A common refrain I have heard from older men, coming out later in life, after marriages to women, is this: “I have found the man of my dreams. I’m so happy.” That is, of course, until a few weeks later, when I hear, “It was incredible until he broke my heart. I’m devastated.”
Like other men coming out later in life after a twenty year marriage to a women, I scoffed when other men told me that I need to have my gay adolescence. I did not think so. I had started to come out my first year in college and had a number of male relationships. So I did not think I needed time to play or explore thirty years later, until I realized that I did.
I began to learn that as a gay man in my early 50s, I did not really know what I liked sexually. Was I a top or bottom? Did I like vanilla sex or something rougher? I was not sure. Like many men coming to terms with who they are as a gay or bi man later in life, I had the porn view gay sex. I liked a certain kind of man and a certain kind of roughness and energy in gay porn but would I like the same thing in real life? I learned that in real life I was much more vanilla than my porn view of sex.
I was smart enough to recognize that some of the men I began to have relationships with were not the men of my dreams but rather the men for right now. There were two men I had what I would classify as friends with benefit relationships for a few months each. These were wonderful fun and learning relationships on my path to being a fully out gay man. I liked both men a lot, but also knew that we would never be more than friends, and I also thought they saw me the same way. In fact, one of the men stopped seeing me when our relationship got too intimate for him because he felt he was “cheating” on a long term partner who he was estranged from and about to leave, while I just saw us becoming closer friends.
I am always surprised to hear that a man, after years of marriage to a women, has fallen head over heals for a man he has just met. This is classic coming out later in life. I have encouraged these men, slow down. They are are getting too far out over their skis. They are also setting up a situation to be hurt and to use that hurt to find a way back to the closet.
Often these men are in no position to even have the relationship they describe and are flirting with a mess if their wives were to find out. In some cases, when a men works for a conservative religion, the political right or a conservative company, they risk loosing their job if their affair were to become public. How can you say you have found the man of your dreams when you go home every night to a wife and children who you do not plan to leave so quickly? It is a complex and often painful situation.
My own recommendation in this situation is to see the relationship for what it is: a safe place to explore and learn, but not a happily ever after. Learn from this new man what you like sexually. Learn what it means to be intimate with another man. Learn what it takes to build a relationship with a man. But do not start thinking of the wedding altar and happily ever after when you have just met a man and had sex or a few dates.