Friends & Lovers

A few years ago, I took a friend as a lover. He wasn't a close friend, really more of an acquaintance, but the nature of our relationship certainly did shift. Sometimes there was far less clothing involved in our relating than before, and sometimes we did nauseatingly adorable things like sunny Sunday brunch followed by lazy neighborhood stroll hand holding and farmer's market perusing. In essence, though, we were still friends. I despise the term "friends with benefits" because it implies that being my friend is not already a benefit. Bitch, please! Do you have any idea how strong my friendship game is? Consider yourself massively blessed if I choose to bring you into the fold of my friend cult. Even if we go years without talking, I'll still be your ride-or-die hommie for life unless you do something really crazy. But I digress...

My friend and I were friends but we were also lovers, and that worked well for us. He's a wonderful human being but I knew he wasn't my ride-or-die romance hommie. From the start I intuited separate paths for us. We enjoyed a sweet season together which faded out naturally, and I'll always think of him fondly. This was my first foray into this sort of relationship dynamic and it was an enlightening examination of my own expectations about romantic relating.

Have you ever noticed how awful people can be to their partners? Some people are awful to everyone, but for the most part friends and family will be quick to call you out when you're out of line. They're good at keeping us on our better behavior. Something different happens when you start having sexy love feelings for someone, though. There's this raw vulnerability which surfaces, exposing and triggering unresolved emotional trauma and baggage. Yogi Bhajan called marriage the highest form of yoga because yoga shows you to yourself and so does your spouse. They act as a mirror, clearly revealing every part of you, even when you're made ugly by your own pettiness, anger, fear or greed. Vulnerability can be thrilling (that magical head rush of "falling in love") but it can also be terrifying (the special horror of someone else seeing the parts of yourself of which you are ashamed). And in our terror of being laid bare before this other person, sometimes we behave very unskillfully.

This whole scenario is different when you take a lover friend, though. You can still treat them
horrendously, but unlike the person you married or share a lease/cat/cactus garden with, the only thing binding them to you is a shared appreciation of spending time together. The natural boundaries and respect of a friendship are still in place. There is no "future building," no weighty expectations or obligations. You are together because you want to be in the moment. There is something so fresh and present about this, it puts me at ease to think about.

Of course, you can't build a life with someone this way. Or can you?

What if we could approach all our romantic relating with the same sort of warm appreciation, gentleness and ease that we do our friendships? What if the line wasn't so distinct, the expectations less demanding? You can make a lifetime commitment to someone that you take one day at a time, waking every morning and choosing to love that person again that day. Isn't that what we subconsciously do with our friends? I never think about friendships lasting a lifetime, but there are many incredible humans in my life whom I hope to have the privilege of growing old with. It is a different dynamic with a lover, but should we really treat these people so differently? When we are so vulnerable in the intimacy that we share, should we treat our lovers like anything but treasured friends?

Despite the lack of formal commitment, lover friends still have some obligations to one another, based out of the respect and admiration that they hold for each other. They have to communicate their needs, boundaries and desires. They have to be aware that the choices they make with their bodies could affect the other. They have to know themselves, and take ownership over their own feelings and behaviors. There is no room for bad communication, recklessness or projection among lover friends...not if you want to remain friends after you are no longer lovers.

This begs the question: Is there room in any sort of relationship for bad communication, recklessness or projection? No, there's really not. Not among lover friends, regular friends, coworkers, spouses, family members or subway patrons. Everyone has bad days, and we possess the grace to unsee them and love each other anyway. How many bad days are too many? What can we unsee and what is intolerable? That's for you to decide.

The only commitment we can realistically make is to show up to the present moment with our hearts in our ((trembling)) hands, offering each other our best, brightest love. We can choose to encourage rather than criticize when we falter. We can make choices which respect ourselves and those with whom we share care. We can boldly know and own every part of ourselves, and let ourselves be seen clearly and healed in this intimacy. We can get what we desire by asking for it. We can strive to be really excellent to one another in all our relating, and be grateful for each other's grace when we're not.

The appearance of sex in your relationship is no time to toughen.
Kindness is always the answer.
Let your love lead the way.


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