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Monday, April 2, 2012

Guest Post: Negotiated Love

MMM Note: The following essay, submitted late to the Mormon Lit Blitz, was re-submitted to us as a guest post. Please note there are sexual references that some might find uncomfortable to read.

The author, Steven, is an average guy trying to make sense of himself, his above-average wife and children. He enjoys all things out-of-doors so he can legitimately claim he's trying to think "out of the box."

future love
Matt slumped in his chair in the conference room. He hated this whole process. Why couldn't he and Cindy just talk things over? Regina, Matt's negotiator, sat next to him, fingers drumming on the laminate. She leaned over to Matt and said “Don't look so anxious. You don't want to come across as a beggar. You want to give the impression you can take her or leave her.” Matt grimaced. Some friends had recommended Regina, said she definitely knew her stuff. A few more minutes of waiting, and Cindy came in the room with her negotiator, some guy named Travis. Funny how husbands customarily hired women to be represent them, and wives hired men. Tradition. The Provisional Marriage and Family Act started off as a state initiative when it seemed society was tied up in knots with respect to marriage. Congress eventually stepped in and solved it all. Marriage would remain a civil contract. Religions could regulate the belief in marriage, but the state would regulate the practice. Fifty years of the quid quo pro had produced a thriving barter and trade system where emotions and passions were neatly expressed in Times New Roman, 14 point. The law mandated certain areas be addressed, such as adultery, abuse and abandonment. Beyond that, parties were free to contract as they seemed fit, although most contracts had boiler plate language. No more simple handshakes and tying the knot. Now, it was clauses. Lots and lots of clauses. And, of course, stipulated damages and penalties if the parties breached their obligations.

This was their third marital contract negotiation. The first one involved their marriage, and was for a law mandated maximum of 5 years. Then it was time to re-up, decide whether they wanted to push on for another ten years. Statute required the parties to give notice 90 days prior to the expiration of the term of an intent to enter into another contract with the present spouse, or terminate it. Matt gave notice 180 days out that he wanted to enter into another contract with Cindy. He was disappointed when Cindy gave hers on day 90. Good move on her part, keeping him guessing. When they went to the negotiation, all he remembers saying is “yes” to everything her negotiator asked for. There was talk of changing the law to allow varying lengths of time, but so far it was just talk. Regina noticed Matt's eyes wander over Cindy's figure. Matt thought Cindy looked as beautiful as he had ever seen her. True to their second contract, she had only gained five percent of her original contract weight. It seemed like today that weight was concentrated in her breasts. The more things change the more men stay the same. Regina said under her breath “Don't let her get to you that way. Think with your head, not your libido.” Matt flushed red, embarrassed at being caught. Travis launched into a cool sales pitch, extolling the virtues and wonderful qualities of his client. Regina gave her spiel. Then they were ready to do business.

The negotiators discussed everything from the mundane to money. How much television to watch, vacation time, and hobbies. Independence. Dependence. Everything. The negotiators had already had their clients fill out a questionnaire that addressed the usual and customary areas. Fortunately for Matt and Cindy, neither had any major eccentricities. Then, the part that negotiators loved best: sexual relations. Here is where the crap usually hit the proverbial fan. It's tough to negotiate sex when one party is willing to submit to sex once a year, and other party wants it once a day. Complicating things were options: Swing lifestyles, open marriages, same sex partners, and the like. Sexual practices. Sexual satisfaction. Sex was a premium. Matt was approaching 40, still in his prime, or so he thought. He'd overheard some women in the gym last week saying they wanted a clause in their contract that allowed them to explore sex with someone other than their husbands. Such clauses weren't usual but weren't unheard of. Women and men felt liberated by an up front, written agreement. No arguing, pleading or begging. After all, 10 years is a long time when hormones are changing but gravity is constant and hair is falling out. Every insecurity and self doubt Matt ever had suddenly weighed in. Travis folded his hands together. “Cindy has been satisfied with their conjugal arrangement thus far.” Matt's ego started swelling. “However, she would like to make a few changes.” Matt's ego burst with a simple “pop.” The changes really weren't that bad. Some alterations to foreplay, frequency, and format. What used to be intimacy was now deemed simple release. And what used to be a “woman's duty” was now a woman's bargaining chip. Cries of prostitution were sometimes tossed out, but the reality of a contractual relationship, and the protections it offered to both parties, outweighed the negative. In the end, you either want to do the deal or you don't.

They took a break before they wrapped up the meeting. While their negotiators talked about other clients and war stories, Matt and Cindy carried on a polite conversation about the dĂ©cor of the office. Matt wanted to reach over and embrace Cindy and thank her for agreeing to another 10 year term. But he just sat their, hands in his pockets. As they were signing off on the contract (all 50 pages of it), the receptionist stuck her head in the door and announced more parties had arrived. Matt finally reached across the table and took Cindy by the hands and said “It'll be fine.” Cindy looked pale as another negotiator walked in, followed by 12 year old girl, a 10 year old boy and another 6 year old boy. “Okay. I'm the court appointed negotiator for Abbie, Blake and Anthony. They have some changes they'd like to see implemented. Let's see what we can work out.”

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