Shit with the Door Open: A Guide to Intimacy

Back when we were moving, our friends Big Ben and Charles came by to help us pack. During a break, we were all in the kitchen, and Ben and I started talking about our old iMac, which was about to go to Goodwill.

I asked if we’d wiped all the porn off it, and Ben insisted that there never was any porn on the Mac. Then we had a somewhat lengthy and tedious conversation about who jerked off where, way back when the iMac was an active machine.

Apparently this isn’t a thing a lot of couples do.

Later that weekend, Ben asked when it was we first started using the bathroom with the door open. I think it was back in the dorms when we used to hang out naked all the time. The dorms were so tiny that when you closed the bathroom door, it was as much like being in a coffin as I’ve ever felt. Besides, we were already naked, sitting on the toilet wasn’t that big of a stretch. Especially if we were talking about something and wanted to continue the conversation. That’s the same reason we started showering together.

I’ve been asked how it is we seem to get along so well, and usually I answer that it’s about communication, but I don’t get very specific. Everybody knows it’s bad to keep secrets from your partner, but what constitutes a secret isn’t always clear.

So many people in monogamous relationships think they have to pretend to be something they’re not. There’s an assumption that if a person were to confess to something as inappropriate as finding people other than their partner attractive, or (God forbid) jerking off by themselves, that would be the end of their partnered life.

Everybody knows that monogamy is basically unnatural, but it’s not that fucking unnatural. Most civilization is completely counter to our basic animal instincts, but we do it because it’s safe and pleasant, and it’s only a very small minority of people who are actually made for tribalism. If your relationship is such a fragile house of cards that one look at another person, or one orgasm had not in their presence will ruin everything, you’ve got bigger problems than you think.

Do I tell Ben everything everything? No. He’s terrified of bugs. So when I find a cool one, I keep it to myself. That being said, do we have an understanding that each of us is a totally separate grown-up person with our own drives and needs? Yeah.

One of the unexpected joys of having a long term partner, for me, is that he has become a refuge. He is the only person on this planet that I can be with, and feel just as energized as if I had been alone. If I was for even one second false with him, that wouldn’t work. If I tried to lie to him about my needs, in any fashion, we wouldn’t be partners, we’d either be competitors, or adversaries.

Couples lie to each other all the time. They say they’ll be together forever, they claim to be “soul mates.” This utter bullshit isn’t bad on it’s face. In my opinion, and in my relationship, lies are okay as long as everybody involved knows that they’re lies. Some girls feel safe when they participate in the lie that their love is forever. For Ben and I, the one and only lie we knowingly perpetuate is that I am physically stronger than him. It’s just as realistic as calling him my soul mate, and far more productive for my mental health.

At the end of the day, every relationship is different. Everyone has their own truths and their own lies that they live by.

You don’t have to shit with the door open. You don’t even have to hang out naked together, or have lengthy discussions about masturbation. But you do have to be real with the one you love. When we misrepresent ourselves to our significant other, we are not only lying to them, we’re making it impossible for them to ever love us. The real us. Don’t hide in your relationship. That’s the real secret. Not everybody’s going to like you as you are. But when somebody does, they really, actually do.