The first weeks of 2009 have been tense. The emotions are on the surface. We’ve been working through some tough issues. Often, the discussions end with no real plan of how to proceed other than we both want to proceed. She subconsciously still feels partially to blame for our situation no matter how many times I’ve explained that she has done NOTHING and can do nothing to fix as there is nothing to fix. So, she goes into her mode of “showing increased love afterward” showering me with increased kindnesses and attention, extra cuddling, extra little things, extra understandings that come back to me as her trying to overcompensate for what I’m under-compensating for.
This struggle for balance, compatibility and commitment is never-ending. I don’t know how to stop her from trying to overcompensate. It actually makes things worse as I feel the difference. She’s not pretending – she’s really trying to “make things right”, but no matter how hard we try to make it right, it still is what it is and we still are who we are.
This leads me to pondering for quite a while about how we have been able to keep our marriage going now 27 years with relative strength, stability and happiness despite the issues, pressures and stress associated with me being a gay man.
I talked at length to a sage friend of this community a couple of months ago and am still pondering that precious and enlightened conversation. We talked for over 2 hours about this puzzlement and how I’ve been able to withstand the influences that are certainly all around me to stay faithful and devoted to my marriage, even with an increased awareness and understanding of the true nature of my attractions.
I argued with myself that if I were really exclusively attracted to men, then how could I have been able to feel happiness, support and stability in my marriage?
Not having ever studied human psychology, I admitted my ignorance and willingness to learn. He explained his theory and observation that a relationship’s success or failure is based on three technical factors, and each individual’s level or measurement of these factors and the dynamics that they create within the relationship.
These factors are:
1) Sexual attraction: where one fits on the Kinsey scale (for lack of a better measuring device).
2) Libido: how strong, moderate, or weak one feels sexual desire, sexual energy and sexual needs being met. (Note: Wikipedia gives one definition of it as “psychic energy”, that personal something that goes beyond sexual desire, but as intriguing as those thoughts are, for the sake of this argument, I’m defining it more in the traditional sense of sexual desire).
3) Maturity level: how mature and committed one is to the success of the relationship.
He gave examples of someone like myself who is a 5+ to 6 on the Kinsey scale, but who may have a moderate to low libido and a high maturity level of commitment then there is a balance that counteracts the apparent dead-weight of the sexual attraction issue. If I were a 6, with a high libido and a low commitment level, then obviously the relationship would never have survived.
This theory does not apply only to gay men. As I’ve extrapolated this to a straight male in a heterosexual marriage, who may be a 1 on the Kinsey scale, with a high libido and a low level of maturity, even though he’s attracted to his partner, the relationship may still be less successful considering the other two factors.
I’ve thought about this a lot. I would agree for the most part I, and I would assume other men like me, have a high degree of commitment and maturity to marriage, my libido is not off the charts, and yes, I am a 5+, that it balances itself with my wife’s 0 to 1 Kinsey scale, moderate libido and very high maturity / commitment level. As a couple, our combination, for the most part, works together and finds a sense of satisfaction and happiness.
It is when either she or I desire more of the sexual energy from the other in ways that the other cannot reciprocate that throws this three-legged stool off balance. Our respective desires ebb and flow like everyone and we are on cycles of “needs” that should be met by our partner and when she “needs” me in ways that I cannot honestly satisfy without pretending, or when I have “needs” to be with another man (who sweeps me off my feet and carries me away), and not my wife and no matter how beautiful or voluptuous or sexy she makes herself for me, it does nothing to meet those “needs” – then the relationship suffers. I may desire to satisfy my needs by looking it elsewhere, and become depressed, disillusioned and dissatisfied in the process, and she becomes destroyed as a woman, having failed to excite her man, and thus it must be her fault – and then there goes the self-esteem, self-abuse, and self-worth and no matter what maturity level or commitment level there may be, can do nothing to overcome the wobbliness of stool until those libido levels level out and settle down.
I guess this is where the honesty of the relationship kicks in. If we know how we don’t meet each other’s needs in some ways, but make up for them in others, there may remain some hope for the future? But even though she knows that I prefer men and that she doesn’t excite me as she’d like, and as I know that she doesn’t excite me as I would like, and we have this knowledge firmly planted in front of us, it still ain’t easy when the libido and attraction issues accentuate leading to a nasty head-on collision.
Like our decoratively carved Indian three-legged stool in our parlor, there is an instability factor. If a heavy-set person sits back on it, the back leg breaks, taking too much of the load. Thus, I would add another component to the stool, a fourth leg that helps to keep it in balance even if that one leg goes off the charts and cannot be satisfied or complimented within the relationship – and that is a friendship or compatibility factor. Somehow because we are “best friends” and are very compatible in our desires and wants and goals in life and into the future, it goes a long way in that stability factor.
And carrying the stool imagery a bit further, maybe an over-arching factor that ties in with all of the other legs – which might be envisioned as the seat portion that bridges the legs and adds comfort to any wobbliness or instability - is a LOVE factor. It may not be the in love factor that attraction and libido bring to the relationship, but maybe an intangible something that brings comfort and support… maybe this has more to do with the maturity factor, but it’s less measurable and more ethereal.
Some may argue that men like me should never have attempted marriage (and I’ve seen many examples of the prevailing attitude of the gay community at large who think it so irresponsible to do so) and that to do so is only asking for trouble and eventually hurts both partners and ends inevitably in disaster.
Well, my answer to that is that is hindsight. I can’t go back. I didn’t know then what I do know now. I am who I am. This is my life. I am committed to the choices I’ve made and I’m trying to do my best with what I’ve been given to bring a conclusion that leads not just to happiness but true joy!
And so, this leads to the subsequent “So what?” Or the “what’s next?” And that leads nicely into the “So what does she want?” Or, the eternal “what do I want?” questions…
I’d be interested in your thoughts regarding this theory…