Sunday, October 3, 2010

192 Hours of Togetherness


Gabbie and I flew home from Quebec City last night.

It was the last destination of an eight day vacation together, just the two of us.

Quebec City is beautiful! I had no idea that a European city existed in North America.


After the difficult year I've had with Gabbie, I saw this trip as a test of our relationship. I wondered, without the buffer of the kids, would we feel awkward and uncomfortable when we were along together? Or, would our relationship feel natural and strong?

I also wondered, would any of our underlying issues bubble to the surface? After all, we hadn't spent so much time alone together in years. If issues did bubble-up, what pivotal conversations might happen?

Now that the trip is over and we're slipping back into our usual responsibilities and routines, I've been reflecting on our time together and what it means for our future.

My biggest problem with Gabbie has not been our illogical pairing (Why would a gay man WANT to be with a woman? Why would a woman WANT to be with a gay man?) but rather her lack of a clear commitment to me.

I don't want to be kept around for practical reasons. I want a partner who cares about me and wants to spend time with me.

The most important thing I learned from our eight days together is that Gabbie does not question whether we have a future together. MANY times she spoke about future plans together and she spoke without qualification or hesitation. She spoke about our future together so naturally and so frequently that it became clear to me that I was the only one who was still questioning our relationship.

I hadn't expected that.

It took me a few days, but I think I can accept it as fact that Gabbie does not intend to leave me any time soon.

Now what?

If I am the one who has a commitment issue, I have to ask myself if I am happy to stay in an imperfect marriage.

With some reluctance, I have decided that is the best answer is to stay.

I made that decision on our 6th day together. In retrospect, I wonder if our surroundings exerted some important influence.

We were on a cruise ship where the average passenger's age was in their 70s. Out of roughly two thousand passengers, fewer than 10 were in their 20s or 30s. Fewer than 15 were in their 40s. And while those in their 50s were definitely represented, they were still overwhelmed by a sea of white hair and white faces, shuffling along.

Also, most of the passengers were coupled. During an early gathering of about 500 people, we were supposed to raise our hands if we had been married at least 20 years. Almost every hand was up. And the hands stayed up even as the number of years of marriage increased. At 45 years of marriage about half the audience still had their hands up. It wasn't until 60 years or more of marriage that few hands remained.

All of those older, long-term couples...they sure seemed happy to be together. After witnessing many interactions it was obvious to me that life-long commitment is a wonderful thing. At minimum, you have someone who can remind you to take the right pills or to lend you their reading glasses when you forget yours.

Getting old sucks and being bonded to someone who loves you no matter how much your body has deteriorated...well, isn't that what true love is all about?

Without question, the many older married couples around us increased my own desire to someday be among them; to grow old with my pain-in-the-ass Gabbie.

Homosexuals were the least obviously represented demographic group on the ship. (Well, except for teenagers. There were literally none of those.) By my count, there were eight homosexuals on the ship - four of the six male dancers, one gay couple and probably one lesbian couple. (An aside. An easy test to see if you are a homo: if you are watching a stage production with young, good-looking, scantily clad men and women, and you barely notice that there are women on the stage, you're definitely a homo.) The lesbian couple I couldn't be certain about because I never really saw them alone together. Their look was distinctly lesbian, however.

I saw the gay couple together frequently, but even the first time I saw them together I knew they were gay. The whole ship knew. But not because they were physical with each other in any way and not because they dressed like fags or were effeminate in any way. The reason they were obvious was because they were two men who frequently stood next to each other. That's all it took for everyone to know. Perhaps if there had been other single guys on the cruise they wouldn't have been so noticeable. But in this setting, they really stuck out.

In fact, I felt bad for them. I never once saw them interact with anyone else. I wanted to talk to them, of course, but there was never a good opportunity. Neither of them was very out-going and they appeared to be content talking only to each other. I should mention that I found it easy to identify with this couple because one was about five years older than me and the other about five years younger. Curiously, the older one was white and the younger one was Asian. What's up with that stereotype?

Whether it was their personalities, their ages or their sexualities, this couple seemed to be very isolated from the always-smiling, white-haired heteros. They even seem isolated from each other, perhaps because they always stood a foot apart from each other and rarely touched.

So, in addition to a test for Gabbie and I, the week was a study of contrasts. The older, straight, happy couples versus the solitary younger gay couple, who even together appeared to be somewhat isolated from each other. Which did I most want to be?

That's a hypothetical question I don't really need to answer. Or least it wasn't a question I thought I needed to answer only a day ago. As our time together was ending, and having been reassured about Gabbie's commitment to me, I decided to put an end to my fantasies about finding a long-term male partner.

Yet, this morning the doubts rose again within me.

Before she left to spend most of the day at the bar with Charlie, Gabbie commented on the noise of the kids, "We're back for two hours and it's like we never left."

I wonder if perhaps Gabbie isn't right. It's like we never left.

I wish I could be at peace with my decision to stay. Perhaps in time I will have the peace I had for many years, or even the peace I had for most of the past eight days.

But for now I still can't escape the feeling that I'm an accommodation in Gabbie's life.

Should she ask to leave again, my gut instinct is to agree to let her go.

***

I worry that I will not be able to find peace by staying if I continue to write about gay issues. I'm going to give it some more time before I make a decision. For now, my next post will be about the third option for bisexual and gay men who are married to women.

