Monday, October 15, 2007

Do's and Don'ts

She called breathless and excited, certain that you and she, your lover’s wife, should write the book on open marriage. It would be fun, she said over the phone, and marketable too, with sidebars of do’s and don’ts, tips and etiquette, that sort of thing.

You’d thought about it of course, both of you were writers and in a position to actually share something. Nearly three years into this and still on your feet, still married and thriving. You might actually have something to offer people.

But a part of you worried that if you did start waving a flag the whole thing would come crashing down on you. You’d lose your marriage or lose your lover and then all your sadness and disappointment with life, your real fears would surface and you would have to accept a truer truth, which is that open marriage is great if you’re getting what you want, if somebody wants to be your baby. But without that, say your husband is having the time of his life with his girlfriend, but the guy you’re with disappears, well, so much for those helpful tips and those all those clever little do’s and don’ts.

At least she wasn’t calling because you’d done something wrong, because her husband had come home last night in a bad way. No, you’d left him in good shape and he was completely capable of making breakfast for the boys and taking them to school. Sure you’d made an impression on him, but you hadn’t left a mark. And as she spoke, all chatty and excited about the book idea, it appeared that she still hadn’t gotten wind of the other little tryst that had happened the night before with your husband’s lover and her husband, a former love of yours and who is closely associated with and the sometimes lover of your lover's wife.

And while it's true that you didn’t break any rules, you don’t mean to hurt people and you don’t want to lie. And so you hoped that you could simply have a whole conversation with her about the bestselling book the two of you would write about open marriage; all those sage words of advice; how to make it work and how not to fuck it up. You hoped to have just this conversation, wondering as you listened to her go on about the book, whether your friendship, if the book project could weather the complexity of this whole thing; everything said and left unsaid; all the tiny lies and the way we protect ourselves and each other.

You wondered whether her husband, a man of 60, would be here in ten years or whether his heart would give way the way his own father’s did at 65. You wonder if that happens whether you’ll have such good news to spread about your open marriage. Maybe you’ll know more about loss then. Maybe you’ll become at expert on that.


Chris said...

"You’d made an impression but you hadn’t left a mark." This is one of those sentences that stays with you long after you're finished reading. A turn of a phrase that every writer hopes to write. The one that leaves the reader saying---"yeah, I can relate to that." even if life circumstances are different. Thanks for giving it to us.

Dale said...

Well, don't borrow trouble :-)

But yeah. I've sometimes wondered whether open marriage ought not better be called "devil take the hindmost."

But it all happens anyway -- all the losses. It's more a question of whether everyone's happier if we all lie about it.

& I just don't know the answer to that. It's profoundly disturbing to me.

dweezila said...


it is profoundly disturbing to me too, which is why, days later I am still feeling troubled by it. We are in a situation with two other couples. With the one couple everything is above board. With the other couple one of the parties gets so deeply triggered by things that, although not rule breaking and not impactfull of her own marriage, make complete honesty difficult. I have tried many times and she's met it all bravely, but it still hurts. It's a complicated situation. I stay pretty clean as that is my nature, and while not everything that goes on needs to be public knowledge, just knowing something that someone else doesn't know feels hazardous to me. It is hard to know which way to go.

i appreciate your thoughts, as always.

NoRegrets said...

Where do you get all the energy? Both the little lies suck the energy out, as well as the open, honest truth, both to others and to yourself. Just reading the posts makes my mind go, which is great, but also draining as it is so complex.

Anonymous said...

Hey there. Beautiful post. I miss hearing your writing weekly. And not to sound like a broken record, but want to pull one thread from this to say: The book is there, has always been there, and it is your story, your book. I so admire that you come from truth, stand up and are counted in truth, and feel every consequence of it too. This journey is a journey, friend, and there are so many lessons and truths in it for you and for all of us. aloha, jen

dweezila said...

to No regrets:

i appreciate your thoughts, I welcome them. I guess if you knew me you'd know that i'm in the relationship business, and while not a therapist per se, I am someone who learns all of her lessons out there in relationship land. Some people are consumed by politics or injustice. I am all about relationship stuff, it's the playground where I do all of my work and learn my stuff.

i am struggling with how to deal with the feelings of others and still trying to understand my own motivations for what my husband and I are doing. I'm glad to have this space to write about it.

thank you for your comments. Interesting that you write about secrets in your latest posting. I guess we all have to find our way with this.

Alison said...

You know, honey, I'm just not hearing that you really want to collaborate with this woman. I get that there's a book here, and maybe you want a collaborator for it, but I don't hear a real yes! from you about this person. I don't know her from a hole in the wall, and I'm sure she's very nice and intelligent and competent, blah blah blah, but your post sounds wary and not terribly enthusiastic about her suggestion. And a book project is a long hard haul, and it's nice to be enthusiastic about the person you're hauling with.

Love the blog, even though I also don't have the stamina, sexual or emotional, to do what you do. But that's fine. Lots of people wouldn't be able to fathom my life either--hell, I can't fathom it myself, sometimes.