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My Boyfriend, the Sex Addict

I never believed in that diagnosis -- until I dated Jack, and saw what it was like to be powerless to your desires

“I have a proposition,” Jack said, a whiff of Maker’s Mark on his breath as he spoke over the din of the dive bar on a Saturday night. “Maybe tonight, if you see a cute guy, you could bring him back to my place.”

My voice rose, along with a sense of dread. “For a threesome?”

“No, for you — to sleep with,” he said. “I could watch. From the closet. He wouldn’t know I was there.”

I fought a swell of revulsion. Jack  wanted me to sleep with other men? And he wanted to  watch? It defied the laws of romance.

Jack and I met online four months earlier (although his name isn’t really Jack). He was cute, with blue eyes and dark stubble. Feeling lonely after having recently moved 3,000 miles from Brooklyn to San Francisco, I ignored my initial anxiety about his age (39 to my 29). He was an accomplished artist and musician and, being a sucker for tortured creative types, I invited myself over to his place at the end of our first date, where we finished off a bottle of cheap Cabernet before having hazy sex that I could barely remember the next day.

That wasn’t unusual: As a near-daily drinker since college, I’d had plenty of blackout one-night stands. Vodka had been a way to overcome shyness and depression since my misfit teens. I had long been self-medicating with alcohol and men.

That evening with Jack bled into weekends of Netflix marathons, chocolate in bed, and sex on the kitchen floor while making dinner. Alcohol was almost always involved; we’d go through a bottle or two of wine with dinner, and when we went out to shows or art openings (which we did often), we’d grab a drink or four from the bar. Nothing seemed amiss at first, and I didn’t ask many questions of him, or of myself. I mainly wanted someone to spoon with — though, having been single for a while, having regular sex again wasn’t a bad thing, either. Jack suggested we become exclusive.

Soon, Jack’s sexual appetites … ripened. “Want to check out Power Exchange sometime?” Jack asked one night, glass of Riesling in hand as we shared a blanket on his living room couch. Power Exchange was a local sex club where leather-leaning types could get whipped and fornicate in front of masses of probing-eyed strangers.  “Hrrrmm,” I said, my eyes skimming the TV as I changed the subject.

At a bar a couple of weeks later, we ran into Abby, a friend of Jack’s from the art scene. She had long, straight red hair in ponytails, and a perkily upturned nose. He introduced us, then after she swished away, he whispered, “You should hook up with her. She’s bi.”

This again? “I’m not,” I snapped. I didn’t understand this need to bring others into our sex life. Was I not enough for him? Eyes fixed on the exit sign, I reached for my purse. “Jack, if you need to watch me with other people to get off, you should get a new girlfriend.” I stood up, but he tugged me down and hugged me close.

“I’m sorry,” he sighed into my hair.

Jack never outright  pressured me, which made his suggestions easier to ignore (as did the merlot). And so I stuck around. A cozy warmth had developed between us. He was the most physically affectionate boyfriend I’d ever had. He treated his cat like a little Buddha. And he was unashamed to admit that he wanted marriage and kids, like, yesterday. I wasn’t ready, but I found that endearing.

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