Babe, I'm leavin'

Vow, what vow? I want out.

By Cary Tennis
August 19, 2003 1:39AM (UTC)
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Dear Cary,

I have been with my husband for four years. Two of these have been united in legal marriage. For those same two years, plus a few months, I have also been having what most folks would consider an affair. I'm reticent to call my relationship with this other person an affair because the implications of the word aren't quite applicable to the situation. My husband and I are a great team and good friends, and we have a healthy but often efficient sex life. Our life together is cozy and runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis. Communication is not so much a problem, except for this one glaring omission.


I do love him deeply; however, it often feels more familial than romantic, perhaps due to the comfort of our life together. Essentially, I still cannot figure out why I'm cheating on him other than the fact that I also love the man who has agreed to be my partner in infidelity. Granted, when I first instigated the situation, it was lust that was driving my brain that day. However, as the years have passed, I realized that I do, indeed, also care very much for my lover, and the feeling is reciprocated.

When I think back to the courting phase with my husband, I can't help but feel that we skipped a very important, ephemeral part of the process. I don't know if it's a singular event or a chain of situations, but the result is an unbreakable, almost metaphysical bond between two people where you realize they have become a part of you and losing them would be akin to being dismembered. (Sorry about the New Age-isms -- it's the only way I can explain it.) While I would miss my husband terribly, I don't quite feel the bond with him that I do with my lover.

At this point you are probably asking, "Why did she even go to the altar?" or "Why has she allowed this to carry on for so long?" I really don't know. My best guess is that my husband is a wonderful man and I felt that I was doing the right thing by getting married; that the quiet sort of love that supposedly fuels marriages would conquer and this digression would pass. However, when I sit and weigh the two options, as I often do, I come up with the same conclusion. I can't choose either. One is older, interested in starting a "life" together, albeit his own strangely Marxist version. The other is younger, in the late phase of his rock 'n' roll puke years, yet so perceptive of the world around him it's uncanny. They are amazingly similar, except for the bonding (or lack thereof, in the case of my husband).


And where am I in all of this? I'm 27 and about to go away to graduate school. I've had my time of dismal 6 a.m. where your eye makeup is smeared and people are vomiting blood off the front porch while Leonard Cohen plays in the background. It is something I can visit once a year, yet not feel the need to go back to. I want a serious relationship (feel free to laugh at this point in time -- I do). I am ready to embark on a serious career path. Yet I do not want a mortgage, children, so on and so forth. I want to lead a life on my terms and I sometimes feel that being married has stunted that a bit. The elders have told me it doesn't have to, but they aren't exactly leading by example.

Am I a completely selfish bitch for wanting to give up my quiet and potentially very good life with my husband just so I can chase something that is essentially intangible, yet seems profoundly real? How do I go about telling my husband this in a way that will do the least damage to him? And what the hell is this intense bond between two people called? Is it real? Is it something worth acting upon? I often feel that if I could call it something, I could analyze it better and come up with some definitive answers. In the mean time, I just give it my lover's name and savor the word as I spit it out of my mouth.



Dear Conundrum,

You know, C., readers sometimes complain that I am prolix, that I am a blabbermouth, that I run on and on and on. In this case, I would be validating their critique, and then some, were I to tackle this veritable cluster bomb of questions. Look up there and count! You asked me eight questions! You're over the limit! True, two are of the rhetorical variety. But that still leaves six!


So rather than keep us here all night, I'm just going to say, bon voyage, sister! You're way too restless to be tied down. You're only 27. Get divorced. Live your life of freedom. Whatever it is, go after it. Once you're completely tired out and bored by life's excitements, maybe you'll be ready to settle down into a comfortable domestic routine.

How can you tell your husband? Well, face it, the guy's going to be hurt. He probably thought getting married to you was a permanent deal. Just tell him in as few words as possible, and accept your punishment.

About all that other stuff, I don't know, maybe the intense bond is what Aristophanes was talking about in Plato's Symposium, about how true love consists of finding our other half. "Human nature," he tells the crew at Agathon's crib, "was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love."


Right. I know, that doesn't help much. But maybe if you read the whole thing it would. It's not really that long. I personally like the Jowett translation.

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Cary Tennis

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