I joined the Mile High Club once it became clear that the marriage I was two months into was simply an adventure, not a lifelong commitment.
The Southwest employees knew what we were up to. We were behind the flight crew on an escalator headed to baggage claim at the Denver airport as one flight attendant turned around and said “We know what you two did.” They all laughed. Had I not been three champagnes deep, I would have been mortified.
Add to that: the captain’s chair of a Coast Guard vessel; the beach down the street from our Waikiki apartment; hiking trails around Oahu; crowded parking lots; and bodies of water from Maine to Lake Tahoe. For a while, I felt that each sexual feat was a kind of trophy.
Given the public nature of these sexcapades, we didn’t have much time to mess around. In fact, I think that became a problem: The quickie mentality began to spill over into our more traditional bedroom life. Was it out of habit that we didn’t spend time exploring each other intimately or were we racing against a clock that we knew would run out?
Soon, sex became something I did not look forward to. The lack of intimacy made me question whether our connection was strong enough. A thirst for “adventurous sex,” I learned, is similar to a wanderlust soul: You live for the next destination, and everything in between is just filling space between the next adventure.
During those lulls came meaningless arguments, the ones couples sometimes create in attempt to find a reason (or more accurately, the courage) to say “This is over.” Our daughter was conceived in one of those moments, during make-up sex in front of a fire in our Tahoe cabin, where my husband was stationed in the Coast Guard. This encounter was different from our usual rushed routine — it was meaningful and tender. This was the type of sex we should’ve had in the beginning of our relationship. There was no adrenaline rush for checking off one more cool spot, but a feeling of being on the same page emotionally.
However, that deeper connection didn’t last. Soon the love for our child was the only thing we had in common, and we split up.
After divorce, there was a period when I questioned everything about our relationship. Should I have pretended to be satisfied when I wasn’t? Was I undesirable when there wasn’t a mountaintop or football field involved? But most importantly: Why did I think a physical relationship was all I had to offer?
The questions lingered as I entered relationships after my marriage. My thoughts about sex and love were conflicted. The best sex I’d ever had was the night my daughter was conceived. There was a sacredness to it that I valued; yet I was no longer romantically involved with this person. While trying to make sense of this, I tended to gravitate toward men I knew I wouldn’t feel emotionally attached to.
I had gone from wanting love so badly that I’d have sex anywhere, to being afraid of love and uncomfortable with physical attention. In abstaining from romance over the past year, I was able to reconnect with myself before trying to connect with anyone else. Previously, I had depended on others for my own happiness.
I learned that a wild sex life does not, on its own, bind people together. Just as reciting marriage vows does not signify a lasting commitment if the relationship is forced, the real adventure of love begins with feeling fulfilled on one’s own, without needing anyone else.