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Another blogger commented recent on my post about feeling sexually deprived while still being surrounded by sexuality.  Because it was left as a public comment, I feel no compulsion to maintain the anonymity of chely5150, but it was lengthy enough that I decided to go ahead and respond publicly, as I have before.

I classify this correspondence as more misplaced rage, and I invite chely5150 to read that post, as it applies here. In summary, chely5150 suggests that Ashley’s lack of interest in sex is likely my fault. She cites her own experiences with an unfaithful husband and a lack of love and respect in their marriage as a reason for her own disinterest, and says that such could contribute to our situation. (It is worth noting that my and Ashley’s sex life has improved substantially from what it was in the roughly two years since writing the post eliciting her comment.)  Snippets and responses are as follows, and you can read the full comment on the original post.

I was, AM the wife who wants to explore and discover all things sexually together with my husband and we did, until the emotional covert emotional abuse began. After years of abuse, so perfectly concealed behind the facade of our perfect little family… I became Ashley. I no longer found that much pleasure [in the man] who adored and loved my body but NEVER could find the need to adore and love ALL OF ME!

I can certainly see how emotional abuse could make you lose sexual interest in your partner.  But let me be perfectly clear–that has never happened in our relationship.  For whatever problems Ashley and I may have had, we have never been abusive toward one another, and she has always insisted that I am the most loving, compassionate person she has ever known, and that I am an excellent care giver and provider for her.  One could arguably define my infidelities as “covert abuse”, to use your phrasing, but frankly, I wouldn’t. Sure, it’s scummy, but I would not go so far as to call cheating “abusive behavior”. (But I invite psychologists/counselors to provide evidence to the contrary.)

So, right out the gate, your experiences do not apply to us.  But let’s continue.

And I began to loathe the man who could treat everyone (pretty much) with such love and care and respect that I HATED evry thing about him.

If I understand you correctly, you’re suggesting that you hated him for loving and respecting everyone around him, but not yourself? I can also see how that might be painful. But it also strikes me as slightly selfish and demanding of you. I obviously can’t speak to your personal situation, and I have no desire to belittle or demean you, so I will simply let that comment stand as is.

And yet I loved him, I tried to leave him a couple of times but could never fully escape. After many years of depression I decided if we were going to stay together dammit I was going to make it better for us. And we did (yeah ah huh) and others thought too until the day I discovered his affair. And then weeks later when I discovered so much so- it has been excruiciating to say the least.

Ahh, and now we come to the point of this message.  Your husband cheated on you, and you see much of him in me and what I write.  Fair enough, I suppose.  Lord knows I’m a cheater.  But if I may ask, have you determined *why* your husband cheated on you?  Have you given any thought as to whether you may have done something, or a series of somethings, that might make him want to fuck someone else?  Or is it genuinely that he is simply a cheater?  Note that both are plausible, but given the resentment you display toward him, the evidence would suggest that unhappiness on his part might have caused his behavior.  Again, I don’t have the complete picture, so I can’t say definitively.  But have you considered that the fault may not lie solely with him?

They say I have PTSD, but I just go forward…..

May I encourage you to seek counseling for that?  PTSD following such an event is, to my understanding, a common reaction, and you may very well be suffering from depression.  Please, dear reader, see someone.  I suspect my close friend Hyacinth might be able to offer guidance here.

So while I fucking hate you with all my being…

I bet you’d love me if we met.

…I respect the fact that you are being honest…

Oh. Well, thanks.

…as much as one could expect honesty from a LIAR…

My, that’s awfully manic of you.

…being on the other side of those sheets and knowing but not knowing is probably the hardest thing to live with.

This is something that, again, doesn’t really apply to me.  If Ashley were to find out about my infidelities, I would own them.  Once caught, you’re done for.  Best to fess up to it and hope to salvage something from the wreckage than to pretend the boat didn’t crash.  But, in your case, you have my condolences.  Knowing but never receiving a confession is a good way to breed resentment and often prevents any sort of closure.

Maybe just maybe You had something to do with your wifes sex needs diminishing. If it went away there is a reason.

By Ashley’s own admission, her lack of sexual interest stemmed from three things: 1) experiencing physical pain from having sex with me due to my girth (which, thankfully, has resolved since we have begun fucking more regularly); 2) insecurity due to gaining weight post-marriage; and 3) a lack of sexual experience sufficient to keep up with my own interests.  She has since come out of her shell, remarkably so, and our sex life and marriage have never been better.

Who the fuck died and made you GOD? What makes you think you deserve to have your every desire fulfilled?

I never claimed to be God, or that I deserved to have my every desire fulfilled.  To suggest otherwise would imply you haven’t read all of my work.  (Not that I expect you to.  Hence, my response.)  I have long struggled with controlling my sexual urges, balancing them against my desire for a fulfilling and loving marriage.  But when you go months at a time without having sex, the ability to resist–hell, the *desire* to resist–disappears.

No man “deserves” to get laid, regardless of marital status.  A woman’s body is her own, and she gets to decide what she does with it, and when.  Period.  But, relationships are partnerships, and if one partner is not sexually fulfilled, well, don’t be surprised if he/she seeks that fulfillment elsewhere.

Maybe if YOU put as much effort into your marriage-not just sexually either, you wouldn’t have put yourself and Ashley (although unbeknown to her) into such a lose/lose marriage.

No one who knows me can accuse me of not putting effort into my marriage.  I haven’t written about it much, but Ashley and I have been to several counselors, alone and together, in pursuit of a “fixed” marriage.  We have spoken at length about it over coffee, breakfast, drinks.  We have cried together because we thought we were failing.  And we have celebrated our not-so-recent upswing.  And, from a domestic standpoint, she and I are true partners, sharing evenly the housework and financial burdens.  Not to brag, but she calls me “the perfect husband”.  (I am far from it, mind, but it makes me smile when she says it.)

