Friday, June 28, 2013

Happily Monogamous with a Woman, Mostly Attracted to Men

Buried in the early entries of this blog is the story of how I transformed from a habitual, down-low cheater to a satisfied gay man, happily and monogamously married to a straight woman.

Quite a few men have told me they envy my evolution.  They want to know the secret.  How did I do it?

The first thing to know is that I never expected it to happen.  Nor did I really try.

Here's my story:

I met my future wife a week after my 20th birthday.  Although I had accepted myself as gay five years earlier, I hadn't come out to anyone yet.  I didn't feel ready.  In high school I'd had a few sexual experiences with men, including several anonymous encounters and a six-week "summer romance" when I was 17.

How I ended up married is a long story.  Basically, my future wife doggedly pursued me.  Among other things, she ran up a $2,300 phone bill in 10 weeks, offered me her virginity, and gave me a "propose or we're through" ultimatum.

Putting it like that makes it seem like she steamrolled me, which she did, but the situation was more complicated than that.  I genuinely liked her, I was curious about exploring a real relationship with a woman, and, I liked all the attention she gave me, which was something I'd never experienced before.

We were engaged within 9 months of meeting, lived together for nearly two years, then married at 23.

During this time I had a number of anonymous encounters.  Back then, there was no Internet.  The only way I knew to secretly meet men was to hang out in certain restrooms, especially at colleges.

In 1992, on the eve of my 26th birthday, I had a too-long first meeting with a great guy.  That meeting caused a chain-of-events that forced me to come out to my wife later that same night.  Following my announcement, we separated and she moved out.  We stayed in close contact, however, and two months later we unexpectedly reconciled.  From that time until late 1994 I stopped fooling around with men.

What got me back into hook-ups again was reading about electronic bulletin boards - places where married men could post "notes" seeking other married men for discrete connections.  Curious, I signed on to the World Wide Web for the first time and discovered Internet Relay Chat, one of the Internet's early instant messaging systems.  On IRC, I was able to talk openly to many other married men for the first time.  Before long, I met one and had sex with him, which broke my two year stretch of monogamy with my wife.

I still remember what I told myself to justify my decision to cheat again.  I said, "There's an empty part of me, deep inside. Only a man can fill it.  Only a man can complete me.  I can't live the rest of my life and be this empty.  My relationship with my wife is a good one, but I need to connect with another guy.  I have to do this."

Over the next seven years I serially had three "friends with benefits" relationships. My first two FWB situations were pretty good, especially the second one, which lasted six years.  My third FWB started out well enough but by the fourth month I'd had enough of him.  Meeting up had become a chore and I found myself making excuses not to meet him.  Before long, even when I was with him, all I wanted to do was leave.

Two months after I stopped seeing that guy, I started thinking about how I should go about finding my next friend.  Then, rather spontaneously, I decided FWBs and hook-ups just weren't worth the effort.  From that day forward, and for more than nine years afterward, I was happy to be monogamously committed to my wife.

What changed after nine years?  My wife.  She was bored with motherhood and unimpressed with my modest desire for her.  She wanted to go out with her HS girlfriend and drink and dance and have a good time.  Before long, she met a guy and got emotionally involved with him.  After about a year, their relationship grew to include sex.  Three tumultuous years followed, which were hard times for me, yet I still remained loyal to my wife.

Eventually I decided our marriage needed to be reconsidered because she was in love with her boyfriend and I was gay.  At my suggestion, we separated.  It wasn't until five months later that I fooled around with a guy for the first time in more than nine years.

Although separating was my idea, I didn't ask to do so because I wanted to fool around with men.  I asked because I wanted my wife to rethink our marriage and (hopefully) decide that I was a better man than her loser, idiot boyfriend.  Had she affirmed that I was worth keeping, we'd still be monogamously married to this day...but that's not what happened.

