Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Staying together for the Kids' sake

If you do an Internet search on "Kids and Divorce" or "Staying Together for the Kids" or any other combination of 'kids and divorce' you'll get about 96,000 results.

Each of those 96,000 web pages undoubtedly contain more expertise on the subject than anything I can muster; I don't have much personal experience with the subject since I am neither divorced myself nor are my parents.

Yet, I feel compelled to write about kids and divorce because more than one gay married man has told me that the reason he remains married is for his kids' sake.

I can relate to that inclination!

As I read through a number of web pages on the topic, it's clear that there is no professional agreement on what is best. Some psychiatrists say research proves that two-parent families consistently raise happier, more successful kids. Others say that divorce can be a very good thing because it spares the children from being stuck in the middle of a dysfunctional or poisonous relationship.

Forgetting the experts, what do children of divorced parents say?

They are also divided on the question. However, those who think their parents' divorce was for the better seem to significantly out-number those who do not.

Because there is no clear consensus among the experts or the children, I think it's safe to say that there is no universal 'best' answer.

Should you or I stay in our marriages for the sake of our kids? It all depends...

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My marriage turned rocky when my wife decided that taking care of the kids was unfulfilling. In her search for fun and excitement she started going out to bars with girlfriends.

That was four years ago and a lot has happened since then.

The situation has evolved to a point where I think my wife would have left me to be single and free by now, but she stays because of the children. Knowing that she has decided to compromise her desires and keep the family together, how do you think I feel?

Pretty shitty.

I feel like I'm the after thought. Kids first, her desires second, Cameron...who's Cameron??

That's a great way to live your life, don't you think? A compromise. An after thought.

Fuck that.

You will all be thrilled to read that I have no intention of remaining a doormat for much longer. I have a plan. A plan that I will share with you all in the not-so-distant future.

For now, I want to write about how it feels to be the compromise.

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Most of the time, my wife Gabbie is nice to me. I get occasional compliments and sometimes she even tells me that she loves me! I enjoy spending time with her so the biggest unhappiness I face on a day-to-day basis is feeling lonely when she's out, which is very often. Still, I don't feel like I have a bad life. Having the kids to provide for and to keep me company makes a big difference.

Because daily life is tolerable, it's taken me a long time to realize that Gabbie's motivation to stay with me for the kids' sake is cruel.

It's cruel because it gives me hope for 'us' when there probably is no hope. It's cruel because every day I get older and less attractive. It's cruel because, if Gabbie truly loved me, she'd be honest with me and let me determine my own future. Instead, I'm stuck in a relationship with a clock that's slowly ticking off time. My youngest will graduate from high school in June of 2018. That's a lot of years to waste, hoping that Gabbie will change her attitude.

Because of my situation, I have come to believe that staying in a marriage for the sake of the kids is mostly a cruel way to torture the rejected spouse. It's the wrong thing to do if you have every intention of leaving at some point in the future.

For a lot of guys, I think 'staying for the sake of the kids' is nothing more than an excuse to have their cake and eat it too. Wanting to have that luxury is understandable; why blow up everyone's life if you can have sex with men on the side and still stay married?

The reason to do so is out of love and respect for your wife. Maybe she'd prefer to be 39 when she's single, not 55. Or older. Maybe she'd like to have the chance to find someone who really wants to be with her, but because of your selfishness, she will never have the opportunity to meet the right guy.

Think about it. If the situation was reversed, what would you want?

There are plenty of married guys out there who stay married because they honestly believe doing so is best for the kids. They believe staying is a sacrifice; they're putting their kids' happiness ahead of their own.

I imagine there are many situations where staying together for the kids really is the best option. But, in my view, a generic fear that the kids will suffer is not justification enough. The reason is, there are ways to split up a family without creating a lot of turmoil.

A terrific example of how a gay man can respect his wife, not scar his kids, and still start a new life is Jim at Conflicting Clarity. Jim and his wife have been breaking up in slow motion for more than two years.

It hasn't always been easy but overall it appears that Jim, his wife and every one of his four kids are doing very well. Jim has his boyfriend, his wife has her boyfriend, the kids know their parents are divorcing and yet no one seems to be particularly stressed or unhappy.

Not every man and woman can have the patience necessary to break up over a period of years. You have to have a good relationship in the first place because there will certainly be times when it's awkward, or worse.

The good thing about a gay man/straight woman break up is that the incompatibility is not personal. Once the woman understands and accepts that the marriage inherently cannot work, then she may be able to move forward without anger. It might take some convincing, but she should eventually realize that having the freedom to make her own future is so much better than living many years as an afterthought or a compromise.

