Thursday, November 20, 2014

Help, I'm crazed with desire!

The last time I had sex was more than two years ago, on September 28th, 2012.

Celibacy is not something I particularly enjoy, but at this point in my life I prefer it to sex without emotion.

If I only wanted sex for the sake of no longer being celibate, I could easily arrange that within minutes.  The thing is, hook-ups don't appeal to me any more.  Been there, done that.  I want to progress in life and with relationships, not regress.

I've also "been there and done that" with fuck buddies and friends with benefits, and while I won't say I'd never consider similar arrangements again, I see those as selling myself short, especially after this long dry spell.  The next time I have sex, I want it to be with someone I genuinely cherish, not someone who happens to be convenient.

To be honest, I had hoped that Shane and I would be burning up the sheets by now, but that hasn't happened, for a number of reasons:

First, although he appeals to me in ways that no man has in the last two years, I don't like how tightly connected he is to his 23yo ex-boyfriend.  They Skype daily and throw "I love you"s around with disturbing frequency.  Clearly, they're still infatuated with each other.

Second, I'm unconvinced that Shane has a strong attraction to me.  I know I check every box on his list, but he doesn't seem to realize that even though we've been through his list together several times.  I don't think I should have to draw a Venn diagram to prove I'm what he wants.

Third, Shane successfully applied for a job transfer back to his hometown which is located more than two hours away from me. If we were to start dating, the burden of the four hour commute would fall entirely on me.
Desire: a shirtless Ryan Kwanten

All things considered, and in the immortal words of the Magic 8 Ball, "all signs point to no" - as in: no, Shane and I almost certainly won't be getting together anytime soon.  That's disappointing...but it is what it is.

In other news, I recently had an odd experience with another guy.  I'm not sure what to make of it.  Maybe you can clue me in?

Jon and I met through mutual friends.  He's 39 and a part-time single dad; he has an 8 year old son from a 12 year straight marriage.

I don't know the full extent of his history with men, but I do know that he's hooked up numerous times over the years.  I also know that he struggles with internalized homophobia.

Earlier this year Jon was in a rocky 4-month relationship with a very emotional, very demanding woman.  He felt like he was walking on eggshells with her much of the time.  Because the woman wanted their relationship to be more serious, he decided he had to be open with her about his attraction to men.  When he told her, she was so upset that she spent the next several days combing through Craigslist's M4M ads searching for proof that Jon was cheating on her.  When she found what she was looking for, she confronted him.

The problem was, Jon wasn't cheating, nor had he posted any ads on Craigslist.  The girlfriend refused to believe him.  Eventually, to prove his innocence, Jon had to drop his pants and do a full "penis vs. picture" comparison to show her that his dick didn't match the one in her "gotcha!" Craigslist photo.

That incident was the turning point for their relationship.  More than ever, Jon realized that the woman was unstable and not someone he wanted to be involved with in the long-term.  A few days later he broke up with her - and she's been relentlessly pursuing him ever since.

I've met Jon four different times.  The first time I saw him, I didn't find him attractive.  His balding pattern is very much like my father's and any man's resemblance to my father is a major turn-off.  When we started chatting, however, I found his story to be pretty interesting.  He was obviously carrying around a lot of baggage, so as he talked, I eagerly listened.

It turned out that he had a lot to share, including deep emotions that he'd been holding back his entire life.  In fact, the more he talked, the more emotional he became, right up to the point where big tears were glistening in his eyes as he said,  "I can't be gay.  I don't want to be gay.  I've worked so hard...all my life...not to be gay."

Seeing him in pain was extremely moving.  It was one of the most raw and honest emotional displays I'd ever witnessed from another man.  It left me speechless - and a bit overwhelmed.

Thankfully, two other friends were also listening and they both stepped up to comfort him.  After a minute, one of them cracked a joke to break the tension in the room and that worked beautifully.  Jon laughed heartily, as if a huge burden had just been lifted from him.  Shortly afterward the conversation moved on to more frivolous topics.

