F. Scott Fitzgerald once said ""The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function..." The eternal argument about open vs closed marriage; about sharing vs exclusivity is one where I honestly can see both sides. I'm no genius; my wife - and every one else - is very clear about that – but here's a little diatribe about this anyway.
Edited by my good friend NoneTheWiser, who has a habit of coming up with better names for my stories than I do.
There is no sex in this story.
Sam was sitting at the bar, sipping his Bud Lite – 'Diet beer', his thirteen-year-old son called it, razzing his dad gently – while kind of watching the game on the big screen.
He looked around and counted. There were twenty-six different screens in the sports bar, showing twelve different sports. At least two of them he had never even knew existed. He shrugged. No wonder no one talked any more. Too busy watching other people do things than to do them themselves. Smart phones; TV's in bars; why actually bother with physical social interaction at all?
Speaking of that – and not even appreciating the irony -, he pulled out his phone to check the time. Damn, Jesse was late. He was never late. What the fuck?
He was into his second beer by the time Jesse arrived, plunking himself down on the stool next to Sam unceremoniously and without comment. He just nodded to Sam, and then gestured to the bar keep for a beer.
"What'll it be, sir?" the man enquired.
Jesse glanced at what his friend was drinking, wrinkled his face up when he realized what it was and said, "Well, it won't be the horse piss this idiot is drinking, that's for sure. A Sam Adams I think. It's cold outside. It fits."
The bar keep nodded appreciatively, doing his best not to make the same face at the Sam's "drink", and wandered off to the rack of beer taps along one wall, to pour the drink requested.
Jesse turned to Sam and said, "So, what is it that couldn't wait? I know it's Thanksgiving weekend, but I'll see you Monday at the office. What's up, man?"
Sam's face wrinkled in return, hearing the 'man' part of the sentence. Eighteen months in LA and his friend had returned with his speech peppered with "man" and "dude" and other California-ism's. He wouldn't have minded, but Jesse was forty-eight, balding and was never going to be mistaken for a surfer dude. He was still a fine figure of a guy – no appreciable fat on him, but he was also 'decidedly of the older persuasion', as Sam's son described his father. The description worked just well for Jesse as Sam.
He shook his head momentarily and said, "Lets get a booth. We're gonna need a little privacy for this."
He got up, moving towards the row of booths on the far side of the bar. Jesse picked up his beer and followed along, saying, "OOooh, now you've got my interest! Cloak and dagger stuff. Do you want to pat me down to see if I'm wired?"
Sam just glanced back at Jesse, a little annoyed at his free manner. This was going to be hard enough, without Jesse making jokes. He had to mentally gird up his loins to tell Jesse what he had to say. It was going to destroy him enough, without him thinking it was all a joke.
"Just ... sit, Jesse. There's shit to say. And I don't think you are gonna think it's good shit."
Jesse stopped and looked at Sam, trying to read him.
"Not good huh? Ok ... not liking the sound of that. Lead on, MacDuff."
They settled in the end booth, next to a wall and two away from the nearest occupied one.
"So, go on then, this is your party. Shoot."
Sam took a deep breath, considering his thoughts and how to express what he needed to say. Jesse and he had been friends for over fifteen years, off and on. They were casual friends at college, had ran into each other at a mixer three years after graduation, then worked together at a small advertising agency. They started to hang out together, their wives became friends, and five years ago started their own business together. Unlike a lot of business partners, they actually managed to remain friends. They'd even vacationed together twice, once on a cruise and once in the Bahamas.
Their business had done well in the last couple of years. They'd earned the marketing account for a small indie movie, made in LA but showcased at Sundance, and constructed a funny and imaginative marketing campaign around it for peanuts - when the movie won a short story Oscar, they'd been thanked in the acceptance speech. Suddenly the phone was ringing off the hook.
After signing two new and lucrative deals, they'd looked at each other, gone out and got very drunk and decided there was no option but to open an office in Los Angeles. Jesse 'volunteered' to go out and start it up, hire people, and stick around until he felt it was capable of operating without constant oversight, at which point he, and his wife Debra, would return to Minnesota. Sam would hold down the fort at home until Jesse returned.
