B pushed the boundaries of society and he pushed me to confront my conceptions, my principles and what I really believe. I can describe the things he did as rebellious, dark and scarring; but that’s because it is my severely subjective opinion. It is difficult to face the reality of someone’s past life, even though it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him.

He told me that he had slept with prostitutes during a time of depression. I could only keep silent. What do you say in reply to that kind of confession? Can you really be okay with it, when the reality just seems so far beyond your understanding of the matter? In those quiet, disturbing moments that occur at 4am when you wake from a battered sleep, I had to examine my conscience. The concept of this, the effect on my own relationship, has left me with too many questions that I cannot answer. Can I really accept that there are prostitutes, to the point where I condone it for so many reasons, but not accept that someone in my life can actually have sex with one?

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I have always considered myself a liberal. I have a vast itinerary of “acceptable” behaviour, even though I would not engage in some of the activities. Nevertheless, I always choose to understand better first, before I make any kind of judgement. But after B’s confession I really struggled not to feel angry and fearful. I tried to justify it from a societal perspective. I told myself that if I face the facts, many men, married or otherwise, have sex with prostitutes. From a liberal’s perspective, these women and men have the right to engage in these actions.

Yet I felt angry, because I had thought him strong, and now I believed him weak. I felt that he had sullied and dirtied himself. I could not even bring myself to imagine the act, as it made me feel like I was going to throw up. I felt angry because men justify this type of behaviour all the time. I felt scared because I wondered if, and when, he would do it again. Mostly, I felt angry because I shouldn’t be thinking this way. How could I be so hypocritical; how could I feel a combination of intrigue and acceptance one minute, and the next hate prostitutes for existing?

When he told me of this, and of other things that he had done, I had to laugh with him; to save both of us from my shock and pain. I had to grow up, open my mind as wide as it could possibly go, or leave him. Knowing what I learnt, I chose to love him instead. I cannot understand why, except that maybe I felt like I needed to protect him, put an end to his masochistic actions and save him from himself.

There is this scene in the movie “Meet Joe Black” where Joe is talking to this guy about love. This guy says that his wife has seen him at his very worst, and yet still loves him. This concept of love rang true with me at that moment, because it made me realise that, if I could fully accept his behaviour, and love him despite and because of the things he had done, that was what it would be like to love the complete person. I, perhaps naively, believed that it would be a purer, truer kind of love. I never got to test my theory though; he broke up with me.

I no longer need to confront the idea of a man in my life sleeping with a prostitute, yet this has not stopped me from trying to learn something from this past relationship. What B made me see was that we can never know how we will react to something, and how we will feel, until it happens to us. It is so easy to be the armchair critic, dispensing advice to our friends about what they should do, or making judgements on things that happen in life.

We can label ourselves anything we like and believe something of ourselves, but when something hurts us, we can really surprise ourselves by how we react to that pain. It is a simple process to be objective when the pain is not happening to you. Now that we have broken up, I realise that I still have no idea how I really feel about his behaviour, but if I look really deep within me, I can see that I was not really coping. Having sex with prostitutes points to darkness, a weakness, and I cannot respect someone who behaves like that.

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