Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Theory...

Since work has slowed, I’ve had more time on my hands - which isn't necessarily a good thing – which leads to more blogging. I don’t know that either of these are good developments.

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…


Kengo Biddles said...

It's an interesting theory, Beck. You may be on to something here. I'll have to mull it over some more.

If I haven't already suggested a book to you, I'd like to suggest you this book. We tend to show love as we want it shown to us, and I think that's also part of your wife's effusive shows of affection.

Scott said...

Wow! A titillating picture of two people in an evocative pose... and one of them is female!

I like the theory, and I think it works for what Sarah and I have got going. One thing you said struck me and made me realize something:

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.

I read this and I realized that what has worked for Sarah and I is deciding that things are right--that there's nothing to fix. You sort of alluded to this in your post as well, but it sounds as if your wife (and possibly even you, to some extent) is not convinced that this is the case.

We still have our moments, of course... But you've read Sarah's most recent post so you can sort of see what I'm talking about. When we decided to stop trying to "fix" things but to just let them be what they were, they got better.

I know I've wandered from the main topic of your post. I just wanted to share something that I hadn't fully realized--or that I hadn't realized in this particular way--before reading your post. Thanks for the insight!

Sean said...


i have found myself pondering and thinking along these same lines. i find that there is a great deal i find in agreement with.


sean (aka: Loyalist)

robert said...

I find your post and theory pretty sound and my acceptance of it is somewhat thwarted by the simple fact that your wife is attracted to you but you are not attracted to her. To me, this represents a distinct "imbalance" in the situation and theory. If your wife was "not" attracted to you, would you still have a marriage? Is the one-sided desire the glue which keeps your marriage in true balance?

Beck said...

KENGO: In general, I would believe that we do show love the way we want it shown to us, but when it comes to the intimacy aspect of marriage, I don't know that that description fits what is going on here. Or maybe I don't understand.

SCOTT: I know... it's rare that I throw in a picture of a female, but since this post centered on marriage I guess I caved and did it this once. I'll work on it and try to repent so as to not let it happen again. :)

With regards to "making things right", she's not at the point that there is "nothing to fix" as I am. She's still thinking that she can do something, or act a certain way (increased affection, for example), or dress more provacatively in bed, etc. in hopes of fixing something and making it right. And thus, the discord between us. Until we get past this point TOGETHER and come to accept things as they are, it is difficult to keep the legs of the stool from wobbling... but, we're getting there slowly.

I just wish she would come to this understanding more quickly, and in some ways, I think she doesn't want to come to understand this thing that is me, for for her, it still is counter-intuitive. I mean, I've been "out" to her now four years. This wasn't news to her just yesterday. She's still fighting it, and as long as that fight goes on inside her, the imbalance will continue.

I do believe that with her coming to accept it, we can still find a balance and our stool can be stable as we go forward. But, until then, we're constantly adjusting our levels to make things work.

You'd think after 27 years we'd be pros at it. Well, in some ways, we are, and that is where our maturity, commitment, friendship, and love keep us bonded together.

Beck said...

SEAN: Thanks for helping me to not feel so alone in this balancing act. Best wishes for making your marriage less wobbly.

ROBERT: The theory works in companionship of the two sides coming together. Meaning, my libido and hers needing to be compatible in conjunction with my attraction and her attraction in conjunction with my maturity level and her maturity level.

I am attracted to her in very real ways. I am not repulsed by her at all. I find her beautiful. I'm just not as sexually attracted to her as she is to me... and so, the theory does work because in this aspect, we are not in harmony and as such, we have times of high stress, discord, and dysfunction in our marriage.

I am not saying we have a perfectly balanced stool within our marriage. Indeed, I'm saying just the opposite, but with other factors balancing out, instead of in conflict, we have been able to come so a certain off-kiltered sense of equilibrium enough to keep us going together in a happiness and wholeness that is mutually beneficial.

Would we still be married if she were NOT attracted to me? Most likely not. That would probably place the leg representing "attraction" so off balanced that the whole thing would collapse. So, maybe you're right... it is her level of attraction for me that glues that leg together.

Ned said...

Hey Beck, great discussion!

My age will show again here, but I'm remembering an old BJ Thomas song:

A little bit of love is
better than no love
Even the bad love is
better than no love
And even the sad love is
better than no love at all

I used to hear that and think, that's just wrong. Some kinds of love are destructive and just the opposite is true: Sometimes no love at all is better than than a bad love, sometimes a little love is too little too late and just isn't worth it.