It had been a relatively easy decision. Sam and his wife Janelle had children in school, and Jesse did not. Debra had a degree of wanderlust in her anyway, that Janelle simply did not, and so it hadn't been a decision the two disagreed over.
Jesse and Debra had moved to the Beverlywood area in LA, just off Venice Boulevard, set up shop in Santa Monica, and twenty-two months later returned in triumph to their four-bedroom house in Stillwater, Minneapolis.
They'd been back almost three months and Jesse had settled back in immediately. Sam had worried that there would be friction – they'd both been relatively on their own for the past couple of years, and working together again might have been hard, but none of his fears were realized. They'd fit together again almost immediately. They had, apparently, that type of friendship where they could be away from each other for a long period of time, and just pick up immediately from where they'd left off. Of course, they had been in constant communication and had seen each other on occasion during what they had called "Jesse's Journey".
And then, Janelle had come home after an evening out, cornered Sam after the kids had gone to bed and words had been exchanged. Now here he was, sitting with Jesse, his old friend, trying to find the right words to express and explore an extremely volatile situation.
"Ok. Well ... er, ok. I don't know how to phrase this without bein' fuckin' blunt. I know we are ad guys, but this isn't Mad Men and it's not nineteen sixty-five, and if I beat around the bush, I'll be waffling for the sake of it," said Sam, fully aware that he was doing just that. Sam's speech was decidedly more blue collar and 'colorful', as his mother in law had described it after meeting him the first time. The more uncomfortable or emotional he was, the more the bad language came out. It was another reason why he'd stayed home and Jesse had gone to Hollyweird land. While Sam was the better negotiator, willing to indulge in brinkmanship, Jesse was the easier to approach and talk to initially. Sam was way more blunt than Jesse. Jesse liked that about his friend – you were never wondering where you stood with him, although he could be considered aggressive by those who didn't know him – and even by some who did.
"I don't know if you know, but Janelle is part of a ... well, it's sort of a book group. Only, they sort of take it a stage further. Personally, I think it's a load of horseshit, but you know how women are. It's something this group started in college – they still get together now and pick a book and talk about it and all that other crap that women do when they've got too much time on their hands. You know what I mean," he said, rolling his eyes at Jesse, who nodded with understanding...
"Anyway, this little group goes further than just reading the book, right? They try and, well, involve themselves in whatever the book is about. I mean, it sounds fuckin' stupid to me, but they get their jollies out of it, and it's all very safe, so whatever, right? Keeps her happy, I'm all for it."
"'Involve themselves'?" asked Jesse, using air quotes.
"Yeah, well, I did say it was pretty stupid. But if the book is about, oh I don't know, police work or something, they go to a cop bar and yammer on about the book. Surrounded by real cops. If it's about horses or something, they go find a farm themed restaurant to talk. I dunno, explaining it to you, it sounds even stupider than when she told me about it. Whatever." He said, forcefully, trying to bring himself back to the point.
"So, right. The last book they decided to read was Dracula. The original version, by Bram Stoker. Lots of gory shit, so I'm told, all against some bullshit romantic old world backdrop." Sam was having trouble disguising his disgust.
"Apparently the only place they could figure out to talk about this was some gothic nightclub called 'Ground Zero'. Some sort of gothy place, with all sorts of weird events. Leather and lace night. Bondage night. I don't fuckin' know. Whatever." Sam was obviously embarrassed just bringing it up.
Jesse grinned at Sam, and took a large drink of his beer.
"Yeah, well. Here's the hard part. Janelle told me that it was not a place she would normally patronize, which made it all the more surprising that she saw someone else she knew there. She saw Debra there. Your wife Debra. Doin' shit."
Jesse stopped smiling. Instantly.
