Monday, March 4, 2013

She says/He says: Married Bisexual Men and Open Marriagess

In the Win-Win for Struggling Bisexual Married Men, I outlined a method that discontented closeted men can use to find inner peace.  If implemented as described, a full range of outcomes are possible; one of those is a wife who cherishes her bisexual husband and their open marriage.

Recently, a straight wife read the Win-Win and left a scathing comment about how selfish, narcissistic, and untrustworthy married bisexual men are.  Her comment deserves a quality reply, not only because she's in pain and wants answers, but also because the things she says epitomize many straight wives' feelings and fears about their bisexual husbands.

In an effort to provide the woman a helpful response, I asked a bunch of men who are bi or gay and in open straight marriages to reply to what she says.  I specifically asked them to focus on why they felt their open marriage was fair to their wives.  A handful of the most interesting replies are below.    One guy answered her point-by-point, which made for a very long reply, so I've included that as a separate comment.

She says: Married Bisexual Men and Open Marriages
What percentage of women, married to formerly closeted men, are openly happy with their lives after their world is torn apart by the proposition of an open marriage? You know of some. What is the ratio? I doubt it breaks into the double digits and not without struggling and trying it "his" way. Do you read sites where women are devistated or do you stick with sites that bolster the selfishness of bi- men to be happy at the expense of their wives?

The other bi-men's blogs I have read pull out what I see as a "poor me, I deserve special treatment" card, like a bi- form of affirmative action. Does being bi- go hand-in-hand with narcissism? How about recklessness? Selfishness?

Fear of abandonment is another excuse. Don't tell cause she won't like it... She might leave or, for the cheaters, also catch on to that lovely aspect. But heaven forbid the wife faced with the news that her husband likes boys feel that same fear of abandonment. She isn't supportive or understanding rather than the truly devistated person she actually is. So does bi- also come with a lack of empathy?

There is no win-win. It is a lie bi- men tell themselves to be able to live with their CHOICES.

From most of what I have read, bi men are far more likely to cheat than not, and to gaslight their wives, which is cruelty beyond measure. Spending a year trying to rebuild something that was never strong due to lies that destroy trust is like the guy who has a GF going to marriage counseling just so he can say he tried. Yet he never stops seeing his affair partner so his trying is a sham and another brick in the wall of manipulation and self-delusion.

If the bi- man continues to see other men there is no real effort to connect.

You married with all of the info. You spoke the words. Honor them or accept that you aren't bi. You are a person without regard for others who just happens to be bi.

Nothing on any of these forums makes me feel ok about being married to a bi man. Notorious liars. Understandable reason. Unacceptable behavior. All a choice, not imposed by external factors but instead acted upon by flawed integrity.

I love my husband but if he cannot honor the vows we made, he will find himself divorced. He has always lied. As far as I am aware, never acted on his attraction to men. We play at home. I will always feel inadequate even though I get turned on and have fun. I love real penises so why wouldn't he? I get it. But if it goes farther than just us, it is over. I didn't sign up for this. BUT HE DID.

That's the biggest difference.

And yes I am upset. I have no idea how this will work out in the end. My husband is struggling. I am, too. I want him to be happy. But if that requires extramarital forays, he can't be happy with me and therefore I can't be happy with him.

The just sex argument I hear so often is another point of contention with me. Why do bi men love anonymous or non-invested sex so much? Afraid of intimacy on both sides of the fence? Seems like it. Dear wife - with you it is love but with him it is just sex. Is anything truly sacred that is treated like spitting on the ground? Treating him like an object, how does that make bi men endearing to their wives or anyone for that matter? I'm just using him. But you are special...

Bi men have problems coming to terms for sure. But most of the real problems they face are of their own making.

Own your sh*t. Stop asking everyone else to accept what you yourselves could not accept. We haven't had the years you have had to get your head around it. All of the sudden you are willing to "share" and we are supposed to be right there beside you.

We always wondered what was wrong, blamed ourselves. You knew what it was. Not freaking fair. Not even close.

Open marriage? Many of you have already had one. Just not BI LATERAL.

Get your heads out of your asses and accept the damage you've caused and stop inflicting yet more pain.

And get some psychological help for the shitty way you treat people. That's where you really need to focus. Stop thinking with your dicks. Grow up. Become decent human beings in all facets of your lives.

I would say this to anyone who behaves this way.

Using bisexuality as an excuse is pitiful.

He says: Married Bisexual Men and Open Marriages

Man One

My wife is the opposite of this woman.  She is genuinely happy that I am happy, which results in us being happy together.  

My coming out was a challenge but it didn't rock our marriage to the core. Our struggle was simply to help each other find a pathway to success. Our marriage evolved from “you are NOT having sex with men” to a marriage were my relationships with men are just sexual enough to keep both my wife and myself happy. 

I never pressured her to support me, especially at her expense.  My wife is a strong woman and there is nothing she does that she doesn't truly want to do.  My liaisons don't rip her heart out.  They are met with joy and mutual happiness because the resulting happiness around the house when I return makes both our lives together so much happier.  My wife learned this through experience, that's what baby steps are all about.  “If a little is good, more must be better” until we found the perfect mix.    

