One of the best parts of being a writer is sitting in coffee shops, watching people, and listening to conversations. When I frequent a place long enough, I become a fixture, and people get to know my name. They invariably ask what I’m working on and that’s when the fun begins. People are intrigued by the topic of this blog and want to share their stories about their road to happiness. This week I met an interesting man who for the sake of privacy we will call Fred. Fred insisted not only had he found the road to happiness, but he’d found the expressway. Fred had an open marriage; he got to have his cake and eat it too.
My curiosity went into overdrive. Questions piled up and bumped into each other as I tried to organize my thoughts. The first thing I wanted to know was whose idea was it to have an open marriage and why did they want it. Fred confided his wife had little interest in sex. They have two young boys, the youngest only a few months old, and after the last one, they’d only had sex a handful of times. I am loathe to admit it, but even though he said she was disinterested in sex, I assumed he didn’t find her attractive anymore, and I nearly ended the discussion. It’s not my place to judge, yet I didn’t think I could listen to what he had to say with an open mind. Well, the next words out of his mouth made me feel like an idiot.
“She’s gorgeous. I love nothing more than to sit and watch her nurse our son while the older one snuggles next to her side and watches television. She doesn’t understand why I think that’s sexy, and it turns her off.” I didn’t expect that answer, so I reiterated my question: Whose idea was it to have an open marriage? Fred said it stemmed from a heated discussion they had about her lack of interest in sex and his desire to have more. They realized they had little in common when it came to what they wanted in the bedroom. Fred claims she changed after having kids, and having birthed three of my own, I could understand that. My entire idea of sexuality and sensuality changed with each child, but an open marriage? I asked him if they’d thought about counseling or divorce if they were so incompatible. Apparently, those were not options for Fred and his wife.
We grew quiet for a few moments as I pondered this idea and its implications. I wondered if they had established ground rules. How did they determine with whom it was okay to have sex? Did they go to bars and pick people up? Did they act alone or were they swingers? Did they set an amount of money aside every month from the family budget for these “dates?” Did they go out on the same night and get sitters, or did they trade off nights? What about diseases? Did they still have sex?
I rattled off these questions, not waiting for answers. I wanted to get my ideas out without forgetting anything, but as I threw out question after question, Fred’s Cheshire cat smile faltered. His shoulder slumped a bit, and his well defined chest, made apparent by his skin tight T-shirt, caved in as he slouched against the back of the couch. I stopped mid-question when I noticed the change in his demeanor. I mentally kicked myself for being so intense, but how often does one meet someone who readily offers up this information?
Fred looked like he might get sick and I almost reached out to touch his arm and reassure him everything would be okay. How arrogant of me to presume I knew that. Fred admitted the only ground rules they’d agreed to included the use of condoms and since they didn’t want to join any swinger’s clubs, new partners had to be single. They did not want any complications from jealous spouses.
Jealousy! That hadn’t even occurred to me. I asked him how they dealt with their feelings of jealousy. He looked taken aback. He repeated the word “jealousy” and ended it on a question. Again, he sat for a moment in thought. I observed him and wondered how these two people could have agreed to something so monumental with such little amount of thought. I realized I applied my own ideology to their situation. Perhaps agreeing to have an open marriage wasn’t a big deal to them, but if they’d thought about other people’s jealousy, how did they not think about their own?
Fred leaned forward, and I took that as my cue to lean in. “You know,” he said, “She’s been on a lot more dates than I have. I never ask her what she does. I just assume she’s had sex. And really, it’s a lot easier for a woman to get laid than it is for a guy. Men will f*ck anything, I should know.”
My ears perked up – what did that mean?
“There aren’t a lot of women who want to have sex with a married man knowing it’s just sex. My choice is women who can’t get a guy, women just divorced not ready for relationships and still a bit crazy and man hating, or cling-ons who would cause trouble if I were stupid enough to give out any personal information. No quality woman wants a guy like me, but the sex is phenomenal!”
“But is that enough?” Damn it! That question slipped out before I even thought it through. I nibbled at my lip, worried I went too far in my probing, but Fred sat back, Cheshire cat smile back in place, shoulders back, chest puffed up.
“It is for now,” he said nodding his head. “It is for now.” He leaned back again, this time with his hands behind his head, confidence radiating from him once again.
“But what about later?” I asked, again, cringing at my inability to keep my mouth shut.
“What about it?” he replied with a shrug. “I might get hit by a bus when I walk out of here. I could get cancer tomorrow. We don’t know what the future holds. We are only assured of this moment and in this moment, I get to screw whatever I want. Life is good.”
I thanked Fred for sharing his story and made sure he was okay with me writing about it. He assured me he hoped I would because he felt a lot of people might benefit from this idea of open marriage.
He said, “You’re on the road to happiness, but I’ve found the expressway,” and he stood up with a smug smile on his face. I smiled back and thanked him for his time, even though he’d already turned to walk away.
“Yeah, but the tortoise wins the race.” I thought to myself.
I don’t judge his choice. I’m sure there are many people happy in an open marriage, but in listening to him and watching his reactions to my questions, I couldn’t help feel I’d just listened to an infomercial on the latest get rich quick scheme or read the cover of the magazines that boast anyone can lose 11 pounds this week just by eating these certain foods. Should happiness work that way? He who gets there fastest wins?
I hope Fred and his wife find their happiness. I do, but I’m hanging with the tortoise, and that’s okay too.
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