A corollary to the 'staying for the kids' sake' is 'staying because I fear (or know) that my wife will keep the kids from me.' I'm no expert on custody agreements and divorce law, but it seems to me that there's no jurisdiction, even in rural Alabama or Mississippi, where at least a minimum visitation right isn't awarded. So legally, I don't think it's permitted that a woman keep her children away from her ex, only because he is gay. As a practical matter, I'm sure it happens. If that is a real possibility for you, then by all means stay. Leaving sooner is mostly a kindness for your wife. If she doesn't see it that way, then stay as long as you like.

There are a multitude of other circumstances where staying for the kids' sake may be the best decision. What if your wife or child is ill or has special needs? What if you cannot financially support two households and she would never agree to a slow-split-up arrangement? What if your wife is so old or unattractive that she has no chance of finding someone else?

The list of 'good' reasons to stay may be lengthy. The difficult part is to honestly assess whether your good reason is legitimate or whether it's just an excuse. That's only something you can do.

If you can't dispute the fact that you'd be happier if you were single, and you think your wife would have a better chance of finding a partner who wants to be with her sooner rather than later, then you need to face your fears and take the plunge. Almost every guy who has done so, as Jim has, feels that they made the best decision because everyone is happier in the long run.

I realize that for many guys this is a difficult, emotional subject. I expect that some of you may vehemently disagree that sooner is better than later. Regardless of how you feel, please post your story or comments. Sharing our experiences and opinions is what makes blogging worth the time and effort.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sports, Scrabble and "Oh Shit!"

My oldest kid, Conrad, is a few months away from turning 17. He's never been a great student and he's often hyper and annoying, which until high school, made it difficult for him to keep friends.

He's always been the same kind of kid, from pre-school onward; the teachers have always had the same frustrations and complaints.

When Kindergarten wasn't going well for him I began to worry that all the negative feedback was going to permanently put his self-image at risk. I worried that he'd become the bad kid everyone told him he was. To keep that from happening, I felt that I had to find him something he was good at, something that he would have a passion for, that would keep him from falling into an unending vicious-cycle of negativity and problems.

I was an unathletic kid, for which I blame my parents. It seems to me that not-so athletic kids are more likely to become athletic if they are exposed to sports at a young age. The longer you wait to start, the harder it is for the kid to feel competent. Therefore for Conrad, sports were a must.

In pre-school I tried soccer. That was a bust - he could never follow directions. In first grade I tried Little League. That went ok. The coaches were patient and most of the kids were new to the game.

In second grade I signed him up for Little League again but the head coach for that team was an ass. Gabbie and I decided to pull Conrad off the team during the second week of the season, after we found out that he'd spent most of a practice hiding from everyone. Why was he hiding? He didn't want everyone to yell at him.

Around this same time he played football at school during recess and lunch. Because I took him to school and picked him up, we'd always talk about his day. Some football days were good, most were not.

Eventually I realized that Conrad needed to play an individual sport, nothing with teams. Tennis required too much patience. I thought about swimming but then someone told me that karate is good for kids with ADHD. I decided to give that a shot. I knew there were many different styles. Which one would be best for Conrad?

I spent a week visiting six different karate schools. Some were nearby, the furthest was 20 minutes away. The school I eventually picked was run by a woman who looked as butch as any woman ever could, however, the amount of attention she paid to each student was extremely impressive.

Enrolling Conrad in that karate school is, unquestionably, the very best decision I've ever made as a parent. The woman who runs it has a real gift for motivating all kids, but difficult ones in particular. She specializes in instructing kids with Downs Syndrome and ADHD.

One of the many great things about the school is that each belt must be earned. There's no such thing as social promotion. If you don't come to class, if tons of other kids pass you up because you don't try, no one feels sorry for you and hands you a new belt.

Conrad has been at the school for more than eight years. During that time he has mostly attended five or six days a week. In his ninth year he'll finally earn his black belt and that will be the first black belt anyone under the age of 18 has earned at that school in nine or ten years.

Believe it or not, the pride and sense of achievement Conrad will feel when he earns his black belt will be secondary to his love for the school and his fellow students. The positive atmosphere created and maintained by the instructor has helped turn Conrad, a kid who felt like he could never do anything right, into a happy, confident, positive teenager. The karate school mostly caters to kids but even between the kids and the few adults, there is an extremely strong "family" bond. Lots of the kids have literally grown up together and when two of the oldest kids left for college this past September it was a very sad day for all of them.

