“It’s been a rough time,” he says. “I’m adjusting the best I can, but…” He looks away.
I wait for him to finish.
“There’s a lot to adjust to,” he says. “She’s a different person with this much NRE. And I can’t help but notice how much faster they fell in love than we did. I know I’m not supposed to compare, but I can’t help it.”
“You get used to being on your own, when your relationship is closed a while. You know how that is,” he says.
“I do,” I reply. Skyspook and I spent a few years closed up after the first poly web burned. Before the reopen.
“It’s not just worrying that I’m going to lose her,” he says.
“Although that’s in the mix?” I say.
He nods. “Yes.” He sighs. “It’s that if I do lose her, it’ll be my fault.”
“I encouraged this. I encouraged her to pursue him. It was literally my idea,” he says. “I opened this door. What if I lose her because of it?”
The Door Can Open On Its Own
The difficult truth of this is that even if you’re in a committed monogamous relationship, there’s no guarantee that the door stays closed. Who knows what stray breeze can blow it open?
The door can open on its own. And not just in troubled relationships.
As Esther Perel writes in “Why Happy People Cheat:”
…a theme that has come up repeatedly in my work: affairs as a form of self-discovery, a quest for a new (or lost) identity. For these seekers, infidelity is less likely to be a symptom of a problem, and more likely an expansive experience that involves growth, exploration, and transformation.
“Expansive?!,” I can hear some people exclaiming. “Self-discovery?! Cheating is cheating, whatever fancy New Age labels you want to put on it. It’s cruel, it’s selfish, it’s dishonest, and it’s abusive.” Indeed, to the one who has been betrayed, it can be all these things. Intimate betrayal feels intensely personal—a direct attack in the most vulnerable place. And yet I often find myself asking jilted lovers to consider a question that seems ludicrous to them: What if the affair had nothing to do with you?
Sometimes when we seek the gaze of another, it’s not our partner we are turning away from, but the person we have become. We are not looking for another lover so much as another version of ourselves. The Mexican essayist Octavio Paz described eroticism as a “thirst for otherness.” So often, the most intoxicating “other” that people discover in an affair is not a new partner; it’s a new self.