High Fidelity [ 2003-10-27, 2:42 a.m. ]

Sometimes your spouse, whom you see every day, for better or worse, is really at a disadvantage.

See, Saturday afternoon I met a guy who I thought was really cute and I talked to him for a while and he kind of flirted with me and I kind of flirted back and for a little bit of time I wished I was single because I was enjoying the feeling of talking to someone new so much and he made me feel good and everything was clicking and I sort of hated that I was wearing a wedding ring because I wanted him to keep on talking to me.

I�m guilt-ridden over this.

The background is that Kent and I had argued Friday night and Saturday morning about our holiday plans. We�re not good at arguments � he shuts down, I tend to yell. Little things escalate quickly, and the end result was that I went to work pissed off. We haven�t had a lot of time together lately, and I feel like we�re not really connected in the way that I�d like us to be. I know this is natural � relationships are living, breathing things and they are never static. They require constant maintenance and attention, and lately a lot of our attention has been diverted to other things, namely his work. I know that we�re bound to have good times, bad times, and everything in between. Still, I feel like we�ve been cruising along on parallel roads without making enough of an effort to really connect. Then the issue of the holidays came up, and it�s always a bitch. We argued, and I went to bed frustrated and woke up feeling like no one really understands me. It�s a lonely, shitty feeling and I let it get me down. I left for work feeling angry and distant.

Once I got to the store, I felt better; I was occupied and I soon forgot about all the crap at home. Kent called around 1:00 p.m. and apologized. I started feeling better. Later that afternoon I stepped outside the store and noticed a guy sitting on the stoop next to my door, waiting for his laundry at the nearby laundromat. �How�s business?� he asked.

I started chatting with him, and soon noticed that he was really cute. The more we talked, the cuter he got. I found myself not quite flirting with him � at least not overtly � but definitely talking to him as if I was single. And I didn�t want to stop. As I chatted more and more with him, I started freaking out internally � this guy was textbook �my type.� He was good looking with floppy hair, was finishing up law school after already getting a master�s in history. Funny, charming and relaxed, blah blah blah. He talked about how much he loved his nieces and nephews. He made me feel interesting and smart. He seemed to be flirting with me. And I liked it.

I know that flirting is natural and normal and allowed. I�m not na�ve and I don�t pretend that Kent never flirts with other girls or looks at attractive women. I know he loves me and I�m not threatened by him flirting with someone. If it gives him a little ego boost, I�m happy for him � we all deserve to have our egos boosted, and I want him to feel attractive and sexy. I know all of this, but still, this one cute guy left me feeling really freaked out. I kept thinking about how much I would have liked to go out with him, if I were single. When I finally said goodbye to him, he mentioned that he�ll probably see me again, as he does his laundry right next door. My first reflex? Was �Yay!�.

I actually thought about this guy throughout the afternoon and evening. Even with Kent next to me, I was thinking about the cute guy from earlier. He had made me feel a little fluttery inside in a way that hadn�t happened in a while.

And that�s why I feel horrible today.

I�m not an especially romantic or sentimental person. I don�t believe in soulmates and I tend to put more stock in trust, honesty, and ease than fireworks and chemistry. That�s not to say that Kent and I were without fireworks; it�s just that fireworks don�t necessarily make for a strong long term relationship. And as for chemistry, the �spark� is essential for a relationship, but I think it gets hard to maintain the spark after a few years. Or maybe the spark gets ignored once bigger issues arise. I think the spark is very important, but I�ve always thought that what comes after (comfort, intimacy, trust, friendship, respect) is more valuable than the initial heat.

But this is the first time I�ve been in this particular situation � I sparked with someone and it wasn�t my husband.

The guy, by the way? May not even remember my name. I could have imagined the spark. But once it got in my head, I couldn�t let go�

So I met a hot guy who seemed to dig me. Was I being bad by entertaining thoughts of what might have been, in my parallel single universe? Or, was I reinforcing the commitment Kent and I made to each other by acknowledging the attraction and then going home to my husband, having told myself that I cannot pursue anything with the cute guy? Does that even make sense? That by acknowledging I was attracted to the cute guy, I make an active choice NOT to pursue him�which strengthens the commitment I made to Kent. Sort of.

I think I�m starting to realize that a) all marriages are WAY more complicated than they seem, and b) commitment only means something because it�s hard.

If it were easy to be faithful (in all senses of the word; I don�t just mean in matters of sexual fidelity), then the act of getting married - and promising to love and honor one�s partner � would be less meaningful. People are complex and we have emotional needs that we are not fully aware of, even in ourselves. To share your life with someone is hard. To assume that person will meet all of your needs is foolish. But real commitment means acknowledging that and staying anyway.

I hope it does. I hope I�m not a horrible wife who was daydreaming about a guy from the laundromat. It�s really messed with my head, though�I�ve not been in this situation before. Tell me I�m not bad. I have other married friends, but we've never really talked about this. Right now my fear is that I'm the only one who's ever felt like this. Maybe all the other good wives think their husband is the hottest and the only one they ever look at or imagine being with. Maybe I'm a bad, bad wife. My fear is that right now, anyone reading this is thinking, this woman must not love her husband enough.

I love my husband whole-heartedly. I really, truly do. But he can't compete with the laundromat guy, not in this situation. I know Kent too well; I know his faults and his secrets and his habits and his quirks. I know he's not perfect, he knows I'm not perfect. I love that I know all that. It's the best part - getting to really know somebody. Laundromat guy wins because I know nothing about him - he stays perfect. He's a perfect "what if?" We're allowed to have those, right?

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