For Love’s Sake
As a poet, I make love with words, make love as I write and as I speak into the microphone, to the audience who listens. I make love through language, the taste of it on my tongue, lips, the sound of it in my ears.
When my husband and I first met I was writing and performing erotic poems with titles like: The Good Wet. G-Spot. The Man in Me. Dangerous.
At a writing workshop the other day, I happened to be sitting beside a woman with whom I’d performed at an Erotic Poetry evening maybe twenty years ago. She remembered me wearing just a shirt. No pants. I didn’t remember that.
I was younger then, in my early thirties, had just left a relationship where I was emotionally and sexually dissatisfied. Had had a few affairs before leaving.
When I first met my husband, I told him I couldn’t commit, just wanted the sexual play, no emotional intimacy. I had just gotten out of “the convent of my ex’s love,” I told him, repeating the line I had said at the pub the night before to a table of friends.
That first year, I fooled around with him and some other guys. Then when he asked me to commit, I hesitated. I was thinking about what his ex-girlfriend who had asked him when he wanted to be monogamous with her: “What, you want to own my pussy?”
Still, I chose to commit. Our sex was play then; he came with dildos and butt plugs. Was willing to entertain my fantasies, tell me stories about me being watched by a group of men. It was good, fun, hot. We explored places of erotic tension, fear, shame and pleasure. And then, like many long-term relationships, the sex settled down. The comfort, trust and security tempered the desire, and dulled the erotic charge that is fostered by uncertainty and tension, as relationship expert Esther Perel acknowledges in her book Mating in Captivity.
We tried to revive it many times. Had opened things up again when we took a course on the erotic blueprints. Then came his Parkinson’s diagnosis, an unexpected relocation, and changes in our roles and responsibilities. I am now the primary breadwinner, having shifted my writing mentorship business online.
A couple of months ago, I was feeling a lot of grief, pressure and a lack of attention. Then a dear friend and I realized we were attracted to each other, and had been for a while. A month of secret flirtation, shared fantasies and brief touching ensued. At 55, I had not felt so desired for a long time. It stroked my ego and my body loved it too.
Yet, from the beginning, I was having tummy tension at night, sleeping less. In certain moments with my husband, I ached to tell him what was going on. I didn’t want to lie. What a mess!!
A few weeks ago, I told my husband what was happening. It was pretty brave and scary. I wanted to come clean and, after 21 years, I trusted that he would be willing to see me and hear me and we would find a way through. I wanted to be held accountable. I wanted to stop it.
Since telling him, there have been a bunch of tears, some anger, and lots of reflection on how this experience came with the territory of our situation right now. If there is one thing I have learned it’s how incredibly beautiful and gentle and caring and wise and humble and giving this man I call my husband is.
The other day as we hiked to a favourite spot, I was sharing the remorse and how I was berating myself for it having happened. He stopped mid climb, turned to me and said. “I will just have to love you more”.
The experience has brought us closer together. Our kisses are more open, wetter and sweeter. We are hugging longer and rekindling the attraction between us.
So what else have I learned? I wanted attention, loved it coming from a strong embracing body unlike my husband's, whose body is now tiny and weaker. Gregory had been spending so much time focused on his health, and working on the business. There hadn’t been a lot of time for play or joy.
But there were also moments as it was happening when I came back into the beauty of our love. One particular moment stands out:
We were sitting on the white chair, dusk visiting the living room from the harbour. “Way to go,” I cheered as he spoke of the reading he was doing, the alternative therapies he was researching. "And we need to stop sometimes and just be with the beauty right here,” tears rushing my eyes and then his.
Listening to his sobs, holding his gaze, I created a halo of love that allowed him to trust my hand when I reached out to him. I pulled him onto his feet and invited him with the music to the floor and to our dancing bodies moving together.
We’ve been swinging each other around like this for decades. It’s how we played, found joy, beauty, sensual touch. Until the diagnosis and his uneven walking, slowed down shuffling, sore back and shaking arms.
The smile on his face when we started moving, he holding his curved arm around my head as I moved in toward him, then out, then back in again.
This was me saying yes, staying with the difficult, looking toward suffering, toward his body betraying him. Not running away.
“I don’t want to be here,” he wept, as he spun me. “I want my old body. I want my old life.” His lips shaking, eyes brimming, as we swayed, keeping balance with my hands in his.
“Why me?” He wept out as we danced. “What did I do wrong?”
“We are all going to get sick, grow old, die, according to the Buddha,” I told him, “It’s nothing you did, it’s that you said yes to being birthed. You are human, that’s why.”
We kept dancing, our heads and bodies tucked in close, turning around on the same spot in the room, like I used to dance slow with the boys at the socials in elementary school and at the bar mitzvahs and sweet sixteens in high school.
We kept dancing and crying. I had said no to the friend again the night before and again that morning, not replying to the texts. I had previously said “No I cannot do this. I am needed by Gregory.” And now here we were, weeping together.
“It’s hard and it’s gonna get harder” I said, looking straight into his eyes. I didn’t sign up for this either, I thought, except I too am human and of the nature to get sick and grow old and die and lose everything I love. This isn’t personal.
My heart was happy there, in the weeping, in the holding, rubbing my hand on his back as we turned. Did I forget, how desire is also fulfilled through a caring heart.
I said yes, led myself back to the living room and the dance floor with my husband. Where I am needed. Where I will pull him up to the floor over and over as long as he can dance. Where I will hold him against my chest as he cries and I cry.