Dating : Insights of the Married Man

h2>Dating : Insights of the Married Man

Kathryn Dickel

One invitation and a world of truth.

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

This is where the sandcastle that is conventional marriage washes away. Left in its place is the tenuous promise of monogamy which is a poor substitute for the intimacy and vulnerability required for an unconditionally loving relationship.

One experience in particular that has been instructive is with a man that I have been able to fully and honestly discuss the situation with. He is a self-identified ‘happily’ married man. At the time he proposed this relationship, I laid down my response out as follows: ‘Sure, I’d be happy to be your lover, just go home and tell your wife we’re gonna hook it up.’ I offered this more as a challenge than an acceptance, as I have no desire to be in a hidden relationship. It will probably not come as a surprise, at least it didn’t to me, that this was not an option in this man’s world and he told me as much. He explained that having a conversation like that would jeopardize, if not end, the carefully constructed life he enjoys at home. I, however, found it curious that an honest conversation with his wife was more threatening to their marriage than actually engaging in a hidden sexual relationship with me. We used our honest conversation to establish that we would not be lovers, per my desires to have an unfettered relationship in my life, and our friendship has deepened as a result. Adulting is awesome!

Our deeper relationship allowed us to revisited this territory recently, but not as a reinvitation. I asked him if he would share his deeper feelings around the proposal. Monogamy is somewhat of a cultural Rubik’s Cube for me, especially since I’ve been asked to test it for others. The dull line of the “emotional affair” adds an additional level of confusion to the whole discussion. He agreed, and what I heard was fascinating and also troubling, but not because he was a disrespectful cad that didn’t love his wife. That is not the truth I found. The truth is a lot more complex.

My main question to him was why he defined his marriage as happy. He spoke of the deep knowing and understanding his wife and he had built over many years of experiencing life together. The exact quote was “she knows me.” He spoke about the stability and safety they enjoyed from the prosperous life they had built together and about his genuine affection for her and her company. He spoke about the joy they had being parents. So what was it then? What was he looking for that was so important he would risk it all? Guess what? It wasn’t the sex.

Basically it was this. There were fundamental parts of himself, really important parts of him, that he felt his wife had rejected or that he simply didn’t connect with her on. As a result he couldn’t share them with her and he neglected them. This neglect was leading to a subtle internal fracturing for him. It was manageable until he hit that connection point with someone else; then that fracture became excruciating enough to risk it all. We’re not talking about mere attraction here, we’re talking about real connection. Connection that makes you feel seen and known. Connection that makes you inspired and excited about who you are. Couple that alignment with charm, intelligence, physical attraction and availability and you’ve got yourself the invitation.

A lot of people are going to write this off right now as a fucked up man, or a marriage that is in deep crisis. After all, isn’t infidelity a by-product of both of those things? Maybe so, but the truth I see is more complex. I think it’s primarily a byproduct of a relationship construct that doesn’t serve honesty, trust and unconditional love; otherwise known as conventional marriage.

Let me go deeper. I was struck when he said “she knows me.” I asked him why he couldn’t tell her about this fracturing he was experiencing, especially considering the apparent strength of his marriage, and the vulnerability and unconditionality that is required for someone to deeply know another person. Why couldn’t he be forthcoming about his need to connect with someone on these fundamental parts of himself? Why couldn’t he simply ask her for her consent to get what he needed if she couldn’t provide it with the explicit reaffirmation of his desire to continue being her partner in all the ways that were working for them? I also asked him if he could he really claim that his wife knew him if he was keeping such fundamental parts of himself, including his struggle, from her. His response was that she’d made it clear that monogamy was a hard line in the sand for her by calling out her feelings around other people’s infidelity. She would not only never agree to anything other than monogamy, just the conversation would likely end the marriage. So essentially, a conversation about his authentic self would end his marriage. It was at this moment that he seriously paused with the collapsing idea that his wife truly knew him.

This is where the sandcastle that is conventional marriage washes away. Left in its place is the tenuous promise of monogamy which is a poor substitute for the intimacy and vulnerability required for an unconditionally loving relationship. As painful as infidelity is, what is cause for even greater sadness is how we’ve abdicated the great power and beauty of unconditional love to the fear of being rejected as our true selves. We’ve accepted sacrificial marriage over one of true unconditional love. Instead of risking vulnerability, rejection and loss we choose to suppress who we are, to sacrifice it to our partner’s happiness, ostensibly to not hurt them or our family with our truth. Or we rely on the shifting sands of loyalty based on monogamy. We lay down rules and expectations or impose control over our lovers to protect ourselves from being hurt; forcing our partners deeper into the shadows of suppression. What remains is a fraction of love we could truly experience.

For my friend’s wife, she has a husband she will never truly know. She won’t ever be allowed to love him fully because he is hiding fundamental parts of himself. She will never be able to consider, choose and demonstrate the unconditionality of the vow “in sickness and in health” (or “no matter what” as I like to call it). He will lie to her everyday, even if he never sleeps with another woman, because he will be the version of himself she needs, not who he actually is.

He, on the other hand will never be able to really experience the act of giving her unconditional love either. He is in the perpetual ‘have to’ moment because it is not a real choice born of freedom, but existing instead within obligation. It is easy to opt out of a choice (in this case staying faithful) if you never really felt like you owned in the first place. He will not have the opportunity to show her that despite what they don’t share, what they do share is real and sacred to him and he will never take that away from her whether he loves another or not. Currently, their love is conditional and supporting their mutual fear of being completely seen and vulnerable to another person, and they will both never feel the enormous power of receiving unconditional love from the other.

The irony here is that when we marry, we ideally marry with a sense of being fully seen, known and accepted by another person. That’s what makes it special. Our partners are to be the keepers of us in our totality. They commit to loving us in that totality even if who we are changes, and it DOES change. To truly live in this space is to know ultimate freedom and frankly that is what most people seem to be seeking in an external relationship. Freedom to be the person they can’t be in their marriage and be loved without the conditions of conventional marriage; primarily that you won’t emotionally or physically connect in any meaningful way with another person. Infidelity has most often been seen as a failing of the people engaged in the action. Can we stop to consider it might be a failing of the construct of conventional marriage itself?

More often than not in conventional marriage what we end up creating is a false sense of safety by hiding those parts of ourselves that may hurt our partner or cause rejection. We forgo critical change. We put our souls in stasis. We become a version of ourselves that “works” for the other person. We succumb to a shared fear of rejection by the person who’s promised to not reject us under any circumstances. We cheat ourselves and our partners out of the opportunity to really know the power of unconditional love. I submit that if you can’t trust a person with the totality of who you are, with the pain that comes from change, with space asked for and freely given, or the choice to love you no matter what; it seems that monogamy is beside the point.

Our culture is not challenging us to embrace authentic unconditionality within marriage. We indeed start our marriages with some very strong conditions that almost guarantee fear will rule our relationships instead of love. We are told that all this suppression eventually works; that we eventually overcome our childish restlessness. We will settle into our sacrifice, appreciate the safety we’ve created for ourself and our partner, and we will feel great accomplishment for enduring it all. We never acknowledge the great cost of emotional detachment, shame and grieving that are often required to sacrifice one’s self to conditional love.

Unfortunately we have so few love stories where two people stepped into their fear, laid themselves bare, held to their truth, chose to support and love the entirety of the other and continued to love each other for eternity; married or not, monogamous or not. This is the love I aspire to. The one where no hiding or sacrificing is required. A love that resides in the light and grows as wild flowers do; in firm soil, unmanicured, unfettered, unconditional. . . forever.

Read also  Dating : Forget all you know! Patriarchy killed our orgasms

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