Girl On The Side
Before our divorce proceedings shifted into high gear, my husband presented me with a possible compromise: If I stayed married to him, he was willing to look the other way if I wanted to continue my lesbian relationship with TDL.
In return, he would ask only that
1) We remain “discreet.”
2) That I hide the true nature of my relationship with her from our children and family members.
3) And that I give him equal time in the bedroom.
My response was a resounding “no.”
Knowing my husband as well as I did, I realized what a monumental concession this was. Because, of all things, he did not like to share.
My husband was a man whose jealousy and possessiveness bordered on paranoia. Throughout our years together, he would fly into fits of rage if my gaze wandered innocently to a male stranger, or if I smiled at a male store clerk. As my career advanced, he convinced himself that I was sleeping my way to the top. He began to show up at my job randomly, seeking to discover me in the arms of another. It became almost commonplace for me to look up from my desk to see him standing in my office doorway, or to encounter him in the corridor as I walked back from a meeting.
On one memorable occasion, I was in the middle of a presentation to a large group of my company’s administrators when the sounds of loud yelling outside the conference room interrupted my speech. Suddenly the doors crashed open. There stood my husband, red-faced and swearing. My phone had been going into voicemail for several hours, and in front of everyone, he demanded to know why.
My initial reaction to his proposal was, incredibly, to feel sorry for him. Despite all the past and recent nastiness between us, I really did understand his pain. His worst nightmare was playing out before his eyes.
We were both struggling to comprehend what was happening to me. I knew that he could feel himself falling over a steep cliff, desperately trying to save himself by grasping at wisps of scrub along the way. I recognized the signs of his distress. I had tumbled down the rabbit hole too.
I had left him three times in 22 years. I suppose he had reason to hope that history might repeat itself. In his mind, there was an outside chance I’d give him another crack at it. I couldn’t blame him for that.
But another truth shouted out at me. Something that made me realize that the widening gulf between us had become truly insurmountable.
I’m not perfect. I have multiple faults. But one aspect of my character should have been blatantly clear to him, after all of these years.
It all came down to honesty.
I had a reputation for being bluntly – sometimes, embarrassingly – truthful. He, on the other hand, was a captivating and gifted storyteller, who couldn’t resist embellishing the facts for the sake of improving the yarn. His little deceptions over the simplest things were a chronic source of argument between us.
With all the evidence attesting to my faithfulness, did he really think I was the kind of person whose conscience would allow her to carry on an illicit affair, even with his permission? No, I couldn’t see myself slinking off to secret liaisons after tucking the kids into bed.
Yes, I had broken my marriage vow with TDL, shattered my own inviolate rule. But I had been honest with him about it. I was wracked with guilt over it. But I could not deny the confirmation of who I now knew myself to be. And I wanted to set him free to find his own happiness.
Finally, even had I been willing to acquiesce to his first two conditions, the third was something I simply could not do. Our four children notwithstanding, neither of us had been satisfied with our sex life. The reasons why were clear to me now. I didn’t hate him, but his touch repulsed me, to the point I felt physically ill just at the thought. It wasn’t his fault, it was mine. But it also was not a phase I was going to outgrow, either.
I know there are couples out there who cling to marriage for a variety of reasons, even when faced with situations like mine. I understand that women are especially vulnerable in divorce, and may opt for the financial and emotional security of marriage even if they have to sacrifice that elusive “wedded bliss.” I can wholly appreciate how some may shroud themselves in the protection that a traditional union offers in order to escape the shame of admitting to a same-sex attraction.
I don’t intend to criticize anybody for the choices they make. Mine were drastic, and even after 18 years, the debris from my decision continues to wash up on the shoreline of my life.
But, I accept the consequences. I know I did what was right for me.