"And she ... damn Jesse, this is hard to tell you ... Well, from what Janelle said, she wasn't alone. She had a friend with her. A male friend. A very close male friend from what Janelle described to me. There were ... intimate moments." Sam was obviously struggling with the retelling. He couldn't look Jesse in the eye.
"She told me she wasn't dressed like the Debra we know and love either. She was wearing ... revealing attire. And it was definitely Debra. Janelle said she watched her for a while to be sure. It was definitely her. She didn't go over, because, as Janelle said, what the hell do you say in that situation? She didn't want to get wrapped up in having to keep confidences. You know what Janelle is like over keeping secrets like this. She can't. You know that. It would have blown up her – and my – face."
It was a now legendary funny moment, when Janelle had blown a secret birthday party for Jesse four years earlier. At the time, it had not been funny, but now it was something everyone could smile about. "Typical Janelle!" was how it was viewed today.
Jesse sat, no emotion showing on his face. Sam leaned forward, putting his hand on Jesse's arm and looking intently at him.
"I'm really sorry to have to be the one telling you this, man. Really I am. I love Debra ... but I think ... I think that all is not fuckin' well, you know? You need to know this. I love you too much not to pass this on."
Jesse, staring off into the distance, suddenly came to life, slamming his fist down onto the table.
"God FUCKING damn it. I'll fucking kill her," he said angrily, grimacing and not looking Sam in the eye.
"Jesse, I know this is hard, but ... be calm old buddy. As calm as you can be. We'll get past this. Together. Whatever is going on; whatever you decide to do, we are here for you. You know that. Janelle considers you the brother she never had," Sam's concern for Jesse was palpable.
Jesse took a deep breath, steadied himself, looked intently at his glass in front of him and then impulsively picked it up. Sam half expected him to throw it, but instead he drained the whole thing in one go, one mighty gulp.
And suddenly, the anger was gone. Just ... gone. Jesse just deflated. Sam was shocked at the sudden change. Whatever he expected, he hadn't expected that.
"Ok. Right, well, that was ... unexpected. I'm sorry Janelle had to see that, Sam. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I'll take care of it."
There was silence for a moment. Sam looked at Jesse, looking for signs of incipient explosive next-stage wrath, when the reality of the situation had set in and Jesse just sat, staring at his empty glass.
Out of the blue, Jesse said, "So, my round then?"
Sam was ... astounded, surprised, confused, and worried, all at the same time.
"Jesse, you do get what I told you, right? What Debra was doing?"
"Well yeah. She was dressed up like a slut, dancing suggestively with other guys and not acting like a wife should, right? Janelle saw it, and now you are telling me, right?"
"Well ... yes... ?" there was an enquiring tone in Sam's voice.
"Same again then?" asked Jesse, gesturing at Sam's glass.
"What? Oh, yeah, I guess... ?"
Jesse got up and bustled to the bar. Sam sat, stunned. Then he whipped out his phone and dialed home. A quick hissed one sided conversation happened in short bursts.
"Janelle? Look, I'm here. I told him. He got really angry for a second, then just calmed down in a heartbeat and carried on as if I told him that the Twins signed a minor leaguer. He's getting me a beer for Christ's sake. Are you sure you saw what you said you did?"
"No, he doesn't seem that pissed off."
"I don't know."
"Well, I don't know, either. You should ask him."
"Sure, I'll just ask him about his erections. Yeah, right, for sure Janelle. No problem. I'm sure he'll be hugely forthcoming about that ... Hold on, he's coming back. I'll call you later."
By the time Jesse got back at the table, the phone was put away and Sam was all fake smiles. His smile became more genuine when he saw that Jesse had got the twenty-two ounce beers, not the wussy sixteen ouncers. Years ago, they'd spent three months together in England on secondment to an advertising group based in Manchester, and once a guy gets used to an imperial pint, a sixteen-ounce American pint is forever subject to disapproving glances. A twenty-two ounce beer was more like it!
There was silence as Jesse put the drinks down, and both took a large sip of their brews before Sam hesitantly said, 'Are you ok Jess? You seem..."
Jesse sighed, then burped.
