Being Ashley

Lessons in Not Love

I learned something valuable in my first affair. I learned that I will always probably want one. That there is something in me that will always deeply crave that kind of connection and intimacy, and that I will likely spend my whole life trying to feel fulfilled where I am right now. I also learned that it is very difficult for me not to be overwhelming in my need, even when I am starkly aware of it.

My biggest lesson was that it is so easy to mistake these things for love. Especially when you are trying to still figure out what love means to you. I like to think I am so much smarter now. I can say, this is fun, this isn’t love, this is something I need in my life. However, I have learned that knowledge of how we are broken is not enough to make us different. You may crave crack, or chocolate… I crave this. I have spent so much time trying to know what has made me this way, like if I find the place where it started I will be able to somehow fix it. I have learned it likely does not matter where it started and why, what rich tapestry of environment and nature make me want this. I also know now that opening the gates made me vulnerable, it is hard to turn back a river.

And so, here I am, in a hotel room, talking to a man about what our boundaries are, where we will both go, where we cannot, glimpses of what makes us both this way, tentative steps to reach out towards another human and see if they can provide some solace. I like this man. There is something familiar in the way he talks, and the way he smells, that makes me feel safe and at home. That does not overwhelm me and make me vulnerable in the way another man might. This is both comforting and worrisome.

Sometimes I think trust is the most complex human emotion. What of trust among cheaters? How do you build trust in a relationship that is fundamentally based on being dishonest with the people you love the most? Do I just close my eyes and hope this works? How do I explain to him that we have to be honest in this thing, when we may not be in other places, because it's the only way it will work. How can I possibly believe him?

I close my eyes.