Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Big Gamble

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.

21 comments:

  1. Golly... Sounds like you made bold decision, carefully and thoughtfully, and it's run a reasonably productive course. Good stuff -- give yourself credit for it.

    I have shared living space with family and non-family for a few years and am comfortable setting and respecting the boundaries that are required. The most recent was with non-family, and when the previously single landlord/housemate added his gf and 3 kids to the household, it was impossible to ignore the tension and drama between them even though it had nothing to do with me.

    So, to have navigated several months of tricky dynamics between the adults and kids in your milieu strikes me as a positive thing, as does working through necessary transitions now.

    Be well...

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    1. Thanks for your warm words of support, Bose. I really appreciate them.

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  2. I think "doormat" far understates your situation. I can't imagine letting the wife's bf move into your house, let alone drunken loser bf.

    "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."

    If this is the case then why do you let it continue? I understand having the kids get angry with Gabbie was one of your objectives....but was it worth the risk? This situation could end badly. What if he injures one of the kids while in a drunken rage?

    My house is my private place. To be sharing it with this guy seems unimaginable to me. I would end this experiment. Let he and Gabbie get their own place.

    I would take lots of videos of Gabbie and Charlie drunk and fighting, and fighting with the kids. These videos will be great to show in court. Gives you leverage.

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    1. "I understand having the kids get angry with Gabbie was one of your objectives."

      That wasn't exactly my objective. My objective was to STOP being a doormat in a way that had the least impact on the kids. My options were:

      - to confront Gabbie and demand that she behave in a way that was acceptable to me [She would not comply.]

      - to remove myself and the kids from the situation [The kids would not understand the urgency, and, taking the kids would put Gabbie and I into very adversarial positions. Ultimately the kids would be stuck in the middle of a potentially nasty custody fight.

      - to stop hiding Gabbie's behavior from the kids and to let them draw their own conclusions. Of course I hoped that they'd agree with my interpretation of her behavior because that would verify that my response was reasonable AND it would make handling the custody issue far, far easier.

      "was it worth the risk? This situation could end badly. What if he injures one of the kids while in a drunken rage?"

      Yes, it was worth the risk. The biggest risk was that the kids would see our mixed household as a positive and I would be miserable. The chance that Charlie would injure me or one of the kids in a drunken rage is zero. Gabbie is the focus of his attention. If anyone was ever to be hurt it would be her. It's not perfect protection but I do take comfort from the fact that we are four houses away from the new $18 million dollar police station. If I dial 9-1-1 I can have the police inside the house in less than 2 minutes.

      Your suggestion about taking videos is a good one. I can never say never, but I do believe there will be no courts or custody battles. Living together solved the problem in the simplest, least painful way possible. Gabbie took the bulk of the heat, but the fact is, she deserved it.

      As for ending the experiment, I'll write more about that soon.

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    2. My impression is that this is an "experiment" in retrospect only. She moved Charlie into the house. You agreed and devised this experiment....hardly plausible.

      I think she moved Charlie into the house. You had no say in the matter. You rationalized it by inventing this experiment. Then in your mind you are not walked on, because you agreed to it.

      Why don't you go rent a cheap apartment for Charlie some distance way. Stock it with liquor. Gabbie will spend all her time there with him, and you will be rid of her. Then you can provide a calm home to the kids and do what you want. Sound like a plan?

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    3. Actually, it happened as I said it did. Having Gabbie tell the kids about her relationship with Charlie marked a major turning point for me. It made me realize how powerful that revealing the truth can be.

      Once their relationship had been 'outed' I wanted Gabbie to fully understand what she had done and what the rest o her life would be like. That meant giving her the "experience" of living with Charlie and letting the kids see what their unfiltered dynamic was like.

      Charlie's had cheap apartments before. I need a new place for me and the kids, a place that 'belongs' to just us. I've begun to execute a plan that will make that happen but it will take a little time before it all plays out.

      Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful help.

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  3. You consider your kids turning against their mother a positive? Holy cow.