"Ok. Well Sam, I really never wanted to have this conversation, but you kinda forced my hand. It was going to come out at some point anyway I guess. You are my partner and my friend so ... ok then. So be it."
He took a deep breath and put his drink down, one hand circling the bottom of the glass and rotating it, as he stared into the amber liquid.
"While we were in LA, things ... happened. Debra cheated on me. I caught her. It was traumatic."
Sam's mouth fell open. Sam couldn't believe it. After a moment he gathered himself and went into good friend mode. "I'm so sorry Jess. I had no idea. I don't know what to say? Not Debra? Were you totally sure?"
Jesse looked at Sam sourly and said, in a low voice, "Well, they were fucking on the couch when I walked in, so yeah, pretty sure Sam. You don't tend to mistake someone else's cock sinking into your wife's snatch, and hearing her moan. I am actually quite observant about things like that."
Sam couldn't help but notice that Jesse's implicit humor and way of expressing himself could come out even dealing with such difficult shit.
"What did you do? I mean ... you hit the guy, right? Tell me you decked him."
"What would be the point, Sam?"
Sam couldn't quite believe his ears. "What? That guy was fucking your wife Jesse! He should be punished. Capital punishment if you could get away with it. You don't just let the guy walk away. There is a line to be drawn. You know that. I mean, I am so mad right now, I want to find him and whack him upside the head."
"Well, sure. No question. But me beating on him, that's going to stop Debra from wanting more than me, exactly? She's already done it. Already taken that step. Is me smacking this guy going to stop that desire? I'd hit him. My anger would take over and god knows where it would stop. I'd be arrested, spend some time in clink, Debra's on the outside, and what do you think she's going to be doing? How would that that helpful?"
"Well, yeah, but still. I mean, you can't just walk in on that and go into fuckin' Vulcan mode and be all emotionless about it. You've got to ... do SOMETHING."
"Well, sure, I didn't just freeze. Out came the phone, got a few pictures, and then I walked out again. I mean, I was pissed. Beyond pissed. I could have killed the guy. And her, to be honest. There I was, trying to get our new office started and here she was, fucking some golf pro. That's who he was, by the way. Some golf pro she'd been taking lessons from."
"Well, the usual. I went to a hotel. She tried to call me, I ignored her, called a lawyer and so on. Turns out in California, you get burned big time in divorces. She might have taken half my ownership in the company. Or we'd have a huge fight about jurisdiction and I could have just funded lawyers for a while. Honestly, while I could have cheerfully strangled her, she would have the last laugh. I'd literally have been paying for her to have lovers. Well fuck that."
"I'm sure. So ... how did you get back together?"
"Well, that's the thing. While I had given up on the marriage, she had not. She fought tooth and nail to get me in the same room as her. And here's the kicker. I resisted because I knew if she did, I'd be lost. I would give in. I knew I would. And I didn't want to. Except that I did want to. But I knew I shouldn't. But I wanted to. But I was afraid to. And I was afraid not to. It's not simple, Sam. It seems simple when its not you. It's a whole lot harder and more complicated when it is you. I loved her. Still do."
"WHAT? But she fucking cheated on you!" Sam was outraged. His friend was no pussy. He knew this for a fact – they'd been arrested for drunk and disorderly and causing an affray more than once, one particularly memorable time when Jesse had taken on a group of college grads who were harassing a group of women.
"Look, I thought about just ending it, I mean the marriage. Once she'd had her say – she still loved me, more than ever in fact, the whole sex with others thing had proved that to her even more than she knew. She wanted to be with me, grown old with me, yadda yadda yadda. The sex with other people thing was not about me at all. All the usual shit you'd expect from a cheater caught red handed. I mean, she sure made it clear that I was the creative one in the relationship, because she was really kind of predictable. My favorite ... I was culpable to a degree..."
Sam could take no more of this, and interjected, forcefully. "Oh sure. You personally chose the cock for her to 'accidentally' fall on to, right? For fuck's sake, Jesse..."
