Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cheating

By Lisabet Sarai



He's behind me, firm body molded to mine. The hard lump pressed against my still-clothed ass makes me dizzy and breathless. It's proof that he wants me as much as I want him. His fingers trace an electric path over my shoulders and down my bare arms. He captures my aching breasts, weighing them in his big palms while he nibbles the tender flesh below my ear. I lean back, rejoicing at the way we fit, marveling at the sense of rightness. I'm drunk with desire, floating in a languid sea of glorious sensation as he continues to explore my body.

This is special. This is sacred, this un-looked-for flare of passion, a perfect synchrony of lust shading imperceptibly into love. I didn't expect it, but oh, I recognize it. I recognize him. I know what he's thinking and feeling because his desires mirror mine. Soon we will be naked together, naked and joined. But there's no hurry. Now that we've found each other, now that the fuse has been lit, we can wait while it burns its way to an explosive completion.

Then I remember. I'm married. My husband is waiting for me, somewhere. Perhaps he might rejoin us at any moment. Perhaps I'm on business, away from home. Or maybe he's the one who's traveling. In any case, I'm not free, not completely. I can continue if I choose, reaping the harvest of this magnificent passion, but there will be regrets, recriminations, consequences. I find myself explaining this to my new partner, tears in my eyes – tears in his as well, I'm both pained and flattered to discover. I have to refuse the gift of the present in order to avoid suffering in the future.

I do love my husband. If I didn't, I wouldn't worry about cheating. I don't want to see him hurt. Perhaps it's just selfishness. When he's in pain, I hurt too. In any case, I bid my new lover farewell, trying to convey how much I want him, how much I care – how sorry I am that the promise of our desire will never be fulfilled.

This dream, or a variant, visits me pretty regularly. Often my would-be lover is a stranger. Sometimes it's a man I actually know, usually someone I'd never considered as a potential lover, occasionally someone on whom I have a crush. In all cases, the dream is cause for me to reflect. I'm not fundamentally monogamous. Before I married, I had multiple simultaneous lovers and cared about them all. Now, however, I seem to have internalized the prohibition against infidelity, to the point that I won't let myself live my fantasies even in my dreams.

It's very peculiar and rather distressing.

When my husband and I agreed to marry, almost thirty years ago, we wrote and signed a marriage contract. One of the articles explicitly allowed us to have other lovers, as long as we were honest with each other, and as long as our own relationship took priority. Yet (as far as I know) neither of us has ever fully taken advantage of this provision. We have been involved in group sexual activity and done some swapping. As I have shared previously, we spent quite a while on an (unsuccessful) search for another couple with whom we could establish a polyamorous bond. However, neither he nor I has ever gone out and had sex when the other person wasn't present.

I'll admit that I've skirted the edge of infidelity in my infrequent encounters with the man I call my master. Still, since I married, my master and I have never actually had sex. I tell myself that spankings and other BDSM games don't really count, since my husband doesn't consider them sexy at all. Am I being honest? Probably not completely. I know that my husband finds my interest in D/s perplexing, that in some sense, he feels left out. I don't talk about it, mostly because I don't want to make him uncomfortable.

At least, that's my excuse.

Why don't I take lovers, given that my marriage contract gives me permission to do so? Because I sense that my husband, especially now, would be deeply hurt. We're both getting older and less attractive all the time (not to mention less sexually fit – menopause is a real drag, believe me!) and I'm sure he'd compare himself unfavorably if there were another man in my life. I don't want it enough – even in my dreams – to wound him that way. And if I found a woman lover whom I didn't share with him, I actually think he'd be even more jealous.

So I satisfy myself with the occasional real-world flirtation that doesn't go any further and use my writing to play with my fantasies in a safe way. I realized when I sat down to pen this blog post that until very recently, I'd never written a story about infidelity. A few months ago, I had the urge to explore what it would be like to meet your soul mate when you were in your fifties and had been married (to someone else) for decades. The result was a story called “Never Too Late”, which is as yet unpublished.

He pushes Hollandaise around on his plate. "Come home with me," he says finally. "Stay with me." His eyes are naked. A lump of lead settles in my chest.

"I can't. I have work, responsibilities. Another life."

"That life is over. You'll never be satisfied with it again. Not now that you know who you are. Now that you know me..."

I have a sinking conviction that he's right. But I can't chuck everything and start over, can I?

"Your husband, your children―they'll be fine without you." As in the bedroom, he reads my mind. "Haven't you given them enough? How many years has it been? Twenty? Thirty?"

"Twenty seven."

