As part of my exploration of marriage, this essay is an attempt to examine how I have seen marriage and how that perspective is beginning to evolve and change.
Sometimes it is hard to see the radical I fashioned myself in high school in the man that I have become. In high school, I fancied myself a 1960’s radical and felt very counter-culture. I had long curly hair, wore what I thought of as hippie clothes, oversized shirts, and low cut bell-bottom pants, platform shoes, and lots of American Indian jewelry. As a teenager, I embraced the counter-culture view of love and marriage. But as the years passed I made more and more mainstream choices.
In marriage, I chose a very traditional marriage with a very traditional set of marriage values. While I personally don’t think I have hard and fast beliefs about subjects like open marriage, I knew that my wife held a very traditional, almost a fairytale, view of marriage. She believed that ‘I do’ was forever and sex outside the marriage was a violation of the marriage contract and the deep trust we placed in each other. I went along with her view of marriage and “agreed” with it
Early in our marriage we both held challenging, high-stress jobs and worked long hours. We chose as our first home together in a ‘nice’ upper-middle-class New Jersey town that was lovely and had a Bedford Falls kind of feel with a quaint old fashioned downtown. All the homes were well taken care of and the properties nicely landscaped. I found comfort and a feeling at home in an, It’s a Wonderful Life, kind of town.
I worked hard and came home every night to my wife. I did not have many friends outside of the marriage, and as the years passed, what friends I had seemed to fade from my life. Even when I spoke to my friends on the phone, I felt in some way that I was cheating on my marriage. I never went out ‘with the boys’ after work, preferring instead to come home to my wife. I also found it difficult to make male friends because of the secret I kept hidden about my sexual orientation.
My wife also expected that I would be home every night with her. My world revolved around my job and my marriage and eventually my son. I believed that this is what marriage was about. Early on in the marriage, my life began to feel narrow and repetitive, but it was the world I had chosen.
For most of my marriage, I liked being married and valued the traditions we created together. Thanksgiving was one of my wife’s special holidays and from the beginning, we held a large family gathering in our home. The woman I married was also a hard worker, and she took great pride and care in our home, cooking homemade meals every evening after a long day of her own job. It was a nice life and from the outside looked picture perfect.
I did have some interests outside the marriage, but they were specific and limited. In New Jersey, I was an EMT on a volunteer rescue squad for five years. When we moved to Maryland I took up wheel-thrown pottery for a couple of years, which I had loved in high school. As the years went on my interest in things in the world began to fade and I found myself in recent years, prior to my moving out of the marriage, increasingly bored and depressed.
For many years I was proud of the life we had created and knew that from the outside the marriage our life looked pretty good. But as the years went by, I found it harder and harder to tamp down my attraction to men. There was a set of narratives internally that was continuous and was at odds with the face I presented to the world. While for the majority of our marriage I was faithful to our marriage and did not have any sex outside of the marriage for over 20 years. I did notice men all the time, and once the internet arrived on the scene, would masturbate regularly to gay pornography. It was a bit of a vicious circle. Pre-internet, I was much happier in our marriage. When the internet arrived, as a technology guy, I was an early adopter. On the internet, I discovered a world of gay porn that was highly seductive. The internet became my only outlet for my attraction to men, and my attraction to men also grew in this period, and sex with my wife began to fade.
During the later years of my marriage, intimacy with my wife was increasingly dysfunctional. As the world changed around me I began to feel like a dinosaur. I saw more shows like Glee that portrayed gay characters as loving, smart, normal, and in the world. One of the events that made a deep impression on me was the Glee rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside, sung by two male characters, Kurt and Blaine. I cried when I saw that song performed for the first time on Glee because it was two men singing a song that I had loved, and doing so in a loving and beautiful way.
After years of seeing the gay world through a stereotyped lens, I began to see something more real because of all the changes taking place in the world around me regarding how gays were seen and portrayed in the news, on movies and TV. As my view of what it meant to be a gay man began to evolve, and the world around me rapidly was changing, my marriage seemed more and more claustrophobic. I told myself that I had made a life long commitment to my wife and family when I took my wedding vows. When I said forever, I meant forever. But inside I hoped for a way out.
Knowing in my heart that I was gay made it increasingly difficult to stay in my marriage. I could no longer hide behind the, ‘I’m probably bisexual’, the narrative I told myself for many years. Now, having come out of my marriage I am finding that I need to take a fresh look at my perspectives on marriage. I am realizing how narrow my own perspectives on marriage have been. Even though I left my marriage a year and a half ago, I am seeing that I still held on to the ‘I do forever’ view of marriage. While intellectually I have embraced different types of relationships I also see that emotionally I have held on to my much narrower view of the world. I am enjoying exploring how I see marriage and challenging myself on my long-held beliefs. Through this essay, I wanted to explore how I have seen marriage and how that perspective is beginning to evolve.