Jesse looked at Sam, slowly, with an expression he couldn't read. Eventually he said, "Of course I'm not completely responsible. Yes, you are right. She decided to do it. She ignored our vows. I had no input and was not the catalyst for that. Well, I was, partly. You see I created the environment for her little affair to happen. Well, you and I both did. The work to set up that office was significant, you know. I was away from home, working at all hours. Even when I was at home, I was on the phone. People in Hollywood, well, whatever else you say about them, they work. They work hard. They are in the office at all hours. And so I had to be responsive. I won't say I abandoned Debra, but I certainly wasn't around as much as I used to be. We knew this going in, but still, saying you know what it's going to be like and actually living through it, well, that's a different thing."
"Well, ok. We work hard. We play hard too, Sam. This isn't our fault. It's not your fault. That is bullshit, that's just her guilting you"
"No, I'm not saying it is is my fault. She betrayed me. There's no doubt about that, and she knows it too. She's consumed with guilt about it. About how it made me feel, how hurt I was. From what I can gather, she never even really thought about what would happen if she was caught. It wasn't about disrespecting me, as much as it was finding something exciting to do while I wasn't around. She pledged pretty much anything to stay with her. I'd come home and find her in a cheerleaders outfit, or she'd come the office and give me a blow job during lunch. I mean, she pulled out ALL the stops."
"I should fucking think so too. Cheerleader outfits?" Sam asked, suddenly picturing Debra's smoking body in a skimpy cheerleader suit, before realizing he should stick to helping Jesse. "It sound great, but how does it make the betrayal go away"?
"It doesn't. It can't. The hurt man; oh, damn, the hurt. You start questioning all sorts of things. How you are as a man, what she really thinks about, if this other guy had a big dick, if he was better in the sack than you are. It's fucking demoralizing and soul-destroying pal. I hope you never have to go there."
"Yeah," was all Sam could think of to say. Both took a drink, deep in thought, imagining bad and worse situations. Then Sam suddenly had a thought.
"So, me telling you this, this has got to be the end, right? I mean, she's doing it again. You can't stand for that, right?"
"Weeeeelllll ... there's more to the story buddy."
"Seriously? What? How? I mean, Jesse, you know – fool me once, fool me twice – you know how it goes" exclaimed Sam, the drink on it's way to his mouth forgotten.
"Yeah," sighed Jesse.
"So, long story short, I got convinced." Jesse just simply shrugged. "Maybe I was a sucker. I dunno. I love that woman, and she loves me. She's way harder on herself for what she did than I was. She'd do things like give me the passwords to all her email and her phone, for texts. She'd download her gps location history, annotated with where she was and why. She couldn't even cum with me any more, not because I wasn't any good, but because her shame and guilt wouldn't let her. We did get over that one, by the way."
Sam just stared at Jesse. This was too much information, but still not enough. He didn't care if Debra came while Jesse fucked her; he cared that Jesse stayed while Debra fucked him over. He asked the question without speaking words. His eyes did it for him.
"Yeah, I know. I know dude. Believe me, I ranted and raged. And she cringed and kept apologizing. Telling me it wasn't anything to do with me, all that shit. All the usual shit you get, when someone is caught. I think 50% of it was genuine and 50% of it was how much she regretted getting caught. That changes over time though, once she got an idea of how it felt. I'll get to that though.
"And then ... well, we'd been stable for about four months when she approached me. Here's the thing Sam. We'd not really talked all that much about what she'd been doing with this golf pro – Angel Santino, his name was. Angel. What a fucking joke. More like the devil to me. Anyway, she just started talking one night. We'd both had a bottle of wine each, and it just started coming out of her. She'd been caught up with the whole 'new cock' thing. That's how she described it. The flush you get when you meet someone else who is into you. They even have a phrase for it in LA. NRE. New Relationship Excitement. Can you imagine, Sam. I thought we could do a campaign for it or something. Any way, she told me that the NRE for her wasn't so much the whole falling in love thing, more the exploration of a new sexual partner. What they like, what they don't like, what they can teach you, what you can teach them. She said it was like having two lives. She kept stressing that it was nothing about me. Nothing to do with our life together. That it was totally separate.
