Sunday, December 25, 2011

You're Not Supposed To Cry On Christmas

Christmas Day, 2011. We're doing our best to make it a good day for the kids. Presents were slim this year. Under normal circumstances, we would all be filled with cheer, love and happiness, and the meager presents wouldn't be a big deal. But these aren't normal circumstances.

The empty condo above us haunts the entire trip. They were supposed to be here. A holiday getaway in a winter wonderland for both families. We had planned it the second time we met face to face. Over coffee, we had mentioned our plans for Christmas. When They said how much They would love to do something like that, we offered the spare condo we'd reserved for family who ended up not being able to make it. They accepted the offer immediately. We all agreed it was best to wait to mention anything about it to my brother and his wife. It was they who introduced us, afterall, and in their eyes, they had dibs on Them. As we drove away from the coffee house, we couldn't believe how unbelievably insane we were, offering to spend Christmas with a couple we had only met twice. But in the midst of the insanity, we both knew it felt right. That it was supposed to be this way.

And so it feels today--that it's supposed to be that way. That They should be here. But they aren't. I made a last-minute plea on Friday night for Them to come, to no avail. She said it would just make her sad. I asked if not being here would make her not sad. She didn't answer.

So here we sit, waiting for the pool to open, having returned from a walk where we tried to hash out the details of our impending separation. Most people would ask why we couldn't at least wait until the holiday is over to think and talk about these things. It's simply because trying to not think about them doesn't work. This IS our life. This will in fact be our last Christmas together as the family we've known for almost a quarter of a century. No matter how much we try to pretend otherwise, there is no way to escape the pall that it casts on the day. And no way to escape the silence above where the footsteps of the people we truly love should be.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Moving at the Speed of True Love

The passion is unreal. Kissing Her, looking into Her deep eyes, sucking on Her lips, Her tongue, biting Her neck. The intensity of our eyes locked onto the other's, our bodies moving in perfect rhythmic poetry. Every touch, every movement, every breath as though it's all a grand choreographed waltz we've practiced a thousand times until performed flawlessly with no thought. It's sexual. Emotional. It's biological and chemical. It's animalistic and unrestrained, sensual and tender all at the same time.

It's been 35 days since the night we met Them, and only 20 since we started communicating regularly through text. Tonight is our second time together sexually. Things are moving so fast none of us knows what to do. What started out as just a time to get together with the families to build the friendship ended in five sleeping kids upstairs and four adults overcome with lust, passion and...and something else. Something that scares the fuck out of all of us. Something that not only can't be voiced, but something none of us can even let take root inside our own heads. Yet it's already germinated in our hearts. There's no denying it, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves we must. The evening started with good intentions of keeping our pants on. But we're all helpless to resist. We're compelled by something beyond any of us.

We put a movie on in our bedroom so if one of the kids comes downstairs, we have some level of plausible deniability. It's a night of trying-our-best-to-be-quiet-but-probably-failing-miserably sex, four people on one bed. After a couple of hours we fall asleep in each other's arms. We wake up, have more sex, fall back asleep. Wake up, caress each other, talk, fall back asleep. He and Mrs. aren't talking much. They seem to be all about the sex. They're much less verbal than She and I are, but their connection is just as strong. Sex is how they communicate, but they communicate the same things we do. We are content to just look at each other sometimes and soak in the wonder of each other. We don't need to utter a sound, we feel what the other is thinking. Every part of Her feels amazing under my hand. As She lies there, half asleep, I just stare at Her beautiful face, slowly brushing the hair off Her forehead. I can't believe the way She makes me feel. Not just physically, but emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. Yes, even spiritually. Me, the former Christian turned agnostic atheist. I feel a purpose in being with Her. Something cosmic has brought us together. She makes me see a god I don't believe exists. I've loved Mrs. for over 25 years. But it's never been like this, not even when I hearken back to our hormone- and off-the-wall emotion-driven teenage beginnings. I love Mrs. But She...She brings something very different to every part of me. I resist the urge to even think it, because it's so cliche, overdone, overused and misused. But I find myself thinking, "This is what they mean when they say soul mate." It's more than the idea that two souls were made for each other. It's as though we are the very same soul inhabiting two bodies. Everything about Her--Her soft pale skin, Her face, Her smile...that stunning, wide, perfect crescent smile with the full, soft lips...Her voice, Her sense of humor, the way She fundamentally views the world, the way She moves underneath and on top of me, the way she makes me feel life as though I've never seen the sky before--She embodies my lifelong ideals of the perfect woman, the perfect partner; the one that doesn't exist outside the unreachable realm of inner fantasy. And She's lying next to me, her face radiating a brand new view of life, love and the world.

We wake up before any of the kids get up and make pancakes. After we eat, I go outside on the back patio to have a cigarette (even though I'm the only one who smokes, She doesn't mind that I do; She actually likes the taste of smoke on my breath, it turns Her on, unlike Mrs.). As I stand outside looking in the sliding glass door, I see three people I've come to care about, Him sitting, with Mrs. at His shoulder and Her standing in front of Him. It's a crystal clear picture of absolute happiness, utter contentment and comfort. My eyes tear up at the sight of these three amazing, completely satisfied and elated people in my life, enriching it beyond anything I ever imagined. It's a snapshot of perfection. After I go inside, as we're sitting at the table talking, She is the first one to utter the word: polyamory. I'm a bit surprised. She has been more hesitant to embrace where things are going than the rest of us. Even though this is the first verbal recognition of the idea that any of us, let alone all of us may be in love, we all knew it was inevitable, and we all knew where each of the others stood. We just knew. Everyone could sense it. And She had been hesitant, but She is the one to say it. We all knew She had to be the one, because none of us could embrace it unless everyone was on board. She couldn't bring herself to use the word "love". She says it just means that you care for more than one person. We all agree in unison, each of us with the knowing look deep in the eyes that it's only a matter of time before the "L" word would comes out.