The second time I met Jon, he talked more about his ex-girlfriend, who he had barely mentioned before.  As he described her behavior I said to him, "Wow, that sounds like Borderline Personality Disorder."  He had never heard of it so I told him what I knew.  He responded with, "That's really interesting.  I'll have to look that up."  Then, the next time I saw him, he came straight up to me and very enthusiastically said, "You were SO right about my ex-girlfriend's personality disorder!  I read everything I could about it and now our dysfunctional relationship makes so much more sense.  Thank you!!"  He seemed genuinely grateful, which made me happy.

That same time, the third time we met, nothing else of significance happened but I did notice that Jon actually has a very chiseled and youthful face, despite being follicularly challenged.  I found myself admiring his strong cheek and jaw bones, and his wide, expressive eyes.

The fourth time I met Jon was last week.  He and a few other mutual friends had arrived at a gathering before me, so I said hello to all of them as a group.  Then, a few minutes later, Jon made eye contact with me, which compelled me to ask him what was new. That was our first one-on-one conversation and, quite unexpectedly, I soon found myself mesmerized by his deep blue eyes.  As he talked, I enthusiastically nodded, but to be honest, I was barely listening.  All I could think about was falling into his beautiful eyes.

As other friends arrived at the gathering, I turned to say hello to them and thereby (and unintentionally) ended the conversation with Jon.  Feeling bad about that, I made a plan to chat with him again later, which I did.  Mostly we talked about his work and background.

That conversation lasted less than ten minutes...but for reasons I can't explain and don't understand...by the end of it, I felt very powerfully drawn to him.

Unfortunately we couldn't talk any longer because I'd promised to bring another friend to a train station and the friend was anxious to leave.  It wasn't until I walked out into the cool night air that I fully realized just how captivated I was by Jon's presence.

After I dropped my friend off and started the 40 minute drive home, my imagination went wild thinking about Jon.  Normally I'm a very rational thinker...but not that night.  I couldn't control my thoughts, they just keep coming at me: Jon and I kissing passionately...me stripping his shirt off...the two of us joyfully and playfully trying to dominate each other... me taking control of him...him submitting to me...our eyes intently locked on each other as we're face to face...the sensuous glory of a long, passionate kiss that marks the beginning of a hot, athletic romp...an animalistic fuck that culminates in fantastic and simultaneous orgasms for both of us.

The mental pictures were so vivid it was like watching a movie.

I was so absorbed in my thoughts that twenty minutes passed without notice.  When I finally did snap back to reality, I didn't stay there for long -  great sex turned into a relationship.  How often would we see each other?  Where would we meet?  How comfortable would he be with himself?  Could I imagine introducing him to my kids? Etc, etc.

Even after I arrived home, the thoughts wouldn't stop.  The hunger to be with him was so intense I had to take the edge off immediately.  I went straight to my bathroom, dropped my pants and furiously beat off until I reached an orgasm that couldn't come fast enough.  As I climaxed I felt more relief than pleasure, mostly because the intensity of my desire had been so overwhelming.

"What was that all about??" I wondered.

It's been several days since then and I still don't have an answer.  Am I just THAT horny?  Is eye contact with an attractive man all it takes to send my imagination into a frenzy?  Or, is my sudden infatuation a product of something hidden within my subconscious?  I mean (and maybe this is wishful thinking) I have this idea that we shared a silent, meaningful connection. Not necessarily an emotional or sexual one, more like a magnetic one.  I felt like I was being pulled toward him, by an unseen and irresistible force.

I've never experienced anything like that before so I don't know what to make of it.  I've lusted after plenty of men I've seen or met before, but never like this.  It feels different.  It's not just lust and that makes me wonder if it's pheromones or some strange intuition that we're highly compatible.

The irony is, to even imagine that we'd be compatible is bizarre.  One thing he said last week was that he's realized he came out to his girlfriend because he needed an iron-clad excuse to break up with her.  It was the only way out of a relationship he didn't want to be in.  By confessing that he exaggerated his attraction to men to escape from his crazy ex, he seemed to be saying he's not gay. A little later he also said he pretty much notices only good-looking women, not men.

