Back in college I went to a party with some friends who were visiting from out of town, and apparently one of the women at the party had noticed me. She called and asked if I’d like to go to a movie with her. I honestly had no recollection of who she was until we met, and it would turn out later that I actually liked her friend (a recurring theme for many years during my monogamous phase). The movie we went to see was an on campus viewing of The Witches of Eastwick. It was incredibly appropriate symbolism and yet I had no idea at the time that there was any serendipity involved.
The woman who invited me on this date (I’ll refer to her as “Julie”) wasn’t very attractive to me. However, she was nice, she liked me, and I had low self-esteem…so we ended up dating for over two years. She was only my second sex partner, and the first partner I ended up cheating upon. At the time, I truly believed “what they don’t know won’t hurt them” though of course it was very disrespectful and created distance between us.
I cheated on Julie with two different women over the course of our relationship. Instead of recognizing that monogamy wasn’t working for me, I thought I could get by on flings. Besides, since I was living in mid-Michigan, I didn’t see myself as having any alternative to monogamy. Also, I had some karma around the issue of infidelity since my father was a cheater as well. I didn’t see the connection at the time, but I’ve come to believe that if we’re not conscious of our stuff we can “act out” the issues that hold an emotional charge from our family of origin.
So…back to our first date at the lecture hall/theater. I LOVED the film The Witches of Eastwick though I didn’t know why at the time (and despite being an English Major I didn’t realize it was based on a novel by the great John Updike). In retrospect, the film was a blueprint for my life lessons in several ways. I found Jack Nicholson’s character, Daryl Van Horne, appealing because he spoke to a part of me that had yet to emerge. When asked early on in the film if he was married, he replies:
“The answer is no, I don’t believe in it. Good for the man, lousy for the woman. She dies, she suffocates. I’ve see it! And then the husband runs around complaining that he’s fucking a dead person, and he’s the one who killed her!”
From where I stand now, I feel this deadening effect is not correlated with gender (Daryl was using this “angle” as part of his seduction), but the important thing for me was that I would later realize how marriage (or any traditional relationship) can deaden the participants’ sexuality. Later on I would read Sonia Johnson’s The Ship That Sailed into the Living Room in which she suggests that the best way to enliven a sexual relationship is to begin telling the truth. Reading Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton would further enhance my understanding of the importance of living transparently.
So where did Daryl Van Horne go wrong? If you’ve seen the film (or read the book), you know that Daryl and his three lovers do not have a happy polyamorous life together for very long…nor is there a (traditional) happy ending. At first it seems he has found utopia with his three beautiful lovers. They’re all hanging out, luxuriating at his indoor pool, and it feels like pure bliss. The problem (in addition to the inherent issues that come from being Satan) was that Daryl began to desire control. Those of us exploring polyamory have often come to face this same demon: the desire to have power over another person in a relationship in a misguided attempt to minimize our fears. Instead of being content with love, we often crave power. Why? Because we feel we somehow “own” whomever loves us, and because we think that control can keep the object of our desire in our life (though it eventually has the opposite effect). Daryl wanted to possess his three lovers, and in doing so…all hell broke loose.
So within this entertaining fictional work there was an early message for me regarding the poly path I would one day walk. The synchronicity of seeing this film on the first date with Julie, who I didn’t really want to be with, is amazing. Since this film “just happened” to be playing, I believe the universe was whispering to me: you don’t really want to date the woman you’re with, or be monogamous…but you must learn to diminish your ego, and release control if you are ever to truly understand how to love.