My life began to fall apart five years ago when my wife of 17 years fell in love with an unemployed, homeless, alcoholic criminal. For more than three years I patiently waited for her to realize that tossing me aside in favor of such a loser was a major mistake, but that realization never happened. No matter what awful thing Charlie did to her, Gabbie only had eyes for him.
I thought I'd be able to get rid of Charlie when he was arrested for unpaid court fees in July of 2010; I made it known to Immigration that he was in the country illegally and had big hopes that he'd be deported. That didn't happen. When he was released from jail more than two months later, Gabbie was there to greet him.
Because being patient with Gabbie hadn't worked, and scheming to get rid of Charlie hadn't worked, I changed tactics. In the Fall of 2010 I told Gabbie that I wanted to separate. At a minimum, a separation would give me a chance to clear my head. I also hoped it would give Gabbie a taste of reality - I wanted her to be fully aware of the dramatic impact that choosing him would have on her life. But instead of being sad about the separation, she was relieved that I asked for it. It turned out that I was the one who got the reality check.
A few months later, in January of 2011, we told our kids about our separation. They took the news well, but in their eyes, it wasn't much of a split. Nothing about their lives changed as Gabbie and I continued to live together, and in fact, continued to sleep in the same bed.
In the Spring of 2011 I tried one last time to salvage my marriage and begged Gabbie to go to marriage counseling. She eventually said yes, but then changed her mind about five minutes later. So much for that.
As the rest of 2011 ticked by, I gradually came to accept that my marriage was over. In August I stopped wearing my wedding ring. In October I moved to my own bedroom. Both of those changes helped me turn the corner toward feeling better about my status as a single man.
It should have been obvious to our kids that their mother and Charlie had been dating for years but they never figured it out. They thought he was a family friend, our "worker man." I went along with the 'friend' charade, first with the hope that he would soon disappear, then later to protect Gabbie from being hated by the kids for taking up with such a loser. It wasn't until nearly a year after we announced our separation that I realized it was time to stop hiding Gabbie and Charlie's relationship from the kids.
When I told Gabbie that the kids should know the truth about Charlie, she thought about it for two minutes, agreed, and immediately called the kids together to tell them. They took the news in stride, probably because they already knew him. Very soon afterward I realized that asking Gabbie to tell the kids about her and Charlie was THE very best decision I'd made in more than five years. It marked a major turning point for all of us as we learned to accept that our lives had forever changed. It also gave me a huge incentive to get serious about dating men. Gabbie was happier too because sharing the truth allowed her to be more open about spending time with Charlie.
Now we're close to the present day and that brings me to the purpose of this post: In January I took a major gamble, an insane risk that I couldn't believe I'd ever contemplate. I knew that at least a few readers would skewer me if I shared what I was considering, so for that reason, I haven't said anything about my big gamble, until now.
"Outing" Gabbie and Charlie's relationship turned out to be such a positive step for me that when Charlie was facing his fourth eviction in three years, I thought long and hard about allowing him to move into our house. What would happen, I wondered, if I agreed to let him move in? He'd have his own room and he'd pay rent...but how would having him in the house affect the kids? How would it affect Gabbie's relationship with him? Could I stand being in the same house with him? What if he was drunk all the time? What if I couldn't get rid of him? What if, what if, what if...
It took me about a week to make a decision. Asking Charlie to move in was like playing Russian Roulette. Chances were, he'd be a disaster and that might be just what was needed for Gabbie to want to get rid of him. But there was also a chance that he'd make my life a living hell and it would be nearly impossible for me to escape.
Ultimately, the thought that convinced me to take the chance came from writing the "win-win solution for struggling bi-married men." As I said in that post, it's human nature to avoid painful situations. In our efforts to avoid pain we lie and hide, but those actions don't solve the problem and frequently make it worse. Really, the best solution is to embrace our fears and make peace with them. The outcomes might not be what we expect, but whatever happens, we get resolution and that allows us to move forward with our lives in a positive way.
