I alluded to the difficulty of setting up rules and regulations for an open marriage in my last post. One of the biggest challenges couples in open relationships face is the fact that both partners will meet other people. People that they might like a lot. People that might eventually threaten their primary relationship.
This is exactly what happened to us. And I was the guilty party. I was the one who met someone and started to have inappropriate feelings for him.
Here’s what happened:
I met a Swiss man named P online. He was already in a relationship – although he was not married to his girlfriend and they were not living together. P didn’t seem particularly unhappy in his relationship, apart from the complaint that his girlfriend didn’t seem to like any of the “cultural” activities that he did. She didn’t want to go to museums or plays and couldn’t talk about art or books. This, P decided, could be remedied by going outside the relationship. I was perfect to share these experiences with him, since I loved many of these things myself, and so we decided to meet at a hotel bar for a drink.
From the very beginning, I was enamored with P. When I first saw him, he was sitting in a corner booth in the hotel bar with a glass of wine. Blond, tall, well-dressed, he seemed poised and calm. I liked him instantly, but he made me nervous. He spoke German, French, and English fluently. He had plans to learn Japanese. He worked for a very famous creative agency and had been a professional volleyball player. In other words, he was slightly intimidating.
I had a glass of wine. Then I had another. After three glasses, we had gotten through the awkwardness of the first meeting, exchanged stories about our motives for having an affair, and made plans to see each other again.
He walked me back to my apartment entrance. As he was about to leave, I decided to kiss him. I was tipsy and I very much wanted to, so I stood on my tip-toes and said, as I leaned in: “Do you want to kiss me?”
It wasn’t really a question, though, it was more like a statement. That first kiss sent a shiver down my spine. It was like a spark that awakened long-dormant sexual urgings. I felt 16. His hand slipped down my back and gently cupped my ass and I almost swooned. I think I fell into him.
After he left, I kept thinking about him. We made plans to go to a museum together a few days later. And when I saw him again, standing in front of a piece of art in a light blue sweater, I felt a happiness that I hadn’t felt in months. And that should have been my first clue. Right there. That I was happy simply to be in this man’s presence. To gaze at him as he read about the painting in front of him.
We had something else in common, something that I’ve never had in common with anyone else: both our mothers had died when we were the age of 14.
That should have been my second clue. That is a type of bond that is unusual and dangerous. One feels that the other understands him perfectly. That no words are needed. It’s like being in a very private club that no one really wants to be in, but offers a certain kind of understanding that isn’t available to those who have never experienced an early, and tragic, loss. We liked each other for it. We felt attached and comfortable from the instant we discovered our common experience.
It wasn’t planned, in other words. What began between us was spontaneous. We only meant, I think, to have a fun affair. To spend afternoons at a museum or to go out for a drink and talk about life. But that’s not what happened next.
What happened next was I made a disastrous decision to see P when my husband was visiting me in NYC, after I told my husband that I wouldn’t see anyone else for the month we were cohabiting. It was a difficult month for S and I, and I desperately wanted to see P, to see his face, to hear his accent as he talked about his job, to drink a glass of wine with him. I wanted to see P to escape the difficult conversations I was having with S about our marriage. P was like my safety valve. I needed to blow off some steam.
I told myself that I would only see P for a drink. Just a drink. That one drink wouldn’t necessarily be breaking the promise I made to S. And S had gone away for a few nights to visit his father. I was alone in NYC.
So I made plans to see P after all. And when we ended up in his office, having sex on the receptionist’s desk, I shouldn’t have been surprised by my own capacity for betrayal and deceit. I shouldn’t have been shocked by my desire to flout the rules I had agreed to with S. I should have recognized the seed of my growing affection and need for P for what it was: I was falling for him.
And that would be my biggest mistake of all: Not being honest with myself.