As fantastic as this karate school has been for Conrad, it's been a nightmare for me. It was the furthest school away when I did my original due diligence. Conrad's schedule has changed over the years but for a long time I had to leave work at 3pm four days a week just to take him to karate. The travel time is so much that it was not worth driving him to karate and then driving back to home or work. So in his first year, I used to sit in on most classes. That was good to do. I learned a lot about karate and I got to know all of the kids. This has proved invaluable in later years because when I pick him up now all he does is yammer about one kid or another and sometimes the adults. I know all of the long-term students and a few of the newer, young students.

Conrad's damn karate schedule could put a serious cramp in any future dating life I might have. By the time we get home from karate, make and clean up dinner, it's 8pm. And God forbid that Gabbie should take him or pick him up. She's way too busy!

Someday, either when he graduates from high school or when he gets a 3.0 for a semester, I will let Conrad start driver's training. Eventually there will come a day when the kid can drive himself to karate. Then, and only then, will Conrad's karate schedule not be a major part of my life.

Knowing that that day is coming sooner rather later gives me hope.

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A few blogger friends have advised me to find some local gay friends. They say that if I end up single, it would really help to have some local support as I begin a new life. I think that's sound advice but I do have some reservations. First, how can I build new friendships when my time is limited and I have to do it on the sly? Second, finding gay friends means that I have to come out of the closet, at least a little.

I've been wracking my brain to try to think of ways to find gay friends. Yes, I live near San Francisco so that means there are plenty of queers around. But why, I ask myself, would any of them want to bother with a closeted married guy who may remain married to a woman for the next 40 years?

A month ago I thought I hit pay dirt when a guy near my age posted an ad in the Strictly Platonic section of Craigslist. He was looking to get a group of gay men together for a casual game of Scrabble. Perfect! I loved the idea of an activity combined with a social event, in a small group setting.

The guy set up a game the following week, but I couldn't attend. That damn karate schedule was only one of several reasons.

The guy tried to get a Monopoly game going two weeks later but I guess that fizzled.

Finally, I saw that the guy posted for Scrabble again early last week. No matter what, I decided, I'd find a way to go. Luckily, he picked Friday night for the game, which is normally ideal. Gabbie is usually out on Friday nights and I'm just hanging out with the kids.

There were some last-minute hiccups that made me think I was going to have to cancel, but they worked themselves out. The biggest problem was that, even though I had checked with Gabbie earlier in the week and she said otherwise, it turned out that she expected us to go out together that Friday. So it was an "oh fuck" moment when I told my wife I couldn't go. Gay Scrabble > Night Out with Wife = Not Good for Marriage.

I'm repeating a chunk of my last post, so I apologize, but I'm setting the scene.

As the hour for the game approached, I was getting increasingly nervous. Yet I also felt dumb. It's not like I was doing anything naughty. Scrabble? With fags? That's probably many guys' idea of Hell. But whatever - it was a social event, a way to meet non-partier types.

By the time I rang the bell to the host's apartment, I was relatively calm. The place was located just two short blocks past the heart of the seminal gay neighborhood in San Francisco, the Castro. I expected parking to be a bitch, but it wasn't. Most of the neighborhood consists of 1910ish Victorians but this building was 1960s modern.

Frank, the host, greeted me as I made it to his apartment. We had traded pictures a month before. He looked pleasant and normal enough in the picture but now that I saw him in person the photo was clearly old. Old photos on Craigslist? What a shock. It didn't matter much, however; I wasn't there to fuck him.

I was the first to arrive. Frank told me to expect three more people, a couple and a single guy. Fifteen minutes later, the couple arrived. Max and Travis. I later learned that Max is 50 and Travis is 43. I also learned that they had been together for 17 years, and that they had moved from my part of the Bay Area three years before. After waiting another fifteen minutes for the last guy to arrive, Frank checked his email and found out that the guy had flaked. Ok. My big gay social night out: a couple and a somewhat odd host.

We chatted both one-to-one and as a group for a while and that was interesting. Max is an RN who works at a clinic for low income children. Travis is an expert on learning and behavioral disorders in children. He works for one of the outlying Bay Area counties. I found both of them to be very likable and unpretentious. Travis was slightly feminine, but not irritatingly so.

Travis and I introduced ourselves to each other and talked for about five minutes, then he began the "you look familiar" game.