Do yourself a favor decide which you want. Can’t have both little boy, don’t work like that! You should show Ashley the respect she deserves and let her choose for herself- No one gave you that privilege. It’s not right -if you love her as much as you say you do GIVE HER THAT RESPECT.

I don’t love and respect anyone enough to give them that, because I am selfish.

Please don’t let my differing opinion affect the fact that I enjoyed your writing, I find it brutally honest and appreciate knowing the thoughts of a sex addict as I am discovering that I have been married to one for a long time.

Well, I do appreciate that, though I would not classify myself as a sex addict.  I once wrote about that possibility, but I don’t think I am so deep into my compulsions to be considered a nymphomaniac.

I am in the deciding process in my marriage, is this what I want for the rest of my life? The jury is still out on that one.

I wish you the best of luck in that.  Choosing whether to continue or end a marriage is not a pleasant endeavor, and I truly hope it works out well for you, chely5150.

Pro tip: You have to take the venom out of your words and be less accusatory if you want me to refrain from responding with so much snark and sarcasm.  Though, admittedly, I use much less of both herein, maybe because I truly sympathize with what you’re experiencing.  Before I was the hopeless cheater I am today, I was cuckolded by the woman I loved, and it left a lasting impression, and I can tell you are hurting.  I don’t want to contribute to that.

Or maybe I’m just going soft in my old age.

So, let’s examine the other side of the coin from my last post.

It’s no secret to Tina that my sex life with Ashley has historically been less than satisfying.  In fact, the details of our sexual relationship were one of the first things Tina and I discussed after finally admitting our shared interest in each other: the rarity with which I fuck my wife, her general lack of interest in sexual exploration, and so on.  Tina couldn’t fathom how Ashley could feel that way around me, because she had wanted me for years.  (I can be quite oblivious at times.)  So, she offered to help me relieve some of that tension.  Fast forward to a cold winter’s day reunion, when Tina and I fucked like there was nothing else in the world that mattered.  Our affair was born out of mutual respect, physical attraction, and an acknowledgement that neither of us were even close to living the sexual lifestyle we truly wanted.

When Tina started fucking her new lover, they established that they would tell each other any time they had sex with another person.  This affects him more than her, as he frequently fucks new and random people, and she wants to make informed decisions about her sexual health.  This is an entirely pragmatic arrangement in my mind, and she and I agreed we would be similarly open with one another.  It’s not been much of an issue because I haven’t had any new sexual partners in a while–just her, and Ashley–and she has only slept with him while she’s been away from me.  I understand that she sleeps with him on a regular basis, and I don’t expect her to tell me every time they fuck, but I do expect her to tell me if he sleeps with someone else because I, too, want to be informed about the risks to my sexual health as much as possible.

That’s our arrangement, in a nutshell.  We tell each other if we fuck someone else, share anything that could change our exposure to risk of STIs, and understand that we could be fucking our significant others at any time.

At least, I thought that’s what it was.

It came as a real surprise to me when Ashley suddenly became more sexually active.  For the longest time, literally years, she wasn’t at all interested in sex, and we would go weeks, if not months, at a time without being intimate.  Hence the topic of this blog.  Neither she nor I know what flipped the switch for her, but we now fuck much more regularly than we once did, and she has begun exploring new fantasies and activities with me, including BDSM, pornography, mutual masturbation, female dominance, and other fun and exciting things.  (This is likely the reason I haven’t had any new sexual partners in a long while.  I just haven’t needed them!)  I didn’t share this with Tina because I don’t ask her for similar details of her sexual escapades, and my understanding, as stated above, was that we know the other could be fucking their local partner at any time.

Boy, was that a mistake on my part.

Tina recently asked me who all I had fucked this year.  My answer: just her, and Ashley.  The anger and resentment that followed was truly astounding.

How could you possibly think I wouldn’t want to know if you had sex with Ashley.

What if my lover didn’t tell me he slept with someone else, you would be livid.

I can’t believe you would be so dishonest with me.

I reminded her that I don’t expect her to tell me when she fucks her other lover, and I assumed she felt similarly.  She argued that it was different because she shares a house with him, and she fucks him so regularly it just makes sense that she probably fucked him on any given day.  I countered with, I live in the same house with my wife, and married people fuck sometimes, which I took as a given.  She responded with a bitter comment about the “sanctity of marriage”.

Point is, it was a very, very unpleasant exchange.  She and I are still recovering from the events of that day.  It was a bit of a turning point for us, frankly, and our relationship hasn’t been the same since.  There is an underlying hostility and resentment in her words at times, roiling just under the surface, that she acknowledges because she “is slow to forgive, and never forgets”.  (Her words.)

I wonder, who is at fault here?  Was it unfair of me to assume that we had a mutual understanding?  Or was her response an overreaction to the obvious realities of being in a clandestine relationship?  Admittedly, I could have told her that my sex life with Ashley had been improving, but it seems perfectly reasonable to me that two people in a relationship will occasionally have sex.  I would have told her if I fucked a new person, or if Ashley had fucked someone else and thus exposed me to a new risk (not that that would ever happen, Ashley is depressingly monogamous)… but fucking Ashley is nothing new to me, and doesn’t change my risk exposure.  So I never shared it, because I often didn’t think to, and when I did, I simply didn’t want to chance hurting Tina.

Or, is assigning fault a useless exercise?  Emotions rarely adhere to strict reasonable guidelines.  Tina freely admits that she loves how receptive I am to her being promiscuous, and simultaneously admits that, though she wants me to have that freedom as well, she would probably be terribly hurt by me sleeping with someone else, because she wants me to be hers and hers alone.  So it is entirely plausible that her reaction was born from that jealousy, and thus assigning blame is simply a juvenile response to a natural human inclination.

