Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Give Up Gracefully?

Ya'll can celebrate: I've given up trying to woo my wife.

***

More than two weeks ago, when my wife was in a very bad mood and brooding about a fight with her "friend" Charlie, she took aim at me. She told me that under no circumstances would she EVER want to "be" with me.

Yes, she was angry at him and I took the hit, but I knew the truth when I heard it. I realized then that I have been tilting at windmills.

I took the news badly. It was like a punch in the face, a stab in the gut and a kick to the nuts all at once. I've been working to scrape myself off the pavement ever since.

All-in-all, I'm doing OK. I'm glad to know the truth and to have some closure on the question of our romantic future together. Still, I hate the answer.

But it is what it is.

I've been trying to comfort myself with positive thoughts about the future. It's not going well.

About six months ago I tried to get excited about dating men. My attitude was positive for about two weeks, then I started feeling very unmotivated. There were several issues that contributed to my malaise. At the top of the list was that it felt wrong for me to date. The relationship with my wife seemed so normal, it felt like I'd be betraying her, even if I met someone for coffee.

I had big hopes that getting bluntly rejected by her would change my attitude. It hasn't. Unfortunately, the same four hang-ups from before continue to haunt me:

1. Everyday life with my wife continues to be normal and therefore the idea of looking for someone to potentially replace her feels...wrong. Yes, the idea of snuggling up with a great guy to watch The Closer together on Monday nights is very appealing. But that's something my wife and I have done for years. How can I just toss her aside?

Logically I know I should think about the future and not cling to the past but it's just not that easy. The thought of looking for a guy feels like I'm abandoning her and that's not what I want to do. Yet...I know I'm not being fair to myself if I continue to settle for a woman who only wants to be friends.

I don't know if it will work, but I hope the "cure" for this problem can come from my wife. I'm hoping that I'll feel comfortable looking for a guy if she gives me some sort of blessing. She hasn't done that yet but she has dropped some encouraging hints, including recently when she asked me why I haven't been to any Gay Scrabble Nights lately. (There haven't been any. Lack of interest probably - no sex involved.)

2. After reading about the gay dating experiences of many others, the idea of trying to meet a quality guy on the Internet seems like an exercise in futility. At best, it seems like Chinese water torture, a drip-drip-drip of endless bullshit. I don't want or expect an instant relationship but I don't want to play games either. And I don't want to fuck around for "fun" while I wait for the right guy. What I want is to spend quality time getting to know potentially compatible guys. Just spare me the games and the headaches, please.

My antipathy for playing the Gay On-line Dating Game is so acute that no matter what dating site I log in to, I spend about ten minutes reading profiles then I get tired of the Salesmanship and The Checklist and log out. For someone who hasn't been out on a guy-date in 19 years, I am astoundingly jaded. It really sucks to be so negative but I can't help it. And worst of all, I have absolutely no idea how to fix my bad attitude.

3. Why do I even bother thinking about dating? I have a dull life but it is consumed with taking care of the kids. They resent my wife because they think she's never home. If I start dating, I won't be home as much either. How will they feel then? Resentful and abandoned. Why have kids if I'm not going to spend the required time with them? The truth is, full-time parenting and dating do not mix. If I had any common sense at all I'd focus on the kids for now and completely forget about men.

4. No guy worth committing to wants to date an already-committed man. Hook-ups are fun for as long as they last but the minute they're over (or, far too often, the minute one of you cums) the regret begins. Yes I'm jaded about gay Internet dating, but I'm positively radioactive about hook-ups. "Fine," you say, "Lots of guys are looking for more than a hook up." I believe that. But the same guys who want more than a hook-up are exactly the same guys who have enough sense to stay away from already 'committed' men. "Easy enough," you say, "get divorced." Well guess what? I don't WANT to get divorced. I don't want to eat my words at some future date so I'm not going to say that I will never get divorced, but honestly, that's how I feel. And my wife feels the same. Hurray for gay marriage and all but I personally have absolutely, positively no desire to get married again. And divorce locks us both into a legal framework with custody and alimony that neither of us wants to get into. I want a peaceful life and getting into a pissing match about the terms of divorce is the very last thing I want to do. The kids will be grown soon enough so why bother with getting divorced if you're never going to marry again?

The other issue related to commitment is that neither my wife nor I can see a situation right now where splitting into two households would be better for either of us or the kids. We get along well and we can have separate bedrooms. So, other than the potential to PERHAPS please a guy I like, there's no reason to live apart.

When you put together the fact that we have no intention to file for divorce AND that we intend to continue living in the same house, what self-respecting looking-for-a-relationship-not-a-hook-up homo is going to want to have anything to do with me? They won't!

