Thursday, December 30, 2010

What My Wife Wants

On Sunday, December 26th, my wife Gabbie spent most of the day out, shopping and socializing. The kids had new gadgets to entertain them. And I had little to do...except to worry about the impending conversation with my wife; the one where I was going to ask her permission to date men. As my previous post explains, I was certain it was not going to go well.

Too much alone-time had made me very melancholy by the time Gabbie came home.

Most of the time I can mask my mood if I'm down, but on very rare occasions, I'm so preoccupied with my thoughts that I'm afraid to open my mouth. I worry that I'll say exactly what's on my mind!

Gabbie knows me too well, however. She knows that the less I say, the more distressed I am. When that happens, she turns into an attack dog. She knows something really big is bothering me.

I wanted to wait until January, but we had the conversation.

It didn't go well. It didn't go poorly either.

The best news is that she knows it's her actions that have pushed me to this point. The worst news is that I don't know what else the conversation accomplished.

When I told her my primary complaint, which is that the only reason she is staying is because of the kids, she agreed it's true. "Without the kids, the three of us could work it out like adults." The 'three of us' refers to her, myself and Charlie.

She also said that she can't give Charlie up. I already knew that.

As you can see, we did well when it came to agreeing that my complaints are legitimate. The problem was, we couldn't agree on a solution.

She gave me a long lecture about why she shouldn't move out. The lecture was unnecessary, I told her. I don't want her to move out.

I tried to explain that I feel like an end-date for our marriage has been set and that I don't want to be 51 (my age when our youngest graduates from high school) and single. Her reply was that I shouldn't make any assumptions. I should take things as they come, one day at a time.

She added, "Don't you like that I'm home all the time now? Don't we enjoy spending time together?"

"Yes."

"Well, what's the problem then?!"

"I don't feel like I have a future. The kids will leave, you will leave and where will I be then? Old and ugly, just like my parents." We both agree that my parents, who are 64 and 63, have aged VERY poorly.

Her answer: "I'm as committed to you as I can be. No one knows what will happen in the future!"

GAH! There is no logical retort to that argument. Either I accept that logic or I argue that the future IS clear and therefore I MUST take action now. That would be pretty aggressive for me. So naturally, I said nothing.

The bottom line is, Gabbie thinks I should be content with the present and worry about the future when it happens. In the meantime, she loves me as much as ever and sex was never a big part of our relationship anyway. "It's just sex," she said. I wanted to argue that it is NOT just sex but...what's the point?

As you might suspect, based on what I've said so far, I never blatantly told her, "I want to date men." It was implied. It took a while but she eventually said that she'd support me, whatever I want to do. That meant: she wouldn't pitch a fit if I date others. Then, a short time later she asked me, in a very anxious voice, if I had "met anyone on the Internet?" I haven't, at least in the romantic sense she meant, so I said, "No." Clearly, she does not want me to date.

What she wants is for everything to stay as it is. We live in the same house, we sleep in the same bed, we never have sex - and we never will again. We're married and committed to each other, but she has her friend Charlie too, who she is in love with. Her accommodation to me is to keep Charlie out of our house as much as possible, and to be a present parent and spouse.

Is that a bad life for me? No. It's a pretty good life. I can do that on a day-to-day basis. So why should I object if that's what she wants?

The reason is, for purposes other than passing time, I feel like it's a farce. If we did not have the kids we would not be making this arrangement. She said that, not me. This means that if nothing changes our marriage has an end date, in seven years.

***

Now that I've had a few days to consider all that she said, the biggest question I have for myself is, can I let go of my worries about the future and be content with a day-to-day life that is focused on the kids and on my wife, who is present and who does love me? Also: can I feel secure that I'd have the same happy future if I start to date men at 51 as I would at 44? Or is there really very little difference?

And, of course, there is the 800lb. gorilla to consider, the kids. How can I ever say it's better for them if I start dating now, even if I do so discreetly?

I must make a decision that gives me confidence that I'm doing the right thing. That's the only way I can move ahead and stop worrying. But right now my head is swimming and my heart is an anchor.

I have got to chart a course out of this mess. To sort through my conflicting thoughts I am making a list of all the possible alternatives. I hope that the process of making the list will clear my mind.

I intend to post the list. I think I need help crossing off some unrealistic options.

9 comments:

  1. First on list: Allow yourself some happiness. It's gonna happen eventually, right? Why waste anymore time.

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  2. From what you write and don't write (and pardon me if this is obvious), what you seem to want is a full committed relationship - with Gabby ideally, but if not with her then someone else (likely a man). The option Gabby seems willing to give you involves a split between family (her) and romance (someone on the side); to her this is wonderful, because this is what she has with Charlie, so of course she expects you to think it's wonderful too.

    Therein lies the dichotomy, and that is what you need to present to her: that the option of a marriage without romance isn't, to you, a real option. The reality is that if you go out and start dating guys, eventually you'll meet some one, fall in love, and want that to be your "marriage." As such, to you, Gabby's ideal is really the end of the marriage - which she basically admitted when she said she was only staying because of the kids.

    By the way, "because of the kids" is actually the worst reason to stay together. Children know when a marriage is dysfunctional, and you can easily find studies proving that being together but miserable is actually harder on them than admitting irreconcilable differences and separating.