Really, what it makes me wonder is whether Tina and I are truly compatible.  She is a phenomenal lover, and sex with her is arguably the best I have ever experienced.  She is a gifted professional and a remarkable woman, and I care much more deeply for her than I should.  I wonder whether that depth of feeling and our inability to act on it, and the exposure and vulnerability it brings to our emotional lives, makes us hypersensitive to things that would normally not bother us were we to be together regularly and in a committed fashion.  I’ve no way of knowing, obviously, and there are so many questions and unknowns that I can’t shake this sense of unease I’ve felt for so many weeks.

Perhaps I should just let it go, let the relationship end, but the thought of not having her in my life is extraordinarily painful.  So ever onward do I trudge through discontent and melodrama.

Perhaps I just need a vacation.

It’s hard for me to talk to my lover about her lover.

There was a time in my life when I was a decidedly jealous person.  In retrospect, I often feel like that is less a personality flaw of mine, than a product of the specific relationships I was in during my youth.  My first real girlfriend fucked her ex mere hours after having sex with me for the first time, so losing my virginity didn’t quite have that je ne sais quois advertised by word of mouth and media.  I was too great a pushover to end it though, and actually stayed with her (as much as can be said for any high school relationship) for three years after that, during which time she fucked two coworkers, a boss, and the same ex multiple times.  I was insanely jealous because I was too scared to end it, and I knew that she could be fucking someone else if I weren’t on my game.

Then Kelly.  I was still pretty fucked up from the first girl (I should really give her a pseudonym at some point), and I had difficulties trusting anyone.  I don’t know if it was my insecurity that eventually drove her to cheat on me, or if it was the kind of atmosphere fostered by her performance arts department (all those kids fucked like rabbits all the goddamned time), but it happened, and I was insane with jealousy and insecurity any time she was out with that crowd, doing a show, or whatever.  I couldn’t bear the idea of losing her, and simultaneously, hated that I was in another relationship where I cared so much for someone who cared so little for me.

I’ve often said that Kelly was a major milestone in my sexual education.  Aside from giving me the opportunity to explore certain facets of my sexual tastes, she also “drove me” to cheating.  I hate that phrasing, because it implies it was her fault, which is terribly unfair.  It was always in me to be a lecherous bastard.  I just needed an excuse, an opportunity.  Kelly gave me that excuse.  Because of her, I learned how to cheat and get away with it.  It’s a skill that I carry with me to this day.  Not one I’m super proud of, but there it is.

Kelly also taught me to stop caring so much.  After her, I let go.  I stopped trying to control the situation.  I accepted that people are weak and unreliable, and driven by carnal urges that no amount of love and respect can overcome.

Everyone–and I do mean everyone–has it in them to cheat.  And you have to be cool with that, or shit will drive you crazy.

So, in the decade since my relationship with Kelly ended, I have been incredibly mellow and laid back about sex and relationships.  It has caused several women to hate me, not because I cheated on them (I did, but they didn’t know that), but because I was never jealous.  They thought it meant I didn’t care.  They would push me, try to make me jealous, and I just never gave a shit.  I’m not sure why it surprised them.  Perhaps because most guys are inherently jealous and territorial.  But not me, man.  I am cool as a cucumber.  Chill as fuck.  That’s me.  It’s part of why Ashley loves me so much, so it’s served me well.

But, for some reason, talking to Tina about her lover just… gets my hackles up.  I don’t have a high opinion of the guy anyway, for reasons that I can’t go into because those things would be awfully specific.  Suffice to say, he strikes me as an inherently untrustworthy fella.  (Not that I’m the most honest guy around, mind you.  I acknowledge the hypocrisy here.)  But she has real feelings for him, and she likes fucking him, despite his flaws.  So I let it go.

Most of the time, I’m okay with it.  But when she talks about how excited she is to see him after a trip… or how badly she needs him to fuck her… or how she wants to tell him to try this new thing… or how she has developed genuine feelings for him… or how disappointed she is that he doesn’t last as long, and can’t fuck as frequently, as me (take that, asshole)… something in me stirs.  I guarantee you know the tightness, the wrenching in your heart that makes you have to take a deep breath, because it feels like your chest is suddenly too small for your ribcage.  My jaw clenches, my muscles tense, and all I want to do is tell her, “NO.  That is NOT okay.”

Naturally, I don’t say that.  It would be ridiculous.  I fuck Ashley, she fucks The-Guy-Who-Can’t-Fuck-Multiple-Times-A-Day.  I’m married.  She’s not.  I can not possibly impose restrictions on her.  And I want her to feel like she can talk to me about anything, including her sex life, because I care that deeply about her.  But I can’t seem to fight off the tightness.

And yet I never get that way with Ashley.  It’s strange at times, trusting someone as much as I trust her.  But I can’t help but wonder, is the fact that I feel no jealousy toward her, but I do feel it toward Tina, an indication of trust, or apathy?  Do I genuinely trust Ashley, or do I just not care what happens?  I love her, certainly.  But I don’t feel the same sense of excitement, of longing, of absolutely need, that I feel toward Tina.

Do I truly love Ashley?  Or do I just love what we used to be and have?

Do I love Tina, too?  Or am I just experiencing residual anxiety from previous relationships similar to that which I have with her?

This is what I’ve been kicking around the past few days.  I wish I could say I had some kind of answer to it, but typically, I just mull the questions over, then go to the gym or have a glass of scotch and try to forget about it.  I’m really much too passive about the whole thing.  But I don’t know how to be active about it.

I’m not sure I *want* to be active about it.

I recently chatted with an acquaintance I met through this site. Maybe not acquaintance–friend now? I’m not sure yet, and I hate assigning labels to developing relationships, but if you read this post, friend-quaintance, I think you’re just the best.

Man, I get side-tracked easily. Gotta work on that.

