Stress

I suppose I wasn’t paying attention to the signals of my body very well. I have been under a lot of stress lately. The holidays are always busy and stressful in their own rite, but January has turned into a bear.

There is so much going on at work, and much of it high profile. Timelines are tight. Plus Claire’s work situation, and generally just raising two small kids.

When I get stressed sex is where I go. I didn’t really notice my recent pattern until today. I’ve been craving intense sex, and kinky sex a lot. Unfortunately that means that most of it has been solo as Claire really can’t help me there.

Until today though. The news from my coworker Pam about her husband leaving her really effected me emotionally. I feel more sullen. Not myself. I still crave sex, but more of a loving sex. Which I had last night. It was nice. I can see now how our emotions can affect our desires in different ways. I’m sure my normal state will return again, but I felt it was an interesting change.

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January Update

The holidays have come and gone. Life was very busy there for awhile. I just couldn’t find the time to write.

Overall things are good. Life is humming along. Work is really, really busy. Stressful actually. I am ramping up a new employee; about to have another employee transfer to my team; giving a preso at our big company kickoff in two weeks; launching an entire system this month. It’s a lot.

I finished the book “The Ethical Slut”. It was very good. It really gave me hope, and a new perspective on the future. I know that most people do not fall into the world of polyamory, and it wouldn’t work for them. But as I’m reading this book it feels like home. That is a good indicator for me. I definitely think it’s worth having a discussion about with Claire.

Our counseling sessions are currently paused as our counselor has taken a long break for the month. That’s ok. We could use the break. We’ve been focused on the new year. Organizing, cleaning, etc. I setup a project plan on what to do to finish the built-in shelves and mantel I’m working on.

Claire’s job is in chaos right now. Good time for our relationship to just be stable. Her boss is a narcissistic manipulator. Claire is a people pleaser. Not a good combo. I’ve been telling her for years she needs to step down from her leadership role, but she always wants to make it work. Finally she called me crying one day after a meeting with her boss. That was it. She stepped down the next working day. But since then her boss has been spinning everything, and taking no responsibility for how she treated Claire. It’s awful to watch, but I’m proud of her for taking care of herself. This needed to be done.

I still get intense urges for BDSM, but know that Claire won’t be able to satisfy them. I think about Meredith a lot. Mostly though I just use my imagination or porn to get through. Get myself calm again. Back to a version of myself that works for Claire. Much like the last 18 years. I’m ok with it because I feel we have a direction in which to move.

This is complicated, but I’m part of a larger team of 12 and 4 of us are leaders. One VP and three of us as managers. In September one of the managers, Jim, left for another company. He was really close with the the other manager, Pam. I mean they were like brother and sister. Very close. I felt a little like the third wheel, but we all got along well. When Jim left I noticed that Pam sort of latched on to me. Part of it was that I ended up taking on a lot more responsibility since Jim left, but there were a couple of personnel situations too where I was able to provide her a lot of advice. Now we are much closer friends, similar to what she had with Jim.

Since then we’ve hired a new person to replace the Jim, but he’s still very new. It seems he took over my third wheel role.

Anyway I’m telling you all this in order to tell you that last night Pam texted me that she had something to tell me. I figured it was work related, but it was not. In fact she said her husband (whom I’ve never met) had left her in August. She felt she needed to tell me. Apparently Jim, me and one other friend are the only ones she’s told outside of family.

It’s devestating news. I had no idea. I feel very fortunate that she felt safe in telling me, but also now carry the burden of knowing my own secret I cannot share with her. It kept me up last night thinking of her situation.

Pam said it seems like a mid life crisis. I’m not sure if that means another woman was involved. She said she still hopes he will get over it and come back. My heart breaks for her. She is such a tough, no-nonsense woman. She actually said she could mention it to me over text, but still can’t say it out loud. I wish I knew what I could do to help her.

Anyway, life has been going. I’m emotionally drained today but doing ok.