These statements suggest to me that he's got a long way to go before he'll be ready to try an emotional relationship with a man.  If ever.  And he's even said as much:  "With men, it's always been 'just sex.'  I don't know if I'm capable of anything more than that."

In normal circumstances I would never consider having sex with a guy in that state of mind.  And even if I did fantasize about sex, I definitely wouldn't imagine being in a relationship with him.  I need a guy who's comfortable in his own skin, not someone who's likely to freak out when faced with the responsibilities of true intimacy.

The other (and final) bizarre thing about how I feel has to do with the beginning of this post.  Remember how I said I wasn't into hook-ups, fuck buddies, or friends with benefits?  Well, apparently I am if Jon is. All I need is his invitation and I'll be naked and ready to go in an instant, regardless of how cheap and empty the sex might turn out to be.  Basically I'm willing to have any kind of intimate connection with him, even if it's entirely on his terms and with no strings attached.  And I'm willing to do that because...well, I don't know why exactly...just because he's gotten under my skin?

To feel this way is weird and totally unexpected.  I don't know what to make of it...or if any of it's real.

Having said all of this, I'm going to try to not make a big deal out of it.  I'm going to assume I'm delusional until proven otherwise.  The next time I see him, which will be in a few weeks, I'll let whatever is meant to happen, happen.

In the meantime, I really need to take a cold shower - or twenty.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Wives willing to try an Open Marriage

Just within the last year, I've noticed a pattern among bi- and gay-married men who are in their late 30s and early 40s: many of their wives are willing to give an open marriage a try.

Although I have no hard data to back it up, I believe this is a broad, generational trend.  If you think about it, many of these same women, who graduated from high school in the '90s, have been trailblazers on the whole marriage equality issue. Most of them (like the rest of the country) were opposed to it in the early 2000s, but now, as a generation, they're staunchly in favor of it.  No other generation has had such a big change of heart.  Older people are still more anti-equality and younger people have always been pro-equality.

This accepting attitude, I believe, is leading more young women to seriously consider their husband's request to give an open marriage a try.

Are open marriages in this generation working any better (or worse) than they did in the past?

It's too early to tell.  At this point, all I know is that more young couples are trying it.  It's going to take time to see if it works for them in the long-run.

In the past, most successful open marriages have been couples in their 60s, 70s and 80s.  Older women have been more willing to consider the idea because marital security is more important to them than monogamy; they'd rather have a non-monogamous husband than no husband at all.

Because younger women have many years of married life ahead of them, it's going to be interesting to see if this new trend toward open marriage blossoms or not.  It seems to me that, more than ever, the pressure is on husbands to walk a very fine line.  How do you make your wife feel genuinely loved and appreciated while you're out getting a portion of your needs met with someone else?

There's no easy answer to that question.  It might seem easy, in theory, but in practice it's much more difficult.

Based on my experience as the monogamous spouse in an open marriage, I have some thoughts to share on the subject.  These are some of the issues I faced, as I (reluctantly) supported my wife's struggle to find happiness and fulfillment in our marriage:
Because I never had anything to gain from having an open marriage, the only good outcome in my eyes was for my wife to decide to be monogamous again. 

Although there are couples who do it, I can't imagine raising children in a household where both parents are not monogamous.  There's just too much to juggle.  Kids need stability and constant attention.  If both spouses are dating others, who is going to be the at-home "rock" of the family?

The reality is that, in most open marriages, one spouse is monogamous (the wife) and the other is not (the husband).  This happens not only because women already tend to be the more hands-on parent, but also because they're straight.  It wasn't their idea or preference to have an open marriage in the first place.  The primary reason they're doing it is to keep the good relationship they have with the man they love, not because they have a need for extra-marital fulfillment.

This lopsided dynamic creates a situation where the monogamous spouse is working harder than ever to keep her family together, yet there is no personal pay-off for her.  She merely gets to keep what she already has.

