You once asked me why men, particularly men who otherwise had everything they could possibly want or need in a marriage, cheated on their wives? It was not an easy question to answer, considering the circumstances.
“Because men are arseholes?” I said, trying to joke the question away. But the question would remain like an unwelcomed guest lying between us.
A barista friend of mine had once asked me years ago a similar question. I was three or four years into my first misadventure in “conjugal bliss”, which had been rife with “extracurricular dalliances”.
“Is sex really that good?” he asked, by which he meant, is having an affair really worth the risk of losing everything: your family, your marriage, your business . . .
“Well, when you put it that way,” I said. “I don’t suppose it is.”
My excuse in those days was that I was miserable and needed the easy refuge found in the arms of easy women. Today, however, there is nothing I want to run away from, nothing I desire to run towards. For the past ten years, I have been perfectly happy exactly where I was. Perfectly.
Or, at least, I thought I was.
No, what you wanted to know was how men who could otherwise claim to be happily married still had few qualms about jumping in the sack with other women.
Derek, an American who was a few years into his third marriage, told me how hard it was for him to be faithful when there was temptation all around. If I replied that it was a piece of cake when your heart was so full of love it felt as if it would burst, he would have rolled his eyes at me and chastised me for being pussy-whipped.
“Every time I go out,” he boasted, “I get laid. All I have to do is approach twenty, thirty, fifty, a hundred girls, and I know one of them is going to say, ‘Yes.’ It’s all numbers.”
In addition to his other charms, Derek was a degenerate gambler. He seemed to me destined to crap out sooner or later.
An Aussie named Frank told me that he loved his kids, he loved his wife . . . “It’s just that, well, the years and pregnancy haven’t been kind . . .”
As if he, himself, were still the Adonis he once was twenty years ago.
“She just doesn’t do it for me anymore.”
“My wife’s just not into that kind of stuff,” Pierre said. “With my girlfriend, I can do all kinds of things.”
By “all kinds”, of course, he meant, well . . . You can probably guess.
“I feel so alive when I’m with her. Before I met her, every day it was just go to work, come home, collapse in bed, wake up, and do it all over again.”
And there, I must admit I can sympathize, but still . . .
And then there’s someone like Nigel, an Englishman I play soccer with every other week. After practice, the two of us often ride the train into town together and talk about life and work.
One of the recurring themes of our conversations is how little sex Nigel and his wife have.
“I suppose I shouldn’t really complain,” he said in that languid cadence of his. “Compared to the average Japanese couple we do make love more often than most, and yet . . .”
“Oh, with me it’s quite the opposite,” I replied, half in jest. “My wife is insatiable. You know, sometimes I just want to be . . . held.”
“Every now and again,” Nigel continued, “a young girl will come into my classroom and she’ll be so beautiful that . . .” A bashful smile flashed across his face. “Here I am, forty-three years old, and a girl of eighteen still makes my heart go pitter-patter.”
“Here I am at forty-eight, and I can attest to you that that never goes away.”
But where it once pained me to distraction to not have a woman I desired, today I have no difficulty in letting it, no, letting the girl go. Now whenever my appetite is whetted, I satisfy the cravings by eating at home, so to speak.
And having found release in the arms of my wife, I lie on my back, staring at the ceiling and thinking three or four or five moves beyond an imagined affair. I think about what I would risk losing were I to sleep with this girl or that, such as the one with the long black ponytail sitting in the front row of my first-year Heritage Management class.
Was she beautiful? Yes. Sexy? And how! Intelligent, too? Quite!
But was I willing to give up my wife and three boys for her? No, never. And that’s what it always comes down to: assets and liabilities tallied on the balance sheet of life. Would it be worth it? As that barista friend once asked, I now ask myself: “Is the sex really that good?”
I must confess, though, that what has kept me faithful all these years is more than the satisfaction, the happiness, the love I have felt towards my family. It is fear. Plain and simple. It is the terrifying dread that karma will come crashing down hard and rob me of everything I hold so very dear. So, in answer to my friend’s question: no, the sex isn’t really that good and certainly not good enough to tempt fate.