One of my biggest fears about 'outing' myself at a dorky event like a gay Scrabble game was that I would run into someone who already knew me and Gabbie. Specifically, Gabbie has two gay friends from college, both partnered, who are part of our main social group. They've thrown a few parties where they invite all their friends so we've met quite a few of their gay friends. When Travis began the "you look familiar" game I freaked out a little. But as I looked at him, I was certain he was not one of our friends' friends. In fact, I was certain I had never met him before. He went through a few questions, trying to place me, but nothing clicked, so he dropped the subject. Thankfully.

The one subject that was most on my mind was my situation. In my original email to Frank a month before I had told him about my situation. I wanted to be sure that I'd be welcome, as a closeted married guy. Because Frank had not brought the subject up when we first met and were alone, I knew he had forgotten. This meant that I had to bring the subject up myself, or, wait until I was asked a question that would require me to out myself as living a straight, married life.

After three enjoyable hours I realized that none of my Scrabble partners had any clue that I was married with three kids at home. Finally, the subject of children came up so I took the opportunity to disclose that I had some.

Frank practically injured himself when he jumped in surprise. "What?! You have a child? How old??"

"Actually, I have three. Almost 17, almost 13 and 11."

"And you've been divorced how long?"

"I'm not divorced. I'm in the closet."

Gasps from all three men.

I felt like I was an interrogation room, with bright lights shining in my eyes as Frank, mostly, fired question after question at me. I answered each one truthfully and matter of factly. When Frank ended his parade of questions I said, "This night is actually a big deal for me. I haven't done anything that was 'out' for 18 years."

Max jumped at that and asked, "Did you not know how you felt when you were married?"

"No, I knew." I then told them how when Gabbie first asked me if I was gay, I lied to her because I thought we'd never get serious and because her two previous boyfriends had also been gay.

Finally, Travis spoke up, "I know that I know you from somewhere...." He was concentrating, hard, trying to place me. I don't know why he was so insistent. I know I didn't recognize him.

"Did you ever work at any of the stores on Fourth Street? You know, down at the end near Five Tigers Karate?"

As soon as he said the name of the karate school, I had my "oh shit!" moment. It turned out he was right, he did recognize me. Travis went to the same karate school as Conrad. They had classes together, kick boxed against each other, and were "friends" the same way everyone who goes there becomes friends over time.

It was only a fraction of a second after I made the connection, that Travis did too. I think he was as shocked and embarrassed as I was.

My very first instinct was to run. But what would that do? Prove I'm an ass. He knows my secret, he knows my kid, there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Except to thank the-God-I-don't-believe-in that he had stopped going to that karate school when he moved to San Francisco three years ago.

The next 30 minutes were weird. Max and Frank weren't as shocked as Travis and I, but they sensed our mutual embarrassment. Somewhat at a loss for what to say next, Travis started to talk about how much he liked the school and in particular the head instructor, the lesbian I wrote about above. Soon he was asking about every person he remembered and telling me what a pain-in-the-ass my kid could be.

Actually, he was very kind. By asking about different people and taking the focus off of me, he showed me that he wasn't one of those gays who despise closeted men. Max and Frank were supportive too, although I think they were annoyed that Travis and I spent a long time talking about people they didn't know.

By this time it was 11pm and I wanted to be home no later than 11:30. I told them I had to go but Frank suddenly got distracted by his own thoughts of fatherhood and offered up an emotional ode to his recently passed father. After letting him vent for a good fifteen minutes, I apologized again and said I had to go. Max and Travis said they needed to go also.

I was panicked about being so late; I knew the kids would be home alone. I didn't want to be rude and run out of the apartment but I definitely was anxious to go. As I said my goodbyes and my sincere "this was fun, let's do it agains" I saw that Travis was writing on a small piece of paper. As I said goodbye to him, he handed me the paper which had his email address on it. "Email us if we can be of any help." More than anything, that gesture made me feel good about my decision to attend.

I got home at 12:05am and all three kids were wide awake; there was no mention or sign of Gabbie, which is usual. I got the kids to bed, then crashed myself.

I woke up around 2, no Gabbie. Around 3:30 again, no Gabbie.

For her to be out that late was not unusual. She stays out late to sober up before coming home.

At 4:30am, which is late for her, she came home. "How was your thing, sweetie?" she asked.

"Fine, good." I had earlier told her that I was meeting friends related to volunteer work I do.

She crawled into bed and laid there for a little while. Then she said a few random, unimportant things that I don't remember. Although she had been drinking she seemed relatively sober to me. Finally she said, "No matter how many times he asks me to marry him, I'm never going to do it." The 'he' she was talking about was Charlie, the drunk she she hangs out with.

