One of the best aspects of the way M and I have grown is that we are able to communicate our feelings, needs, and wants openly. There is no fear of manipulation, shame, resentment, or any such negative consequence. But no matter how adept we get at it, we still have 22 years of historical knowledge of one another residing within us, and on occasion, we still stumble over or revert to old, engrained behaviors and ways of thinking.
On a recent Sunday, after we reviewed our rules, M said he needed to talk about something. He needed to talk to me about the health of his hip.
It has been evident, over the past couple of months, that his hip has been progressively more painful, on top of the pain he has always endured with his other leg. We knew it would progress, and as much as we’ve talked openly about it along the way, there’s been a small part in each of us that wants to avoid thinking about what that means, about how it could intimately impact us.
Sex is by no means the only way in which M and I connect. In fact, what happens outside the bedroom fuels what happens inside the bedroom. The deep communication we have all the time and the way in which we interact, respect, and honor one another all day feeds how we interact inside the bedroom. But, that sexual energy is ever-present. There is this constant give and take, an undercurrent of cat and mouse, an always-burning fire that is consistently being stoked with a look, a few words, and the constant touching. It’s fascinating and erotic, and it is this unbelievably innate part of us, which we love to fuel all day and see it erupt in the bedroom.
M is very creative, and is always thinking of ways to maintain our intimacy and connection, even if his hip is hurting. He does so in ways I’d never have imagined and in ways I’d never have thought he would love. He’s like a mad scientist, and I am his excited subject, his willing puppet, his toy. And I love his passion! I love that we are in this place where we feel free to experiment and play and connect on so many levels. He loves it too.
That evening, although we are so used to being so open, when we talked, we stumbled. M told me his hip was beginning to hurt most every time we have sex. He said we knew the day would come when it hurt every time, and I knew he meant that there may be a day soon when it won’t be able to happen in many of the ways it happens now. And if it’s hurting badly enough, he can’t engage in sexual activity, not with that part of his body. He may not feel up to anything with his body, at all. And neither of us want to lose our ability to interact intimately, to express ourselves to one another in that way, no matter how it looks or what form it takes.
What we weren’t expecting was just how emotionally charged that conversation would be. The weight of what he said hit us like a ton of bricks. And the funny thing is, much of what hit us was how the other was feeling. We each absorbed that, along with the added weight of our own feelings – feeling the unfairness of it all, as if the world is working against us, feelings of selfishness, wanting alleviate doubt in the other. It was a feeling fiesta. No more avoiding that very real possibility any longer. It was right there in the room, a voice along with the feelings that seemed to be multiplying faster than our words could possibly express.
Most of all, this place between the sheets where M is all man, in control, and I am all his – it is such a raw and sacred place of expression, more than sex, more than bodies – one which was so difficult to think about being affected. We could not give it words.
Navigating it all became more and more difficult, and we were exhausted from a long weekend, on top of it all.
Our ability to process it all at once became nearly impossible. There were assumptions being made, communication break-downs, and hurt feelings. There were periods of silence and misunderstanding. Until we realized what had happened! Exhaustion + an extremely emotionally charged topic + layers and layers of feelings + other added recent life stressors = the inability to fully process it all effectively in one evening. There was too much to swallow and think about.
So, we each acknowledged the others feelings as well as possible, snuggled, and tabled the topic until the next day, to a time after we’d had the chance to further process it all. And we were intimate, which was desperately needed in that particular moment. A way to express with our bodies what our voices couldn’t quite figure out just then.
The next day, as I was processing on my own, for a long while I was so lost. I couldn’t put my figure on why. It had nothing at all to do with the subject matter, that isn’t a concern. I know we will communicate through it all. I know we will remain intimate in ways I can’t even fathom right now. What had happened during the conversation had just felt so uncomfortable, as if we’d reverted in some ways into older versions of ourselves, and that scared the shit out of me. After all this time and growth, is that what we do in times of stress? That’s what I kept asking myself. And that fear shook me.
Then it hit me….we did not revert to old versions of ourselves, not at all. Did our long history play a role? Yes. Did we see threads of old ways of behaving and thinking? Yes. Did we confront them? YES!! Yes, we did, both as individuals and as a couple. And we stopped them in their tracks, tabled it, with no residual negativity, and had a lovely end to the evening. We spoke again the next day, navigating our way through those threads in order to understand them, and I know we’ll talk more as is needed. We always do.
The evolution is remarkable. I’m constantly in awe of the depth to which we’ve connected and in which we continue to invest. This level of communication never ceases to amaze me.