PQ 21.5 — Can I respond to change in my relationship with grace?

a photo of a diner called "frostop." There's a giant root beer shaped sign off to the left, too, that says "Frostop root beer" on it

PQ 21.5 — Can I respond to change in my relationship with grace?

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It has been a long and emotional day. One of the best days of my life. I am out with a couple of friends in a restaurant celebrating.

“You know, Page, don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re an entirely different person than when you first showed up in Cleveland,” my friend says.

“No you’re right,” I say to them.

I can clearly remember coming back from my first date with Justin (six weeks after I got to Ohio). Stopping at a drugstore to get a soda on the way home. Justin told me to buy the one I wanted. Pick any one. And I stood there frozen. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted. I was so used to people choosing for me. Telling me what I like.

It dawned on me then that I hadn’t drunk root beer for an awfully long time. Since the height of my jazz career. As I was traveling the state of Maine in my dying car. Dating a boy who went to high school three hours away from me. A tall lanky guy with olive skin. Who dressed up for school. Carried a briefcase. Had long hair under the beret he always wore on his head.

And whenever I was in town visiting him, we’d drink root beer. And I’d taste it on his lips as we both drank root beer and kissed. I remember him so well, because he always wanted the best for me, even when it wasn’t directly beneficial to him.

I can’t remember how many times I’d craved root beer since then. Randomly. Sitting in a drive-thru with my husband Seth at the wheel of our car, ordering the sodas he’d seen me drink automatically. Never asking what I wanted.

Now on a date with this new boyfriend Justin, a friend of over a year (and two years into my open marriage), I opened the glass door of the refrigerated case and picked up a bottle of root beer.

Justin had no idea what a big deal this was. But I did.

The Man With a New Wife Every Two Years

Justin met me at a very strange time in my life. In the first year we were together, I went through a tremendous amount of change. I had recently moved cross-country. I’d lost over 150 lbs in the past two years. I went through four breakups in a handful of months. A polyamorous web burning of huge scale. I divorced. Dyed my hair for the first time in my life.

I went to therapy. Stared my demons right in the fucking face until they didn’t scare me anymore. Decided instead to hire the little imps. Make them work for me instead of being afraid of them.

I went back to school and got my degree. Trained as a researcher. Became a manager and a consultant. And later an author.

Justin stayed with me through all of this as I changed. Through all of the ups and downs, as he has changed as well, both of us navigating the fluctuations in our respective identities.

We both changed… but I’d say I probably changed more. And that can’t have been easy for him. It had to have been terrifying. Tough to trust me and know how to relate to me in each respective phase.

I tell my friends all of this as we eat wings and sip our drinks.

“It can’t be easy for the man,” I say. “He gets a new wife every two years. The woman he signed up to marry doesn’t exist anymore. Can you imagine?”

But even as the words escape my lips, I know the answer. I can imagine. Because the only thing that’s really different here is scale. How much a person changes. The only constant is change. No matter what kind of relationships you’re having, change tolerance is really your best bet for dealing with life. And with loss. And everything that’s somewhere in between.

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.

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