Friday, August 20, 2010

Gay Dating with Baggage

On Sunday August 8, my mother-in-law, my wife, our three kids and I went out for Chinese dinner.

While we were waiting for the food to arrive, which was not long, a fight erupted at the table between our middle kid John (12) and his mother. Until recently (i.e. puberty) John had been a parent's dream. Now he never has anything positive to say and complains constantly. The fight began because my wife Gabbie told John she was fed up with his bad attitude.

In mere minutes, the fight turned into the three kids against their mother. "She's too critical, she complains all the time, she's too stressed."

In an effort to encourage the kids (10, 12 & 16) to be respectful to their mother, especially while in a crowded restaurant, I said, "You all need to think about how you're talking to your mother. You're being very disrespectful and that's not acceptable. And think about this: what if one day she's not here? What if she gets run over by a bus tomorrow? OR," and now I was thinking about a threat Gabbie had several times made to me, "what if she decides to move out of the house because she doesn't want to be treated this way by you three?"

Before the kids could reply, Gabbie jumped in. "Yes, that's exactly what I'm going to do! As soon as I get home, I am packing up my suitcase and I am moving out. I will not be treated this way."

Most kids, especially younger kids, would have fallen to pieces had their mother threatened to move out. Not mine. They said nothing. The dinner progressed with a very subdued, awkward tone.

True to her word, the minute we got home Gabbie pulled out a very large suitcase and started filling it.

It was an odd feeling for me, watching her pack. Just days before I had fantasized about almost exactly the scenario that was unfolding. At that time I wondered if I had a serious talk with Gabbie and gave her the option to leave, if she would take it. Apparently, I had my answer.

Once she was packed I drove her to her mother's house, less than a mile away.

The first 48 hours Gabbie was gone were very typical. She is often out of the house so her absence didn't seem odd. The main difference for me was that after the dinner clean-up at home, I went to Gabbie's mother's house to spend two hours with Gabbie - and her mother.

When I arrived Gabbie asked me about the kids, "Do they miss me?"

I didn't want to lie so I said, "They don't think you're serious. John predicted you'd be back in two days." That challenge seemed to double Gabbie's resolve to stay away as long as possible.

By day three reality began to set-in. At least for me.

In my "Gabbie-packs-her-bags-and-leaves" fantasy, I imagined that her departure would enable me to start dating men. But as I faced the reality of working and taking care of the kids and the house alone, I realized that it would be almost impossible to see anyone during the week. I had maybe an hour between finishing the dinner dishes and getting the kids to bed.

So I started to think about the weekends, how would they work?

Gabbie wants to be free of her parenting responsibilities so it isn't likely that she would be taking the kids every other weekend like most divorced couples do. And although I could leave the kids alone for an extended time for part of a weekend, I certainly couldn't be absent an entire weekend.

The reality, I realized, is that the most I could expect to regularly see a guy is twice a week. Maybe a Friday night and part of a Saturday or a Sunday. The rest of the weekend I would need to be with the kids.

Part of two days a week is not exactly an ideal dating schedule for a single gay man.

By the fourth night of Gabbie's absence, more reality crept in.

Although I can run all aspects of the house and the kids' lives for an extended period of time, this was the first time that I felt the full weight of unending sole responsibility. Every detail fell to me and only me. The burden wasn't overwhelming but it was draining. And more than anything, it made me feel isolated and lonely.

As the days passed, it was clear that I was the only one having second thoughts about Gabbie's departure. The kids didn't seem to care. Every day I'd ask them if they thought mom was going to come home or not and they'd individually give unemotional answers. Even my daughter, the ten year old, surprised me when she said, "I'm glad mom's gone. I get to spend more time with daddy!" Huh? All we do is spend time together!

Gabbie wasn't complaining either. I went to visit her every night for an hour or two and she'd say, "I'm sleeping better than I have in a long time!" or "I feel so relaxed!" The only thing about the arrangement that made Gabbie unhappy was that the kids didn't seem to care that she was gone. On the fifth day she said, "At least I know how they really feel. If I did move out, they really wouldn't care."

Other than me, the person most upset about Gabbie's departure was her mother. "I don't why she's here, this is a stupid idea."

It was her mother who brought an end to Gabbie's escape. On Friday she told Gabbie she couldn't stay with her any longer. I brought Gabbie and her very large suitcase home on Friday night.

The kids greeted her happily enough - as if they had least seen her an hour before - even though it had been five full days.

Gabbie's return was somewhat tenuous. Several times she said she wished she could afford a hotel room, or, that she could find an apartment. Her wishes made me wonder if my off-the-cuff remark at a family dinner could become the opening that Gabbie had long been wanting - an opening that would ultimately result in the unraveling of my 20 year marriage.