Let's review...

really bad attitude about gay dating - check
schedule like a single parent leaves little flexibility for dating - check
living with my wife with no plans to either move out or divorce any time soon - check.

The conclusion is obvious. I should not torture myself or others by even THINKING of dating until my youngest, who is nearing 12, is essentially independent.

The thing is...after putting up with all the Gabbie-Charlie BS for the last several years, it's really, really, really difficult to imagine letting another 5 or 6 years pass me by.

So, I don't know what to do... It looks to me like this all comes down to a kids-or-me decision and there's no question that the kids come first.

If anyone can suggest some miracle solutions I'd love to hear them.

18 comments:

  1. Cameron,

    I'm sorry. I truly am. I really had hopes that Gabbie would come to her senses and at least try to meet you half way.

    And while I understand and can agree with your antipathy for the gay dating scene and your desire to be a good father, I'd suggest that you really do have time to make a life for yourself even while remaining tied to Gabbie. I'm not saying jump into trying to meet Mr Right. How about developing some interests and activities that you enjoy and that involve people other than Gabbie and/or the kids. Your kids are old enough not to require a parent 24/7 and pretty soon even the youngest will be off doing their own thing. These people don't have to all be gay men. They can be diverse and who knows, eventually through one of them you may meet someone. That's how it often works in the straight world. Perhaps the gay world could learn something from those tried and true methods.

    No matter what I hope you can build a life around the restrictions your current situation imposes. There are lots of nice people to meet. It doesn't always even have to be about sex. Although that can't hurt either : )
    D

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  2. If your primary concern is about the kids, then let me ask you this: what do you think it's like being a kid when your parent is totally miserable?

    Kids don't want to be a burden any more than parents want to treat them as one, but if you put yourself in the mental position of "them or me", the resentment -will- build and come out at some point, usually exactly the wrong point.

    You owe it to both yourself and your children to be as happy as possible. That isn't going to happen with Gabby; you've just said as much. You need to play around with the various combinations and find out what you can do that -will- make it happen (or at least get you closer).

    I can tell you this, though: you need to get the financial and legal situation sorted out very quickly. Gabby's all nice and fine now (for the most part), but what's going to happen if you start seeing a guy and she has trouble with Charlie? Since she seems to have a bit of a temper, there's a non-zero chance she'll snap and rake you over the coals in a divorce suit, especially since most of the laws favor women even without infidelity coming into the picture. If you think a friendly divorce is bad, you really don't want to see a hostile one.

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  3. I have had parallel experiences to you. Although my wife gave me an "out" by having an affair that ended our marriage and allowed me to liberate myself sexually, I still struggle with her. I never know if she will "hit me or hug me" (although I think it's 80% in favour "hit"). I realize that we will always be linked because of the kids and I've always tried to take the high road with her but even yesterday as I passed her in her yard (I've lived next door for the past 3 years since our break-up) her BF waved at me but she didn't. Yet a few days before she stopped by and babbled to me like we're old buddies. I just prefer to avoid her now because I never know what I'll be encountering. My youngest sons live with her but I maintain a regular connection with them by "having coffee" with each of them (the youngest is 13) every week plus inviting them to dinner weekly.
    I met my BF online after going through a "gay adolescence". We lived a hour apart initially but he's moved closer and now we're 20 mins apart. I never knew love until I met him. Until I split from my wife, I had never lived alone. Moving into my own place three years ago has been awesome. I used to say two things: "I will NEVER get married again" and "I will never co-habitate with anyone again". Then last Christmas, I spent two weeks at Bill's over the holiday season. By the end, it was so comfortable, so safe and loving that I realized I would live with someone again and I would even marry again. So, I say to you:
    1. Never say Never.
    2. You will find love.
    3. Life is much better being able to be who you are regardless of what you currently think or whatever anyone else thinks. You need to live your life in your way (which obviously includes your kids and you will find a way to do that).
    4. My kids knew about my dating and they knew I was doing it sensibly and safely. I believe that I set a good example for them that they might otherwise have not seen.
    My kids and my BF are awesome together (the 5 of us have gone camping together several times). They regularly go to dinner at his house and they've always joined us for social events we've had with our friends (like summer BBQ's, Oscar Party, etc).
    Best wishes!

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  4. On a positive note, I got the kids because my wife didn't want them, I met a partner in Kansas because of internet dating, we married in 2007. And I'd do it all over again.

    Ron

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  5. When all you have are negative thoughts and fears about the future, no wonder you have difficulty giving up your comfortable arrangement, because by comparison everything looks so bad. For some hope and adventure motivates for positive changes; others worry about all the potential pitfalls that could happen, and thus fear paralyzes them from taking action. You'll always be able to rationalize your choices, even though they do not serve you well in the long run.

