Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who wants to be second choice?

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?


  1. I think you're a hypocrite. You criticize the guy for sabotaging the relationship, and yet your blog shows that you have told your wife that you are gay -- not bi -- several times, the most recently being a few months ago. If that isn't sabotaging your relationship -- telling her that on some fundamental level you are not attracted to her and can never be attracted to her -- what is it?

  2. Anonymous - Throwing a punch? I like it. Let's see if it lands.

    I first told my wife I was gay 19 years ago. I meant to break us up then because the whole relationship felt wrong. We did, in fact, break up and lived 20 miles apart for 10 weeks. After we got back together I sent out a few trial balloons of gay honesty, then realized that such comments did nothing but undercut our relationship. I stopped.

    Fourteen years later and five years ago, she fell in love with someone else. My exact opposite. She's had a dramatic five year emotional relationship with him and had a six month sexual relationship. My latest coming out happened last October and began with me asking for clarification about our future. Toward the end of that conversation, which was going nowhere, I told her again that I was gay. So, after four years of waiting for her to come to her senses I felt that I had to assert myself and if we couldn't reconcile, then I had to chart a path out. This past April I told her again. Why? Because the first conversation didn't go anywhere. Throughout her affair I have been loyal, patient, dedicated, affectionate, committed and connected. Is that sabotage?

    Quite honestly, if I had any hope that she'd want to be with me if I said I was bi, I would lie and say I was. On a practical level, bi, gay or straight are the all same to me - I want to be with her. It's her feelings that changed - when she fell for that asshole.

    She has told me multiple times, and I believe her, that there is absolutely, positively nothing I can do that will change her mind about wanting to be with me. And that has been the case for several years..not since last October or this April.

    I should also mention that I never bring up anything gay. I don't comment about men, talk about dating men, talk about gay celebs or gay politics. I DO bring her flowers, rub her back nightly, hug her, try to initiate sex with her, etc. If I am a hypocrite, it is to the "gay" label but in the opposite way you mean it.

  3. If you want to chart a way out, chart a way out.

    According to your blog, after that October conversation, you tried to clarify your relationship and then made an attempt to win her back, and she didn't immediately reject your overtures. But you had recently told her yet again that you were gay. How is that not sabotage?

  4. It's often easier to offer up advice than to follow that same advice ourselves. The "right" sexual label for you is kind of irrelevant.

    This is going to be terribly blunt but your wife doesn't want you, she doesn't trust you. Why do you stay to torture yourself?

  5. Sounds like you might have been talking with my wife!! The complexity of dealing with a relationship where one partner is gay continues to astound me.

    I think a piece of it is that the gay partner here wants both things. I know in the end that is some of my issue - wanting two things that are (at least seemingly) incompatible.

  6. Relationships take love, trust, honor, respect and desire. Many times it is desire that first binds people and they develop trust and respect through association. Honor is something that comes from one's own character. Love, the willingness to put someone else first, is separate from desire.

    TwoLives is showing that he loves his wife, wants to respect her and honors her. He has some questions about trusting her to make good decisions, e.g., the jerk that she paired off with.

    People often fear the unknown and that fear is expressed as anger. The wife who had been married for 30 years is afraid of living alone. Being alone sucks; I know, because I have been alone for most of my life. The odds are that she will be alone for a while and there is nothing that she can really do about that.

    Nobody wants to be second choice, especially when it seems that first choice is "anyone but you". I think that is what the woman from the 30 year marriage was feeling.

  7. "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."

    I think this statement is misleading. You're assuming that all the potential pieces are equal, and that she has everything else she wants except being "wanted" unconditionally by her husband.

    I know, for many people, being "wanted" is -the- thing; everything else is secondary. Who cares if you're healthy, if there's no one to enjoy being healthy with? Who cares if you're successful if you have no one to spend the money on? These are legitimate and real statements I've heard from many of my friends.

    (Side note - I'm totally not in this camp, but I'm also an aspy and disassociated from most people anyway.)

    So, what you're suggesting might be that she give up the one thing she really wants/needs in her life, and that isn't necessarily acceptable.

    For most people, a lot of personal worth is dependent upon how the people who are important to us view us. If the persson who is most important to you can only give you qualified importance back, that can severely damage self-image.

    Ironically, I think her situation and yours are more similar than hers and Gabby's: you've both been told that your "special someone" doesn't value you as much as you'd like, in your case Gabby dating Charlie. You're insufficient, and that insufficiency is what rankles the straight wife you talked to.

  8. Anonymous 10:32 - The reason she didn't reject my post-October overtures was because she didn't want to hurt my feelings. Also, she's ok with dragging things out because she wants to avoid the embarrassment of it all. There was no sabotage because she had already made up her mind about us. Telling her that I was gay in October and April was irrelevant.

    Anonymous 10:32 & 9:20 - I'm not staying, I have charted a way out. We're done as a romantic couple and I am moving on.

    AKJ - The straight wife certainly does fear the unknown.

    Perhaps I misread her but I felt she was too focused on the gay label and it's implications. Her instincts could be 100% correct (she has known him for 35 years) but to base her future on assumptions, without really talking to her husband, seems like a mistake to me.

    Austin - As usual, you make a good point. I don't have enough information to say whether being wanted is ALL she wants or not. It's obviously very important. I may post about her again when I find out more.