And that's where I've mellowed and changed over the years. The physical affection my wife and I share is not as intense as it once was. But I'm grateful for all we do share. For me this "little bit of love" goes a long way and has helped keep us together for three decades.

But I'm also much more open to loving men and accepting their affection. Years ago if a high priest had put his arm around me during Priesthood, I'd have have thought it was creepy.

Now I just enjoy it. It happened last week. It was a blessing. I don't worry it. I just feel the warmth and acceptance. So what I once would have defined as inappropriate has become welcome. I "keep changing" as L might say.

Regarding your metaphor, I think our marriage stool is one with five or six wheels, and sometimes one of them falls off or needs replacement. It's a problem and it needs attention, but we can deal with it and otherwise it's a great stool.

p.s. Scott: The word "titillating" makes me laugh. Thanks for the chuckle!

Beck said...

NED: Yes, there are multiple aspects, but per the point of this post, they really all can be summed up in the three aspects that my friend noted, with love overarching them all. It's a matter of balance and a matter of sticking to it.

In the end, I guess I'm testifying that it can be done. Though some in the gay community would argue that we married gay men are a detriment to society and to ourselves and are destroying the women we are with, I argue that with the right mix of the right levels of attraction, sexual drive, and maturity, with a spirit of love, it can be done and it can be done well, and the younglings out there need to know that it can be done and is possible - though not easy - but still possible and worth at least considering assuming those balances are met between partners.


Beck-- wow that was extremely interesting and though provoking. I have seen a lot of gay men who stay married forever and I really do think you are onto something. It is interesting how those 3 factors you mention really do affect the amount of angst a gay person will feel in a mixed orientation marriage/relationship.

For myself, each time I got close to getting engaged to a woman I found myself feeling like it was wrong for me and and for her and I just couldn't get myself to really feel good about it. But I consider myself a 6 with an extremely high libido. I think I was doomed as a hetero. I certainly gave it the college try though. One of my closest gay friends has been married almost a decade and has 4 children. We talk somewhat frequently, but we rarely discuss how he is doing with his "gay" feelings. He is definitely someone who is maxed out in the maturity/devotion area. He has always been very sexual and is probably a 6 as well, but he just disciplines the crap out of himself and that seems to work. He also has all the benefits/joys now of parenthood to show for his efforts, which I think is extremely gratifying for him. in any case, excellent post. I hope you keep having a lot of free time so we can pick your brain.

Beck said...

CLARK: It is really exciting to see you poking around my blog. I have followed you ever since "Elbow" introduced you. (BTW, do you hear from Elbow? I certainly do miss him!). And your YouTube interviews are infamous!

Thanks for the encouraging words. Though I don't profess to say that marriage is for everyone - in fact I certainly do not - I do think that with the right mix of factors, it CAN work, even for a gay guy like me (and obviously for your friend as well). Staying disciplined with that "mature" factor and working hard to keep things focused on the commitment despite all - it is work - but it is possible for some.

I do not suggest that what I am doing is best or better than others. It just is what works for me in the circumstance and levels I find myself in. Had I been in a different stage of enlightenment of my true self and core when I was single, I probably wouldn't have ever married. But, that is not fair to say. I don't know. All I know is here I am and I'm still hanging on, and doing so with a great satisfaction of wonderful kids, wonderful family, wonderful wife.

Please stay in touch...

GeckoMan said...

Beck, thanks for this post and the discussion. Obviously these three factors play out in a balance in any marital relationship, as do other significant factors, depending on the individuals involved.

In my experience, as is yours, maturity level and commitment are the vital keys to endurance and success in a mixed orientation marriage. But how does one measure or define 'success?' I think this attitude in itself is a huge part of the maturity factor, and it is the key answer that evolves with time.

I was attracted to my wife 28 years ago, but now I struggle with feeling attraction, since she has multiple health issues and is 80 lbs heavier than when we married. This factor dwindles in many straight marriages as well, and seems to balance out as maturity levels increase.

Lebido vacillates as well, depending on my moods and stress levels, but it's something I don't want to let go of, so I nurse it along as I age! Perhaps this is why so many guys (straight or gay) use a fix of porn and MB to keep it up and their marriages intact.

