Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Give Up Gracefully?

Ya'll can celebrate: I've given up trying to woo my wife.


More than two weeks ago, when my wife was in a very bad mood and brooding about a fight with her "friend" Charlie, she took aim at me. She told me that under no circumstances would she EVER want to "be" with me.

Yes, she was angry at him and I took the hit, but I knew the truth when I heard it. I realized then that I have been tilting at windmills.

I took the news badly. It was like a punch in the face, a stab in the gut and a kick to the nuts all at once. I've been working to scrape myself off the pavement ever since.

All-in-all, I'm doing OK. I'm glad to know the truth and to have some closure on the question of our romantic future together. Still, I hate the answer.

But it is what it is.

I've been trying to comfort myself with positive thoughts about the future. It's not going well.

About six months ago I tried to get excited about dating men. My attitude was positive for about two weeks, then I started feeling very unmotivated. There were several issues that contributed to my malaise. At the top of the list was that it felt wrong for me to date. The relationship with my wife seemed so normal, it felt like I'd be betraying her, even if I met someone for coffee.

I had big hopes that getting bluntly rejected by her would change my attitude. It hasn't. Unfortunately, the same four hang-ups from before continue to haunt me:

1. Everyday life with my wife continues to be normal and therefore the idea of looking for someone to potentially replace her feels...wrong. Yes, the idea of snuggling up with a great guy to watch The Closer together on Monday nights is very appealing. But that's something my wife and I have done for years. How can I just toss her aside?

Logically I know I should think about the future and not cling to the past but it's just not that easy. The thought of looking for a guy feels like I'm abandoning her and that's not what I want to do. Yet...I know I'm not being fair to myself if I continue to settle for a woman who only wants to be friends.

I don't know if it will work, but I hope the "cure" for this problem can come from my wife. I'm hoping that I'll feel comfortable looking for a guy if she gives me some sort of blessing. She hasn't done that yet but she has dropped some encouraging hints, including recently when she asked me why I haven't been to any Gay Scrabble Nights lately. (There haven't been any. Lack of interest probably - no sex involved.)

2. After reading about the gay dating experiences of many others, the idea of trying to meet a quality guy on the Internet seems like an exercise in futility. At best, it seems like Chinese water torture, a drip-drip-drip of endless bullshit. I don't want or expect an instant relationship but I don't want to play games either. And I don't want to fuck around for "fun" while I wait for the right guy. What I want is to spend quality time getting to know potentially compatible guys. Just spare me the games and the headaches, please.

My antipathy for playing the Gay On-line Dating Game is so acute that no matter what dating site I log in to, I spend about ten minutes reading profiles then I get tired of the Salesmanship and The Checklist and log out. For someone who hasn't been out on a guy-date in 19 years, I am astoundingly jaded. It really sucks to be so negative but I can't help it. And worst of all, I have absolutely no idea how to fix my bad attitude.

3. Why do I even bother thinking about dating? I have a dull life but it is consumed with taking care of the kids. They resent my wife because they think she's never home. If I start dating, I won't be home as much either. How will they feel then? Resentful and abandoned. Why have kids if I'm not going to spend the required time with them? The truth is, full-time parenting and dating do not mix. If I had any common sense at all I'd focus on the kids for now and completely forget about men.

4. No guy worth committing to wants to date an already-committed man. Hook-ups are fun for as long as they last but the minute they're over (or, far too often, the minute one of you cums) the regret begins. Yes I'm jaded about gay Internet dating, but I'm positively radioactive about hook-ups. "Fine," you say, "Lots of guys are looking for more than a hook up." I believe that. But the same guys who want more than a hook-up are exactly the same guys who have enough sense to stay away from already 'committed' men. "Easy enough," you say, "get divorced." Well guess what? I don't WANT to get divorced. I don't want to eat my words at some future date so I'm not going to say that I will never get divorced, but honestly, that's how I feel. And my wife feels the same. Hurray for gay marriage and all but I personally have absolutely, positively no desire to get married again. And divorce locks us both into a legal framework with custody and alimony that neither of us wants to get into. I want a peaceful life and getting into a pissing match about the terms of divorce is the very last thing I want to do. The kids will be grown soon enough so why bother with getting divorced if you're never going to marry again?

The other issue related to commitment is that neither my wife nor I can see a situation right now where splitting into two households would be better for either of us or the kids. We get along well and we can have separate bedrooms. So, other than the potential to PERHAPS please a guy I like, there's no reason to live apart.

When you put together the fact that we have no intention to file for divorce AND that we intend to continue living in the same house, what self-respecting looking-for-a-relationship-not-a-hook-up homo is going to want to have anything to do with me? They won't!

Let's review...

really bad attitude about gay dating - check
schedule like a single parent leaves little flexibility for dating - check
living with my wife with no plans to either move out or divorce any time soon - check.

The conclusion is obvious. I should not torture myself or others by even THINKING of dating until my youngest, who is nearing 12, is essentially independent.

The thing is...after putting up with all the Gabbie-Charlie BS for the last several years, it's really, really, really difficult to imagine letting another 5 or 6 years pass me by.

So, I don't know what to do... It looks to me like this all comes down to a kids-or-me decision and there's no question that the kids come first.

If anyone can suggest some miracle solutions I'd love to hear them.

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.


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. :)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Over the Cliff

Thanks to a relatively new blogger, Maggie of Str8talk4Women, I've learned about a new book for gay men who are married to straight women. According to Amazon, it was first published only two months ago.

The book is called Over the Cliff: Gay Husbands in Straight Marriages. It features the stories of 16 married men who struggled with coming out and reconciling their sexuality with their straight marriage. It was written by two counselors, Bonny Kaye and Doug Dittmer. Each of them has been counseling straight wives and their gay husbands for many years. Bonnie Kaye has written a number of other books on the subject, but I believe this is the first one primarily written for the gay husband.