That's my story but it doesn't exactly explain how I went from feeling incomplete and needing to cheat, to feeling like men "aren't all that."  Here's how that happened:

First, it was my attitude about men that changed, not my attraction to them.  This is a crucial distinction because I think way too many men focus on submerging their attractions, which is about as effective as staying on a highly restrictive diet: short-term success is relatively easy, but long-term success is impossible.

Experience with men is what changed my attitude about them.  It took quite a few years of experimentation, but eventually I learned that no matter how good the connection was, the happiness and satisfaction I felt while being with a man was very temporary.  This fact led me to one of my first big realizations: part-time, FWB, conjugal "relationships" would never be enough for me.  The only way I could truly be satisfied would be to have a full-time relationship with a man.  Pursuing anything other than that, therefore, was pointless.

Experience with men also taught me that no matter how good a connection was, I remained the same person afterward.  This was not what I expected.  I thought that connecting with the right guy would somehow fulfill me in a way that nothing else could.  Well, it didn't, no matter how much I liked the guy or enjoyed spending time with him.  Yes, for a few minutes I could achieve a higher plane of happiness by really connecting with a guy, but when it was over, it was over.  This led me to my second big realization, which was that the endless worry about diseases and getting caught cheating greatly outweighed the short, temporary periods of satisfaction that being with a guy gave me.

The third big realization I had was that connecting with men through sex was not rare or special.  With hundreds of different men (just on Craigslist) to chose from every day, why get twisted into knots pursuing them?  Any day, at any time, I knew I could arrange a hook-up within just a few minutes.  It wasn't any more difficult than ordering a pizza to be delivered.  What's so special about that?  Nothing.  And again, why bother if I had to constantly worry about diseases or bad experiences or getting caught?

All these things caused me to conclude that pursuing sex with men just wasn't worth the trouble, so, I stopped.

"That's all good for you Cameron," you might say, "but it doesn't help me because I crave connecting with men and I can't help it.  Besides, it doesn't exactly work to become monogamous by spending years having sex with men.  I need a solution that can work for me, in my situation, right now."

I understand, and, I have a solution.  Will it work for every man's situation?  Almost certainly not.  I can't promise anything to anyone.  What I can do, which I think would be very helpful, is to provide some suggestions based on my experience.  If they work, great.  If they don't, at least you tried.

When I was recently discussing this topic with a married, closeted guy, he told me the reason my attitude about men changed was because I'd become jaded.  Hmm...maybe I did, but if so, that's a good thing.  How else could I ever happily commit to straight monogamy unless I no longer idealized connecting with men??  I couldn't.  I don't see how any bi or gay man could.  So that's the goal, to feel that connecting with men is something very ordinary and not to be prized or valued.

I actually don't think I'm jaded.  I think a better description is that "my need to connect with men has been normalized."  That is, the way I think about sex isn't much different than the way a typical, mature single guy does.  Please notice that I used the word "typical" and not "stereotypical."  Think about men you actually know who are over the age of 35 and who are single.  How much time do they spend trolling for sex?  How long do they go without having sex?  Are they totally stressed out, miserable and depressed?  Mostly, they're not.  But many closeted men are.  Repression makes man-sex more special, whereas expression makes it more ordinary.  It's kind of like being on a no-chocolate diet when you're a chocolate lover.  Denial makes you crave the forbidden chocolate even more, which in turn stresses you out, which then causes you to want more chocolate.  It's a nasty vicious cycle.  Repression and denial don't work.  Instead, you have to incorporate what you crave in a manner that moves you toward your goal.  If you want to lose weight, don't deny yourself chocolate, just exercise more.  If you want to have a monogamous straight marriage, don't deny your orientation, just make it part of your everyday life.

Closeted men in straight marriages, especially, put sex with other men on a pedestal.  It's something special.  It's an unquenchable thirst that you must constantly fight to control.  Well, if you want to be monogamous, you need to get over that idea.  You need to normalize the idea of connecting with men, not idolize it.

How can you do that?

By embracing the dick-sucking faggot within you.

