Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Connecting with Bisexual Married Men

When your marriage is on the rocks, you're supposed to go to marriage counseling.  When you're depressed, you're supposed to go to a therapist.  When you're an alcoholic, you're supposed to go to Alcoholics Anonymous.

What are you supposed to do when you're a married man who has an attraction to other men?

Arrange down low hook-ups with them through Craigslist, Grindr, Manhunt and Adam4Adam, of course.

The thing about hook-ups - the thing we don't often realize or admit - is that having an orgasm isn't the primary reason we pursue them.   What matters most is connecting with another man without the usual societal barriers.

Hooking-up is like taking a much-needed tropical vacation after spending many months locked in a regular routine.  It's an escape from the confines of a "usual" life where you know you don't quite fit in; it's a way to authentically bond with men who accept you for who you are.

Although I've never had an interaction that provided the same intense thrill that a good hook-up can, I have recently experienced the next best thing.  There's no sex involved, but, there's no guilt or risk of STDs either.

Back in July a reader suggested that I attend a local support group for bisexual and gay men.  He raved about what a life saver it was for him when he was coming out and strongly encouraged me to go.   

Yuck, I thought.  I really don't want to spend two hours listening to a bunch of dysfunctional people talk about how depressed they are.  I've already got that covered, in spades.

Of course I didn't say that to him. Instead I said, "Group therapy isn't my thing."  His response was that it was a support group, not therapy.  He also said that I'd never understand what I was missing until I gave it a try.   

Bah, he's right.  Now I have to go, just so I can tell him it didn't work out.

I've never been a "therapy" person.  I don't think I've ever had a one-on-one session where I've talked about myself.  The closest I ever came was twenty years ago, when, after I came out the first time, Gabbie and I had two or three expensive and unuseful marriage counseling sessions.

Group "support" is even less appealing to me because, let's be honest, people who seek out such groups tend to be socially awkward.  If they weren't, they'd have friends to support them.  But because they don't, they seek out a captive audience - which is exactly what a support group is for them.

As you can see, I can be a little cynical.  That alone should make me an unsuitable participant in any support group.

Well...

It turns out that the suggested support group is not just any bi/gay support group.  It's only for married or formerly married men. For me, that's made all the difference.

My original intention was to go once.  Because I planned to come out to my kids at the end of July, I thought it might be useful to hear other married men share their stories before I took the plunge.  So I went.

I wouldn't say that the first meeting went spectacularly well.  It was ok.  I was a bit disappointed by the attendance - only seven men.  Even more disappointing was that I was the youngest guy there and I'm 45.  Also, my theory about the kind of people who seek out support groups was borne out.  A fellow first-timer, a man of about 70, spoke about his very sad life for far longer than was socially appropriate.

The reason I returned for a second visit was because they asked me to.  My "about-to-come-out" story was a cliff-hanger for them so naturally they wanted me to come back and tell them what happened, which I did.

I went sporadically a few more times, every third or fourth week, mostly because I wanted to see who else came; I learned at the second meeting that weekly attendance varied significantly.

I think it was at my fourth or fifth meeting that I realized that I wanted to go more often, regardless of who showed up.  The reason was because I started to feel a natural kinship with several of the regulars, even those who were more than 20 years older than me.

Feeling that kind of cross-generational bond was a big surprise for me.  I have father issues and do not naturally gravitate to friendship with older men.  What I've learned from the group is that, regardless of age, there's something different about men who are attracted to men who have been married.  They're not like straight men and they're not like gay men.  I've discovered that I feel a natural comfort with these men that I've never felt with any group of men before.  It's a remarkable feeling.

Another thing I've realized is that my desire to attend more meetings has increased ever since Dean and I broke up.  This is why I've made the connection between the social aspects of this support group and hook-ups.  Because I'm not having any quality one-on-one time with a my formerly married boyfriend, the group fills that void, and in a much deeper and more enduring way than a one-time hook-up could. 

