Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Lessons Learned (or in the process)...
In the spirit of continuing my assessment of the last year, and as promised to myself that I would write a list of “lessons learned” from my “year of restraint”, I offer the following summary. NOTE: I would probably be more accurate in calling these “lessons in the process of learning” as it is definitely an on-going evolutionary process, and not a point of arrival.
1. THE POWER OF TOUCH: I am learning that the little, spontaneous moments of touch with my wife mean so much to her. Holding hands when we walk together, a quick dance around the kitchen floor, a squeeze from behind when she’s doing dishes, a surprise slap on the bottom as I follow her up the stairs. These bits of interplay during the day may seem insignificant, but I’m noticing that if I concentrate on doing them more and making them a focus of my day in paying some kind of spontaneous attention to her, then her day goes better and my day in turn goes better. Maybe in a normal heterosexual relationship, such interplays of casual touch are so natural that there is no need to “focus”. But in a mixed-oriented relationship, there is an added need to be “focused” and train oneself to be aware of such little things that mean so much to the spouse. I’ve tried to do this more and more and I’ve seen the fruits of just working at making her aware that I’m aware. Isn’t that silly that I have to even say this? But it isn’t. For a MOM most definitely has to focus and make what may seem natural to everyone else BE natural to us.
2. CUDDLING EVERY DAY: This one may seem similar, but it’s different. In the past, I would work late into the evening and come to bed after she was asleep. In the morning, I would either sleep after she got up, or get up quickly as well. There was no cuddle time. I didn’t crave it. I didn’t want it. I was afraid where it might lead and I would not be able to live up to her expectations. This relationship went on for nearly two decades. I don’t know how she ever tolerated me. Sure, I was nice and kind and sensitive, but certainly not cuddly – which is odd seeing that I’m a very “touchy-feely” kind of guy… Anyway, in the last year as we’ve set a goal to focus on each other, I have changed my schedule and have made a point of going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time with her, and allowing natural expressions of cuddles to be expressed each evening and morning. With our “expectations” more clearly understood from where I was coming from in being not so attracted to the opposite sex as she once thought, and in not having higher expectations but seizing the good in the moments along the way, cuddling time has become a positive experience, a daily sought-after ritual of connection between us. This simple act of “wanting” to be together and hold each other in the quiet of the day’s end and day’s beginning has become an amazing blessing and restored much peace to our relationship.
3. BEING A WILLING PARTICIPANT: How many times, years, decades, did I roll over and turn away and not take notice of her advances or her needs? How many times did her loneliness and pain and fear of rejection and destruction of self-worth come from my not desiring her or being willing to participate with her? I am learning (and yes, this one is a work-in-progress) that I must make myself available to her, respond to her advances, and be a willing participant in this partnership. Just attempting to do so, but honestly doing so, has made all the difference.
4. SEX IS WORK, BUT WORKABLE: Okay, I promise to not be graphic here, but just to say that we’ve worked out a workable solution to our physical sexual relationship. It has taken nearly three decades to get to this point of compatibility (I know you are laughing at me and I feel very vulnerable and at risk of ridicule here – but I’m writing this for me, trying to be honest here – so please don’t laugh – at least not out loud), but by relaxing and being more open about what works and doesn’t work, (dare I say actually talking about it???) and how to make it work better, has been a great breakthrough for us… and need I add: “Good grief! It’s about time!” Though it’s somewhat infrequent, it’s still regular and desirable as we come to find a place that isn’t perfect or ideal (as we accept that that won’t happen) but it “works”.
5. THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING AWAY: We’ve learned the great power of “getting away” just the two of us, away from kids, and home-stress, and work-stress, and cell phones and computers and church and yard work and projects and business, etc. and just get away together. We used to travel with the kids everywhere we went. But now that they are older, it is a natural development to be able to get away ALONE and be with each other and develop a “courtship” type attitude in our marriage again. Our courtship was quick and because I was so much more interested in the missionaries I was teaching than my fiancé, it was awkward at best as well – but that’s another story. Needless to say, this one is obvious – if life overwhelms the relationship just because life is what it is, then in a MOM relationship, it is nearly impossible to make it work because the dynamics of attraction aren’t there to glue the broken pieces together. We’ve planned and succeeded in escaping away in some simple places around the corner, and others on the other side of the globe. Both have served the same purpose… we’ve got to create these opportunities of focus for our relationship for they don’t naturally happen otherwise. Maybe that’s true for all relationships, but I think in a MOM it is absolutely essential to overcome the otherwise missing connection points.