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    1. In this case, you bet your life he should consider it a positive. Do you think for a moment they should learn from her and emulate her actions in their own lives. A mother is someone you can look up to and who cares for you. Not a selfish bitch.

      Jack Scott

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    2. One of the major reasons I covered up for Gabbie was because I didn't want the children to think badly about her. But how long should I continue that charade? Or more importantly, when would I become responsible for anything bad that happened because I enabled Gabbie to act with impunity?

      I tried every option possible to reconcile before deciding to let the truth be known. Now, I'm no longer responsible for her behavior. If she says or does something that the kids do not like, that's her burden to carry. My responsibility is to do everything I can to encourage the kids to be positive, understanding, supportive and accepting of their mother - and I do that quite well. They often roll their eyes at me when I tell them to be more kind to her.

      I've charted a path that is least hurtful to everyone. I've done the absolute best I can do, and given the situation, yes, that's a positive.

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  4. If his wife has been a self-absorbed, MIA mother, it's not the husband's actions that turned the kids against the mother, it's the mother's own failings that are finally being acknowledged by the kids. While it's noble to want to keep a family together, it requires everyone involved to do their part. The wife here has seriously abandoned her responsibilities to attend to her own selfish needs. She is primarily at fault if her kids feel estranged from her.

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    1. Thanks for your support, Anonymous.

      You're right, Gabbie is at primarily at fault if the kids are unhappy with her. I don't do ANYTHING to encourage their negativity. Quite the opposite, actually.

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  5. Hmm. My story is somewhat similar to yours. My wife wanted out of the relationship for complex reasons, but felt that the kids were my problem. I gladly took them, married a partner that they adore, and never looked back. Letting her win gave me the victory that I wanted most. Ron

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    1. Thanks for sharing a little of your story Ron. It's very reassuring to hear that everything worked out so well for your family.

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  6. Two Lives, I've always appreciated your help in my feeble attempts at blogging and thinking. You're comments, either enthusiastic or critical are welcome because I respect your ability to think and observe.

    After reading this post I've been trying to think of some way to say what I think you need to hear. And I'll be damned if I can think of a nice way to say it that will not immediately cause you to shut out any advice I might offer.

    The best I can do is point you back to your own words: "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 a few short weeks, your CHILDREN figured out what you have not figured out in years! You're wife is an idiot. She would be doing you a favor to kick you to the curb and get herself out of your life.

    You have so much on her that no court in the land would give her custody of your kids. Even your kids would tell the judge no way they wanted to be with her.

    Why in Hell have you spent so much time worrying about and trying to win back this looser. Birds of a feather flock together. How is it you see Charlie for the looser he is but have never come to see Gabbie for the looser she is? Where is the simple disgust you should have for her that your children so quickly and rightfully found?

    Come on man, get yourself together and put that thinking of yours to thinking realistically concerning Gabbie. Get the kids and get out of her life. Let Charlie have her!!!!

    Jack Scott

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    1. "Why in Hell have you spent so much time worrying about and trying to win back this loser?"

      I'm sure you're not the only person asking this question!

      I don't think Gabbie is loser, far from it. She's a smart, fun, thoughtful, engaging, talented person in many, many ways. I love her like crazy. In fact, that's the answer to your question: love. The reason I've stood by her is because I love her.

      I appreciate your words, Jack. It's been very difficult me to move on so seeing how other people react to Gabbie is very helpful to me. Thanks for caring enough to be critical.

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    2. "Cameron":

      One of the weirdest things about your blog is that you have never actually shown us the smart, fun, thoughtful, or talented side of your wife. The very little bit of you have shown of her engaging side is when she more or less coerced you into getting (*ahem*) engaged.

      Try reading your own writing dispassionately some time, and you'll see what I mean.

      Your buddy acress the bridge,

      "Anonymous"

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    3. "Anonymous" -

      I'm sure you're right. I think the reason I haven't written much about her positive attributes is because I've been so hurt by her behavior and decisions in recent years.

      Also, and quite honestly, it would be torture to write a glowing post about her. All that would do is remind me of what I have lost and cannot regain. "Rubbing salt in my wounds" would be a gross understatement.

