The Mind of the Married Man

Photo: Joshua Wildman

What were your hopes and fears before you got married?

P: I still don’t feel like I’m married. I still feel like I’m dating my wife, which is wonderful. I knew that I would marry her the moment that I met her. I realize that must sound incredibly trite, but it wasn’t “Oh, my God, I’ve had a premonition of a white wedding,” but as I was driving away from our first date, I remember thinking I could see myself, eight or ten years from now, hanging out with that girl. With the other girls I’d dated, after about a year I was always worried that the girl would be thinking of getting engaged, but with her there was no fear. I never had any worries about, “Oh, this is the only person that I’m going to sleep with.” This despite the fact that we have an 11-month-old daughter. I know this all sounds pie in the sky! I’m not going to say she doesn’t nag me—I mean, she nagged me when we were dating.

B: She was practicing.

CJC: I feel similarly, but I technically am still dating. We’re emotionally monogamous, but I still have a variety of dates and all that stuff—

B: You both sleep with other people?

CJC: We both sleep with other girls.

B: Jesus Christ.

CJC: But I never had a preconceived notion of what married life would be because I grew up in an extremely unconventional way. I did try two monogamous relationships in my twenties, but even then I knew that if I was ever going to be with a girl long-term, I was going to stray. Lucky for me I met a girl who was amazing enough, strong enough, and secure enough in my love for her and her love for me that she could tolerate that sort of caddish behavior.

K: I had a long chat with my first ex-wife yesterday. We were saying that prior to getting married, no one takes you aside and tells you anything. Your friends and family don’t warn you about anything. You’re on your own. I was with my first wife for nine years, and she’s an awesome girl and I think we had a lot that was ideal, but then monogamy started to become extremely hard for me. I’m not one to run around on the sly, or at least I wasn’t, but once we had the talk about it, things went downhill. There are so many things that you don’t know at the outset. One for me was that when you say “forever,” that means, like, you’ll never fuck another woman again. Now, I know that seems obvious, but that really is intense. That’s been the biggest difficulty for me. My second marriage was open, perhaps too open. Other problems come in when you try it that way. But listen, I’m twice married, twice divorced. I am for marriage; I want to be married. But for me, it’s hard on a sexual level to stay intense with one person. Monogamy is a challenge for a lot of men, even if they’re not talking about it. We love strange.

B: I had to make a quick decision because my wife is European and her visa was about to expire and we didn’t have the luxury of kicking it around and figuring it out. It was get married or break up. The obvious choice for me was to propose.

P: Where’s she from?

B: Poland. But I met her at an Irish bar in Paris and stole her away from an Iranian. It was very international. But this was just one of those things where the bureaucracy demanded that we make a decision, and I’m actually really grateful, because knowing myself, if it didn’t, I’d still be single, and she may have moved on and gotten sick of me.

M: My thing was sort of circumstantial, too. My boyfriend didn’t have a place to live, we’d been dating for three years, and I was like, “It’s been too long, just move in already. It’s stupid for you not to.” I was sort of nervous; I didn’t expect any specific thing to happen or whatever, but there was definitely this ominous feeling like, Moving in—this is it for me. Then we had a small ceremony with friends earlier this year, nothing big or fancy or legal, obviously. A small commitment. We’d both prepared some speeches, that was about it. The general consensus was that it kinda sucks that we couldn’t do anything official. The ceremony sort of confirmed within me, Yeah, this is what this is. I didn’t really fully appreciate everything until I was married for a good chunk of time, but now I’m more jazzed than I was before.

Photo: Joshua Wildman

JC: I didn’t really think about marriage—in fact, at the two-month mark with the woman I married, I tried to break it off. I’d just gotten used to that 60-day expiration thing, and I felt like, this is it, time to move on. I tried to pull that on her when we were on a trip to London, and, well, she wasn’t having that. She was pissed, she got back to New York on the next flight, leaving me in London to think about it. I definitely had fears, and they were all based around monogamy and could I pull it off? Before then, the longest I’d been monogamous was just a few months. And nine years later, so far, so good.

How many of you are not the main breadwinner?

P: I’m not. My wife has a great job. She earns three times what I do.

Do you find that emasculating?

