I Tried Role Play for 30 Days to Save My Marriage & Here's What Happened

Coltrane Lord
Coltrane Lord

This is a love story, and it goes something like this:

My husband cheated on me.

With his hairdresser.

How cliché.

I hate clichés.

I know what you're thinking: "How can this be a love story?" But it is, I swear, so please read on.

My husband did a terrible job hiding his affair. Ironically, I was at my hairdresser, holding his old iPad on my lap, when her texts popped up right in front of my eyes. Because of his rolls in the hay with Vidala Sassoon, by no choice of my own, I'd been inducted into an inauspicious club — the dreaded 22 percent of married women who've been betrayed by their husbands.

This wasn't supposed to happen to me. My life seemed picture-perfect up to that point, like a carbon copy of the high-class hipster California community portrayed in HBO's smash Big Little Lies, sans the murder (though Gone Girl did cross my mind after I saw the texts). I had been married more than 10 years, and lived in San Francisco with our two beautiful sons, two cats, a dog, and Pancetta the teacup pig. We were, what I affectionately call, "Gucci Google-ish."

  • In retrospect, though, it shouldn't have been a shock that my husband cheated on me.

    Coltrane Lord
    Coltrane Lord

    After having the kids, I got so deep into that zone of being the perfect wife and mother, I turned into a frozen, miserable, asexual robot. I started to fake everything — my true self, what I wanted out of a partnership, and yup, my orgasms. There were times when I literally turned my back on him in bed or pretended I had my period (he doesn't keep track well) to avoid sex. I might as well have shoved the hairdresser's big, fake boobs in his face.

    I was so ashamed of it, to this day, I still haven't told a single soul he screwed his hairdresser. At therapy, I would go from a lump of tears to righteous rage when our therapist asked what my part was in all this. WTF? Me? But because I have always been the "good girl," who believes in truth and being "real," I decided to figure out, what exactly was my fault in this whole mess?

    Yes, my husband committed a horrible act of betrayal and I was SO going to leave him (and castrate him). But the truth was, I wasn't strong enough to leave yet, and was terrified of the D word. "Divorcée" sounded so diminishing. My identity as wife and mother overshadowed all that was really me. I’d become an empty shell and I needed to figure out was "wrong" with me because deep down, I knew I was partly to blame, even though I hated to admit it.

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    And that's the moment I set off on a wild journey of self-discovery that awakened me and changed the way I viewed marriage profoundly.

    First, I became a self-help addict. I attended seminars by Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra, took pole dancing lessons at S Factor, peeked into the kink dungeons of NYC, went to an orgasm expert, smashed the patriarchy at the School of Womanly Arts, and got acquainted with the Polyamory crowd (not for me!).

    And while I learned so much from that self-help journey, nothing was quite enough. My research just raised more questions:

    What did I want? No clue.

    What did my husband want? What every man wants probably — variety.

    How could I be everything he needed and still be my authentic self?

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  • This was my "a-ha!" moment.

    Coltrane Lord
    Coltrane Lord

    To quote Jerry Hall, famous model and former wife of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger, "Women need to be a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen, and a whore in the bedroom."

    She was on to something. Desperate to take the monotony out of monogamy, and inspired by all of my self-help classes, I came up with my own experiment that was so far-fetched and outlandish but miraculously worked: I decided to become 30 different women in 30 days. Every single day for a month, I spent the entire day dressed up as a character of my choosing.

    I cosplayed my marriage.

    As a lover of Halloween, costumes were the easy part. Whether a Desperate Housewife, Aloha Babe, Black Swan, Cowgirl, Playboy Bunny, Snake Charmer, Venus — no problem. I had a closet that any high school theater director would die to get his paws on.

    Staying in character for 24 hours was much more challenging. But I never broke the fourth wall, even if that meant going to business dinners with my husband or dropping off the kids at school (preoccupied with their own lives, they pretty much rolled their eyes and "whatever-ed" me the whole month).

    Here, a sampling of five of my favorite personas:

  • La Femme Nikita

    Coltrane Lord
    Coltrane Lord

    I smeared on heavy eye shadow and smudged black liner onto my lower lids. I carefully applied the oxblood lipstick I bought years ago when my college boyfriend broke up with me. Fucker. With fire and purpose, I rummaged through my closet and picked out a black pleather dress, fishnet stockings, and high-heeled shoes that said "Fuck you" instead of "Fuck me." I decided it was a panty-free day. I know this is dramatic, but I can't help myself.

    I made breakfast for my kids in my rebel-glam getup, which was a huge mistake because the fake leather didn't breathe and I was dripping with sweat. I felt too guilty to offer my kids the Froot Loops I store for emergency lazy purposes. I had a brief internal struggle between nurturing mom and anarchist. Mom won, so I stood by the smoke-filled stove frying bacon and eggs, sweating like a whore in church. My kids watched me, silently intrigued, but saying absolutely nothing.

    "You are so lucky you're not here right now," I said to my absent husband in a deadly whisper.

    My husband and I used to have dysfunctional raging fights and have makeup sex, which I found rewarding on a physical level, but horrible on an emotional level. 

