How to Win in your Romantic Relationships

I dated a guy briefly when I worked on luxury cruise ships. He was a high-ranking officer and I was a manager of a revenue department. When you enter any sort of relationship with another crewmember, you need to have a certain understanding that the relationship has a high probability of not lasting past the length of time you will both be aboard the vessel, if it even lasts that long.

Cruise ship crewmember life moves fast. People fall in love, out of love and back in love at blazing speeds.

When I met Andrew, he was tall, cool, calm, collected and had an alpha swag that was almost palpable. I tried not to drool over him, but I knew it was only a matter of time before I gave in and let desire – and probably lust – take over.

We started hanging out and, to my surprise, he never made a move. Funny, I thought, since his reputation onboard was that of a major player in the love department.

Eventually, after about a week of connecting and a few glasses of wine, I got brave and asked him why he hadn’t even so much as given me a nice hug yet?

His response was one of the most honest and pure answers I have ever received from a man.

He calmly said to me, “I do not agree with monogamy, nor do I commit. Therefore, this can go one of 3 ways:

  1. We can sleep together and never speak again.

 

  1. We can continue to see each other on a sexual/romantic level and you will be okay with the fact that I do not commit to one person.

 

  1. We can continue to see each other on a sexual/romantic level and you SAY that you are okay with the fact that I don’t commit, but really, you aren’t okay. You get upset when you can’t change me and I have to let you go and you wind up hurt and heartbroken.

 

I can tell you the one that most often plays out… is number 3.”

I just looked at him crookedly, in awe. I thought to myself, he doesn’t agree with monogamy? Is that even something you can disagree with? Okay, I get the non-commitment thing, but what’s his deal? And why am I so turned on by his honesty?

After that surprising conversation, we continued seeing each other, with me giving my all at choosing number 2. I had just gone through some serious transitions in life and was, for the first time, attempting to live life solely for me. I kept telling myself, you don’t need or want a man to “complete you”. And I believed that. It was a part of my daily positive affirmations and, up to that point, I could feel it working wonders for my connection to myself and my ability to increase self-love.

And then, it got hard. Our connection was incredible. Our conversations lit my brain and soul on fire and I wanted to be around him all the time. I began longing for more of him, even though I kept telling myself that it wasn’t what I really wanted. It was almost like the long built-in preconditions were taking over.

Then one day, he met me in my place of work for a quick chat before making his rounds on the vessel. Mid-conversation, he caught a glimpse of another woman and excused himself, told me that he would see me later and then rushed to her side to continue walking away with his arm around her shoulder.

I will never forget that feeling – an imaginary punch to the gut that feels all too real for comfort. It was a sense or intuition of some sort, but I just knew that she was another someone he cared about. And I agreed to that from the beginning. I choose number 2, I reminded myself, but why did I feel so close to a jealous rage if I had known this all along? Why would that be my reaction if I knew that a committed, exclusive relationship with this man was not what I wanted either? Why did the sight of them walking away make my head spin, fill my heart with sadness, and make my eyes well with tears?

In a word, the answer to those questions is “society”. Society and the way I was raised told me that the way to “do” relationships and love is for two people to decide that they like each other, start dating, enter a long-term relationship that leads to marriage, buy the house with the picket fence, have 2.5 children, build a life together and live happily ever after, never thinking about leaving one another or lusting after another person.

I was taught that if it doesn’t play out that way, you are broken or not doing it right.

I was never taught that there are many different ways to love and be loved and that there is no limit to love, devotion, passion, and desire, except where you accept that limit to be.

Shortly after that emotion-filled situation, he became distant with me. I didn’t blame him though. He had warned me. It was as though I couldn’t stop myself from acting needy or jealous of the other people he had in his life. I found myself constantly comparing myself to her and to a whole slew of imaginary women that I perceived he had connections with. My “enoughness” was dwindling daily and I was no longer the confident, secure woman he’d originally met.

Before a 4-day hiatus (which feels like weeks when you live on a ship), he mentioned that I should read a book called Sex at Dawn. He’d told me about the book before and I put it on my to-read list, but I wasn’t in a rush until he mentioned it a second time.

He’d been so adamant about it that I decided to download it that day.

Within the first few chapters, couldn’t believe what I was hearing and absorbing. The book was a complete game changer. So many myths and taboos about human sexuality melted away from my consciousness.

I felt, in a word, liberated.

Andrew and I reconnected just as I was finishing the book. We talked about what breakthroughs I’d had and he answered a lot of questions that were on my mind. He also held space for me to ramble about some of the concepts I was still attempting to wrap my head around. One of the major ones was the fact that I, and most of the western world, had been lied to when it came to learning about sex and sexuality. I found that to move on with this lifestyle, I would have to forgive myself and a lot of the people from my past.

It was a magical awakening and I was fortunate to have someone so beautiful and strong to be there and support me.

I left that ship and moved on to the next, not thinking that he and I would maintain any type of relationship, but we did. We became incredible friends and are still comfortable telling each other absolutely anything, especially the things about our sexual vulnerabilities that we typically don’t share with others. I feel confident in saying that I will always have some sort of connection with him.

What I learned during that short time with him, and what I continue to learn, is that relationships are built from what you create. They can have faulty infrastructure or rock-solid, ready for anything groundwork. It is completely up to you what materials you choose to build them from.

Before Andrew, my relationship foundations had been perpetually shaky, at best. They were built from what I thought they had to be. They incorporated all of my insecurities and misbeliefs about love and sex, and the mortar was layers of guilt, shame, and jealousy.

Now, my romantic relationships are very different.

I have my own version of the three options that Andrew gave me. I tell potential lovers exactly what I am about and exactly what I will not accept. Guilt, shame and, most importantly, jealousy are in those categories. Not allowing those into a relationship is a conscious choice that takes incredible amounts of self-awareness and self-love.

I tell any lover that I do not wish to control you and/or your life in any way. You are free to make your choices as you see fit and I am always okay with them. Communication and a complete lack of assumptions are how to best achieve what you really hope and desire.

When I think about a person I love enjoying time and connection with another soul, or engaging in an activity I am not a part of, I turn my jealousy into compersion. Compersion is when you feel happiness and joy when the person you love is feeling happiness and joy with others and in other circumstances. It is the other side of jealousy’s brutal coin, and adopting that principle into your life and relationships can make all the difference.

I am now in a committed relationship with a wonderful soul. He knows about connections and communication I have with others that I care about, Andrew included. This was all new to him before he met me and I have had the fortunate opportunity to open his eyes in new and profound ways, just as Andrew did for me.

We speak regularly about what it would be like if we felt a connection with other people. We talk about what might happen if we felt like beginning new relationships and we constantly share how we feel, always practicing compersion over feelings of jealousy or guilt. We understand that limiting your love means limiting your true potential in all areas of your life.

We hope to set an example for others to “break the cycle” that so many people continue to repeat, resulting in the end of perfectly brilliant relationships. What you and the people you care about and love build together – the joy, the fun, the memories, the life you share – all of this should count more than anything else.

Alexa

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  1. Denis
    Denis says:

    One of the greatest examples of connection at sea, I have ever read.
    Went through all your stories, very proud of your work. Wishing you Good Luck, Alexa! Amazing!

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