Later that morning, as they prepare to leave, it's so unbelievably awkward. The awkwardness should be caused by the fact that, after 21 years of being married and less than three weeks of getting to knowing Her, I want to grab Her face, pull it to mine, kiss her passionate lips, wrap Her in my arms as tight as I can and tell Her I love Her. But that feels like the most natural thing I could possibly do. It is letting her walk out the door without doing those things that feels awkward and unnatural. But the five children in the room give me no other choice.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

It's very strange to see how our life experiences build on one another. On one hand, it seems only natural that we learn from one experience and apply those lessons to new experiences. But when the experiences--the big, life-changing ones, the ones that set your world sideways--when they are so inextricably linked on a fundamental level, as though one was explicitly tailored to prepare you for the next, it strains the bounds of credulity to think it's all happenstance, a cosmic roll of the dice.

Such games of chance sound odd coming from someone with such a strong and long religious background (mind you, I was never into religion, I was into a relationship with Jesus, exactly as all good Christians are supposed to be).  But talking about losing my religionship is a bit premature; you should probably know what set the framework for coming to that point. Pyramids. The money-making kind. You know, those schemes where you invite your friends over to a BBQ and ambush them with "the plan". The one we were in wasn't a pyramid (those are illegal you know, and ours had been deemed by the Federal Trade Commission as a legal, not-a-pyramid scheme), and we tried our best to not ambush people. All of the things you think you know about these types of things--almost all of them are false, yet at the same time almost wholly accurate. In many ways it was like a cult. They suck you in with promises and dreams, they get you into the support system, feed you a constant supply of books, audio tapes, seminars and personal counseling sessions. One dares not question the system, or he is labeled a Dream Stealer, the most wretched type of scoundrel known. When one grows wary and can't find it in himself to keep faking it until he makes it, a sort of intervention is held. You're told you have to hang on. You can't see what's around the next corner in the road. It may just be your big breakthrough. If you give up now, you're throwing your life, and the life of your children away. How can you look your children--your poor, innocent children, who believe in you and look to you for life guidance--in the eye and tell them that the trip to Disneyland you've been promising for years isn't going to happen? How can you be such a failure in your children's eyes? You're setting a pattern of failure that will be passed onto your children, and they will live miserable lives of abject failure just like their parents. So goes the mantra.

It took us 10 years of  being "just on the cusp of success", thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollar before we were forced to face the harsh reality: it wasn't going to happen. I DID in fact have to be a salesman to make it work, no matter how many times they told me (and I parroted) that I didn't. Not just a salesman, but a top-notch, high-pressure, slimy salesman. And I'm a dismal salesman. It's just not in me. If I have to convince you of something, what I'm selling isn't worth having. It was an extraordinarily difficult realization. Not only were we facing the reality that all the dreams we'd dreamt--the freedom, the houses, the cars, the vacations--were never going to happen, we had to admit that we'd been duped. Worst of all, we had been willing accomplices, we had duped ourselves. We had to admit that we had effectively wasted the most opportune decade of our life--put careers on hold, passed up opportunities, given up evenings and weekends to pursue this one thing. For naught. It was all in vain, with nothing to show for it other than a shell of the life that should have been at that point. But we had no choice. We couldn't live the charade any longer.

Little did we know that this difficult juncture, the painful process of forcing ourselves to see things as they are, rather than continuing to convince ourselves things were as we wanted them to be, was the trailhead of a path that lead to being helplessly in love with a married couple and questioning everything about our 25-year relationship.

Some Quick Housekeeping

The majority of this story will be written by and in the voice of the husband of the couple, unless otherwise explicitly noted. My wife will be referred to as Mrs., I will be referred to as Mr. (when needed for clarity), and the other couple will be referred to as He/Him and She/Her, to protect privacy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Unexpected, Unwelcome Guest

None of us were looking for a polyamorous relationship. It came at us out of nowhere. It happened, of its own volition, and none of us could stop it. It was a beast of its own making, and all we could do was follow where it lead. Some would say we asked for it. Some would say we could have stepped off the ride. They haven't a clue about love that just that grips you from the inside out, permeates you and holds you beyond your that is pure and needs no nurturing. Many apply the label to their relationships, but few ever actually experience it: true, unadulterated love.

Now that the last flicker of the poly relationship has been blown out and all contact has been broken, we're left to wonder what it was all supposed to mean and where we go from here. We're told it's simply a matter of getting back to the spot we were as a couple before any of this happened. But we are changed. Fundamentally changed. Everything we've known about our marriage for over two decades has been examined, parsed and challenged. Nothing is the same. Nothing can ever be the same.

Exactly how did high school sweethearts, two people who literally grew up together, two fundamentalist Christians---not just Kool-Aid drinking Christians, but Kool-Aid making Christians--end up so madly in love with another couple? What path led to heartache for which words fail to describe? Many would convince themselves that we've lost our way, and once off the path dictated by religion and social norms, we were lead down a deceitful trail, blinded and bound by sins of the flesh. Yet this is how we have found our way out of a dark wilderness, how we have truly found ourselves. This is how our eyes, blinded by fear and insecurity, have been opened. This path--this breath-catching, hand-over-the-mouth-while-gasping journey--has brought true freedom. It is strewn with the artifacts of pain, strife and unsavory truths. But those are things we've learned to embrace, the price of living an authentic life with no fear of the answers to questions one never dares ask. There is no other way to truly live.