Monogam-ish - Navigating Sex & Healing in Marriage
I always found comfort in baking. There was a structure to it, a recipe that would create something rich and decadent; served to be remembered by anyone who had the opportunity to taste its sweet temptations. Throughout university, to remove myself from the full time stress of becoming a Registered Nurse, I took a summer position as a Cake Decorator. That job was cathartic and fun, it taught me skills that would become handy for parties and heartbreaks as I could now not only create something yummy, but also beautiful and freeing.
I am currently on my 10th nursing assignment. The flavor of this contract has been a bit different. Having regained my mobility since my meniscus injury last year, surgery and rehab, I have had the opportunity to walk around this gorgeous, rainy town for the past few weeks. It's been quiet, soothing, reawakening and simple, with the highlight of my trip being delectable moments with my lemon raspberry scone and the ocean. I am getting close to leaving and re-entering the role as a doting, loving wife as I set up shop in Ohio with Max in a few short weeks. Taking stock of where I am at individually, collectively, emotionally, physically, there's so much I have been unpacking in my short time here. One of the hot topics being our open marriage and navigating my emotions as we continue to thrive in this journey together.
Assembling the Ingredients
Sex was not condoned nor acknowledged in my home growing up. It didn't really need to be; I was an intuitive kid learning from the experiences of my siblings and physiologically aware of how it worked because of my self-grooming to become a healthcare professional. But no one told me what it was going to be like to navigate feelings. I knew early on that while I was predominantly attracted to boys, I also really liked girls, a silent struggle that I grappled with until I was in my teens. Growing up in a religious household and going to a Catholic school set me up for very high expectations to be a 'good girl', in fact, the best girl. And I played that card very well thanks to conditioning and people-pleasing.
Catholic school for me was the antithesis of purity; teenagers learning to grapple with emotion and hormones in any environment is tough, but it was evermore palpable, those kids were freaks. I found myself getting into and sometimes with force, into situations that were beyond my understanding of intimacy, consent, pleasure, boundaries and sex. Spin the bottle, Seven Minutes in Heaven and Truth or Dare became regular activities at parties that I would happily partake in, partly because it felt good physically and psychologically to be wanted in such a way. As I became more aware of the implications of these activities on my psyche, on my boundaries and my desire for something more, I was just as quick to quit these games just as fast as I was willing to partake. As if the universe was privy to watching the journey unfold and throw new activations for me to navigate, when I began to let go of my identity as the popular girl, the kissy girl, the good girl... I begin to take notice of this gorgeous boy with a sweetness that rivaled that of any honey I had tasted.
Max was this quiet, lanky, nerdy boy from a neighboring town whom I had known for a few years through friends and acquaintances. We would pass each other as kids in the field at recess when we were much younger, trade classrooms for different subjects and occasionally shared the bus rides to and from school. I had a little crush on him when I was 11 that went nowhere, but all of a sudden, a few years later, here's this boy that I really began to SEE. What he had to offer was so mysterious to me. He was very real; beyond his shyness and awkward sensibilities, the depth of his human experience, his pain, his desires was beyond anything I had ever experienced in another person before. As we became more comfortable around each other, every layer that would fall away peaked my curiosity and made me fall pretty damn hard. You best believe I happily swiped that V-card for him.
Two different worlds collided when it came to intimacy and sexuality, and together we were able to navigate pleasure as adolescence in a safe and profound way. There was a comfort and openness that he would grow to embody, but with my body dysmorphia, disordered eating, sexual trauma and confining expectations, it took me a long time to grow comfortable with myself, no matter how reassuring he was. He had a lot of grace and patience for me back then and though we ended up suffering and subconsciously imprinting some painful experiences on each other, we moved through it, we talked, we laughed, we fantasized, we talked some more, transitioning through the roughness and chaos of adolescence, through to early adulthood.
The trials and tribulations of early adulthood and the undulating country lanes of what we thought we wanted to be/what we wanted each other to be was a journey endured together and a part. The first couple years of us moving in together was the one of the biggest contractions we had experienced collectively. He was in a bad place, I would mirror it back in my wounding and we would cycle through this painful dance of blame, shame and guilt that could have ultimately taken us out. We were meeting such heaviness that sex was largely off the table and when it happened, it was distant and lonely. There was no time for fantasy or dreaming up encounters because it would simply stir up a sense of lack and fear that neither of us wanted to face. The way I showed up wasn't benefiting anyone, so I took the necessary step to take care of myself, learn more about myself, spend time by myself. I started going to therapy, talking to friends, reacquainted myself to yoga and meditation and decided to travel all on my own. He had to win all on his own, I had to learn to give him that grace. When we released each other from the binds of trying too hard to make it work, we could breathe, and it gave us our freedom and ease back.
At 24, a switch turned on in me when he proposed marriage. Having witnessed the love, dedication, longevity and security that my parents built and modeled for years and years, I was and do believe in marriage. For me, that little piece of paper was a permission slip to show up and commit to dealing with our shit together, day-in and day-out. It meant leveling up rather than letting go. It meant that we would spend the rest of our lives making a conscious effort to be the best version of ourselves because we deserved it. It meant him choosing me and every magical, fucked-up, flawed and courageous nuance of my being. Pretty much as soon as he proposed, my psyche shifted into bettering my situation. I dedicated myself to my health, to my pleasure and my peace. I opened the portal to self love and exploration, to inviting the curious and foreign because I had never felt safer.