Now, two weeks later, I can't help but wonder if this incident will fore-shadow the future. Both Gabbie and I now think we know that the kids will be ok if she left. Because she wants to leave and I want the chance to date men, in some respects it looks like a win-win-win for everyone.

The thing is, now that I've had a small taste of my potential future, I'm not so anxious for more. The reality is that I'm 44. I live and work in a suburb - there aren't many (any?) datable men nearby. I'd be a full-time single parent raising three kids, with limited ability to date. Add in the fact that I'm not interested in casual sexual relationships and there can be little doubt that in the gay world, I'm about as desirable as a turnip.

Immediately after I first had the revelation that I might be better off NOT getting what I wanted, I told myself to get a grip. Surely there have been plenty of divorced men with kids who have been able to date and eventually meet someone.

I started to think about all the divorced guys I know, both straight and gay. I thought about quite a few bloggers. But the thing is, I only know one man who is a single parent, raising kids alone. That's Rob at Below the Radar.

If you read his blog, you can see what his dating experiences have been like. He's been single for roughly eight years and he's a nice, intelligent, good looking guy - very eligible and desirable. Yet, after all this time he's still single.

Why?!

Until two weeks ago I couldn't understand why. But now that I've had a taste of full-time single parenthood I have begun to realize just how difficult it must be to meet someone and keep a relationship going.

I wouldn't trade my kids for anything, but the fact is, when it comes to dating, they represent a whole lot of baggage.

It's unsettling to realize, but at this point I can't see much advantage to being a single, full-time parent.

Now that my best fantasy has lost its luster, the future I see ahead of me is more of the same, treading water, going no where; a wife who doesn't want sex and who would rather be out socializing, avoiding all responsibilities; three kids who only think about themselves; and me, a gay man sitting at home, watching the weeks, months and years tick past.

Damn, I haven't been depressed in years but the future seems so unappealing, I just can't help but to be discouraged. If anyone can offer a few encouraging words, I'd sure be happy to hear them.

11 comments:

  1. bud msn me... we should probably talk.

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  2. There is hope for you. Most likely someone in the same situation or very sensitive to such. 1 kid is on their way out in the near future. The other couple will be soon to follow. Yea ur 44 but there is a market for u even in ur 50s. Just try to think positive and put into consideration you havent actually put urself out there so alot of these conclusions u are drawing aren't fully informed. Yes this other blogger is still single, but thats him. He may have issues preventing him from gaining a partner or something we dont know that he doesnt care to disclose. Who knows right? ^_^

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  3. I have a 12 year old son, too. Your son's attitude sounds very familiar.

    It's hard to see it from here and now, but as Aerospace World said, it won't be too much longer before the kids are old enough for you to have a bit more freedom.

    Your wife wants to ditch her parenting responsibilities? Tough! Welcome to life! (That's my opinion, no offense to you.) I don't know the details of your life, of course, but is it possible for her to take the kids, or at least your daughter and maybe the 12 year old, occasionally? Maybe not every other weekend, but once a month could be helpful.

    I'm tired of raising kids, too. I have 4, the youngest two, both 12, are emotionally disturbed in addition to being plain ol' 12-year-old-annoying. This is no fun anymore, but I have no intention of ditching the family and leaving my husband to clean up the mess.

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  4. I think it's vital to be gentle with ourselves, not putting too much pressure on and not trying to figure out the entire future today. You're living with a lot, and have been for a long time, and handling it in remarkable fashion.

    An alternate option for framing things here is that the relationships with Gabbie have become toxic. She's emotionally abusive toward you, she's not available to the kids in anything resembling a healthy or consistent way. There will be adjustments to make after she's out of your every-day life, but you and the kids have a shot at being healthier, more peaceful, contented people without her.

    There are no guarantees that you'll make the kind of intimate connection on the timeframe you'd prefer, but if your life is better balanced and your kids are happier, not careening from one crisis to the next, you're going to be more datable and have better energy and judgment to bring to a relationship.

    As difficult as it all is, I've got to admit I'm a little jealous. I would have given anything to be the primary parent to my kids when we separated 16 years ago, and I fought mightily to continue significant relationships with my kids, and have ended up fully alienated from them, hoping they'll come around at some point as adults.

    Take good care of yourself...

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  5. too bad you don't live nearby, at least we could hang out and have a beer together

    i feel for you - friday night 11pm and i'm at home catching up on episodes of True Blood while the wife is out partying with friends

    can't decide which of the vamps i want more or if i should just go werewolf ... fml

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  6. Hey Cameron,

    I feel for you too and am also jealous. My middle boy (15) has extreme attitude but my oldest (17) is pretty much out of that stage (but they are all still in the selfish stage). My youngest is learning attitude early from the middle one.

