stolen moments

My recent trip brought me of a couple of typical marriage jokes:

Two cannibals sit beside a large fire, after eating the best meal they’ve had in ages. "Your wife sure makes a good roast," says the first cannibal. "Yeah," says the second. "I’m really going to miss her." 

Also a Freudian favorite marriage joke:

A wife is like an umbrella – sooner or later one takes a cab

Explanation: men marry to protect themselves from the temptation to visit prostitutes, just as an umbrella is supposed to protect against rain. But the sexual satisfactions of marriage, like an umbrella in a thunderstorm, just aren’t protective enough. In a downpour, sooner or later you’re going to find yourself in a public vehicle.

And now it’s only fair to tell a feminist joke: 

"A woman needs a husband like a fish needs a bicycle,"


Which brings me to the topic for this mail: "Stolen Moments"

May be you’re the type who dived headlong into your love affairs – most probably not the first time! In retrospect, may be you weren’t unhappy at all, and things were just fine as "a couple", and you were just unlucky enough to fall in love outside "the couple"

Whatever your type, however it started, the point is that you didn’t plan to feel this way [when you took yourself an extra lover], it just happened ~ well may be you didn’t plan not to either, or didn’t have the foresight and "maturity" to put the breaks on before it was too late; and since you started spilling the most intimate details about your relationship problems after a couple of drinks, and saying things you probably shouldn’t because they do have rather a promissory air ("I’ve been waiting my whole life to meet someone like you" "I’ve never felt this way about anyone before"), or an increasing number of those marathon confessions lovers’ tell-alls contain sentences like "If you and I live together …" along with fantasized – perhaps enacted? – introductions to common friends, or perhaps kept the whole thing a top-secret, or so you thought! And because you can’t believe your luck in nabbing such an amusing, sexy, and adoring lover, and the bliss is edging out the anxiety about where all this is going to lead – and a full night’s sleep is a distant memory.

The "Bliss": often synonymous with intense sexual reawakening (who knew it could feel this way!), that has you fantasizing about sex:

a) when you wake up in the morning, b) shower, c) drive to work, d) work, e) confer with the boss, f) fake meetings, g) make household rendezvous with the partner, h) dine en famille or with friends, i) try to make some work because all day you were lost in sex reveries. All of which means that "life as usual" has stopped and the cant’s have started [remember my earlier posting] of October 18th?

The new affair feels fun. It feels rebellious.

FUCK WORK: if adulterers ever adopt a slogan, this could be it. A close contender in your case: "stolen moments."  Yes, what a dumb cliché, but adultery does nothing if not discombobulate your temporality. Basically, you’ll risk just about anything for an extra half hour with the new beloved, which some how becomes forty-five minutes, or an hour if you’re lucky! -"Oh my God, what time is it?"  And then you become a specialist in coughing up complex explanations for those mysterious gaps in the day’s chronology, those stolen troves of temp perdu. Deceptions. Explanations. Excuses. The list is long to gain some "Free Time". Then there are the domicile visits. Those proved unexpectedly messy; rushing to clean the bed and other traces that abound > from the bedroom to the kitchen.

Of course it goes without saying that all adulterers are routinely exposed to the most privy aspects of each other’s primary relationships. What else is post-fucking conversation for?  Its the location for post-coital conversation – the adultery bed. Secrets are spilled, embarrassing truths are revealed; privacy norms are out the window. Lovers reveal to each other what they don’t dare say elsewhere, sometimes not even to themselves. Perhaps love affairs are for saying the unsayable: "I’m lonely." "I’m bored." "Come to my room." Whatever the mechanics, you third parties will find yourselves in possession of a small arsenal of intimate data on the particularities of the "other" relationship. Everything is soon known; an illustrated catalogue of complaints, an unabridged history of couple arguments, many years accumulation of disappointments, and a psychological profile on the absent husband with a level of detail rivaling one of Freud’s case studies.

Nothing creates instant intimacy like the spousal complaint, and your lover is the only escape from your malaise as you assured by those- whispered phone calls, agonized e-mails, etc.

Coupled Life becomes either a barren landscape or a tense battleground or a nightmarish repetition, characterized variously by tedium, fighting, silence, or unreasonable insatiable demands and cant’s.

So why not have a graceful exit? Basta. Or may be you are mapping the similarities and differences as you go. You’re rediscovering your forgotten capacities – and acts, and desires – but at the same time, comparing, measuring, playing catch-up and invariably calculating whether to return to the domestic fold [home], for peaceful sleep if nothing else. Though sometimes for something else as well! How awkward to return from the adultery bed to find an unexpectedly amorous spouse awaiting! Though perhaps reassuring too? Reliability has its pleasures, too. But then – things become less manageable than you had hoped ~ "desire and disgust are only a hair away from each other." Then you have this running inner monologue in your head: "Must I really listen to that same noise once again at exactly the same moment?"  "Who on earth has hair growing there?" or the little habits that were once endearing are now becoming a little … disgusting.

And let’s not forget self-disgust. It might be mentioned that deceiving intimates doesn’t always prove the happiest circumstance when it comes to thinking well of oneself: those "stolen moments" can have their price.

