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  • Two years out of college, having never had any other serious relationship, I believed I was happily married. In some ways, I was. Thing was, I wasn't sure if I was in love. Now, if you don't know you are in love you probably aren't. Even then, I understood that, but marrying her just made sense. She was pretty. Her scent pleased me. We came from the same faith. Out families held similar values. Two of our relatives even knew one another as colleagues. It was a safe bet.

    So we tied the knot. A harpist and a violinist plucked and bowed us down the June tent aisle. At the end of it, dueling ministers awaited us to ask us to say and mean something important to one another, and then chanted the magic words. The ring-bearer still hadn't showed, but fortunately I had tucked the ring in the pocket of my Nehru suit. I summoned my alternate best boy to pillow the object, and the show went on.

    We had been together for more than two years. Well, not exactly together: Six months after we first courted, I left New York City, where we both lived, for Cambridge Massachusetts. We had a few visits and also two summers together, when I furtively moved in with her. We pretended to her parents that I was bunking with my former roommates farther up the upper West Side. I doubt they were fooled, but they had the kindness not to let on.

    One big reason we married was because we were sick of the subterfuges and wanted to get on with our lives. She finished her Masters in music performance and left the city to set up house with me in Cambridge. We found a sunny 2BR apt on a quiet dead-end street and worked to make it pretty and get know to each other better.

    We cooked together, turned on and listened to music together, and talked about what our life together would be like. For the first time, I was beginning to feel I was an adult. But I was still in grad school, so Wife found an office job and played gigs with her fiddle at night to support our household. Yes, we were acting responsible, but I would soon realize that I still had a lot of growing up to do.
  • Things seem to be going smoothly, but it wasn't long before I started noticing our upstairs neighbor; a young divorcée with two toddler boys, hanging up her laundry outside our window in her short shorts and halter top, looking good. She worked as a disco dancer in a Harvard Square club (remember the 70s? - I don't) and had a French boyfriend, but that just made me fantasize about her all the more.

    Without intending to, I found myself flirting with women I encountered. I realized that I was still looking, but was it just for sex? It was the Age of Aquarius and I began to crave for a less isolated life. Young people were forming communes where they shared chores and child rearing with a complement of like-minded dropouts. I knew about this movement from reading the Whole Earth Catalog and I wanted to experience it. But when I brought that idea up with the missus, it – how should I say this – creeped her out.

    So I took therapy. Once a week I visited this pleasant, bearded analyst who had been recommended by one of our neighbors, a friendly and compassionate but schizophrenic Carl Jung devotee. She also found a female psychotherapist for Wife. My analyst and I pored over some confused dreams I was having, mostly about my father. Wife said her sessions focused on feelings about her family too. I reckon the sessions benefited us both, but they raised the bar by exposing psychic pits and asymmetric attitudes.

    Just around then, through a close friend, I met a winsome European lady who let me know she wanted to play. The prospect was appealing, but there was this problem: we were both married. While I might consider cheating on my wife, I didn't want to cuckold her husband, who was also a friend. Besides confusing the hell out of me, the tension made me less receptive to my partner and her needs. Wedlock was feeling more and more like gridlock.

    It didn't help when Wife told me she wanted us to have a baby. My first reaction was to feel completely unprepared to raise a child. My second one was to wonder if I wanted her to be that child's mother. When I confessed this to my therapist, he gently told me to grow up or get out.
  • So, I did what almost any twenty-five-year-old man would do in such circumstances: I had an affair. I just had to find out if I had made the wrong choice, even if it meant breaking my vows.

    A handsome young woman from the lab I worked at had caught my eye. When she and her boyfriend split up, they posted a notice that they were done and that each of them was "fair game." Well then, game on!

    Soon, when Wife was in Europe visiting her relatives, I made a move. My colleague and I had a romantic date, and love ensued. We were drawn to spend every spare moment together. We thought we were being discreet, but our friends sensed we had something going. Yet Wife never seemed to suspect, perhaps because she mostly ignored the crowd I hung out with. My friends made her uncomfortable, she said. You know your marriage is in trouble when you want to avoid each others friends.

    That affair lasted for several sexy guilty seasons. Then my paramour announced that she was quitting her job in our lab for new one that just happened to be in Scotland. And so she did. Egged on by a torrid correspondence and a surprise weekend visit she made, I flew over to see her over New Years and I am happy to report that we had a helluva great two weeks.

    I returned home to a winter of discontent. Wife and I had it out, but the dénouement came with an unexpected plot twist. After I owned up to my transgressions, she totally upended me by admitting she had been carrying on with her music teacher, a professor 25 years her senior who was on his third marriage, and wanted to move in with him once he and we divorced. Then to top it off, Girlfriend wrote that she was having a lesbian affair with an artist who had moved in with her. I could see no light at the end of my tunnel vision.
  • So the score was Wife: 1, Girlfriend: 1, Me: 0. I packed up and moved in with friends until I got my own place with some other friends. The next year, Girlfriend moved back to the States, but instead of coming home to me, she hopped to New Orleans, worked as a barmaid for a while, and then drifted around the West for a couple of years. My ex-wife married her teacher and they begat a daughter. All I begat was a series of roommates.

    My love-crazed heart would not permit me to give up. I continued to chase after Girlfriend, and we actually did get together ... but not in the way I had anticipated. If you are interested in reading about that misadventure, start here.

    Chasing a dream is great, but what you get is not always what you envision. Wherever you go, there you are, still the same person unless you decide to change that. Eventually I did, but it was still many years before I understood which dreams to chase and which to let fly away.

    @image: (Ex-) Girlfriend + I contemplating one another in my bachelor apartment c. 1974. We are still friends.
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