But when it's all said and done, for me it is kindness and love that brings the fruit of family home for me. All the other stuff changes with time, circumstance and interest, but without gifts of joy from my wife and kids its all just another day's struggle.

So I hope you don't get too put off by your wife's over-compensation, her acts of devotion and kindness that need to be reciprocated. (Yes, I know that aspect can be annoying!) But it is such sweet stuff of life that should not be ignored or off-putting, but rather savored for what it is, especially as it is then returned to the sender with your own spin of appreciation and tenderness.

Silver said...

Very provocative discussion as always beck! Your visual metaphore of the three legged and four legged stools is interesting.

I'm contemplating the value of Libido and Maturity in my marriage, especially as they relate to commitment. I guess keeping these things in balance is what has sustained us through 20 years.

It is important for me to be affirmed, acknowledged, appreciated, respected, loved and even adored by my mate. Since her discovery of my SSA I think those things have all been compromised for her. It has taken a great deal of maturity for both of us to stay in the marriage.

Libido has been waning in recent years. It comes and goes. My desires are still strong. I think she finds it harder these days to be attracted to me. The vision of the man I was has been dashed in her mind. When she withdraws I find myself wandering and seeking approval in other places which can be dangerous.

I like Geckoman's description of how sexual dynamics change in the latter years of a marriage, be it mixed orientation or not. It takes a lot of maturity and grounding in past memories to stay engaged these days.

What do I know? I'm not sure it is getting easier.

Your post got me thinking about things and I've blogged about my own struggles in a different context. Women scare me. I'm not sure I still like them. I think I've lived my life in fear of them. I hope you'll check it out and let me know your thoughts.

Still Striving,

Beck said...

GECKO said: "So I hope you don't get too put off by your wife's over-compensation, her acts of devotion and kindness that need to be reciprocated. (Yes, I know that aspect can be annoying!) But it is such sweet stuff of life that should not be ignored or off-putting, but rather savored for what it is, especially as it is then returned to the sender with your own spin of appreciation and tenderness."

Okay, okay... I'll try. You're right. But, when you know she's overcompensating BECAUSE of who you are or WHAT you are and her understanding of what you are - it's hard not to see through it, even with the sweetness and kindness. I just want her to be herself and enjoy her sweetness and kindness without any hints of overcompensation... maybe I'm being oversensitive.

I'll try to be less sensitive and just enjoy the fact that after all these years, she still loves me. That, in and of itself, is truly miraculous.

Beck said...

SILVER: Don't give up with your relationships with women. Maybe both you and I need to not be so sensitive to their actions (either overcompensating or undercompensating). It seems to me your wife is still trying to understand in her own way - she's not going away and is trying to figure out what to do next. That's a good thing. Maturity and commitment, friendship and love, and memories of all those through the years do balance out the other issues of attraction and libido.

Best wishes in your efforts to balance them all out.

Abelard Enigma said...

Very thought provoking. But, I don't know that a stool is the best metaphor. The reality is that if all of the legs on a stool are not the same exact length then the stool is unstable.

I'm envisioning something more like that scene in National Treasure II where they are on a big stone platform balanced on a single point. They have to spread themselves out to keep the platform stable, else they'll fall into the chasm. If one moves, the others have to move to compensate in order to keep the platform stable.

Whether it's 3, 4, or 5 points - I think the theory is the same. If we are low in one area then other area's will need to be high in order to compensate. We also have to consider that these factors change over time. Libido generally decreases with age. Even our point on the Kinsey scale can slide a bit to the left or right. As one factor changes then the others have to shift as well in order to keep everything in balance. If they don't then it becomes unstable and the marriage will eventually fail. But, it also offers hope in that there are ways we can compensate for our failure in the bedroom to keep the marriage stable.

btw, I think this theory could also apply to gay relationships.

Beck said...

ABE: My idea of the stool was really more like a tripod where each leg is adjustable. I should have used a tripod photo so that each leg can be a different lengths as necessary, even perched over a cliff or wall, but still in balance if properly adjusted...

How about that image?

But, I do like your National Treasure 2 stone platform analogy, only that one seems so unstable that any movement makes the whole thing shift, even precariously. I would hope, at least with my marriage, that there would be a bit more stability than that platform.

But, you get the point.

And yes, this can and would apply to gay relationships as much as for hetero relationships - only the play/counterplay with a mixed-oriented marriage offer unique challenges of balance, especially with the attraction leg constantly opposing each other.