A friend of a friend (I’ll call her “Janet”) is a married woman in her late thirties. Her husband “John” is in his early forties. Through my friend, I have come to know John and Janet quite well.
Both are down-to-earth, hard-working people. Neither of them is the “player” type of personality. They are too transparent for effective flirting. They married in their early twenties and had been loyal to each other and close. Separation or divorce would have been the last thing on their minds.
Most of the time Janet managed the business while John developed the technical side. They employed a number of people including Lance, a man of about 30 who had been with them for a year. Lance filled the role of unskilled assistant and general lackey. John would see Janet and Lance drive by in the company truck and it made him feel good to see her look so carefree. He’d wave and she’d wave lovingly back. He’d never seen her more happy.
John and Janet’s sex life was typical for marriage in the Western world.
Before and during the very early stages of the marriage, Janet couldn’t get enough of him. Since those heady days, however, she’d shown no interest in sex. If he didn’t initiate it there was none. If it had been over to her, there would have been just enough to produce a couple of children, and no more than that. It wasn’t because his style was clumsy or unpleasant; she had been thrilled by it in their single days.
After those initial heady days had ended, John learned not to attempt to seduce her. She would sense even the most unobtrusive, gradual seduction and go cold. If he got as far as touching her, she would shrink away with a shudder. The only way she would agree to sex was when he asked for it bluntly, and then she would consent with a sigh.
Romantic weekends were out of the question. John would suggest it, and friends would offer to look after the children, but Janet always said she couldn’t leave the children in someone else’s care. The transparency of this excuse was not lost on John. She had built up a mindset whereby sex was a chore, the lowest item on her list of priorities.
During sex, he just wanted to get the unwelcome business out of the way with the least amount of fuss. This, plus the absence of any sort of seduction or lead-up to sex, meant there was no fun or adventure or variety in it for either of them. It became the same sex position every time. It was “humdrum”, John told me later. When he tried to discuss what she would like to change, she would shrug and say “Nothing”.
Janet’s indifference almost drove John around the twist with frustration. He began to hate his dependence on sex and see it as the cause of friction between them – friction not of the kind he longed for. He wished his sex drive would go away. And yet, he knew from discussions with other husbands that his sex life was better than most of theirs with their wives, so he accepted a bleak sex life as the norm for a monogamous man.
Otherwise, the bond between John and Janet was strong. He and she were good friends and liked being together. They preferred the company of each other over anyone else. John was the leader, and Janet would defer to his opinions (which were sound). He made all the big decisions for the family, and his judgement was usually good. She talked about him proudly to her friends.
Janet was a “low maintenance” wife. She was happy to make do with an average car and an average house in an average suburb. No need to keep up with the Joneses. No need for flash clothes. The kids were not spoiled. When he decided to upgrade to a flash home and car she was happy because he was happy, more than anything else.
You could say just about everything looked great between them except for one thing: the sex. There was a complete absence of mutually enjoyed sex and shared lust. John was switched on, Janet had switched herself off – and there was nothing he could do about it.
If you’ve managed to stay with me so far, you’re probably thinking yeah yeah, we all know this crap is all leading up to something…
THE SHIT HITS THE FAN
Most of the following was related to me by John, and the rest was filled in by my friend (who knows them better than I do):
Janet was in their lounge with one of her female friends, having a glass of wine, when John walked in. Janet looked happy. “We were just talking about us trying for another baby”, she told him. For a minute he wasn’t sure that he’d heard right. A baby absolutely did not fit into their plans. With everything they had on at the moment it was a terrible idea. “What the hell for?” he finally demanded. He was aware that he’d sounded more aggressive than he felt, and that his reaction had offended Janet. The friend excused herself and left rather hastily.
They sat in frosty silence for a while. And then it came like a bolt from the blue, “I have someone who wants me“, Janet said, “and I want him.”
He couldn’t believe his ears. “Who?” he blurted.
“It’s Lance”, she said.
“S-sexually?” he stuttered, to which she affirmed that yes, it was very much sexually. “I want him so much it hurts”, she added.
Then she said “It’s a chance for me to have sex I will enjoy”, and he felt as if she’d cut off his balls.
John told me the rest of the conversation was unreal. He heard his own voice asking vacantly “How do you know?”
“Because we talk about it”, she said.
“You talk about sex?”
“Yes. A lot.”
After that, he was too numb to hear the rest of what she said.
The full gravity of it hit him next morning in the cold light of day.
He was stunned to think that here was Janet, a wife who had put off her husband for twenty years, finally decides to get an interest in sex but with another man. He just couldn’t wrap his mind around this. He couldn’t equate it with the love he’d always believed she had for him. If it happened so easily with Lance, why the hell couldn’t she have tried even the slightest little bit with the husband she “loved”? Bloody hell, it was all mental. All she’d ever needed to do was change her damn mindset and he, John, could have been enjoying the sex she so much wanted with Lance. If there was any man on earth who deserved some recompense for all the put-offs and negative sex performance she’d given him over the years, it was him, and not some other bastard.
The unexpected shock of it was what floored him most. He’d had no idea it was coming. He was hurting like you wouldn’t believe, as if a claw had ripped into his chest and torn out his heart, as with hindsight he was already starting to realize this was about more than just sex…
He’d seen something going seriously wrong but hadn’t admitted it to himself. She just wasn’t the playing type, he’d thought, and besides, she was not into sex, right? Wrong. She was into sex, very easily and lustilly into sex, only not with him.
But looking back on it now, he had to admit there had been small doubts in the back of his mind. Small things, such as her waving at him from the truck… Why hadn’t he seen she was a little bit too happy? And the way other men would look at him when the truck drove by, it was like they they were trying to tell him something. Back then, he’d felt total trust in his marriage. I know her better than you guys do, he’d thought proudly. What a fool.
Then there were the bigger things, like when she was coming out of general anesthetic after minor surgery. Her eyes gradually focused on him until she recognized him, then she immediately glanced around the room. “Where’s Lance?” she murmured woozily. She was visibly disappointment that it was only him there, and not Lance. She’d been too woozy to hide it. It had disturbed him deeply for a moment, and then, as always, he’d pushed all doubts aside.
Other things he’d pushed to the back of his mind came to the fore. Comments and behavior that hinted he was no longer Number One in her life, that hell, he’d slipped way down the list. The children rated ahead of him and so did her family and some of her friends.
With the help of a therapist, over the months that followed John came to realize Lance was Janet’s new Number One. From her perspective, her love for Lance was pure, and he, John, was an obstacle in the way of her being with the love of her life.
Her resentment built until she was more concerned about the feelings of her children and family and friends than for John’s feelings. Most of them would not approve of her leaving him, which made her resent him for depriving her of the relationship she believed she was destined for.
SO WHAT THE HELL IS THE POINT OF MARRIAGE?
It doesn’t matter how secure a relationship appears to be, you never can be sure. You can’t afford to relax. It’s as my dad advised me, trust your partner but at the first sign they’re not honoring the deal, confront them head on. To which I would add… and pray that when that time comes, you don’t have children.
I doubt that the Lance and Janet thing will last for long. Who knows, John and Lance could turn out to be the first and second of many episodes in Janet’s serial monogamy story.
I wonder how many other monogamous men are hooked to women who have the switched off mindset? The answer to that is most of them – if the married men I’ve spoken to are anything to go by.
What on earth is the point of such a mindset? What good can it possibly do? Why on earth would a wife not snap herself out of it?
Dumb, man. Dumb