Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Keeping Up Appearances

"Solutions for Divided Bisexual Married Men" is still under construction. Thanks for your patience.

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2010 was an incredibly chaotic year for my 20 year marriage.

Most of the drama was captured in posts on this blog. Long-term readers might recall that my wife Gabbie was sexually assaulted by her boyfriend Charlie; that Charlie was a hard-core alcoholic who, when drunk and angry, was a seriously lethal threat (years ago he killed a man during a bar fight); that Gabbie was seldom home and thereby abdicated her role as mother and wife; that she was regularly drunk; and that she and Charlie constantly fought, which more than once prompted police intervention.

Although Gabbie first began seeing Charlie in 2006, last year's events were extreme. Clearly, the situation was out of control, and other than kicking her out of the house and further into his arms, there was nothing I was willing to do to take control of the mess. Besides, he was such a disaster, I KNEW it was only a matter of time before she'd be finished with him.

My willingness to be patient was criticized by many readers: "why do you tolerate their behavior? And what about the kids?!" Looking back, I think I made the right decision. Had I kicked her out, that might have made for a clean break between us, but it also would have had dire consequences for her and for her relationship with the kids. They were largely unaware of the drama; all they complained about was that she was gone too often. Kicking her out would have made for a better outcome for me but I think it would have been permanently harmful to everyone else. For that reason I don't regret being patient.

I can't remember when the last crazy, drunken episode happened. It might have been in November of 2010. There has been only one incident this year, in March, and that was pretty minor - a fight between the two of them where he was very drunk and she was somewhat buzzed. Overall, 2011 has been completely different than 2010, especially the latter three-quarters of the year.

Although Charlie is and always will be an alcoholic, his drinking has been much more moderate this year. It's been many months since I've seen him drunk. Gabbie has morphed from being a 24/7 bar hag to a home-body who likes to bake. She and Charlie still go out, but far less often and for much shorter times. Last Friday, for example, she was home by 9pm.

Charlie's relatively good behavior has been a major frustration for me. Whereas in the Spring I had big hopes of getting him deported (with Gabbie's blessing) now she wants him to stay. Also, a recovering alcoholic/countrymate/friend of Charlie's has kept him employed for most of this year. Charlie gets to keep the job as long as he's sober at work. Having a steady job is a major accomplishment for Charlie and the fear of losing it has done a lot to curb his drinking. While it is inevitable that he will screw up and get himself fired, the path he's on is literally paying off for him. Therefore I don't expect any surprises soon. This means that whether I like him or not, Charlie is here to stay.

Recently Gabbie's mother convinced Gabbie to accept a truckload of garage sale items from a friend of hers. I didn't even know about this arrangement until Charlie started unloading a bunch of crap into our family room. My reaction was, "What the hell? We don't need any of this!" But even more surprising than the junk was my 12 year-old daughter's reaction to it - she wanted to know if Charlie was moving in.

Given that she saw Charlie moving several pieces of unfamiliar furniture into the house, her question was entirely logical. And once I explained the truth, she didn't give it another thought. Still, I believe her question indicates that she is increasingly suspicious of her mother's "friendship" with Charlie. And while she is not yet mature enough to put the pieces together, she is far more aware than either of her brothers who are two and six years older; they are clueless.

My daughter's question made me realize something important, something that I've taken for granted and shouldn't have: although we told the kids nearly a year ago that we were separated, and although I sleep in my own bed in my own room, and although I stopped wearing my wedding ring in October, we still haven't told the kids that mommy has a boyfriend. Why not??!!!!

Given our awkward situation, my homosexuality and her long affair, I've left it to Gabbie to spread the word to friends and family that we are separated. It's been important to her to contain the embarrassment of our lives; she doesn't want to be "a joke." I get that. What I don't understand is her end-game. Her "keep-the-secrets-hidden" approach is certain to fail eventually. Then what? It's like she wants us to be characters in a '50s housewife novel where everything is normal and dignified on the surface but in reality that's all a phony charade.

I haven't objected to Gabbie's whitewash philosophy because it serves an important short-term purpose: it keeps the kids' lives normal. It also keeps the two of us on the same page, which means as much as I despise Charlie, we don't fight about him. Also, Gabbie's approach is every closeted man's dream. It's an open marriage where we each can (supposedly) have our own boyfriend, yet we retain social acceptability, all without affecting the kids. The problem is, it's all lies - a huge stinking pile of manure.

As good as some of the short-term benefits might be, continuing to tell lies for the indefinite future is not an acceptable solution for me. Lies are what got us into this mess. It's only by putting an end to the them that we'll have any chance to find true happiness.

Speaking of finding happiness, I've had a few hang-ups when it comes to dating men and I've been trying to work through them. My biggest problem has been figuring out how to date with integrity yet stay within the boundaries of the 1950s whitewash Gabbie wants the world to see. My gut says the two are incompatible.

For nearly a year I've been wrestling with this question and only now have I realized how simple the answer is: stop the lies! If Charlie is such a great catch and our marriage is over then Gabbie has no legitimate reason to continue to hide him.

The more I've thought about it, the more I've realized that exposing their relationship is essential. It will prove to the kids, and to anyone else who cares, that our marriage is permanently broken. Further, by acknowledging that we are broken, we will both be free to establish genuine and independent lives.

Just thinking about ending this charade makes me feel so much more optimistic about dating.