Discussing Open Marriage with the Therapist

We had a long chat about where things are, and also discussing the idea of a third person. In other words having an open marriage arrangement. Unfortunately this is not our therapist’s strong suit, although I will give her credit for having an open mind.

We reviewed a lot of things about my own progress. She has been very impressed by how quickly I research, absorb and apply new material. She asked me how I thought that part was going. I said “Fine. That’s how I live my life.” She said “Yeah, but you applied it so quickly. Don’t you think that’s positive?” I replied “Yes I do think it’s positive, but it’s also not unexpected. I always work to apply new information.” Then I went on to describe how I did the exact same thing in a business setting from the conference I just came back from. It’s funny watching as she learns more and more how I operate. Clearly not her average patient.

Either way, yes I am growing, and learning about myself, and my relationship with Claire rapidly. My main complaint last session was that Claire is not doing her own work fast enough. Really it was more that she didn’t appear to be putting in the same level of effort, but the impact is the same.

The discussion about open marriage came about 1/3 of the way through. Essentially our marriage is doing really well, and we have a lot of positive things going for us. Even sex is pretty good, but there is this one aspect – the BDSM side of it – that is absent. I’ve been much more open in discussions with Claire about it, and frankly it just isn’t her cup of tea. No matter how many times she says she’s into it, what it keeps coming down to is that she will do it for me because she loves me. But that always comes with limits and penalties that are not always spoken. Frankly there isn’t a spark. She does not get the erotic excitement from the kinky side that I do.

Why then can’t we explore other options? Really the only option I can find that seems to be able to work is introducing a third. Once you cross that threshold though, there are many ways to address it. Many different ways to add a third. I won’t go into them all here because it’s pointless right now. First is to address the issue of adding a third.

Apparently our therapist is also working with another couple on a similar issue. She’s not gung ho about it, but willing to discuss, learn, and see where things can go. She does keep asking “are there ways without a third?” To which I reply “I have not seen any that seem viable.” Which I haven’t. If you know of any, let me know.

I do think she is a little nervous that I’m moving forward faster on the knowledge side of this than she is. We even agreed that for me individually we probably don’t need to meet anymore unless something changes. That is the second counselor that has told me such. She commented that she’s impressed with the knowledge I’ve gained, and applied so quickly. She’s very happy with my own journey, and growth. I need to continue working on the things I’ve been doing for myself, but so far it seems to be on auto-pilot where she isn’t really adding much right now.

We will continue with couples counseling for now, and at a later date when it appears Claire is more stable coming off the shock of the affair, then we will introduce the idea of the third person. I want Claire to be able to have discussions openly about a third person which will have to wait until she’s not still reeling from the affair.

The therapist also made a comment at the end that she does not think introducing a third person into a marriage has a high chance of success, but “if anyone could make it work it is probably you. I agree you have the personality that would find a way to make it successful.” That was nice to hear. I’ve felt that way, too.

Long Odds

I am not afraid of long odds. There seems to be a general thought that opening your marriage dooms it to failure. That the odds are against it working. Frankly I don’t care. Just because everyone is doing something a certain way does not mean I have to follow suit. The wisdom of the crowd isn’t my cup of tea. Statistics are made to be broken, and in this case the statistics are sparse to begin with.

I am different than most people. I know this. I understand this. I see the world differently. I really shouldn’t expect to be able to follow the standard script. Looking at alternative ways of doing things suits me quite well.

It’s popular today to cut the cord with cable. Yet I made the decision back in 2002 when 90% of US households had pay TV. 90%! Only one out of ten had no pay TV. I didn’t have streaming until 2011.

Today minivans have a bad rap. People visibly cringe at the thought of them. Yet I rebuke all the minivan haters, and stand firmly on the side of how wonderful they are – even before I had kids. I live in an ultra liberal city, yet own guns and love to hunt. When I was young I lived in Bible country yet was not religious. As I got older I moved to the city and attempted to find religion (I have now given up on that). My wife and I have taken business practices, like kanban, and use it in our family life. In many ways I end up rejecting the status quo.