At first, that might seem like enough, and it usually is, for a time.  But for me, as months of my wife's non-monogamy turn into years, the question I kept asking myself was, when is this going to end??  Truly, the only payoff for my patience and understanding was being able to imagine the day when my wife would say, "You're the only one I need."  As that day seemed to grow more and more distant, the more resentful I became.  Why should I put up with all this shit if I'm going to spend the rest of my life being her doormat??

Inevitably, I think, monogamous spouses in open marriages come to want only one outcome: a return to monogamy.  The longer that payoff gets delayed, the more frustrated and resentful the monogamous spouse is likely to become. 

My wife's happiness was a breeding ground for my misery.

Logically and lovingly, I wanted my wife to be happy and I was willing to compromise to make that happen.  Little did I realize that her happiness would twist itself like a knife in my heart whenever I witnessed it.  At first, I was able to brush off the small hurts.  But over time they started to pile up.  Part of the problem was I didn't want to be angry with her.  There was no point to that, really. She didn't CHOOSE to be attracted to another guy, any more than I could choose to be attracted to men.  Instead, I focused a lot of my hurt on myself.  I felt unworthy.  I felt like I was less of a man.  Less of person, really, because her boyfriend was such a loser.  Yet, for as bad as he was, she couldn't wait to spend time with him.  What did that say about me? Nothing good.  Also, I really hated myself for not speaking up for what I wanted.  And, I felt like I was getting what I deserved.  In all ways, it was ugly, and 98% of that ugliness came from within me.  My wife didn't abuse or insult me.  I did that myself.

Although my wife's boyfriend was a despicable asshole, and that amplified my misery, I still believe the "she's happy when she's leaving" dynamic applies to other open marriages.  As I've said, my wife didn't say or do anything that was particularly mean or cruel.  The mere fact that she was happy being with someone else was all I needed to feel bad about myself.  I'm sure some straight wives have enough self-confidence so as to avoid this problem, but I don't think most can, and when they can't, the self-hating misery becomes a cancer within the marriage.  It grows unseen until it's nearly impossible to overcome.

Are we a partnership or not???

The primary reason I agreed to an open marriage was because I loved my wife and I wanted her to be happy.  I also thought that if my wife was happier it would make our partnership stronger.  It didn't.  In fact, the opposite happened.  As she spent more and more time away from the house, I took up more and more responsibilities.  In less than a year I became a defacto single parent of our three kids, ages 8, 10 and 14 at the time.  Of course I was resentful sometimes, but more often I was focused on keeping up appearances for the kids' benefit.  Between regular work, work at home, and the work of pretending everything was just great, I eventually turned into an emotional zombie.  Feeling nothing became the best alternative to feeling anything.  Looking back, I was miserable.

Yes, it was good that I was willing to compromise to try to make my wife happy, but it was worse to paint myself into a resentful, self-hating, and lonely corner.  I know open marriages can work for some people, but mine certainly didn't work for me, despite my initial willingness to go along with it.

Most people, especially those who know my situation, would think they'd do a better job of being in an open marriage than my wife did.  They're probably right.  Even so, they shouldn't be quick to dismiss my experience.  After going through this I've learned that my feelings were not unique.  It turns out that there are very few straight wives in open marriages who don't struggle with resentment, frustration, impatience, self-hate and loneliness.  I've come to the conclusion that those feelings are part and parcel of the open marriage beast.

For those men who are determined to make an open marriage work, I strongly suggest that they expend maximum emotional energy on their wives.  There has to be a payback of some kind for the sacrifices being made, and it has to be perpetual, otherwise resentment will take hold.

All this said, I might sound like I'm anti-open marriage.  I'm not.  I actually applaud the idea for those who are willing to consider it.  The reason is, an open marriage will eventually bring all the hidden issues out and force the partners to deal with them.  Long-term open marriages only work when the marriage works.  If the marriages don't work, opening them up will make that clear, and with the ambiguity gone, both partners will be OK moving forward with a different solution.  Agreeing to open a marriage is, therefore, a path toward growth and out of stalemate.  For that reason alone, it's something that many loving-but-struggling couples should consider.

If you have any thoughts about what makes an open marriage work (or not), please share them below so others might benefit from your experiences.