Sex, Lies & Carpool

“Her,” my friend whispers, trying not to point at the blonde with the gravity-defiant breasts, as she slowly sips her Caramel Macchiato. “Boob job. Botox. Sleeping with her personal trainer.”

Her eyes veer toward another woman entering the Starbucks in a cozy suburb of Chicago’s affluent North Shore area. The thirty-something is lanky with long, highlighted hair, Joe jeans tucked neatly inside camel-colored Ugg boots, her manicured hand grasping a curly-headed toddler. “Her son is in my son’s class. She’s got three kids, a nanny, hasn’t worked a day in her life, and I’ve heard from her best friend that she swings with the neighbors.”

Swinging. Swapping. Affairs. The question is : Why?

The answer: Something is definitely missing.

Jake, 45, a real estate broker in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, says he and his ex-wife had swapped for years. They would head to Jamaica, where they’d spend their vacations at a nudist resort and seek out partners. “We’d help each other. My wife would point to some random attractive woman and say, ‘Nice ass. I wonder what her husband looks like.’ We had rules, though. We both had to be attracted to the couple. If not, it was a no-go. Was it infidelity? No, we never saw it that way. What we did — and we did a lot — we did together.”

Now divorced, Jake, who remains an extremely devoted father, says the North Shore is a haven of infidelity, because “while there is money, there is not a lot of intimate satisfaction going on in marriages, and people are looking elsewhere.”

“Last year,” he continues, “I was out with a beautiful woman having dinner. Two guys who I knew from several Daddy/Daughter events approached me when the woman was in the bathroom. They said, ‘Hey, she just got divorced, right? We both have wanted to fuck her for years. We’re having a key party in the neighborhood. If you come, bring her.’”

Jake says he would have gone to the party in a heartbeat. “The guys, who were married, tried for half an hour to convince my date to swap, but she was reluctant. You know what? It would’ve been a great time, but don’t worry, I certainly haven’t suffered.” Jake laughs and says that he was on his way to a swapping party in Dallas that weekend.

Marriage today is not satisfying NOT because of the kids’ needs and demands but because the parents are so selfish — ‘I want to work out, I want to go shopping, I want to get away from the kids. It’s your turn to stay home this time.’ It’s all about who is and who is not carrying their load.


Susan, 43, a willowy businesswoman with funky red glasses and three young sons, picks up her cell phone with a provocative smile. “That was my friend Lauren. She and Steve are coming over tonight for a foursome. The boys are going to their grandmother’s. We’re pretty excited about this couple.”

Susan and her partner of ten years, Brian, who live in the suburb of Evanston, Illinois, have done it all: swapping, threesomes, foursomes, lesbian liaisons, and affairs. They describe their relationship as “openly monogamous.”

“We love only each other,” she says adamantly. “We have only one rule: If an affair or an experience gets out of hand or uncomfortable for the other person, that relationship must be stopped.

“The bottom line is that monogamy is simply not natural. No one owns another person’s body. I don’t care how long you’ve been married. I’ve seen so many miserable couples who stay together, clinging to their driftwood of loyalty, but who are living half-dead, without passion. I lived in a marriage for years like that.” She pauses as if to shake off the memory. “And it was hell. I was the perfect mom and wife, yet I was a zombie.

“Yes, Brian and I get jealous, but we communicate; we share everything. We know how we feel about each other, and are secure in it. I’m finally comfortable with my lifestyle. We think the greatest love you can give your partner is freedom.”

Meeting up with Susan a few days later at a school function, she admits that the foursome was a bust. “Steve was great. Totally passionate, pressed all the right buttons. But it was difficult for me to watch Brian with Lauren. The way he touched her. How she closed her eyes. The looks. I felt jealous.” Susan’s smile is taut. “That combination won’t happen again.”


Every generation has its reputation. This generation is seeking More, More, More. It is kid-focused obsessed. Travel baseball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, wrestling (name a sport any sport and throw in a minimum of four to five carpools per week), gymnastics (as if your kid is going to the Olympics), play practice (Broadway, really?) dance companies for girls as young as nine (pa-lease). Sadly, the Suburban Call-to-Arms is: Over-activitize your kids and “Downsize” your marriage.

What happens is that young couples — especially women — become de-sexualized once they have children. Their lives become all about the kids’ needs, and their own desires get swallowed up. Romance gets swapped with resentment. In order to connect to their romantic selves, some women can only find fulfillment outside of the house.


