Staying Married: Instigators - Interviewing: Experimental Marriage

Playing Around: Women and Infidelity - Linda Wolfe 1975

Staying Married: Instigators
Interviewing: Experimental Marriage

Women who instigated open extramarital sex were dynamically different from those who accommodated. They tended to be more radical and to view their sexual activities as political action. The most emphatic I met was Pamela Lewisohn.

Pamela Lewisohn / I Don’t Believe in Casual Sex

Pamela was late to lunch on the day of our appointed interview. When I arrived at the expensive French restaurant Pamela had selected, the woman at the antique front desk informed me that my lunch guest had telephoned and left me a message explaining that her dog was in labor and that consequently she was going to be delayed. Nine puppies had already been born, she had said, but she was going to have to wait around a while longer to see if there was to be a tenth. The entire restaurant staff was concerned. Not only the front desk woman, but the hatcheck girl, a captain, and a waiter had become involved. Each reassured me my lunch guest would be along soon.

I was not surprised by Pamela’s advance men and women. Her life is a series of emergencies, contingencies, urgencies. She goes nowhere, does nothing, without involving extras in all her choices and decisions.

When she did arrive in the restaurant, all heads turned. Her clothing was not spectacular; she is too much a believer in women’s liberation for sexy or expensive clothing. But she cannot help being dramatic. She has wavy, rust red hair down to her waist, wide emerald eyes, pale skin, long slender arms and legs. At the table alongside us, three garrulous businessmen were eating; they became more and more subdued, more and more interested in our conversation. They could not hear us, but they were trying. They leaned forward and attemped to advise us about the wine. They joked about Pamela’s poulet en croute. She was pleasant to them, her green eyes squinting, appraising them. Then she heard one of them say to another, “Don’t you know a woman can never be sure whether you’re telling a joke or laughing at her?” Pamela was finished with them after that. “Fucking sexists,” she said. No matter how they smiled and sat forward and angled for attention afterwards, she would not even look at them. I was to remain continually aware of them, but Pamela had shut them out of her perception.

This meeting at the restaurant was our second interview. A year before, I had interviewed Pamela in her office about an affair she had been having with an academic colleague. That situation had been special enough: shared evenings obtained through permission of both their spouses; planned events with both their sets of children. Now Pamela is in a new relationship, one more to her liking. She is spending half of the week with her husband and the children; the other half of the week with her new lover. Again, there are set visitations with the children. It is like a separation agreement. She calls it a love agreement.

I had originally heard about Pamela from two sources. The first was a historian who taught in the same university as Pamela and knew about my book; she had given me Pamela’s phone number. “You should talk to someone like Pamela,” her fellow historian had said. “I doubt there are many like her, but perhaps you can read the future in her.” The second person was the woman whose husband was having the affair with Pamela. “What is odd about her,” this woman said, “is that she insisted on discussing the whole thing with me beforehand, on obtaining my permission.”

“Did you give it?” I asked.

“Did I really have a choice?” this woman said. “Just because she said I had a choice, did that mean I had one? But there was more to my saying yes than that. Pamela caught me right in my lib-rad principles. I had no choice, not because they would necessarily have gone ahead without my approval—I’m not sure my husband would have—but because I was hoisted by my own principles of not restricting other people’s destinies.”

Pamela had explained that experience this way. “I told Jake’s wife that I was a feminist, that I was really into the women’s movement, and that I didn’t want to fuck over another woman. Still, I was terribly turned on by Jake. I had met him at a party, and I know this sounds corny, but I had fallen absolutely, incredibly, staggeringly in love with him. For two years I did nothing about this. He was married. I was too, but I knew I could get Kevin to agree to the affair. Still, I didn’t want to fuck over Jake’s wife. When I was a single college student I’d had innumerable affairs with married men, and I’d seen how easily they grew attached to young women who didn’t require anything of them, who adored them simply because they were older. I had seen how they began to treat their wives with contempt just because they now had houses filled with kids with snotty handkerchiefs and wet diapers; I’d seen how they wanted to start life over again. But start over again how? If any of them started over with me I’d quickly enough give him more kids with snotty noses and wet diapers. I told the men this. I felt closer to their wives than to any of these guys. And I felt close to Jake’s wife. I had no intention of stealing her husband. So in the beginning I avoided the whole sex question. I proposed that since I loved her husband, the four of us spend a lot of time together, nonsexual time. Weekends. Vacations. I said, ’As long as we don’t fuck, it’s going to be okay.’ For me, fucking is a very heavy thing.”