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  6. Cameron,

    The comments already left are awesome. Austin makes a really good point about your emotions effecting your kids - they pick up parent's feelings - especially around 12yo. At that age they are also wise enough to hear the truth - you and mom are only living together for them and that you need to date just like mom dates. They need to see you happy. That's better example to give (as JustaMike says) than miserable.

    And Austin and JustaMike are also right about a woman's emotions and financial sensibility. both come and go as the wind blows (as you are surely aware by now!)

    If you do nothing you will stay in the rut you are in, but sooner or later something will force your hand. You can be proactive or reactive, but either way, your life will change at some point. Will you be in charge or will you leave it to fate or others. I'm not saying being proactive means leaving. But I do do mean doing something to be happy(er). Which type of person and parent do you want to model for your kids?

    -Will

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  7. I'm glad to see you giving this whole situation real serious thought. From my own experience, leaving the marriage was the scariest thing I ever did. I'd been with the same person for over three decades, close to four if you counted the years we were friends and were dating. I had not worked outside the home much and even now can't find a job that doesn't require the words "Welcome to Walmart." So I can understand your anxiety.

    I can also understand your wife's anger. Both of you are in a situation you wish you weren't in. The sooner you can get out of this negative world, the happier you will all be.

    But one word of advice -- don't even think about dating until you've been divorced for a couple years. I work with a divorce recovery group and many of the folks we see are ones who married again too soon after a divorce. You need time to let the dust settle and to figure out who you are and what you want before you add another person to the equation.

    Good luck to you. :-)

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  8. Cameron
    You say it and most of the commenters say it too - you are just so complacent and negative about what a better life for you, and the kids, could look like. You are like me in my most dark period - totally lacking in faith and in imagination.

    I do think Maggie has a lot of wisdom to add to this, but would differ from her in one respect - your wife and you have essentially been Not Married and just roomates for a very long time. It is so one sided, with her dating and absent, and you tied to the home thinking this is good for the kids. Come on, you know your 12 year old is soon to become that teen that is self obsessed and wants to be with other friends or on the phone and away from you most of the time. Your starting to date a bit one night every few weeks will not even be noticed.

    Do not wait - you got the message for about the 20th time now that your wife has distain for you, and she uses you to raise her kids and be the domestic help while she flaunts her affair with a bizarre guy - showing her complete lack of caring and total bad judgement in one fell swoop.

    Get your own life juices flowing and take some risks to meet other men before you whither any more into self justifying negativity. Of course dating starts with some awkward and unfulfilling moments and lack of connections as you sort through all the prospects - but isn't your current marriage totally awkward and unfulfilling and on top of that totally disrespectful and one sided? If you met your wife right now and went on a date, wouldn't she be about the worst date you could imagine compared to all the other prospects? Sorry to be so harsh, but you are so out of touch with your own needs that you will never meet them, no matter how long you wait, if you think there will be some "right moment" to act on your own behalf. The kids will end up applauding you.

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  9. Having been in the situation where my (now ex) wife was cheating on me and blindsided me, I didn't tell the kids why we were splitting up. It took a while, but when my ex married the other guy right away, I think they figured it out. I can't stand to be in the same room with her, but I hope the kids don't know that.

    Austin said, "What do you think it's like being a kid when your parent is totally miserable?" The answer is, "Your kids are not supposed to know that you are miserable. You are not supposed to lean on your kids emotionally. They are not supposed to be 'there for you', but you are supposed to 'be there for them'."

    It is hard to find love when there are kids in the mix. A buddy of mine got divorced at the same time as I did and he dated women who were single and didn't get that his kids came first.

    Gay dating web sites are a worse than straight dating web sites. I have encountered so many guys who either had some form of disease (herpes, hep-B) or were married.

    I think that you can do one thing, one activity apart from normal responsibilities. Maybe you can find someone who shares that hobby or activity.

    Peace.

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  10. Cameron, human beings are so interesting, so funny and so self torturing. I'm happy to tell you, you're a human being for sure.

    As is frequently the case, you know exactly what your situation is. You've known it for some time. You've just refused to accept the handwriting that is all over the walls of your life. She's gone! You need to be gone too!

    And you know that. You're just refusing to accept it. The whole reason you started this blog was to help you sort though your thoughts and feelings and emotions. In reading what you've written it is obvious to me you've done that. Enough already! Take "NO" for an answer and move on with your life. As we say here in Texas, "Cowboy Up."

    As for the reason you're not excited about finding a guy, all the things you say are more or less true; have nothing to do with your ambivalence. The reason you're not excited about a new relationship is because you won't let yourself accept the truth, grieve the loss of your present relationship and move on with your life.