Anyhow. Said friend-quaintance commented that they admire my self-awareness and honesty. Though flattered, those are two qualities that I would never expect anyone to apply to me. I certainly make every effort at introspection, the better to understand myself and my interactions with the people around me, but I wouldn’t say I’ve been particularly good at it. And those times that I successfully nailed down whatever thing was stewing about in the back of my mind, I probably didn’t actually do anything about it because I am primarily driven by three desires. They are, in no particular order: 1) to learn and understand everything, 2) to avoid conflict at most any cost, and 3) to fuck as often and passionately as possible.

That last one is a real doozy, and doesn’t really mesh with the second one. Most people I have ever known don’t have my libido. My current lover, Tina, certainly does, and on our business trip we fucked every afternoon and evening, at least once, usually twice or three times, and would have gone for a fourth round if we hadn’t had to be up early for work.

What can I say, I have a really short refractory period. Multiple orgasms isn’t possible (*sigh*), but four times a day isn’t too difficult for me.

But that’s why she’s my lover. Most people don’t seem to be like that. So, when Desire Number Three kicks in, if my wife can not or will not satisfy the urge, and my lover is not available, then I have to find it someplace else.

…well, “have to” is strong phrasing. It’s not as though it’s a necessity. But I’m sure we can all agree that the need to fuck is a powerful motivator. Sadly, the other people in my life would certainly not take well to my promiscuous endeavors, and so I am driven to craft elaborate and entirely believable lies and scenarios that permit me to engage in my infidelities without upsetting Desire Number Two.

But, I sometimes wonder what it would be like, not to be dishonest. Not that I think I would be any good at true openness and transparency, mind you. Deception is too much a part of who I am at this point. But if I were to do that… what would it even look like? What would it take? I am only ever truly honest on this site, because this is about as safe and accepting a place as exists for me to share the things I think about and struggle with. I can’t really imagine what an honest relationship would be, because I’ve never seen or experienced one. I’m not sure they exist. Like a really communicative sasquatch.

I can say, however, that if I were to really try at that kind of honesty, it would only be for a woman who was every bit as sexual as I am. She would have to be able to read this blog and not be terrified. She would be accepting of how much I struggle with these things, and rather than judge me for them, she would experience them with me. She would share my sexually debauched lifestyle in every way. Swing by my office for a quickie over lunch. Bring home a random man or woman she met at a bar, and let me watch them fuck her. Wake me in the morning by straddling my face. Plan a weekend involving a premium hotel suite, pizza (because room service is for chumps), four bottles of wine, and an arsenal of new dildos, vibrators, masturbators, restraints, and lingerie.

Hmm. That last one sounds a bit pedestrian when you say it that way. But you lock me in a hotel room with my dream woman for 60 hours and there is no telling what will happen. They’d probably have to burn that bed.

It’s likely such a woman exists, somewhere, but sadly I’ve never met her. If I did, I imagine I would be willing to communicate anything and everything she wanted for another chance to ride that particular unicorn.

Or sasquatch, if I want to continue that metaphor. But “riding the sasquatch” sounds incredibly dirty.

Tina comes close. Probably closer than any woman I have ever been with. But she has her reservations as well, and is not nearly the go-getter I am when it comes to sex. She’s also not a morning person, so straddling my face first thing when she wakes up probably will never happen.

Which is a goddamned shame, because fuck waking up to the smell of coffee, I want to wake up to the smell and taste of a woman. Hence my previous post.

Though coffee is a close second.

I am more honest with my lover than I am with my wife.

That’s a strange thing to realize, but it’s not altogether surprising. I have long said that I am not honest with the people who are closest to me. There are lots of reasons for it, but mostly, I suspect it’s a product of growing up in a family with a… let’s say, temperamental patriarch. In my family, it was generally understood but rarely spoken that you did everything you could to avoid making him mad. To my mother, that usually meant keeping things back, hidden, and only sharing unpleasant things if it were necessary. She passed that along to me. But somewhere along the line, I figured out that lying about something, and getting away with it, would keep him from flying off the deep end, and if you were caught, well, it was no worse than it would have been otherwise. So really, there was no downside to lying. It kept peace in the house.

Over the years I got very good at lying. Not just about things I don’t want you to know, but about anything. Pretending to think and feel things that I don’t so as to minimize conflict, or maximize social interactions. (There’s some awkward wording for you.) I felt bad about it, from time to time.

Then I learned that, in intellectual circles, pretending to agree with something you don’t isn’t considered lying.  It’s considered debate.

It helps that I am by nature an academic, and am genuinely interested in learning as much as I can about most things. It lends an aire of authenticity to things when I launch into a discussion in support of a topic or position that I may not truly agree with. I think of it as being similar to the Socratic method, always questioning, always pushing, because I learn who I am and what I think by engaging in informed discussion with other informed people. But it’s probably better represented as a ‘devil’s advocate’ kind of thing. I do it with everyone–my students, colleagues, friends. Ashley, and Tina. I use it as a defense mechanism. A suit of armor, piece mail comprised of plates of intellectuality held together with bands of bold-faced but well-practiced lies. It helps me seem sharper, harder. Stops others from realizing just how weak I really am, while simultaneously preventing unpleasant interactions and hurt feelings.

Thanks for sticking with me through that, dear reader. On to the point.

I recently spent an extended period of time with my lover, Tina, in a foreign city. (She was the subject of my previous two posts. At some point I may finish that story. But for now, this is on my mind.) Ours is a relationship born certainly out of mutual physical attraction, but also intellectual and academic respect. We spend much of our time engaging in discussion of recent developments in the world stage, particularly in light of progressive politics, feminism, the notion of privilege, and dietary morality. For the record, I consider myself an ally to most progressive causes, particularly anything dealing with sexual and body rights. But that doesn’t mean I won’t criticize or scrutinize those same movements, because I find that such scrutiny can only improve one’s position, and refusing to see the opposition’s side clouds your judgement and limits your ability to debate them.

