Dan and I were out together on his sailboat last night, an evening trip out to Sidney Spit, where we shared a picnic dinner and a bottle of wine, enjoyed the sunset, and watched the nearly full moon rise over the water. I was away camping last weekend with my kids and will be away again this weekend kayaking; Dan and I don’t see an awful lot of one another. But Tuesday night worked for both of us, and so we made it happen.
We have an interesting dynamic, he and I. We enjoy spending time together, and seem to have found a place of easy companionship together. There is never a shortage of conversation, laughter or affection between us. We share a love of travel and adventure, and I’m loving the opportunity to spend time on the water and learn from him a bit about sailing. But we also have some clearly defined boundaries: this is a summer relationship, a bit of fun for both of us. Let’s just enjoy the moment and see what happens. This is not the start of something long-term; in fact we never seem to plan anything more than about two weeks out. I’m not really sure how to define what there is between us. I’m not sure if it even needs a definition. Because we spend most of our time together on his sailboat, Dan refers to me as “Crew With Benefits.” That works for me.
I’ve had summer flings before, but what’s different this time is that I’m not letting myself get too emotionally involved. And neither is he. We’re both holding back, and I think it’s new territory for both of us. But it has a remarkable effect on the dynamic between us. There is no pressure. There is no expectation. There is no need for either of us to try to be anyone but ourselves. We can just “Be” together. And there is enormous freedom in that.
There is learning for me in this place, both about relationships and about my own personal growth. From a relationship perspective, I see the value in developing a friendship first, without the pressures of a “Long Term Commitment” looming over everything. If I’d approached things with Dan within the context of “Long Term,” I would have bolted by now. For starters, the whole idea of long term is just too much pressure for me yet, as demonstrated by the long string of men I’ve discarded over the past few months. And beyond that, I would have ruled Dan out early, without taking the time to get to know and understand him. It is far easier to accept someone as he is when I’m not worrying about being married to him.
And from a personal growth perspective, I can’t believe how liberating it is just to be myself. There is absolutely no pressure in this place to please, to impress, to mold myself into the woman somebody else wants me to be. I think of myself as strong and self assured, but I know that in my last relationship I was prone to these impulses. What I’m rediscovering right now is who I am, and what I love, and what I really want in my life. I’m not out on a sailboat with Dan because that’s what he loves to do and I want to please him. I’m out there because I love being on the water and have dreamed of learning to sail for years. No matter what happens with Dan, I’m going to find a way to keep sailing. I’m relearning what Shakespeare counseled so long ago: To thine own self be true.
Tonight I’m packing up for my kayaking trip through the Broken Islands. I won’t see Dan again until next Tuesday, and that’s okay. I’ll be kayaking; he’ll be hiking. But I’ll be looking forward to next Tuesday’s adventure, to some more time just “being” together, and to learning more in this interesting place we’ve found ourselves.