Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lunch...


She listened to my words. She tried to internalize them. She sympathized. She accepted the premise that my having gay friends and "connections" would be a good thing for our marriage.


I promised to be honest about such gay friends and "connections", no longer hiding and living in secret double-life encounters, and receive her permission-of-sorts to do those things which we both deemed acceptable and comfortable.


A "connection" with a gay friend was arranged with mutual acceptance and comfort, restricted a bit by what kind of activity was tolerable and reasonably accommodated by both parties...


But, when I ACTUALLY DID go forward with the said pre-approved "connection", the end result was nothing but hurt and pain.


"I know you were upfront about it and honest with me, but I didn't think you'd actually do it!"


"I'm confused," I stood there baffled and dumbfounded at the grief and pain I had unintentionally or obliviously inflicted on her, "I thought we talked about this and you were okay with it - otherwise I wouldn't have gone."


"I know... I know, but I didn't think you'd actually do it. Don't you realize the pain this is causing me watching you DATE other men? Do you want me to start DATING other men?"


"Of course not. But having good friends is a good thing, right? And, by the way, this isn't "dating"! I stated emphatically, trying to put my foot down on a huge misconception.


"Well, it feels like you're dating to me!"


"It was just lunch - it was like a business lunch."


"But what business do you have together? What is driving you to meet together? Isn't that you want to satisfy your attraction needs with another man?"


And so... there you have it.


As much as she wants to understand, as much as she wants to bend and compromise and allow my freedom to "connect", she can't get past the idea of my "dating" other men.


AARRGGHHH! It's not dating (am I?). I'm not courting him (am I?). I'm not courting anyone. I'm not trying to be romantic with him (am I?). I'm not seeking romance (am I?)... maybe bromance... but it's not the same, right? Am I right? Come on... tell me what you think!


Because right now, I'm feeling like one-on-one "connections" with two gay men on a semi-regular basis, from a wife's perspective, does sound a lot like "dating". And though dating behind the back seems immoral and full of infidelity, dating honestly in front of her, though not immoral, does seem a bit hurtful. Role reversals are great here, and yes, I'd say she would be "dating" if she had done the same.


But at the time, it didn't feel immoral or wrong or unfocused on my marriage. In fact, we ended up talking about our marriages and families and our desires to be better fathers and husbands. It felt good... nothing but good!


DOUBLE AARRGGHHH!


And then I go to Priesthood Leadership Meeting on Sunday early morning and endure all three members of the Stake Presidency speaking on "Fidelity in Marriage!" They wanted our suggestions for future discussions in quorums regarding this subject and I wanted to jump up and shout "What does a gay guy have to do gain trust in his wife such that having friendship connections with other gay guys won't be perceived as infidelity?" but, (heavy sigh) I didn't...


TRIPLE AARRGGHHH!


So, two steps forward and 1-3/4 steps back. I guess that is still 1/4 step forward, right? And at least now we are talking about it instead of hiding it. The dishonest behavior is gone, but if what is left is just hurt and pain - where's the progress in that?

17 comments:

Philip said...

Beck,

Short response, leaving for work.

The best person to answer your question is a straight spouse that has been through what your wife is going through now.

Maybe the question can be posted on one of the message boards for straight spouses or mixed orientation couples.

I am going to make a confession here....

I used to be prejudiced against effeminate men. I make this confession because I overcame it but it wasn't easy to overcome despite my not wanting to feel the way I did.

Imagine how hypocritical I felt being a gay man prejudice against other gay men.

Yet I was and there seemed little I could do about it.

Then I got to know an effeminate man and we became friends and about some months into the friendhsip this fear I hadn't known existed lifted and I was no longer prejudice.

What I am suggesting is that your wife may have several issues with you "dating". Some maybe only a straight spouse could explain. But maybe also including being uncomfortable about gay men like I was uncomfortable with effeminate men.

Regards,
Philip

Beck said...

We all have our prejudices and I'm not suggesting that she doesn't.

I know I was homophobic of the gay community (and probably still am to a degree) until I came to know other gay guys. That was a process. It just didn't happen.

So, I shouldn't expect her to just say - "hey, Beck, why don't you hang out with cool gay guys". It just isn't in her vocabulary or mentality to think that way. It's going to take some time and exposure.

Philip said...

Beck,

Sorry, about my rambling...

There is the prejudice that is obvious and relatively easy to get rid and then there is the prejudice that just hangs in there despite one's best efforts to rid oneself of it.

