Thursday, September 15, 2011

Next Steps

If recent anonymous comments are any indication, a number of you don't believe that I'm transitioning to dating men. You think I'm dragging my feet.

Well, I'm not. My wife has made her feelings clear. I understand. There's no reason to hide from the inevitable. I get it.

What's slowing me down is that my wife is very unhappy right now. Bitterly unhappy. Yes, I'm one of her problems, but I'm pretty far down the list. Her job, Charlie, our living situation, her mother, the kids - each and every one of these things is "a disaster."

Yes, my wife can be dramatic. But this time I agree with her. She really could be laid off soon; Charlie really could kill her in a fit of jealous rage; the house really could be sold at auction within three weeks; her mother really is an erratic, smothering pain in the ass whose unsolicited "help" is a thinly veiled effort to control every waking moment of our lives; and the kids really are selfish, cruel and hyper-critical.

Is it wrong for me to show some consideration and wait for a few of these things to sort themselves out before I start dating men? I don't think so. I was gay on the day we met, I'll be gay next week and I'll still be gay when my wife's life is more normal. For now, the right thing to do is be supportive and patient.

The good news is that I expect the biggest issues to be resolved soon. We're in the final stages of high anxiety on several fronts. All that's left to do is to wait for them to play out.

Meanwhile, there are a few modest things I need to do to finish the current chapter of my life before I can begin another.

First on my list is to stop wearing my wedding ring.

Whether it should or not, the ring means a lot to me. And it's not just because it's my wedding band. It's because of what Gabbie had engraved inside before we married. Our initials are bound together by the words "until the end of time."

For the last 21 years, whenever I've touched the ring I've thought about those words. I didn't take them seriously enough when I took my vows but I have taken them quite seriously in recent years. Because of the way the words link us I've felt like wearing the ring keeps our commitment alive. It's not just a ring, it's a living embodiment of our relationship. For this reason (and whether I'd like to admit it or not) the ring has been my security blanket. Until the end of time. Just thinking about those words makes me pine for the 23 year old girl who desperately wanted to be married forever.

Oops. I'd better be careful. I don't want to sound like I'm dragging my feet.

Four days ago I took off the ring. As near as I can tell, no one has noticed. At least no one has said anything. The only weird thing was, just minutes after I took it off, my daughter held my hand and caressed it in a way she's never done before. My heart was pounding as I waited for her to say something. But she didn't. I'm not even sure if she noticed.

I can't deny that the absence of the ring wears on me. I feel it missing, always.

But the situation is what it is. I can't be delusional.

The kids have known for more than eight months that my wife and I are 'separated' and Gabbie has reminded them of that fact several times over the last few months, but I have done almost nothing to acknowledge our split. Because they already know, I wonder if removing the ring will be 'old' news to them? But I also wonder if my capitulation will suddenly make our separation feel real? I'm afraid of hurting them.

I don't really know what to expect but I do know that the ring had to come off - and it had to be done in a no-fuss, matter-of-fact way.

Once the kids notice the ring is gone, I'll wait a week or so before I proceed to the next necessary change, which is to move to my own bedroom.

While it's possible that not wearing the ring will be greeted with a collective shrug, I'd be very surprised if moving to my own bedroom gets the same reaction. I worry about hurting and disappointing the kids but what else can I do? My wife and I can't share the same bed forever.

Given my wife's precarious mental state, the last thing I need to do is add to the mountain of worries she already has. So it's a little ironic that making these changes, which are stressful for me, will be seen as big positives by her. She's been wanting us to be more independent for a while now.

My fingers are crossed in hopes that the kids will have adjusted to a "new normal" around the same time that Gabbie's dark clouds disburse. That will make for a relatively peaceful home life - creating the perfect opportunity for me to start thinking more about the next chapter of my life.

Oh - one other pre-dating thing I did was to get tested for HIV. Big surprise, I'm negative.

13 comments:

  1. I know you're accused of dragging your feet but the hell with them. Take things at your own time. You have been and will continue to go through a grieving process. It's the death of your marriage. It may have been a long time coming but just like death, knowing it's inevitable only eases that pain somewhat.

    Take care of yourself.
    D

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  2. Rather than these symbolic gestures that seem to invite drama and over-reaction, why can't you just sit down and explain to the kids what is going on. Why make them guess? You are just setting them up to speculate amongst themselves, until they find the courage to ask what's happening and unnecessarily creating more anxiety in an already tense situation. They are going to find out eventually but instead it seems unintentionally you are making it a game of who has the keenest observation.

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  3. I like both Anonymous comments. I've had my wedding ring off (but wear it on occasion) for almost a year and no one seems to notice. They see it but are too afraid to ask. We've also been sleeping in separate bedrooms since the kids can remember so it's not a surprise to them. I guess I'm a year or so ahead of you. Believe me though it is nothing to brag about and I haven't gained any momentum. it's sad and slow but it's progress.

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  4. You and your wife will be bound "until the end of time" because of the kids, just not exactly as you had originally planned. Although your wife is going through a terrible time, ultimately she is responsible for her own happiness (or unhappiness), not you.

    I agree, there's no rush to start dating. As you know, I'm part way through a divorce and in the middle of a house sale and move. I am not looking for any hookups right now, that's for sure!

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  5. I agree with all the comments above. Everyone needs to go at their own pace and everyone needs to map out their own path. There is no "cookie cutter" solution.

    One thing I'd emphasize in the second Anonymous comment is the need to speak to your children. Two reasons: it's your story and you should tell them before someone else does and secondly, telling them yourself at an early stage will prevent them from an accidental (or perhaps malicious) discovery that they may resent because you didn't respect them enough to tell them yourself.

