scrabble, my kids and other relatives and all my friends, sport, art, learning, live music and being outdoors in nature. Taken as a bundle these duties and non-sex pleasures take a really big chunk out of my sex time pie chart. There also seem to be times when my mate doesn’t want to have sex (and my solutions to this don’t include urgently finding someone else to have sex with). And finally, if we had sex all the time, surely we would pretty soon be doing the same thing over and over again, since how would we get a chance to even think of anything different?

Esther Perel tells us that many couples identify the times when they are stretched away from their mate, socially or geographically, as the times they are most likely to notice the rekindling of desire. These desiring moments presumably generate new energy and initiative for sex, whether any newness in bed is thought through or not.

My brain says the sex person P doesn’t want so much of must, almost by definition, be less fun for her that it is for him. Does he notice this when they have sex? Does he care? Does she notice this, or suspect it, or does she enjoy sex a great deal, but simply feel incredibly satisfied thereafter and find the idea of doing it again quite bizarre? Duty kills libido; does she have more duties, or not? I have heard of a hetero couple for whom him doing the ironing is a consistent initiation process.

Maybe their shared seed thought was that men enjoy sex more than women do. Maybe their vicious cycle is that he enjoys the sex more than she does every single time and neither of them has realised that they are both missing out. Maybe believing he naturally enjoys sex more than her means he doesn’t fully realise the value of showing her sexual affection even when she clearly does not want sex, and maybe she doesn’t show him sexual affection in case he wants sex more.

Why doesn’t he just fucking forget about the number of sexes he’s not getting for a while, and try to find out what is less great in her memories of their sex than in his? I do understand that some people have low libido. I agree that everyone has the absolute right to say no to sex, including within a relationship, heaven forbid that this should need saying. I also have a conviction that a large majority of sexually mature adults have the physical and hormonal apparatus to have and enjoy good sex and that good sex creates libido. I most want more sex when I have had good sex recently.

As if this post wasn’t long enough already, I will add: (menstruating age) women are definitely cyclic. If it seems that a conversation about what will make sex better will happen before how to have more of it, start by checking when you are/she is most likely to be hot. The second week after menstruation is a good place to start. And if that’s just passed, so much the better. Discussing what you are going to do to each other for a whole month is going to give that low libido some serious trouble.




Matriarch strikes again: critics fire away

May 26, 2015

There are few things more disconcerting than being accurately and kindly informed about your weaknesses, only to discover that it’s not better than when your critics are aggressive and wildly wrong. Being pulled up on well dodgy behaviour is an essential ingredient in having ‘a commitment to continuous self-development’, as every job description puts it nowadays. It hurts though, of course. I like to claim that when criticism provokes defensiveness and hyper emotionality, that’s because it is poorly worded, loaded with projection or simply insensitive. When it isn’t any of these things, well then it must be true, right? So it hurts more, and you have to analyse it closely and carefully.

I have variously been accused of overanalysing everything, micromanaging my kids, infantilising my younger child, letting the same offspring territorialise my home, dominating him, thinking I am better than others, putting myself down, being my own worst enemy, having too many clothes, books, films and ornaments but not enough cutlery, making everything negative (aka having free-floating anxiety) and of course from the divorce/separation process: being a shockingly, hopelessly thoughtless and boundlessly selfish homewrecker. All hail the critics for their contribution to my self-development.

What do I say to my critics? Analysis can go too far, but then, it is essential; sometimes I am better than some people at some things (and vice versa? No shit); whatever parenting behaviours you adopt will appear wrong to somebody. Sometimes I feel as if criticism can only help you with your relationship to the critic themselves. I’m sure this can’t be true, because I long to tell some people some things about themselves that plenty of others besides me can see, things which make them almost unbearable to be with; and because I feel certain that there are plenty of observations my friends have given to me that have improved me. But how can we assess these things when one man’s meat is another man’s murder?

For example – being told I talk too much or ‘go round the houses’, has led me to develop a consciously succinct way of expressing myself. I can assure you (and probably don’t need to), that this slips sometimes, but I often feel it happening when it does. The flip side of this one would be: being told I am talking too much as a way to avoid listening to me properly; interrupting me on the assumption that there is nothing of interest to be seen round these houses; not having the skill to ask a helpful question when I am confused. Infantilising my son sounds unhealthy, and it surely is, but what if the charge comes from someone who competes for my attention? What if I coddle him because he suffers from weak attachment? What if my critic wants nothing more from me than to be coddled himself? Oh if I were a silent, forgiving, patient, coddling listener, who only speaks in short sentences, hits the perfect balance between self-esteem and modesty, and knows when the replacement parental constancy has suddenly tipped over into ‘suffocating’ and promptly fucks off, allowing space and freedom for a menagerie of developmental weaknesses to bumble along uncriticised. That sounds pretty good, I could do with one of those myself.