She remembers with indignation that Jake’s wife considered her childish. “She said I was a titillator; a tease and a titillator. She said, ’People can fuck without being involved. I don’t mind the fucking; it’s the build-up I mind. Fucking is just a physical thing. Why does it have to be so weighted?’”

Jake’s wife had said this in the middle of a four-way discussion the two couples were having, an arbitration session to straighten out what their position would be on Pamela’s infatuation with Jake. Jake’s wife had gone on to add, “It’s not so unique. Everyone does it. You act as if you were the only woman in the world to want to take a lover. It really isn’t that special.” To demonstrate, Jake’s wife took Pamela’s husband to bed. It was a tutorial act, meant to instruct Pamela that sex, even extramarital sex, could be trivial, happenstance.

“I wanted to trivialize it,” Jake’s wife explained to me, “because Pamela had made her attraction into a timebomb, with all of us dancing nervously around it waiting for it to go off. In her mind, restraining from sex with Jake would simply indicate on the day she finally bedded that their attraction to each other had cosmic importance, that it had proved bigger than all of us. I wanted her to come down off that fevered Lawrentian peak, to see that it is in the nature of the beast to sexualize. I’d had consternation in the past over the difficulties of contenting oneself with one limiting set of circumstances, with one partner and one life as it is lived with him or her for all our days. I wanted Pamela to see how ultimately ordinary this consternation was, how it belonged to every woman, not her alone.”

But Pamela is incapable of being merely life-size. Once free to sexualize her relationship with Jake, she became fierce about her terms; she wanted not sporadic encounters; not just occasional weekends. “I need,” she told the three of them, “two nights a week—one of them in my house, so the kids can get to know him too; lunch once a week; and a full weekend together twice a month. I don’t believe in casual sex.”

Pamela says she never had any intention of ending up with Jake. “My husband is much more solid than Jake. Jake is a loner. He withdraws. Everybody who knows him says that he never quite comes out of himself, that he’s very internal. This may have been what made me love him. I found him so thoughtful, so brilliant. But it would have made for a lousy marriage. So I just wanted him in addition to my life. He was sexually fantastic for me. But so is my husband. I wanted them both. I know this sounds greedy, but I wanted it all. It’s only very recently that women have been able to talk about this, but I think you’ll hear it more and more. I had fantasies of Jake’s moving in, but I never had fantasies of my husband’s moving out.”

The encounter times Pamela wanted were negotiated and the affair got underway. But it did not work. Pamela and her husband are in their late twenties; Jake and his wife are in their late thirties. As Jake’s wife said, “Pamela is just sufficiently younger, sufficiently political and idealistic to be against secrecy, to want to live her life in a new way. In a way, I respect that in her. But for us, it couldn’t work. Both my husband and myself had had occasional affairs in the past. But we kept them secret from each other. There’s something about telling that is injurious. Pamela doesn’t buy that but to me it’s basic. When you tell your spouse about your affairs, you wound him or her. Perhaps Pamela wore Jake out. But perhaps he stopped their affair because he didn’t want to go on injuring me. For all I know, when Jake broke off with her he went on to some secret affair. But that’s okay. There’s consideration—even love—in secrecy.”

Pamela’s affair with Jake had ended just before my first interview with her. She had closed that conversation by saying, “I know that what I want is to love two people. My husband and someone else. And I don’t want that other person to be a casual part of my life or a hidden part of my life. I want both the people I love to be presences. I’m looking for that other person now and if I find him, we’ll talk again.”

At the restaurant she told me about the new man. He, like her husband, was young enough to be on her side about an open relationship. While Jake had found the inevitable meetings and TV-watching with Kevin uncomfortable, her new man took this in his stride. They had drawn up a contract for their relationship which specified that they have three nights a week together, at least one of those in her house with her children (Kevin was in an affair that got him out of the house one night a week); lunch twice a week; and two weekends a month, one with, one without her children.

“I haven’t yet resolved how much of this the children are to know,” Pamela said. “I don’t, for example, let them see us in bed together. But I don’t see what’s wrong with their knowing there’s another man in their mother’s life, another person besides their father with whom she likes to spend time. It’s conceivable, at least, that such knowledge could be helpful for them, give them security, especially since they’re female. I certainly don’t see why people make an automatic assumption that relationships like these have to hurt children. They haven’t happened often enough yet to be studied, so how does anyone know?”