      I know that many readers don't "get" why I've been so patient and why I've been so permissive. The answer is very simple: I love her unconditionally.

      I hope you're well.

      "Cameron"

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  7. Cam, after some back and forth, I decided to comment on this very frank and open (as usual!) post. God, your situation and your mind are so COMPLICATED! You got me beat 'cause I'm not in the thick of anything this murky. I again, however, get a whiff of a passive-aggressive un- or semi-conscious strategy,in which the kids are brought to express your anger at Gabbie and her nutty relationship with Charlie.

    I don't think you want to poison their relationship with their mother and/or force them to make rather adult decisions about what's going on, depriving them (not wanting to be dramatic) of parts of their childhood (for the 12 yr old, esp who's got puberty to deal with). Suppose one or more kid decides that their mother is a bad person and cuts off relations with her. This is, needless to say, not good for them and can get more not-good later in life.

    It may be that the idea that you are confronting this situation rather than avoiding it is the rationalization for an angry punishing response that you possible don't really want to do. I get that you don't want to move out and leave the kids there, but moving out with some kind of joint custody (even informal) in which the kids can get a choice of who they live with for a period of time, or however it plays out, sounds like it might be better for them, giving them a bit more control over their lives, and not forcing them to choose, which it seems to me is now their situation.

    If "doormat" is the image du jour, I'd say the doormat is embedded with glass shards. (Okay, that's harsh, but you get my meaning re: passive aggression."

    And thanks for the courage to write this. Actually, the guy who wrote this needs to meet the guy who came up with this plan! OK, enough !!!

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    1. Hi Jason!

      Thanks for reading and for deciding to comment. I'm glad you didn't hold back. I want to know what you "really" think. I find that being criticized is extremely helpful because it's my double check. If I struggle to reply then I know you're right. If a reply seems obvious to me, that means I haven't been clear.

      I think you're right, to a limited degree, that I do take a little pleasure from the kids' anger at their mother. I normally see my role as always being supportive of her so I am rarely critical, but when the kids say things that I'm thinking, I'm glad that someone is speaking up.

      You're also right that allowing the kids to get involved in our situation is a risky proposition, in multiple ways. My best answer is to say that I NEVER encourage them to be negative or critical. In fact, I'm always telling them to be forgiving and kind. Also, I think the kids have less respect for me because I refuse to be critical of their mother. It's for these reasons that I don't worry about Gabbie's relationship with the kids being permanently damaged. If that happens it will be in spite of my efforts to keep the peace and Gabbie will have deserved what she gets.

      As for joint custody and giving the kids a choice, I've always been in favor of that option. Quite honestly, if one of the kids doesn't want to live with me than I don't want to force them. That would be a recipe for disaster. The hurdle to giving the kids a choice has principally been Gabbie's mother, and to a lesser degree, Gabbie herself. As I say in the post, if allowing Charlie to move in made it possible to avoid an ugly custody dispute and/or avoided having the kids witness their mother's worst behavior first-hand, then I have no absolutely no regrets. It's turned a potentially very messy outcome into the best one possible.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts Jason. I really appreciate it!

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  8. I hate that your kids are getting dragged through this all, but at the same time, in a strange way I think you made the most sensible decision. Poly families - which is what you effectively have - can be quite functional. In your case, though, it's not. You're just putting things out on the table for everyone to see. You've allowed your kids to have all the information they need and make their own decisions.

    In all this, I do hope you're benefiting from the openness of the relationship, and getting some nookie on the side. From what I understand about family systems theory, it's best to involve the entire family and let the stress be distributed evenly, instead of bottling it all up in one person. Also, it's good to differentiate yourself and have your own sense of self. Considering an impossible situation, you've really made the best of it.

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    1. I'm glad at least one person thinks I've made a sensible decision! That's a first. I'm glad you see that my intentions clearly. All I've wanted is for the essential facts to be out on the table.

      As for taking care of my needs, I'll be addressing that in some future posts.

      Thanks for your kind words Mack. Really.

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