It seems I may have pushed it a bit too hard, though. Tina often seemed withdrawn during our visit, save for when we were fucking ourselves into a sweaty stupor. When we parted ways, she shared with me that she felt like she didn’t know who I am. That I present two very different images of myself in almost any issue. I tried to explain what I wrote above, but she said it was more than that. She had caught me in a lie at one point–a minor thing, something I once confessed to her and had forgotten, and didn’t want to admit to in the moment in question. She had called me out on it, I explained, I moved on, but she didn’t.

We are having an affair, she reminded me. Trust is the only thing we have. And you violated that. It was such a little thing. How can I believe you on the major things?

I considered that, and came to the almost immediate conclusion that she was right. I promised to make a conscious effort to avoid such behavior in the future, and it’s a promise I genuinely think I will keep. Ours truly is a relationship built on trust and honesty. She was my friend long before we became lovers, and she knows more about my true feelings and opinions than most people. If I can cloud that for her, then I need to change my behavior.

Yet I don’t feel that way about Ashley. Many things have improved between us, particularly in terms of sexuality and intimacy, but my relationship with my wife is still inherently based on deception and lies. She is my best friend and partner, and once again my lover. I should be honest with her, and loyal. Yet I will sit beside Ashley on the couch at night, talking about our days and our plans for the future while I simultaneously chat digitally with Tina about how badly I want to fuck her. And not the slightest hint of guilt do I feel.

Someone once told me I might be slightly sociopathic. I sometimes wonder if they were right.

First and foremost, I appreciate the concern I’ve received from so many of you.  Numerous comments and dozens of e-mails inquiring as to the state of my mental and physical well-being, statements that my absence has been noticed, requests that I return to writing.  Even a text message or three checking in on me.  Thank you, one and all.

I know I don’t have to explain myself, so please don’t interpret the following as justification for my absence.  As per the usual, I’m just writing to get things out, to let spill the tide of various emotions I’ve been feeling for a while so that I may think more clearly.  I don’t want anyone to have the impression that I’m not okay.  I’m always okay.  I just have those moments.  The past month and a half has been a particularly long moment.

Christ, has it been that long?  Anyway.

A day or so after my last post, Pretty Grad Student and I had a nice sit-down about our affair.  It had become obvious to me that she was developing some pretty serious feelings for me, which she confirmed over coffee.  I had to explain to her, as gently as I could, that while I certainly shared the emotional connection with her, it could never replace the emotional connection I share with Ashley.  That I firmly believe it’s possible to have intense feelings for multiple people, but that acting upon them by committing to some form of exclusivity can be risky for everyone involved, particularly when one or both parties are already participating in exclusivity elsewhere.  (That’s scientist speak for, “Yeah, I have feelings for you too, but I’m married and that ain’t changin’.”)  This led to an intense discussion (not a fight, but a sincere, gin-yoo-wine conversation) about my feelings for anyone–her, the numerous other women I’ve slept with, Ashley, and even myself.  She ultimately suggested that I may be depressed and need to seek some kind of counseling or otherwise attempt to right the wrongs in my immediate universe.

I value Pretty Grad Student’s opinion more than most.  She’s a sharp cookie, very perceptive, exceptionally sympathetic.  So I took some time off from everything but work, with the intention of examining what, out of all the things I’d excluded, I missed the most.

It didn’t quite work out like that.  Sure, I spent a lot of time at work, and just as much time at home with Ashley.  But I found that, the more I isolated myself from everything, the less inclined I was to come back to it.  I found myself thinking, “Hmm.  I could do [insert activity here].  But I don’t know if I want to.”  That indecision stopped me from doing a lot of things, including writing this blog, and I saw no measurable difference in my happiness.  Effectively, I spent a month and a half treading a fine line between depression and apathy.

And that pisses me right the fuck off.

So this morning, as I stood comfortably in Virabhadrasana for the first time in weeks, watching the sun creep up over the hill, I decided, at least for the time being, to embrace who and what I am.  Fuck if I know where things are going, or what will happen in the near future.  But I’m tired of fighting it, of trying to justify it, of struggling with something that is as deep a part of me as anything can be.  So I ran with more purpose than I’ve felt in months.  So I worked harder, wrote faster, thought more clearly.  So I left work early and fucked Pretty Grad Student with all the intensity our bodies could muster.

When we were done, she rolled onto her side, pressed her bare body to mine, and said, “It’s good to have you back.”

All I could say was, “It’s good to be back.”

“So what did you think of the conference today?”

I walk down the hall, my hands in my pockets, messenger bag over my shoulder, side by side with Pretty Grad Student.  We spent the day, as did most of our colleagues, at a small conference on management and ecology.  Unlike the massive conferences for which we typically plan for weeks, this was more directed, with an emphasis on the intersection between policy and ecology.

“It was disappointing,” I answer, continuing the inner monologue I’d been running for the past several minutes.  “It was like everyone wanted to be the keynote speaker, so hardly anyone presented any real science.”

“That one guy did.”

“Yeah, one guy,” I agree.  “I was expecting presentations on new findings and advancements in the field, not hours of proselytizing.”  I shake my head and sigh.  “Two days, wasted.  I could have made such headway on my analysis.”

“Quit overachieving,” she scolds me.  “You’re making the rest of us look lazy.”

“Quit being lazy and you too can be the department bitch,” I say with forced enthusiasm.

She snorts.  “Now you’re just whining.”

“Yeah, sorry,” I say.  “Just frustrated.”  I unlock my office door and step inside, tossing my bag into one of the empty chairs across from my desk.  I fall into my large work chair, an excessive expenditure I have never once regretted, and slump comfortably.

Pretty Grad Student shuts my office door and sits on the corner of my desk, silent.  After a moment, she asks, delicately, “Are things going better with your wife yet?”

