Sunday, March 05, 2006

Contrasts

As I sit here contemplating life as a gay man, my young son and his school buddy play downstairs. I hear them laughing, playing, making up games. Here I am within earshot of their innocent play planning a new course for my life which will drastically change my son's life experience.

I came out to my wife, his mother, nearly a year ago. She was shocked. While she knew I'd been distant, somewhat quick-tempered and yes, less interested in sex over the past couple of years, she attributed it to the demands of starting a new business. She never suspected this. After all, we were the perfect couple. The couple others looked to as a role model--financially succesful, very involved in the community, large social circle, great family, easy-going, fun-loving, attractive, physically fit...very much in love with each other.

As I've heard many of you say, she was shocked but wanted to understand. She was compassionate about the struggle. She had a million questions. But she didn't throw me out. She didn't retalliate. We decided the best course of action was to take some time to let things sink in. No knee jerk reactions we'd later regret. After all, it took me 10 + years to recognize, deal with, understand and accept my orientation. I didn't expect her to accept it overnight. In keeping with her personality, this became OUR issue. We would face it together and determine how to deal with it together.

But it's drug on now for a year. We've made some progress--but IT is still there. We both agreed that an "open" marriage was not the right answer for us. "I love you and I deserve all of you, no less," she said. For my part, I wanted no more comparmentalization. I'd grown too weary to continue to lead separate lives and separate truths any longer.

Telling this deepest darkest secret to the person I love more than anyone, I thought, would be the hardest part of this whole ordeal. But it happened, we lived through. In some ways it brought us closer. In reality, the harder part is the limbo we have come to know. We can't throw away that which has been so wonderful. But we shouldn't invest more time and energy in something that may not last. The contrast is ever present. My greatest hope is that we'll look back in a few years and say, "It was rough, but thank god we stuck together and worked through it. We're stronger now and closer than we've ever been." My greatest fear is that I won't be able to commit to her long term. That, despite my best effort, I'll be unable to quiet this longing. I'll be unable to keep my commitment to this woman I love. I cannot let her down again. I do not want to spend more years of her life and energy on what may be a losing battle. She does deserve more.

And so, as the boys play downstairs I think about how these two boys--who are the same age and live in the same neighborhood and go to the same school and have the same interests-- may have very different lives ahead. One will grow up in a happy, intact, "normal" family. The other, mine, may grow up dealing with divorce, uncertainty, ridicule, discrimination, and a gay dad who loves him and is struggling to know the right thing to do.

I've always been a private person--I suppose because I've had something to hide. The thought of sharing intimate thoughts on the web...not something I would have considered in the past. But much has changed in my life over the past couple of years. And, as I remind myself when I reach outside my comfort zone, "Change is Good!".

It's fitting, in a way, that the internet would be the vehicle through which I bare myself to the world. After all, the internet has played a significant role in enabling me to come to terms with my "affliction". It was by accident that I discovered chat rooms on the internet 8+ years ago. And my eyes were opened in those chat rooms. I was shocked to learn that there were other happily married, "normal" men out there who were searching for something--companionship with other men. Seeking to understand and come to terms with this inner conflict. To learn that I was not alone gave me comfort and courage. It gave me courage to explore--very discreetly--this other side of me. It was through the internet that I navigated new cities I would visit on business trips. Through the internet I would discover gay and gay friendly places I could visit to meet men, discover this new world and come to understand my own interests, likes and dislikes.

More recently, it was through the internet that I discovered blogs written by thoughtful, feeling men who were experiencing the same anxiety, concerns, and challenges of coming out later in life. I quickly consumed every post I came across from Chris www.comingoutat48.blogspot.com and those with links on his site. The posts provided food for thought, cause for concern, and hope.

We have much in common--those of us who are struggling or have struggled with the decision to leave loving families for the unknown. Through subsequent posts I hope to provide another view of this common experience. I hope to create a dialogue among those whose lives are affected by one who comes out to his family and hopes to create an environment that makes the future for that family one that heals, encourages, nurtures and challenges.

I welcome your comments and look forward to creating new, supportive cyber friendships.

Mike