    I would love to be able to have long stretches to go date, but I have to content myself with casual episodes of sex. These casual events have shown me that there are many more married gay guys than you would think. Many don't advertise this at all but it comes out when we meet and talk. There is a blog out there about 2 married guys with kids. They were both married, had kids, divorced, and then partnered with each other. They raising their kids together. Unlikely? That could be you. Their kids were younger and yours are near moving out, so some differences. It is possible.

    If my wife wanted to move out and not take the kids? It would be tough but doable. It would solve most of my problems. I could arrange babysitters and sleepovers fairly often and get some date time, casual sex time for sure.

    It's easy to say don't be depressed, but I have been there too. BTW, casual sex can lean to other contacts and situations, and friend of a friend etc. Don't just throw that out, network it a little.

    Roger

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  7. You have already been a "single, full time parent" for quite a while now, as Gabbie for a long time now has chosen not to be involved with you or the kids. Suggest that she go ahead and get a job and move out to her own apartment. Allow her to have the kids if and whenever she wants them, and they want to be with her, which might give you some free time. In any event with the current situation, you don't have any free time.

    Roger gives good advice about networking, either with casual sex or through other venues.

    Part of the reason for your depression may be that you don't see light at the end of the tunnel and any way to get out of this mess. You need Gabbie gone, and then seeing other guys with whom you can talk and perhaps develop a relationship with.

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  8. Why were you doing the dishes? Your kids should be given responsibilities...attitude or not.

    Anyways, stop being negative. There are people out there that are nice and understanding. You put yourself in the world of bloggers, and all you see are complaints about the bad gay people. Most of what we read in these blogs are complaints, days in and days out...It's not reality; it's another world for people to vent; don't get stuck in it. Don't base the dating world on one or two people's experiences in their blogs. Who knows how intelligent they are? Who knows how good-looking they are? Who knows how whatever they are? Does it matter?

    NO.

    Dating is a two-way street. Some want a much younger person when they're much older; some want an athletic built guy when they're overweight; some want this and that when they don't have as much to offer. Then, when they don't get it, they complain.

    Stop being pessimistic and put yourself out there. Accept that it will be difficult. Life is difficult. Don't pre-judge or be too picky. Who cares about all the bad gay people; who cares about all the however gay people. There are nice people out there.

    Good luck.

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  9. Hey Man....I am in the same boat but I have only one 12 yr old son. But I am 44 and a single parent. It is tough to say the least and you are correct about having very little time .... but that will change and you will figure out that ways to have a social life with them. It may take sitting them down and discussing "Dad's friend" is coming over to watch a movie. I run a very delicate line with this approach but it works for us and my son is completely cool with everything....even though there is nothing for him to observe I would never even hold hands in front of him....that is just not a proper setting. But there will come a time in the near future where I will be more comfortable with him knowing of my friends.

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  10. Listen don't despair! It's always darkest before the dawn. You have an amazingly busy life and the enormity of the responsibility was surely there when Gabbie left. You've got kids in some of their toughest years. Teens are hell...but they get through being jerks. Believe me when I say that they will appreciate having a dad that loves them. They're acting out as they work toward independence. It's natural. And they quickly realize how unique that can be in this world. The long years of work will turn into many more years of getting back that love in return. And that is more meaningful for the quality of your life than anything else or anyone else that comes along. You know that.

    If Gabbie leaves for good you'll need to set down some rules. Tell them you need some time to recharge...and give them some responsibility...make them work in the house. They have to give in to the situation too. You can't do it yourself. I would say you shouldn't let them get away with that...but I'm in no position to judge.

    And you're being very hard on yourself that you wouldn't attract another gay man. You are good looking....and I'm not just being nice . Isn't patience one of the hardest things you have to teach your kid? Why would you expect otherwise for yourself? Take it day by day. Make some good gay friends that care for you as a friend not a lover. You'll have them to help you too. Start slow. It WILL be the life you want if you work a little at it. Gay men often start with sex, right? Sometimes that's all they want....but there are guys like us out there that want more. We just have to look for them....don't give up on yourself!

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  11. Bi_Gentleman, A Guy Stuck, Java, Bose, GLATF, Roger, Uncutplus, Anonymous, Gbinwpb, and Anonymous:

    I sincerely appreciate each of you and your thoughtful, helpful comments. I should respond individually but I feel like, if I write too much, I'll start to wallow in self-pity. I don't want to go there.

    Several of you created a theme which I will summarize as "take things one day at a time" - don't make assumptions about the future; if you're single you'll be in a better place and that will make the difference. You're right.

    It's hard not to think about the "what ifs" when the "right nows" just aren't very appealing.

    Generally I'm an upbeat, optimistic person but I admit that I've been struggling of late. I can tough it out though.

    Your camaraderie and some laughter can be a world of help. Crucial questions like vampire vs. werewolf are a welcome distraction.

    Based on looks alone, I think I'll opt for neither. I'll take Ryan Kwanten!

    Wow, a little lust CAN be a good pick-me up.

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