I will admit though, that yes I have caught myself infantilising my youngest, but the concrete moments (where you are really, actually doing it right now and catch yourself), have tended to be about buying him things that are suitable for younger children. He is notorious for liking kids’ stuff and girly stuff, and it can be hard to separate being loving and kind from a counterproductive indulgence. The critique helped a lot here I think, not least because buying stuff is a shit way to show love and it inadvertently revealed that habit. But interestingly, all the kids’ stuff I didn’t get him was also girly stuff. Maybe a different critic would have picked up on that.

Impletion? I’ve had enough

April 12, 2015

So I have agreed to this new blogging device – being made to write against the clock by a third party. It throws up some painful challenges. “What I need is themes,” I said foolishly, thinking more of a leg up than a challenge. What I must have meant to say was: “Please can you provide a timely string of themes I would have written about eventually if I was not so good at avoiding writing.” My actual question allows the third party a creative input – naturally. This turns out to be surprisingly dangerous.

Impletion is my target word for this week and I have never even heard of it. My laptop dictionary has never heard of it. But eventually I discover it is a real word and goddammit I am going to use it in a sentence if it kills me… even though no-one else does. ‘Rare’ proclaims the online dictionary, and did I mention, my two kilogramme Chambers dictionary hasn’t heard of it?

I dig deep for things-I-have-thought about fullness, filling up, becoming full up. Impletion doesn’t mean fullness as such, like satiation or completion – something we can ruminate on and which in itself enables rumination. Impletion means filling up; ‘being full’ is one of its meanings, but it seem to be more about the process, and can even be the filling substance itself. I am overjoyed to remember another new, fabulous word that hooked me in once, which I decide relates to this. The word is endosophomorphism and if I have remembered it correctly it means the desire to be completely consumed by another creature, to be completely inside another. Or does it mean the desire to consume another entirely? Either way, I haven’t, because even wikidictionary won’t have this one.

And then something happens to save me. I realise that one of actual current themes buzzing insistently round my head for at least a week – the kind of ‘little noticing’* that does make a post if you are not procrastinating and do actually write – is impletion.

For many years I have known objectively that I am someone who ‘does too much’. My persistent self-image was of a lazy person internally resisting every effort, and I proved this to myself whenever any hedonism was allowed – birthdays and events, friends visiting, extended picnics. Fifteen years ago a good friend, now more than that, corrected me: “I’m lazy,” I said. “No, you’re the opposite, you do too much.”

Now I have had years to observe how hard it is to un-do too much. When I gave up my doomed PhD project after <winces> 6 years, it took me about a year to realise that it would take longer than two weeks to recover from the state of tension into which this extraordinarily unrealistic instance of too-much-doing had developed.

Another year later, I notice that the tension driving me to keep collecting big things to do was not only rooted in the fear of being endosophomorphicised by another me who did only childcare and housework, but also in the same response to my childhood that propelled me from small town to bigger place. Yes, I collected responsibilities to assuage my guilt at being unwilling; yes, I collected research questions because I didn’t understand my family dynamic; but ultimately, I couldn’t say “No” to things because I was so excited by all the interesting things just being there.

I wonder how widespread this condition is, because there are many of us who naturally fear being pigeon holed or isolated, and many who get excited about having lots of choice about what to do. It’s become commonplace to recognise that we are driven by social influences to want stuff, but consumer culture is also a major driver in the race to do more things. New activities and skills enrich us but they also layer us up with information and ethical commitments. As we pile on layer after layer we can end up in a web of our own life so thick and complex that we can’t get out or off or down. It is all built from ourself, so it is compelling. We’re impleted, implete, with opportunities we have said yes to, and responsibilities that follow on from things we thought much simpler to begin with. The brain and emotions groan and we wonder why we are tired and disaffected. We ask ourselves: is there something else I should be doing? I am sure this momentum is responsible for the onset of many cases of ME and chronic fatigue syndrome.

As we are told that fasting on 500 calories for two days a week can bring great physical health benefits, so we can perhaps learn to celebrate time to do nothing as an essential activity in itself, one without which impletion turns to internal combustion.

*’A little noticing’ is a way Sarah Ditum once described of an idea for a post starting.

Dreadful Matriarch Part I

February 11, 2015

I work with a dreadful matriarch. It could be worse of course, but it’s bad enough. I’d say there’s more than one, and I wouldn’t be lying, but if I keep saying one they can tell themselves ‘it might not be me’. The worst of it is that I didn’t see it coming, I liked them all when I started. It’s been with me a long time now though, the internal monologues arguing over the petty imperfections in the workplace with a permanently miserable colleague who’s not even in that day. Then I wake up in the night and it carries on. Is she sound asleep?

