In the novel, Sex Ed With Sharon and Robert: Chapter 3, we learn if Robert has an affair.
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“Don’t we have a good relationship?” I asked Robert one cold morning. I was having difficulty eating my breakfast. “Why do we get in arguments like this? Should we get counseling?”
We had been in a slump for weeks, and I couldn’t figure out what to do. Our sex life had fallen way off. This didn’t make any sense for people in their early 30’s. At first I reached for him at night, snuggling against his chest. Sometimes I reached for his penis. He moved away from me every time.
One night I tried to start the new position we had had fun with. He was lying on his back, and I climbed on top facing away from him. I rubbed his soft penis against my vagina, trying to push it in, but it didn’t get very hard. Finally I rolled away from him sobbing. He didn’t respond.
“Robert, do you still love me?” I hadn’t wanted to ask, but I had to know. I couldn’t go on like this.
“Of course I love you,” he said. His voice was flat. He wasn’t believable.
“Is there someone else?” I had to ask this too.
He didn’t say anything.
Oh, no. This was it. He was with someone else. That’s why he lost interest in sex with me. And why he argued over nothing. We had been together for six years, living in a house we bought together. We were almost married. He had finished his masters in engineering just before we met, and I had been working as a counselor for a year. We were both feeling good about our lives, and that it was time to get serious about a relationship. I thought we were it.
And the sex. It had always been good. And then we started talking about it and it got even better. We talked in bed. We talked over dinner. I was stunned to learn that I could feel embarrassed and that it would pass. It only took three times of telling him what I liked in oral sex before I had no discomfort at all. I could tell him that I really liked sucking him. That the feeling of his penis skin in my mouth was so pleasurable. Of course his acceptance and wanting to hear what I said made it easier. The last year of love making had been so great, I thought we should write the book. We were the success story.
Then weeks ago things changed. I thought it was the added stress in his job. I wondered if he was unhappy with his life. Next came wondering if aging made me less attractive. I didn’t want to consider that there was someone else.
I got up, found my bag and got in my car. I had to get away from here. I couldn’t sob in front of him. Once on the street I called my sister to see if I could come over. She said yes, then asked if I was alright. She could hear my distress.
I didn’t really want to talk about it yet, but I had no where else to go. I walked into her house, and she met me with a hug.
“Oh, Kate, I am not doing well.”
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“I can see that, Sharon. Come on in. Jeff’s already asleep so we can talk privately.”
I started even before we sat down. “I’m pretty sure that Robert‘s having an affair.” I paused, not knowing what more to say. Everything else was emotion. Devastation, pain, fear for the future, loss, and I didn’t know what else. Lots else.
“It’s that women he works with, isn’t it The red head with the long mane? I think she’s an engineer too. At least I overheard them talking about work.”
“What? You know something?”
“Jeff and I watched him flirt with her right in front of you but we didn’t want to say anything. I’ve been sort of expecting you to find out.”
I shook my head. My vision was blurry from more than tears. The whole world made no sense. I had been living a solid, home-based love relationship that I expected to go on for my entire life. And now it was over. It was over.
The next day when I was finally able to bring it up, Robert admitted that he was sleeping with this red head. He said that he felt love for her, yes, but he still loved me. He said that he couldn’t get aroused with me because he felt guilty. He knew it was wrong to be with two women.
It was wrong to be with two women, yet he was with her when still with me?
I couldn’t sleep. I napped a little during the day between clients. I had difficulty paying attention because the pain was nonstop. He was having sex with someone else. The betrayal was excruciating. And he had been deceiving me about it. That was horrible, too.
When I walked through a mall, or had dinner with friends, it was as if no one else was there. Pain overrode anything I could feel. I had no empathy or compassion. How many people all around me were feeling this way too? Sexual betrayal isn’t rare. Half of marriages end. Odd how we think that ordinary life goes on for almost everyone.
We found an expert in sexuality. She asked us a lot of questions, and then saw Robert alone to do a sexual history. I had to know if he was going to be with her or stay with me.
Robert said over and over that he was staying. He didn’t want her as a partner. He wanted to spend his life with me. How could I make sense of that?
Dr. Anna said that since Robert wasn’t leaving, he had to end it with the other woman. He needed to come to understand why he made the choice to violate his relationship with me. Then he had to heal it so that I could trust him again.
Trust him again? I shook my head. I wanted Robert, but how could I possibly trust that he wouldn’t be sexual with someone else? That he wouldn’t fall in love? And leave me?
I hoped that it was possible. Dr. Anna said it would take time. Trust isn’t something that occurs because a person says they won’t do it again. Promises don’t mean anything. We have to experience it not happening again for a long time. Trust building is an emotional process.
“How long?” I asked.
She shook her had. “I don’t have an answer. It depends on how you and Robert relate over this. Robert, do you want to help Sharon heal from the betrayal of her trust?”
Robert looked at her for a full minute. Then at me for another minute. He swallowed and cleared his throat.
“Yes. There’s no way I want to lose Sharon. But I need to understand how I split my attention between two women. It isn’t easy to just say yes, and go back to the way things were.
“It isn’t easy being in love. Sex with Sharon was incredible, and even when we didn’t make love, we were so close.” He shook his head and looked down, running his hand over his hair. “It scares the shit out of me.”
Dr. Anna reached over and touched his arm. “We have ways of understanding that, Robert. It can be fear of intimacy. Or an attachment issue where distance feels safer. We can learn about it. You already know that you have fears, and you feel relief if you spread your sexuality around - if you don’t focus it on the woman you love.”
“What if she died?” Robert seemed stunned, his eyes wide open. He turned to me. “What if you died? Or what if you ran off with someone else? I couldn’t stand that. It would rip me up.”
“There it is, Robert,” Dr. Anna said. “You had become afraid of losing Sharon. The only solution you could imagine was diluting love in hope of the loss not feeling so bad.”
Robert nodded. He nodded again. “Yeah. That’s it. And why it really doesn’t feel safe to just have Sharon. I don’t mind giving up the other person, but the thought of only having Sharon….”
Sometimes loving deeply can be as terrifying as losing a loved one.
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