The book can be downloaded on Kindle for $7.70. I don't have a Kindle. If I did, I'd probably check it out. $20 for a paperback copy is too much for my cheap ass. Besides, I'm not sure what would be new to me in the book. Maybe some thoughts about handling the kids would be helpful.

I'm adding Maggie's blog to my list on the right. I'd like more married men to challenge themselves to understand the straight wife point of view. Trust me, I thought I understood, but I didn't genuinely "get it" until a few months ago when I had some extended conversations with a few straight wives.

I encourage you to visit her blog and listen, with an open mind, to what she has to say.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Humiliation of Coming Out as Gay

I first realized that I was attracted to other boys when I was 12.

In the months that followed I made excuses for my thoughts and tried to deny that I might be gay.

But denial didn't change the facts. Instead it ramped up the pressure I put on myself.

Ultimately, the pressure became overwhelming.

Fifteen months after The Realization I had a huge emotional breakdown and accepted myself as gay. I was 13.

I immediately felt better.

But self-acceptance was only one piece of the puzzle. I had no idea what to do next. Specifically, should I tell anyone?

There are kids today who come out as young as 12 or 13, but I can assure you that absolutely no one came out at 13 in 1980. So, although I accepted myself as gay I decided to keep it a secret - for as long as necessary.

At 15 I took my first tentative step out of the closet. Actually, I hadn't intended to step out at all. I sent an anonymous note to a crush but the note turned out to be much more revealing than I had planned. The fact that I blew my own cover was infuriating but the anger was nothing compared to the fear I felt. What if I was discovered?!!! I didn't feel at all ready to come out.

My worst fears were realized about two weeks later.

In very large block letters, someone wrote the word "FAG" across my locker, in fake Halloween blood.

That small incident was one of the biggest traumas of my life.

There was something about the surprise of seeing the word, the way it was written, and the fact that fake blood was used - somehow it touched the most vulnerable part of me. All of that together created a huge tidal wave of self-hatred that quickly overwhelmed me. I fell into a very deep depression.

The depression became a life and death struggle. I was only able to break free when I realized that I didn't have the courage to kill myself.

It's turned out that my cowardice at 15 has given me a lifetime of inner peace. When I decided I had no choice but to live, I also decided that holding on to negative ideas about homosexuality was pointless. I experienced an all-or-nothing crisis of self-acceptance and emerged completely at ease with myself.

In the three decades since, my relaxed attitude about homosexuality has expanded. I'm now at ease with all expressions of it, from the most macho S & M leather dudes to the most effeminate girlie 'girls'. Homosexuality doesn't bother me. And why should it? It's part of who I am.

Now I'm wondering if I'm too comfortable with my sexuality. Here's why:

About six weeks ago my wife and I had the most detailed conversation yet about our future. I found it quite revealing, a little stunning, and an important lesson for myself and other married men who contemplate coming out.

What prompted our long conversation was my improved physique. (Yes, this is me.)

She's been really, really pissed that I've been putting a lot more effort into looking good. She says it's a clear signal that I am about to toss her aside.

As we got into my motivations, she suddenly erupted, "I just wish you'd move to San Francisco! I see what's happening to you. I've seen this before, I know what happens!"

What she was referring to was one of her good friends from college who came out in his mid-thirties. After coming out, his personality dramatically changed. He's not quite Nathan Lane in the "Birdcage" yet, but he's close.

She continued, "I don't know how you could think of doing this to the kids. Oh my God! The humiliation! EVERYONE will talk about us. ALL the kids' friends. The kids will never be the same!"

At the time, I told her she was being ridiculous. I had no intention of doing anything to embarrass or humiliate anyone. I found her reaction to be shocking and over the top. I dismissed her fears as being grossly exaggerated.

But the next day I started to think more about what she said. Maybe her fears are extreme, but maybe she's not entirely wrong either.

Yes, in many ways the world has caught up to my views about homosexuality - that it's no big deal. But just because I'm very comfortable in my own skin and just because I live in a very liberal place, that doesn't mean I should disregard my wife's fears.

Fear is a very powerful emotion and even when it's irrational, it's something that should be taken seriously.

What I'm thinking is that even if my wife is completely paranoid, I would be smart to pay attention to her worries. Ignoring her or dismissing her could come back to bite me in the ass, in a few different ways. I'm thinking that if (or when) I come out, it's something that we should plan together. Yes, this is my coming out but it dramatically affects her and the kids and how they feel about themselves. Abstract homosexuality may be no big deal but when it's your husband or your father, maybe it is.

I think when the typical married closeted man reaches the point where he's ready to publicly come out, he just want to get it over with. Or, he at least wants control over how it happens. When you're married and a parent you undoubtedly ask yourself how can you minimize the impact of your announcement on your family. But do most guys let their wife and kids decide when and how to come out? Probably not.

Some of you may think I'm crazy for considering giving my wife a major say in how my potential coming out is handled. To that I'd say, don't worry, I'm not giving her carte blanche authority. I should also point out that I'm so blase' about my sexuality that it doesn't make much difference to me if or how I come out anyway. Since I don't care that much and she cares a lot, why not try to do as she asks?

It seems to be that, ultimately, it doesn't matter much who you tell or what you tell them or who you tell first. If people like you and they don't like something they've heard, they'll give you the chance to clear your name. If people don't like you or are ambivalent, why knock yourself out worrying about their opinion of you?

I know that I'll be fine no matter what happens. I'm very confident about the kids too. So, if my wife wants me to be the flaming asshole bad guy, why shouldn't I let her have her way?