Her new lover is a doctor and has a classy future. Pamela has therefore opened negotiations with him concerning money. She feels this is the one area in which married women who have lovers are most retrogressive. “They’re afraid to ask for money. But why shouldn’t they, particularly if the man has it? If they married him, they’d expect some financial sharing. If one conducts an extramarital affair like a half-marriage, then there should be financial arrangements to cover the situation.” She is currently looking into legal precedents.

“The sex is fantastic,” she says, predictably. “Part of what makes it fantastic is that no children are around most of the time. We can screw anytime we want, without having to worry about kids crawling into the bed. We can get up in the middle of the night and make zabaglione and drink champagne. We can listen to music as loud as we want it. We see the children, as I told you, so they’re not unaware of what’s going on. The thing isn’t shrouded in mystery. But if a woman has children—and I like children, always wanted them—what she needs in order to stay married are some of the very advantages that separation or divorce give her, at least if she’s middle-class.

“The middle-class husband who separates or divorces usually agrees to have the children several nights a month or sometimes several a week. This gives the wife free fucking time. I don’t see why society can’t head toward this kind of freedom within marriage.”

But there is, Pamela now tells me, one disadvantage to the new relationship. Her lover is recently separated from a wife who left him for another man. Pamela foresees that this may make complications. Her lover has already begun demanding more of her time than she is prepared to give. They have discussed the fact that “exclusive possession” is dangerous to love, but still he seems to want it and has urged her to leave her husband.

I ask her what she will do if her lover decides he cannot tolerate the arrangement she has established and decides instead to choose a full-time woman. “I’ll look for someone else,” she says easily. “I’m not going to exchange one nuclear family for another. It’s my absolute belief that people who leave their spouses for other spouses are absolutely doomed. This is particularly true when a man has to leave his children. Men are so fucking maudlin about children it makes me nauseous. But even when they don’t leave their children, when they take on your children, it’s a mess. Now they’ve got children who aren’t even theirs who are climbing into the bed with shit dripping out of their diapers and who never leave you alone and you can’t fuck in the morning because they’re running around, and all the financial hassle—well, in practical terms it just strikes me as impossible. So I don’t care how long it takes me, I’m going to find a man somewhere who sees it the same way I do.”

I never knew quite what to make of Pamela. She was a self-dramatizer, a type I ordinarily dislike because their productions are rarely worth sitting through. But Pamela’s show was sparkling. I didn’t believe she would ever be able to achieve the arrangement she wanted. Somehow, she was too abstract, too intellectual. She did not, I suspected, really fall in love, but rather, plotted what love must be. Nevertheless, I always felt a begrudging admiration for her and even for her emphasis upon the economics of extramarital love. It is not altogether new, any more than is the so-called “open” marriage. In 1716, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu described her experiences in Constantinople in a letter to a woman friend; she was astonished, she remarked, at how many of the Turkish women with whom she socialized and dined not only had lovers, but had lovers who were known to their husbands. “’Tis the established custom for every lady to have two husbands,” she wrote, “one that bears the name, and another that performs the duties. And these engagements are so well known, that it would be a downright affront, and publicly resented, if you invited a woman of quality to dinner, without at the same time inviting her two attendants of lover and husband, between whom she always sits in state with great gravity.”

But the thing that most surprised Lady Mary was the economic base of these relationships. She reported that these “sub-marriages” generally lasted as long as twenty years, “and the lady often commands the poor lover’s estate even to the utter ruin of his family … a man makes but an ill figure that is not in some commerce of this nature; and a woman looks out for a lover as soon as she’s married, as part of her equipage, without which she could not be genteel; and the first article of the treaty is establishing the pension, which remains to the lady though the gallant should prove inconstant …” The pension, thought Lady Mary, might actually make for constancy, and indeed, was not considered a base concern when a woman took a lover. “I really know several women of the first quality, whose pensions are as well known as their annual rents, and yet nobody esteems them the less; on the contrary, their discretion would be called in question, if they should be suspected to be mistresses for nothing.…”

I have no idea whether what Lady Mary reported was an accurate description of Turkish high society at the start of the eighteenth century, but I do know that the sexual modes she ascribed to her Turkish friends could well have been applied to Pamela. I also know that I found it rather refreshing to hear Pamela’s pragmatic appraisal of the economic and sexual benefits of open extramarital relationships. She sounded down-to-earth. Other women involved in open adultery had talked of gifts like “growth” and “marital closeness” and had seemed distressingly fey.