In my desire to keep Gabbie and Charlie apart, I lied to the kids about who he was. When I stopped lying, the situation significantly improved. Similarly, because it helped to keep Charlie away from Gabbie, I was happy to let him sleep on a park bench if he was homeless. But what if I faced my fears and embraced their relationship? What he lived with us? Could bringing them together ultimately push them apart?
Charlie moved in to his own room in late January. In addition to rent, I had two other expectations for him. The first was that he was not a guest. Under no circumstances was I going to clean up after him. The second was that he'd have to take over most of my responsibilities as house chef. Charlie thought of himself as a great cook, and because cooking for complaining children brought me no joy, I handed that unrewarding task over to him. I figured that if I had to live with him, the least he could do was something to make my daily life a little easier.
Now that it's been more than five months since Charlie moved in, has my gamble paid off?
Mostly, but not entirely. On the negative side, Gabbie has not kicked Charlie to the curb and there have been two incidents that have caused me considerable regret. I'm not going to write about them in detail but I will say that I have no tolerance for drunken fights. I don't care if Gabbie and Charlie are best friends again the next morning - if they fight, the police will be called and Charlie can go directly to jail, where he will hopefully be deported soon afterward.
On the positive side, I'm pleased to report that the kids have come to know Charlie quite well - and they hate him. They are also disgusted with Gabbie. Not so much because of Charlie but because they see that I have accommodated her in nearly every way possible and yet she's still not happy. The stress of having Charlie around has caused her to be extremely impatient, especially with the kids. They universally criticize her for always being in a bad mood and for being selfish. In comparison, my sulking, self-pitying ways make me look like a saint.
I have sometimes questioned my decision to allow Charlie to move in. Having him around has seriously damaged Gabbie's relationship with the kids and there are times when tensions are so high in the house that it feels overwhelming and oppressive. That is not a healthy home environment for three teenagers.
Having said that, I should also say that some of the tension is not Charlie's fault. My 12 year old daughter is at that stage of adolescence, and even if we had the most comforting home situation ever, I think she'd still be extremely snotty on a daily basis. What's most problematic is that she and Charlie continually antagonize each other. Eating dinner as a family is often turns in to a battle of wills.
The biggest payoff from having Charlie in the house was unexpected. In March my daughter got it in her head that California was a "boring" place. She decided that she and I should move out of state. Well, once Gabbie's bossy mother got wind of that idea, she went berserk. Through the grapevine she made it known that she'd spend ANY amount of money to make sure that I'd never get custody of the kids. Now, three months later, I'm feeling pretty confident than she'd go bankrupt and I'd still win custody. Not because I'm such a great parent but because the kids now know what life with mom and her boyfriend would be like - and they don't want any part of it. In a worst case scenario where Gabbie got custody, they'd make her life so miserable that she'd quickly give in and let me have them. If I hadn't allow Charlie to move in I wouldn't have that confidence. So for that reason alone, I'm glad I took the gamble that I did.
Because living with Charlie has most likely played out as "well" for me as it ever will, it's time for me to pull the plug. The whole situation is not working, nor will it ever work, and it needs to be changed. In my typical analytical, over-thinking way, I am working on a plan that I hope will make everyone much happier, on a permanent basis. I haven't made all of my final decisions yet but I'm getting close.
As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that most people have a lot more common sense than me. Or at least, they're smart enough to be concerned about posting a lot of intimate family details on a public blog. I can't think of another blogger who writes as many details about his life's drama as I do. Maybe I should show my family some respect and omit 95% of the details. I don't know why I do it....I guess I'm tired of the closet and of lying and hiding. I haven't repressed my sexuality but I have kept a lot bottled up for many years and my way of finding freedom is to spill my guts here. I'd also like to think that, somehow, my fucked-up story might help others. If there's been a consistent theme in my life it's that I hate conflict and I've tolerated a lot of bullshit in an attempt to avoid some very difficult conversations. But now I'm learning that avoiding conflict often means avoiding resolution. I hope others can learn that same lesson by reading about my experiences.
Getting out of this awkward living situation is now a priority. I'll write more about that in the very near future.