9 comments:

  1. Dude....ok, so you spent a romantic week together (no mention of whether sex occurred?)....which is great, but let's see where you are in a week of two. When the honeymoon is long over and worn off. A cruise isn't reality....let's see what happens when it's back to normal day to day living

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  2. Anonymous - Sex! Twice. Then she got her period. Honestly, neither time was anything great but I'm not especially concerned about that, unless it becomes a pattern.

    Sorry that I wasn't clear. I know the cruise was not reality; I was quickly reminded of such by her gallop to the bar the next morning. My mindset is pretty much the same post-cruise as pre-cruise. The one difference is that I no longer feel that her departure is imminent. That puts the burden of change on me and I'm not going to take any proactive action (why start now???!)

    Thanks for commenting! Feel free to slap me upside the head at any time.

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  3. Hey Cam,

    An accommodation in her life.... I have been wondering if I was that in my wife's life too. We definitely love each other and are committed (admittedly different ideas here)to marriage, but do we LIKE each other? My parents have been married 50 years now and I just don't see me being able to do that. (They did many cruise BTW.) It is hard for me to make a move to divorce also. They say the person who wants a relationship less has the control in it. I guess that's me. Is that your wife also? Nothing wrong with that, but realize it, if so.

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  4. Bud as we say in Quebec, "Je me souviens!" (I remember).

    Straight to the point, "Shit or get off the pot." Choose your love and love your choice.

    Allow her to do the same.

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  5. Dodger - One of the main attributes of long-term partnerships is accommodation. That is, all marriages have some degree of it. My wife doesn't want to be married because she doesn't want to responsible to anyone. It's nothing personal to me or the kids. We like each other very well - 99% of the time at least! My wife demands control and I am extremely co-dependent so I don't mind giving it to her, at least for now. I haven't seen you write much about your relationship with your wife, I'd love to know more.


    Bi_Gentleman - We took a wonderful tour of Quebec City. The guide was very proud of the city and one of the many stories he told was about "Je me souviens!"

    "Allow her to do the same" - oh my! How much more of a doormat could I be? My wife is allowed to do ANYTHING she likes. Not only do I refrain from criticizing her but I tell others (her mother, her sister) not to be critical either. I give my wife absolute support, absolutely, which is why I may be the only man she could be married to for 20 years. She can come or go at any time and she knows it; I'm not sure how much more permissive I could be.

    As for me, I have decided to get off the pot. I will not take any proactive actions, but should she ask for my blessing to leave again, instead of avoiding the question, I will give her a definite yes.

    I feel like I have a very clear plan. Do you disagree?

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  6. This is the first time I've seen your blog. Accordingly, I don't know all the background, but appreciate your sharing your experience on the cruise and your thoughts.

    Seems as though you came near the right conclusion. I say "near" because the really best conclusion imho would be for you to not merely roll along with the flow, but rather to commit fully to the relationship. That would mean not simply hanging in the marriage pending a decision on her part to split, but giving the marriage the best possible chances of survival. By that I mean nurturing your love for her and giving her some more reasons to be happy in your companionship than she has now.

    The fact that you have eyes for hot guys -- well, so what? Lots of us do (probably many more than will admit it). However, that doesn't mean that we would be well served by shredding our marriage vows or disrespecting our children's best interests in order to pursue the temporary thrill of homosex.

    Bring her flowers. Tell her how nice she looks. Forgive one of her faults. Do the dishes. Write her a love letter. Give her a massage. Tell your kids how lucky they are to have her for a mother. What does any of that cost you?

    I'm talking about "proactive action" in the opposite direction of Splitsville.

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  7. John - Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting! I'm glad that someone thinks I'm near the best conclusion.

    Your advice to me, to nurture my love for my wife, is something I think we could all do more.

    Perhaps it's just an excuse, but in my case, I don't think any realistically sustainable amount of nurturing is going to make a difference. Many times Gabbie has told me that she bears neither me nor the children any ill will, but she'd much rather be single and carefree. At this moment, she is out with her alcoholic, coke-snorting ex-boyfriend at the bar. It's a work night so I hope she'll be home before 11, not the usual Friday and Saturday night 4am. The good news is that I can tell Gabbie enjoyed our 8 days together because she was considerate enough to call and tell me she wouldn't be home for dinner. She's getting better about that. The kids like it better too because I don't hold dinner up, hoping she'll come home so we can all eat together. Don't get me wrong, Gabbie has her good points and I show her as much patience, respect and attention as I can muster. But with her uncompromising desire to be free of us and to do whatever she wants, I find it hard to think about doing more than I do already. Regarding some of your specific suggestions I bring her flowers about four times a year, tell her she looks HOT every time she goes out, massage her back on the nights she's not out, and do the dishes after every meal. Of course I do a lot more than that, but no one wants to read the list.

    Your advice is good and well-intended. I know that. But honestly, I feel like I'm at the limit of positive, supportive behavior already.

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  8. I understand you being torn between conflicting emotions. Live that too. Others can say what they want, but only you know what the right answer is for you today and know that it may change in the future.

    Stumbled acrosss your blog from 'Journey by myself' ...I think I might check back to see how things are going... Thanks

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  9. Are you just scared of letting go? being gay is tough..can be lonely ...sad...but it seems letting go is harder. Just saying

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