Recently a straight wife and I had an interesting conversation about something her gay husband confessed to her: "I love you as much as I can love a woman."
The couple has been married more than 30 years. Both spouses are in their early 60s. He wants to remain married. She isn't certain yet but she's leaning toward divorce. If she was younger she would leave. One of the big reasons she's considering staying is because her odds of finding a new mate are very low. "Less than one in ten for a woman of her age," she told me.
I'm not at all surprised that a gay man would tell his straight wife that his ability to love her is limited. That's not a crazy statement. But it's a stupid one - especially if he wants to stay married.
Perhaps he said it because he's trying to sabotage their relationship. Maybe he's too afraid to leave her so instead he's passive aggressively trying to get her to do the dirty work. I really don't know what he wants. The wife did not offer me any other information about him nor did she tell me anything else he has said.
Regardless of his intentions, those few words were a knife in her back. They cut her to the core and have done more to destroy their relationship than anything else since he came out.
The conversation between the wife and me began when I said her husband's statement was vague. She thought I was nuts. She said, "I don't find the comment at all vague. It means exactly what it says--that he cannot fully love a woman."
My reply, in essence, was to not let the fate of her marriage hang on those words. I encouraged her to have an in-depth conversation with her husband so that she could understand EXACTLY what he thinks. What are his limitations? How will they affect their relationship? At the end of the day, I asked her, shouldn't she be 'real' and not theoretical or assumptive when it comes to making major life decisions?
This woman's dilemma may be very common. She said as much herself: "I don't think I'm unusual in wanting to be loved fully with NO limitations. I want to be the one who wins the crown; not first runner up." Well, sure, who WANTS to be first runner up?
The thing is, she isn't first runner up to another person, she's first runner up to a pie-in-the-sky fantasy. One that her husband clearly does not take seriously. If he really thought he could have an enduring relationship with a man, he'd leave. But he WANTS to stay. He knows that she is the best companion he's likely to ever find.
Does that mean he's settling for her? If so, should she be so offended that they divorce?
Maybe it's just me but I'd like to knock some common sense into both of them.
First, to the man, and to all those bi and gay men out there who WANT to remain married to their wives - can you please show some sensitivity to the woman you're spending your life with?
Where was this man's compassion? Hadn't he already caused enough pain? Was it really necessary to insult his wife and degrade their relationship? No, it wasn't.
I can understand if you're over 60 and your prospects are few that you might be bitter. I get it. I really do. But what is the point of denigrating your current life? Is feeling sorry for yourself going to change anything for the better? Is Prince Charming suddenly going to show up at your door because he heard you're looking for him? No.
There is a time and place to wallow in the muck of your own misery. It's called your therapist's office. You pay him or her big bucks. Let them handle all your negativity and all your crap. While you're there, get it all out, full throttle. Then go home and kiss your wife and tell her that you appreciate her. Is that so much to ask?
To the wife, and all the other dreamers out there like her, I'd like to say - I understand how you feel. I want to be wanted. We all want to be wanted. We want to be loved and cherished and to KNOW that we come first and that we always will.
To be wanted is a universal desire. But it's not the only one. In fact there are many. We want to be healthy. We don't want bad things to happen to us or to the people we love. We want to be happy. We want to never worry about money.
Wouldn't life be perfect if we could all have those things? Well, we can't. It's just not the way life works. Wonderful things happen but so do terrible things. We can fight for what we want, but we can't expect perfection. There are circumstances where runner-up is still pretty good. Especially if first place is a fantasy that will never come true - like winning the lottery, or, meeting Mr. Perfect.
I say - if you're given the choice between living an imperfect but pretty good life, or, spending years waiting and hoping that your patience and determination will pay off with perfection - take your imperfect good life.
Now, having voiced my complaints about this couple, I have to admit that my whole attitude would be different if either of them didn't prefer to stay married, or, if he wanted to fool around and she didn't want that. Those are irreconcilable differences. But in this scenario, these two people WANT to stay together. Yet he sabotages that by having a pity party and she's upset that she's second to someone who doesn't exist. Get real you two! Life isn't perfect. Appreciate the good stuff while you have it.
The bottom line is that mixed orientation marriages are not perfect. They require accommodation, also known as, settling. I say either commit to the idea of committing - and do that with all your heart, or, pull the plug and move on with your lives.
What do you think?