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My friend Athena called over the weekend.  Like me, she was marooned with a houseful of teenagers leftover from New Year's Eve. I said I thought sleepovers were something that went out in elementary school and Athena, who has several off-spring in their 20's, said sleepovers come back in, in high school, as a way for them to drink without driving.

Now she tells me.

I asked if she had any New Year's Resolutions and she said, yes. "I've decided to sleep with the married man who's been propositioning me for several months." I said, "Well, you've already gotten the bikini wax, so why waste it?"

Before I was married and divorced, I thought women who had affairs with married men were borrowing trouble.  Now I know they're looking for a way to avoid it.  Or as Athena said to me, "I'm 55, I don't need a father for my children or a husband for myself.  I just want to have sex with an adult whom I know."

Susan was not amused, but then again her marriage ended when her former husband slept with her (former) best friend.  She said, "How could Athena do that to the wife?? She's been married—she should know better."  I suggested to Susan that her own experience colored her opinion of Athena's actions and she said, "Damn straight. If you're married, you shouldn't be screwing around on the side."

I said, "Rules of marriage, eh? How about this one: marriage is only between a man and a woman.  Should Rebecca be denied access just because she's gay? Or,  marriage is forever so you should stay no matter what your—even if your spouse hits you or screws around on you.  Would you want to still be harnessed to Steve?"

I already knew the answer to that one.

When I was younger I used to think there were many ways of being single, but only one way of being married.  Now I know there are many ways of being married, too. Marriage is, after all, a relationship that is unique to the two people in it.  What works for your neighbor or Hillary Clinton may not work for you.  But they may not want your marriage, either.

Athena's potential bedmate has been married for 30 years.  For 25 of those years he and his wife have run a business together.  For 15 of those years, they've lived in separate bedrooms. He tells Athena they can't afford to disassemble the business, so remain married while living separate lives.  I have another friend whose 80 year old father married his girlfriend of ten years in the Catholic Church (they're both widowed) and then got divorced several months later.  This way they were married in the eyes of the Church but their assets were not commingled, a plus when they have 9 adult children between them.   Despite the divorce, they still consider themselves married.

Relationships like these fly in the face of the billion dollar wedding industry—an industry that survives despite the fact that almost half of all marriages end in divorce.  Any other business that had an ROI like that and still flourished would be investigated for fraud.  

Marriage has historically been a business arrangement, a socio-economic contract between two families in exchange for assets ranging from cows to countries. Romantic love made an appearance in the 12th and 13th centuries in the form of Courtly Love.  But Courtly Love was really just a codified system of socially acceptable adultery because it usually occurred between a married woman and a single man.  

Even fairy tales end at the altar as if to acknowledge the harsh reality that love may have gotten you this far, but the walk back down the aisle and into married life is no fantasy.

Susan said, "Jane, that's no justification for having an affair."  

I said, "Sometimes an affair can help keep a marriage going.  For example, I know this woman—let's call her Cathy—who told me she was divorcing her husband of 20 years because he wouldn't have oral sex with her."  

Susan interrupted.  She said, "This came up how?"  

And I said, "Over coffee.  I barely knew her.  Anyway, Cathy had 3 teenagers at home.  She found a new lover and he also had 2 teenagers.  They each left their spouses and uprooted the lives of five adolescents.  Now, don't you think that everyone—the two other spouses and the five adolescents—would have been much happier if Cathy and her oral sex loving boyfriend had just climbed into bed with each other once a week?  She would have stopped being resentful of her husband and gone back to keeping the marriage together until all the teens were out of the house.  It also would have given the kids a fighting chance."  

Susan said, "I gather this is the advice you gave her."

I said yes, actually, it was.

Susan said, "Sometimes I wonder if this next generation is even going to bother with marriage.  They certainly don't date, they just hook-up or send naked texts to each other." She works at a university, so she's up on all the latest trends.

I said, "Naked texting?" and she said, "Don't ask. Just be thankful you don't have daughters."

I said, "Maybe it's time to redefine marriage and maybe this economy will do it.  Marriage could become a civil union with economic benefits.  Then anyone who wants to plot eternal fidelity and love to each other could do so in a Church of their choosing."

"So you could do one or the other, or both", said Susan and I said yes, sort of an a la carte, build your own, approach to marriage.  

Susan said, "I guess Athena is dessert oriented.  Others prefer a diet. Me, I'm a meat and potatoes girl.  How about you?"  I said, "I like Tapas."

What's on your menu?


Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cynthia Schmidt wrote Jan 7, 2009
    • The only thing that comes to mind with this women who wants to sleep with her married acquaintance is, how does his wife feel about it? So, he says they‘re living separate lives. Could that be a lie or a  line just to justify his actions? What about communicable disease? How many others does he sleep with on a regular basis? Do they truly have an open marriage? Would his wife be hurt? The only way I see a re definition of marriage working is if both parties who are in the “marriage” agree on the behavior of their spouse.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Lvn4me wrote Jan 7, 2009
    • Call me old fashioned, but I believe in my vows.  If I want something outside of the marriage, then the marriage must end first.  Chocolatier is right, there is a third party to consider in this equation, and I believe that she is being selfish in thinking that this would not effect the mans wife.

            Report  Reply

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