    For christ's sake man. You've said it yourself over and over. Its DONE! Accept it, grieve it and move out!!!! Then, let us hear about your new life and how you're kicking that into gear.

    Hard words, I know Cameron; but sometimes all of us just need a swift kick in the ass. It your turn to be kicked with the best of intentions and you're own benefit in mind.

    Jack Scott

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  11. Cameron, I hope you can forgive me but someone's gotta say it. Gabbie, while not entirely blameless in this relationship is not the villain some of you are inclined to paint her.

    Lest you forget, Cameron KNEW he was gay when he married her. Was she given a choice? Cameron left her shortly after their marriage and before they had kids only to return to her because he missed and loved her. But that didn't stop him from taking a series of male lovers. Did he ask her permission? But you would condemn her for taking a lover now. As a middle aged woman who's never had sex with a straight man.... Gabbie was a virgin when she married. She remained a technical virgin years into her marriage.With all the excuses I've heard you men use to justify your behavior, your sappy need to be "fulfilled" and every other romantic and self absorbed drivel, have you ever considered what life must have been like for Gabbie? How she reconciled HER needs with her desire to remain with a man she loved? You have a hell of a lot of nerve castigating her for "flaunting" her affair. I guess deceit and blogging about your sexcapades is preferable to being honest.

    She's not perfect but neither was her husband. He's a good man, don't get me wrong, but he is not a perfect man and to a large extent the bed he finds himself in is of his own making. Is Gabbie blameless? No, but she is entitled to a small measure of the compassion you are so willing to show for each others "weaknesses".
    D

    D

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  12. It takes time to get over it. It took me a year or so to get over my first guy.

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  13. Sorry to hear; not surprising, tho.

    I agree with the first commenter, D. I think you start with small steps into new territory, following your interests, Now, with less goal-direction about Then. You like stamps? Go to a stamp collectors meet. Like that. I still think that doing something w/gay-bi groups, dealing w/feelings-"spiritual" issues, would be good. Also massage! (I know, but consider it.) As my shrink once commented on meeting someone, it's like Brownian Movement!

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  14. The saga continues.

    Isn't this reinforcing what you already knew? You are in a comfortable situation now....no pressing reason to make a change. You're not in agony, but you're not fulfilled either.

    You are doing the right thing foe the kids, and that is admirable.

    I don't think you need to wait years to have a little bit of a life. Get a few gay friends. Go out when you have a chance. Don't flaunt it, just do it.

    Eventually (I hope) something better will come along and that will be the catalyst to make a change. The catalyst could actually come for Gabbie first, and that would force a change upon you.

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  15. Wow... I can relate to a lot of what you said. But you know, the thing with online dating is: keep it simple: a date! Take it slow and if I could ever give any man one single piece of advice it would be this: NEVER settle for 2nd best. Sometimes you feel that it's better to have a bad relationship (like mine with my exwife) than to have no relationship. I had to kiss a couple of frogs before I met my prince and let me tell you: it's life and love as it should be!! So, hang in there and do what you feel is right for you.

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  16. I had something quite elegant to say, but the comment above about the big bulging briefs and wet bikini hunks distracted me.

    Sorry to hear that you're down.

    I agree with Austin about how it sucks to have a miserable parent, and that's why I am where I am right now.

    And Cecil b is absolutely right. A date a date, nothing more. Go in with no expectations and remove all the pressure from the situation. Get to know the person. If it's not a match, move on.

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  17. I think you need to be proactive here. If you are the provider of the majority of the child care, and bring home a larger income, you need to get things formalized. Honestly, who would the kids rather live with, given a choice? If hands down its you, then get the legal ball rolling.

    Why? All I've heard you say when you're giving reasons not to date is "think of the children!" Ok, stop and THINK of the children now, before it's to late. Often when we're not looking for love, it seems to pop out at us. And if you find someone, I think the divorce could quickly become WW3. Divorce while everyone is still talking to each other.

    While there is no hurry, sit down and think about what you want your life to look single. Do you want to keep the kids in the same school district? Would you like to attempt to downsize houses? What do you see as the optimum living arrangments for the children? An even split, or would they be better off living with you full time and weekend visits with there mom?

    If you're not going to date because of the children, then think of the children now. Living an an upside down house, full of hurt feelings and random actions aren't good for kids.

    Be brave, be strong, you can do it.

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  18. A great deal of fantastic advice was offered in the comments, above. My experience is that the kids will be better off in two separate, happier households than in one where both parents are miserable.

    My kids are aged 19, 17 and 15 and they are all becoming independent people. They are focused on school, part-time jobs, friends, sports and other activities. They don't require as much "parenting time" as when they were younger, so you will have plenty of time for dating... if you choose to.

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