It may be hard to believe that a support group could be more fulfilling than a hook-up, but it's true.  And I'm not the only one who feels that way.  Bi_Gentleman, a blogger who lives near Toronto, began a "beer night" for bi-married men about two years ago.  I don't believe he's ever called his beer night a support group meeting (because if he did, far fewer guys would attend), but I think the bonding and camaraderie he has experienced with that group is similar to what I have experienced.

I'm sure there are plenty of bi-married men out there who only want to meet other men if sex is involved, but if that's not you, I recommend that you check your local area and see what kind of support groups are available.   If you go, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you experience.

If you're curious about what a typical meeting is like, here's a summary of what my group does:

Our meetings are once a week and last for two hours.  We have a regular host who is also a member.  He explains the rules to newbies (confidentially is a must; advice is discouraged) and he makes sure that our discussions stay timely and productive.  What I most enjoy is that everyone is authentic and likeable .  There are no drama queens or egomaniacs.  The words "depressed" and "depression" do come up, but not that often.  The two hours go by quickly as each person shares a little about what's going on in their lives.  At the end, someone shares a randy joke, we each contribute $5 for the use of the meeting room, and those who can go out afterward for a beer at a local gay bar.

A support group is not a hook-up, there are no mind-shattering orgasm, but, in the long-run, the genuine friendship and camaraderie can make it more well worth the time invested.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Unhappily in love after coming out at 45

Dean, my boyfriend of four months, broke up with me two months ago.  This is the first time I've written about what happened.

In some ways, the break-up was not a surprise.  In early September I was having some serious doubts about his interest in me, and in fact, prophetically wrote:
A forgotten birthday and living in a work bubble, in my eyes, imply that Dean just isn't that into me.  But maybe I'm wrong to think that.  Maybe I'm being unfair and I expect him to be more thoughtful than he's capable of being.  I don't know.

I do know that either he needs to be trained to be more thoughtful, or I need to be less needy, or I need to make peace with the fact that I like him far more than he likes me.  One of those outcomes, or some combination thereof, is the solution, I'm just not sure what the right answer is yet.
Despite my doubts, when the break-up happened two weeks later I felt like I'd been sucker-punched - only days before Dean had done something that made me feel like we were destined to be together for a very long time.

One of my frustrations with Dean was that we couldn't spend much time together.  All he did was work and when he wasn't working, he was with his kids.  In September I floated a trial balloon with him and asked if it would be ok if I hung out with him and his kids one or two nights a month.  He shot down the idea forcefully and immediately:  "My kids would NEVER want to share me!"

His reaction was the first concrete proof I had that he wasn't very interested in me.  For all his talk about the two of us getting married someday, I knew he couldn't be serious if I was never going to be allowed to meet his kids.

Then, just three days later, he completely changed his attitude and invited me to meet his ex-wife and kids at a dance performance of hers.  Wow!  After keeping me and his family apart, he'd taken the first step toward integrating me into his 'real' life.  I was thrilled.  Really, really thrilled.

Meeting his ex-wife and kids went well.  The only hiccup was that he seemed a little detached the whole night.  Although I noticed this, I didn't read too much into it.  Looking back now, however, I believe he wanted to break-up with me as soon as I accepted his invitation to meet his kids.

The actual break-up happened a week later.  Dean began the conversation by saying, "Do you remember when we first met and you said I didn't have enough experience with men and I'd eventually want to date other people?"  As soon as he asked that question I knew I was fucked - and not in a good way.  Still, I decided not to make any assumptions.  If he wanted to break-up with me, he was going to have be a "good communicator" and say the magic words.  It turned out he couldn't get there in one conversation.  It took three.

Our final conversation was a really good one; the best we'd ever had.  I give myself a lot of credit for that because I'd already made peace with breaking-up and that gave us a lot of time to talk about him.  All I can say is that for an intelligent, hard-working, social, introspective and successful guy, he's got a lot of work to do.

Dean admitted that he's often paralyzed by fear.  However, I think his bigger problem is that, deep down, he's very ashamed of his sexuality.  That makes him an amazing contradiction because while he's very comfortable being "out" (much more than me), he's not at all comfortable dating a man.  The walls and insecurities of the closet continue to dominate him - to such a degree that I can't imagine him having a successful relationship with anyone for at least several more years.  That's really going to suck for him because by the time he gets his shit together he'll be 50...and we all know how ancient that is in gay years.

