I spoke last night to a close friend of mine and something he said took me by surprise. Like me, he came out later in life — me in my mid 50’s and him in his early 60’s. He is about sixty-three now, handsome in a rugged way and in great shape. After a lot of soul searching, he chose to stay in his marriage but agreed with his wife to open up the marriage so that he could date men. He has been dating a young man for the last year.
In trying to explain himself and his life choices to his boyfriend, he said the following: “This is my first romantic relationship.” I was momentarily blown away by his words as I paused to reflect on what he had just said. I thought about my own life and asked myself the same question: Was my relationship with my partner my first romantic relationship? I realized that the answer was yes. My romantic relationship with my partner was actually my first romantic relationship too.
Yes, I had been married and had a child. Yes, my wife and I lived together for over twenty years. I had cared deeply for my wife and very much wanted to marry her but there was always something missing between us.
That feeling of just wanting to hold your partner in a loving embrace, to touch his body, to gently kiss him, was missing in my marriage. In the early days of our relationship, I enjoyed sex with my wife, but not in the deeply satisfying, richly emotional way that I feel today with my partner.
When I returned home after a week helping my wife and her family through her cancer surgery in New York City, I met my partner at my apartment. We had dinner and then, at my suggestion, went to my bedroom to cuddle. We took off our clothes and lay in my bed kissing and touching for a long time, and then he rolled over with his back to me and we lay there with my arms around him snuggling and talking. In those intimate moments, every stress melted away. Everything seems right with the world. It was a lovely romantic time together.
It was the kind of lovely romantic time with my partner that I do not remember having with my wife. While my wife and I were physical, there was a deep coolness I felt towards her physically. As soon as sex was over I would quickly turn to sleep, or the pretense of cleaning up, or my book, in order to separate our two bodies.
There was not a time that I remember, except in the very early days of our marriage, wanting to stay close physically for a long period of time. As a gay man, there was something missing for me with my wife at a very organic level. While I cared deeply for my wife, I was playing a role on the stage of physical intimacy. Without a deep physical attraction, a deeply romantic could not exist.