Let’s take Meredith out of this. She’s gone. Maybe she moved to Switzerland or something. Also these are just my thoughts on marriage, not the end all be all.
A marriage entails so many things these days. It is not just an economic arrangement. It is built off of love, and a commitment to build a life together. Which often involves raising children.
Yet there is an enormous economic element to marriage. Often combining resources, buying a house and cars together. Investing in the future and education together. Saving for retirement. These economic elements are real, and bind couples together more strongly than I think we acknowledge. They used to be the core of a marriage, but are consider secondary today. In some cases one spouse would not be financially viable without the marriage. In other cases it just wouldn’t be as comfortable. Either way, the finances hold major sway.
Marriage has evolved to be marrying your best friend. It is becoming even more so as people wait to get married until they are sure they found their best friend. The friendship is a key component today. We do everything with our spouse and best friend. This part of marriage is predicated on a strong emotional bond. Often there is a history to the relationship as well. This is not to be confused with a sexual bond, but generally enhanced by a strong sexual connection.
Raising a family is a core element in a marriage. It is a tie that binds across generations. It lasts forever. Raising a family is often reason enough for people to want to work out other differences.
A marriage absolutely involves a romantic element. Generally we are sexually attracted to our spouse, and form an exclusive sexual relationship with them. In fact this is usually the one part of the relationship that cannot be shared with anyone else. A person can have other best friends, form financial partnerships with other people, and generally do other relationship activities with other people, but they cannot have sex with anyone else. Period. That is our standard societally accepted monogamous marriage. Sexual exclusivity.
Within a marriage you will not always align. In fact it is good to keep some separateness. Especially around interests. Claire, for example, loves musicals. I do not. Yet, one year I bought her two tickets to her favorite musical with the caveat that she could invite someone else to go. She can maintain her own interests outside of mine. We have many like this, and it can be healthy as long as you have some interests you share.
Compromise is a key word thrown out often when it comes to differences in a marriage. It is completely true. You must learn to live with this entirely different human being. That will involve some compromise. If you don’t like broccoli make your own dish. Only going out drinking with your buddies every other weekend. Whatever it is. Compromise can mean giving up parts of your old life, but rarely does it force you to give up on a core part of who you are. In fact a good marriage will enhance who you are by giving you the freedom and respect to be a better version of yourself.
When I talk about the sexual differences between Claire and myself I hear many comments that I need to compromise. However that isn’t what is being asked. Compromise, in this case, is for me to deny a core part of myself. That is not a compromise. It wood be the same as a wife deciding she no longer wanted sex. The husband is not compromising by also not having sex. No. He is in forced celibacy. Although I am not celibate, there is a part of me that is. I’ve only ever experienced an important part of my sexuality with Meredith.
Sex means different things to different people. We all have our own kinks, fantasies and desires. Generally that is great. It can add spice to the bedroom if you trust someone enough to explore your sexual interests. And it is interests. Like musicals or football. Sex mostly happens in your head, and we all have different desires. Different ways we want to experience our erotic lives. Yet we have to be extremely vulnerable, and in a trusting relationship to explore those fully.
In my case with Claire we were not able to reach a level of vulnerability we needed for a number of reasons. We are able to talk about it now post-affair, but it does not change our desires. Now that I feel open enough to tell her my darkest desires she does not all of a sudden share them. In fact she reacts much the way I expected. With fear and trepidation. She wants to explore these out of love, but not out of erotic desire. It doesn’t work well that way.
What if I could take that away from her? Make it so she no longer has to carry that burden. We could live our lives with a moderate, very lightly kinky sex life, and I could take this one interest I have somewhere else. I have a hard time believing that chasing one interest will destroy our marriage unless we allow it to. If I take 12 times a year, heck I’d take 6, to visit with a mistress, and enjoy the level of erotic enjoyment that I crave it would be wonderful. To know that Claire accepted this, gave me this gift, would fill me with joy and love for her.
There would also be a separateness formed by having the third which I believe would enhance my sexual relationship with Claire. Perel talks about this often. It brings a desire for the other back to a stale marriage. We could certainly use that. For Claire to know that I am a desired man, and can perform intense sexual pleasure with another woman has increased her libido in the past and could do it again. Watching her feel this way makes me so full of desire for her I can’t even understand, but we have great sex afterward.
What I do not want is the lying. The lying is the damaging part of an affair. That needs to end. There needs to be an open understanding and a negotiation to our relationship boundaries. I will preserve those boundaries at all cost. The lying puts all the wonderful parts of our marriage at risk for one part. That isn’t worth it.
If, in the end, it is not possible to do this, then so be it. But I feel it is worth trying.