Invisibility

“So I just told them how it all works. I didn’t want to keep it secret because I am really proud of how my relationships work.” Me to Exhibit A, a few weeks back.

I have become friendly with a group of neighbours in the last six months or so. Things started with typical chat about taking in parcels and cleaner recommendations, then someone decided to host Christmas drinks. I thought it would be a couple of hours of small talk, pleasant but not memorable. I wobbled home at gone midnight after an evening of copious wine, raucous laughter and chat that ranged from women’s health in Africa to local running routes to one neighbour confessing her husband tells her off for being an exhibitionist when she stands naked in their bedroom window. Basically, a crowd of people who are right up my street – literally and metaphorically!

One Saturday in April someone pinged the WhatsApp group to see who was around. Remarkably, we were all free! A few hours later we were round a table in a local restaurant, feasting on charcuterie and planning a street party so we could meet even more of our neighbours. Fast forward to the second May bank holiday and we’re having a planning BBQ to finalise party details…

It’s the weekend after Exhibit A and I have been to Luxembourg and the neighbours are asking about my trip. I don’t know if there was something about the way I was talking (I definitely didn’t talk about photos and fucking in musty tunnels!), or whether some penny dropped by chance, but the face of the-neighbour-with-the-big-house-who-always-hosts fell and she exclaimed: “Oh my God! I am so rude. You have a partner and I have never invited him to any of our get-togethers!” I laughed and reassured her it was all fine, thinking it was easier not to get into detail of why he doesn’t regularly rock up to events as my plus one. Then she asked if he would be coming to the street party and I just thought ‘fuck it’!

“I don’t know, I will mention it. I know he and his wife are planning quite a low key weekend but they might want to come.”

Nobody flinched but I could see questions behind eyes so I clarified. It’s ethically open, Livvy and I are friends, I was at their wedding, he loves meeting new people so if any of our street get-togethers happen to coincide with when we have plans I’m sure he’d like to come. Simple statements of fact, a chorus of ‘oh wow’ and ‘that’s cool’ and then onto deciding what games we would put on for the kids. But that straightforward explanation of relationship status when you’re not in a traditional set-up is still relatively rare.

I have written before about being a very happy second and everything I wrote then still stands. I still have zero interest in the trappings of a full time cohabiting relationship. And I still recognise that I thrive from having the security and affection that comes with a partner who means more to me than a fuck buddy does (although I love my straightforward sex dates with fuck buddies too!). But something I have found myself reflecting on over the last year or so is the issue of visibility when you’re a secondary partner living in a society that still doesn’t widely embrace non-monogamous set-ups.

A lot of the time you have to be pretty invisible and it can occasionally make you feel wistful. You have to modify your behaviour, think about what you say, and occasionally lie. Last summer Exhibit A and I went to see a friend of mine do a reading of his work. At one point when EA was looking at his phone my friend mouthed over ‘Is that your chap?’ and shot an ‘appreciative eyes’ look at me. ’No, just a friend,’ I mouthed back. What I really wanted to say was ‘Yes! And I know – hot, eh?!’, but I knew that my friend is friends with EA’s sister. When someone asks how you know them at a party (or a wedding!) you hide your affection and say you used to work together. You spend a lot of time being aware of your actions. I am the most ridiculously enthusiastically tactile person but I once asked whether I could touch EA when we in a pub; he looked at me oddly so I reminded him that we were in Livvy’s sister’s neighbourhood.

Of course, in the sex blogger community there’s no need to hide anything and outside of the community some of my closest friends and a couple of family members know. But broadly speaking a partnership I really value remains largely invisible to the outside world. Nobody is doing anything wrong or intentionally trying to hurt anyone; for many people in non-monogamous relationships it’s still easier, for numerous reasons, to keep things quiet in their wider lives. My situation is in no way unique.

Although I reflect on this from time to time, I don’t dwell on it. I spend enough time overthinking the things I can change without overthinking the things I can’t! But for my own processing of feelings I allow myself to acknowledge that having to hide something that you put work and emotional energy into, and that you’re really proud, of isn’t always easy. Which is probably why the conversation with my neighbours felt like a little victory and why I relayed it with such delight!

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35 thoughts on “Invisibility

  1. I keep all my relationships under wraps for similar reasons. I don’t have open-minded friends or family and they are in the same situation. Despite me being in two other non-monogamous relationships for 7 months now, I will always be a single person to everyone around me. It’s a bit ridiculous but I guess it’s the way it is.

    Also, I am jealous of your neighbour set up. Now that’s something I really want!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can imagine that it can’t always be easy, which is why I’m so happy that your lovely neighbours took your relationship status in their stride. I’m also going to take “largely invisible to the outside world” as a positive because it isn’t entirely invisible and you get to share the joy with a select few. Little victories such as this will, I hope, slowly see society become much more accepting of non-traditional relationships, thank you for doing your part!

    O x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think it would have been strange if you found it easy to mostly be the invisible one. I thin it’s a naturaly thing to think about it and sometimes have your ‘difficult’ moments.
    Great to be able to talk openly to your neighbours about it 🙂

    Rebel xox

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was so interesting to read. I can relate to the hiding part as we hide our D/s relationship from most of the world but as a monogamous couple we don’t have to deal with the same issues as you do. I am glad that you were able to be open, if even only with a select few and I can see why it felt like a little victory. I wish that the world were ready to accept that as long as people are happy they don’t need to judge, but we are still a long way from that. What you can see from your writing is the beauty and the love and the closeness of your relationship and unless people are ready to see it for what it is then I can understand you choosing to keep it to the chosen few. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I know I am very lucky because we are fairly out about our D/s relationship and also about Michael’s relationship with Cara. My kids know and all our friends, it is only really my parents who do not. I know for Cara that is not the same but I hope that when she is here with us that gives her an opportunity to be truly seen if that makes sense

    Mollyx

    Liked by 2 people

  6. What a wonderful post. How fantastic to finally realise you can be open in your home town! And coming out like that is good for the other people too.
    Like you say, it’s super easy to be sex positive to our community, you need a bit of bravery to tall outside that.
    I came out as a sex writer and vibrator inventor to my new neighbour (I moved in, small town yikes)
    And she couldn’t be more amazing! So supportive and came to a recent event!
    I think we do get a feel for people.
    Hooray for sharing, brilliant news! X x

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was really interesting and your PoV is one I maybe havent considered before – thank you for sharing. I feel a bit ‘invisible’ about my sex blogging and erotica writing, which of course I have to keep on the down low, but I do feel very enervated when I CAN talk about it to people. ATM my kids think I review erotic books and so that’s why I have a pseudonym on Twitter … so I’m edging round the truth!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your neighbours sound so fab! What luck.

    The other thing is sad, even if you’re floating along that stream happily. I do hope this is one of the areas that our society relaxes its judgement about and increases its awareness of sooner rather than later.

    Like

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