P: Are you kidding me? I’m a musician and a composer, and when I met my wife she was getting divorced from her first husband, who was an artist. Not a very good one, I don’t mind telling you, immature, limp dick, couldn’t give her a baby. But be that as it may, my future wife said that she had no problem being married to an artist who made less money than she did, and I was like [strokes chin], “Really?”

CJC: Sugar mama.

P: Precisely! So maybe I’m not wired that way, but when I hear about this machismo type of neurosis like, “Oh, who am I, my wife earns more than I do,” well, I think that setup is fantastic. Let’s not kid ourselves—they are every bit if not more smart, accomplished, and capable than we are, and it’s such an outdated mode of thinking. In fact, if she didn’t make triple as much as I make, frankly, we’d be fucked.

Breadwinners: Do you thrive in that role?

JC: I fantasize about quitting my job every day and having my wife go back to work. In fact, it’s been a big topic in our house over the past two weeks. I would love to stay home with the kids. I suppose the grass is always greener, and it’s not as fun as it is in my mind. My wife gets a little nuts staying home with them, taking them to school, preschool, gymnastics—but I have to say that the days I work from home are far more interesting to me than any work I’m doing.

B: My wife likes making a home and then having me come back to it. She’s a natural mother, and she’s very good at it. I just had my second child three weeks ago. I think that people underestimate just how much hard work raising kids is. That kind of job should pay three-hundred grand a year. I couldn’t do it.

DW: Being the stay-at-home parent seems so crazy tedious to me. I was on the subway the other day, and there were these three mothers from Park Slope.

P: Careful what you say: Park Slope is in the house.

DW: Listening to these women was driving me absolutely insane. The only way that I could get through the ride was to visualize them as chickens. This motherly cluck.

B: I know the type—they’re even more annoying over e-mail. They use too many exclamation points and send you twenty pictures of their kids with an apple.

DW: The monotony of that dialogue that goes on between mothers—my God.

B: My wife was telling me yesterday about this German woman she knows whose kid bit this other kid, and so the German woman apologizes to the other mother out of courtesy, and the American mother said that “I think your son is troubled and needs therapy and you’re doing something wrong and you’re not a good parent.” It was just this crazy psychotic American parenting thing that I really hate.

CJC: Maybe the kid was an anti-Semite.

B: Maybe! Both of them are 2 years old, by the way. One time, another kid bit mine, and the mother e-mailed me apologizing. I told her that it’s okay and that I’d never again send my son to school covered in savory spices. It’s easy to get caught up in the mommy stuff and go nuts.

Did your relationship, including your sex life, change a lot once you were married?

JC: I don’t think marriage changes it to anything like the extent that children do. I mean, you’re worn out, and you’re more guarded because you don’t want the kids to hear or see anything. But marriage—not so much.

Photo: Joshua Wildman

M: It’s pretty much the same. The only difference that living together brought about was convenience.

P: I’ve been in long relationships where for the last six months you feel like you’re married and the sex is boring. Familiarity breeds contempt—but not with my wife now, of course.

Do you still get and receive oral?

P: Yeah. Don’t believe stand-up comedians. That doesn’t stop with the cutting of the cake.

B: I think a lot of that has to do with the sort of sex lives people had going into it. Like my friend who doesn’t want to have sex with his wife much and she’s not that interested, and I can totally understand because I wouldn’t want to sleep with them either.

K: I have to say, having been married twice before, it can be good but something does get lost, a certain amount of heat. You find yourselves running through some similar routines and you want a new flavor and I don’t mean you, I suppose, I mean, well, me. In both marriages, we had sex that was good to the end, but I found myself wanting more. Nothing wrong with her or me—

B: A little something wrong with you, maybe.

K: Perhaps.

How has your sex life altered over the course of your marriage?

B: Both times my wife was pregnant, it sort of stopped completely. There was no desire from either of us. I was perfectly fine with not going there.

P: I was the other way completely. I thought my wife when she was pregnant was so fucking sexy. She was lucky enough to retain her shape, her butt was still there, her boobs were huge. I mean, the belly was odd but it was all very sexy to me. Her hormones were going up and down, so maybe she didn’t want to as much, but when she did, I was like, “Fuck yeah!”

JC: Pregnancy? Not a problem, but the kids themselves definitely slowed us down. Just because, man, they really wear you out. There are literally times where we wake up in the middle of the night and we’re having sex and no one has any idea who initiated it. It’s like zombie sex.