Patricia and David Dorsky / There Are All Different Kinds of Loves

Patricia Dorsky was another woman who was more keen on having a sexually experimental marriage than was her husband. He seemed merely to go along with her extramarital needs, although he had actually been instrumental in helping her define them. I interviewed both of the Dorskys, Patricia first. We got together in her office; she works as an administrator for a family-owned dress company and so, although she is only twenty-four, had a large and airy private room in which we sat quite comfortably on a leather couch, our feet up on an enormous coffee table. We had started out with her behind her desk and me in a chair facing her, but she had politely, in practical executive-fashion, suggested we move to the couch where there would be no wooden barrier between us. When she got up to move, I saw she was startlingly thin, with the vulnerable awkward grace of a wistful animal I had seen somewhere, an antelope perhaps, or the unicorn of the tapestries.

“I’ve been living with my husband for five years, but we’ve only been married for three,” she said to start.

“Where did you meet him? Were you in college?”

“Yes, we were both in California. I was there on a lark and he was there getting an advanced degree in music and we lived together out there almost immediately upon meeting. We met in the parking lot of a supermarket and I went home and spent the night with him. We spent the night in bed and it was really good and we decided to pursue this rich area as long as we could. I moved in the day after I met him and we’ve been together ever since.

“We had a lot of problems with his family. I am not Jewish, and his family is. They acted as if they were going to disown him if we got married, so the first two years we didn’t. We didn’t feel any need to. But then my mother was moving out to Chicago, and she had a nice little apartment which was dirt cheap, and my mother wanted to give it to us but she was a little reluctant, not that she had any objections to our living together, but because of the neighbors. So one day, while we were walking around the city, I said to David, ’Why don’t we get married and solve all our housing problems?’ Several weeks after that we did get married.

“David and I have a very free relationship in which there aren’t any policies. I mean we never sat down and said, ’Okay, you’re free to do this but not that and I’m going to do this or that.’ We just play things by ear. Nothing about other men or women happened until I was going through a period when I was very depressed. I’m a very depressive type. I get to feeling unattractive and rotten and stupid. When that happens I don’t even want to go outside. Forget about walking in the park. I mean I don’t particularly want to do anything.

“So David was going to parties that our friends gave all alone. He met a girl he liked at one and they became friends. They spent a lot of time together, mostly listening to Wagnerian music. I hate Wagner and I wouldn’t go anyplace where Wagner’s music was playing. One time, at one musical party, David met a friend of this girl, a depressed Czechoslovakian anesthesiologist. And he said to me, ’You would really like Jan.’ He told me several times about this man but I wasn’t interested beyond hearing about him. Then one day I agreed to go to a party that this anesthesiologist was having and I met him, and David was right, I liked him. I liked the way he looked. The evening progressed and he and I talked and we were both attracted to each other. I don’t remember all the details. There was a lot of drinking going on and Jan and I spent a lot of time talking. And we just hit it off incredibly.

“Let me think now. What happened? How did it happen that everyone left and it was just David and Jan and me still there? I can’t quite remember, but I know it was very late and everyone left and I was drunk and I still didn’t want to go home. Then David fell asleep on the couch and Jan and I got into his bed and fooled around and then we made it. It was almost dawn when I woke David up and we went home. On the subway, I told him what had happened and he just said, ’Yeah. Okay.’”

“That was it?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “No trouble on David’s end. So I got the idea he mightn’t mind if I got together with Jan again. It had cheered me up, being with Jan. So I suggested this to David. I told him I had liked making love with Jan, but it was nothing special, nothing like between him and me, so that while I’d very much like to do it again, if he didn’t want me to, I’d just skip it. I told him I didn’t think it should make him jealous or uneasy, since we obviously had such a very special relationship, and that I wouldn’t feel jealous or uneasy if he screwed some other woman, if he had been making love, for instance, with the music-loving girl. Provided, of course, it wasn’t an overly emotional thing. And David said okay, fine.

“No. There was no trouble on David’s end. The only trouble I had was with Jan. You have to remember that Jan is a foreigner. He doesn’t understand America particularly and especially our morals. Everything is too out in the open for him. When I phoned him and said I wanted to see him again he acted peculiar. He said he’d liked it with me, but that he figured the only reason I wanted to go to bed with him was because David and I were having troubles. He said he felt I was using him. I told him that that was not the case, and explained to him that there was nothing wrong between me and David but that there are all different kinds of loves, and all different kinds of feelings. I told him I thought we should go ahead with it and that David knew all about it and had said, ’Okay. Fine,’ and all that. And Jan said, ’Well, I don’t believe you.’