Those who make it to happy MOM are the exception, but for those of us who do, it’s worth it.  I personally believe the greatest challenge is knowing when to cut your losses and move on. If the ship is sinking why should you both go down with it? I don't believe it's narcissism to save my own ass if others are not willing to save their own.

Man Two

I think an aspect of the perceived invisibility of happy open marriages is that people who are happy with things are less likely to complain. In the first 2 or 3 years, my wife and I both were enthusiastic posters on various support sites while we struggled with our issues.  We started out participating in 3 or more groups: HUGS, MMOM, SSML, and another that dried up.  We quickly fled SSML where gay husbands were allowed to participate but weren't really welcome.  We left MMOM after we became non-monogamous.  HUGS was a mainstay.  It provided so much critical support for us for a long time, but now, while we participate in conversations there, we don't really have issues to raise so we might seem to be invisible.

My wife never joined Alternate Path because she has no need or time for it, as good a group as it may be.  The very fact that she can be outspoken about our MOM but is not on AP speaks to the fact that she has nothing to be unhappy about.

And though I have been out to her for nearly 11 years, I only joined this group less than 2 years ago when I was between CLRs and wanted some of the camaraderie offered here.   Beyond that, I would say I didn't/don't need the support per se.  Our MOM is a well-oiled machine ... it hits rougher patches like when I was between CLRs but operated very well in getting us through that, and sails along best on the CLR road.

Man Three

My wife and I just celebrated our 33rd anniversary.  It's been 18 years since I came out.  While the first couple of years were definitely rocky, I know I speak for both of us when I say we are happier now than at any point in our marriage.  Both of us have evolved and I think with the passing of time, my wife has become more secure. I think her initial fear was that even though we had made a decision to stay married, she was concerned that at some point I would meet a guy who would sweep me off my feet and make me want to leave. We discussed this a lot in the beginning, because we both felt that if I was going to leave, it would be better while we were both relatively young. But neither of us wanted that and with each successive boyfriend she has learned that I'm not going anywhere.  Someone else summed it up really well:  There is no one else I would rather spend the rest of my life with. 

Man Four

Following the first couple of emotionally chaotic weeks post-disclosure, my wife and I realized we needed some sort of "operating agreement" even though we did not know where our future would take us.  That agreement included monogamy until otherwise agreed.  I very strongly wanted to remain together with my wife, and we couldn't see how non-monogamy would work, so I readily agreed to this "monogamy until" condition.  At the same time, my wife insisted we provide an escape valve:  if monogamy became untenable for me, then we would discuss how to deal with it, rather than me either going on the down-low or going back into the quasi-depression I had been in before disclosure.

I never had to use the escape valve.  The years that followed were so full of exciting personal development in many dimensions, that I was completely occupied by all that without being impatient for m2m sex.  Those dimensions included:

  •     developing a much higher degree of emotional intimacy and communication with my wife
  •     enjoying a renaissance of our marital sex life
  •     coming out in stages to more and more friends, family, and colleagues
  •     developing a social network of gay friends
  •     connecting to my local gay community generally, and to national equality and pride movements
  •     connecting with MOM friends on line and in person
  •     experimenting with some gay-related sex play with my wife
  •     using porn with permission, without guilt, and in moderation
  •     generally, developing my new gay "identity" without it being mixed up with the complications of gay sex, if that makes any sense.
My wife fully supported -- no, rather she helped push -- this re-envisioning of my identity in ways that included two key goals:  authenticity and integrity.  It also included fidelity, with the meaning that we understood at that time.  This whole monogamy period was an amazingly rich and valuable time.

Some time in the third year, when things had become very calm and loving for us, my wife had what she calls her "paradigm shift" which included at least two aspects:
(1) From the experiences of friends, she realized that a "side relationship" can in some cases be beneficial for marital stability, rather than destructive (even for straight people);
(2) She explicitly decided that given we were in a MOM, she wanted the next few decades to be a life built on generosity not fear, and abundance not scarcity.

On that basis she is the one who suggested I explore a Closed-Loop Relationship (CLR), with a MOM couple we had already known for a couple of years.  That led to a great 6-year relationship for me, and contributed to the stability and satisfaction our marriage gave us, and certainly provided a foundation for confidence about our future that helped us even when that CLR ended in 2011.

So, I realize that my case does not involve "long-term post-disclosure monogamy," but I think it does give an example of the possible value of committing to monogamy in at least a provisional (possibly indefinite) way, putting aside the fretful part of it and focusing on all sorts of other opportunities that may be offered.

In taking a second look at my bulleted list above, of all the great things that helped me develop as a gay man while monogamous, I was struck by the (not surprising) fact that they all would have been impossible if I had not been allowed to be open and affirming of my orientation both within my marriage and home, and/or in my community.  I expect I would have been very much more "itchy" for gay sex as a private or secret expression of my sexuality, if I had not had all these other modes of shared or public expression for it.  I am sure my wife, an exceptionally smart and insightful person, recognized that from near the start.