    It's true that my situation has caused me to identify with many straight wives. It really is puzzling when you've had a good relationship with someone for decades and they turn their back on you. In this case, however, the straight wife can't get over the implications of "gay" and my wife once made a similar comment. There is an element of wishful thinking of my part - if I could convince this woman to give her marriage a try then maybe I could convince my wife. But I know that is naive thinking. My wife wants to move on for her own reasons. Whether I'm gay, bi or straight is pretty much irrelevant.

  9. You say you are moving on but your foot dragging shows you can't or won't let go. You can't see why your wife chose a good for nothing guy over you. She must have her reasons and no amount of reasoning is going to change her mind now. It's clear you are still upset at your wife for not choosing you, but you have to get past that and concentrate on your kids and re-building a new life for yourself.

    No doubt that is full of uncertainty and scary. And your past posts suggest you will over-emphasize every possible negative not to do it without considering that perhaps a happy future awaits you. What is better? A comfortable despair or an uncertain happiness?

  10. "Comfortable despair or uncertain happiness"....did I fall into a Satre play? These are not the choices!


  11. My ex never told me to my face that he couldn't love me as much as he could love a woman, but in his emails to other men he said he didn't love me passionately and that for our entire marriage he'd imagined I was a man when we had sex. I have to tell you, that hurts. A lot. And after I confronted him about being gay, he had the audacity to tell me he didn't think he was cheating on me because it wasn't with women. A month later, after I initiated divorce proceedings, he suggested living apart but staying married. That wasn't going to work for me. Even though re-marriage prospects for me are slime (I'm in that over-60 crowd), I'd rather be happily single that married to a man who lied to me from day one, cheated on me by screwing his way from coast to coast and was stupid and careless enough to end up with HIV.

    He was popular among the guys on Manhunt because he treated his "dates" well. He'd take me to Wendy's for dinner; he'd take his gay dates for expensive steak dinners. He looked like a good "catch" for anyone -- male or female. He and his current partner hooked up about the time I started figuring out what was going on. Partner is blond and 10 years younger and I have to laugh at the stereotype of the man who has a mid-life crisis and leaves his wife for a younger blond. His partner also does all the cooking and posts on Facebook about the housework he does. He's in effect my ex's new wife. If the ex treats BF like he treated me, this relationship won't last too long. Factor in the HIV and it may not last long anyway if the ex gets sloppy with his health. BF's salary makes up for what I get in alimony and retirement benefits so that together they're bringing in about $150K a year in an area where the cost of living is low. The ex claims my alimony is bankrupting him. But he and BF have taken several trips to expensive resort areas (the kind of trips we took only on big anniversaries) and I saw him driving a brand new vehicle recently. His old one wasn't even paid for yet. Bankrupting him? Yeah, right.

    I just don't see how a mixed orientation marriage can work and have everyone be happy. Everybody is making compromises they should not have to make.

    I decided I'd rather leave my imperfect but pretty good life. If perfection never comes I'm still better off. I'd say, though, that I'm a heck of a lot closer to perfection now as a single women than I was knowing I was married to a man who didn't love me like I deserved to be loved and who cheated on me on an almost-daily basis.

  12. Anonymous 5:07 - My feet are no longer dragging, nor have they been for a period of time. While it's true that I think my wife is a fool, she's made her decision and that's that. I have no idea what awaits in my future, but regardless, I am moving ahead.

    DP - I certainly hope you are correct!

    Jim - You're probably right that the husband has mixed feelings. I understand that. I just wish he would have been more thoughtful before he opened his mouth.

    Maggie - I'm not telling you anything you don't already know: your ex-husband is an embarrassment to humanity. He's such a schmuck I hope you are bankrupting him. But even more importantly, I hope he's told his boyfriend that he is HIV positive. Your ex-husband has lied about so much that it wouldn't surprise me if he lied to his boyfriend too.

    I'm saving my thoughts about MOMs for a future post. I'm certain you'll have a lot to say too, when the time comes. But you're certainly right that there are many compromises required, especially for the straight spouse.

    If this woman was half as resolute as you about choosing an imperfect single life over a compromised marriage I would support her decision to leave 100%. But she seems very torn. Mostly I think she and her husband need to have a long, honest talk and either agree to a marriage they both can live with, or, split up.

    Thanks for your comments everyone!

  13. I was torn at first too -- because of fear. I was afraid to be single. I was afraid I'd have no money. I was afraid I'd be without health insurance. I was afraid my standard of living would drop to the poverty level. I was afraid basically because I'd been married all my adult life and I had no idea what divorce entailed or what my rights were.

    Once I talked with an attorney (at the steady urging of my very best friends) and learned what my options were and what my legal rights were, the fear began to dissipate and I was able to make an informed decision. And that decision was that I could not stay married.

    I still have moments of fear -- what will my future hold, what if I get sick and can't live alone any longer, what if my ex decides to disappear and stop paying alimony, what if, what if, what if. I have to force myself to focus on my blessings and not the "what ifs" in life.

    Yes, he's told his BF about the HIV. He and BF had started barebacking because both had tested negative for HIV. But the ex had a little holiday weekend fling with another married man and that man was HIV positive. Six weeks later, the ex came down with flu-like symptoms and because I'd told the family doctor months before about his reckless behavior, the doc immediately tested him for Hep B and HIV. He was positive for both. Then he had to tell the BF who had to sweat out the wait for test results.

    Send this woman to There's a weekly support chat where she can talk to other women who have/had gay husbands. It might help her make a decision.