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I have been struggling with writing lately; I have been finding it difficult to find the words to describe what I have been doing and feeling. And this weekend I realised why. I made a pact with myself when I started out on this journey to document it honestly; but in order to do that I first have to be honest with myself.
For the past couple of years, congruence has been my guiding force in the choices I have made. Before that, it was a feeling, an idea floating about in the ether that I knew existed but didn’t have a word for: I knew that what I was doing, and how I was living didn’t feel “right” but I didn’t know why. Slowly, I started to examine what I spent my time doing and who I spent my time with and I began to make changes; simple ones at first, and then larger, life-choice type changes.
It was when I learned about congruence, in the context of a play therapy course, that it fell into place. Carl Rogers, often described as the father of modern day, humanistic psychotherapy, said that, “For a person to achieve self-actualization [to be a fully functioning person] they must be in a state of congruence. This means that self-actualization occurs when a person’s “ideal self” (i.e., who they would like to be) is congruent with their actual behavior (self-image).”
And just like that, my life became a quest for congruence.
However, for the last couple of months, I have been doing something incongruous; something that has led to a huge internal conflict between all the clichéd pairs of opposites: my head and my heart; wrong and right; love and lust; gratification and morality. I have been dating a married man.
By talking about it, I realise I am opening myself up to a potential barrage of judgement and criticism. But, as I said, I vowed to be honest so I am going to try and write about it as openly as I can.
I have struggled with it since day one. C told me straight away that he was married and, straight away, my defences went up and my mind went into overdrive. My first thoughts were for his wife and how I would feel in her situation; as a woman the last thing I want to do is disservice to other women. I also considered the idea that, actually, he was being more honest with me—a relative stranger—than he was with her. It was odd and uncomfortable knowing that I knew more about parts of this man’s brain than his wife did.
However, my brain went to other places too. I began to find ways to justify continuing to chat with him because, well, I liked him. Surely it was his thing to manage, surely the blame lay with him, not me? I don’t really believe in the institution of marriage: I believe it is outdated, unnecessary, and not questioned nearly enough. Perhaps by exploring kink with him I would be saying a big, “Fuck you!” to society? Perhaps if I gave this man what he needed outside of his marriage, his marriage—and his wife—would actually be happier? And, I grudgingly acknowledged to myself, there was something kind of hot about it all…
Slowly, as I got to know C better, I began to almost believe these things and found ways to avoid the discomfort. I also had plenty of conversations with various people, all of whom have been open-minded and very much helped me in my justifications. All of whom were, I now realise, carefully (but only semi-consciously) chosen for this reason since I also avoided having conversations about it with other people; people whom I knew wouldn’t approve.
Until Friday night.
Friday night I went on a date with T. T is articulate, self aware, and intensely intelligent. He is also extremely experienced in and knowledgeable about kink and all it entails. It all began well. We had a lot to talk about and connected; from the conversation I could tell straight away that he had a strong moral compass. When the topic of marriage came up, I knew what his thoughts would be and I was right: he was entirely unapologetic in his analysis. He verbalised his disdain for men who cheat and called women who get involved with married men clichéd and moronic. In a world where most things can be justified, it was both shocking and refreshing to hear a man speak so passionately on behalf of a woman. At the end of the day, I have been talking about respect and consent within kink and if someone doesn’t know what is going on they are unable to consent.
I knew this; I knew this all along.
So why did I let myself go there? That is the hard part.
Firstly there’s the obvious: we got on. We connected and he was easy to talk to. We messaged first, then video chatted and when we finally met there was obviously chemistry in person. That is something I do not take lightly: chemistry can be elusive.
And secondly—and perhaps most importantly—it was because he offered me something quite specific that I have been searching for: an opportunity to explore a dom/sub dynamic. I have spoken to a number of men regarding this and something often feels off. They don’t really know what they are doing. C did. He was well-versed in boundaries and limits and ever-respectful of mine. He was tolerant and capable of managing my brattiness. He pushed me to explore parts of myself that I was desperate to explore but that needed communication and respect to do so. Ironically, given his own situation, he provided those things for me. As time passed, though, I began to feel increasingly uneasy with this. The boundaries blurred and the emotional attachment crept in. Something that I think is necessary for this kind of dynamic, but also something I wasn’t confident navigating given the fact that his “cuddles” belonged to someone else.