Man Five

I have been with my wife for 14 years and we have been open (mostly in theory rather than practice) for almost 4. Just recently my wife and I were sitting in the living room and she mentioned, sort of thinking aloud, while knitting, that she wished I could find a nice guy. This was out of the blue and unexpected, but welcome as it showed to me that it was something that she was so comfortable with that it was just a random thought floating around her mind, not weighed down by doubt or worry.

Now, I have to say that none of us can ever know for sure how our wives feel. We are not in their heads, never can be, and, frankly, I wouldn't want to be. All I have to go on is what she tells me and what I observe, which are both flawed since she could be fooling herself and by extension me as well, but it's all we have to work with and both have been pretty positive.

We briefly talked about this last night, and she got a bit annoyed since I have worried greatly about this in the past (yep, this narcissistic, reckless, selfish guy has been so concerned about the impact on my wife that she's tired of reassuring me that she's fine and dandy). If she were to paint her perfect world would it include me having sex with other men? No. But we don't get to paint our perfect world, do we? In my perfect world my wife wouldn't snore so much and cause me to lose sleep? Hell no. But when she offers to sleep in another room I just smile and tell her I won't hear of it. This isn't a perfect analogy, but my point is that living together is a balancing act which will never be perfect. We are who we are, but are also constantly changing, and the balancing act always needs adjustment to keep things going.

Man Six

I am peripherally involved in organizing a nude yoga/body electric weekend in my little community.  Because some of the participants are coming from several hundred miles away, I am hosting five of them at my house and am making dinner for the whole group on Saturday night.  When I discussed this with my wife, she smiled and said she would spend the weekend out of town with our daughter.

I mention this to demonstrate how far the gay thing and our open marriage have evolved for us.  When I came out eight years ago we went through a year or more of emotional roller coaster hell.  Initially, my wife was adamant that if I continued to have sex with men, our marriage would end.  Within a year, that gave way to a don't ask, don' t tell situation which, very recently, has moved light years ahead to where we are very happily enjoying a truly open marriage.

I think the main reason our marriage has lasted so long, post coming out, is that we allowed it to evolve - had either of us, taken an immovable stance, we could not have succeeded.  Another major factor is that our marriage was fairly strong in the first place.  Had we been in rough seas when I came out I believe the gay thing surely would have dashed us onto the rocks.  The third major factor was that my wife was very respectful and accepting of the gay thing - she never showed me anything less than respect, no matter how bad things got words like queer or fag were never tossed about.

Up until a couple of years ago, my wife presented me with a big bouquet of flowers every year on the anniversary of my coming out - she was grateful that she got me back from the cave that I dragged myself into several years ago.  I'm relating all of this, because I want to demonstrate that if the marriage is reasonably strong to begin with, a good counselor, patience, and time, along with mutual respect, a successful MOM can be created.

My thoughts on open marriage for mixed orientation couples

Generally speaking, I'm not a big fan of mixed orientation marriages (MOMs).  I'm somewhat optimistic about them if the couple is older and neither spouse has much hope or interest in finding another life partner. I'm also modestly optimistic about them if the couple communicates well and all the cards are on the table, including an agreement to be monogamous or not.  However, as soon as honesty and good communication end, then I'm very negative.  

Lies are a doomed attempt to create an alternate reality.  Anytime a spouse feels the need to repeatedly lie about who they are or how they live their life, they're moving the deck furniture around on the Titanic.  Lies temporarily hide awkward situations but they don't change the fundamental situation.  When a couple is truly happy with each other, and have a good relationship, then they're able to communicate honestly.  When they lie, they're doing so because they already know they're on a risky voyage, but they want to pretend that nothing bad will ever happen.

Would I advise a straight wife to seriously consider her bisexual or gay husband's request to open their marriage?  

Surprisingly, I would, even though I don't think most MOMs are a good idea.  

A request to open up a marriage is plea to communicate honestly.  When a straight wife says she's willing to consider the possibility of an open marriage, then, and perhaps only then, can the couple start to truthfully share what their deepest thoughts, needs and fears are.  And when that kind of communication happens, wives can start to feel less threatened and husbands more loyal.

The biggest mistake men make when they ask for an open marriage is doing so too soon after disclosing their same-sex attraction.  Once a husband's hidden sexuality is revealed, many wives fall into a deep depression where they question the authenticity, trust and love in their marriage.  It takes time and dedication on the husband's part to rebuild authentic trust.  Until that happens, why would a depressed wife grant permission to her husband to have sex with men?  She wouldn't.  

Ultimately, what the Win-Win does is build trust and confidence in the marital bond. And in those situations where trust cannot be built, that fact soon becomes obvious to both partners.  Either way, doubt is removed and the best path for the couple becomes clear, whether it's monogamy, an open marriage, or dissolution.

Please share your thoughts about opening up a mixed orientation marriage in the comment box below.