I Told My Lover to Sleep With His Ex

Creative Nonfiction by Mary Maresca

I Told My Lover to Sleep With His Ex

Our first in-the-flesh meeting literally blew that chemistry test to smithereens.

Parading online dating sites since my husband's separation was a fascinating hobby of hope, which I entertained sporadically. This cyberspace, relationship, and reality series rarely seemed to meet my expectations. Having endured my fair share of disappointments, I was seeking a hibernation of sorts. I believed that by releasing my desperate energy, that grip on the male population, the "great" men would be released to me. Before debarking, I hesitated briefly for a five-minute miracle reprieve. Literally, one minute before closing my profile, fate intervened, and my random search led to Mark. Mark's spirit tapped into my heart, my mind, and my soul, and we hadn't even met.

I was drawn to his passionate spirit. His creative flair expressed eloquently his desire to meet a like-minded woman for a connection of a lifetime. His needs met my wants in every category that mattered. I quickly winked and reached out to Mark with a message. If interested, email me because I am abandoning this "ship." Once I clicked "close account," I instinctively clicked on my email, and Mark reached back.

Back East, at the time of our first correspondence, Mark and I emailed every day for three months. Many acquaintances thought me quite insane when I felt that love bloomed for Mark so quickly. And I before we ever met. My bizarre explanation failed to rescue my reputation. When two people feel like they are loved in a past life, I told them who am I to challenge the universe. Despite lacking an in-person chemistry test, our exciting anticipation grew exponentially with each passionate correspondence and phone call. Our first in-the-flesh meeting literally blew that chemistry test to smithereens.

One of Mark's most admirable qualities is honesty. One afternoon he was projecting a somber demeanor, uncommon to him. A gentle prodding to release the cause of his distress released his secret. His ex-lover, Nancy, was dying of lung cancer. That day Nancy called to tell Mark that her cancer had metastasized, and her medical team handed her a maximum life sentence of six months to one year. Tears poured from this man as he fell into my arms. I felt his entire weight as if he instinctively knew I could bear it both physically and emotionally. At this moment, Mark shared with me for the first time his relationship with Nancy and her inevitable passing. His hesitancy to share with me was precipitated by the fear that I would never understand and perhaps even sever the beautiful relationship ours was evolving into. Holding Mark, I comforted him with words of sincere admiration for remaining Nancy's faithful friend when the alternative of running away would be the easy escape route.

Nancy and Mark dated for three years and were contemplating marriage. Fate had other plans. Christmas 2009 decided to bestow a tragic life-ending circumstance, not the life-beginning gift they had excitedly dreamt about. Mark's grandmother's ring to celebrate their engagement that Christmas failed to light up Nancy's finger. Emotionally overwhelmed, she declined Mark's proposal until she underwent treatment. Once test results indicated a cure or, at the very least, remission, she told Mark she would lovingly accept his marriage proposal. Attempts to convince her otherwise fell by the wayside.

That next year a joint effort fighting pain, despair, sadness, and sickness became their shared future. The demon of Nancy's declining health began to bury their hopes for her recovery as well as their dream. Nancy reached the threshold of bravery in resisting the truth. Once an enthusiastic, loving, positive, and energetic woman, Nancy now dreaded and shunned the dependent aspect of her and Mark's relationship. She felt even more pain and sadness during Mark's visits. She knew very well the emotional and physical toll her illness placed on the man she loved.

Nancy refused to have Mark visit her, babysit her. Nancy closed the door on Mark. Her last words encouraged him to move on, live his life, and find another woman to love. That was fifteen months before Mark and I met. Although Nancy's life extended beyond what the doctors declared, cancer trapped her in life minus Mark with sole dependence upon her family for her personal care. Nancy's adamant refusal to have any contact with Mark left an empty void in his life. Slowly he re-entered the dating world but more for social interaction than anything else. Before we actually met, Nancy, realizing her inevitable fate, once again opened the door to Mark. Mark remained a caring and comforting platonic friend to Nancy.

Nancy's last wish. Before I stepped into Mark's life, he promised Nancy a weekend getaway at the beach one last time. Nancy loved the ocean. Mark dodged this promise hoping Nancy would forget. He found it increasingly painful to maintain visits due to cancer's insidious capture that held his ex-lover prisoner. My lover explained it was this promise alone, which summoned Nancy's resolve to smile.

First, the avalanche. Mark asked if I minded if he granted Nancy her last wish. Then Silence as he patiently awaited my shock, "absolutely not" retort in response. Silence. Mark and I had only been together for fifteen months. Quite the pressure cooker of questions to bestow upon me. Agree, and I am condoning an intimate getaway with his ex! Disagree, and I seem like a cold-hearted and selfish wench denying Nancy her last earthly desire. Dare I interject at this pivotal moment my jealousy and insecurity. Should this be "that" time to unleash the fact that my ex-lover cheated on me with his ex? After only moments of quiet contemplation of my lover's unusual request, I blurted out, "Of course." Surprisingly, I gave my approval in gentle hugs. After all, Mark didn't have to tell me. His sharing validated his honesty and trust in me as a compassionate listener versus a judge eager to pass sentence.

Mark outlined the details of their getaway to me. He told Nancy about our relationship. Mark "informed" her that separate bedrooms would be their accommodations and emphasized quite emphatically their platonic foundation. I felt certain Mark's cold and blunt explanation to Nancy, a woman he would marry one day, reinforced their relationship boundaries. His sharing that reason with me was his caring way of diminishing my concerns that physical intimacy was on their weekend agenda.

My easy decision began to backfire as absurdity, and heartfelt remorse began spinning webs of doubt around my heart. Just one week until the getaway, I had pangs of regret, and I began to foolishly listen to all the negative naysayers I regrettably told. Common sense overpowered my heart-sense with repeated hammerings of reality. The time I removed the blinders camouflaging the truth. Nancy and Mark were once passionate lovers planning a life together. I had changed my mind. I decided to rescind my generous offer.

I took some time to be alone, an emotional intermission void of interruption, to really give some thought before axing Nancy and Mark's departure in two days. During these private moments, I pretended to be Nancy. Common sense told me I could never truly capture her sorrow or feel her pain or begin to empathize with her fate. Her heartbreak of losing Mark and her realization that another woman now owned his heart and kidnapped her dreams was impossible to fathom. Those sincere feelings of losing Mark, the man I love with all my heart, created the space I needed to connect with Nancy and her heart's pain. Those dark doubts infesting my mind regarding Marks' deep love for me vanished as well.

One day left. Mark and I spent the day and night together. Passion and joy and loving intimacy. How blessed I am to have this man in my life. That was the ultimate sign. One final confirmation that Nancy should experience this final gift. I would want my last memories on this earthly plane to be spent in the loving, caring embrace of the man I loved. Memories of my remaining days sharing time and especially love. Emotional smiles to cherish until my very last breath forced them to fade away. And that is precisely how I shared my "approval" of intimacy with Mark should he and Nancy so desire. With one exception. I did not want to know what transpired.

Mark showed up at my door after he took Nancy home. In solemn silence, he took me into his arms and hugged me with such intensity as if scared that if he let go, it would be forever. He told me, "I love you so very much." He never shared the events of that weekend with me, and I never asked.

Their beach "getaway" was the last time Mark and Nancy saw one another. Nancy passed two months later. Nancy and I never met. Yet, she gave me a gift before she died, for which I am forever grateful. She opened a part of my heart I never knew existed.

About the Author

Mary Maresca

Mary Maresca is 65 years old and starting on her poetry journey. She has won awards for inspirational/spiritual and nonfiction memoir categories in the 2017 and 2020 Writers Digest competitions.