I Had an Affair With a Married Man
I just have a different outlook when it comes to relationships and sex. I've entered into many situations knowing that they were not considered conventional or fell under the guise of what some would deem appropriate behavior. There was the time I dated a man knowing that he was in an open relationship with his live-in girlfriend, and the affair with my ex-boyfriend despite the fact that he was then dating my now-former friend -- my rationale being that he was mine first.
I've always considered myself very liberal on the sexual front and have always thought of myself to be very lucky in this regard, in that I can separate sex and love and know that one does not need to exist in the same universe as the other. I also understand that not everyone agrees with this philosophy.
While my sexual experience and escapades have run the gamut, there was always one line I never wanted to cross: dating a married man. If someone in an open relationship chose to date outside of his twosome, that was his choice. If my ex-boyfriend wanted to come knocking on my door every Thursday around 1AM even though he was dating someone else, that wasn't my problem -- he wasn't married, he hadn't agreed to a life-long commitment, so who was I to snub his advances?
I've never considered marriage to be the most sacred of institutions, largely because of the way people in my life who have entered into it seemed to do so rather lightly. However, for me a married man was still a big no-no. If you were willing to make an attempt at eternal togetherness, you shouldn't engage in activities outside that marriage -- it completely defeats the point of what you signed up for in the first place. I always assumed that if I became interested in a married man, I'd look at the situation from all angles, weigh the pros and cons and, most likely, walk away because I would never want to do that to another woman. I saw it as a nod to sisterhood, keeping my gender from any further suffering and, simply, a level of respect.
When I met Michael in my stairwell one Saturday afternoon, I didn't think to ask if he was married. Most of the 30-year-olds in my part of New York City are unwed and child-free, so when I didn't see a wedding band, I just didn't bother to ask.
Michael and I were not exclusive for a few months. We had discussed it and both agreed that neither one of us was looking for anything beyond casual. We wanted be able to meet up for dinner or drinks, have sleepovers and not have the weight attached with having to call the next day. We wanted to avoid all the strings and complications that ruin so many relationships; a non-relationship would be just the trick.
However, Michael never slept at my apartment, nor was I ever invited to his. His reason was that his place was "out of the way," which was true. He lived in Brooklyn Heights, I was in the East Village, and the only reason I met him in my stairwell that day was because he was visiting a friend in my building. Honestly, at the time, I didn't think this suspicious at all; I was more than happy for him to leave after we had sex, because I've never been a big fan of sharing my bed.
So when I saw Michael on my block with a girl who looked like she was around 4 years old, the reality of the situation still didn't click. He knew where I lived, had been there several times, so why would that adorable little girl be his? As he walked along toward me, it was not with the same welcoming smile that he usually had on his face when he met up with me, but instead a tangled-up, awkward expression that I couldn't interpret.
By the time we reached each other midway down the block, my block, I also noticed that his left hand, along with cradling the tiny wrist of the little girl, also sported a silver-colored band on his ring finger. I paused for a moment about to say something, but I couldn't muster the words; and when the little girl looked at me, a person whom she believed to be her father's friend, and introduced herself, I immediately felt my throat close. I tried to swallow as hard as I could in a vain attempt to speak, but shock had won and instead of yelling or making a scene, I stepped around them and kept walking. At that point, I couldn't formulate words even if I had wanted to blow his cover. I walked for an hour before I finally texted him an array of expletives and rambling questions. I didn't get any reply.
My answers came in the form of Michael outside my apartment later that night. He stumbled over excuses about how he and his wife weren't "technically" together, and even when they were, they hadn't been "intimate since their daughter was born." I could tell by the way he looked at me that he wanted some sort of sympathy, for me to agree that it was OK for him to act in such a manner. It was bad enough that he was married, but knowing that there was a child involved took it to a whole new level. In my mind, he wasn't just betraying his wife, but that sweet little girl with whom he so happily walked down the sidewalk earlier that day -- happily, that is, before he spotted me coming in his direction.
I thought of all the times I had been with him and how those minutes should have been spent with his daughter. I thought of how I'd react if my father were doing the same thing to my sister and I when we were younger. I played and replayed scenarios in my head that starred different people in my life and how they would feel if someone had done this to them. But despite all those thoughts, what made me angriest was the fact that I wasn't given a choice in the matter.
At no point did Michael offer up this aspect of his life and allow me to choose to partake in it or not -- that was the part that incited a true rage. No matter how many indiscretions I have had in my life, they were choices I made, decisions I was accountable for, but in this case I felt accountable for a situation that wasn't clearly presented to me. It was as if I were the jury and the defense attorney left out the key witness. I was pissed.
As I looked at him standing in my doorway -- his head dropped in a pathetic attempt at penance -- feeling sorry for himself, not for anyone else in the equation, I briefly wished I lived in a romantic comedy where I could throw a glass vase at his head. The credits would roll, and I wouldn't have to be privy to any of it anymore. But there was no vase within reach and all I could do was, again, drop some expletives and slam the door. I heard from him weeks after the fact but never saw him again.
I won't lie and say I haven't been with a married man since. There have been two more: one, a good friend who was in a deteriorating marriage that ended soon after (through no fault of mine); the second was a fling in Paris with a Frenchman who, like another from my past, was in an open relationship with his wife. I'm not justifying my decision to sleep with either of these men, but at least I was given a choice, no matter how repulsive or wrong others might think it may have been.
I do not have any regrets in my life, and even if I did, these incidents would not be on that list. As an atheist I don't have a god's moral imperative to confront, nor do I think that decisions by two consenting adults in what they choose to do behind closed doors is something that holds any weight morally. These are not actions that define whether or not someone is a good person; they are, when you break it down, animalistic behavior where, honestly, actual thinking with one's brain is not really part of the mix. It's all about sex, and having sex with someone doesn't mean you have to love him or love someone else any less.
I guess if I truly believed in karma, I'd be up every night pacing my room hoping that if I do ever get married my husband won't run into the likes of me. But I'm not. And contrary to what I thought that day when I saw Michael on my block with his daughter, I'm over that too. In that moment I remember thinking I'd always be haunted by that image: she in her tiny yellow jacket, and me, the contrasting evil woman in black who had, without any knowledge, disrupted her life in a small way. But again, I'm fine. It was Michael's choice to step outside of his marriage, and based on the stealthy way he did it, I'm sure it wasn't the first or last time. I'm just happy I didn't sign up for that with him; and based on the statistics of those around me, I probably never will.
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