I glance at her.  We normally don’t talk much about my and Ashley’s relationship.  It’s not like we purposely avoid the subject, but we always seem to be occupied by other things (usually our nether regions).  The only reason she knows we’re in a rough patch is because she stayed with me at my hotel, helping me make the most of my self-imposed isolation.  Her interest surprises me, and I say as much.

“I worry about you,” she says calmly.  “I don’t think anyone realizes how much effort you put into being happy.  I mean, I didn’t realize it either until these past few days.”

“I’m spending time with you because I genuinely enjoy your company,” I say calmly.  “I’m not using you.”

“No, and I’ve never thought you were,” she says.  Then a sly smirk crosses her lips.  “But, for the record, you can use me any way you need, baby.”

I smile at her.  “Thanks.”

Her smirk remains, but she furrows her brow as though concerned.  “Seriously though, it can’t be healthy for you to keep all this frustration bottled up like you do.  It’s great that you put on a stiff upper lip and all that, but eventually you have to let yourself be unhappy.”

“I don’t want to be unhappy,” I answer, annoyed, swiveling to and fro in my chair.  “I don’t have any reason to be unhappy.  I’m tired of being unhappy.”

She stands up and moves toward me, sitting on her knees in front of me.  She takes my hands in hers and locks gazes with me.  “If you want to quit being unhappy, then stop pretending that you aren’t.  Lying to the world about how you feel is one thing, but refusing to let yourself experience your own emotions is another.”  She smiles warmly, if a bit sadly.  “You’re the most amazing man I’ve ever known.  But even the most amazing of men can have bad days, and it sounds to me like you’ve been having an awful lot of them.  You deserve to let it out.”

I look at her and smile weakly.  “Thanks.  But I don’t agree with you.  The best thing I can do is try to keep positive and not let myself get overburdened by my own baggage.”  I squeeze her hands lightly, and she nods quietly.  She kisses my knuckle once before standing, leaning forward, and kissing me gently on the lips.

“Suit yourself, baby,” she says, more lightheartedly than before, but the concern is still there.  “But don’t think I’m going to let this go.  We’re going to talk about it tonight.”

I grin.  “Assuming you can get my mouth off of you long enough to get me to say anything.”

“If you’re not talking, you’d better have your mouth on me.”

“Now you’re just repeating me,” I say as I wave her off.  “Get to work, minion.  I’ll be ready to leave in an hour.”

She glares playfully and snaps her teeth at me.  (It’s much sexier than it sounds, especially coming from her), then turns abruptly, letting herself out.  I hear her voice from around the corner: “Yes sir, professor.”

I look at the empty doorframe, listening to her footfalls as she goes down the hall.  I smile, despite my frustration, and sigh.  Strangely enough, I feel a bit better.

I haven’t written anything recently because, frankly, nothing has happened.  My work has absorbed all of my attention since my last interaction with Pretty Grad Student.  In fact, this is really the first moment of free time I’ve had since then, and I only have it because I wanted to do something other than think about animal movement at different spatial and temporal scales.  I can only keep my mind in movement ecology for so long before I start producing equations for things that don’t need to be solved.  (For example, I once spent two hours writing an algorithm to calculate the most efficient route home, taking into account traffic lights, effort based on landscape characteristics, and my average walking speed.  A fantastic waste of time, to be sure, but I now have the optimized route for my daily commute.)

However, given that nothing has happened recently, and I don’t feel like sharing an old memory at the moment, I checked my e-mail for inspiration.  And it didn’t disappoint.  One reader wrote:

I enjoy reading your blog, and I think your stories are exciting and erotic.  But then I remember the truth of your marriage, and it makes me sad.  I don’t think what you’re doing has to be wrong because everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do, and I can’t judge you any more than anyone can judge me.  But I have to ask, how can you be so comfortable living so dishonestly?

I think this question might have offended me if the sender hadn’t been so polite and/or couched it in what strikes me as genuine concern.  So, firstly, thanks to the reader in question for giving me a certain degree of understanding/sympathy before jumping to conclusions.

Now, as I said, this question might have irritated me, but given the circumstances, it actually gave me pause.  I often consider what I do as a betrayal of trust, and I frequently talk about the guilt that arises from my extramarital activities.  I’ve also talked about being a good conman, on working the long con to make sure you can pursue sex outside of a “monogamous” relationship, and I think I’ve even mentioned that what I do is essentially lie to Ashley to get what I want.  But for some reason, when the question is presented so bluntly—How can you be comfortable living so dishonestly?—it stands out and makes me consider what I do from a perspective not wholly dissimilar from my usual approach, but with enough subtle differences that it changes things.

Am I a dishonest person?

I was prepared to write several paragraphs on this question.  I was going to talk about the continuum of honesty, and how I fall somewhere in the middle, not an honest person but not dishonest either.  But upon consideration, I’ve decided that would be utter bullshit.  There’s no sliding scale.  You’re either honest, or dishonest.  It’s pretty black or white.  I tell the truth here, and to the women I’m seeing, but I lie to Ashley, in words and in practice.  Therefore, yes, I am a dishonest person.

But, I posit the following: Who the hell isn’t?

Certain among my family are highly religious, conservative people.  (Strike that—most of them are.  Hell, I may be the only non-conservative in the lot.)  They strive to live according to a set of morals and values they identify as Biblically mandated, and admittedly, they’re good people.  They don’t participate in the backbiting so common in the church.  They take leading roles in its direction and organization.  They go on mission trips.  Hell, my family owns and operates a free medical clinic back home, where they treat anyone, with the understanding that they will also minister to the sick.  They’re good people.  Honest people.

