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Love as Luxury

Is love a luxury?

Last summer a man I liked “poof” disappeared, leaving me grumpy and sad, so I responded to a married man who wanted company at the theatre. He said he and his wife had drifted way, way apart, and they had renegotiated their marriage contract, meaning she had said she wouldn’t ask any questions. A little theatre, a little fun, no threat to his marriage, at least not from me — I could handle that. So we met. He was a 70-year-old, hard-driving doctor and businessman, former military man, ballet lover, and athlete. We got acquainted during a walk in the park, then had lunch, and over dessert he firmly placed his coffee cup on the café table and announced, “You’re the one.I’m not looking any further,” and swept me off my feet.

We had an idyllic five weeks together, then his wife found out. What she had accepted in theory was unacceptable in fact, and she turned on him viciously. As he told me about it, tears streamed down his cheeks. He wasn’t crying or sobbing, but the tears flowed anyway.

“Why are you crying?”

“Because it’s so difficult to do the right thing.”

His arms were shaking so badly that I wondered if I had overlooked the onset of Parkinson’s.

He took my face in his trembling hands. “Remember this. I love you.”

The next morning he called and said he couldn’t see me any more. Divorce (his third) would be a personal failure, and would lead to penury, or what seemed like penury to him. His “I’m sorry” was a pathetic counterbalance to an abrupt and stunning blow. It was like death. He disappeared before my eyes.

I couldn’t be angry with him. Anyone who goes out with a married man accepts this risk.

All caring was instantly dessicated because the foot firmly planted on his neck was his wife’s. Does marriage, even bad marriage, trump humanity? Compassion? Responsibility?If he wanted or needed to re-renegotiate his marriage contract to conform to his wife’s wishes, I could understand that; that might even be the right thing to do. But should marriage be used as a reason in itself to bludgeon others? Callous behavior which would ordinarily be unthinkable is tolerated, even supported, when one is married. Marriage becomes a form of cowardice and denial which looks weak to me.

He wrote me weeks later that I had been an “addictive (don’t I wish) luxury.” Affection, compassion, kindness, sex, appreciation, cooperation, respect, love –- things which were missing in his marriage — are luxuries? I am humble, because I lived in an abusive marriage for fourteen years, but never again could I live in a world where such things were a luxury.