"I know you love him," Mark says. "But for those twenty seven long years, while he's had you, I've been waiting for you." He leaned closer. "I need you. More than he does."

"No." I shake my head, picturing my husband alone. Eating alone. Sleeping alone. How could I do such a thing to him? Then I look at Mark, feel the power he's broadcasting. I fight the urge to slip under the table and kneel at his feet.

He grabs my hand so hard that pain shoots up my arm. "Picture what it will be like. You'll be mine, my slave, my darling. I'll take care of you. I'll give you everything you need. We barely know each other now, but you feel the connection, too. I know you do. Think how it will be, spending months together. Years. A new life. A new start. It's never too late."

I struggle to hold back the rising tears. "No, it's just not possible. You reach a stage in your life where you're no longer free. Not even free to explore yourself."

Do I really believe this? When I'm with Mark, anything seems possible. I feel like one of the Apostles. Drop your nets and your tools and follow me, Jesus told them. I will be your mother, your father, your children. How old were they when they abandoned their lives for the Light?

What does she decide? I won't tell you now. I'm hoping that at some point the story will in fact make it into print. I will admit, though, that I went back and forth, changing the ending more than once. Because I do sometimes feel that desire is sacred, that it cannot be denied without our losing something precious.

But then the faith and trust that exist between a happily married couple are precious too.

It's hardly an easy choice.


10 comments:

  1. It sounds to me that person you are struggling to be faithful to is yourself. I think this is the heart of what fidelity is about. Perhaps you already are being faithful to yourself and the dreams are doing what dreams are supposed to do, offering you who you could become, letting you try it on like a new coat so that you can decide if you like what you see in the mirror.

    Good post. I hope your story makes it to print.

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  2. Oh, Lisabet, this post mirrors my life exactly. Loved the hubby of 20 years, met the soulmate at the wrong time, we were both married, didn't sleep with soulmate but we were very much having an emotional affair which for me was worse, I think. My life now - A MESS.
    I am with neither man and my heart feels twice broken.
    I am not as progressive or as insightful as you, I guess,
    and I wouldn't wish this pain on anyone. Dunno how ur 'story' will end, but mine isn't pretty, I can tell u that!

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  3. Oh Lisabet,

    What an absolutely delicious quandary you present to us. It sounds like there should be some serious discussion here between husband and wife. As a man ages, it is normal for both his level of desire and his ability to wane. Unfortunate as that is, it is reality. If he loves you as much as he must to still be at your side after thirty years, he should also be understanding enough to not bond you to his limitations. I suspect that his love will extend to taking enjoyment in sharing you with a fierce young lover and celebrating the pleasure that it brings you. The key is mutuality, requiring agreement and not stealth. Sharing your body is a small price to pay to maintain your love. Of course it wouldn't hurt to occasionally bring home a sweet young thing for him to share also.

    Yours,

    Randall Lang

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  4. Wow, Lisabet. Some post :) I wonder if we don't all have this dilema in our life at some point, those of us in long marriages. Mine's not thirty years. About half that, but still. My more adventurous ways and my interest in submission are things he tries really hard to understand and fullfill, but they aren't his needs. It's a quandry, for sure.

    As a side note, Randall, I'd love to live in a world like the one you describe. You are an open-minded man indeed to think such a thing would be possible.

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  5. Hi Lisabet

    While I was reading I was also struck with what a burden would be placed on the would be lover - I'm destroying everything I cherished for your sake - can you live up to my expectations? What must that be like for lover?

    In my life, I've never fallen in love or met my soul mate. That isn't given to me, so in the end fidelity is what I have. But as Mike pointed out, what we are really being faithful to is ourselves, preserving against the gamlble of happiness, what shreds of the sacred remain in our lives.

    Garce

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  6. Lisabet,
    What seredipity to stumble upon a topic my critique partner and I just blogged about. It is a topic that I believe needs much more discussion as we age both as individuals and as a culture. No longer is our life expectancy thirty five or forty years as it has been for eons. The industrial age has brought improved medicine and nutrition equaling a double plus lifespan. Does it make the same sort of sense to have the same marriage vows that have existed forever? SHould we be cutting ourselves off from the other half of the population for the majority of our lives--even after the need to maintain the nest for the bearing and raising of children to maturity has passed? We are only half way through our lives when that freedom from responsibility springs us from the nuclear nest.
    Wonderful! I applaud your willingness to open the discussion and enable others to go into their relationships with eyes wide open and thougth through to include as many possibilities that might present themselves over fifty or sixty years as possible. Of couse we can not know for sure until we are faced with a soul mate on our doorstep. There are surely more than one such soulmate for each of us alive in our times. Perhaps as our society and culture matures further there will be a wide acceptance of polyamorous relationships, thanks to this kind of forethought and careful consideration.