There’s no doubt that catching a mate in a deception is injurious for anyone. It’s typical to feel that having been deceived means having been disrespected, even humiliated. The irony – if we dare call it that – is that the rationale for deception is generally to avoid hurting people. Deception thus may come to seem like the lesser evil path when finding oneself in a sticky double bind! But having more than one desire may be marriage’s biggest taboo ~ again why you not just walk away from your mate ~ “Basta”. This may be more homogenous with your self and whatever "respectability" you have left.

Couple deception is not pretty. No one particularly admires a liar; likely no one particularly aspires to be one.  But let’s say that feelings are unpredictable, that desires aren’t always coherent or static, that knowing what you want in the realm of love and intimacy isn’t an exact science, and people do occasionally change. So, who’s being deceptive?

We may love to espouse the virtues of truth and transparency, but truthfully, is this what anyone really wants? Or is what we actually want truth under the right circumstances? Is "truth" what we’re after, or is it for a partner to adhere to all the desires and movement restrictions necessary for our own emotional well-being to be assured?

Then comes the ugly twist: Exposure. Yes, exposing a partner in a lie is an emotional auto wreck. One hopes that the survivors will limp away, but no doubt some will end up crippled and scarred. May be you have courted your fate: speeding on blind curves, being overconfident, taking too much for granted? And does every deceiving spouse find her special prosecutor; every liar her designated detector. In the event that they don’t, can desires be tempted away and back to intimacy at home?

Which brings us back to … your problem. As adulterers ask the questions that will present themselves at one point in the future: Will this thing end, and how? Who will fare well, and who badly? Which alliance will be left standing, which will be "history?"  But before you have any rash ideas about truth-telling, or trying to make up, remember the dogs are starved for scandal. As a social exile, you will be hated by friends and even family [but secretly]. Causing hurt to everyone merely to satisfy craven selfish urges for happiness-yes, that despicable sorry friendless figure is you – the adulterer.

Some affairs don’t end, and manage to go on for years. Some affairs end well, fading into mutual fond memories of friendships – a gradual waning of passion over time can achieve this denouement. Some affairs will go on to become primary couples in their own right [not yours] .

But love affairs can feel utterly transforming. You get to surrender to emotions you forgot you could have: to desire and to being desired, and the thrill of the new thing, exchanging those whispered intimacies, conversations sparked with soulfulness you hadn’t known you possessed. So here you are, temporarily transformed, madly enamored, terribly confused, on the cusp of … something.

But however it started, whether it’s the first time or just the most recent time, let’s say things have now gotten a lot more … unexpectedly complicated than you’d anticipated. You’re in love, you’re beside yourself, your life feels like it’s falling apart, you need to think, but thinking is not exactly your forte at the moment. Something has to give. May be your wonderfully understanding lover starts making demands or invoking situations not to your liking! [after all, between the confessions and the post-coital intimacies, this person knows you pretty darn well by now], so he starts using "should do that" "shouldn’t do that", then you try to think harder… You are willing to do anything and start taking shots in the dark. You even say "I never meant to hurt anyone," which sounds a little feeble now.

No, not everyone will manage the graceful ending – or even a graceful continuation – after being exposed. Note that this is the time for extreme caution! Disasters may be heading in your direction. More "unplanned and unexpected discoveries". A phone call retrieved from six months or two years before; a forgotten e-mail to the wrong person; a timing miscalculation that appears after months when it happened!

How could this have happened?  Life is suddenly wall-to-wall confusion. Yelling, tears, ultimatums; your supposed love life is in chaos. You don’t know what to do. Agonized conversations with your lover; angry thoughts and bitter feelings about the mate; emergency sessions… even with lawyers…

Here’s a suggestion: why not try contrition? "I never meant to hurt you. I feel like shit."  If you could have pulled that off, it could have worked with both spouse and lover. Of course it also may not have worked! Because neither is sympathetic to your dilemma as you would like.

In which case you should have stayed your ground: "Look how unhappy I’ve been. Look what I’ve been driven to!" Fuck Everybody.

Fuck Everybody??  So now we have gone from the high of Fuck Work to the low of Fuck Everybody!

What else can you say after your "domestic life" and arrangements have been transformed to a nightmare? But you’ve learned your lesson ~ you’ll never be ambivalent or careless again, right? It may be a few years before you find a "sincere" mate to meet and fall in love with [again..]. Because your last love now seems like a distant acquaintance or someone encountered for a one-night-stand. The lover, to whom you so recently pledged body and soul …. well it’s all too painful to think about. Now, you only have a sinkhole where that exciting feeling of aliveness once was ~ and the frankness and the great sex and all that fun ~ but may be you still think you’ve done the right thing even if you feel vaguely like shit, and even if self-reflection is not something you ever did, or likely to do…

Some of us realize early (some never), that we can’t go through life leading dual love lives and performing the complicated emotional balancing acts it requires ~ whether in your personal behaviors, or really fucking up at work, or living in constant fear of being spotted somewhere, causing panic and internal disarray.. until something finally had to give.

Your only solace is making excuses for yourself: "I didn’t mean for this to happen!" "I never thought things would get this serious!"

Sadly for all of us born with not enough wisdom, happiness is likely to be a fleeting experience: "stolen moments," which did not have to be "stolen" in the first place…

However it happened, whatever the particulars, big, imponderable, painful questions plague your days and haunt your sleepless nights.

Again, you have no answers ~ and life goes on…

for better or for worst…

Thus is the Art of Love ~ and thus are Love’s Labors..


Sunday, December 04, 2005


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