I don't know why she says things like that to me. Is that supposed to make me feel better? Or worse? Or was she really just talking to herself?

Later that morning she got up around 9am. She asked me again how my night was and I gave her the same answer, "Fine, good."

"I'm glad."

Then before she wandered away to do something she said, "No one could ever be better to me than you."

And as proof that I'm now very cynical, I thought, It's like she knows I was out looking for a new life.

Somehow she knows what to say and when to say it, just so she can fuck with my head and reel me back in.


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I emailed Frank and Travis the next day to say thanks, I was glad to meet them, I had fun.

Travis replied, in part, "you're a fun guy to hang out with, chat with, and play games with -- did we ever finish that game of Scrabble?!? So yes, we'd love to see you again and do something. Dinner, movie, drinks, whatever."

In general, Gabbie has been noticeably more attentive and affectionate recently. Now I have new gay friends, a first step in what could be the process of coming out.

I'm being pulled in opposite directions at the same time. How long can that go on before something snaps?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Data Mining Info from OkCupid

Are ya'll familiar with the free on-line dating site OkCupid?

The site was launched in March of 2004 by a group of Harvard grads and now claims 3.5 million active users. Match.com is 10 years older and has 20 million users in 37 countries; I believe that Match is the largest on-line dating site that exists.

The style of the two sites is very different. Match is very traditional, very Microsoft if you will. OkCupid has a much more youthful, humorous attitude, more like Google. Ten years ago I don't think many people would have expected Google to be as dominant in the computing world as it has become. It's possible that the same will be said about OkCupid and on-line dating, 10 years from now.

OkCupid has a number unique features, but two are especially noteworthy. First, instead of focusing on identifying your personality, OkCupid's matching questions are more often based on real life choices and opinions. Yes, many of the questions are dumb or irrelevant, and those are annoying to answer, but the best questions can be unusually revealing.

Here's a random example, "Which is worse: abused animals or starving children?"

I like animals just as much as the next person but I would hope that most people would choose starving children. If a guy chooses abused animals over children it doesn't mean I would never date him, but, it is a flag that the guy and I might think very differently, even if our personalities are compatible.

I might be giving you the impression that individual questions are extremely important on OkCupid. Actually, the opposite is true. There are so many potential questions that one or two odd answers become irrelevant. The results, therefore, represent a match's general attitude, opinions and priorities. If you have a high match percentage with someone, it is very likely that your approaches to the important things in life are aligned.

OkCupid's second unique feature is its multitude of tests. Many are not intended to find you match, they're just fun to try - tests like "Are you a good kisser?" or "The Ultimate Broadway Lyrics Test" or "The Gaydar Test" (beat my score! 85%). Other tests are more revealing - tests like "The Dating Persona Test" or "The What Kind of Man Turns You on Test?" (Buff Sweetie, aka Brad Pitt at 35).

The tests help make the site interesting and you can certainly burn through a lot of time just by searching through all 43,440 of them. But both the test results and the tests a potential match chooses to take can be extremely revealing. For example on one profile I looked at, the guy had 9 tests related to show tunes, musicals and theater. I like all of those things. In moderation. Because those kinds of tests overwhelmed the other tests, it's obvious that he's a huge theater geek. Knowing that, I'm not sure we'd make a good match.

The primary reason I'm writing about OkCupid is not to give them a nice plug. Instead, I'd like to direct you to a recent blog entry on their "OkTrends" page.

OkTrends is a corporate blog that focuses on dating reality and perceptions. They use data from all those questions and tests that OkCupid users complete to show that common perceptions are either right on, or, surprisingly wrong.

The specific entry I think you'd all enjoy is "Gay Sex vs. Straight Sex."

This title is a bit of a misnomer because one of the most interesting parts of the article, to me at least, is a chart that shows personality traits by orientation. The data comes from 669 million (!) questions.

Probably the most unexpected thing the data show is the single biggest way gay men and straight men differ...their interest in watching sports. Straights like to watch, gays, not so much.

The biggest similarity between straight men and gay men? They are equally likely to be into drugs.

Overall, gay men tend to be more ambitious, artsy, compassionate, political, literary, spontaneous and introverted than straight men. While straight men are significantly more violent, aggressive and horny.

Kind of a fun article, don't you think?

Bisexuals are not left out. Some parts of the article compare data from gays, bisexuals, and straights. Also, there is one key section that shows that 28% of their users have either had sex with someone of the same sex and enjoyed it, or, they'd like to have sex with someone of the same sex. Apparently there are more people who are willing to experiment that we might guess.