B: I’m never crashing at your house.

JC: The only time that it ever really slowed down was right after I got my vasectomy; I was not in the mood for, like, three or four months.

K: What?!

“There were times in my marriages when I just didn’t realize how badly things were going.”

JC: Well, there were complications. It was really uncomfortable. Other than that, it’s been really great.

P: As far as the child aspect is concerned, her crib is right next to our bed, and we have sex maybe twice a week, which is probably average for a married couple. And she’s right there.

So when do you decide to stop having sex in front of your poor daughter?

P: Well, we were just talking about that last week. Because it was the middle of the night last week and she couldn’t sleep, and she woke me up and was like, “Lemme get on top,” and I said, “Sure, no problem”—

B: You can be quite agreeable.

P: —and the baby wakes up and is watching us and my wife stopped and I just said, “Hey, we’re making love, it’s not like we’re hitting each other.” So let me ask you, man, when do you stop having sex in front of them?

CJC: I think you stop just as soon as they’re able to tell people. You don’t want them reporting on you.

JC: I don’t think that sex has changed from having children, but I definitely don’t masturbate as much. Sex with mommy is one thing, but I am terrified of them walking in on that.

DW: Well, you don’t have to masturbate in their room.

Does having a baby alter the way sex feels?

B: Yes.

JC: My wife had two C-sections, so, no.

B: Let me just say that I meant immediately after, but it gets better.

P: Sex after our kid was born, I’m not kidding, she was tighter than before. I think that doc gave me a couple of extra stitches for the hell of it.

DW: Maybe your dick got bigger. [Laughs]

Has being married altered the way you relate to your exes?

CJC: I’m still friendly with all my exes.

B: But you’re still fucking all your exes!

CJC: Not all of them.

DW: I think that getting married, it’s a stake in the ground. Part of that commitment is that you’ve closed off a certain path to the people in your past.

Photo: Joshua Wildman

K: I’m friends with all my ex-girlfriends and wives. In fact, they all say that I’m great for them after they leave me.

M: It showed me how not right any of them were for me by comparison. I’ve realized what a good thing truly is, and I can look back on the other people I dated and realize, “Wow, I was being such an idiot.”

How did you relate to your first wife when you were with your second?

K: Actually, my first wife visited us when we first started dating and she stayed at our apartment and we went to dinner and all hung out together.

What’s your impression of your friends’ marriages?

B: There are some I envy, some I see on the divorce track. My wife has friends who recently got married, and within six months, the wife caught the husband kissing some girl in their house. She was a friend of theirs who was staying over and he ended up making out with this girl in the guest bedroom. And I guess I just wonder what people who do that kind of thing are thinking. I mean, my wife could trust me to have a girl stay at our house without having to worry about me tiptoeing into the other room to try and poke her.

CJC: Most of my friends are single or serial monogamists. And I’ll see friends go from fucking around to dating to serious to broken up to fucking around to dating, but me and my wife are always together, always solid. We’re perennial. You think of people in open relationships being sporadic, and people think, That’s not gonna last long. But we’ve been together the longest and we are the most stable.

“Having those fantasies out in the open is like a pressure valve.”

K: I see troubles. Everyone’s in trouble. Deep, deep trouble. But I’ve learned that you just can’t see what’s going on inside any relationship. Couples have a public side—the things they say—and a private side, which is what’s really going on. I guess I look over to the other side of the fence to people who are satisfied with one person, and, boy, it really looks so cozy over there, so wonderful and warm and I wish I could have that. And they are looking over at me and thinking, Damn, he’s having so much fun, like there’s a finite amount of sexual fun to be had in this world and I’m hogging it all. So I rub it in their faces when at all possible, but really I’m just upset that I can’t seem to carry on a lot of the traditional stuff.

K: There were times in my marriages when I just didn’t realize quite how badly things were going. You’re like this lab rat running around, and you don’t even know what’s going on.

Are you tempted by other women?

B: The blackmail question.

P: You know what helps me is—well, look, first off, it’s every day. It’s not a question of “Are you?” it’s “How many times?’”

JC: Especially in this city.

