My romances have seldom been “normal,” so I have actually given up on “normal” forms of relationships as a goal. Since the TBI, my relationships have been healthier because they are not normal.
Just before the accident Sam and I had decided to live a polyamorous lifestyle. This took a lot of pressure off me during my recovery. I was incapable of intimacy, and she was burning out taking care of me; her other partners were able to give her a break from nursing, as well as satisfy her physical needs. Rather than feeling useless I was happy, knowing she was getting the release she deserved. I “came out” as polyamorous a few months later, but I have only started actively dating over the last few months.
Dating has been fascinating. I am sixty years old, recovering from a TBI, so when a woman finds me interesting it is a boost to my ego, and lately I have found a few who are interested. Where I had no reservations about Sam dating, she has found it is not quite as easy when the shoe is on the other foot. It wasn’t a big deal, but watching her process her thoughts has been fascinating. That said, she did make sure I had condoms with me before my first date, unsure of how she would feel if I used them.
I tried dating a married woman (and yes, she failed to meet the standards of ethical non-monogamy), I was convinced that she was really just a frustrated polyamorist, and even got her to attend a poly meet-up with Sam, but she decided that she was committed to one of her other lovers and polyamory was not the path she wanted to travel. We’re still friends, and will more than likely see each other again (we have common interests), but it would be improper to pursue a romance with her.
Another woman was also experimenting with polyamory. She was recently divorced, and I met her at a poly meet up. We had different goals in relationships, so we parted ways; but again, we’re still friends.
Part of the fascination in dating is the changes to social mores that have taken place. I met Emma through a personal ad, before the internet. She spent the night on our first date and we moved in together within the week. That has pretty much been my pattern, after Emma died I met women on line but it went the same, with an expectation of sex on the first date. Now that I am polyamorous, which most folks think is a constant orgy, my dates have expressed interest in getting to know me first. But that, it turns out, may just be me. One woman I am currently dating said “I sleep with guys on the first date if it’s just a booty call, but with guys I want to get to know better, I get to know them better first.” This time the ego boost was because she wants to know me better.
Being polyamorous, and operating a polyamorous page on Facebook, I have seen a number of variations in the way partners treat each other. In fact we started our page because we couldn’t deal with the way people behaved on the other pages. All these people celebrating freedom while categorizing and judging everyone else. Many polyamorists are self involved, but Sam and I have a relationship based on communication, and you can’t communicate if you are not honest and open. If more monogamous relationships had the same basis the world would be a better place.
In fact, if more people were open and honest with their spouses there might be fewer poly people. I was attracted to the lifestyle because of the communication required. That was in the early days when I thought everyone believed the same thing; as usual I have been disappointed by reality, poly folks are just as human as mono folks.
I am making every attempt at caution, sometimes I think I may be having too much fun. But these relationships are not throwaways, or one night stands, I’ve met some fascinating people. My latest girlfriend, the one who wanted to get to know me better, has an amazing background in activism, and is not “the girl next door” in any way. New ideas and perspectives are always a turn on.
Many people find relationships difficult after TBI. Mine have been wonderful, even the ones that did not work out. I suspect the difficulty is a result of unrealistic expectations on the part of both partners. I am not an evangelist for polyamory, but I know that the increased communication which is supposed to be a keystone of polyamory (and is in Sam and my case) is fundamental during recovery, impacting every aspect of recovery.
My romantic relationships may be the measure of my recovery. Empathizing with new people, juggling schedules, and new experiences, is a solid road to growth. The fact that my relationship with Sam is stronger than ever leads me to believe we’re doing it right.