LC: You describe how your best week at the alternative community OneTaste was when you were focused on the needs of others and not just your own. Do you think this drive away from marriage and monogamy is connected to increased individualism?
RR: Not really. In fact, the faster and more dizzying the world gets, the more I personally want to pair off and compromise and sacrifice in order to have a lasting and solid partnership. I don’t see us getting more selfish as a culture. But if you’re asking if my own personal drive away from monogamy in my early forties had anything to do with increased individualism, the answer is yes. I was on an individual quest during that time, though I felt I had earned it by spending my twenties and thirties compromising nonstop.
LC: I recall reading about the theory that those who have affairs aren’t really looking to change their partners and their relationships, but rather are looking to change themselves and find a different self. What are your thoughts on that?
RR: I think that was probably the case for me. The changes I wanted to instigate in my husband had nothing to do with improving him as a person and everything to do with how I wanted to feel around him, how I wanted to interact with him. In other words, they had to do with me. And new lovers are notoriously good at allowing us to enact newer, updated versions of ourselves — for a while at least.
LC: Speaking of your husband, he doesn’t get to tell his side of the story — although you are notably kind towards him. One interesting moment is when he admitted that in order to stay faithful to you, he had to suppress his “wildness.” What are your thoughts on the commonly-held belief that men are biologically driven to seek multiple partners and novelty above all? Especially when, in the book, that is what you look for, whereas your husband found another long-term relationship to fill the gap.
RR: Thank you for noting my kindness toward him. Seriously. It’s extremely tempting when writing a memoir to paint an ex as a villain, in order to convince the reader that you aren’t really an awful person for fighting with him, cheating on him, leaving him. I so tried to avoid that. I’d rather the reader have a problem with me, since I’m the one who decided to write a book.
And yes, it’s interesting that I went looking for variety while my husband, given free reign, chose to get himself one long-term girlfriend. I think that attests to the way growth happens when you head in a new direction. My husband was noncommittal in his young adulthood, and with age he found the value of “taming himself” into monogamy. Whereas I was always monogamous, so my direction of growth involved non-monogamy. And like I said above, I have an inkling that women are just as interested in novelty as are men, at least at certain points in their lives when it’s practical.
LC: Were you concerned about opening yourself up to the judgment of other people? Do you have any strategies in place to tackle this?
Oh yes. It keeps me up at night: What will my family think? What will my partner think? What will the readers think? What will the book critics think? This material — the story of a married woman seeking out lovers, having her cake and eating it too, channeling her maternal energy into the bedroom — is bound to elicit a reaction. My strategy, if you can call it that, is to simply remember that people’s reactions, and how they communicate them, say as much about them as they do about me. And to remember that I wrote this not to annoy or upset anyone but to describe a deep, often mysterious, experience I lived through that I suspect others will recognize. If others don’t recognize the feelings and dilemmas I’ve described, then it has zero value as a book. That’s my real fear, not of being judged but of failing to connect with readers. Judgment is the price writers have to pay if they want to publish anything — not just memoirists but novelists as well. I’ll pay it.