Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Sacrificing for the Greater Good

I have participated in a number of on-line forums for "curious" married men over the years. The Internet began for me in 1995 with Inter Relay Chat (IRC). What a godsend that was, to no longer feel alone.

In the 16 years since, I have read and heard many stories from "curious" married men. Very often, to the point of it being cliche', they say they stay married for the sake of their wives and their children - that they're sacrificing their needs for the greater good of their family. As a father and a family man myself, I've always understood exactly how they've felt.

In recent months I have been interacting with straight wives for the first time. It really is fascinating - and eye opening - to learn about familiar situations from an unfamiliar point of view.

Stuck with the limitations of our own thoughts, we make assumptions about our wives and children. We become convinced that sacrificing is part of being a good husband and a good father. It never occurs to us that we might be doing more harm than good by staying, or, that the sacrifice we think we're making is all for naught.

The fact is, until we take the plunge, we never know what will happen if we're honest with our wives.

The following story was written by a straight wife. It's a bit long and could be edited to be more direct. But I have decided to leave it exactly as it was told to me. If you pay attention to the few things she says about her husband's thinking, you will see that he believed staying closeted was best for everyone. I wonder what he thinks now?

I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments.

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Michael and I have been married for nearly 16 years now. We met at work when we were in our early 20's, and within 3 months, I was pregnant with our first (of what would eventually be 3) child(ren). He had been asking me to marry him since about two weeks after we started dating, and I did love him. I'm not sure I ever "fell" in love with him. But I thought that it would be easier than doing it on my own, and if it didn't work out, we'd be no worse for the wear.

The next several months were a whirlwind; I planned a large wedding for 3 months later (I would be about 5.5 months pregnant at that point in time), just before Thanksgiving of 1996. Then our honeymoon, Thanksgiving, then thank-you cards, and we swept on into the holidays. Then I fell and had a bad back injury that sidelined me, followed up by a baby shower, more thank-you cards and the arrival of our son. As anyone who's ever been a new parent knows, the next few years were followed by exhaustion and mayhem. Lol. And throughout this entire time, we were just trying to get to know each other amidst the storm. But we persevered, and we bought our first home and we had another child at his insistence.

Over the next few years, we would go through a whirlwind of storms - both of us losing our jobs simultaneously while I was 7 months pregnant with our second child, selling our home before we could lose it, filing bankruptcy, moving out of state, a DUI (him), an unexpected pregnancy at what was then the lowest part of our marriage, having our rental home sold two months after our baby's arrival (with 28 days to vacate), and then we discovered that our 6 year-old son (the oldest) had been molested 6 months earlier. We closed up shop, moved back home to family and started over. Things got better after that. During the entire marriage up until this point, there were constant employment issues (him) and lots of sexual frustration (me). But again, we kept at it. We got through on sheer grit and determination.

His mom eventually came to live with us. She's been with us for about 4 years now. Our youngest, at 8 years old now, cannot even remember Grandma not living with us. The family dynamics changed - Grandma would do some chores and shopping while we were at work. This enabled us to spend more time in leisure in the evenings. And yet, we were not spending it together. He was glued to Glee and Desperate Housewives and I was reading romance novels in my bedroom or the bathtub. I began to get desperate for intimacy - I was literally begging him for it - crying over it. He said he'd try harder, and nothing would happen. I got a tummy tuck and a breast reduction and some lipo on my thighs. After some healing, other men were noticing me, but he still was not. And eventually, I began responding to the other mens' advances. I had an affair, and it felt like I was being fed for the first time in years with sexual attention and fulfillment. And we only slept together once! That broke off quickly, but not before I realized that I could never go on without passion in my life again. I had a "wife" - someone who cooked, cleaned, bought me beautiful clothes. But I had no man - no one to do home repairs, change the oil in the vehicles, slap my ass and drag me to the other room. I had no one to tell me that I was beautiful. Just that I had blue eyes. "Hi blue eyes - I love your blue eyes" was the only compliment I ever got.