    All the best!

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  6. Call it a hunch, but the behavior of your kids, while not that far removed from 'typical' teenage behavior, could be the result of them picking up on the unease and uncertainty in your marriage/family and feeling insecure about it.

    The smothering mother in law sounds like a classic case of the not very well differentiated person. Murray Bowen had a lot to say about that http://www.thebowencenter.org/pages/murraybowen.html

    Charlie should get deported. It would be too bad if he were caught with felony weight controlled substances. Just sayin'...

    Taking the wedding ring off is a big deal. My hand felt so out of balace for a long time. Now, not so much.

    It sounds like Maggie needs some support, but what would be better is if she learned to grow her own emotional support. Murray Bowen developed the Family Systems Theory of therapy. I think Maggie could benefit from it.

    Good luck with all.

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  7. D - Thanks for saying just the right thing! I'm glad to know that someone else understands.

    Bartlebi - I hope my kids are as blase' about the "new normal" as your kids are. I don't think making these changes are anything to brag about, they just need to be done.

    Buddy Bear - You make a good point. That's not the kind of bond I had in mind but given the circumstances, I'll be happy for what I have. Your currently insane situation with the houses approximates how my wife feels. But many other things weigh heavily on her too. I'm not sure that everyone understands the breadth and depth of the stress major life changes bring.

    Mike - I could be misinterpreting you but this post is about finishing up the old business of splitting up not moving on to the new business of dating men or coming out. All of that still lies ahead.

    AKJ - Thanks for the Bowen references. I'll check them out. I didn't write much about Charlie but we have a plan we're ready to implement. If all goes well, he will be charged with a felony and he will be deported. He's been a major problem lately and he has to go.

    Anonymous 6:47 - There will be no drama. There is no guessing. There are no games. The kids know the score, they just haven't seen much action. In the post, I was not clear about the kids already know. I've made some significant changes to prevent any further misunderstandings.

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  8. Up to this point, it's been a somewhat confusing "separation" if the last 8 months are as you described. I think that contributes to the impression that you are foot dragging. Also, previous posts have you hoping/wishing your wife would see the light, so that you could reunite in some way. So one wonders how committed you are towards moving forward. I get you don't want to break up your family but your wife shows no mood towards reconciliation. At least with your new changes (no ring, separate bedrooms) that's consistent with being separated, otherwise up til now, you've been sending mixed messages by your lack of action.

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  9. I guess I got caught up in the other comments but I do think it's important to close one door before another door is opened. You seem to be doing just fine from what I've read. :-)

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  10. Wow....it sounds like the whole world is caving in. The house could be sold at auction in three weeks?? That's a problem. The biggest problem?

    Isn't everyone's job at risk?

    Aren't all teenagers insensitive and cruel?

    Don't most mother-in-laws meddle?

    Didn't she invite Charlie into her life?

    So is her situation that much worse than anyone elses?

    So the separation is going slowly....who cares. You are keeping things together for the kids...that's a good thing. I doubt they will be surprised when you move to the other bedroom.

    Just move at your own pace. There's no reason you can't start making friends now though.

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  11. Cameron,
    Congratulations on taking those first steps to signal your family and the world that you are following through on your intended separation. For you, these are indeed big moves, and you seem to be staging this with the kids in mind. The multiple issues that are bringing potential financial and emotional instability into their lives are a good reason to take the steps slowly as you are doing. The move to the separate bedroom is a real must and I am glad to see that on the checklist. Of course your kids may interpret this as all part of a potentially reversible action - lots of parents have fights and take separate room at times. So in addition to making these visual/spacial moves, I hope that in some other ways you are being clear in your words and actions about where this is all going. They are into their own lives of course but probably know a whole lot more about what is up and where it ends than you think.

    I hope that cascade of potential bad things does not all break against you- certainly the prospect of losing your home would be terrible and the economic pressure of Gabbie's drop in income would add a strain.
    I wish you well in managing all those other big threats - but it seems that the threat of your own stasis and inaction is now gone - and that bodes well for your future and that of your family

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  12. I've read your blog for a long while now, and never commented. From sitting on the sidelines here, it seems to be that your wife is emotionally abusing you, and has been for a long time. That sweet girl you married is long gone, the only place she still lives is in your memory.

    Yes, I know you love her, but it seems like its been you giving, giving, giving, and getting at the best crumbs from her.

    Talk to your kids, answer their questions honestly. Move out of the bedroom, now. Not at some future distiant point of time. And think about moving out, and taking the kids with you. Give them a calm and peaceful life, not the chaotic one they have had to suffer thru, that could be some of their behavioral issues.

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  13. RB - You get zero empathy points! Still, I understand your point. But everyone is different and what's routine for some of us can be traumatic for someone else. Perhaps it's a mistake for me to think this way, but I don't believe others should conform to my standards. Especially my wife. If she's gets worked up about something ridiculous it's my job to support her, not to tell her to just deal with it.

    Jayson - It's good to hear from you. I know you're keeping busy lately. There will come a time for more conversations with the kids, sooner rather than later. In truth I should have done these things months ago, not long after we told them we were separated. I'm playing catch-up. Thanks for the good wishes.

    Anonymous 7:15 - I know my marriage is lopsided and I take responsibility for allowing it to be that way. The "unfairness" doesn't bother me so much. The bedroom move will be happening soon. As for living apart, that might happen sooner than later. It's hard to say at this time because so much is in flux. I don't think the kids are suffering much, largely because of the sense of stability that I provide. Maintaining that stability is THE reason I'm not being hasty. Thanks for your comment. I enjoy being challenged.

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