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?"
"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.