"She was just interested in the experience. There was no longevity to it. She said she'd been surprised when she embarked on the affair, how she had such zero emotional investment in it. It had fed her ego, she'd been interested and enjoyed it, but there was no question of leaving me, or rubbing my face in it or whatever bullshit she used to justify it to herself. I was there, I'd always be there, her number #1 guy. She never denied me anything, would never be some place else when I needed her, it was all done on a whim and never planned, so there was no way anyone else would ever or could ever be a priority to her.
Jesse stopped, and looked at Sam's face. "Yeah, I know. It all sounds like justification bullshit. But stop for a second. Think. What if it were true?"
"What?", asked Sam. "Jesse, you know better. That is just such bullshit. It's like no cliché left behind."
"No," said Jesse, "I mean think about it. What if it were true? What if she can do this and be emotionally distant from it? What if it is what she calls it, 'an extreme game of volley ball, where both sides win, and that's all the attachment there is'? What id the clichés are true? I mean things don't become clichés by accident"
"You're her husband. You aren't supposed to be her #1 man, you are supposed to be her only man. I don't see how those clichés can be true".
"No, I couldn't either. Took me a long time to think about that and even more time to come to any conclusions. But the thing is, Sam, I know her. I know when she's lying – well, mostly -, when she believes what she is saying. I know I am her top priority. I know she will always be leaving a party with me."
"Right up til she doesn't. She's not exactly earned much capital respecting those kinds of rules, has she?
Jesse took a sip of his drink and said, "Sam, would Janelle ever leave a party with someone else?"
"Of course not," Sam snorted derisively, "and I wouldn't let it happen if she wanted to."
"So, if you know Janelle wouldn't, why can't I know Debra won't?"
"Because Janelle hasn't already been sleeping with someone else behind my back. Come on Jesse, you can't seriously be buying into this crap?"
Jesse grinned and raised his glass to Sam to show there were no hard feelings about what he'd just said.
"Fair comment Sam. Fair comment. But, I do know about that now. I know what she did, why she did it, and how to protect against it. If it's a part of her, and she said it was a hugely exciting thing, what does it hurt me to let her have it again? In very controlled circumstances?"
Sam just stopped drinking and stared at Jesse in horror, the understanding of what he was saying slowly dawning.
"Are you saying ... You let her ... do this?"
Jesse shrugged again, with a rueful smile on his face.
"Look, as you already said, she's done it now. She might do it again, she might not. But if I'm aware, if I allow it – under very controlled circumstances, obviously, - she has nothing to fear and everything to gain by keeping her word. She wants to be married to me, have me as her priority ... It's not like there aren't processes in place to ensure that it's controlled. Rules, and so on."
Sam, despite himself, was fascinated.
"Rules? You mean like "forsaking all others? Isn't that a rule?"
"Yeah. No. I mean, yes she did break that vow. I know it. She knows it. But what I am talking about is rules we agreed to after that. To make sure its playing, not cheating. I mean, first we have post-nup that she signed, where if she cheats, or does anything sexual – or even emotional - with anyone without my express approval first, she's out the door with only the clothes on her back. That was non negotiable."
Sam nodded at this, still not buying into this nonsense but at least acknowledging to himself that the post-nup was a good thing...
"I get to decide if and when she plays, and get to approve the guy. If I say no, it doesn't happen. I've said no a couple of times just to see and she acquiesces without issue every time. She can't go out and flirt anywhere people we'd know might see her. It has to be discrete, which is why I'm pissed now. I mean, she was at a place where I think it's reasonable not to expect to see family friends, but still – she did. We'll be having words on that front. She's going to be grounded for a few months, I can tell you. The post-nup I mentioned? Only she had to sign that. I didn't. She wasn't wildly thrilled about that, but fuck that. She had the affair, not me. She's the one who needs to sign it, I don't. She wants to stick around, she had to put her John Hancock there."
