Thursday, March 1, 2012

Presumptuous Advice

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."

16 comments:

  1. I do like hearing your advice. I hear it on several different blogs, and although I am not taking a vote on this, I do like to see a what a lot of other husbands think. The win-win thing sounds kind of nice; here's crossing my fingers that it's something I haven't thought of. I am just being selfish though, not to come out to the wife? She has a lot better chance of getting another husband than me...

    Roger

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    1. Heya Roger - The win-win is probably something you've considered for a minute but have not been motivated to try.

      Changing our usual patterns is a lot like pushing a boulder up a hill. I'm going to try to explain why the results are worth the effort.

      Getting dumped by your wife is not a typical result.

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  2. I appreciate your comments and thoughtful advice about the same sex issues but to say your break-up has been completely amiable? Now that is a stretch, coupled with a good dose of denial. Your marriage has been in slow-motion break up for years. It wasn't your sexuality that broke up your marriage, it was the lies and cheating that destroyed her trust in you. Yes, she could of course have forgiven you but she did not want to risk being abandoned.

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    1. You're right about this: "Your marriage has been in slow-motion break up for years." But you've got the cause wrong - my sexuality was the issue, not a fundamental lack of trust. If trust was the issue she would never have stayed. She's a strong woman with a well-off mother as a back-stop.

      After coming out to her she was never 100% secure in our relationship. It took 13 years but the minute she met someone who made her feel alive in a way that I could not, THAT was the beginning of the end. Had she not met him we'd still be in the same ol' status quo.

      I think her continued trust in me is one of the major reasons why our break-up has been so amiable. She expected me to go gay-crazy, to turn into a gay caricature the way one of her best friends from college did when he came out. But because I haven't done that she's realized, even more, that my commitment to her has been sincere and authentic.

      As for our break-up, I think you are (understandably) confusing pre and post events. In 2010 there was a ridiculous amount of drama between her and Charlie and a lot of hand-wringing here by me. Other than my frustration with the drama, and my impatient desire to see it played out to a clear conclusion, there wasn't a lot of tension between us. Post break-up (Jan '11) we've gotten along extremely well, as we always have. In fact, until I moved into my own room we had to keep reminding the kids that we were not together because, in their eyes, there was no reason to believe otherwise.

      Thanks for your comment. It's given me a chance to set the record straight, so to speak.

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    2. I was responding to this statement: "I know that it's the wife who makes or breaks a troubled marriage, not the man's sexuality." -- I mention trust as an issue and so do you when you said "After coming out to her she was never 100% secure in our relationship." She was afraid to commit to you because she could not trust that if you found a guy, you would not abandon her.

      Since a good marriage is a partnership, in reality, you both played a part in the break up. It doesn't matter who started it, someone could have compromised along the way but from all your stories, you are better off separated rather than clinging to a hopeless ideal.

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  3. Cameron,

    Keep on giving out your advice. People can take it or leave it. But it is based on a broad and unique experience that few other bloggers have.

    Your assertion that it is the wife who makes or breaks the marriage is interesting. My first reaction is to disagree with it since it didn't seem to obtain in my case, but it bears further thinking.

    Thanks for putting you and your story out there.

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    1. Hi Paul - One of the reasons I say that it's the wife who makes or breaks the marriage is because, if most husbands were "the decider" then many more of them would come out to their wives. The fact that so many men don't want to be honest is proof that they fear a negative reaction will end their relationship.

      That said, you're right that it's not always the wife who makes or breaks a marriage. People are different and circumstances vary.

      Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

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  4. You can't please everyone... I appreciate the advice and where it is coming from.

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    1. JFB - You're right that you can't please everyone. That's become the story of my life, whether I like it or not.

      Just to be clear, I'm not offended when someone is displeased. What bothers me is when there's a miscommunication and I could have done something to prevent it.

      Thanks for your comment!

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  5. You give great advice. There folks are free to take it or leave it. Some bloggers are frightfully thin skinned. Anything less than mindless support, even when they're being appallingly reckless, is unwanted. I'd suggest that publishing a blog invite opinion of all sorts. Else why do it?

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    1. "folks are free to take it or leave it." - This is my sentiment. That and the fact that people do what they want to do, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.

      Although it was painful to be called ridiculous I'm still glad I read the comment. No one likes to be criticized but the reality is that listening to your critics exposes your weaknesses and gives you the opportunity to address them.

      I couldn't agree more that blogs invite opinions. It always surprises me when bloggers are offended by what their readers say. If you don't want to be criticized, don't put yourself there.

      Thanks for your comment!!

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  6. I think your advice could be presumptious because I see mention of monogamy. As an older teen I was in a relationship with a boy and we had an open relationship. In my twenties I married a girl and never considered sex with anyone else (male or female), sure there were fantasies but that's normal.

    After the divorce (nothing to do with sex) I decided I wouldn't enter a serious relationship again unless it was open. I hope your advice will be to bi-married men in open relationships.

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  7. I try hard not to give advice either by e-mail or on my blog. Everyone's situation is so unique and only the person who is in it can really know all the facts. I just relate my own experiences and hope that some other guy can draw some useful parallels from it.

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  8. I think sharing your experience and giving advice are almost one and the same. What I have read in your blog is what you have felt and how you have reacted, which is different than giving advice. Here is my definition of advice giving through personal experience: Paul tried to give me advice once. It went like this: "You need to..." It was the "need to" that really got to me. I don't hear you saying that, and Paul doesn't say that anymore either :D

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  9. Where would any of us be without advice? I know I've benefited from the advice of others all my life. I can't understand people like the blogger you mention. And, by the way, he was giving you advice, bad advice.

    Giving advice is a good thing as long as you are "giving" it. By offering it, it is understood that it does not have to be accepted. Those receiving advice should evaluate it carefully to see if it fits their needs and their lives.

    Keep up the good work.

    Jack Scott

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