I've shifted my reality about partnerships over the past months. Rather than focusing on finding a partner, I've been practicing expanding my emotional capacity for human connectedness.
Yes, I'm disillusioned by relationships. I've had great ones. They ended. All relationships will end. Even the "Till Death Do Us Part" ones. And thanks to increasing lifespans, we will have more relationships than ever. The world has changed. Men have changed. (Women have changed.) And relationships are changing. I can no longer cling to my (failed) past ideals. So what to do? What do I want to do?
The relationships that have lasted, that are the strongest, and have gone through shifts of definition, are the ones that will last till death. I do not wear a ring around my finger for these people. Some of these are my very best friends. One is my dog. Some are alternate-reality/fantasy lovers. A few have shared my bed.
Expanding my emotional capacity became a priority after my mom died. I waded through decades of suppressed emotion (because women are too emotional in the workplace and I wanted to be successful, so to be successful meant to suppress emotions, which all too often came exploding out like a geyser only to backfire). I embraced the cocktail of complex emotions. I sat in the thick of the tangle - not bothering to untangle. I learned to tell people (that were not my romantic partner) that I loved them. Because death takes us all, and could bring his kiss at any moment.
Because if you love someone, you should tell them. But loving in/for a moment, doesn't necessarily mean love forever (although it certainly can). Or rather, you can love someone in the moment, and forever, but that doesn't mean you have to change your life or be with them forever or have the expectation of being with them (in love) forever. (Although sometimes those moments last forever, and so then, you could logically say that you do love them/are in love with them, forever, in that moment.) Crap this is complicated when typed out, but maybe you can get my feeling.
Expanding emotional capacity is about having an honest conversation. Being honest with myself. Feeling those squirmy emotions, and not squirming away. Calmly breathing. Feeling. Figuring out (if that's what's needed) or being present to just let it be.
These shifts are unfolding as I interact with people. So I try to be a honest as I can (as I am with myself), without fear, without invoking fear in others. Being courageous. But of course I still fear. I probably cause some too.
Some kinds of honesty are hard for me. I was always adapting, so good at adapting. So, it was/is hard to hear my honest, own voice (despite also being very good at this). (Hey, society expects women to adapt to external conditions. We're supposed to give. The frail male ego might react to a request with more (negative) emotional overhead than I want to deal with, so I learned to adapt myself, instead of asking for consideration.)
But now, I deeply connect, in a human way at whatever level of depth that is possible with who I am with at that time. To enjoy the moments, to whatever unfolds, to be honest with my heart, to connect and be with another human and to enjoy those deep connections without an expectation of the future. This can be simply, calm and human consideration talking on the phone or chatting with my lyft driver on the way to the airport. When I open up like this, many people can immediately connect on this deeper level. Sure, sometimes it is scary. And I don't always have the energy or emotional capacity to practice, but it feels good and it's pushing me out of my comfort zone and I am learning all kinds of new things.
Marriage, relationships and intimacy are changing, but to what they are changing to depends on our honesty, courage and vulnerability to make a human emotional connection beyond socially constrained patterns.
I know the patterns of the past. I know the anti-patterns & the disrupts. I see nothing in the world that is what I desire, what works for me. So I forge this new path, using my heart as the compass and my emotional capacity as the fuel as I drive into the sunset of uncertainty. Because the Journey is the Destination.