It may be 2019 and the rules of dating splintered into a mirage of endless trip hazards and grey space but taking a lover should never be past an age or expiry date. Having a lover, or lovers isn’t something we frequently hear in the context of contemporary dating, (or reality) but why? If we can weave through dating ambiguity, then why can’t lover be a label that sticks? Is it our lackadaisical reliance on the measures of black and white and the reluctance to explore our own feelings with courage that obstruct the ability to view pleasure (and connection) in a different light? We often classify our own reality based on the majority rule, placing ourselves in boxes to help neaten what we feel. I can understand this. At some point we need to control our emotions or we have no governance over our lives. Labels help streamline and align.
At first glance taking a lover appears like smoke and mirrors; dramatic sexual trysts, flouncing around in plush hotels all careless and fluid but ironically it requires two of the things that we are quick to point a finger at for for bringing rigidity to a “traditional relationship”; honesty and clarity.
According to the internet (bless its accuracy) the definition of a lover varies from a person having an extra marital affair to someone that should be your partner but isn’t.It seems that Wikipedia has let me down so I’ll work with my own definition of a lover for the point of this article.
A lover is:
Someone you can maturely have sex with. Respect and attraction are intrinsic to a mutual understanding based on both maturity and awareness. You are friends who show care and support for each other but don’t lean on the relationship being categorised. You also both recognise that you will not be in a relationship, and at some point things between you will end.
It’s easy to see how ambiguity is commonplace to the notion of having a lover and that the definition of “a lover” will vary greatly between person and circumstance. Whatever your scope of definition I know my interest was piqued when I struggled to verbalise a particular situation of my own. Being pressed about where I was going one evening I scrambled for the right words to articulate anything close to the truth. The scrambling came not from shame or my own confusion but from lack of the right definition, or the socially acceptable definition.
Was I going to see a friend? Well no, friend carries an assumption of platonic with it.
Someone I was dating? No, it’s 2am. Please, i’m not obtuse.
A fuckbuddy? I bristled at that label, which is probably more of an indicator than any. There was a deeper admiration for each other that transgressed the boundaries of a transactional and physical (only) situation. Both intimacy and care (at some level) exists, and there was also longevity at play.
Arguably the success of having a lover could rest on the simple agreement that you like each other in the present moment (and outside too) but you both also recognise that the boundary of “this will not be a relationship” still exists, thereby alleviating obligation and pressure. With this in mind both people are empowered by the mentality of: “whatever they do outside this time with me is their business”.
On a surface level it’s understandable that the above can feel somewhat offensive , negligent or dismissive. We naturally question functionality and logistics based on our embedded perspectives of relationships as per societal norms, history and our grappling with the human emotions of love, guilt, possession and desire. However, if you can deconstruct and rationalise these then why can’t it work?
I’ve been pressed more on this topic (totally fair) and still it brings me undone because I know I’m being benchmarked against someone else’s relationship ideals and their perception of my own. Here’s how the usual (lets go deep) Q&A unravels:
What if you saw him with another woman, would you be jealous? Well yes, that’s a normal human reaction, but perhaps not. That depends on the day, and on me. Realistically, I know where I stand.
If he saw you with another man would he be jealous? I’m not sure. Deep down I believe not. Reflexively and perhaps momentarily yes, it challenges an aspect of pride linked to possessiveness and desire but again, that’s dependent on the man/woman..
What if one of you developed feelings for the other? There are feelings, they are not platonic. They challenge the stereotypical notion of romance but real feelings exist. Without them it wouldn’t be pleasurable and things would become transactional and clinical.
But what if the feelings evolved into wanting to pursue a relationship?
Then it would end, because what we had first agreed upon would have changed. It’s no longer a lover but someone you become actively in pursuit of being with.
Of course I mean no disrespect to that particular metamorphosis of feeling because, quite frankly, when you take two humans intrinsically attracted to each other with some scope of feeling and add great sex and intimacy it’s almost natural cause and effect.
Having a lover certainly doesn’t simplify notions of lust, desire, romance and love. Like most relationships it’s a complex situation to dive into, but it’s perhaps an indicator that with enough communication and respect we can craft bespoke relationships that are not only pleasurable but open, honest and beautiful.