Our next date came within a week and we decided to go for sushi, which is Steph’s favourite food. I like it as well, but I am not quite as adventurous as Steph is with the sashimi. However, we are pretty compatible in terms of our tastes in food, which makes eating out a very enjoyable experience for both of us.
After work, I drove east across town to the office where she worked as a coordinator, scheduling patient visits for home health care, and waited outside in my car. After a few minutes, she came sauntering out, with a big smile on her face and her long, brown curls flowing in the light spring breeze. She got in and directed me to drive downtown to the same restaurant where we had our first date, which had become somewhat of a favourite for us, Sushi Time on Queen Street.
We arrived a short while later, sat down at our table and were served our green tea almost immediately. We already knew what we wanted, so we ordered right away. I then broke the ice to continue our conversation from the previous date. “So you said that you had other concerns that we had not discussed last time, right?”. Steph smiled with relief at the fact that I brought it up before she had to.
“Yes,” she said, “I really, really like you Chris and I want to date you as more than just friends, but I’m really worried about getting hurt. You have only been out of your marriage for a few months and then there is this whole business of you having been unfaithful in your marriage. I appreciate you being honest and upfront about it with me, but how do I know you won’t do it again?”
I had been expecting this question for a long time. Indeed, I had spent the last several years, even while I was married thinking about how to reassure my ex. So I was fully ready for it now. “I completely understand your concern Steph. The truth is you will never really know. I can explain to you why I went down that path. I can explain to you why I know it was wrong and the work that I did to fully internalize that life lesson. But in the end, you have to listen and decide whether or not you believe that I learned from what I did.” I said.
Steph looked impressed with my answer, but then her expression got serious again. “So why did you cheat?” Steph asked.
Again, I knew this was a question I would have to answer eventually, so I had an answer that I had thought very carefully about:
“A lot of reasons, none of them good. For starters, my sexuality was seriously fucked up from a very young age. I lost my virginity at 14 to a prostitute in Hong Kong. Sex for me became an instant stress release rather than an intimate experience that I shared with another person. For me sex was a largely disconnected, solo activity that I did by myself with someone. My first wife, Lea was one of the few exceptions to this. I had tried to form this same connection with Kay, but our problems very early in our relationship prevented this from happening. In choosing to be with Kay, I alienated my entire family to the point that by the time we lived in New Brunswick, I was completely cut off from all of them. So I had no support network. Then Kay lost her job and got depressed. For almost six years, all of the responsibility of supporting the family fell to me alone. I was lonely, scared and stressed all the time, and I hated my chosen career. So eventually after about three or four months of this, Kay and I had a huge fight in the middle of the night and she went off to Victoria to see her friend. I really thought she was breaking up with me and so the night she was gone, I got drunk and later went out to an escort service. I had this defiant “I’ll show her” attitude when I did it in my drunken state. Then she got back from Victoria bearing flowers and my heart sank. I just couldn’t bring myself to tell her what I did, especially when I knew for a fact how she would react. It was extremely selfish and wrong of me to keep it from her. Because I got away with it and the problems continued, my journey down the rabbit hole began.” I explained.
Steph didn’t seem entirely satisfied with my answer. “Well that explains the first time, but you said you went on to cheat another nine or ten times over the next six years. How do you explain that if you knew it was wrong after the first time?” Steph asked.
I wasn’t ready this time. I paused for what felt like several minutes and then finally spoke.
“You have to remember that six years is a long time. It is long enough for there to have been months, and sometimes almost a full year between the incidences. I tried very hard to stop doing it, and when we lived in New Brunswick, I was completely successful. The problem with the city is that there were just too many outlets close at hand and too much opportunity to cheat. Mind you, these weren’t premeditated, long-term affairs, but were usually spur-of-the-moment stops at massage parlours. I know I won’t do it again for several reasons. For one, I spent almost three years in a 12-step program and I worked all the steps including making amends to those I harmed over the course of my life. You don’t go through a program like that, and complete all the steps without coming to some real, life-changing realizations about yourself. You develop better living habits. When I was cheating, I really believed that what Kay didn’t know couldn’t hurt her. But by the time I was done with Program, I could see that I was hurting her, myself, my son, the prostitutes, and a lot of other people. Once I saw this clearly I just made a decision that while this is who I was, it didn’t have to be me going forward and that I just wouldn't do that anymore. It has been over 7 years now, so I’m pretty confident that I won’t even be tempted ever again. “I said.
Steph looked at me for a minute and finally she spoke. “Ok, you sound pretty sure. But what about your relationship and your readiness to date again? Are you sure you are ready?”
This was another question that I knew was coming eventually, and I had also thought about it quite a bit:
“Again, that is a very understandable and reasonable question Steph. Although my marriage ended only a few months ago, there were many points in the last few years where I knew it might not be working, and I was forced to think about what I would do if it didn’t. One of those moments was back in May 2012, when Kay got physically violent with me while we were on holiday in Mexico. It wasn’t the first time that she hit me. She did this”. I held up my left hand and showed her the two-inch gash that runs across the width of my left palm. I continued:
“After a number of years of marriage and my work in Program, I came to realize that marital fidelity – honouring those vows, has many facets. Sexual fidelity, while very important is only one of those facets. I failed to be faithful, but I tried very hard to make amends to Kay and I kept all my other promises as well as being faithful once I had started Program. A much more important aspect of marital fidelity to me is honouring and loving your spouse. If you are constantly criticizing or belittling your spouse and comparing them to others, you are breaking that vow. You can’t love and honour what you don’t understand – at least not easily. Thus, in my view we had a duty to one another to understand each other’s limitations; to accept them and work with them. It was Kay who pointed out the fact that I have Aspergers. She had read it in a newspaper article. She had lots of opportunity to educate herself about it: I bought many books home about neurotypical-AS marriages, but she refused to read every last one. On the other hand, I read many books about depression, which she hated by the way, because she thought I was doing it to invalidate what she was telling me about it. Kay did not understand my limitations from being on the autistic spectrum and because of that she broke every single vow she made except for the one about sexual fidelity, and she did so for most of our marriage. I was hopeful that she might approach me in these past few months with some contrition in her heart, but she has been utterly unrepentant. So I know it is over.” I looked at Steph very intently. I felt like a tennis pro at Wimbledon after delivering a serve, just waiting for the person on the other side of the net to hit it back over.
Steph smiled. “Ok, well you have definitely given this a lot more than just a few months thought. But if at any point, you start to feel like you aren’t ready, all I ask is that you please don’t be a dick about it.”
“I won’t. I said.
We enjoyed another plate of chicken Karaage, and after we were done I signaled the waitress for the bill, which I paid promptly when it came. I drove Steph to her place, dropped her off with a kiss goodnight and headed up to my place in the northern part of the city. I would normally have felt very apprehensive, but this time I felt completely sure that Steph and I understood one another and this was the beginning of a fantastic relationship. Little did I know that three and a half years after this, we would be getting married.