I could write a book about the endless ways that closeted married men fuck with their own heads.  Does it help?  In the short run, maybe, but in the long-run?  Not a bit.  The purpose of the head-fucking is to cope with self-hatred and fear, and to push as much of the gay away as possible.  The head-fucking includes all kinds of rules, especially those that dictate when thinking about man-sex is permissible, which mostly, of course, it isn't: no gay porn, no gay fantasies when jerking off, no gay fantasies when fucking your wife, no lusting after male friends, no flirting with men, no anal sex when hooking-up, no kissing when hooking-up, no emotional connections when hooking-up, no gay books, no gay movies, no gay friends, no gay mannerisms, no gay label, no gay, in any way, at all times!  In other words: denial, denial, denial.  The goal is to push the gay away or risk having it consume you.

That is exactly the wrong approach - and the proof lies in the fact that it doesn't work.  Pushing the gay away makes gay thoughts special, not bland and ordinary.  Denial makes you crave man-sex more intently, not less.  That might make no sense, but it's human nature, and it applies to all kinds of denial.  Think about it.

The solution is to embrace your inner gay man.  All of him.  In all his weirdness, depravity and femininity.  Go for broke on gay and let the flood gates open.  Do that, and before long you'll begin to understand who you really are and what you really need.  Do that and you might just discover that down-low hook-ups really don't mean much to you, but intimately connecting with another person you love (i.e., your wife), does.

Closeted men don't know it, but they've fucked with their heads so much that they no longer know who they are and what they want.  Instead, they "think" themselves into isolated corners and fight the misery that presses down on them from every direction.  What they should do is let go of their rational minds and let their feelings express themselves.  Open the flood gates.  Wash away the barriers.  Wash away the denial.  Wash away the mind-fucks.  THAT'S how you find peace.

I realize that this is such radical advice that no one will have the guts to take it.  "Embrace the gay???  No fucking way!"

Bah.  Don't be a weak coward.

Why is it so difficult to even think about embracing the gay?  Because you're deathly afraid that once you take the barriers down and let your faggoty emotions go wild, you'll never get control of them again.  You're afraid you'll turn into a sissy, an effeminate, limp-wristed queen, the most hated kind of fag there is, and, worst of all, you're afraid you'll actually like being that person.

Yes, that might happen...but it probably won't.  It's much more likely that you'll finally understand what it is you want and need from men, and by understanding those things, you'll also see how they mesh with other priorities in your life.  Eventually, as you reconcile who you really are with what you really want, you might come to realize that trolling for dick just isn't that important any more. 

This is essentially what has happened with another blogger, Bobby, author of Reality*.  Recently he wrote about being more happy with his straight, monogamous marriage than ever, largely because he and his wife frequently and openly discuss his sexuality.  By being so open, he's been able to embrace his inner gay man and integrate that part of himself into his 'real' life.  Having done that, he longer feels restless or boxed-in and that makes him very optimistic about the future of his monogamous in his marriage.  Check out what he says and see for yourself.

To summarize, the goal is to make your attraction to men as ordinary to you as your own breathing and heart-beat are.  Once you see your gay attractions as routine, you'll spend a lot less time thinking about them, just as you don't spend much time thinking about your heart or lungs.

There's a second goal, which in my experience is much more challenging to address.  It pertains to the powerful need to connect with another man, and the feeling that you are empty or incomplete unless you do.  This need can be met through sex and intimacy, but the goal is not an orgasm, it's about feeling whole and fulfilled as a person and as a man.

The reason I think it's very challenging is because, for me, it was an "aha!" moment spread out over many years.  It's a light switch need (you either need another man or you don't), that, most likely, can't be changed by one experience.

The way it happened for me was that I gradually realized that happiness comes from within, not from without.  Someone else cannot MAKE me complete.  I'm as complete (and thoroughly imperfect) as I'll ever be, whether I like it or not.  I was born alone and I will die alone, no matter who loves me, how deeply or for how long.