As I said, our last conversation was a really good one.  At the end, however, I had the feeling that he wanted to cut off all contact with me and run away as fast as he could, just as he had done with the two friends he had messed around with while in high school.  To see if my suspicions were correct, I said to him, "I have this feeling that I'm not going to hear from you anytime soon."

He replied, "Probably not."

That stung.

It took a second or two for me to recover but I think I handled it very well.  My parting words were, "Dean...you're a great guy and I like you a lot.  I agree that you need to see other people and I'm not angry or hurt that you want to do that.  On the other hand, I don't understand why you'd want to avoid me.  As far as I'm concerned, our friendship is rock-solid and I'd like it to continue.  With that said, it's up to you to decide when we speak again.  You're an awesome person and I wish you nothing but the best."

As I hung up the phone, I felt like I'd been as positive and reassuring as I could have been.  I knew he wouldn't call the next day, as usual, but I was pretty confident that I'd hear from him sooner rather than later.

The first week of not hearing from him wasn't so bad.  I definitely missed him but there was NO WAY I was going to contact him first.

By the middle of the second week, I was beginning to struggle: WTF?!  How could anyone go from having an important relationship where you talk every day, to no contact at all for weeks??  We split-up on very good terms!  Why can't he at least email a short hello?

By the end of the fourth week, I couldn't take his silence any longer.  My original plan was to wait two months before contacting him, but as my misery grew I knew I couldn't hold out that long.  I finally caved on Halloween night.  I knew what his Halloween plans were so that served as my excuse to contact him.  I carefully crafted a short, happy and carefree message.  Then, as I hit "send" I thought to myself, "That fucker had better answer me."

Thankfully, he did, and relatively quickly too.  He even gushed in the first sentence, "As always, I love hearing from you."  Ah, the same old Dean....nice words but no action to back them up.

Hearing from him was a huge relief.  Honestly, I would have been far, far, far more hurt if he continued to avoid me than I was by the break-up itself.

What a weird thought.  Why would I feel that way?

As a rule, I am not a needy person.  I love and care about many people in my life, even business clients that I've never met in person, but there are only a small number of people whose complete absence from my life would be devastatingly painful.   In fact, there may only be three: my kids.  Gabbie might be in that group, but I wouldn't know for certain unless we didn't speak for a month.  Her mother might be up there as well;  my own parents would not.  What's dumbfounding is that Dean might make the list.  Why the fuck should a guy I dated for only four months be one of the most important people in my life?

The answer is a four-letter word.

Trust me on this...when you realize for the first time that you're in love with someone, and they've already broken up with you, it's not a good thing.

Since the first Halloween contact, Dean and I have continued to periodically exchange emails.  Mostly we've talked about dating.  As expected, he's made no effort to date anyone.  Recently he deleted his dating profile entirely.  He says he's going to start again in January but knowing him, he'll "get busy with work!" and suddenly it will be May.    Also, his version of 'trying to date' consists of posting a profile (with bad pictures) on one dating site and waiting for Mr. Perfect to contact him.  "It's so discouraging," he says, "when no one I'm attracted to ever messages me."

/facepalm

Deep, very deep, in my gut, I feel something for Dean that I've never felt before, something I never thought I would feel.  He's hurt and disappointed me.  His fear of intimacy ended our relationship.  And yet...I can't escape the conviction that he's The One.

Trust me, I don't want to feel this way.

Because of my affection for Dean, I have very little enthusiasm for dating anyone else.  I have big doubts that I'll ever find someone who is better match for me than him.

I know that's a terrible attitude to have, so I have some work to do to overcome it.  Fortunately, just writing this post has helped a little.

I also plan to start dating again in January.  I hope to either meet someone who makes Dean a pleasant memory, or, I hope to eliminate every potential prospect and be finished with dating forever.

Either way, wish me luck.