I have allowed Gabbie to make poor decision after poor decision. I've had enough. Tomorrow I will be giving her the chance to decide when, where and how she'll come clean. If she wants to drag her feet, which is what I expect, then I will have to tell the kids myself. I don't want to make that sound like an ultimatum but, well, it is.

I don't want to start a fight nor do I want to hurt or embarrass her. She can tell the kids they've only been dating for a week, I really don't care. But I am putting an end to the fantasy of our bond. I have found living this way for the past year to be much worse than simply hiding in the closet.

Keeping up appearances is absolutely no way to live happily ever after.

10 comments:

  1. Very interesting contrast between 2010 and 2011 for you. I remember you thought Charlie would be gone, but he's still here.

    You are absolutely right to give Gabbie the ultimatum to explain her relationship with Charlie to the kids. You can give her your daughter's question as a prime piece of evidence as to why. Maybe you will want to do it together with her one kid at a time - but you know them best.

    This being the stressful holiday season it might be better to wait until after the New Year, but if you and Gabbie are up for it, just go for it ASAP.

    And by the way, hope you had a great Christmas.

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  2. Kids are very perceptive. They observe everything and understand far more than we give them credit for.

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  3. I agree with Buddy Bear on this. The kids might know more than you realize. This is a tough situation, but I can see why you prefer to take time to sort it out. Your last line, though, needs to become your motto. This situation can't be forever. Something has to be changed or you will find yourself in the middle of it being changed around you.

    On a totally different note: What did I miss? What's "Solutions for Divided Bisexual Married Men"?

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  4. I suppose the kids should be told, in no uncertain terms, just to avoid any confusion. Aside from that, I don't know that you should feel the need to explain anything to anybody else, unless you think they need to know.

    Not saying anything isn't the same as lying. Just go about your lives as you see fit. Should someone ask about a guy (boyfriend) you're being seen with regularly, tell them, should you feel the need to do so. It's not like you're hiding it.

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  5. You are absolutely on the right track! Congratualtions! I momentarily thought about keeping it from my kids when I came out (they were 16 and 13), but did not and so glad that I did tell them. It gets harder as they get older. Hiding it makes it seem like there is something wrong with it. No one was happy in the 1950's, why would you want to live there?

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  6. Cameron
    This has indeed been a year of big changes by anyone's standards, and especially for a man who seemed committed more to stability than happiness like you. This new resolution to have your kids understand what the real relationship is between Gabbie and Charlie is terrific and I hope you can make it work. Then at some point, you will need to figure out your own way of letting them know you are dating, and the dating is with men. Bill Dameron seems to have done this and it was positive in the long run. This is never easy, but I agree that waiting will make it worse

    Here are my best wishes for you to continue down your path of finding a new freer and more open existence as a gay man with children he loves who also wants and needs to find companionship with another man as his marriage is truly over.

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  7. I think it is time for you to seek your own happiness and not worry about your wife's happiness so much.

    Here's to a wonderful 2012. You have been so royally screwed and I hope you find happiness in the new year.

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  8. It's good that you are there for the kids.....but don't you get tired of all this drama?

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  9. Dear Cameron
    This is my first post -- ever on a blog.
    I have been following you for the past 18-24 months, but it's been sporadic during the past 6 months -- partially because of my own life being hectic, and probably more because I feel you have been asking the same questions over and over.
    I am slightly older -- 55, divorced during the past 4 years with 3 grown children and 1 terrific partner whom I met a year after my wife and I separated. I would ask that you consider why you need to feel that your marriage has to be exposed for you to move forward. Gabbie is not the only party in this situation, and your children are old enough to understand (while they might not like it, they need to know and understand) that Dad is capable of running his own life.
    My therapist helped me see that I needed to take actions, live with them, and let the chips fall into place. I hope 2012 is a year of action and moving forward for Cameron by Cameron, and I'm sure that with Gabbie, your M-I-L, etc, that everyone will move forward also.
    Sincerely, Bob in Sac

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  10. Paul - We mostly took your advice. We waited until the new year and we told the oldest alone and the other two together. It went well.

    Buddy - Many kids have good emotional IQs, my boys do not. Luckily their have their sister to give them a clue.

    Mack - Escaping from a life of half-truths has become my motto, and I agree, it's a good one. "Solutions" finishes the series I started in October. The first post was "Open Marriage / MMF Threesome"

    Fred - I'm an introvert so I tend not to offer information unless asked. My wife has grown up in the small town where we live. She's very concerned about what these people think of her and us. That's her issue, not mine, but I want to be respectful.

    Bill - I have every hope that my experience will be as good as yours. I'm not in favor of hiding for much longer.

    Jayson - Thanks for the good wishes. I know you're apprehensive about the changes coming for you this year, but I have this feeling it's going to be a good year for many people, including you and me.

    Middleman - Easier said than done! But I am making progress, right??

    RB - I've had my fill of drama. I'll have no patience for it in any future relationships. The current drama is on the down-slope. It's not over but it will be, sooner rather than later.

    Bob! Thanks so much for posting and saying hello. Thanks also for tolerating me for the past 18-24 months (probably has been 18 and it just feels like 24). Let the chips fall where they may? We all have our weaknesses and one of mine is that I will go to great lengths to feel guilt free. Really, it all comes down to doing the right thing. If I take care of everyone else's needs first then they can't be mad or critical. Changing that paradigm is a completely foreign idea. Your point is a good one, probably even the right one, but I take my responsibility to others extremely seriously. Also, I'm not sure that I want to sign up for the decades of therapy that would be required to turn me into a more self-centered person.

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