“I was exasperated. I really wanted him, and he was letting all these scruples get in the way. A few days later, Jan called our house and asked to talk to David. So David got on the phone and they made arrangements and they met one day for coffee. Jan said, ’You don’t love her.’ And David kept saying, ’No. I didn’t say that. I do.’ And Jan said, ’Well, how can you love her and say okay about me?’ And David said, ’Because I think she needs this.’ And Jan said, ’But she’s not a library book. You can’t just lend her out.’ And David said, ’I’m not lending her out. In the first place, I don’t own her, so how could I lend her? If she wants to be with you, I don’t object. I don’t see how it will interfere with my relationship with her.’

“What it came down to was that Jan was seeking David’s permission. It was very odd. He kept saying, ’How can that be? How can this be?’ And David was getting exasperated because it was taking on ridiculous proportions. He told Jan this, so Jan decided to try and understand it all and I’ve been seeing him for the last six months.”

“Did he finally become comfortable about it?” I asked.

“He accepts it for a while and then for a while he can’t. Several times he’s called me up and said, ’I can’t handle this. I don’t want half of you. I want either all of you or I don’t want any of you.’ And I’ve said to him, ’Well, okay. But I think that’s stupid. I really think that’s stupid.’ He asks me how I feel about David and I say, ’I love David very much. I have no intention of leaving David.’ But lately he seems to have stopped doing this. At this point, now, he hasn’t started this stuff for quite a long time. I think he’s finally decided that he’s learning new ways and he’s willing to accept that people do things differently.”

“When do you see him?” I asked.

“It depends. We don’t have a schedule. Pretty much whenever one of us feels like it. Sometimes three times a week. Sometimes once a week. Sometimes four times a week. We speak to each other every day. We have since January. Sometimes I go over there at night after work and spend the night there. Once in a while I’ve spent the weekend. I don’t particularly care for doing that. I like my own bed. I don’t like being out of my own setting. I enjoy Jan sexually. I’m new to Jan and so that makes it feel special with him, whereas David might say I’m special in bed, but after all this time I’m not really.”

“What is it about Jan that appeals to you?” I asked.

“Well, the first thing that appealed to me were his looks. I like his kind of suntanned looks. Then, he’s older—past thirty—and he’s got a very intriguing accent. I like that too. But mostly it’s his demeanor. He’s like me, sort of depressed and melancholy, and I like that. David is so different. David is a very good-natured person. If he hated you, he would not let on. He would still be polite to you. I could never have married someone like Jan. He would never have been able to accept me on my own terms. I don’t think anybody but David could. As I told you, I’m very difficult to live with. I get depressed often. I have a tendency to be very bitchy. When I’m upset about something, I have the very bad habit of attacking the person closest to me, which is David, and I don’t think most people could handle that, but David does. I mean, it doesn’t even affect our relationship. David and I are sort of soul-mates. He just accepts me, I mean on any level, and I don’t think I could ever meet anyone else who does that.”

David himself was not involved in any other relationship. His friendship with the girl who had introduced the Dorskys to Jan had ended. “He spent a weekend with her,” Patricia said. “One time they went skiing and it ended up in bed, but that was it. David didn’t want to pursue her. He had no interest in her in that context. I mean, he felt that it ruined their friendship to get involved sexually. At last account, he told me that he didn’t want to bother with anyone extra.

“He said it wasn’t worth the aggravation. Of course, if someone came along, I’m sure that he could get interested. But he’s very self-sufficient. He’s teaching music now, but he doesn’t really like teaching. He likes being alone and writing music. He loves books and records and if you put him in a room with books and records and closed the door and slid a meal under every day, he mightn’t want any more than that. He’s a calm person who can always amuse himself.”

“How do you account for his lack of jealousy?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t account for it. I’m just grateful for it. In the beginning I thought that he just thought he wouldn’t be jealous, and I kept saying to him, ’Are you sure you’re not jealous?’ And he would say, ’I’m not.’ And now I’ve decided he really isn’t. He’s not the type who can hide anything from anybody. I mean he is actually incapable of lying. So the only explanation I can offer is that he really isn’t jealous because he knows that our relationship is something that can’t be touched by anyone else. He knows that I don’t like people terribly much and that it’s rare for me to meet someone that I want to be involved with. And that’s why he thinks that therefore I should pursue it when it happens. Now whether he would approve of me doing this on a regular basis with different men, I have no idea. But then, that’s not my nature.”