    Obviously you have to make your own decisions, but I'm worried that you're on a very dangerous ledge: you seem to be trying to push and shove and shoehorn your life and the people in it into the "ideal marriage" you want when Gabby seems to actively not want to fit. Even if you manage to hold it all together for a while, entropy dictates that it will eventually fall apart; when it does, a lot of people are likely to get hurt by the debris.

    Be careful, and remember that there isn't always a good answer, much less a right one.

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  3. Cameron, my friend, you are in a bad spot. You are making it worse my hanging on to an ideal that is not reality for you anymore.

    You are gay. Gabbie is in love with another man. She is not in love with you because you are gay. You are not in love with her because you are gay. Remember, I know you love each other very much, but you are not "in love". You know in your heart this is true.

    "Committed as [she] can be" means she is not 100% committed. I know that is scary, but as soon as you accept that, you will be able to move on.

    Do you have a good life? I don't know the answer to that. I suspect that the life you have is more comfortable than the unknown you will have to face if you leave and seek your own relationships.

    As for your kids, I think they will be fine. I am not yet out to my kids, but they know T and they know I spend a lot of time with him. They know that K has a new boyfriends and they know the nature of that relationship. Yes, it is unconventional, but the reality is that they know that their lives are not changing. They know that you and Gabbie love them and that's all they really care about.

    You deserve to be happy. That is not selfish. You cannot be a good friend to Gabbie or a good father to your kids if you are constantly pre-occupied with your own despair.

    I wish you all the best my friend.

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  4. Oh boy.

    I have to agree with the other commenters - you deserve happiness. And right now, you're miserable.

    The only reason that Gabbie isn't comfortable with you dating a man is because if you fall in love, you may leave her. I'm not sure why she's so opposed to that. Is it that she's afraid you'll leave her with the lion's share of the work raising the children? Or is she worried that the end of your marriage will be damaging to the kids? What's her true motivation? If she's truly worried about the the psychological health of the kids, she should end her extramarital relationship with the drunk ex-convict.

    So for the moment - you can't fall in love with someone new, but its okay for her to be in love with someone else. Doesn't seem equitable.

    And since when does Charlie get a seat at your family's negotiating table? Seems to me marital decisions should be left to those actually in the marriage.

    -nl

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  5. Cameron -
    You already know where I stand on this so will just echo the others. It is now out in the open that you and she do not ever have the potential to be lovers in a sexual way, and that she has already taken the license to find sexual/romantic love with another and would leave you the day the last kid goes to college for whomever she is loving at that time.

    You have your answer, sad but true - you need to find your own outside love. The kids? They are resilient and will adapt and even do better if both you and Gabbie are happier, with others. Your arrangement is a time honored one that many couples have adopted, straight or not, when there is a disconnect between familial duties and personal desires - it is actually great you had the talk and can go forth. Will she reverse herself or show jealousy or try to limit your choices? She may, but look at what she is doing and saying she wants.

    I think you should calmly and methodically start putting your toes in the gay dating waters and allow yourself some pleasure for once.

    It has finally been confirmed and said and now you are free. I am sure it is a bit depressing too because in some ways you have conservative moral ideas at odds with your desires. Hey, you had some long term friend with benefits and now that you can be quasi open, your chances of finding another man are even better. Trust me, waiting until 50 is an awful option and you will be feeling every day between now and then that you are a loser. You are not a loser and you are a fine catch for the right guy.

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  6. Cameron,

    Have you thought that you might be hetero-emotional and homo-sexual? If this is indeed the case, then you should grant yourself the permission to be date men, just as Gabbie granted herself permission to be in a relationship with Charlie. It seems that might make the marriage 'work' better for you. As it is, I see years of frustration ahead.

    There is no guarantee that with a man you are sexual with that you won't develop homo-emotional bonds with him, but I do think it is unlikely that anything will destroy the hetero-emotional bonds which you have with Gabbie. That seems such a passionate and valuable connection for you.

    Some of the men I have talked to seem to be married to women who care only that she is the 'only' woman in his life; what he does with guys she does not mind.

    Gabbie has made it clear that you are going to accept Charlie as a part of Gabbie's life; can she not grant you some of the same freedom to be yourself? And even if she doesn't, do you really need her permission to be yourself?

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  7. It seems that my post on Lately Gay ("Is this the year I leave my wife") is highly pertinent to where you find yourself now.

    Away from my site editor hat I'm going to be a bit more personal and direct.

    1. You deserve and have every right to be happy in your life.

    2. I think it suits your wife all too well to keep you tethered. Your trying to face up to your home truths and it's time she did as well.

    3. Crossing over to your gay life will not be a smooth or quick journey. I can honestly say eight years for me that I've only reached a point of true peace in the last two years.

    3a. Much better to start your journey now when you still confidence and belief in yourself.

    3b. If you Wait until your 51 (not that I believe for a moment that you'd last that long) the story might be quite different.

    4. Kids are very resilient and not so selfish that they will be prepared to see their dad become increasingly unhappy and frustrated; and from what you say, it will show.

    4a. You can't make people happy when you're not happy. In my opinion and experience, it really is that simple.

    Be brave, be strong, be you!

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  8. PS. Apologies, but I always drop words out of my sentences. Please note the following corrections:!

    * you're trying ...

    * eight years on ...

    * still have confidence ...

    Boy, do I need a sub-editor!!

    Cheers,

    Stephen

    PPS. Thanks so much for reading and commenting on LG!

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  9. Married to a woman....sleep in the same bed....no sex ever again....wanting to date men.....

    that is so my story right now.

    Good read, thanks.

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