Austin said, "You seem to be trying to push and shove and shoe-horn your life and the people in it into the 'ideal marriage' you want."
Although others have made similar comments, Austin's use of the word "shoe-horn" caused me to stop and think about exactly what he meant.
It's a very visual word. When you say the word an image comes with it - a hand manipulating a shoe-horn, with increasing frustration, trying, trying, trying to make a foot fit into a shoe.
The wonderful thing about shoe-horning is that it usually works. Almost always you can make the shoe fit. It's an uncomfortable fit, perhaps causing you to walk strangely or to ache with each step. But the damn shoe is on the foot!
Occasionally, no amount of shoe-horning works. Fight and curse all you like, the foot will NOT fit into the shoe. This can be especially frustrating when the shoe always used to fit in the past. Why should it suddenly not fit any longer??
Thanks to Austin and shoe-horning, I finally get it.
Even if I can get the shoe back on my foot, that is, make my marriage functional again, every step I walk in that shoe is going to ache. The reality is what everyone has been trying to tell me - the shoe just doesn't fit any more.
I don't know if I have ever clearly expressed how emotionally bound I am to Gabbie. I grew up in an 'empty' household. Both of my parents are blank people; without color or depth or real emotion. I didn't have a bad childhood but I could not wait to leave them when I went to college. In fact, I only applied to colleges that were far, far away.
College was exceptional. Every moment was filled with color and depth and passion for learning and doing. I met plenty of superb people there, but when I met Gabbie on an overseas program at 20, she was different. She was extremely intelligent, yet nothing like the geeks I was used to. Most importantly, she had a vivacious zest for life that I found to be irresistible. She lived every emotion with such expressiveness that I felt alive like I never had before.
Even today, I find Gabbie's joy to be captivating. It's the drug of my life. I've needed to make her happy so that I could experience her joy, it was so much better than anything I could experience on my own.
For twenty-four years I have been wrapped up in Gabbie, without a lot of influence from others. I tried to escape from her once...but I found that I just couldn't do it. I have never wanted to escape since, even as I watched her fall in love with another man.
Both Gabbie and I know her love for me is no longer a romantic love. And, we both know she will never love me that way again, no matter how much I wish for that to happen. I must therefore accept the fact that our differences are truly irreconcilable; the shoe will never fit again.
Neither of us can move ahead until we both recognize that the nature of our relationship must drastically change. Until I can make a permanent emotional break from her, I can't even handle being good friends. I think we both need to take a hard break from each other. I need to quit my Gabbie addiction, cold turkey. I can't make any progress if I can be seduced by warmth from her at any moment.
At the same time, I don't want to hide from her either. I need to develop a natural defense to her charms and I can't do that unless I am regularly tested. Plus, we have the children to rear.
Ever since Austin's comment caused my epiphany several days ago I have been trying to emotionally distance myself from Gabbie. Frequently I call her "my love" - I can't do that any more. When she lies next to me in bed, I want to cuddle with her and rub her back. No more of that. When she's out of the house I miss her. Not any more. All of this restraint is taking a lot of conscious effort right now and that's not easy. In time, I know it will get easier.
The most difficult task ahead of me is to explain all of this to Gabbie. I'm really, really terrible at putting my foot down with her. I worry that she's going to tell me I've got it all wrong; that what she wants will work.
But I know it won't, not for me. I have to be firm and resolute. Just as importantly, I have to get her to understand that we both must emotionally distance ourselves from each other. Neither of us can move ahead until that's done.
Telling Gabbie that we're irreconcilable...it's one of those ugly things I don't want to do. It would be so easy to drag my feet. But I have promised myself that the next time she starts talking about the future I'm going to tell her that we don't have a future together.
Some day, sooner rather than later, I hope, Gabbie will buzz into the house, say hello and tell me that she's going out on a romantic date with Charlie (or, better yet, someone I actually like) and I'll say, "OK." She won't feel guilty about leaving me at home and I won't be hurt or jealous.
In fact, I'll be happy because when that day happens because I'll know that our transition is over. No longer lovers frustrated that we can't make it all work, now friends who want nothing but happiness for each other, in our own separate lives.
I've always thought that I'd need the support of a partner to help me make the emotional break from Gabbie. But now I realize that I must handle the split entirely on my own. I need to be clear-headed before getting involved with someone new. Trying to do both at the same time is the wrong thing to do, for both him and me.
The kids. I hope to make our transition as transparent to them as possible. But at some point, they're going to notice. They've been oblivious to nearly all that has gone on in this year because they know that my emotional bond with Gabbie has remained strong. As we pull back from each other, they're going to notice the difference. I don't what I'm going to do about that yet. For as long as possible, we'll say nothing about the split. But clearly that's a temporary solution. We'll need to figure out exactly what to say, and when.
I'm sorry, ya'll, that it took me so long to understand. All this time people have been talking about fundamental differences; a gay man can NEVER be with a straight woman. None of that felt right to me. What did click was the mental picture of the shoe that *almost* fits, but never will.
Big thanks to Austin.