Dan, 41, a mortgage broker who lives with his family in Highland Park, Illinois, agrees that communication in and out of the bedroom are the ingredients for a good marriage, and wishes that were his case. “Unlike a lot of people around here, my wife and I do have great sex. We give each other great orgasms, but we’re not passionate about each other. We’re not friends, we’re not partners — we are roommates. We don’t talk about anything. Our lives are all about getting the details done.”

He pauses on the phone, his breath heavy. “Honestly, all I really want is a woman with a heart. Not one who’s constantly complaining and filled with resentment of what I didn’t do that day. Marriage today is not satisfying not because of the kids’ needs and demands but because the parents are so selfish — ‘I want to work out, I want to go shopping, I want to get away from the kids. It’s your turn to stay home this time.’ It’s all about who is and who is not carrying their load,” he says. “What I see is that women around here are so spoiled. They’ve got big homes, money to buy anything, nannies, cleaning ladies, and they walk around entitled. The last thing on their to-do list is to say to themselves, ‘Hmm, how can I satisfy my spouse?’”


Jill, 34, a recently divorced stay-at-home mother living in Deerfield, giggles nervously when asked about cheating in her neighborhood. She pushes up her baseball cap, wags her reddish ponytail. “It’s not just a case of bored housewives and too much money. It’s about women feeling trapped in loveless marriages with men who ignore them, who don’t feel it’s necessary to keep up the passion. Women resent that their husbands think that all they do is polish their nails and go for Botox shots. They don’t see everything we do for our kids all day long. I would say four out of eight of my girlfriends are having affairs right now, either with their personal trainer, contractor, one with her husband’s law partner, and another with a stay-at-home Dad. It’s all about attention. We need it.”

Jill admits to having had a two-year affair with her neighbor. “It was so easy, our kids were best friends, and his wife seemed not to care at all what he was doing. You know what, he, too, craved romance, to feel sexual and alive. I was in a loveless marriage with a really nice man and great father. And my neighbor was a great father trapped in a loveless marriage. We were both looking for the same thing, and found it across the street.”

Kelly, 38, a resident of Northbrook, Illinois, and a part-time working mom, is a friend of Jill’s. She says she used to join Jill and a group of mommies for a weekly night on the town, where they’d hit clubs in the Chicago area. They partied, flirted, danced, while the husbands were back at home in the ‘burbs with the kids.

“It’s all about appreciation. Here we are in our late thirties and early forties, and our husbands don’t even see us,” she says. “They don’t see how hard we’ve worked to get our bodies back after having the kids, and now we’re on fire in a way that we’ve never felt it before. Women are starving for more. I’ve never had an affair, but you know what? It’s almost like — what’s wrong with me? God, am I boring. Everyone else is doing it. Look at them. Look at the excitement going on.”

Larry, 38, a commodities trader, lives with his wife and two children in the suburb of Highland Park. He says you have to look beyond the surface at what is really going wrong in suburbia. He blames the high degree of marital unhappiness on our own parents’ generation, many of whom divorced, and in order to make up for it, they gave their kids everything material, mistakenly thinking it would buy them happiness and fill the void of a divided family.

“So we walk around empty, carrying a void that even Super Spouse couldn’t possibly fill,” Larry says. “Look, I’m happily married, but a lot of my friends are not. What I see is what I call the ‘zero tolerance factor’ for any level of frustration. When there is even the smallest problem in a marriage, couples these days do not have the tools, the patience, to solve it. We were so indulged as kids that we think, ‘Hell, if I’m actually going to work at this. Why waste my time?’ It’s easier to have an affair, leave, swap, whatever. Why commit, when divorce is an easy option?”


Jill looks uncomfortable when asked why she thinks a monogamous marriage is impossible. “Monogamy is too intimate, too much work,” she says. “You have to face each other every day, and say, ‘Okay, this is it, now what.’ I’ve seen only a few truly happy couples around here, and they always seem to be doing things together as a family. Maybe that’s part of the problem around here. Everyone is so involved in his or her own activities — one parent is driving one kid to soccer, the other one is taking another child to hip hop. When there’s down time, the husband is off playing golf, the wife is at yoga. Everybody’s always rushing, passing each other by, and getting nowhere.”

Jill leans forward, her clear blue eyes flashing. “If you can give up the idea that home is a trap, your husband is the trapper, the kids devour all of your energy, and instead view them as giving you energy. If you can keep your love-life exciting, look good for each other, compliment each other, and actually talk. Then …” she sighs deeply. “Monogamy and staying IN love is really possible. Scary, but possible.”

– LB

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