by Phoebe Vaccaro
I had sex with a married man and I don’t feel at all badly about it. Now before you get all judge-y, as I’m sure you’ll be wont to do, let me explain myself a little.
There was a time when sleeping with someone who was attached – married, in a relationship, whatever it was – was entirely outside of my realm of comfort. It was an absolute no-go for me, especially after what I went through with my last relationship (quick recap: my ex had been cheating on me, in my house, in my bed with his boss for months, before finally telling me – and only finally doing that, via frigging Facebook, nonetheless, because he’d knocked her up). So I was hypersensitive to such circumstances for a while.
But then, somewhere along the way, I somehow became less dogmatic about my reticence to sleep with attached men…and then suddenly, I found myself in bed with a married man and not feeling at all badly about it. How’d I get to this point?
Firstly, the marital troubles of two people aren’t on me. Sure, I’m probably not helping by getting involved, even if only peripherally, but to be honest I don’t really feel like I ought to have to check every man for a marriage license before jumping into bed with him.
This man was incredibly sexy. I met him at a bar, we got to talking, and we left the bar together. It wasn’t until we were on our way to his friend’s house that it came out that he was married. I was looking forward to the casual rendezvous, but when I discovered he was married I started to have second thoughts. After a short conflict within myself, I decided I was going to do it anyway. I didn’t know how often this man sleeps around on his wife. I didn’t know anything about their relationship. What I did know is that I am not the cause for whatever had him out seeking sexual relations with other women.
Part of the reason, aside from moral misgivings, that I had been so hesitant to sleep with an attached man is because as someone who identifies as polyamorous, I advocate for open and honest communication of one’s desires and inclinations in a relationship. I do not advocate cheating. Cheating really does hurt; I know that hurt all too well. So it makes me feel hypocritical to believe so wholeheartedly in open, honest communication yet to participate in an activity as dishonest as cheating.
But I also know how hard it is to communicate those needs and desires within a committed relationship or marriage in a culture that tells us that monogamy is the only moral, healthy way to relate. Sometimes people feel that cheating is the only option. And I get that. I understand feeling trapped. I understand the desperation that can lead to dishonest relations.
These men are not bad men. I am not a bad woman. These are men who find themselves in a position where they have been coerced into compulsory monogamy and are finding that they need something more or something else. But to articulate that, in this culture, is not only terrifying but sometimes downright impossible. So they stray. And I somehow think that because I understand these inclinations, these desires, that I am equipped to understand where these men are coming from.
That doesn’t make cheating okay. It doesn’t justify or excuse this man stepping out on his wife (or my involvement in it). My involvement was purely a selfish one – he was so damned sexy and I wanted to have casual sex with him. It was that simple. But I argued with myself the whole way to his friend’s house. I justified, I wavered, I almost backed out. But if not me, it would be someone. So why not me?
This is not the first attached man to have an interest in me. He is, however, the first I actually ended up sleeping with. There was also a guy who contacted me through an online dating website who has a girlfriend whom he loves. He just wants to have some extramarital fun. I chatted with him for a while, came up with a number of excuses not to get involved with him,but he too, was highly. I eventually agreed to carry on a purely sexual relationship with him.
Again, I felt like if he was going to do it anyway (which he obviously is), so why not get what I want, let him get what he wants, and leave his relationship intact? I know this justification will sound horrible to so many people. I still shake my head when I hear myself saying it aloud. But I really felt like I was best equipped to engage in this relationship – no emotions on my part, just purely sexual satisfaction. So many others might become emotionally entangled to the point where they interfere with the relationship, want the man to leave his partner for them, start a new life. That’s not me.
At the same time, I wonder: is it helpful to this man and the woman he loves to allow him to carry on a secret affair? He says he loves her, and I believe he does. But is she better off carrying on, oblivious to his infidelity? Would I have been happier if that’s all it had been with my ex and his now-fiance? I don’t know. I can’t say.
I know how badly it hurts to be cheated on. I know how badly it feels to have one’s family torn asunder. But I also know that my relationship fell apart not only because my ex cheated on me but because there were other things fundamentally wrong with our relationship. It was hurtful, it was horrible, and I spiraled into a state of depression for a short time. But I’m happier now. I don’t lament that he did it. I am thankful that he did.
The difference between me and my ex’s mistress is that she inserted herself into the midst of a relationship; she wanted to walk away with the “prize” (honey, you can have him; he’s not that much a prize – he was a cheater, misogynist, chauvinistic, and emotionally abusive). Me, I’m purely after the physical connection. Sure, there’s still potential of someone getting hurt, but I have no inclination to intentionally destroy someone’s relationship; in fact, quite the opposite, I hope that the philanderer will be able to get what they need without hurting their significant other.
I know people will read this and think: “That is wrong. Sleeping with an attached man is wrong.” I don’t disagree. But I also don’t agree. The world is just so much more complicated than that. It isn’t black and white. There are all of these shades of grey.
(photo of wedding rings via Wikimedia Commons)