P: There are just so many beautiful people. But what helps me is that my wife and I are really realistic with each other. I mean, I’ve dated girls who didn’t even want to hear, “Wow, man, Beyoncé’s really beautiful, huh?” But my wife and I actually talk about people that we fantasize about when we’re having sex. I know she’s not a robot and she knows I’m not and she’s just really cool. Oh, Jesus, listen to me: My wife’s really cool. But really, when I have trouble coming, I think about a past girlfriend, and she told me that she thinks about her first boyfriend. And what, am I supposed to get jealous about something that happened twenty years ago? Having those fantasies out in the open is like a pressure valve.

JC: I think that we have similar marriages. She knows that I think about other women from time to time.

B: Well, I’ll tell ya, I was going to a wedding up in Boston, and I was on the train and this very attractive woman came and sat down next to me. She was Asian [oohs and ahhhs all around], which I love.

But fantasies aside, in real life, married guys bump up against people they find sexually alluring. That’s what I’m talking about.

P: Then it makes sense that you married a Pole. [Laughs]

B: She was from Singapore, she was just here for a few days for some jewelry conference, she was going to be in Boston overnight, she knew absolutely no one in town, and she started asking me if I knew where the fun was.

DW: Wait, this is a Red Shoe Diary. I’ve seen this one. [Laughs]

B: She’s getting all close and asking me about what to do, and I was thinking, You have to be fucking kidding me. My family owns pubs there and I gave her some spots to go to, and she asked for my phone number. And I went to the wedding, and I got back home and saw that she had called me at 1:30 in the morning. I just thought to myself, This is bad, I’m not calling this girl back. This was nothing I would jeopardize my marriage over, but if I wanted to do something, it couldn’t have been more beautifully set up. But I stepped back and was like: family, kid. I was actually very proud of myself.

JC: Sometimes I kick myself because I’m like, what’s the harm in flirting? My wife’s fine with that, and she knows I’d never do anything about it. But I’ve suppressed flirtation with women so much that I actually think that I’ve forgotten how to do it.

JC: You guys saw that Curb Your Enthusiasm episode where Cheryl David says to Larry that for their tenth anniversary he could have sex with anyone he wanted. Well, I was watching that with my wife, and she turned to me and said, “Wouldn’t you like something like that?” And I just stopped myself and thought, This is probably a test. So I told her that I don’t think I would. I told her that not only because I think it’s the right answer but also because I don’t think I could pull it off. I think I’d be better at it than Larry David, but …

Are there times when you’re jealous of your wife?

P: No. Well, okay, check this out. About three months before we got married, my wife was working for this company and she had a huge project working with this whole team of people, ten hours a day for a year, and at the end there was a big party. And there was this one programmer, this Romanian guy, he leaned over and planted one right on her lips. She said she backed away, but y’know, maybe she didn’t, but anyway, she says, “Hey, I’m engaged,” and points to her ring, and he points to his and says, “That’s okay, I’m married.” I met the guy a month later—

CJC: You could have creamed him, right?

P: Sure, he was some fucking douche, but we start having this conversation, and I go, “So are you married, too?” and this is what he did, literally, he puts on this world-weary face and goes [holds up hand and points to ring with contempt]. As if to say, “What do you think, man, come on. Look at my hand.” Like he wasn’t too happy about it. But that was the last time it happened. If someone was really coveting my wife, I’d get angry at him, not so much jealous but like, “I’m gonna kill this guy.” But I think she’s sexy, other people are going to think she’s sexy, and a few of those people are going to make those feelings known to her, and, well, so long as it’s just that, you have to take it as a compliment.

Despite being in an open relationship, you’d get jealous of another guy’s being around your wife, right?

CJC: Yeah, I mean, any open relationship, so much of that is all about managing jealousy, understanding where the jealousy kicks in and where it doesn’t, what’s cool and what isn’t. I put my wife naked on the Internet all the time, and I have no jealousy in that regard whatsoever. On the other hand, if a real-life dude tried something with her, it’d be throwdown time. But the steam valve for that is the celebrity five. She can have sex with anyone on a list of five celebrities if she gets a chance to. Well, I was taking a picture of one of these five dudes on her list for a magazine, and to prove I’d put my money where my mouth is, I brought her along as my assistant. But she sort of blew the opportunity in spite of my efforts. We always think of it like this: A monogamous relationship is very rigid and it can break, whereas an open relationship is more flexible and can bend. So with that bending, we’re able to weather some storms that other relationships might break in.

