I want to be fully met by my partner, and honestly I’m just not.
So I decided to follow my desire. I went elsewhere to get my needs met. I found someone I DO feel met by. Really, truly met.
It felt like the right thing to do the whole way. But now I feel awful. Everyone is devastated. Including me.
What is happening? What do I do?”
Dear man who cheated,
1. “It felt like the right thing to do the whole way.”
I am not a huge proponent of religions and cultural codes that focus on transcending, ignoring, or suppressing our desires.
The reason why is that I think they skip to the punch line without telling the joke.
The divine beast we call “desire” doesn’t give a shit about any judgements we have about the state of things. It doesn’t pull us exclusively into nice, easy situations that we can feel proud of.
In fact, the entire reason why following desire makes sense as a spiritual path is that doing so completely and consistently obliterates us.
Every rusty form that we’ve imposed on pure desire— every sexual fantasy, every idea that we could really be happy if only we could do X— desire flows into. Not so that we can feel good, but rather to give us the experiential realization of the devastating dissatisfaction that results from having any of those things.
The reason why this is such a slow education process for most people even when they are committed to following their desire is that instead of actually feeling 100% of the pain that results from what they do, they numb out—by, say, obsessively processing.
I got a strong and spontaneous desire to play video games this winter. So I did. I went crazy with it whenever I wasn’t working. I played through all of Civ VI and Diablo III and Assassin’s Creed II. One day I started playing at noon, and Carolyn found me the next morning at 8am still playing. I did not indulge in moderation.
It was a neat experience. I had fun, and discovered some useful things about the new-skill-learning process. For some reason it felt important. And, it hurt. A lot. I could feel that I wasn’t giving attention to Carolyn, that I wasn’t giving my gifts to the world, and that I wasn’t showing up for my friends.
I played and felt the hurt. For about three weeks. And I stayed open with Carolyn the whole time, feeling the impact on her and letting her feel me feeling it.
And one day, it was done. My body had “gathered enough data,” as my friend Joshua likes to say.
I had routine cravings to play again for a week or two afterwards, from dopamine and habit, but I knew the visceral truth of what it felt like. So I didn’t.
Would it have been better to just not play from the beginning? Probably.
But now I don’t have to entertain a single fantasy that what I really want to do is hang out and play video games.
2. “My partner wasn’t fulfilling my needs.”
There’s a problem with the idea that your needs aren’t being met.
That problem is that you think you have needs.
In one dimension, we all have needs. Food, family, love, vitamin D.
And, there has been no shortage of ecstatically joyful souls throughout history sitting in caves without food or company.
Did they do that because you have to in order to be happy?
No. Plenty of other ecstatically joyful folks have feasted and danced in the sunlight and made babies.
They did it because when you know you’re already complete, it doesn’t fucking matter what you do.
Then life is art. And no two masterpieces look the same.
If you insist on continuing to play the “needs” game, here are some things that could be called fundamental needs, proposed by wise people who claim to be actually happy:
Loving everyone radically
Giving your gifts relentlessly to the world
Resting your consciousness in the bliss of nothingness
surrendering completely to the voice of god
Find me a single happy spiritual teacher who has ever said you have needs other than those. The idea that you have any other fundamental needs in relationship is an insane concept propagated by second rate relationship coaches to sell online programs by giving people justification for their resentment and victimhood.
3. “Feeling met.”
The feeling of being met is an incredible thing.
It’s like the first time you hold hands with a girl on a date as a teenager. Full-body ecstasy. Fully feeling the texture of existence.
To me, it is the taste of life itself.
And, it’s not something that you wait around for to happen.
You have a soul. There are all sorts of obstacles and distance between it and another soul.
What feels good is touching souls. It doesn’t matter which touches which. When it comes to connection, there isn’t even clear directionality in the first place.
If you actually wanted that feeling of being met as much as you claim to, you would figure out a way to make direct contact with her soul.
But you haven’t.
I believe you that you want that feeling, because there is nothing in the world like it.
And the only way I ever get to experience it in my own life is by penetrating Carolyn’s billions of walls with progressively unprecedented levels of attention. Because why the fuck would she let me touch as precious a thing as her soul if she can feel that I’m lazy and self-absorbed?
This is why there’s no real distinction between relationship and purpose. Because being in committed relationship means having your capacity for attention and love stretched deeper every single day.
Otherwise, your “commitment” is just commitment to inhabiting the same vicinity as her. Not to truly loving her. Not to growing into a man who can love her more and more deeply and skillfully for the rest of your life.
Is that terrifying? Of course it is. You’re not the only person who finds true commitment life-threateningly scary.
It’s also the most profoundly peaceful satisfaction that exists.
If I were sharing my drugs with you, this is the one I would most fervently recommend.