Relationships & Celibacy

Celibacy’s impact on relationships

I was listening to This American Life on the drive home tonight and it was about this couple who had married young, split up and then got back together. One person said how one factor that she felt brought her back together was that she had already grown old, over 40, with her husband. I reflect on both how compressed our lives become and how celibacy results in the need for continuity between persons being, potentially, dropped. When I look back at the last six years of my life, there’s so much that I know it contains. So many stories, growth moments, reflections, all kinds of shit. But I’ve compressed that down: transition, recovery, conversion. Everything else becomes minor window-dressing, the elaborations within those compartments.

There’s so much to be said about any part of it, sex work, drugs, conversion, transness, all of it can be unfolded into this sprawling exposition. Yet when the moment passes, after two, three, five years. The story stops being present. It gets folded up and tucked away. I don’t bring up this or that when I meet new people. It becomes progressively harder for anyone to know me and I realize in that, harder for me to know others. As my own present life unfurls and then is coiled back up again, everyone else does likewise and any clear narrative once constructed is washed away or pressed into the small sound-bite. I wrote a book and learned about forgiveness. If anyone tries to unroll this it takes hours, days, weeks. Even then I forget things even to myself, putting aside the uncountable lives before this one. The whole story stretches so long that any semblance we might have of being a single person, possessing a singular self, becomes laughable. How can I be this one thing when I have been so many things before?

In marriage, in any long term relationship so close, the cord of our lives is felt through. You grow up and old with others and in doing so, never really need to spend time unrolling the spool. In celibacy, intentionally there is not another who is so close as to live beside you for so long. No one ever sits beside you for three decades watching the entire story. You carry your own thread and roll it up as you go. Potentially, if one is solitary and diligent, you rarely if ever need to unroll that spool. Your life gets continually rolled up and put in a drawer. You trace the major features for strangers, point at how the colors changed from blue to red. In letting things sit in a drawer, you let go of your own history and the ropes tying you to yourself and others. Some amount of freedom unmeasured by the thread of your history.