“A Relationship’s Strength Is Measured By How Well It Survives Trauma.”

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

My poly relationships are a little weird right now, because they’re defined by absence. My wife is a senior citizen with a heart condition, so COVID is a riskier risk than it normally riskenates, and as such I haven’t physically been with any of my partners in the last seven months.

What’s more depressing is that I really can’t envision seeing them in the next twelve months. Even if a vaccine got approved tomorrow, which is unlikely if we want a vaccine actually guaranteed to work, it would still take at least eight months to be developed and distributed.

I’m not seeing my loved ones any time soon.

And that hurts.

Turns out, my relationships are very much held together by cuddles, kisses, hugs, and orgasms. It’s not that verbal and text communication is worthless, but the reason we’re lovers is because, well, that physical expression of love. There is something about my partners where we said, “We could just be buddies, but God, those kisses.”

Not having those feels like something fundamentally missing from a relationship – something lessened. It turns out that these periods of great loss and longing have been made much more bearable by the promise of future kisses, even if those kisses were months away or even in that nebulous comet zone of “whenever.”

Without that, it’s just longing. Yeah, we can videochat or LOL, but for me, there’s something about seeing someone laugh and then hugging them.

Yet I think of what my therapist said: “A relationship’s strength is measured by how well it survives trauma.” Which I wrestled with for a while – surely that can’t be the only measurement – but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’d had very intense relationships that crumbled when the first serious argument hit.

It’s not that relationships can’t be worthwhile if they can’t survive trauma.

But it does mean you won’t have those relationships once the trauma hits.

And this is trauma, alas, a big ongoing spinning wheel of pandemic loneliness, where yes I have Gini and yes my partners have their other partners, but our love isn’t fungible – our love is specific in that we want each other, and yes, we have positive things to offset the loss of this person’s presence but they do fill a unique gap.

Yet there is pride.

Because other relationships are crumbling – from people who have found their partners denying the COVID crisis and demanding unsafe risks to their health, to people deciding what’s the point if they can’t see their sweeties, to folks lying.

Mine have largely stayed constant.

And I appreciate them – their understanding that my wife’s health is vital to me, and to them, and to look this ugly future straight in the face and not deny what’s happening.

I’m not fond of the pandemic. I’m not fond of the idea that trauma is a relationship’s measure of strength. But both are unpleasant truths, and right now, my relationships with smart and loving people have been largely bearing up under this trauma because we are strong, and realistic, and understanding.

It’s a rough time. There’s so much skin-hunger going around. And maybe you’re feeling that with your partners.

But you’re feeling that because you’re safe, you’re caring, and you’re pragmatic.

Take some pride in that, at least.


  1. Raven Black
    Nov 1, 2020

    I think the wording makes it extra gross – if you said a relationship’s *resilience* is measured by how well it survives trauma then that seems so reasonable and self-evident as to be almost tautological.

    Equating a relationship’s strength with its resilience is pretty distasteful. For example, a relationship in which two people don’t give a fuck about each other and never see each other is very resilient, but it’s hardly strong.

    • Kerstin
      Nov 9, 2020

      How would you call something a relationship when they never see each other and don‘t give a fuck about each other…? This isn’t a rlshp, simply co-existing at best, ignoring at worst. Or any stranger on the streets. Not a rlshp to me. – „Surviving trauma _in_ a rlshp“ only makes sense if you work through it together. Given the pandemic this mutual working through often can only happen via text, video etc., but as long as you hold contact and care about the other person you are in this together. – Besides, I don‘t see a point in differing between strength and resilience. A definition I found says: „It (resilience) is the mental reservoir of strength that people are able to call on in times of need to carry them through without falling apart.“ So the two can be used interchangeable in this respect, and are used this way in very many other aspects, e.g. materials science. – In short, I fail to understand why you are so grossed out by this, given that both your definitions of a relationship and resilience/strength don’t make any sense to me. Care to explain?

  2. PixieKitty
    Nov 2, 2020

    Listen, hang in there. Please. I’m in one of the trials. & I’m pretty sure I got vaccine. After second dose was fluish for a half day & tired but otherwise cool. I’m high risk, and high exposure & so far so good. It’s going to come & gods willing will work.
    Im currently I partnered. So I’m tired of just sleeping with my cat & this crap gotta go.

  3. Kerstin
    Nov 9, 2020

    Man,I feel you on this one! Some of us are lucky cohabitating with a partner at all, but it sucks not being able to see your other loved ones! And yes, we do this consciously because we are responsible adults, but sometimes it sucks to be an adult, doesn‘t it? Let‘s dream of a brighter future as this, too, shall pass…


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