Locked Down

There's no rare story here. It feels powerful to me, because I'm in it. But I guess my circumstances are quite ordinary. I'm married (10+ years) with two children. I can't believe how very dull that sounds. My life is actually really good in many ways. My kids are the most amazing, satisfying relationships I have. I work for myself in a traditionally male-dominated industry, and I'm damn good at what I do. I'm admired by many others in my profession. But the spark in my marriage is gone and that, in part, has had me rethinking my future for more than a year now. And then my closest female friend got my attention and things became complicated...


I nearly left my husband last year. I do love him, sort of like a dear old friend. I'm afraid things are not as fair to him as I would prefer. I feel badly that he very much wants me to be in love with him again. He is trying to hang in there, while I have been distant for at least a year now. If I knew how to fall in love with him again, I would do it -- that would by far be the easiest and least painful course for everyone.


Last year saw the height of our financial troubles and also the height of his personal impotence and cowardice. It shocks even me to have stated that so bluntly. But that is the raw truth of it. He really let me and the kids down, and we struggled more and longer than we should have. Things are at least a little better now, but I don't know how to warm up this heart of mine again for him. I carried my family -- financially, emotionally -- for so long that I don't know how to trust him again or let him take a turn leading.


Last year showed me very clearly that he is not my equal, in terms of confidence or determination or courage in life. Maybe not even in terms of intellect. I guess we were better matched in graduate school where we met, but he has not kept apace with me in the 15 years hence. The qualities I mentioned cannot be taught and are difficult to gain. They must be self-discovered over time, and time is what I feel my husband and I are losing quickly these days as we push into our 40s. I have concluded that there is not much, if anything, being offered by this marriage that I can't do as well or better on my own. 


So my mind was mulling just such an exit last year when one of my favorite friends, herself enduring marriage disharmony, began communicating nuances and affections to me. She's one of only two people who know about my past life... about the great variety and quantity of lovers I enjoyed in my 20s, before I started taking work more seriously. Before I met my husband. Before I started going to church. I usually keep that sordid little history to myself, and I suppose I've at times reduced it to experimentalism or immaturity on my part.


Over the past 15 years I've learned to be ridiculously self-restrained with my attractions and private thoughts. That permissive life was another time, another city... nearly another person, not me. I suppose it's ironic that probably most of my social circle these days believe I'm the most stable married woman they know. In reality, I've been pretty smitten by this one friend ever since we first met several years ago. But it has for years been completely out of the ballpark, no way, no how. No point in thinking about those lips, dammit.


Last summer I was sitting alone with her, talking about sex the way married women sometimes do: honestly and brutally, with drinks in hand. She asked some clever, leading questions. After initial hesitation I shared the bare facts of my sexual past, and she was receptive, even curious. That night was interesting, and I started paying more attention to her behavior around me. I was expecting her to distance herself; in fact, she did the opposite. Over the next months, we started meeting two or three times a week. For a career mom like me, that's a lot of time to invest in one friend. We'd meet for lunches, for drinks poolside, to attend social and work-related happenings around town. My husband long ago stopped accompanying me to the more obligatory evening events related to my work, so I was happy to have my friend along. We were each other's "everything date," inseparable for a time.


She grew increasingly physical with me in those months. She stood close to me at parties. She touched me frequently. She sometimes brushed by me with her whole body. A male colleague at a party asked me who the heck was THAT and how did we know each other, exactly? That scared me a little (I'm a semi-public figure concerned about gossip) and I shook some sense back into myself and started being a little more guarded with her. But then she started resting her hand on my knee or thigh when we talked, even in public. ! I was not imagining this, ladies. She once combed my hair with her fingers while I was answering her question at close range. God, I wanted to kiss her. But I was afraid to do much in return except bask in her glow. She is extraordinarily beautiful to me.


By Christmas, I couldn't take it anymore. With a couple drinks giving me courage, I called her bluff. I told her that I loved her and wanted her to live with me. And guess what... she scurried away.


A couple weeks went by, and then we talked, and I apologized for putting that pressure/surprise on her. She wasn't ready to divorce her husband and I knew that. In all honesty, I took more of the blame than I should have. I gave her an easy out with my "Oh no, it was all me" because I thought it was too much to ask her to be honest about her feelings. I have more self-awareness than she does; I thought it would have been cruel not to take the blame. (She's also several years younger than me.) On the other hand, she seemed to enjoy flirting much more than I did. That part was always painful for me in the end. Today I wonder if she even realizes that she was coming on to me for six months before I finally responded and got rebuffed. 


Now we're "friends with a boundary" -- which feels terrible. I have a new cause for depression at having permanently altered my best and most (formerly) natural friendship. And of course I'm more desperate for her than ever. And the feeling is complicated because I also want her to be accountable for her own actions that helped lead us here. I don't want to keep pretending it was all me, or worse, keep ignoring the beast in the attic.


Outside this, my first and only admission, I keep a tight lid on all this. I have a reputation of sorts to keep. I'm a lifelong journal writer, but there is no hint whatsoever of what I'm going through in my current little book. My husband might read it some day. Hell, my KIDS might read it some day. Instead I've returned to addressing, slowly, my own predicament. Honestly, my marriage is a separate issue from my what happened with my friend. I keep going with my best efforts day-to-day. When I get frustrated or depressed, I muse my options for the future and scan the Internet for apartments near hers. I work hard, and I play hard with my kids when I'm not working. There are thankfully some blissful distractions to the pain of living.


I know there really is no solution for this. She is not going to run off into the sunset with me even if I move in next door. We both have too many hearts attached to our actions. Too many consequences. And aside from her, I'm not going to leave my husband for another woman OR man. If I leave, it will be a very difficult step, and it will be taken in order to be alone, no longer subject to compromises. And it will be so very hard on my poor children. That's why doing nothing right now often seems the best course. My heartache is no different than that experienced by countless women before me throughout history... pick a novel, any novel. Why should I be so uppity as to demand my rewards? Sometimes the suffering silence is the more noble course, isn't it?




Anyone out there who wants to commiserate would be gladly received by me. But please don't chime in with "solutions." I doubt there is anything I haven't already considered and left on the shelf for now. I'm simply not going to do something drastic and headline-grabbing and lesbian-heroic and... selfish. 

Awkward Awkward
3 Responses Mar 17, 2009

i think sexuality causes a lot of problems in life.<br />
<br />
it's something i think a lot us will never fully be honest about.<br />
there's such a taboo... for someone to call you gay, even when you ARE, can still hurt. which i guess is why your friend won't (and maybe never will) admit her flirting.

I understand too. {{{HUGS}}} My shoulder is also ready.

My heart goes out to you, sweetie. It took a divorce for me to face up to my sexuality, and be open with myself, let alone other women.<br />
<br />
I'm here if you ever want to talk about anything.