"It's condoms all the way, no swallowing and no playing with any married guys,
unless his wife knows and approves. No one more than four times – so no chance of any long term relationship developing. No threesomes or, sub/dom games and the people she plays with have to have respect for her. You know, none of this pissing on people or anything like that. No marks and she can never stay overnight – no visits more than three or four hours, no weekends or time away with someone else or anything like that. Never more than once in a month, either. And I always have to know who she is with and where she is. She usually sends me a text with a picture of the guys drivers license, just to be sure. Assuming I even let it get that far. The power is in my hands here."
Sam was horrified and fascinated at the same time. Did this shit really happen to real people? To his best friend? Really?
"And I get to play too, if I want to. And I don't have to ask her either. She needs the permission because she strayed and I stayed true. To be honest, I've only done it a couple of times on my own, and the first time, I made her find me a woman and convince her to party with me. She didn't like that one iota, but she had to feel what it felt like. You know?
Sam sort of did and nodded, involuntarily.
"I didn't make her watch, but she was down stairs when I was upstairs, if you know what I mean. She was extremely unhappy about that, but she had to know what it felt like, even if it wasn't the same. At that point she did stop and think more about what she'd done and what we were doing now. I think she understood the rules a lot better after that. She had followed them, but now she knew why I needed them."
Jesse took another drink, then looked at Sam earnestly.
"So, now you know. I let my wife play on the odd occasion, and I do myself, on the very odd occasion. I suspect this little nugget will have change the way you look at me, so we should probably get that out of the way. I can see right now, you are disappointed in me."
Sam sighed. He didn't know what to say. Well, he did, but he had no idea how to broach it. Thinking furiously, he took another long draft of his beer.
"Well, I can't say I'm not surprised. I mean, this is a bombshell. I thought you were happily married..."
Jesse broke in, saying, "We still are happily married Sam. That's what is the most important take away. Sure, we came to this the hard way, and there was – and still is, if I'm honest – a lot of hurt along the way, but now we are here. She's mine – I know she's mine, and she's done everything she can think of to make sure I think that. The bottom line is, so far, this works for us."
Sam rolled his lips inside his mouth, against his teeth, staring at his glass and trying to figure out what to say.
"Ok,. I don't really buy it, but lets move on from that. I don't get how you are ok with this. I mean, she's busily giving to others what should only be yours. How do you get past that? Surely this is something that should only be between you? I'm struggling here Jesse. I'm not sure I can get behind this."
"Well, yeah, and her betrayal was pretty fucking nasty, no question. But the question is how do we go forward. Maybe we both learned something from the cheating and turned it into something that works. The reality of the marriage vows is to protect the marriage, the relationship. If the relationship is sound and built well, then vows like this that don't make that much sense in the first place. Our relationship was more sound than we thought. Or less, depending on your point of view. After all, she did cheat. But it wasn't in a situation where she was looking for an out. She was looking for more 'on top' of that relationship."
"I can't process that, Jesse. I mean, I don't see it that way. A good relationship is one where you don't need to go outside it for stuff like sex or whatever. The whole point is that you satisfy each other. You don't need anyone else, because the one you want is already there. And vice versa. To me, that's the definition of a fuckin' good marriage."
"Yeah, that looks great on the inside of a Birthday Card Sam, but the reality is different for some people. You know, one size doesn't fit all. I mean, you are here with me, right? We are talking and we have a relationship that is different from the one with your wife? When you and I talk about hunting, about boozing, about technology and all sorts of shit that bores the shit out of Janelle, that's not cheating one her. So you get different things out of different relationships. You can't have ONE relationship that satisfies EVERY need you will ever have. It doesn't happen. It can't happen, because women are women and have different needs and priorities from men.
"This is kind of an extension of that. Sure, it's different when sex is involved, but the basis is exactly the same. It's easy to say 'I should never need to look externally for this kind of thing' and that's fine, and in some relationships, it is true. But why does EVERY relationship have to be that way? What if you can look externally for some excitement? And it doesn't put the main relationship in jeopardy? Look, the whole point of having vows to stop this is to avoid temptation, to avoid putting yourself in a situation where love might blossom where it shouldn't, right? To prolong the length of the relationship. If you can get to the same place in a different way ... what difference does it make?"
