“We were letting the ideal of staying together take precedence over our personal growth and happiness as individuals.”
BY LEON FOX
When my husband and I started dating, we agreed that we didn’t want a heteronormative relationship with standards and values that didn’t fit our needs. So we chose to enter into a dynamic relationship with a structure that would evolve with our growth as individuals. We agreed to try something radical—something new—that we would pioneer on our own.
We were polyamorous; practicing the the delicate art of distance and personal space; encouraging one another to try new things, go to new places and have new experiences; encountering each other’s trauma and attending to it without enfeebling our ability to support the other; we made lots of mistakes, and talked about them after the fact, constantly trying to learn how to be better partners as we were growing and changing. It was as beautiful and exciting as it was daunting and (sometimes) downright terrifying. And I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
Two and half years into the relationship, and we were experiencing deep trauma in our finances, emotions, and interpersonal relationships. This made loving and supporting each other in the ways we wanted nearly impossible. Critical mass was approaching, and we were unsure how we could adjust the relationship and still remain a couple.
Then we realized something we had never considered before: while the structure of our relationship was radically queer, the expectations we had put on ourselves—to stay as partners no matter what—was, in essence, heteronormative (i.e “till death do us part.”). Essentially, we were letting the ideal of staying together take precedence over our personal growth and happiness as individuals, and it was for that fact that I felt like I was being a bad partner to him, and he felt like he was being a bad partner to me.
When we acknowledged this, the decision to break up became clear. And so we did—calmly, concertedly, and with the utmost respect and love for one another.
The next day, we woke up and felt like a huge weight had been lifted from our shoulders; as though we had just walked past a dark portal to an alternate timeline in which we would still be together, but in misery and resentment.
Whenever we engage in a non-heteronormative relationship, we engage in a radical social experiment that’s sends us into uncharted territory.
Since then, my husband and I have grown and changed in ways we couldn’t possible have done had we remained a couple, and we’ve come to realize that we don’t need to be together—or to identify as a couple—to be fiercely committed to each other’s happiness.
This week, my husband and I celebrate our first anniversary of our break up—and commemorate the courage and wisdom we exhibited to make space for each other’s prosperity. My relationship with my husband endures happily and meaningfully to this very day. Now, whenever a friend tells me that they’ve recently broken up with their partner, I tell them: “Sounds like you you did the best thing for your relationship. Be proud of the effort you put into it, and take time to learn what you do from it.”
Whenever we engage in a non-heteronormative relationship, we engage in a radical social experiment that’s sends us into uncharted territory. There, we are pioneers, attempting to settle lands few have gone before. It’s possible these settlements will become unsustainable, unable to support the new lives we had fought so hard to create, and they might not last as long as we had hoped they would.
But that is the nature of being explorers.
Why should we judge the success of our queer settlements against the standards of the heteronormative empire? Why are we beating ourselves up and contemplating failure, when those very “failures” are defined by institutions we already renounce?
We ought to respect ourselves for effort we put into our social experiments! We are emotional scientists, explorers of amory, cartographers of the heart—and we do what we do not only for ourselves, but for posterity.
So many of us have witnessed first hand the false promise and senseless destruction of heteronormative paradigms in our relationships. And whether they recognize it or not, the heteronormative world—and humanity at large—needs the valuable lessons we learn from our radical enterprise.
Take pride in your non-normative relationships.
I spoke openly and often about my relationship with my husband, and I continue to do so, even after its conclusion. The experiment isn’t over. In a way, it actually never ends. By sharing our experiences with others, we allow for them to make educated decisions and have create rewarding relationships as they experiment on their own.
We’re all in this together, folks. Keep it up, and keep talking about it.
Leon Fox is an artist, musician, and adult film performer living in San Francisco. You can find him at instagram.com/leonfoxtrot/