It's all interesting stuff, backed up with mountains of hard data. Check it out!

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A quick update on my life.

Gabbie has been noticeably, consistently sweeter to me since we returned from our trip 10 days ago. It's making me feel guilty. I feel like I should give her the benefit of my doubts but I remain skeptical that we will be together much longer. I don't know why I'm not happier now that she's been so well behaved.

We're going to be moving within the next six months, perhaps as soon as early February. In an attempt to end all of this ambiguity, my plan is to put her on the spot as soon as we have a moving date set. Moving is an easy, logical time for us to split up. So, if that's what she wants to do, I will agree to let it happen.

Ironically, I think Gabbie is happier right now than she's been in several years and she may not want to leave. That is the answer I fear the most. I really wonder if I have mentally traveled so far down the gay-and-single road that I can't go back to where I was before. I just don't know.

Here's something new. Blogger friends have urged me to get some real-life fag friends. I think this may be a wise idea in case I should suddenly find myself single. About a month ago I answered a Craigslist Strictly Platonic ad from a gay guy who was organizing a relaxed game of Scrabble for homos. It turned out that I couldn't make any of the game nights until tonight.

I have no idea why, but I'm nervous as hell. I don't really know what I'm so worried about. Hopefully I will calm down quickly. I guess I fear walking into the house and seeing one of Gabbie's gay friends there. That would be a big "Oh shit" moment.

Also, I'm wracked with guilt about going. When I committed, I thought Gabbie was going to be out and the kids would all be at home, beating each other up like usual. But suddenly, my daughter got invited to a birthday party and Gabbie tells me she thought the two of us were going out.

Now I'm ditching my wife and kid to play scrabble with a few other geeky queers.

I was seriously thinking of flaking but Gabbie made other plans and my daughter got a ride to the party.

Now I have no choice but to walk to some gay guy's house in the Castro, shaking like a leaf for no good reason. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Option Four: Start a New Life

If you accept yourself as bisexual or gay and you're committed to a woman, how do you handle your attraction to men and the commitment to your woman?

Believe it or not, you only have four choices.

I have written about three of the choices in recent posts and now I continue with the fourth and final option: starting a new life.

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If you've decided to start a new life that means you've decided to end your romantic relationship with your woman. If you're bi, why would you want to do that?

I'm sure some bisexual men have divorced their wives in order to more freely pursue sex with men, but that has to be an uncommon event. If you're bi, you want both men and women, so saying goodbye to your wife doesn't make much sense.

This means that the option to "start a new life" does not often pertain to bi men. It's pretty much something only a gay man would decide to do when he feels ready to come out of the closet.

The reasons TO end your marriage and come out of the closet are pretty obvious. I suppose more than anything it's about being honest with those around you. But it could also be purely selfish; having a wife can really be a drag on your gay sex life. In most cases, elements of both probably play a role.

What's interesting is that, in the abstract, few will condemn a gay man for choosing to begin an honest life. Gay men, straight women and even the Catholic Church all agree that gay men and straight women should not be married. Of course the Catholic Church doesn't think gay men should marry anyone...

I could easily be wrong about this, but I believe that only the Mormon Church disapproves of ending "mixed orientation" marriages. The reason is that Mormon marriages extend into the afterlife so splitting up on Earth is only delaying the inevitable, eternal reunion. The Mormon Church's answer is to stay together - and they'll help the man get over his same sex attractions.

This uniquely Mormon attitude may explain why there are so many married Moho bloggers.

If almost everyone can agree, in theory, that gay men should not remain married to straight women, why do so many gay men and their straight wives resist separating? Is resistance simply part of the grieving process, nothing more than a delay of the inevitable? Or, are there legitimate, sustainable reasons why a gay man and a straight woman should remain married?

There may be other 'legitimate' reasons, but I can only think of two that seem to be common. One is children. The other is age.

I really do feel like something of a freak. When I came out to my wife at age 26 we had been married two and a half years and we didn't have kids. Gabbie often stayed late after work socializing while I was home alone, wondering when I should start dinner. (Some things don't change, even with kids...) I was lonely and so I spent more and more time daydreaming about meeting men, especially the right man.

When I did meet a terrific guy I assumed that my marriage was over. And for about 11 weeks it was. Then Gabbie and I got back together, not because we had kids and not because we were old or sick. It was love!

