Last night boyfriend #2 and I were talking about relationships, and he was talking about people he has loved and still loves, and misses. I had this total kneejerk reaction of "am I on that list of people he loves?", and it distracted me for a minute or two from what he was actually saying. Then I pushed it aside. And then I realised that in this conversation I had talked at length about two people who have been incredibly important to me, and still have a huge impact on my emotions and thinking. And boyfriend #2 had listened and responded and not seemed at all jealous. Maybe he was, and just didn't say anything. I certainly didn't say anything about my kneejerk reaction.
My point in telling him more about those relationships was to share a part of myself with him, and his point in talking about the people he has been missing was the same. We can comfort each other in the knowledge that we understand what it's like to still love someone who is far away or unavailable to us. And yet: kneejerk. Why does that shit happen? Was it really just exactly a kneejerk - over in a moment? I'm not still worrying about it. I'm relatively confident of my place in his affections. But why did it happen?
See (gross generalisation incoming), monogamous folk tend to 'get over' a love when they move on to a next relationship. Because there's this idea that you can't maintain the headspace and the emotional space needed for an intimate romantic relationship if you're still filling that space with someone else. Now, obviously, for poly people that's a different story. No shortage of space. Which is not to say it's impossible for us to stop being in love with someone. Merely that we don't have to. I am still in love with an amazing man I met 22 years ago and who I see about once every three years if I'm lucky. I'm still in love with my husband, who I will shortly no longer be married to. I'm still in unrequited love (romantically speaking) with the woman who is my best friend who I get to speak to once every six months, maybe. I miss them all, all the time. If you're romantically involved with me, you can't help knowing that. And I can't help knowing that both my girlfriends are in love with their primary partners, and so on. And we're all fine with that. But we all pretty much grew up in a culture that is monogamous, and were indoctrinated with the 'rules' of monogamy. Which (generalising again) are that you should be 'over' one relationship before moving on to the next, and that it's somehow rude to share your feelings about your previous partner with your current partner.
So I think that's where my kneejerk came from. Objectively and, actually, emotionally, I know exactly where boyfriend #2 was coming from. And I loved being able to talk with him about that. I just had this teeny kneejerk moment where every romantic movie I've ever watched said I should want to be 'the one' who changed how he felt about love. Well, bollocks to that. Kneejerk is now exorcised. Thanks for listening.