Friday, July 14, 2006

Better Off

Restored Vows (a married man who says that he "struggles with same-sex attractions") posted this comment a few days ago on HURRICANE:

If you want to get divorced and lead a gay lifestyle, go for it. But you need to think through to the outcome of your decision. I'll leave you with a modified version of what President Reagan said in 1984: "Are you better off (gay and divorced) than you were (married)?

Better off. It seems like that ought to be fairly easy to figure out, right? But what does it mean? Better off.

I have considered this at length, and I think I will be better off gay and divorced than married. (And really, Restored Vows should have left "gay" out of it. I can stay married. I can get divorced. I can't change being gay.) Here's why...

KK and I had eight or nine really great years together. The last bit of our marriage before I came out was not a happy time for either one of us. Most people we know didn't see that. Really, in some ways we didn't see it either. But I was deeply unhappy and unsatisfied with my life. From about the time my younger daughter was born, I developed a death wish. I wasn't suicidal in that I wasn't planning my own death. But I was hoping for it. I imagined a plane crash on a business trip. Getting pushed in front of an oncoming subway car. A heart attack. Cancer. I was deeply unhealthy. I was overweight and out of shape. I had acid reflux disease that I hoped would become something much more serious.

I wanted out of my life. I figured it would be better if I were to go to my grave at an early age with my secret still mine than shame my family with my homosexuality. I figured my children would be better off with a dead father than a gay one. I knew KK would be better off with a dead husband than a gay one.

Better off. Better off dead.

Surely, part of my emotional pain came from keeping a deep, dark secret from the people I loved the most--especially KK. It could be argued that once I came out to her, I should have been able to press forward together with her. We could share the burden. We could make it work, despite our mixed orientations. Many couples try to do this, and some find a measure of success. We could be like them.

KK wanted this, at least on some level. She wanted the security and love that a husband would provide her. And she loved me. And to this day, I feel sorrow for the pain that this has caused her. I love her. She is my closest friend. But once I came out to her, I found myself driven to feel self acceptance and happiness about being gay. I didn't want it to be a cross I had to bear. I didn't want it to be a challenge we would struggle through together. With her love and encouragement, I began to embrace my gay self, and that set me on a path that leads out of the marriage.

I'm 34. KK is 33. There is a lot of life left ahead for both of us. She has gotten a grip on her depression and begun the process of realizing professional ambitions she didn't know she harbored. I am openly and happily gay. I'm meeting new people and feeling no shame for this simple fact of who I am.

Better off? I think so. There is pain in the short term, and there will be challenges in both the short and long term. But this is the best chance for both of us to find lasting happiness. And that's better off.


-L- said...

First of all, I want you to know I appreciate your challenging my views. For a while I've felt the need to indicate this to you somehow, but the opportunity never quite presented itself. I often find my views unchanged by your challenge, but you are a respectful voice that is helpful in increasing my insight and clarifying my thoughts. Anyway...

I'm sometimes alarmed by how similar our situations are/were. My wife also has depression and I have no doubts would be wildly successful (indeed, was) in the professional world. The feelings you've described of feeling trapped and unhappy are very familiar to me too. I've not yet blogged on the experience, but there was a time when my gay issues and my wife's depression flared in such a way that I wanted to be dead... or, worse, I wanted HER to be dead through some method that would leave us both blameless and honest. In my tortured mind that was the only way I could get out of our marriage and finally get what I needed--gay love. Like I said, there's more to the story, and I've been meaning to blog it.

Anyway, as they always do, things changed. The instruments of change, the direction, the outcome... these are perhaps all different from your situation. Just last night I was looking at a photo of my son (staring, actually) who is gone with my wife away from home, and I thought, "I'm so glad I have this family. I'm so glad we kept it together. My current life is more valuable than any alternative I can imagine." I never actually thought the words "better off" but it was certainly the sentiment.

I'm still struggling in many ways, and life continues to be very hard. We've both made the best of our respective situations true to our ideals, obligations, and values, and perhaps that's why we're at divergent places, both "better off" than the alternative.

Beck said...

I pray that you are "better off" and am excited that you have found peace. I don't know that I can say the same thing for myself... still in the process of determining what "better off" means.

KK said...

I'm glad Chris posted this. I think a lot of our friends and family, especially those who haven't been around us much in the last year or so, imagine that the choice for Chris was between continuing this "straight" life with wife and family exactly as before, or abandoning it, on some kind of whim, to pursue a gay life. This post helped to illustrate that the choice was in fact between remaining miserable, trapped, and semi-suicidal, or pursuing an honest life as a gay man. I admire him for having the courage to make a good choice, and enable me to make good choices too. I think we are all better off.

A Troll At Sea said...

Dear WeatherMan:

For what it is worth, "RV" has posted that question rather more widely than absolutely necessary. I suppose it has its uses as a wake-up call, just in case anyone in our situation is still asleep [not much chance there], but otherwise it seems like rubbing salt in very fresh wounds.

For what it is worth, I think I would be "better off" remaining with my family. I just can't do it, and I think that the short-term agony of the separation will be outweighed by the advantages of honesty and freedom for everyone.

What you write about the last years of your marriage rings absolutely true to me -- we have been on the same slope since I made my Big Discovery in 1993. And yet my marriage remains not only half my life, but definitely the "better half" of it. And that includes the last 12 years, in which my children have become amazingly forgiving and understanding adults. As I have written to my many brothers and sisters: "I regret nothing but the necessity of ending my marriage." Everything bows to necessity in the end.

I wish you and your daughters a wonderful time Up North. And you a good path wherever your steps lead you. You have no idea how young you are...

The Troll