It wasn't a crazy I-can't-live-another-day-without-you kind of love. It was something more subdued than that; she missed me and I missed her. What convinced me that I was making the right decision was that I wanted to be with her more than I wanted to be with my very perfect boyfriend of ten weeks.

Eighteen years and three kids later, here we are, still fully partnered. What percentage of marriages between two straight people last that long?

So yes, I am not a total cynic, I do believe love can be factor. But mostly I think practical reasons come into play. If you get along well, why risk fucking up the kids by splitting up? If you get along well, why risk starting over at age 60, 65, 70 or 75? Gay culture is so youth-oriented it's not hard to see the logic that staying together for another 20 years might not be so bad considering you've already been married for 40.

There are some who would refute the idea that kids or age are acceptable reasons why a gay man and a straight woman should remain married. I plan a future post about the staying-because-of-the-kids issue.

Because I am so extremely young (I like to tell my kids I'm 26. They get such delight from rolling their eyes and showing me some attitude as they say, "Dad, we know you're not 26! You're 44. Why don't you just admit it?!!!") I don't feel properly informed of all the issues as to why a 70 year old gay man should, or should not, remain married to his wife of 40+ years. But I will say this: I've had a number of gay men comment that they've found love and happiness well after they began receiving Social Security checks. One of the best was very recent. Wharton wrote about how he was pursued (!) by a 27 year old man when he was 65, and how they're still together 7 years later. Wow! That story can give us all hope.

And if not hope, it gives those of us who are seriously considering starting a new life a reason to procrastinate for another year. Or twenty.

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What are your thoughts about gay men who decide to remain married to straight women? Feel free to share them below, or, to disagree with anything that I've written above.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Option Three: Cheat


If you accept yourself as bisexual or gay and you're committed to a woman, how do you handle your attraction to men and the commitment to your woman?

Believe it or not, you only have four choices.

I have written about two of the choices in recent posts and now I continue with the third option, cheating.

Before I begin I should disclose that I have a lot of personal experience with cheating. I have been cheated on, both by a 'Friend with Benefits' and by my wife. I know what it feels like to be cheated on and it doesn't feel good.

I have also been the cheater. I cheated on my then-girlfriend-now-wife within our first month together. I cheated when we were dating. I cheated when we were engaged. I cheated on the eve of our wedding. I cheated within the first two years of being married. And, I cheated steadily thereafter for about ten years. Without question, I have been a dirty scum-bag cheater.

And yet, it has now been more than seven years since I last cheated. The long break from cheating is probably permanent and as such it's given me some additional perspective that I did not have ten or twenty years ago. Below are my thoughts on the subject of cheating.

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If you're married, and you've taken the vows to honor and cherish your wife, how could cheating EVER be considered an option when dealing with your same sex attractions? Obviously only morally bankrupt, future hell-dwellers would consider cheating an option. For everyone else, it's not.

I agree that in an ideal world we should all take the high ground and live honestly, morally and with utmost respect for the woman we made a life-long commitment to honor. Cheating, in my book, should never be the first option you consider when you're coming to terms with your same sex attractions. Nevertheless, it remains an option, an important option that cannot be ignored.

At it's heart, cheating is a selfish act. Cheaters decide that the rules of society and the personal commitment they've made to their wives are secondary to their own sexual and/or emotional needs. If you're going to justify your infidelity, you must first realize that you are making a selfish decision. If you cannot accept that you are being selfish then you should not be cheating---you're too delusional to make sound decisions.

When is cheating a good option and when it is not? Wow! That's quite a question.

By 'good' I mean justified. Justification is a process of honest self-assessment followed by a thorough review of the options available to you.

The self-assessment begins when you accept your attractions and start to think about what to do about them. The two options I've already written about, to never act on your desires or to be honest with your wife, should each be seriously considered before making the decision to cheat.

When it comes to that first option, it's easy to understand why many bisexual and gay married guys would find it impossible to forever avoid sex with men. It's not celibacy because they're married, but even so...no sex with a man? Ever? Some can do that, many cannot.

The second option of being honest with your wife has multiple objectives. It's about being honest and it's about sharing a crucial part of yourself with your life partner. But it's also self-serving because why torment your wife with the truth if you never intend to act on it? One of the biggest reasons to be honest is to obtain permission to fool around.

There are quite a few reasons why married guys feel they cannot be honest. Those include: their attraction to men is too ambiguous; they are certain that their wife cannot handle the truth; they are afraid of how their wife might react; they feel that their desire for men is entirely independent from their desire for their wife, therefore it is not her concern; they know their wife will not consent to an open marriage.

