My boyfriend David and I had been dating for a few years when, one night, we decided to spend the evening at home. We had a few drinks, watched some TV, then had this innocent conversation:
"If you could have sex with anyone in the world, who would it be?" he asked me.
"You," I replied.
"Other than me."
"You didn't ask me who I wanted to have an interesting conversation with," I protested. "You asked me who I would want to do. I'd do Russell Crowe and in my fantasy he's really good at it."
"There's no way a guy THAT into himself is going to be good at sex."
Our conversation went on long into the night -- but what if it weren't a fantasy? What if it were reality? What if, in the course of our relationship, we each wanted to do someone other than each other who wasn't Russell Crowe? Then what?
It was almost exactly the same conversation that is the crux of the new movie, "The Freebie
," a Sundance hit directed by and starring Katie Aselton, along with her co-star Dax Shepard. Part of the mumblecore
movement, the film opens today and is a talky, thinky, indie romantic comedy about a young married couple, bored with their sex life, who each agree to spend one night with someone else.
"It's kind of like an itch you can't scratch any other way," admits Annie, the wife, who enters into the bargain -- at least at first -- a bit reluctantly.
In the case of me and David, we, too, wound up talking for hours about taking our fantasies out of the safety of our bedroom. Here's how it played out in real life when it finally happened.
"If I cheated would you consider it an unforgivable offense?" David asked me, that fateful night, as we sat, a bit sloshed, on our couch.
"Depends," I replied.
And it truly does: I mean, you think you feel one way about it, but in reality, nothing in life is truly black and white. Personally, I'd never cheated on anyone, ever. Well, there was one kiss... But I'm not even sure that I consider a kiss cheating. Kissing is human. It means you're alive. I guess I hadn't really given the concept of monogamy much thought up until this point. We, like many couples in LTRs, sort of went on autopilot.
But together that night, we agreed that a one-time pass on monogamy might not be the worst thing in the world. And then I didn't really think about it again. It seemed like the sort of hypothetical conversation you have after drinking, then life moves on.
Right up until the night David told me he'd actually taken his "night off."It wasn't right after our Discussion. Summer became fall and then, one night, months after we'd first broached the subject ... we were lying in bed when suddenly David put his hands to his face and said, as if in one breath: "I cheated on you and I'm scared to tell you because I'm afraid you're going to get mad at me, and cry, and break up with me."
"Do you want me to break up with you?" I asked slowly.
"No." He responded.
, I thought.
Then, that night, we had another long conversation about us
, and our relationship. I wasn't sure what the heck I was feeling or thinking. I was kinda mad. Clues started to add up in my head -- like, him putting on a nice dress shirt and going out one night. But before I passed judgment, I needed to know all the facts, so I asked him tell me every last detail of their "encounter." I wanted to know exactly how something like this could happen. He told me exactly how it did.
David was a sports nut: He watched sports, he played sports, he talked about sports. Football, basketball, NASCAR, baseball ... you name it. More specifically, he played baseball in the park with his friends every week. So there was this girl, he told me, who would walk by with her dog all the time while they were playing, and the boys would look, and she'd look at the boys and she'd say, "Hi." Your basic field flirting. We've all done it.
After an evening game one night they were loading the equipment in the car when she walked by. "Hey," she said. "Hey," they said, and David's friend jokingly pushed him in her direction. That's when my boyfriend found himself face to face with Baseball Girl.
She was cute and he thought about our "night off" talk, and he made a date to have coffee with her a couple days later. They had coffee. Oh boy, did they have coffee. After coffee they went back to her pad and "talked" a little bit -- a casual conversation which led to casual kissing which led to casual sex.
And that, David told me, head in hands, was it. His one night off. Now he felt bad. Really bad.
"It felt wrong," he told me. (Meaning, I think -- and chose to believe -- that I was better in bed and
more fun to hang around with than her.) He cried while he told me how bad he felt. Specifically what did he regret? He felt guilty for not telling me about his night ahead of time. Despite our "night off" conversation, he said, it felt like cheating. We had always been so honest with each other, and I guess, by acting on the fantasy, however much we'd agreed to it, he felt that he'd trespassed on that.
I felt like he was being honest. OK, he may have spent a few days -- or weeks -- thinking about it before telling me ... but, I thought, everyone is entitled to a little privacy. Besides, it was a true one night stand.
As far as I was concerned, in terms of how "nights off" might go, his was ideal. As ideal as that situation can be. He had stepped out of the relationship and hated it. I didn't know until after it happened, and he wanted everything to go back to the way it had been between us before. I couldn't have written the movie script better myself. I mean, I had told him months earlier that I could forgive such a transgression under the right circumstances, and these seemed like the right circumstances to me.
Today, several years later, I'm older and wiser -- and David and I did break up a couple of years later, but not because of this. In retrospect ... I still kind of feel the same way I did that day. In my opinion, a relationship isn't sex. Sex is important, but it's not the end of the world, and if someone has sex outside of their relationship, it doesn't have to end the relationship.
I knew that after David had taken his night off, I could do the same. I mean, what could he say? He'd have to forgive me. But I didn't. I guess I just never met the right person, or was in the right situation, so it never happened. I mean, I didn't want to force it, just to get even. He felt so bad that day, I didn't really have a desire to "get even" anyway. It actually made us closer than ever, so I never really felt the need.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that, even in one relationship, no two situations are the same. Should you take a night off from each other? I don't know -- you'd have to talk with your lover to decide if it's right for you. Do I think it can help a relationship? Yeah, I do. I think it can settle a curious mind. If you end up breaking up ... well, to me, that's just fate, and it was meant to happen anyway. No matter what you do, you can't make a bad relationship work. In turn, you can't ruin a good relationship with a silly one night stand. Not a real one. We're raised to believe that stepping outside of a relationship is a bad thing ... I don't think it has to be.
Besides, I'm still holding out for my freebie with Russell Crowe.
Carmen Rodriguez is the pen name of a Lemondrop writer who lives in Los Angeles. When not obsessing about the intricacies of monogamy, she spends her time on Facebook, blogging, and writing articles. You can contact Carmen Rodriguez via Facebook.