With marriage it is no different. I’m finding the standard script left wanting. It does not work for me. It’s confining in a way that doesn’t allow me to be me. It feels like a boot on my neck forcing me to behave the way society wants me to behave.

Why not throw out the rules? Look to other examples and other cultures. What has worked there? What things can we find? Is this version of marriage the only version that works? Because the success rate is awful. If we objectively look at it, what are the goals and how can we brainstorm alternate solutions? I firmly believe with the myriad of people in the world there are likely to be a myriad of marriage arrangements. Who says the government and church are the ones to decide how we live out lives?

There are a wide range of people and personalities out there falling along a distribution. Generally most people will fall near the middle, and within the acceptable societal standards. Yet at the ends of the distribution you will find a lot of people who do not fit those standards. If you have 300 million people in the US and only focus on the highest and lowest 2.5% that is still 15 million people! Why do we force them to fit in the mold of the other 285 million?

Right now I’m reconsidering everything. That was the mode I was in with TV, minivans, and even introducing the kanban process. There are ways to make things work even if nine out of ten people don’t like it or it scares them. I’m not them or even like them. I have within myself the ability to work on this problem without getting wrapped up in “should” and “never works” statements. To find a solution that works for me even if it isn’t what everyone else does. Even if it fails 60% of the time it’s tried. I should remind you monogamous marriages fail at quite a high rate as well.

When it comes to the sexual side of my relationship with Claire we have some issues that need addressing. Yet the rest of our marriage is actually doing really well. I’m going to explore various options to achieving happiness on the sexual side. I’m going to read about alternate ideas. I’m going to look at other cultures and models of living. I’m going to propose trying things. Staying invested in the marriage while working on an unmet need.

I would appreciate if you come along with an open mind. Perhaps you will learn something new about relationship models. Perhaps your views will be confirmed. Hard to say, but being open to new possibilities, even statistically unlikely possibilities, is a good trait to have.

Thoughts on Marriage

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.

Considering Meredith

I haven’t seen Meredith in over two years. I cannot stop thinking about her. I loved this woman. I still do. I think I always will.

My Grandpa died in 2012. He was a great man, and I lived with him for awhile. I still think about him, and will always love him even though he is not here. I feel Meredith will be in my heart in the same way.

Reading through one of Esther Perel’s books an idea struck me. It had to do with our society accepted rules for monogamy in marriage. We all agree that the spouse which was cheated on did not agree with an open marriage. They generally accepted society’s definition of a monogamous relationship. The betrayal undercut that notion in powerful ways.

But the cheater also accepted this monogomy view. The difference is that it makes the cheater feel trapped with only two options: continue the affair or leave their spouse. I believed this. Meredith believed this. We talked about sharing a life together. It was the only solution that didn’t end with us apart long term. That belief is why many affairs, including my own, become so deeply emotional. We all bought into the all or nothing mentality of being with our affair partner. No middle ground.

What if there is another path? What if it’s not black and white? I do love my wife. I don’t want to leave her. I also love Meredith, but I don’t want to throw away my marriage and start a new one with her. I was forced to consider that as an option, but it’s not the only option. What if I could have my wife and my family, and enjoy some time with Meredith? Throw out the all or nothing approach. Starting a new life with her would’ve been too much. I don’t need that with her. It was just the only option if I wanted to be with her. Frankly I would be happy to have her as a friend and sometimes hookup partner if we could make that work. It would alleviate this all or nothing scenario so that I could stop thinking about ending my marriage.

The more I’ve thought about this the more I’ve been invested in my wife. I can now see her value as separate from the value I received from Meredith. Which means I can appreciate Claire more. I don’t need to think of an OR scenario. I can also accepted an AND scenario. It makes me very happy to consider, and I know Meredith would be satisfied with it as well. There was so much pressure to find fault with all of our marriage so that we could be together, and much if it wasn’t that important. Claire and I have worked on things and improved.