That may seem like a depressing sentiment, but for me, it was a liberating one.  By thinking that I was destined to be incomplete unless another man made me feel whole, I made my happiness and fulfillment someone else's responsibility - and that someone was a mystery person who I'd never met, nor knew if he even existed.  As a result, I was chasing a dream.  And that's all it was, a dream.  Now that I "get" that I'm already as complete as I can be, chasing men just isn't that important.  What is important is living life in the present and connecting with the people around me, including my wife.

So there you have it, "the secret" to straight monogamy when you're a bi or gay married man.  It's what  worked for me, at least, even though I never really tried to get here.

Can it happen for you?  I have no idea.  But you can tell me your thoughts on the subject in the comment box below.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Bi and Gay Married Men with Children

Have you heard about "The Gay Dad Project" yet?

Here's a description from the Project's website:
We see The Gay Dad Project as a place – for everyone – to talk when a parent comes out.

We, Amie, Erin and Bry, want this website to be a place for conversation about families and what it feels like to have a parent come out. WE ARE NOT EXCLUSIVELY ABOUT GAY DADS. We aim to connect with other children and families who are going through – or have gone through – having a parent come out.

Through open and respectful dialogue we hope to give visibility to families and create a safe space for conversation. We will assist in locating appropriate resources as we can but please keep in mind that we are still working to connect with resources and organizations ourselves.

We are not licensed health professionals. We are simply kids who have been there, experienced the coming out of a parent, and want to connect with and help others.

If you are looking to read The Gay Dad Project blog please click here.
Here's a sample of quotes from recent posts:

"So now I’m a couple months shy of my fifteenth birthday and I have a gay dad for the first time in my life. Of course I’ve had a gay dad for almost fifteen years, but since I didn’t know that until now. . . well, you can see how it was going to be problematic." [And John Is My Boyfriend]

"One of the last people I came out to was my 10-year-old daughter, about nine months into the process.
Strange that the final person to hear the news was one of the people who needed to know the most.
I was incredibly nervous leading up to the big conversation with her. I had no idea how to script it." [Seth Taylor: And Then We Had Hamburgers]

"For many of you, yes, your dad lied. He lied to you. He also lied to the world. He might have even lied to himself. It was a tremendous whopper of a lie.  It was a huge betrayal so significant you can only wonder, “Exactly what else about this guy don’t I know?”  Is another bombshell coming?  How can I ever be sure?  For some, these questions morph into an even more dangerous stream of unconscious thought: How can I trust so-and-so not to screw up my life with a huge lie when my own father, for whom I have the utmost love and respect, can seemingly do it at the drop of a hat one random morning? For this problem, I have no easy answers, no funny quips, and no advice. Somehow, someway, I came to trust people, including my dad, again. Others are not so lucky.  I hope you find a way to be a lucky one." [Mark Best: You’ll Get Through This]
 
"As soon as we sat on the couch across from my parents, we knew this wasn’t a meeting to assign more chores or rake us over the coals about something we’d done wrong. Mom was crying. Ever the lawyer, Dad was pacing with a legal pad and it wasn’t long before he began his opening statement; he was preparing to defend himself. 'This is about honesty, integrity, respect, and my love for all of you,”' he began nervously and formally." [Share Your Story: Erin (Best) Margolin]

Amie, Erin and Bry also answer questions from readers:

Dear Gay Dad Project: “If you could have it all done over, would you still have your father tell you he was gay?”

Dear Gay Dad Project: “Should I come out to my kids now or wait until I have a partner?”

Dear Gay Dad Project: I’m 14 and My Mom Just Came Out to Me

As far as I know, the Gay Dad Project is unique.  It's the only place on the web where a kid can go to find true stories written by other kids that talk about what it's like to have a parent come out.  

Kudos to Bry, Erin and Amie for creating the site and for putting themselves out there as a resource for other kids.

***  

Writing about the Gay Dad Project naturally made me think about my own kids.  It's been 10 months since I came out to them, and, near as I can tell, they haven't suffered any ill effects.  As I say that however, I must confess that I behave as I always have; that is, I don't act any differently than when I was in the closet.  The only "gay" thing I do is attend a weekly meeting for married or formerly married men with same sex attractions.  My kids know I go every week, but until very recently, they never asked about the meeting. 

