Preface to Catch & Release: How I Used Science to Hack My Love Life

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“If I only knew, that happy ever after wasn’t you.” – Gin Wigmore

3/1/2014

The first time I saw them together, my heart stopped. It was a shock, even though the sexually charged atmosphere of the past two weekends left this outcome inevitable. This story began with marriage. At least for half its characters, fading passion and dull comfort were no longer enough. Throw in a little booze and topless dancing and suddenly boundaries ingrained by years of indoctrination and purity rings somehow dissipated like lines drawn in the sand after the tide.

I thought our marriage was a good one, even prided myself how much better we got along than most of our friends. It wasn’t until after we had started fucking other people I realized all my pent-up emotions had been slowly driving a wedge in between us. When had I, a self-proclaimed, independent feminist, become so dependent on a patriarchal tradition that I had allowed myself to follow a man across the country away from my dream job? Here I was in a small Mormon town with nothing better to do on the weekends than getting drunk at house parties because there was no nightlife and then slave away at a job where I had years more education than the fucking CEO. It was okay when we were in love. The moment when I saw Eli with her, everything changed.

Before, I thought I was happy. Even if I wasn’t using either of my master’s degrees, at least I could count on Eli finding a job after he graduated, and then we could make adorable babies. Feelings are deceptive. A false sense of security can be alluring. It’s safe and comfortable. After years with the same person, you forget the passion there is the first time you feel someone new against your skin. The burning desire that creates a rush which makes you feel so alive you wonder how you survived before. Even if it’s not what you were looking for, even if you were happy, after you have a taste of lust again, it’s over. What was once sweet and enduring becomes annoying and dull.

The rush of the other is like a drug. Sweat and lust for hours. Her husband’s arms around me. Our legs entwined. All he had to do to make me moan was kiss my neck. In the morning, we lay tangled up in each other until he had to have me again. It felt so right. I felt like he cared. Whether he did, he made me feel like what we had was real even if it was only for the night. Nothing felt real at home. Motions. Well-rehearsed from years of practice.

After a month, the debauchery began to sizzle down. The initial excitement wore off.  Unlike my marriage, theirs seemed to have a chance, because of the way he still looked at her. Sure, Eli had started doing the dishes more and helping in the kitchen. He still cuddled with me and called me baby. It didn’t matter. The look was gone, which is why I stayed on the rollercoaster as long as I did. Those nights when I was with her husband, I got a taste of the desire he had for her. I knew it was wrong, but I needed my fix. Because at home, I was doing everything I could to remember what it used to be like when I was happy with comfort and security. It didn’t work. This terrified me. Even if Eli did lose interest in her, would the desire return for either of us? Despite my jealousy, I was not looking at Eli the same way either anymore. Can a marriage work like this? Is this the actual reality? Loneliness. If so, someone should start rewriting the stories. Prince Charming will sweep you off your feet, but you better be ready to settle for a life of sweeping and not mind when he invites the princess from the next realm over to share the royal bedchamber with you.

Marriage. How can such a universal construct be construed so differently to people not only around the world but in the same household? It serves a primary biological function. We must reproduce, and the young need to be taken care of so they can survive to an age of reproduction and pass on their genetic material. Somewhere along the way religion hijacked it so they could control one more aspect of the masses…sex. That worked out well. Now marriage comes with all these feelings. Jealousy, loneliness, desire, boredom. Why do we bother? Does it really benefit us? We’re expected to make life-long commitments to someone in our twenties when most of us still haven’t figured out who the hell we are. Everyone knows forever love is an unrealistic idealism, but we sing about it, write epic sagas about it, dream about it. Somehow marriage is supposed to fit into this. Or is it? Is love only the mechanism that tricks us into tieing the knot? Then after several years of bliss and a few kids, the love starts to dissipate. The kids, the mortgage, and the car payments making us productive members of society keep everything together until we divorce and repeat the cycle again.

 

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