We sat fireside amongst friends, laughing and enjoying the evening after a longer-than-normal work week.
He asked me then, my husband of 12 years, what I wanted to do the next day, on our Sunday. I grew quiet instead of responding. My eyes were drawn to the flickering flame as dancing golds and reds illuminated my heart; in that moment, I knew the answer.
“My soul is tired,” I said.
He nodded with understanding, a non-verbal acknowledgment to say he would be there when I got back, but that he also knew I needed to go. He let go of planning a Sunday with me, for he knew I was already moving in the direction of my other lover, as I had begun to do over the past few months from time to time, with little advanced notice.
Some call it self-care, or drawing inward, or spending alone time, or any number of phrases that describe the way in which I’ve been cheating on my husband. There are two couples in our marriage, you see: he and I, and myself and I.
Like many successful and loving marriages, ours is built on interdependence. When we’re together, we’re easy; we spend side by side time talking or being quiet. Both are satisfying. We share children, a home, incomes, and goals. We are, above all else, the best of friends.
But sometimes that isn’t enough, at least not for me. And that doesn’t diminish the beautiful marriage we have or the entirely wonderful person he is. Rather, it speaks to the fact I am a multi-faceted creature who can never, and will never, be completely satisfied by one person. He’s growing to understand that and accept it.
Several months ago, in the search for a whole, meaningful, deliberate, full life, I discovered I needed more. He completes me, and yet, I was incomplete. This paradox sent me searching for answers in the form of questions I threw out to the universe on breaths of curiosity and exasperation.
How could I love someone so much and so fully, the way I love him, and not feel whole?
A quote was placed strategically in my path (there are no coincidences in life, only divine intervention, I believe), and it spoke to the heart of my dissatisfaction.
In essence, the quote asked, “Were you to be asked the names of the most important people in your life, those you love beyond everyone else, how long would it take for you to name yourself?”
I hadn’t named myself. I rarely ever did.
And I realized then the beauty of interdependence. I am not a full partner to him when I am a partial partner to myself.
I started dating myself that day, speaking to myself as I would someone I love, listening to myself intently the way I listen to him, or my children, or my friends and family. I became my new hobby, my own attentive lover, the complimentary partner that only I can be to myself.
In the morning, the day after our bonfire with friends, I awoke by his side as normal. I didn’t reach over to embrace him or ask how his night had been as usual, for this was a day for cheating on him. Instead, I rolled over to face away from him and asked myself, “How was your night? What do you need today? How are you feeling?”
The answer to those questions led me to brew myself a cup of coffee, curl up with Thoreau’s Walden, and read prose to myself, snuggled up in the comfort of my own arms. It was satisfying and happy.
This is how most mornings begin when I’m on a date with myself—slowly, tenderly, without rushing or feeling beholden to the confines of conversation with others. After a morning like this, I talk quietly with myself and ask myself what my soul needs that day. Perhaps I’ll take myself to the museum and meander through the works of art of other mindful, creative beings, some contemporary and some long departed from this life. Maybe it’s a walk through the park next, taking time to check in with myself often and listen intently as I unwind my thoughts and discover the roots of things which are bothering me or holding me back or exciting me. All of it is open for discussion, all of it is silent conversation within my own heart, all of it I listen to intently and respond to with words of comfort and encouragement.
When I’m on a date with myself, I spare no expense, though not every excursion costs something. Sometimes it’s as simple as a hot bubble bath or a longer-than-usual lunch break to nibble on a Buddha bowl in the sunshine. I’m learning what I like, and what myself and I enjoy doing together. We are still new lovers, myself and I, but we are learning the way of each other steadily, taking our time to explore what makes us happy.
During my dates with myself, I don’t think about my husband, or my kids, or my career, or my art, or anything outside of myself. It’s rude, I think, to not be fully present with the lover you are spending time with.
When I cheat on my husband with myself, I return to his side a better partner to him—relaxed, content, the treasure chest of my heart replenished, ready and refueled to be the best wife, lover, and friend I can be to him. Some months I cheat less, some months more, but always I return to him stronger and more loving than I left him.
It is easy to forget ourselves in the hustle and bustle of life, in the pursuit of being the best we can be in all the roles of our life. When we date ourselves at the expense of leaving all others behind for a time, we return to our life within a community, a family, a workplace, a group of friends, richer than we left these circles. The essence of a mindful life is living deliberately and consciously, and how else can we live this way without self-care and self-love? Focusing inwardly, regularly and honestly, is a necessary and delightful experience in our pursuit to nurture every other role of our lives.
I will always cheat on my husband with myself regularly, and be more loveable to him and more loveable to myself when I return to his side.
Author: Monica LaSarre
Apprentice Editor: Pavita Singh; Editor: Emily Bartran
Image: Hieu Le/Unsplash