But I’ve also seen these people do what I’ve come to call “The Hotel Shuffle”, wherein they rent a single room with a maximum occupancy of two people, then take people inside in shifts to make sure all six can share the room for the night.  Would I consider that being dishonest?  Yeah, I think I have to.  They’re effectively taking coin out of the hotel’s pocket, for their benefit.  They don’t want to rent three rooms, so they break the rules and stuff six into one room.  That’s dishonest, but it’s socially acceptable dishonesty, something that most people are likely guilty of doing.  (And it probably can’t help that they can say something like, “Oh, it’s a silly rule, we should be allowed to sleep in whatever manner we choose.  At least we’re still paying them!”)  That’s the distinguishing characteristic: the ubiquitous nature of the behavior.  Everyone does it, and if it’s saving you a few dollars while still giving some away, what’s the harm?

Now I don’t intend this to be a justification of what I do, nor a condemnation of the more harmless dishonesties.  I present that admittedly clumsy comparison to circle back to my point—everyone is dishonest.  No one is ever completely honest and virtuous.  The difference, then, is the level of dishonesty we’re willing to accept from our own behavior, and whether said dishonesty accomplishes some goal for ourselves.  In my case, I love Ashley immensely.  Her support and simple presence are enough to get me through just about anything.  But I’m weak, and I need sexual gratification to be completely happy.  So, to get the things I need to be completely happy in my life, I perpetuate the necessary untruth, that I am a happily monogamous husband.  It’s a level of dishonesty that I’m comfortable with.

That’s not to say I’m proud of it.  I’m not.  Just comfortable.

Alright, that’s enough moral prattle for one day.  Back to the ever growing mountain of GPS data.  I’ll hopefully be back later this week to divulge my latest shenanigans.

You can’t always have a dramatic climax.  This was one of those times.

——————————————————————————

I pass Marian a fresh cup of coffee.  “Here, I’ll let you doctor this one to your liking.”

“So considerate,” she says, with a touch more sarcasm than one might like.  I watch her pour half a gallon of creamer and a pound of sugar into the cup.  Stir and taste, frown, add another half a pound of sugar.

“I’ll be amazed if you don’t fall into a diabetic coma right here,” I say offhand.  Marian shoots me a half-hearted glare over her cup.

We resume our slow meander along the sidewalk.  Marian has grown quiet, taking more frequent sips of her coffee, leaving me to carry most of the conversation.  I tell her about my work, why I do what I do, stories of student entitlement and mishaps in the field, of being chased on a bum ankle by an angry bull elk, of coming face to tentacle with a jelly fish, of being treed by a mama pig.  She chimes in occasionally, prompting me for more detail or asking questions about various aspects of the story, but for the most part, she just listens.  I talk enough that I drink my coffee more to soothe my throat than for the flavor, even after it grows as cold as the night air around us.  But finally I run out of stories to tell (no small feat, I assure you), and we adjourn to my car.

Marian offers concise turn-by-turn directions to her home.  It’s a small house just off one of the less heavily trafficked city roads, with a gravel driveway leading through a wooden fence to a circular parking area that simplifies exiting the drive.  Flower beds and potted plants adorn the porch and front facade with cheery splashes of red, pink, and yellow.  There are even white window shutters.  It has a distinct Little Stepford House on the Prairie feel to it.  I park and quickly exit the vehicle, moving to the passenger side and opening the door for her.

“Precisely the sort of place I’d imagined,” I remark.  “Cute, comfortable, and inviting.”

“Thanks,” she answers as she takes my hand, exiting the car.  “I put a lot of effort into my flowers.”

I walk alongside her toward her porch, escorting her to her door.  As we approach, she suddenly says, “You know you’re not coming in, right?”

I blink at the back of her head as she mounts the step.  “I thought I’d already established that I held no presumptions about how the evening would end.  I’m merely escorting you to your door.”  She turns and looks at me, and I smile.  “It’s the gentlemanly thing to do, especially after having so thoroughly disappointed you tonight.”

Marian stares at me, her face expressionless.  I merely continue to smile, my hands in my jacket pockets.  After a moment, she says, “Nothing really gets to you, does it?”

I furrow my brow.  “Depends on what you mean.”

“I mean, you’ve been calm, cool, and collected the entire night,” she elaborates.  “Even when you told me…”  She nods her head a little, and opens her hands as though to say, You know what I’m talking about.  “…even then, you were just so cool and confident.  You never lost your charm.”

“I would take that as a compliment if I didn’t suspect there were an underlying ‘but’ somewhere in there.”

She nods.  “It’s a little scary, actually.  Anyone who can keep piling on the charm under those circumstances, to me, must be a sociopath.”

“That’s a hell of a ‘but’.”

She squints slightly, as though assessing me.  “But you’re so honest, and polite, and so fucking charming.”  She punctuates that word with a small stomp of her foot.  She’s frowning intently now, and she looks down at her feet.  “It’s not fair.”

Marian folds her arms across her chest and continues to divert her eyes downward.  I purse my lips and sigh through my nose.  I step forward slightly and lightly touch her forearm while maintaining a bit of distance between us.  She glances up at me, and I offer a half smile as I retract my hand.

“I’m sorry for misleading you,” I tell her.  “Old habits die hard, I suppose.  But you should know it wasn’t my intention to hurt you, or to lie to you.  I asked you out because I was genuinely interested in getting to know you.  I still am.  If you’re not, though, I get it.”  I shove my hands back in my pockets.  “If you want to talk to me again, you’re welcome to text me.  But I’ll put the ball in your court.”

She sighs and nods.  “Don’t expect too much.  You’re a little too dangerous for my liking.”

I smile and return the nod.  “Fair enough.”  I offer my hand, and she grasps it lightly.  I hold hers in both of mine briefly.  “If we never speak again, it was truly a pleasure meeting you, Madam Librarian.”

I release her hands, turn on my heel, and walk to my car.  In a few short seconds, I’m slowly circling around her drive, heading back toward her street.  I glance into my mirror and see Marian still on her porch, watching me go.  I feel a slight pang of guilt, but I shake it off as I pull onto the street and drive away.