These are all reasons to cheat, although several aren't so much reasons as they are excuses. The excuses represent catch-22 situations wherein you ask yourself, "Is it better to risk it all by being honest, or, hope it all works out and lie and cheat?"

The final step of the justification process is to realize that if you're going to be a good cheater the decision to do so cannot be ALL about you. For example, if you think that cheating is going to end your depression or fulfill you in a way that will allow you to be a better partner to your wife, those are reasonable counterbalances to the selfishness of cheating. The thing is, good cheating means that you check back with yourself about those expected benefits. If you're still depressed after a healthy dose of cheating, more cheating is probably not going to solve the problem. Instead you should consider other solutions.

If you accept the above standards as criteria for justified cheating and ask whether most cheating is justified or not, I think the answer is, it's not. Most cheating is simply desire run amok. We know better, but we just can't help ourselves. That's bad cheating.

My theory is that bad cheating is a purely selfish act, and as such, it has a tendency to catch up with you. Selfishness makes us sloppy. We don't truly care about others or repercussions so we're not careful. The lack of caution causes us to get caught, and wham, all hell breaks loose.

Good cheating is still selfish and that can still make us sloppy. But generally, I think good cheaters are careful cheaters. It all comes down to consideration of others. Sure, we don't want to get HIV (or genital herpes or hepatitis, or...) but we REALLY don't want our wives to be infected or our kids. Therefore we ALWAYS use condoms. We always erase our texts, clear our browser history, and plan our rendezvous so that they don't impinge on time with our wife and family.

Good cheating can easily devolve into bad cheating. Falling in love with a man when you're married to a woman can certainly be disastrous. More likely than that is that you stop doing the honesty checks with yourself. Is my lover really secondary to my wife if I feel distant from her and close to him? Do I make excuses not to spend time with her because I'd rather be with a guy?

A good cheater is someone who checks back with himself often to make sure selfishness hasn't taken over.

As you can see, I believe that the morally repulsive act of cheating can be committed with a high degree of ethical compassion for others. That doesn't mean it's an ideal solution, but it can nevertheless allow a married man who is attracted to other men to navigate a rocky moral road with some impunity. That said, the road is littered with potholes and it is SO very easy to fall into one, or many.

An 'ideal' good cheating situation might look something like this: you trade work hours for sex hours but your income and job performance are not materially affected; you always practice safe sex and are extremely discreet about all contact with your lover(s); when timing conflicts occur between family and your lover, your family always comes first; your liaisons cause you to seek better relationships with your wife and family, including more and better sex with your wife; if bad things happen between you and your lover, you are able to shield your family from any negative emotional impact you might be feeling. In short, whenever your cheating world and your married world intersect, the married world is either improved or not affected.

Good cheating is a fucking brutal standard to maintain. It's a lot of work for the cheater - as it should be, given the betrayal. Sometimes you realize that the work exceeds the benefits. If that happens, it's time to question whether cheating is worth the effort. It took me 17 years of on-and-off cheating to reach that point. I'm still gay. I'd still prefer a dick in my mouth or up my ass than any other kind of sex, but the man attached to the dick would now need to be pretty fucking awesome to tempt me.

I view short-term, isolated cheating differently than continuous or habitual cheating. A brief, discreet affair is not likely to make an impact on you or you marriage. I don't see such affairs as being particularly eventful IF the cheater is cautious and safe and IF a brief episode of cheating does not devolve into a regular parade of men.

Actually, short-term, experimental cheating can be extremely important. How can any man who has only fantasized about sex with another man truly know if he likes it unless and until he does it?

There aren't a lot of them out there, but there are guys who give gay sex a try and discover they don't like it. They might still find the idea to be hot, so they'll watch gay porn or do web cams, but they won't actually have sex with other guys. If they're happy looking but not touching, and if they can maintain a positive relationship with their wife, the initial bit of cheating could be a small concession that results in a happier married life for both partners.

Ultimately, what I think long-term cheaters need to realize is that, unless they can maintain a near-perfect balance between their cheating world and the rest of their lives, cheating is a path to a new equilibrium, not a destination.

Eventually, most cheaters will stop and be content with their wife, or, they'll exercise the final option and end their marriage.

And here's some food for thought: who do you think is more likely to have their marriage end, the guy who cheats or the guy who doesn't? If cheating is a path, where do you think it most frequently leads?

I will be writing about that fourth and final option, ending your marriage, next.

As always, I love to hear alternative opinions so feel free to add your comments below.

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.

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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.