Yesterday we had a staff planning meeting and did a quick round of each talking about how our work is going. We share a lot of work but our main roles are all very different. We do largely incomparable work which unfortunately leads to lots of negative assumptions about performance and no support or appraisal. So it was my turn and I started by saying “I have to say before I start that I feel like I’m going to be attacked.” I did have to say it, I couldn’t speak until I did. I was so horrified at myself I countered, “but some of this is paranoia … and the things I do badly.” In order to appease the inevitable backlash of my desperate cry for help I stepped in to save them the bother – offering not only my competence but my sanity, on the whoops-too-late altar of positive worker relations.

Goodness knows what they thought, but at least they didn’t interrupt too much after that.

With Byron Katie and many others I do believe that when you are really bothered about someone, it says a lot about you, often that you are focussed in on something unpleasant because you are actually doing it yourself. When I felt persecuted by my ex, my friend made me ask myself if I was persecuting him. In my actions I felt sure I wasn’t, but when I interrogated my thoughts, sure enough, I was right in there beating the crap out of him in the worst ways I could muster. A vicious circle to be sure. My work situation showed up a far worse truth about me when I finally tried to apply this trick.

My colleague needs to constantly pick at and criticise others, and will be vile about anyone when they are not there. Of course this slowly but surely creates the knowledge that she is vile about you when you are not there. Your imagination has to borrow her words to fill in the gaps, and soon enough she lives in your head, offering commentary not just on your performance as you move about the workspace one step at a time, but about everything single thing you see there – whether you have the time and energy to deal with it or not.

My sin I discovered is that I criticise my children. It hit me how much worse this is, because they are young and still forming, there is the power imbalance, and they have lived with me all their lives. There is no going home and having days off where they get away from the nit picking. Luckily for me, I had managed to hear this from others and gone a long way to reducing it before I put two and two together. It could have been too painful to acknowledge before this. However I think what really happened was that when I was still in full swing my colleague’s critical behaviour didn’t appear unacceptable. As a fellow bitch I had assumed all her complaints were reasonable. So it is that I have a very low opinion of my competence in the workplace.

On Adultery as a Cunning Plan

May 30, 2014

Coming up to seven years ago, I broke up with my ‘husband’ of 13 years, through the age-old device of adultery. So effective is adultery as a strategy, I didn’t even have to have sexual intercourse with anyone for it to work. Unfortunately I did not have the intelligence to stop and assess how much damage would be done to all parties involved (regardless of non-intercourse), an error which has caused much direct and referred pain, as dentists like to call it. In retrospect, a different approach, like his approach: “I think we are moving in different directions,” may have been less like a nail bomb.

The plan I thought I had, was that when my partner saw how much in love I was with my gorgeous, platonic friend, that I had finally succumbed to the overwhelming romance in our friendship, he would immediately see that polyamory was the only way forward for us. And behold! My platonic friend was already in a polyamorous relationship – the coincidence! The opportunity for radical life-experimentation!

This plan failed because a large part of the charge that fell me into love with my friend was his intense attention to my hurting from the ebbing loss of my partner’s love to another woman. Yes, with our radical hats firmly on, he helped me to theorise the options available (while being massively, unbelievably gorgeous). Was polyamory one of them? Alas… his real-life sexually open relationship was one in which, not only were intimately-loving extra partners not factored in at all, even (mere) sexual partners that lived in the same geographical locality were enthusiastically discouraged. Polly-don’t-bump-into-me.

Besides my crazy plan, it turns out that I had another, unconscious plan going on: When my partner sees that my love for my friend has grown so unmanageable that I cannot hold back my passion for him any longer, he will immediately understand that I have become completely and utterly distraught at the loss of his true love for me, and be shocked into action. “How could I have overlooked what you are going through,” he will say, “fool that I am! Come to me now and let us be reborn.”

This plan really never stood a chance. When I told him I had not held back my passion, he immediately saw that I was a selfish, sexually untrustworthy Bitch From Hell with absolutely no thoughts or feelings for Anyone But Myself. Naturally this included being a Homewrecker. No points at all were awarded for holding back from penetrative intercourse.

Apparently my final, fall back plan, so deeply unconscious that I wouldn’t have acted on it in a month of Sundays, was to shock my partner by being romantically unfaithful, so that then when he chose to pile all his bad karma onto me the scales would fall from my eyes and I would be freed from the tyranny of loving him – to see, as one friend put it, that he was a dick.

Or was my plan in fact to grant him his freedom? Was it so hard to accept the loss of his love that the only way I could let him go was to make it impossible for him to love me? It is true that I believed the other woman to be better suited to him than I was. Or did I want my own freedom so badly that I had to repel him utterly, in a way that made me irredeemably untouchable, lest he find it in his heart to forgive me and Try Again? I can tell you one of the most terrible stages in the break-up was waiting for him to articulate that it was over. Did I create his outrage to violently silence my own voice, because I had no courage to say I wanted it to end?

So many plans.