"The difference, Jesse, is that it still can fail. Just saying it won't doesn't mean it actually won't. It's like putting a bowl of milk in front of a cat and expecting it to not take a drink. She's already broke the rules once, what's to stop her doing the same again? How can you trust her when she says 'oh, its just physical, don't get worried' and then wanders off to some other guys bed?"
"Well", admitted Jesse "nothing really. Apart from the post-nup. And knowing I'll be gone the instant I find out, and I will find out. I'm forewarned now. I'm looking for it now. She got away with it before because I totally trusted. I don't any more, at least not in that way – at least not for now. But mostly, because we've already been there, and she's already discovered that she doesn't want anyone else for a life partner. Just for a sex partner. For a couple of hours. I found the same. While it's exciting to be with someone new, do the whole dance and mating ritual, discover what they look like naked, I don't really want to wake up with someone different very much. I like what I've got. As the old saying goes, I've got steak at home, but once in a while, a big mac is kind of a nice change of pace. And I get to have both, with no repercussions."
Sam still wasn't having it.
"I still don't think this is everything you say it is, Jesse. The bottom line here is that the woman cheated, and in response, you've thrown open them barn doors and now she's free to fuck anyone she wants. Guilt free. That doesn't seem like a smart reward for cheating? Besides, she came and wanted this only four months after she got busted. Red-fucking-flag. I respect you, and your smarts, but if it were this easy, more people would be doing this than they are. Society wouldn't be so down on it. I wouldn't be sittin' here wonder what is wrong with you."
"Well, I can't speak for society, Sam, but it seems to me that a lot of society also thinks that all gay men are HIV positive, all black people are lazy and Christianity is the one true religion. I don't think society has all the answers here. I think personal intimate long-term relationships are far more complicated than a few vows at a service, and infinitely more complex than the surface rules society puts on what they need to be seen to be in public. I mean, we live in a society that promotes Catholic Priests – men who have no experience with women, marriage or long-term intimate relationships whatsoever, no training at all in this area, people who've dedicated their lives to an invisible all seeing friend in the sky, who never actually shows himself or does a damn thing to prove he exists - and deems them the people you should go talk to when you have marital difficulties. That hardly seems like society has its act together when it comes to making the rules.
"The reality is, my relationship with my wife, and hers with me, is whatever we deem it to be. Not what society and popular culture has decided it should be. As long as we agree on the rules, and we don't hurt anyone else with what we decide, I could really give a flying fuck what anyone else thinks. If it works for us, who is society to judge that?"
"Yeah, I get that. Unconventional relationships aren't bad necessarily, but lets be honest Jesse, you arrived at yours through cheating. That can hardly be the greatest of foundations to build an all-new relationship on. Let alone one as risky as this. And, I am not saying what anybody should or shouldn't do. I am just worried about you. I think you are playing with fire, Jesse. I don't want to see you get burned."
"Well, yes, that's a fair comment. You aren't wrong. But the thing is Sam, without this new situation, I don't know that there would be any relationship. It might well be that we are going through the motions, that we are doomed to fail. That she will find someone who excites her more than me. Or makes her cum in a way I don't. But..."
"But what about that, Jesse? Aren't you taking a massive risk on that? I mean, what if that does happen."
Jesse took a long sip of his beer, and drained the glass.
"I think you really believe when that happens, Sam? Another beer? You look like you could use it."
"Sure, yeah. My round though, isn't it?"
"Don't worry about it. It'll give you time to call Janelle and give her some tidbits, won't it?"
Sam had the grace to look guilty, then pulled out his phone, put in on the far end of the table, and made a pantomime of sitting on his hands.
"Seriously though Jesse, this is ... momentous stuff. I don't know how you can be so fuckin' casual about it."