However, it seems the first prejudice is the only one talked about so the person is always presented as refusing to address their prejudice or do anything about it when just the opposite might be happening.

I found the second prejudice much more difficult to get rid of because there was an underlying fear that I was not even aware of and that didn't go away until it was challenged enough by my friendship with someone belonging to the group I was prejudiced against.

Eventually, I risked letting go of the fear.

So a few points...

First, it never occurred to me that I was afraid. I didn't feel afraid.

The fear was so ingrained that it took me several months of knowing this person before I felt safe enough to let go of that fear.

The aftermath was a sense of liberation. I was paying a price for that prejudice.

So it was an unconscious thing and very subtle. I can't remember ever being taught to be afraid yet somehow I was.

I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the prejudice that exists out there against gay people is that second kind and that is why prejudice against gay people has been so hard to get rid of.

Because so many gay people are still in the closet.

Regards,
Philip

Bror said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bror said...

Is it really a "date". What's it called when hetero guys have lunch or do something together. Is this a "date"? They do it all the time. I guess I had a date the other day with public loneliness. It didn't feel like one. It felt more like two friends getting together to talk about life. I enjoyed it very much. It makes me feel good. And yes my wife feels the same as yours about meeting guys.

Sarah said...

Beck, I'm so sorry. :(

I really wish you would let me talk to her. When the time is right, we are still here. Let us know.

Love ya!

MoHoHawaii said...

I'm going to focus on the positive.

A few months ago you were stuck. Now you're unstuck. Even though the conversations with your wife frustrate you, they are breaking through the wall that has separated you.

She might object less if your meetings were not 1-1. Is there a group for gay fathers you could join? What about going hiking with some moho guys? Etc.

Abelard Enigma said...

I very much relate to this as it echo's similar conversations my wife and I have had.

I asked her once if she thought it would be OK for me, a married man, to meet with another woman - and she answered "no" - I followed up with the question "is it OK for you, a married woman, to meet with other women - and she answered "yes". I then asked her if she thought it would be OK for me, a gay man, to meet with another men - and she answered "no"

I am as baffled as you are as to how to handle this. As human beings, we have an innate need to be with and interact with other humans. My wife does it all the time with relief society, her quilting guild and others. But for us, we're not supposed to interact with other women - because we're married; and, we're not supposed to interact with other men - because we're gay. Where does that leave us?

I can certainly appreciate your desire to be sensitive to her needs and fears. But, I think there is a difference between being sensitive and catering to. For example, if your wife had a fear of flying - does that mean you should never go on an airplane? Or do you try to alleviate her fears by keeping her informed of your exact itinerary, contacting her immediately upon arrival at your destination, etc.

Life has to go on - in my hypothetical example, she may never get over her fear of flying. Our wives may never get over their perception of us "dating" - the best we may be able to do is to try to alleviate their fears by keeping them informed about who we are meeting with, where we are meeting, how long, and assuring them that we are meeting in a public place.

It sounds harsh - but it really is in their best interest to keep ourselves sane, even if they don't see it that way.

Kengo Biddles said...

I can understand her feeling, and despite Miki's protestations to the contrary, I think she still feels similar to your wife. Which sucks, because I can't hang out with men or women, without her giving me that grief.

The difference between our situations is that my wife is in a better place so I just expect her to deal with it, and she does.

And MH Hawaii is on the money -- at least you're having dialogue, and maybe more than one-on-one would be better?

Philip said...

Beck,

Years ago I asked my wife for a separation with the intention of getting divorced.

I then spent the next couple of years getting comfortable in my own skin with the goal in mind of divorcing my wife then eventually partnering with another man.

Only problem was that I didn't stop loving my wife.

During the separation I saw a tremendous change in me and I began to wonder if I really needed to get divorced but I was afraid to go back to her because of all the pain I had been in.

So, whenever I was tempted to ask if I could come back, I asked myself instead if I really wanted to go through all that pain again.

The answer, of course, was no.

But eventually I started believing that maybe things could be different the second time around; that maybe I wouldn't fall back on all that pain; that I would be OK.

So I asked my wife to take me back and she did.

I was a different man the second time around. I guess you could say I came back on my own terms.

I knew who I was and no longer dismissed or discounted my sexuality.

And I also knew our limitations. Among other things, my wife needed monogamy. Among other things, I needed to be me and that included being able to express my sexuality.

Fortunately, I had learned to express my sexuality in many ways, not just by going to bed with other men.

So I promised my wife monogamy and she didn't throw obstacles in my way thus allowing me to be me.

But still she felt threatened.

