In the days that follow, I’m not ready to collapse into existing expectations about what is to come. I ask her: what do you actually want? Was this an accident? Do you still want to be with me? Do you want the three of us to co-parent?Marriage is difficult enough for women, bombarded as they are with encouragement to behave like unthinking, hedonistic animals, without their husbands throwing them at other men so they don't feel guilty about unwashed, dreadlocked hippy girls at Burning Man. What on Earth did the idiot think was going to happen the first time his wife came across a man willing to give her a better offer?
Amid ongoing tears and the wreckage of our old life, she confesses her terrible dilemma: I don’t think I can love more than one man. Therefore, I choose him.
Soon we are sitting across the table from my parents, married 30-plus years, who look to us with cautious optimism. I’d already warned the news wasn’t what they might be expecting. In truth, to them and most of our friends, Katherine and I were the perfect couple. Loving, productive and stable, we never quarreled. Ever.
I break the news. “Katherine and I are separating.” My mother immediately bursts into tears. My father leaps into fix-it mode, suggesting the merits of marriage counseling. “We’re certain,” I confirm. They did not know about our open relationship, and I feel it is too much to reveal the pregnancy now.
Plus, I can’t admit the secret shame that I had screwed things up. I had ruined my marriage.
“I’m sorry,” my mother wept. “I’m sorry your marriage didn’t work.”
I spent the rest of the month on the road, returning only to pack my share of the belongings. No battle. No lawyers. Katherine finds the paperwork online and we fill it out on the kitchen table. We agree to split the mortgage equity. I will take the vehicle, the blender, and the Nintendo Wii. She will retain “the rest of the household contents.”
I spend the afternoon carrying my things out the front door and packing them in the car. It’s both freeing and sorrowful when I realize my life now fits into a 2002 Subaru hatchback. My plan is to catch a ferry to Victoria, where my friend has already set up a desk in her office. I had found a temporary apartment just outside downtown, close to Mya, whose long-term partnership had also ended for reasons that remain their own.
For one last time, I sit alone on the backyard patio of the house that no longer bears my name. I light the cigarette I had taken from Katherine’s secret stash (I rarely smoke) and watch it curl into the amber dusk.
A few hours before, she had revealed how she had begun drifting from our marriage the first time I’d confessed about kissing the other women, almost a year earlier. “You never told me,” I pleaded. “How could I have saved us?”
I believed wholeheartedly the myth of the One. The belief that human happiness means finding your other half, pledging them your heart and soul, and committing until death do you part.
She was my One. Yet I struggled for years to reconcile my desire for others with the inherited story of traditional monogamous marriage. The hidden cost of monogamy, when culturally reinforced as the only acceptable ideal, is the unquestioned coupling of sexual fidelity with “real” partnership. Anything falling outside these norms is, at best, labelled an unwillingness to commit, at worst, condemned for hedonistic promiscuity.
It's also a reminder that it's not always women who ruin marriages.