It may seem odd, but I've been open with Mr. PNU since the beginning. Once I realized the thrift-store shopping trips, afternoon tea, and dancing escapades were evolving, as Kelli puts it into "flying sparks," I let him know.
The situation was never easy, even before she crept into the picture. The woman I was three years ago died, replaced by a barely living shell. My feelings for him, while still tender were not the feelings of a wife for her husband. I dutifully performed for him, for everyone. And as we spent more time together, Kelli saw through my charade.
The conversation between the three of us shaped the decisions of the following weeks. Mr. PNU left with his parents for Arizona. We formally recognized the separation. I gave Kelli much of the free time that suddenly bloomed. I worked at a redefinition of the self, and a pattern of life began to emerge. My husband knew I was conflicted, as did Kelli. We each struggled with past anxieties. She pulled away for a time, defining what she needed, and then came back into focus. We communicated. The talks wove on until Mr. PNU returned to Utah to move into the assisted living center four blocks from my home, where I explained my decision and the driving emotions.
It may seem odd, but I was completely forthright then about how I saw the future coming to play. If and when our continued marriage meant unbearable financial hardship for either of us, or if he decided a dissolution preferable for any other reason, I would support and aid him in finalizing a divorce. In the meantime, I had no desire to end our legal union, but instead held the indefinite intention to visit and interact with him freely and regularly as an estranged member of my household. I had no desire to remarry nor cohabitate, but outside of my interactions with Mr. PNU I would see Kelli, as I had fallen in love with her. I promised I would not flaunt my relationship with her in front of him. They were longtime friends, after all. I knew the sensitivity the situation required.
Two months have passed since I clearly laid down my plan and my estranged husband agreed, although we've revisited the topic as often as he needed. I have explained, we are poets and philosophers. History provides us with scores of similar arrangements, all meant for the good of the group, as well as the wellbeing of each participating individual. The sad truth of the arrangement is that neither one of us participates without recognition of the bedrock of grief that lays beneath our feet. There are no perfect outcomes. Mr. PNU will remain horribly disabled and in need of constant care. I will never see the return of the husband who brought me such joy and companionship. And Kelli, after years of loneliness, in choosing to be my partner and companion, understands the ambiguous loss that sometimes bubbles to the surface of our gingerly fledged romance.
In exchange for this lacking perfection: relationships nurtured and salvaged; love, support, and compassion offered; resentment and loneliness thwarted. No one is stranger to the oddities of this arrangement. But if the strangest facet is that we are each privy to and agree with the details of this, the best possible arrangement for the three of us, then let that be enough. Let rest easy the moral superiority that might come from outside the bias edge of our triangle.