However, she saw the obvious change in me and overtime saw that I was keeping my promise and that my friendships with other men were benefiting, not hurting, our marriage.

And slowly she came around.

So having said all that, here is my advice to you.

Do your utmost to help your wife feel less threatened but know that even your best efforts might fail.

And be patient and give it time but not too much time.

And definitely don't do what I did and wait and wait until things get so bad that you finally act out of desperation.

But if all else fails my suggestion to you is to take a leap of faith and go ahead and expressing your sexuality in non-threatening ways with the hope that your wife will come around, like my wife did, after she sees that you are keeping your promise of monogamy and that your friendships are benefiting, not hurting, the marriage.

I know it's risky but it's got to be less risky then waiting until desperation sets in.

Regards,
Philip

Scott said...

I'm pretty sure that Sarah is not entirely comfortable with the idea of me meeting another gay guy for lunch, one-on-one. To her credit, she's done a phenomenal job of masking her discomfort when I have gone on one of these "dates", but I know her well enough to read between the lines and see that it's still there.

In some cases I've acknowledged that discomfort and made concessions to ease it. For example, another married gay guy who I had been chatting with had been mildly flirtatious and had admitted an attraction to me, and so rather than feed her worry that I might one day fall in love with someone else by going to lunch with this friend by myself, I arranged a "date" on a day when she was out of school and able to come along. I'm certain that his flirtations were nothing more than a harmless way of letting off a bit of steam and that nothing at all would have come of a one-on-one meeting, but it also cost me nothing to include her, and it gave her some peace of mind.

At other times, the situation has seemed even more innocuous and I haven't seen any need to compromise, and so there have been several times that I've been on one-on-one "dates", and as I said, even if Sarah isn't entirely comfortable with the idea, she's gotten (or is getting) used to it.

I agree with Philip--keep going on "dates", and hope that she will come to see that these meetings are actually beneficial to your relationship with her.

I also agree with MoHoHawaii--at least occasionally, you can compromise with meetings that are other than one-on-one, or that include her, and are therefore less threatening.

Bravone said...

It may help her if instead of meeting one on one with other men right now, you joined a group like the one we have in our area. There are 4 or 5 married guys and 4 or 5 BYUI guys that meet every other week and have discussions about faith, healthy relationships, family, etc. It may feel less threatening to her and you could still have the benefit of close male associations. I love the men in our group and really feel the benefit of our relationships.

My wife sees the positive effect it has on me as well. Also attending groups together, like Scott & Sarah's parties or a Logan or Matis fireside, have been awesome. She feels comfortable there and people love her.

Just my thoughts.

Beck said...

Thanks everyone for your great comments and advice.

Good things are happening as I am learning to focus on her that can lead to better things in the future...

More to come...

Alan said...

I'm really late to this string but want to chime in anyway on the apparent illogic of (1) it's okay for wife to meet up with other women but not other men; (2) it's not okay for you to meet up with other men; (3) it's not okay for you to meet up with other women.

This makes sense if the key principle is "it's not okay for you to meet up with anyone you might be sexually attracted to other than spouse."

The flawed interpretation of "avoid even the appearance of evil" rears its ugly irrational head once again. Speaking collectively and not about any particular individual, the depth of Mormon anxiety about sexual matters or even anything that might possibly hint at a potential connection with a suggestion of sexual matters continues to astound me.

Beck said...

ALAN said: "the key principle: "it's not okay with you to meet up with anyone you might be sexually attracted to other than spouse"

That is the point! And yes, I am sexually attracted to my lunch date... so is she justified now? Or do you feel this is just Mormon cultural over-reaction?

Alan said...

@Beck:

Only you can decide. You know your own tolerance. I'd bet a month's salary that almost every active Mormon woman would say NO NO NO. I'd bet another month's salary that such reaction would be out of predictable cultural fear and feeling personally threatened. Is the fear and sense of threat actually justified? Only you can answer that.

I do think that if we made it a rule to avoid every person we were sexually attracted to, we'd all live pretty lonely, paranoid lives. Remember, the Church has said there is no sin in attraction. I doubt that'll comfort your wife though. She will look at this from a very emotional female perspective.

Ultimately, your call.

Ned said...

Sexual attraction, mutual distraction, virtual subtraction. Call it what you may. Whether it's the real deal or just sounds that way, a wife ain't likely to cotton to it.

On the other hand, maybe you can take biblical approach. "Dear, my business lunches involve nothing more than a good friendship like the one David and Jonathan enjoyed, or such as Ruth and Naomi shared."

;)