I was very curious to meet David. Patricia had told me she was sure he would want to speak with me and explain his own feelings about sharing his wife with Jan in an experimental marriage. But on the day of the interview I had arranged with David, Patricia called me and said he’d changed his mind. She said it was not because he didn’t want to talk about it but because he was very busy that day. I said I was very sorry and hoped we could do it another time, and Patricia said, “Well, look. Just come by at the time you said anyway. I’ll call him back and tell him to see you regardless.”

I said, “I wouldn’t want to go there if he’s busy, or if he really doesn’t want to talk with me.”

“No,” she said firmly. “It’ll be okay. He’ll do it.”

I went to their apartment, an orderly three rooms in a well-kept East Side brownstone. The Dorskys had a garden, lots of books, mountains of records. David greeted me at the door. Patricia was home, but she was in another room. This was to be David’s own show. But it wasn’t very original. He did, indeed, repeat almost precisely the information Patricia had given. He was not jealous. He was not having any relationship of his own. He was not, as someone who knew them both had suggested, either homosexual or interested in getting rid of Patricia. It was just as she had said: he thought another relationship would be good for her at this time, and he figured nothing that ever happened with other men would ever come between her and him. The only thing that was startlingly different between David and Patricia was the way in which I had to pump him to get him to talk.

I asked, “How do you feel about the fact that Patricia is having a relationship with somebody else?”

He said, “I’m not basically a jealous person to begin with. If it were done behind my back, then I would be more angry than jealous.”

“Has her seeing Jan changed things between you?”

“No. I knew it wouldn’t.”

“How did you know that?”

“I don’t know. Somehow I knew it. I knew from the start that there would be something between them but that it wouldn’t affect us.”

“How do you account for your not being a jealous person? Can you explain it?”


“It really is unusual, I feel,” I said.

“I just don’t like jealousy,” he said. “It’s petty.”

“Have you ever felt jealous?”

“Yes,” he said. “I once went through a stupid jealous thing. A girl I was seeing a few years ago was seeing someone else too and I didn’t know about it and I found out about it and I never want to go through that again. I was angry and it was all so stupid. I like to get on with people. I hate having to be angry.”

“Do you feel the need to put any restrictions on the amount of time Patricia spends away? Could that become a problem?”

“No. It couldn’t.”

“Suppose you’re planning to go to dinner with X and Y and that’s the night she’s not coming home?”

“It doesn’t happen like that. I am informed that she is going to see Jan. We agreed that she would always inform me in advance.”

“Do you think the kind of relationship you’re having is something that is at all feasible for other people? Do you think it’s something you could continue when you had children?”

He chose to answer only the second part of my question. He said, “I don’t want any children. Neither does Patricia.” He spoke these words so much more firmly than anything else he had said, quite loudly really, that I asked him why he felt this way. “I want to be liked, as I told you,” he said. “And children don’t like their parents when they grow up.”

“What, never?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “I certainly didn’t like mine. I thought they were wonderful when I was little, but when I grew up I despised them. And I expect that happens a lot. And for myself, I couldn’t take that disappointment. I couldn’t take someone’s loving me for a long time and then one day turning around and looking at me and saying, ’You’re awful; I never want to see you again,’ which is what I did to my parents.”

It was my first opening into his guarded approval of Patrica. “I guess you wouldn’t ever want Patricia to stop loving you either?” I asked in a very neutral tone.

He said, “That’s true,” but he wouldn’t or couldn’t amplify.

I asked whether it was likely that he himself might have a relationship with someone other than his wife, but he said he doubted it. “Perhaps if it just happened spontaneously,” he said. “But I wouldn’t want to go out looking for it. Patricia is a much more jealous person than I am, so it’s probably best this way. I don’t find it odd, and I wish everyone else didn’t always act as if it were.”

“Well, it is a little odd,” I said, hoping to get him to talk more. But he wouldn’t. I had to go on. “Most people feel threatened when someone else makes love to their husband or wife. And traditionally, men feel this even more than women do.”

“Well, I just don’t feel threatened by that,” he said. “I can’t imagine that.”

“You can’t?”

“No, I can’t.”

He seemed impatient to be rid of me, and I left shortly afterwards. Talking to David had been like pulling teeth and I found I was tired, more tired than I had been after any of my other interviews. I wasn’t sure whether I had failed to penetrate David’s guardedness or whether he really wasn’t being guarded and the answers he had given me were, after all, precise representations of how he actually felt. Okay. Fine. I walked home slowly that night, wondering if perhaps people living in experimental marriages were such foreigners to someone like me—raised on possession and exclusive love—that I could not begin to understand their language.