“If we weren’t romantically involved, we probably wouldn’t even be friends.”

M: I know a lot of people who are in open relationships, to varying degrees. I know a couple that finds guys for three-ways—that’s sort of what they do for fun, but otherwise they’re monogamous. The other extreme is the “don’t ask, don’t tell” version. It’s understood it’s going on, but not necessarily spoken about with any specificity. I don’t think it would work for me, but God bless people it does work for. It would just get too complicated and weird for me. I’m a simple guy—relationships are complicated enough without throwing one or more other people into it.

How many of you have looked to your own parents’ marriages to compare with your own?

B: Well, my mother died, but if she hadn’t, they’d still be together. My wife’s parents are divorced, and it’s entirely because this one time he cheated. And my mother-in-law was like, that’s it, and my wife I know for a fact would be exactly the same way.

M: My parents hate each other. I mean, actually hate each other. They live together still, but they sleep in separate rooms. There are a lot of excuses for that: My dad snores, my mom’s bad back. But they’ll never get divorced.

P: I think that it’d be impossible for your parents’ marriage to not inform your own. I mean, in most cases, it’s the first marriage you’re exposed to, so it must be ingrained. But I also think that if you grew up with a bad example of marriage and you have your head screwed on straight, that can be of equal value in forging a healthy one of your own.

JC: I am slowly but surely becoming my father. It’s just bizarre, the similarities. And my mother actually left my father about four years ago, and I’ve seen the progression and I’m very aware of that. I’m making tweaks to ensure that I accentuate the best aspects of him.

CJC: For us, there is no prototype to model our relationship off of. Every day, we are figuring shit out. We feel like nobody’s ever done what we’re doing.

JC: Hugh Hefner.

Do you wish you’d married earlier or later?

DW: I could have been married sooner. I was totally kicking around not doing anything very special for two years before I met my wife. I would have liked to have those two years spent with her.

K: My advice as a twice-divorced man is never to get married in your twenties. If you can hold it till 30, you’ll be in way better shape. Your twenties are for fucking a lot of women.

Marriage: Can you sell it to me?

K: Great for the comforts. It brings bonding with another person. It should also be feared as a scary institution. It can really, really suck. It’s not a joke. It’s not something that kids should get into lightly. God, I feel like I’m talking about crack. It’s serious business.

DW: I would never try to sell anyone on marriage.

JC: I think what I found is a lifelong best friend who I happen to think is hot. It’s as simple as that.

P: I love my wife, but I never want to think of her as being my best friend. My wife and I don’t have a lot in common. We just don’t. But we get along incredibly well because for some reason, the way we are wired, we don’t get on each other’s nerves.

M: I never thought about whether we are friends or lovers. I just think we get on great and we have really great sex with each other. We’re also totally different from each other. If we weren’t romantically involved, we probably wouldn’t even be friends, but we totally get along really well.

P: Two steps forward, two steps back, we come together, because opposites attract. Abdul—

CJC: And M.C. Scat Cat.

Are you glad you got married?

K: I did it twice, it didn’t work out twice, but I love my ex-wives and I would marry them again if I did it over. No regrets. I believe in it.

DW: I got lucky.

B: It is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Come on, one sour grape, just one!

P: Well, I have to go back to my first point, which is that I really don’t feel that I am married. It feels so natural that it’s not a question of, was it a good decision or a bad decision? This is a little gooey all around—I don’t want to sound cynical, but maybe check back in fifteen years.

JC: I got together with a bunch of college buddies about two years ago, and a lot of them are just very dissatisfied with their marital arrangements. More than one of them said that their sex life has spiraled into mutual masturbation and that the two of them go off and do their own thing. So as luck would have it, I think you’ve assembled seven guys who are all pretty happy with their lot. And an inordinate amount of balding guys, too, I might add. [Laughs]

P: Maybe there’s a connection.

P: Married with an 11-month-old.
CJC: In an open marriage.
DW: Married, no kids.
K: Twice divorced.
JC: Married with a 3-year-old and a 5-year-old.
M: Married to another man.
B: Married with a 2-year-old and a newborn.

The Mind of the Married Man