Six years ago, Vee and I were barely seeing eye to eye.
In a sense, we were closer than we had been at any point during our married lives. We needed to be: a few months previously we had moved from Seattle to New Zealand, with two-year-old Edwin. We had brought only what we could carry. Everything else? Sold or given to friends. Ev-er-y-thing. Every last syllable.
Soon after emigrating, determined not to squander our meager savings on Auckland rent, I suggested that we put a deposit down on a house in a more affordable area. Well, okay. But that house turned out to be a cottage three hours south, smack-bang in dairy country. And, at about that time, Vee won a lecturing contract smack-bang in Auckland city.
Vee, focused on her work, started commuting to Auckland for half of each week. I, focused on looking after Edwin among the paddocks and lemon trees, started to get lonely. At the time, though, each of us was happy with our living arrangement. I was tired of being the main bread-winner, and loved spending even more time with our son. She adored her new job.
But for every week she was getting more stimulated by working at a big university, I was getting more starved for company. This prompted me to broach a realistic enough scenario: we had been utterly monogamous and faithful to each other for more than a decade, but were now having to spend many nights apart. So I got a bit Austin Powers on her ass:
"What if one of us -- most likely you, let's face it -- meets someone else and fancies a shag?"
Her response: she shrugged. For months. Absorbed in her job, she just didn't see anything like that happening.
I kept asking about it, on and off. She got annoyed. I did not see that I was becoming a bore, and she did not see why I was becoming a bore. At one point, doubled-up on the edge of the bed, she screamed at me in floods of tears:
“I don’t want to fuck anyone else! I’m not interested! Understand!?”
After a few months, we agreed that there was just enough chance of one of us wanting sex, or simply warm, naked touch, that we would permit each other to enjoy it if it happened. It didn't seem likely to happen, though: she had no desire, and I had no opportunity. (Besides, at that time I was more sexually intrigued by the idea of her meeting someone else.) But the deal stayed in place after I moved back to Seattle with Edwin for 18 months, while she finished her contract.
Guess what? Neither of us did anything. Not once. Not even when she let hair down and went out clubbing for weekends at a time. Big surprise. Meanwhile, Vee was angry at me for moving back to the 'States so peremptorily. I was frustrated by her almost-total attention to her career.
For political reasons, the tenure she was chasing did not work out. So we all regrouped in Seattle. After a while, Vee and I saw each other's point of view. The bile dissipated, then disappeared.
As to the agreement? That agreement? It stayed. Why? We just looked at it, almost as if it were a curio in a display cabinet, and decided that it might be interesting to keep in place.
Just in case...
(CONTINUES NEXT TIME)