So yeah, like I said, this is a long story.  I’ve actually omitted quite a bit of dialogue between Marian and me.  She really grilled me about my marriage, why I do things, what I was hoping to accomplish, etc.  It was one hell of an interrogation.  But this is the meat and potatoes of it.  And the thrilling conclusion will be up as soon as I have time to write it.

————————————————————————————

Marian laughs brightly.  “Yeah, that would be a hell of a downside.”

I stay silent, sipping my coffee.  I can feel her smile fading.  “…you’re kidding, right?”

I shake my head.  “Nope.”

She stops cold.  I’m certain there’s a look of shock on her face, but I refuse to look back.  If this is going to work out, I have to keep going.  So I continue strolling down the sidewalk, maintaining an air of confidence and comfort.

Sure enough, a moment later, I hear her footsteps quicken as she powerwalks to my side.  “Wait, you’re married?”

“Indeed I am.”  I maintain my forward-facing stroll.  I can see Marian out of the corner of my eye, looking quite intently at my face.  Likely searching for some hint that I’m joking, or perhaps for guilt.  My expression is an unreadable half-smile, a relationship poker face.  She won’t see anything I don’t want her to see.

After a moment, she speaks again, and her voice has lost its mirth.  “Then why did we have dinner together?  Why have you been flirting with me?”

“Because you’re clever, and good company, and quite attractive,” I answer matter-of-factly.  Marian waits as though she’s expecting me to continue, but instead, I take a sip of my coffee, then wrinkle my nose.  “My coffee’s gotten cold.  Want to go get another?”

“Are you serious?”  I can hear the first hint of anger creep into her voice.  To be expected.  “You want to keep this up?”

“Why not?  It’s not as though we’re doing anything inappropriate.  We’re two people having a cup of coffee and spending time together, and having a good time of it.  I fail to see the problem.”

“The problem is you’re married,” she says, stressing the final word, putting a little venom in it.  “You have a wife.”

“A fact which, until now, has not stopped us from thoroughly enjoying each other’s company.”  I hook my thumb back and say, “I’m going to go back to the coffee stand and get another of these.  You’re welcome to join me if you’d like.  I’ll answer your questions honestly up until the point you begin to shriek and accuse me of horrible, if not entirely unwarranted, things.  Keep it civil, and you can ask me anything.  Otherwise, we can part ways.”

“I–”  Marian starts to say something, but I’ve already turned around.  “C’mon,” I say, and wave her over.

I walk alone.  Then footsteps, and Marian appears alongside me.  “How can you be so callous about this?”

“There’s a difference between being callous and objective,” I answer.  “I have no desire to be cruel or insensitive.”

“The implication being that a married man taking a woman on a date isn’t inherently cruel?” she asks.

“That’s why I told you in the first place.”

Marian holds her right bicep with her left hand, a protective posture.  She grows silent again as we walk, looking down toward the concrete.  It’s not awkward for me, as I’d been expecting this from the moment I considered telling her, but I imagine she feels decidedly uncomfortable.

“I know you’ve got a question,” I prompt after a moment.

She looks over at me, frowning slightly.  She takes a deep breath.  “Why did you ask me out?”

“I told you, because you’re clever and attractive.  Those qualities don’t often pair up in people.”

“No, I mean…”  She hesitates.  “If you’re married, why did you ask me out?”

“There it is,” I say.  I toss my coffee cup into a nearby trash can.  “The honest answer is, I don’t know.  I could speculate for hours, and believe me, I have.  I want to say it’s because I’m unhappy, but that’s not entirely true, because my wife is my best friend.”  I shove my hands into my jacket pockets to keep from fidgiting.  “But sometimes that’s not enough.”

“But that doesn’t give you the right to cheat on her.”

“Nothing does.”

Marian continues to look at me.  “So you acknowledge it.”

“Of course I do,” I answer.

“And that doesn’t strike you as callous?”

I start to respond, but stop when no words come to me.  I can’t help but smile a little.  “You got me there,” I admit, and I chuckle as I glance toward her.  “Like I said, you’re clever.”

I detect the feint hint of a smile at the corners of her lips, but she suppresses it.  After another moment of silence, she asks, “So were you just planning on trying to get me in bed or something?”

I laugh again, more out of surprise than amusement.  “Well, that was blunt.”

“You said I could ask anything as long as I was civil,” she reminds me.

“That I did.”  My fingers fidgit like crazy in my pockets.  “The answer is, mostly, no.”

“Mostly?”  There’s a sense of incredulity in her tone.

“Mostly,” I repeat.  “I honestly just wanted to get to know you.  We had an interesting encounter in the store, and I wanted to see where it went.  I had no intention of trying to bed you.”  I consider this for a moment, then add, “However, if things had gone that direction, I can’t say I wouldn’t have followed through with it.  But it wasn’t my primary goal.”

“It’s still a little sleazy.”

“Only when you think about it.”  I shrug.  “I try not to do that.”

The smile plays at Marian’s mouth again as we approach the coffee stand.  I turn and face her, and she looks up at me.  We make eye contact for the first time since my admission.  “Look, I’m not going to deny that my behavior has been less than stellar.  If you want to go, that’s fine.  I’ll give you a ride, or money for a cab if you’d prefer.  But I’d rather you stay and have another cup of coffee with me.  Even if this doesn’t go anywhere, you’re better company than I’ve had in ages, and I’d still like to get to know you, propriety be damned.”  I gesture to the coffee stand.  “So, I’m going to have another cup of coffee.  If you’d like one, I’m still buying.”

Marian looks at me for several long moments.  “You know you’re not getting me in bed.”

“I hadn’t presumed otherwise.”  I gesture toward the coffee stand again.

She sighs and shrugs.  “Fuck it.  Not like I have anything else to do.”