And then there are the other layers. I was able to compartmentalise to a certain extent. If I let myself think—and I mean really think—about his wife, I was overcome with guilt, so the best thing to do was to not allow myself to go there. It was surprisingly easy at times. Not at all easy at other times. And I considered calling it off a number of times. But I didn’t, because, fundamentally I enjoyed it. I liked C. I liked the way he was with me. I liked the chemistry we had as well as the conversation. And, perversely, the fact he was “taken” did turn me on to a degree. A small part of me enjoyed being the “other woman.”
However, a larger part of me didn’t. Being the other woman also made me feel incredibly lonely. C and I only met up a handful of times; each time we did it was under a strict time constraint and afterwards, he went home to his wife. I got the kink and he got the cuddles. It left me wondering about the decisions I was making and whether I am destined to play this role for the foreseeable future.
The situation— even before I met T—left me musing about modern day marriage on an even deeper level than I have in the past. Perhaps naively, talking to married men was not something I’d even considered as a possibility before I started out on the kink path. I knew it happened, but I also “knew” that it wouldn’t be something I would allow myself to be a part of. And it frustrates me that I did.
It also frustrates me on a far deeper, societal level. People meet, “fall in love” (something I am also highly cynical of—not love itself, I believe love is very real—but the act of “falling” into it), promise the world to each other and then, before they know it can find themselves trapped in a cycle of babies and jobs and domesticity all defined too heavily by outdated gender roles. I’m not saying this is a given, but I do know that monogamy is rarely an active choice as opposed to just what we do. Both men and women, it seems, often lose out on a healthy, active, and varied sex life due to these things: sex is often relegated to the bottom of a very large to-do list. And, as women find themselves more consumed with juggling marriage, jobs, and babies in a way men don’t have to (again, due to the structure of a modern day patriarchal society) men can be wont to look elsewhere.
Interestingly, there seems to be an abundance of older, often divorced women who do the same. I wonder if women too, in a traditional heterosexual marriage, can slowly become something they didn’t want to become until the man they’re with—not burdened in the same way—looks to find what their partner used to be in another.
Almost all the married men I’ve had conversations with have previously enjoyed kink but have chosen not to be honest with their partners about it. This also frustrates me. It’s as if they think they can park an entire part of their being. And perhaps some can. But, from my (admittedly still fairly limited) experience, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Once kink has been explored, “vanilla” rarely satisfies and I can see how problematic that can be. How does one find a forever partner who is all of the things I’ve listed in my previous posts and into kink? That said, how does one know their partner isn’t or wouldn’t be into kink unless you actually talk about it?
I have also been forced to face up to my newly realised appreciation of fantasies as something not to be scared of. While I still believe this to a certain extent, bringing those fantasies into reality is a very different thing, especially when morals and the possibility to hurt others is a part of them.
The upshot of all of this has been a steep learning curve. My head has been pulled forcibly out of the sand and I have spent the rest of the weekend blinking in the sun, trying to make sense of it all. While I am doubtful that I will see T again, I did do the “right” thing and end things with C. It wasn’t an easy thing to do because, while I hate to admit it, feelings were beginning to develop. The heart wants what the heart wants. But, I do know that it was the congruent thing to do. As T said, anything that requires justification needs to be examined closely.
All of this leaves me feeling immensely vulnerable and shaken. But, at the same time, in a strange way, I am very grateful. I am grateful for T and the unceremonious jolt back into reality; I am grateful for C and the things he taught me in the time we did have together; but most of all I am thankful that it has all ended in a timely manner in which no one was hurt any more than they needed to be. C—a human who I believe is inherently good —has been forced into a period of self-reflection and I am left licking my wounds and having to take responsibility for the fact that my actions have probably ruined the potential for a connection with T that could have been great. BUT I am most thankful that I’m not going to be responsible for breaking an innocent woman’s heart.