    Warm Regards,

    Christine London

    www.christinelondon.com

    P.s. The Blog "What Is Cheating Exactly" can be located at the link below (as of today, the second post down)

    http://rorreviews.wordpress.com/

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  7. Sincere thanks to all of you for your heartfelt comments. There's so much to say here - far more than mere blog comments can encompass.

    Mike - at first I didn't understand your point about being true to myself. Then, when I began to think about this, it made a bit of sense - I'm being true to myself in the sense that as a person I'm not comfortable with being unfaithful, with hurting the man to whom I've made this commitment.

    Mary - my heart goes out to you. But love is a rocky road. The best you can do is take your experiences and use the emotion in your poetry and prose (as I know you do). One point I should make about these dreams of mine, though - mutual desire often makes it FEEL like one has met one's soul mate. That doesn't necessarily mean it's true. I'm not sure I even believe that we have one "soul mate" in the sense this is usually understood.

    Randall - I agree that honesty has top priority. At this point, though, I'm not sure that I want outside affairs enough to open this can of worms. There's no one specific in my life other than my husband (and my master, but he's on the other side of the globe) so it's kind of a moot point. (And truly, I'm grateful for that.)

    Jaime - I often feel that our society's emphasis on "fidelity" is misplaced. After all, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, bonobos, are not monogamous - it's not necessarily our natural state. But all sorts of things get mixed up with the concept, especially self-image. You need to be quite secure to accept that you lover might want someone other than you (or even in addition to you).

    Garce - you're right. And that perspective would actually make a great premise for a story...

    Christine - Thank you for your visit - I read your blog post and definitely agree with many of your points.

    "Love is never wasted."

    Personally, I'm not the jealous type. I don't mind sharing at all - as long as I'm secure in the fact that my lover still cares for and desires me as well. And I suppose that even if that weren't true, I could live with it, because I know that people change. Also -- love goes far beyond sex, even though I believe that sex is far more profound than many people think.

    Warmly,
    Lisabet

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  8. good post. I lived as polyamorous for years, I don't like going behind people's backs, but found that open relationship worked for me. But I was hungry for a degree of intensity and affection, a kind of conenciton that one person alone could never provide. Or so I thought. And then I met my soul mate, and ther is no need in me, for anyone else as a lover. It's been a startling experience to say the least. I don't beleive it has any wider implications, it's jsut how things worked out for me.

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  9. Hi Lisabet,

    I relate to so much of this—down to the dream you describe. I have had very similar dreams, with similar variants, in that sometimes they portray strangers, sometimes people I know or to whom I feel sexually attracted. And they have also come repeatedly, to a point where I might describe it as a "dream theme" I have experienced since being in the monogamous relationship in which I have been for the last few years with my partner.

    I too feel not fundamentally monogamously-oriented and practiced polyamory before I engaged in relationship with my current partner. And I also have felt great concern about his feeling hurt were I to engage in sex with someone else, regardless of how strongly I feel that such does/would not inherently adversely affect the relationship between him and me—I know he does not see it that way, and that seems very relevant to me in context.

    I have been known to feel sadness that what seems obvious to me—that engaging in sexual relations with more than one person simultaneously is not mutually exclusive to maintaining and appreciating a full, committed, intimate relationship with one ore more of them—has not seemed obvious to many others, including my current partner. (I was reminded of this particularly when I read the lines in your excerpt about the narrator's husband eating and sleeping alone. I found the excerpt, especially the last paragraph, beautiful by the way.)

    I really appreciate this post; thank you for sharing it.

    I also appreciate all the comments here, and thank you to all for those as well.

    Best,
    Em

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  10. Wow! Intense discussion. I have a different perspective, having been cheated on. Ny first husband kept telling me there was no one else, but I knew. The way he didn't look at me, the way he didn't talk and act.

    He finally left, came back, left again. So I did the very mature thing and cheated, too. Felt great since I didn't have to be the one sitting home crying.

    That relationship was awful, and when it ended I felt twice abandoned, twice disrespected.

    The cheating didn't bother me as much as the betrayal of trust. I made up my mind to never do that to anyone.

    I've been remarried for 20 years. We have agreed to be monogamous and we are.

    Situations arise, they always do. I enjoy the flirtation, but that's it. I trust my husband does the same.

    The key is being true to yourself, and to what ever promises you make-to yourself and to your partner(s). If it feels wrong, it probably is.

    Great topic.

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