I told my husband that I wanted a divorce. He freaked. I had warned him several times throughout the last few years that THIS was the problem that would break us. After all we'd been through, it was the missing glue that would allow everything to crumble apart. He insisted that we go to therapy, and I conceded, if only to give him time to come to terms with the break-up. We'd done counseling before, and within 2 sessions, the counselor would suggest private counseling for him due to post traumatic stress disorder; he'd been severely sexually abused as a child in an orphanage in a 3rd world country for over a year. Repeatedly raped by men who spread the word that he was a willing partner. He was six years old. He would start to work through his issues - try to open up to the counselor, but then would cut bait and run. This time, he stuck it out.

At one point during his sessions (I was no longer going), I outright asked him if he was gay. He said he didn't know - he'd "think" about it. WRONG answer. But I let it go, thinking maybe that therapy had taught him to consider things rather than snapping off answers. He came back to me a week later and told me that he "didn't think so". There had been signs. He was not effeminate per se, but as I said, he was very domestic. He liked decorating, cleaning, cooking. He became a chef. He loved to pick out my clothing. He was not your "typical" guy - didn't hang with the guys, didn't like sports or wrenching on cars or typical male events. But I attributed this to being raised by a single mom. When he got drunk occasionally, my male friends at parties would complain that he would get overly chummy with them. I never saw him turn his head in 16 years toward another woman. He described his lack of desire for me as being not my fault. And my head believed this - he was just so damaged from his past. But my heart, my soul - they never got any message but rejection. I was left hurting and felt like a wounded animal over what I must look like to him that he would reject me so constantly when I tried my hardest. I was heavy, true. But I was curvy as hell - better looking than most of the models in the BBW magazines. I could turn a head with a long blink of my eye, but I could NOT entice the father of my children, the man who sees me walk by him jiggling my parts for his pleasure. My girlfriends would complain of how their men would never leave them alone - they were harangued for sex constantly. And I would laugh with them. But I would be DYING inside. Not only wasn't I being chased, but I was not being responded to. I had a man who would not touch me below the waist, much less perform oral sex on me or become adventurous in ANY way except MAYBE to get out of missionary position and into doggy style occasionally. I had a man who looked at the ceiling when we made love. Who didn't notice me crying silently with tears running down my face while he finished off. Eventually, by the age of 35, he needed Viagra to get and keep an erection. And he could not come to ejaculation. He blamed this on his anti-depressant medication, which while definitely a possibility, is most likely NOT the reason, looking back on it.

We wound up living together for another year after we decided to divorce. We came to the conclusion that I couldn't turn "off" my need for intimacy any more than he could turn his "on". We were at an impasse. We needed time to get financial issues solved after he finished school and got a new job, established a career, saved money for moving out, etc. And SILL, he's wasn't leaving. I kept giving him time, knowing that leaving his home and wife and mother and children had to be soul-crushing. I was at my sister's, and my brother-in-law cracked and told me that my husband and he had gone out drinking several months earlier and that Michael had cried over being gay. Was afraid of having his kids and nieces kept from him over it. Brother-in-law said that I needed to be told, and that NO ONE was going to keep his children from him. And he would always be "Uncle M" to his nieces. And yet, he still couldn't bring himself to tell me. So I confronted him the next day. This was two weeks ago. And he finally broke and admitted it. He was devastated - he didn't want to be gay, but he knew he was. No experiences during the marriage, according to him, but he knew. He was worried that I would consider myself deceived or that he'd wasted 16 years of my life. And all I could feel was..........