    In order to get all the things done that mothers and wives need to do every single day, I got used to pushing my emotions down. Way down. I didn't have time for anger, annoyance, ennui, or even just plain happiness. I didn't have time to connect with my husband "just because." I had dry cleaning to grab, vet visits, kids to run to sports, grocery shopping, meals to plan … and I haven't even mentioned work. So I just shoved it all down, into what slowly became a boiling pit of rage just below the surface of my lovely, calm, can-do self that everyone saw every day. It created distance and blocks in my relationship. It was time to unleash my raw anger. La Femme Nikita was about giving myself permission to express anger, but creating tension, friction, and intense energy in a healthy way.

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  • Hello Kitty

    Coltrane Lord
    Coltrane Lord

    I'd released a lot of anger but something was holding me back from being more connected to my body. So I simply threw on some cat ears and you wouldn't believe how that simple costume allowed me to slink around and be sexy. It's fun being a cat. I got so much attention from the outside world and it helped me be so present in my body, not walking around in a daze, my head clouded with to-do lists and stress. I liked getting attention from the outside world, even if the baristas thought I was weird lapping up my chai latte from my cup at the café counter.

    This persona allowed me to really dip into pleasure, to think about what pleases me and only me. I learned that people are more responsive to a pleasure-filled woman. Since most people are always focused on pain and stress points, or just trying to get through their day, the pleasure-filled woman is a mystery. She's intoxicating to look at. People want to know more. Granted I had kitty ears on, but doors would open for me, people would smile, a little kid followed me down a whole block. My husband was overjoyed by my confidence and, that evening, he pleasured me the way I wanted.

  • Business Executive

    Coltrane Lord
    Coltrane Lord

    This was the first time I brought my experiment boldly into his world. I called up my husband's assistant and made an appointment with him. I asked her to keep the title vague on his calendar, "negotiation neeting." I got all decked out in business attire, so when I walked into his office in a long jacket and a briefcase that hid my tight, bosom-revealing dress, he was beyond surprised. I hadn't visited him at the office in over 10 years. I presented him with a legally binding contract that detailed how I wanted to interact, play, have sex, and communicate with him in public and in private. I presented all my desires, my dreams, my needs, and my fantasies in a very businesslike and professional way, we negotiated, and I made him sign on the dotted line.

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    Most couples just assume they want the same things. In writing our contract, it was crystal clear. I'd never thought about what I truly expected of our relationship, beyond no cheating, support, survival, and companionship. We think we know what we expect, but this fundamental lack of understanding can be toxic.

  • Mail Order Bride

    Coltrane Lord
    Coltrane Lord

    As my confidence came back, I began to get bolder and sexier in my attempt to fulfill the project. We were exhausted but he really seemed to be looking forward to these surprise personas every day. So I gave him the ultimate surprise — I created two twin mail-order brides and sent them off to him, asking him to choose (I'm pretty funny, if I do say so myself). Fantasia was a blonde who spoke seven languages, played chess, and once wrote a song for Prince. Sybl, though her name suggested she might have a personality disorder, was a sweet brunette ballerina who dreamed of being a UN ambassador.

    The next morning, I found a message written in lipstick on the bathroom mirror: "Fantasia — lunch today?" He was having more fun than I was! He wasn't even embarrassed when I showed up to lunch wearing skintight pants, a skimpy top, six-inch heels, and a blond bobbed wig. He was wearing a blazer and loafers, so we got more than a few raised eyebrows.

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    We didn't care. That night, we had the best sex we'd had in forever. It was full of lightness and love and laughter. Before the experiment, sex was always so serious, more about duty and releasing an urge versus the pure play we were now experiencing.

  • If it sounds like I gave my husband a sexual experience beyond any man's wildest dreams, well, I did, but that wasn't really the point.

    Coltrane Lord
    Coltrane Lord

    Yes, I desperately wanted to spice up our sex life and wear fun, slutty costumes that made me feel sexier than ever before, but I created this experiment because I wanted and deserved more. I discovered all sides of myself, especially the best parts that had been buried for years.

    I'm not going to lie, this whole "affair" was not always easy. At our lowest point, he told me I should go out and have an affair to make things even because I refused to forgive him. Sometimes I'd fantasize about taking him up on his offer. But I think every woman reading this knows that would have only torn us apart for good.

  • My experiment was an emergency intervention, one that might sound pretty radical to the average reader. And it was, in the best ways possible.

    Coltrane Lord
    Coltrane Lord

    I refused to cheat on my husband — or quit my kinky vanilla experiment. And to my husband's credit, he didn't quit on me. It succeeded because it allowed us to be everything for each other. We both radically learned how to open ourselves up, to surrender, to forgive, and, most important, to trust.

    We all get stuck in roles at some point in our lives. The truth is, all of the characters I became are within each of us. It's just a matter of allowing them to come out and play when your marriage needs them. If we can discover and truly explore alternate sides of ourselves, we can unlock the door to a dramatically more satisfying life. And not just in the bedroom!

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