One man makes the case for a lit­tle de­cep­tion.

The truth about stay­ing to­gether.

ELLE (Canada) - - #Storyboard - By Jeremy Freed

If you had the chance to sleep with her again, would you?” asked Chloe*, a bit too ca­su­ally. The ex was still a close friend. We met for beers ev­ery cou­ple of weeks, and I oc­ca­sion­ally spent a weekend with her fam­ily at their cot­tage. While Chloe and I hadn’t talked about her much, at some point that night my ex be­came the fo­cus of the con­ver­sa­tion—a con­ver­sa­tion that led to this ques­tion. I don’t re­mem­ber the ex­act words that came out of my mouth in re­sponse, but they were not the right ones.

I did not say no. Chloe blew up. I was emo­tion­ally un­avail­able, she said, still in love with this other woman and not fit to be dat­ing any­one.

It took me by sur­prise. Chloe and I had been see­ing each other ca­su­ally for about three months, and, while I’m pretty sure we both as­sumed the other wasn’t dat­ing any­one else, we hadn’t dis­cussed ex­clu­siv­ity. I liked Chloe. She was fun, sexy, am­bi­tious and spon­ta­neous. We had a good time to­gether. Sure, maybe she didn’t al­ways get my jokes and maybe our mu­sic tastes didn’t over­lap much, but it was early days and these things take time to fig­ure out. I didn’t know if we had a fu­ture to­gether, but I didn’t want to break up either. Later that night, how­ever, I found my­self home, con­fused and un­ex­pect­edly sin­gle again. My first re­ac­tion was that Chloe had no right to ask me that ques­tion. After all, out­side the bounds of a com­mit­ted monog­amous re­la­tion­ship, there were plenty of peo­ple I’d sleep with un­der the right cir­cum­stances— my ex in­cluded. It didn’t mean I was go­ing to run out and do that. What was she so up­set about?

As any thir­tysome­thing ur­ban­ite would do, I took my prob­lem to the re­la­tion­ship or­a­cle of our time, Dan Sav­age. Sav­age has been dis­pen­s­ing ad­vice on sex and re­la­tion­ships for more than two decades, most re­cently in his Sav­age Love­cast pod­cast. I’m an avid lis­tener. I di­aled the hot­line, ex­plained my sit­u­a­tion to his voice­mail and waited. Two weeks later, there I was, loud and clear through my ear­buds, air­ing my dirty re­la­tion­ship laun­dry for all the In­ter­net to hear. “Re­la­tion­ships are not de­po­si­tions,” he be­gan some­what wearily, as if ex­plain­ing some­thing for the thou­sandth time, which he prob­a­bly was. “You don’t have to an­swer ev­ery ques­tion truth­fully,” he went on. “If I were your boy­friend and this was an ex-boyfriend you were talk­ing about, I’d feel deeply inse­cure about your ro­man­tic at­trac­tion to your ex. That’s not some­thing you can re­ally help. But it is some­thing you can shut up about.”

Any­one fa­mil­iar with Sav­age’s oeu­vre will know his phi­los­o­phy on long-term re­la­tion­ships, namely that The Per­fect Per­son doesn’t ex­ist—it’s some­thing we cre­ate through trust, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and just a dash of self­delu­sion. “There is the per­fect boyfriend, the per­fect hus­band, the per­fect girl­friend, the per­fect wife, the per­fect what­ever we have in our heads, and every­one we meet falls short,” he said. “No one is that per­fect. No one is ‘the one.’ We pre­tend some­one is the one, we make them the one, just as they pre­tend that we are the one.” I’d heard him hold forth on vari­a­tions of this count­less times, but for some rea­son this time a light went on.

When I put my story to a group of mar­ried friends over din­ner a short while later, they found none of it par­tic­u­larly rev­e­la­tory. “I think the rule of thumb with those things,” said a friend’s wife, putting down her wine­glass, “is ‘Is it go­ing to hurt some­one’s feel­ings un­nec­es­sar­ily by say­ing it?’ If yes, then don’t say it. You’re not ac­tu­ally go­ing to have sex with this per­son—it’s just thoughts in your head. So why hurt each other’s feel­ings?” It made per­fect sense. Whether I wanted to make Chloe my “one” or not, it was un­fair to ex­pect her to be to­tally cool with me hav­ing feel­ings of any de­gree for any­one else. Was I go­ing to get back to­gether with my ex? No, I was not. Was I con­vinced that Chloe was go­ing to be “the one”? No. At least, not yet. Did she need to know about any of this? Ab­so­lutely not. Whether or not I thought Chloe was the most awe­some per­son in the world, it was my job as the guy who was dat­ing her to make her think I thought she was. Or break up with her. Oth­er­wise, why would she spend her time and en­ergy on me? It was only then, weeks after the fact, that I be­gan to see the sit­u­a­tion from Chloe’s point of view. She might not have a right to know about all of my thoughts and feel­ings, but she was to­tally jus­ti­fied in call­ing it quits.

As my friends have grad­u­ally paired off and mar­ried, I’ve changed the way I look at their re­la­tion­ships. I used to see them to­gether and think “Oh, these peo­ple are so lucky to have met their soul­mates—clearly, they’re awe­some for each other on ev­ery level.” Now, rather, it seems to be more a mat­ter of “Here are two peo­ple who are re­ally good at not break­ing up.” Which, I’ve learned, re­quires an oc­ca­sional omis­sion. Things prob­a­bly wouldn’t have worked out with Chloe and me—for a num­ber of rea­sons un­re­lated to feel­ings I have for my ex or any­one else—and I think that’s why I didn’t lie to her that night. When I meet some­one whom I can see my­self com­mit­ting to for the long haul and she ca­su­ally asks me who I’d sleep with if given the chance, hope­fully I’ll be able to truth­fully say “No one but you, my dar­ling!” But, re­al­is­ti­cally, I’ll prob­a­bly just lie about it. Be­cause that’s how you know it’s love. n

“Re­la­tion­ships are not de­po­si­tions—you don’t have to an­swer ev­ery ques­tion truth­fully.”

*Not her real name.

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