On the other hand I’m describing a form of open marriage which requires our spouses to also be on board. A long shot for sure. Frankly I think Meredith’s husband wouldn’t be a hard sell except he hates me. Perhaps we can get past that. Claire though has never expressed any interest. There is an enormous trust factor to consider. I have to say though, if we could do this openly it would invest me even more fully in my family. It would take away that pressure and risk. We would be open and honest about what is going on. Burying the lies of the past. The lies were the worst part. Above board. Honest.

I have several books I’ll be reading soon about open marriages. Honestly having Meredith in my life again is an enormous long shot, but I would still be happy having someone more like her in my life.

London

My wife and I took a trip to London together not long ago. No kids. It was good to get away. There was a lot of time for thinking, reading, and talking without kids interrupting. Oh and sleep. Once we got past the jet lag anyway.

I spent a lot of time reflecting. My feelings for Sydney all but died. I can see how little I need her in my life. She’s a cancer and not part of my future. I don’t even feel attracted to her anymore. I do not care what she does with her life. I can’t understand how I became so hooked on her so quickly, but having time away allowed me to put her in perspective. Not just in thought, but also emotionally.

I spent a lot of time reading philosophy books and Esther Perel’s books. She talks a lot about affairs.

Claire and I also spent a decent amount of time just the two of us. It reconfirmed my love for her. Claire is a good woman. A good wife. A good mother. She has so many wonderful qualities, and we have built a really good life together. I want to be with her. I would say that it was during this trip that I really felt that I want to be with her again.

At one point I told her that I’m glad she chose to stay with me. I know I wasn’t happy and had been figuring things out, but she didn’t leave and I appreciated that.

We did have two arguments while traveling. One of them was very typical for us. I said something that was my opinion, and she took offense to it. Normally I would’ve gone down the rabbit hole with her , but I didn’t. I stopped myself, and let her be upset. I told her what I was thinking, and that I didn’t do anything wrong. It was an opinion, and I’m allowed to have them. She thought about it for a bit, and got over it. It was good to break our pattern and, grow apart together. We came out of it stronger.

This doesn’t mean everything is hunky dory. In fact our sex life has become more defined, and not necessarily in a good way. We try new things, but we don’t seem to really progress. Finally we had a night last week where I had finished working out, and wanted nothing more than to come upstairs and be a dominant man and take my wife. On my way up the stairs I started second guessing myself. This nagging thought that Claire would not enjoy it wouldn’t go away.

When I finally got to the top of the stairs she had a list of to do’s, and was nowhere near being desirous of a dominant husband. Instead I told her what I was thinking. At first she said “yes you could’ve absolutely done that!” But that didn’t seem genuine so I pressed her. I described a couple of scenarios where I was in charge. She clarified that as long as certain criteria were met then it would be great. I dug in on the criteria. She repeated the word “fairness” which I reminded her is relative. To me what I was planning was fair, but to her it was not. She said “I would do it but I would prefer it was more fair.” I told her I don’t want her to “do it” because she loves me. I want her to want me. To want it. To be turned on by erotic desire. She admitted that wasn’t happening.

In the end she still needs to be in charge and setting the rules of fairness is her way of doing that. She cannot let go and enjoy letting me leave our sex life. I can lead – as long as I follow all her rules and do everything the way she would do it if she were leading. Of course she denies this is her intent, but the impact is the same. It makes me the leader in name only. An absolute mood killer for me.

That is a pattern we fall into quite often. I’m trying to reach her on an erotic desire level, and she is “allowing” me to continue out of love. She does not have the erotic desire. When we are in this sexual zone I want to see and experience an erotic connection with her. I think it’s core to us succeeding sexually. Perel agrees.

Reading through the books there was a common theme that just makes my heart sink each time. The theme is to think back to when things were steamy in your relationship, and work to rekindle that fire. We never had that steam. That has been a sore point for me forever, and I didn’t even realize how much until I met Meredith. Everytime I read a line like that I want to throw the book across the room. It is so disheartening. As if I threw away most of my life – a part that is so important to me.

We are back from London now. Happier. Closer. I want her in my life. I want my family together. But what to do about sex…