Sunday, January 19, 2014

The simple beauty of being lovers

Being lovers is a relationship based on sex, friendship, love… and nothing else. 

In contrast, marriage has the complexity a business contract. True, most spouses start up as lovers, but they get immediately caught up in the complicated tangle of an arrangement designed to wipe out every last residue of individual autonomy. Yes, marriage sacrifices individual freedom in the altar of love, but love as an ideal so elevated that most fail to live up to it. A shared bed, shared shopping, shared finances, quickly followed by a shared mortgage and a shared commitment to raise the children. Little surprise if lust and passion get lost in the middle of all that. Marriage is the true power exchange: I get power over you and you get power over me, and we both lose our freedom in the process.

I’m not saying that marriage is necessarily a bad thing. These days, gays fight for the right of getting married, and they know full well what they are doing. Marriage is an enormous source of privilege. The shared finances, the distribution of labor, the security if being able to count on two incomes, are big advantages over single people. Add to that a socio-political system geared up to encourage “family values” with all kind of incentives. Nevertheless, when we get married we should not fool ourselves by thinking that we are entering a state in which we are going to live together ever after in romantic, passionate bliss. This is really a business transaction in which we give up freedom in exchange for security, both emotional and financial.

This is why I think that there is a beauty in being lovers that often get overlooked. Lovers love without giving up their personal autonomy. They date: get together for a limited time to share sex, conversation and friendship. Not having to agree about the best way to manage money, the values by which to educate their children and whether the house should have carpet or wooden floors make relationships much, much easier.

Another thing that adds beauty to being lovers is that there is always an element of transgression in it. After all, love outside marriage – adultery – is a serious crime in many countries, in some places even punished by death. Lovers flip the bird to political and religious power, making a statement that nobody has the right to impose the “right” relationship between two free individuals.

Freedom and lack of security go hand in hand. In contrast to the “till death do us part” of marriage, lovers know that their relationship is fragile. It has to be nurtured with passion and compassion, generosity and mutual respect. Early in their relationship, lovers set up rules that apply only to them: “never discuss religion / politics / sports”, “we meet every Sunday afternoon”, “for me you are always submissive, pretend that you don’t top other men”, etc. The rules may evolve with time, as does the relationship, as we gain more knowledge of the other person and learn to appreciate their complexity in all the dimensions or their being.

Sadly, few people appreciate being lovers as a relationship in itself. It is often seen as a transitory state in the progression from occasional sex, to dating, to living together, to getting married. By failing to recognize that perhaps being “just” lovers is the destination and not a step along the way, we push too far and doom a perfectly good relationship to failure.

All this is particularly true for BDSM relationships. Kinky relationships flourish between lovers and wilt in the narrow confines of marriage. It is extremely difficult to superimpose the power exchange of dominance and submission with the power exchange of marriage. Believe me: many have tried and few have succeeded.

So, what are your expectations? Are you looking for a lover? For a husband / wife? Or just occasional kinky sex?

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