By Jackie Melfi for ASN Lifestyle Magazine
“Everything Is #@%!ED”
No, that’s not my motto or creed, but it is the title of a book I just finished reading. I’d recently finished reading author Mark Manson’s other book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. I figured I’d liked his last book so much I might as well give his new one a shot.
One of my biggest aha moments came when I read his chapter on pain. “Pain is the universal constant,” he’d said. He backed his opinion with an almost infinite number of hard-hitting quotes, “Trying to eliminate pain only increases your sensitivity to suffering rather than alleviating your suffering.” Ugh!
How often in life had I worked hard at eliminating pain from my life? When I first read this, I was taken aback. I didn’t like pain any more than the next person, and I definitely didn’t go around hugging my pain in some act of gratitude. Sure, I respected the fact that at times I’d gone through some pretty difficult moments and had learned a thing or two, but I’d never really looked at pain as a stepping stone to dare I say… pleasure.
The Beauty Beneath the Pain
I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not talking about using pain as a means to an end to get to pleasure, but more as a way to learn how to take those things we shudder to deal with and being able to see the beauty and growth hiding beneath the pain.
Think about it — you don’t really appreciate the pleasures in life until you’ve experienced the pain. Diverting my life away from any pain only leaves me fragile. I’ll fall apart at the slightest provocation. The slightest discomfort will send me over the edge — a result of my refusal to embrace pain. You end up with a deep reverence for the peace once the storm has passed.
Growing Through Pain with Non-Monogamy
To me, this is one reason why an open relationship can be so gratifying. Both partners have forced themselves to wrestle with the pain. Maybe the pain looks like jealousy, control, or fear. Maybe the pain brings us face to face with our belief system or pits us against our definition of self. Maybe we’re not who we’ve been telling ourselves we are. Facing the pain means being objective and open to an alternate opinion. Pain is tempering our anger to articulate our fear. It’s spouting our thoughts and then being vulnerable enough to admit we might not have all the answers.
Pain is about redefining life. It’s about breaking through the surface diversions to get to the marrow. Society wants to say that those in swinging, poly, or open relationships, who choose consensual non-monogamy, only focus on pleasure.
But I say the opposite is true.
We take conventional thinking and turn it on its head. We take the fragility so prevalent in standard partnerships and turn them into strengths. We take our fears, jealousy, control, anything that keeps the relationship tethered to diversions and exposes them. If we have a fear, we talk about it. If we feel jealous, we look for the core of this feeling. We use what is typically thought of as dangers to a marriage (gut-wrenching honesty, for instance), and we use it as a stepping stone to a deeper relationship.
We take those “taboo” topics and turn them into new and exciting communication and experimentation ways. We journey through the discomfort of truth, honesty, and vulnerability to reap the benefits. You can’t get to the pleasure of anything without first walking through the pain — a matter of fact, the amount of pain we face, the greater the pleasure. For instance, ask any mother if the pain of childbirth was worth the pleasure of holding their newborn. You see, our pleasure is in direct relation to the amount of pain we are willing to experience… how much pain we are willing to accept.
This journey through “pain” is one reason I believe my marriage is the powerhouse it is today — why I am so incredibly proud of John and me. Why I hold my union in such high regard and how I’m able to hold my alliance with John in such reverence. I love that John and I tackled the tough issues and that we didn’t shy away from those conversations that exposed our vulnerabilities, but instead grew together for the good of the marriage.
By Jackie Melfi
John and Jackie Melfi are in a consensually non-monogamous marriage. They have been featured in ABC News Nightline Special Report “Getting Naughty In N’awlins,” Inside a New Orleans Swingers Convention, and CNN's “This Is Life” with Lisa Ling. The Melfis are the force behind the industry famous colette swingers clubs in New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, and Austin. With over 20 years of combined experience, this powerhouse couple coaches thousands of singles and couples through their award-winning blog Openlove101.com.
This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of ASN Lifestyle Magazine.