Sometimes I wonder if I keep a low "gay" profile because I'm plagued by internalized shame, or, if being low key is just part of my personality.  Generally, I feel like I'm being authentic.  I'm an introvert so talking about myself is not really my thing.  But perhaps spending a lifetime in the closet has made me much more introverted than I'd otherwise be?  There are big advantages to being an introvert and being in the closet; it's much easier to lie, hide and avoid awkward conversations when everyone close to you knows you don't like to talk about yourself.

Anyway, getting back to my kids, the question of "how out" I want to be with them has turned into a pretty big issue:

Because I have sole custody of my kids, I'm accountable to them at all times.  Every event, practice and game, every drop-off and pick up, every dinner and load of laundry, etc, etc, they're all my responsibility.  Also, now that they're teenagers, Friday nights have become a huge guessing game for me.  Which kid(s) will be home for dinner?  Which kid(s) will need to be picked-up later that night?  Which kid(s) will sleep-over at a friend's house?  Which kid(s) will ask if a friend or two can sleep over?  My kids rarely know their plans in advance so I'm on-call for every contingency every Friday night, all night.  The rest of the weekend can play out in a similar way.  As a result, I'm reluctant to make plans for myself - there have been a few times when I made plans and my lack of availability caused havoc and fights.  Not so much between me and my kids but between Gabbie, her mother and the kids.   When these fights happen EVERYONE wants to know where I've been and what I've been doing.

Essentially, I feel like I live under a microscope and any time I step out of view, I'm at risk of having four different people hunt me down and force me to explain my whereabouts.  This dynamic is really a problem when it comes to dates.  Whenever I schedule one I have to decide whether to be open about it or lie.  Mostly I try to ride the fence and say nothing, but when I get called out, I lie.  This means that as far the kids know, I've been separated for two and a half years and have yet to go out on a date.

Continuing to lie is a major disincentive to date...but so is talking openly about my not-very-fun personal life.  Perhaps this lose-lose conundrum is part of the reason why dating feels like 98% work and 2% fun.

There is a simple solution to the microscope problem and that is to do what I want and let the comments and criticisms come as they may.  Why don't I do that?

Apparently because I prefer the perks of being unscrutinized to the perks of dating men.  (Whatever those are.)

Dating one guy would be different than what I'm doing now, which is going out on first dates.  I'd have no problem telling my kids that I'm spending time with someone I'm proud of and someone they've met.  But going out on date after date with guy after guy is a commitment to a lifestyle - a lifestyle that's not me. I'll commit to a man, but to a lifestyle that has yet to bring me much enduring satisfaction??  I have no motivation to do that. 

Complicating matters is the fact that my most heartfelt dream is dating unfriendly.

Every day, whether I want to or not, I think about moving to a particular rural location from my past, a place where I could easily get a job that would excite me and fill me with passion.  That's the good part of the dream.

The bad part is that making such a move would have two very negative consequences.  First, it would require me to either leave my kids with Gabbie (which none of them want, at all) or they'd have to come with me, leave all their friends behind and be outsiders in a small community.  Second, if I made such a move, I'd pretty much be giving up on finding a partner.  Most of my time, thoughts and energy would go toward the job I'd love.  Pursuing a man would not only be much more difficult because of the location, but it would also be a pretty low priority.  Why do I so frequently daydream about making this move?  Because nothing in my current life fulfills me.  Not work, not family, not friends and certainly not pursuing hapless (and perhaps hopeless) middle-aged gay men.

More and more, I'm thinking that my happiness depends on how important men are to me.  It's a daily struggle.  Sometimes I'm optimistic about them, but more often I'm not.  Mostly I feel like I'm marking time until my youngest graduates from high school in five years.  Until then, I guess I have no choice but to continue to date, even as I struggle to stay motivated.  And, for now, I'll keep my private life private, because, for better or worse, that's what feels comfortable to me.