6. BEING OPEN AND WILLING TO TALK: This is still a hard one. There are often subjects of the “pink elephant in the room” that we avoid simply because at times it is too painful to talk about. But, we are getting better, slooooowly. It is not so much that we have a scheduled “gay-topic” night, as we are willing to have the occasional discussion as the situation arises. I think, by sharing that I blog, that there are MOHOs out there, that we are not alone, that there are others who are trying to make it work, that the joys and pains of our relationship are not unique, and that I’m trying and she’s trying to be more understanding of the other (even though this is still a sore subject on many points and the “understanding” part is painfully slow in coming), the key learning point here is in being “willing” to discuss calmly and more rationally than in the past.
7. HONORING PARTNER’S FEELINGS / WISHES: This is another hard one. This is where I’ve done things that have been dishonest and secretive and they have hurt our relationship because she has felt that she cannot trust me, that I am not trustworthy. Hiding my relationships with other MOHOs was probably the most hurtful thing I’ve done, besides expressing to her of my feelings for certain young married men in the ward. Seeing how hurtful it makes her feel (even though such relationships have been platonic for the most part, bromantic at the worst) and mostly innocent to me, has been an eye-opener to me. And because I love her and respect her feelings and wishes, I do not desire to “hurt” her with my bromantic relationships, and so I’ve tried (and succeeded for the most part) to curtail these bromantic encounters. It has done wonders in restoring “trust” back into our relationship… but I can’t help but wonder if I’m better off for doing so in curtailing my bromances. This one is still out for the jury to decide, and one that needs more study and understanding on both our parts (more on this in the next post).
8. THE POWER OF RESTRAINT: In association with curtailing bromantic encounters, I am trying to be more restrained in my other focuses (such as not viewing “eye-candy” as noted in the previous post). I’ve kind of addressed this before, but I’m doing this not because I think that it is inherently bad or evil, but because it is hurtful to our relationship as husband and wife. If a normal heterosexual relationship can deal with such innocence, I don’t think a MOM can deal with it so easily. Everything is a sensitive subject when it comes to attractions and where they are focused. It’s all about respect and focus. And though I’m learning that the moderation-in-all-things principle may most definitely be the best policy here, I am also learning that there is power in restraint regarding a MOM relationship.
9. AUTHENTICITY IS BEING HONEST WITH ONESELF, NOT WITH ANYONE ELSE’S CONCEPT OF WHAT ONE SHOULD BE: This is still another lesson-in-progress. I am attempting to live my life more honestly with her and allowing myself to express my “gayness” in ways that are appropriate and authentic as I feel them. In the manner of my personal expressions, mode of dress, inter-relationships with others, appropriate touchy-feely-ness, I am finding myself being more comfortable with myself as she is more comfortable, tolerant, and accepting of me as being me. This includes subtle changes in dress (tighter shirts and low-rise jeans for example), wearing skimpy swimsuits in foreign and not-so-foreign countries, shaving in places down-under, etc. These may be a continued adolescent phase of discovering who I am, or what feels “good” and “natural” to me, but a little shocking to a heterosexual man, but the lesson learned here is that I’m not hiding it from her and she is accepting of these “non-threatening” aspects of my behavior and personal expression of who I am.
10. AUTHENTICITY IS KNOWINGLY CHOOSING TO STAY: In the end, it comes down to commitment and knowingly choosing to stay with the person that I have covenanted to be with forever. My honesty of myself and acceptance of being a gay man attracted most definitely and exclusively to other men, does not preclude me from being authentic in choosing to be with my wife in the end…
As for the negative lessons learned, well, more to come…
Any comments or feedback? What do you think? Is there progress here or just slow stagnation and the avoidance of the inevitable? Is it possible to make a MOM work or delusional to think it possible?