I’ve been married for 30 years. There’s a lot to be said for staying together “for better and for worse” but there’s also a reason that countless books and television talk shows explore ways that people can spice up long-term marriages that can inevitably become stale. Marriage might need an intervention.
These thoughts started a while back when my husband and I were in bed watching “Californication” which I hate and he loves. The lead character is married to a gorgeous woman from whom he is separated but with whom he occasionally still has incredibly hot sex. I asked my husband, “Come on, what kind of marriage is that hot after so many years?”
He said, “A marriage where they don’t live together and they sleep with other people.”
And with that, he paused the show, took his nightly sip of water which was on the bedside table, put on his Breathe Right strip and pressed “play,” so that we could watch David Duchovny continue to make some remarkable moves.
“Do you think we’re in a rut?” I asked.
There was no answer. Was he really mulling that over? Was there something he wanted to tell me but didn’t know how to say it? And then I got my answer. I slowly turned to look at him.. He was fast asleep. We were definitely in a rut.
So many of our friends were divorced. In our wedding pictures, we are pretty much the only couple that is still together. I’m happy that we are but my husband snoring after two minutes of conversation started me wondering if there were ways to shake up…or in our case, wake up, a long term marriage.
I had this on my mind when I was watching “The Bachelorette,” my guilty pleasure, which I love and he hates. It’s a great fantasy. The guy or girl gets to date all these people and there’s always the potential that something exciting is around the corner. They’re new to each other, they get to be romantic, they get to be the self that you can only be when you’re in the throes of getting to know someone. It’s that exciting beginning phase that’s fun to experience. Was there a way to translate that experience but still keep the sanctity of marriage?
Soon after this, I was having lunch with my son and he was looking at his cell phone which I no longer take as an insult but now accept as a third party to all my interactions with him. I asked what he was looking at.
“Tinder” he said.
At first I thought he was saying something in Yiddish but then I remembered that he dropped out of Hebrew school 15 years earlier so that was unlikely.
“It’s a site where you can see who’s in the general area that you’re in and if you like their picture, you make arrangements to meet.”
“Really? And you actually have girls that respond?”
“For sure. It’s fun. Usually, it winds up being just a drink and one or the other doesn’t want to pursue it, but it’s still fun.”
I left this lunch wondering if there weren’t some version of this that could actually spice up a marriage but still remain innocent. What if a couple decided that they had taken each other so much for granted that they actually didn’t see each other as people anymore; they were loving, caring fixtures in each others’ lives useful for killing bugs in the house or making dinner reservations, but no longer a person of the opposite sex for whom they could feel anything new. What might they do about this?
On a night soon after that my husband and I were in bed and just before we put the television on I stop him.
“Doesn’t it bother you that we have all these routines in our marriage that we almost never swerve from?”
“Uh, no,” he said.
I was silent for a moment not sure how to continue.
“Are we done?” he asked. I saw his hand edge closer to the TV clicker. I quickly put my hand over it.
“See that’s just what I mean. We don’t really even hear each other anymore. Maybe we need to do something totally crazy, completely nuts to shake things up. To make it exciting between us.”
Now he was quiet. I looked at him closely. He had a look on his face that I didn’t immediately recognize. I realized that was the look of him listening to me.
“It’s not like I have a thought out plan. It’s more of an idea. Not even really an idea. A notion. Not even a notion. A fantasy. Like a fantasy notion.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said.
“Okay. So here’s the thought. Just a thought remember.”
“I know already. A fantasy notion thought!”
“We go on some online dating site. Just for the fun of it. We both put in our information or profiles or whatever you call it, with a fake name of course, and we agree that we’d each go out on a few dates—never more than once with the same person–and then we come home to each other and share what it was like.”
“Are you saying you want to have one-time sex with people we meet online?”
“Absolutely not! Definitely not! No, no, no sex. Just a make-believe game more or less. To feel like we’re doing something forbidden except we won’t and then we share the experience with each other so it’s really between us. I mean it’s crazy, I know.”
“I think that is an incredibly intriguing idea. And even more incredibly dangerous.”
“Why?” I asked. “I mean no sex, only one date allowed. We couldn’t get into trouble with just that.”
“Would I like to hear about a date you had with a guy? Yeah, that might be kinda hot,” he said. “But we haven’t been on a date with anyone in more than 29 years. Are you so sure how it would feel to have someone else get interested in you—or get interested in me?”
“But we’d have an agreement,” I said. “One date, no matter what.”
I’d like to say that he paused here to give it some thought. But there was no pause. Not for a second.
“What should I put on my profile?” he asked.
“Your profile? Why do you even know the term ‘profile’? And, really, I throw out an idea, a fantasy idea, and you’re already onto your profile?”
“I just wondered what you thought my selling points should be.”
“Really?” I said. You want me to help you out with your profile? How about ‘mature man seeking a woman who likes to eat only plain broiled chicken or fish seven nights a week, who finds snoring like a freight train a turn on and who can’t get enough of the Major League Baseball Network.’”
“Why do I get the feeling that you’re not seriously wanting me to consider this?”
Did I? Here’s where things got fuzzy. Did I want him to think that it was a good idea? Would I be totally threatened and maybe even angry that he didn’t reject this idea and say, no way would he consider sharing me with anyone on any level? And what if I said yes, let’s do it and it led to us mistrusting one another and we lose the good part of taking each for granted which means I can wear torn underwear and he won’t judge me.
“No,” I said. “I’m suddenly getting a picture of me having to pick out your tie for your date while I’m at home waiting for someone under 90 to match with me.”
“Ok, then. Give me the clicker.”
Maybe the best part of having had this conversation is that he stayed awake for it. It’s possible that I’m really on to something but it may be better left to the world of make-believe.