I’m not sure why anyone reads my blog. Maybe it’s like watching a train wreck as it occurs – it’s just so hard to look away. I had thought things were going so well recently. In the weeks since I posted This is my story, new levels of communication have opened up between my wife and me, and some new friends have helped me to shake some of the destructive patterns of thought and emotion that I’ve learned over the years. Thanks to these friends, I’ve noticed signs of past progress that I hadn’t seen before; and I’ve also experienced new breakthroughs in my journey to fully embracing who I am. You know, I still can’t quite fathom how it has taken me so long to accept the utterly obvious fact that “I am gay.” I know people my age who came out in high school or shortly after. They grew up in the same world and culture that I did, and yet somehow they were able to make peace with who they were decades ago; and here I am… still slogging along.
So the last couple of weeks have been punctuated by the highs of embracing new friends, finding new depths of communication with my wife, and experiencing new milestones of self-acceptance. But those new highs were precarious, and one painful conversation was all it took to topple the scaffolding beneath me and send me plunging. It was just before bedtime last night, and my wife and I were revisiting things that had come up in prior conversations over the past week. I should say from the outset that my wife didn’t do or say anything wrong; the conversation wasn’t painful because she had been malicious or cruel. But in the course of our talk I suddenly realized how utterly I have failed to communicate to her what I am feeling and experiencing. Despite the fundamentally queer dynamic of a mixed-orientation marriage, for better or worse, she has been with me and for me more than anyone else, and more than I could have expected or imagined. So to suddenly discover how much of my experience she hasn’t yet grasped left me feeling lonelier than ever.
We were discussing wants and needs – a perfectly reasonable and even critically necessary topic for conversation. What do we each need to survive and to thrive? What are the things that we want over and above that. I have shied away from using the term need to describe how I feel about having an intimate relationship with a guy at some point in the future, reserving that word for things like air and water and food. We clearly NEED those things; without them, we will undoubtedly die in the very near future. So I haven’t felt like that. Like if I don’t sleep with a guy in the next week or month or even year that I would literally DIE. So I’ve always stuck with the words want and desire to describe what I’m feeling. But in the course of our conversation it suddenly struck me that she was thinking of wants as being things like “I want to go to Europe in the spring! I want to learn Chinese! I want to buy a new car with a 5 speed manual transmission! I want to complete a triathlon!” All of these things are wonderful and would bring me great pleasure. I want them. But I may or may not do them; and I could still live a perfectly contented and healthy life nonetheless. So if things like that are the point of reference for understanding my desire to pursue relationships with men, then it would seem impossible to grasp why I would jeopardize our family and our marriage just for that.
So I struggled to find a better analog. Air, water, food – let’s call these fundamental needs. They are clearly in a class of their own – necessary for even the most basic continuation of existence. And then we have vacations and hobbies and social relationships – call those wants. I want them, I enjoy them, and they make life better and more fulfilling. But I won’t die without them. So it feels like there’s got to be some intermediate category – things less urgent than the fundamental needs, but nevertheless substantially more important than the wants. Healthcare? Nutrition? Meaning in life? I think it could be argued that these are higher priority than wants, even if they may not rise to the level of needs. But for me, even these fall far below my desire to pursue relationships consistent with my identity as a gay man. If I never saw a doctor again in my life, I could still get lucky and might have a long and healthy life. But every fiber in my being tells me that if I forego emotional and relational and physical intimacy with guys, for the rest of my life, that I will be bitter and miserable and lonely.
I’m not sure that there’s anything comparable that a straight person could relate to. Nothing that adequately conveys the feeling of being a 50 year old man who has, for my entire life, turned away from the intimacy I’ve so deeply desired, all because of stupid and damaging beliefs I embraced, at an age when I couldn’t have known the consequences. And then, to experience the glorious healing of throwing off those oppressive beliefs, and for the first time seeing myself as an OK person – not despite being gay, but because of the totality of who I am – a part of which is gay. Screw that – I’m not ‘OK’ – I’m pretty damn awesome! And then, having experienced this liberation from a lifetime of self-recrimination and regret, to be asked to, nevertheless, continue to forego that intimacy that I’ve desired. It feels like death.
I suppose that most of my blog posts aren’t written for the readers. They’re just a way for me to clarify my own thoughts and to express my emotional turmoil. I’m really not looking for answers – I feel like my wife and I need to write our own narrative; find our own path forward. But god, how I long for someone to just understand what this feels like!