We started layering our life with experiences, we laid all our trauma out to dry, through everything we had gone through, we decided to put it all together and create this space that was deep, dark, sumptuous and captivating.
We began exploring polyamory in more depth when I started travel nursing, acknowledging fully that there were needs that we could not fulfill for each other intimately without being physically together. Having laid to rest the fundamental misgivings my upbringing brought on and the safety that my life and love with Max could provide, we could freely open up and explore the variation that other intimate relationships could bestow. I am not by any means an expert and can only speak to my experience, but it's been an opening, triggering, delicious and delightful experience.
A deep dive into self discovery, ethical non-monogamy has shifted my perception of intimacy. I have been able to explore the depth of my sensuality and sexuality while also illuminating and soothing the shadows that continue to loom, even after all the work I have already put into healing. I have been able to safely explore what it meant to be bi-curious, bi-sexual and where I fit on the spectrum of my human experience. I have been able to see and validate the nature of my intimate relationships with and without copulation; removing the pressure that my loving relationships had to be synonymous with sex, and reminding me that I was already surrounded by love and intention. Also taking on the notion that sex could just be sex and that was okay. The wondrous summation of how I currently explore ENM is my ability to take ownership of my body and the love that I have to give and receive in this world.
Of course, it hasn't been an easy road. Early on, seeing my partner with someone else would send me into a green-eyed, monstrous rage if I wasn't careful to self-soothe. My protectors would show up in the most exaggerated, dramatic and expressive ways leaving me feeling depleted and lonely. My knack for anxious attachment would turn me into a bumbling, teary-eyed mess on the bathroom floor every time they left for extended periods of time. ENM isn't always sexy and has a way of humbling you. It activated the parts of me that needed to be soothed and seen, deepening my healing and unbeknownst to me, brought me closer to my husband.
The lessons I have learned in this process is something that I will continue to treasure. Learning how to explore other people, balancing my marriage, taking care of myself, learning how to date (seriously, how?) has all been a chaotic mess of expression and self-actualization. I cannot possibly speak for Max or anyone else, but I am grateful to have learned a few things:
Communication - I have learned to be really clear about my intentions, my boundaries, my pleasures and discomforts. There had been instances where I burned others or have been burnt by my lack of clarity and overwhelming self doubt. Through this process I have learned to argue and fight with love and light.
Jealousy - is an activation that requires a deep dive into the self in order to soothe the ruptures that trigger it. I use to shame it into suppression, but now I know that it comes online for those I love deeply and becomes a mirror to flush my system with that same love and affection.
Boundaries - I am deeply dedicated now to protecting my peace. This process has made me open and receptive, and with that sensitivity comes the opportunity to be enraptured and taken by other's desires. I am far more discerning with peoples' good intentions and manipulation. Open to receiving and giving, without sacrificing my sanity, my space and my beliefs.
Intimate fluidity - Labels made sense in my head for a long time and I felt bad and pressured into believing that I was left wanting in the relationships I already had. That sex was the next step. Exploring my belief in lack and scarcity, I have come to realize that the women that have stuck around, the relationships that I share with people that explore the depth and despair of their internal compass with me are the relationships that quench my soul. THAT is the kind of intimacy that my body fills to.
Sex - It continues to be incredibly sacred to me. My womb, my yoni, is a portal to other worlds. A place of creation, safety and the love making of mystery and magic. A place that can destroy the tangible and bring light to desire. Sex is a dance that I enjoy by myself or in good company.
Choice & Preference - I have learned to get very real about trusting my intuition and remaining open to resistance so that my choices and preferences move into alignment with this version of me. I have learned to play with this knowing with and without my partner so that I can get comfortable with discomfort in a way that transcends my experience.
Solitude - I like being alone. I love dating and spending time by myself. At the end of the day the most intimate relationship I cannot escape from is my own, so cultivating that has been empowering and nourishing.
Perfection - is bullshit. I continue to make mistakes, say things I don't mean, cower, have a tantrum and hide. But I also speak my truth, spend nourishing time on my own, love to my fullest and support others deeply. All in the span of 12 hours.
The Most Delicious Dessert
I probably wouldn't have had the courage to embark on this journey without the support and love of my husband. The one person who has seen my shadows and my potential and has encouraged me to explore these parts of myself that I could not do on my own. He could see that beyond my confusing sense of self, my pendulum that swung between piety and nymphomania, was this Goddess ready to explore and unleash the unique gifts that make up her design.
I can't say that this is going to be our experience forever. But this chapter explores the young, sexy, fun and liberated. A layer to the cake adorned with extravagance, fun shapes and colors, metallics and patterns to create this one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable tier. I get the beautiful opportunity to bake it, decorate it and admire it for what it is. And the best part is that I get to eat it too.
If you're curious about exploring your confidence, desires and inner workings in a safe and private container, our Empress Coaching Container is ready to receive your magic. Click here: https://iolamae.systeme.io/50167606