In the post that follows this one I will offer some potentially life changing advice for married bisexual men who struggle with their sexuality and their marriage.
Normally I don't think twice about posting my opinions or advice, but recently a fellow blogger criticized my unrestrained enthusiasm. He feels that it is presumptuous of guys like us (he is also in the process of dissolving his marriage) to offer unsolicited advice to others. "People need to make their own decisions," he says. A number of other bloggers feel the same way. They have a strict rule that they don't give advice.
I don't object to their philosophy but I do think it's unfortunate. It's my belief that one of the primary reasons men read bi-married blogs is to learn how other men cope with their conflicted desires.
My blogger friend believes that readers should be free to draw their own conclusions based on what they've read of our experiences. I don't think that expectation is very practical. How many new readers are going to spend the time to read 200 entries that span several years? Not many.
To me, it seems much more reader-friendly to offer succinct advice. Things like, "Here's why you should think about issue X" or, "It's a mistake to do Y because here's what can happen." What's the problem with that?
I think the concern is, what if the advice is wrong or harmful?
Honestly, I don't think it matters very much what any blogger writes. I say this because when it comes to matters of the heart, people do what they want to do - regardless of what might be best for them and regardless of what advice they receive. This is especially true of advice dished out by anonymous bloggers on the Internet. We could hand out mountains of advice but would it matter? Not really.
So why bother?
Because I believe that blog readers are intelligent, discerning and capable people. When I give advice my hope is that I might cause at least one reader to think about an issue in a way that he or she never has before. The importance of learning new things can't be under-emphasized. New thoughts enable personal growth and personal growth leads to happiness.
Speaking of personal growth...
When my fellow blogger criticized me he said it's "ironic and ridiculous" that I so frequently give advice when my living situation is "the most fucked-up thing ever."
Harsh criticism. Criticism that turned out to be based on several key misperceptions. Misperceptions that occurred because the blogger hadn't read or remembered important details about my situation that are buried in this blog.
Which brings me to the main purpose of this post: if I'm going to offer advice then I should summarize my "credentials." That way readers can decide for themselves whether I'm a delusional hypocrite or someone who has "been there and done that" and learned from experience.
Experiences that have shaped my opinions on mixed-orientation marriages:
I came out to my wife in 1992, at the age of 26. I hadn't planned to come out at all but the guilt of hiding the truth combined with a high pressure situation caused the words to flow. Once I dropped the bombshell I assumed that my 2.5 year marriage was over. She moved out and I found a boyfriend. Yet it turned out that splitting up then was not our destiny. Starting a family and staying together for another 19 years was.
For about the first eight years after we reconciled I had friends with benefits and hook-ups, all on the down-low. I therefore know exactly what it feels like to be a cheater and to feel guilty about it. I also know what it feels like to cheat and not feel guilty.
About 10 years ago I stopped hooking up all together. I didn't stop because of love or guilt. I stopped because my marriage was fulfilling and friends with benefits were not. After nearly 20 years of on-and-off sex with men, I never expected to feel content in a straight marriage, but I did. And it wasn't something I tried to make happen, it just did.
My sexual struggle would have ended in 2002 if I was the only person who mattered in the marriage. But about six years ago, my wife started hanging out in the local bar. She's always been someone who needs A LOT of social stimulation and the bar turned out to be a comfortable place for her to hang out. At the bar she met and fell in love with a total loser. As I watched their relationship develop, I faced the choice of confronting her or letting her demons play themselves out, as I had mine. Because of the kids and because of the propensity for alcohol to fuel more drama, I decided to give her total freedom. She could do as she pleased as long as it was outside of the house and away from the kids. Was that the right thing to do? For us, yes. It turns out that no matter what I had done the outcome would have been the same - after 21 years of marriage she just wanted to be friends. Had I confronted her it just would have made for ugliness and the outcome would not have changed.
Our break-up has been completely amiable. Not one fight. No resentments. Minimal impact on the kids. It seems to me that if a couple with kids is going to break-up, we're doing it pretty well. Not perfectly, but pretty well.
For the most part, I would consider all of the above experiences "standard" for many divorced gay and bisexual married men. My story is just one more variation on the same old bi-married theme. What I think makes me very different is that the hurt of being rejected by wife caused me to do everything I could to understand the straight wife mindset. It was a struggle at first but now I get it. And ironically, I get it all the better because *I* was the undesired spouse, the same fate that many straight wives suffer.
Understanding the bisexual husband's point of view is pretty easy, especially if that's already who you are. But now that I truly understand the straight wife's perspective, I know that it's the wife who makes or breaks a troubled marriage, not the man's sexuality. For this reason some break-ups are inevitable. Some, like mine, are contingent, and some mixed marriages actually work.
Because I've lived every aspect of the mixed orientation marriage experience - from being the cheater, to the content man, to the betrayed man, to the educated man - I feel that I have a 360 degree understanding of the dynamics that make a mixed orientation marriage work - or not - for both spouses.
I've made a point of saying all this because, although it doesn't matter whether a particular reader thinks my advice is good or ridiculous, I do hope that people will consider my suggestions on their merits.
Next up: the stay in the closet and "win win."