Before my husband was my husband, he was my ex-boyfriend. I was a commitment-phobe who wanted to continue seeing other people. He, meanwhile, was more of a traditionalist, with no interest in an open relationship. Many of my past relationships had fallen apart for this very reason. This one was no different.
Still, I felt bad turning Michael away from my 25th birthday party, a gathering of close friends at a bar on the Upper East Side. We had parted amicably.
About two months before, we had taken a weekend trip up to Boston, to see the 4th of July fireworks over the Charles River. We were about one hour into our trip when things blew up. Not wanting to waste the money we’d already spent on the hotel, we strong-armed our way through the weekend, filling the memory card on my camera with deceptively happy-looking photos that eventually ended up in the slide show at our pre-wedding rehearsal dinner. By the end of the weekend, we had both made peace with the dissolution of our relationship.
In the weeks following the trip, we had continued trading comments on LiveJournal, and engaging in the occasional phone chat. We even had some ill-advised, post-breakup sex.
And so he attended the party — along with another ex-boyfriend I was still sweet on, plus some new guy my best friend was trying to set me up with.
By mid-evening, Michael had an arm around each of his competitors, and all three of them were buying rounds of shots for each other.
By the end of the night, New Guy was in the downstairs restroom, puking his guts out and crying to my friend that he couldn’t compete with Michael. Meanwhile, Other Ex —with whom I had been spending a lot of time since Michael and I split — was trying to convince me I should get back together with Michael, as he was such a good guy. This is just how Michael operates. He steams out my options until there are no other arms I can fall into but his.
It worked. Two days later, Michael and I were a couple again.
We have now been married for almost five years.
Still, having a ring on my finger doesn’t make me immune to the charms of other men, no matter how happily married I am. And I feel no guilt in flirting. As I wrote in 52 Weeks of Amazing Sex, an ebook I co-authored with sex counselor Ian Kerner, flirting with others can be a great way to keep the spark alive in an ongoing romantic relationship.
For one thing, it’s fun, and can provide you with a bit of an ego boost, leaving you feeling like hot stuff for the rest of the day … a feeling that tends to get lost once you’ve settled into the day-to-day of a long-term relationship. Knowing he has the heart of such a hot commodity can be both libido- and ego-boosting for your partner as well. Not only that, but getting all hot and bothered while you’re out and about can fuel the sex play once you’re back home. If you make open flirting a part of your relationship, there will be a lot less insecurity surrounding it. It adds a level of trust that may not exist if you find yourself having to question your spouse’s every social interaction with a member of the opposite sex.
My husband’s down with this. Or so he says, He’s a total flirt, too. So why does he keep cockblocking me?
I know I’m not imagining things. That ex-boyfriend who gave me and Michael his blessing? The two of them have since partnered up on a side project. My various work crushes? The ones who make the day-to-day more bearable, injecting them with the tiniest frisson of excitement? Michael has also gotten buddy-buddy with them.
And when we’re out and about?
Michael can go anywhere, make his way around a room, and come out of it with a slew of new friends. He can work a crowded room solo and never feel one iota of discomfort. I, meanwhile, tend to cower in some dark corner with a large glass of wine, wishing I was back at home on my pillow-top mattress. When I click with someone, it’s a big deal for me.
But if I happen to be clicking with a guy, it’s inevitable: Michael will glide on over to me, out of nowhere, drape his body across mine, and plant a kiss on me that says, “This one here? She’s mine.”
He’ll pull me into a dance, pull me close, grasp my hand, and spin me right away from that guy. He’ll act more lovey-dovey in that moment than he does over the course of an average month. It’s infuriating.
Then — and this is the part that really drives me crazy — he will hijack my conversation, leaving me hiding within the depths of my wine glass once again. By the end of the night, he and the guy I was having such a fantastic time chatting up, will be BFFs. More often than not, they will exchange business cards.
This even happened at a cuddle party we attended. Post-ice breaker and pre-cuddling, a guy approached me at the snack table, looking for a massage and a romantic connection. When Michael returned from wherever he’d been, they chatted about web development as I sat on the guy’s lower back, digging my fingers into his shoulders and neck, feeling invisible. At the end of the evening, yes — they exchanged business cards.
I’ve called Michael out on this several times. He finds it hilarious. He insists he’s not jealous of the interactions I have with other men, yet he still continues to subconsciously thwart my flirting efforts.
I guess that means he loves me?
In the end, perhaps it’s true: the best solution for getting out of a romantic rut is seeing proof that your S.O. is still desirable to others. Either way, I’m glad I ended up with someone who could finally convince me that one man is enough.
Still … next time, I’m hitting up the bar without him.