RELIEF. NONE of the rejection was about me! It didn't mean I was unattractive, or bad in bed, undesirable or ugly. I had used that year of time together but preparing to separate and divorce to go out and explore my sexuality. I do NOT think this was okay. But I felt like I had been starved for so long that I could help but steal the bread placed in my pathway. It did my self-esteem a world of good to feel like it wasn't just a fluke that one or two men had found me attractive. EVERY SINGLE CONTACT that I'd made resulted in the person wanting to meet me. EVERY SINGLE DATE I'd gone on resulted in the person wanting to see me again. Several of my casual relationships turned into the men falling in love and being devastated that I either didn't feel similar or that I wasn't free and available to pursue a relationship at the time. Meanwhile, I felt like I wasn't "doing" anything to get them to react this way. I wasn't using NEARLY the arsenal in them that I'd used on my husband and been rejected for. I felt like someone had put a magic spell on me - every man I come in contact with will fall for me. And it was amazing to me - stupefying and astounding and unbelievable. I was told I was sexy, witty, intelligent, charming, fun, funny, and a wonder in bed. That I had self-confidence galore. And that they wanted to keep me forever. By the end of a year of that, I was starting to believe that they really saw this in me. Not that I saw myself this way, but that maybe, just.... MAYBE, they did. And I started to act like I was the bomb - that I could choose and be picky and demand that I be treated with dignity and respect. It felt glorious to know that I might be able to wait out the right relationship vs. taking whatever fluke fell into my lap.

Our children already knew about our impending divorce, so I saw no need to add confusion with telling them about Daddy's sexual preferences. Honestly, their parents' sex lives are none of their business and shouldn't be carried out in front of their eyes anyway. Considering Michael said he hadn't even had an encounter with a male, what would there be to tell the children, anyway? That Daddy likes to think about men? I am encouraging Michael to do things on his own terms - he should not feel that he needs to rush out and sleep with lots of men to see if he likes it. He doesn't need to hang out in gay clubs since they seem to make him uncomfortable. He doesn't have to do ANYthing on anyone else's terms. He should just treat himself gently so he won't get damaged further. Let his life unfold and reveal itself to him.

He will be moving out in the next few weeks. We've shopped for and secured an apartment and lots of necessities for his new home. We are in complete agreement over joint custody. We own no property together. We are in this together. He is my kids' dad, and my friend. I will know him until one of us passes from this earth. And I wish him nothing but the best. And he, in turn, wishes me the same. We have released each other from the constraints of marriage and each of us are free to date. I am doing so in a manner that is honest but not overly open. If and when I become more comfortable with more, I will share more with him.

I feel some resentment at Michael for letting me carry that heavy load all those years without even knowing what I was carrying. And it was so heavy that it broke me. He never meant for that to happen, and he's sorry that it went down that way. I, on the other hand, went and sought fulfillment from outside the marriage. Can either of us stand in judgment on each other? I think not - I think we call a truce and love each other as fellow flawed humans. We know each other well - we will continue to need some support from the other person, and we will continue to be that to each other.

My husband's admission to being gay has set me free - released me from the worry that I should have stuck it out, tried harder. There was no way to fix it, and I can stop trying with no guilt. We're excited (and scared) about our new lives. For the first time in years, I feel like I can exhale all the way. :)

5 comments:

  1. I'm glad she feels free. I hope she soars now.

    "It never occurs to us that we might be doing more harm than good by staying, or, that the sacrifice we think we're making is all for naught"
    That line is golden.

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  2. Wow, what a powerful account! There are many similarities to my own story, for sure.

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  3. Thanks for posting this. I wish my ex had been honest with me at the 16-year mark instead of me finding out at the 36-year mark. I bore the burden of feeling like a sexual dud when in fact it was my ex who had the problem. But he let me believe it was all my fault our sex life didn't sizzle.

    I do have to wonder if her husband was really molested. A lot of gay married men use tales of childhood molestation to explain why they are gay. Studies show molestation doesn't "turn" you gay. You are born gay. Molestation is just a horrible thing that happens to too many kids, male and female. Yet I never read about lesbians who claim they were turned gay because they were molested. If he was, then I'm truly sad for him, but it didn't make him gay.

    I digress. This is a great post and I hope many of your male readers will take it to heart and spare their wives more years in a bad marriage.

    Maggie

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  4. Great post. Interesting to hear about it from a different perspective.

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  5. Great work, Cameron. I kind of don't feel like I should be commenting, since I really don't have any stakes here, not being in the thick of the dilemma as many readers are. But I have always thought that women know when something's not right with the guy's way of being with her physically, and that non-straight men just don't realize it, b/c there's something wrong abt the way they relate, etc. etc. Very important also to show the self-blame that the woman may have in this situation.

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