There's a feeling of liberation when my husband goes out of town, and that liberation leads to acts of apathy, selfishness, indulgence, sloth, and gratification.
I am still in love with and attracted to my husband of 28 years. Many of our days and nights are spent together since we both work from home. During the day, despite being busy, we share a few quick kisses, interesting tidbits of news, and a few laughs. We still have very pleasurable and regular sex.
So why would I want to cheat on him when he goes out of town, seeing that I'm so happily married?
I've talked to dozens of women who do the same. Shocking, isn't it?
Here's how we cheat: Apathy: We may not bother to get out of our pajamas. Selfishness: We most definitely won't give much thought to "What's for dinner?" Indulgence: We eat our favorite delicious and fattening foods, and we may eat them while lying in bed, watching a chick flick. Sloth: We leave cereal bowls and wine glasses in the sink. Gratification: there's a good chance we'll fire up our vibrators.
We are reverting to "all about me" behavior that we took for granted as single women. With a man constantly sharing our space, we have to be considerate of his wants and needs. A happy marriage entails mutual consideration, but sheer self consideration can be pretty darn pleasing, too.
For women whose husbands are retired, it's a notably celebrated event when their husbands go out of town. Retired men are around so much more than working men, and their interests--other than perhaps golfing or fishing--are not as plentiful and varied as women's. In large part, they still look to their wives to direct their social life and to put a meal on the table--or to decide at which restaurant they will eat.
With men at home full time, many women, if not working, develop even more outside-the-home interests. They may take to playing bridge, volunteering, or long lunches, just to get away from the insistent male energy that permeates their lives day-to-day. I know one woman who bought a horse. That's riddled with symbolism, don't you think?
Another friend whose husband retired just last week texted me that she had to go out to her garden and pretend to weed, just to escape his voice. The nattering that had been acceptable during the evening and weekend hours now washed over her, threatening to drown her, in its 24/7 excess. She ended her text with, "He's going to Palm Beach to visit his son next week, thank God!"
When our husbands are out of town, we can just relax. There are no "helpful suggestions" being offered, no rhetorical questions being asked, and no pressing decisions to be made (other than which flavor of Ben & Jerry's we choose to eat.) Sure, we eat Ben & Jerry's when he is around, and we may even share it...but we indulge with a glutinous glee when he's not.
Because I not only love my husband, but also really like him, I don't wish he were somewhere else. But when he does go on a business trip, there is a freedom from conscious thought and action that leads to a state of languor.
Not every woman adopts this attitude in her husband's absence. Some look at it as a time to catch up on things, using their excess time and energy for achievement, rather than powering down into indolence and indulgence. But I know from talking to many other women that I'm far from alone.
To further test out my theory, I conducted a survey (of sorts). One of my books was included in a ten-novel romantic anthology. We authors hosted a Facebook party, with each of us asking questions and awarding prizes for clever answers. I asked, "What yummy foods do you indulge in when your significant other is out of town?" Thirty-five women responded, and all of them described a calorie-laden indulgence, except one, who cited baked salmon. Her husband (I deduced) must not like the taste and smell of fish; but with him gone, she didn't have to consider that.
Look, if given a preference of being single--either through divorce or widowhood--ninety-nine percent of us would say no thanks. We love our husbands, but sometimes it can be draining to have someone around who, without even knowing it, usurps so much of our time, energy, and even patience.
I recall an occasion when several of us were having fun describing our indulgences when devoid of our husbands' company, and the pleasure of having time to ourselves. A younger, insightful woman added, "That's how I feel when my kids are at camp. I love them, but it's just nice to be free of their demanding energy."
I'm not going to draw any parallels between the energy-draining behavior of men and children, but...okay, I'm going to draw parallels. They're hungry, they want to eat. They're bored, they want you to entertain them. They have a thought, they want you to listen to it. They have a grievance, they want to air it to you.
Is it any wonder that we want to shed the responsibility of meeting needs and being sounding boards when given the opportunity?
And here's the benefit for the man: When he comes home, we're refreshed, more energetic, more contented, and ultimately, quite glad to see him.
We may be part of a couple, but we're always, first and foremost, ourselves. And sometimes, we just don't feel like sharing so much of ourselves--or our Ben & Jerry's.