This idea was expressed several times in the second two Matrix movies. We can never see past the choices we do not understand. It’s absolutely brilliant, and even if it would have been the only significant idea expressed in the entire trilogy, that one idea alone makes the whole movie series worth watching.
We can never see past the choices we do not understand. There’s a reason for this; if we do not understand the choice, how can we understand its implications?
But I didn’t come here to talk about the Matrix. I came here to talk about relationships.
In 1992, I was deeply, passionately in love. Her name was Robin, and she was living with Kelly and I.
It was a disaster. For many reasons, mostly my own, the relationship failed; that relationship taught me that I’m not immune to jealousy, that a cold shoulder is the relationship equivalent of a nuclear weapon, and that some kinds of damage done to any relationship can’t be repaired.
Eleven years later, the structure of my relationship with Kelly still reverbrates with the damage I did during my relationship with Robin, like a bell struck too hard. One of the consequences of my relationship with Robin is that Kelly vowed never again to live with anyone else in general, but particularly with anyone who is my lover.
Shelly wants to live with me. This is something very important to her, and it’s very important to me as well. My relationship with Shelly has reawakened in me the things that have been sleeping for eleven years–the very same things that led me to want to live with Robin all those years ago. At the end of the day, I’m not polyamorous because I want to sleep with a bunch of chicks; at the end of the day, I’m polyamorous because of the way I feel about family, and commitment, and love.
I knew that once, and I forgot it. Now I’ve learned it again.
Last week, Kelly agreed to let Shelly move in with us.
The past year has been extremely hard on all three of us. Kelly is not polyamorous; her ideas about love and family are very different from mine, and from Shelly’s. Kelly would be much happier if I did not love the people I sleep with–or at least, if I did not love them deeply. Many of the reasons for this are rooted in her past; other reasons seem to be a fundamental part of who she is. My relationship with Kelly has been an eighteen-year story of negotiation, and compromise, and seeking to find the middle ground between what is ultimately two fundamentally contradictory worldviews.
The contradiction between Kelly and I creates stresses that are most sharply focussed at the point where someone who loves me resides. Over the past year, Shelly has been hurt repeatedly–not through any deliberate malice on kelly’s part, but simply because Kelly wants a life that does not include anyone else. The exclusive model of family is particularly hard on anyone who wants to join an existing poly relationship in a way that’s inclusive.
Kelly doesn’t precisely understand how she has hurt Shelly. As a result, it’s hard for Shelly to feel safe, and to believe that Kelly won’t hurt her again.
Kelly is, I believe, sincerely trying to understand my relationship with Shelly. And she has decided to invite Shelly to live with us. But she does not understand her decision, because she does not, ultimately, understand my ideas about family, and I do not understand hers.
We can never see past the choices we do not understand.
Kelly has made a series of choices since the start of our relationship. She has made the choice to be involved with me, even knowing that I am polyamorous and that this is such a fundamental part of who I am that I cannot be happy any other way. She has made the choice to accept, even if she does not understand, my relationship with Shelly. She has made the choice to invite Shelly into her home.
But she does not understand these choices, and because of that, I wonder if she understands how hard it will be for Shelly to live with us, knowing that she is making herself vulnerable in a way that means Kelly can easily hurt her very badly.
Shelly is in a difficult position: She loves me, she wants to build a life with me, but she believes that if she does, she will be hurt. kelly is in a difficult position; she is being asked to give up something she feels is important for her, and she is being asked to trust that Shelly and I will take care of her and listen to her needs, and she does not understand how that is possible. I am in a difficult position; my family is broken, and I do not know how to fix it.
We can never see past the choices we do not understand. Wish us luck.