I suppose this sticks out in my mind because it is unusual. Normally, people are surprised to find that Other Husband has a wife (me), because for much of his life he has identified as gay. Recently, this happened instead:
Other Husband: …Well, I don’t know if you know my situation.
Colleague: I do! I saw you guys on Offbeat Bride!
Other Husband: Oh! Cool. (The colleague begins to say something, then stops herself.) No, go ahead. Ask questions.
Colleague: Well, you and the guy, too?
Other Husband: Yes, we’re together also.
Colleague: (warmly) I never knew you were gay.
(Other Husband takes a moment to think. He smiles.)
Other Husband: (warmly) I’m just [Name]. My name is [Name].
It took him a long time to get to a place where he could say such a thing, and a long time for me to believe him. He identified as gay, not so much in periods of reflection but as a reaction to communication break-downs. In truth, he spent happy years married to women in two separate periods of his life, and started these and other, less serious relationships with women optimistically. His interest in men still existed during these times, making him feel incrementally guilty, so that when the sifting began for the source of inevitable rockiness in his relationships (inevitable because everyone fights about something), he was quick to take the burden on himself. They were falling apart because he was gay. He was lying to himself and to the women he loved, he thought, and in his self-deprecating panic disengaged — for everyone’s own good.
This is not to say that everything that ever went wrong in any of his relationships with women was all the ladies’ faults. Or all his fault either. The point I mean to make instead is that neither partner ever got to the bottom of any large issue between them, because there was too much fear and guilt and shame in the way to have an honest discussion, to make an honest assessment, or to build a realistic solution.
When Other Husband told me he was not attracted to women at all, back in the beginning of his relationship with Legal Husband, it was a lie. I know, now, that he is attracted to women.
Why the lie?
We talked about this just the other night, idle on the couch but not yet ready to join Legal Husband in the bedroom and go to sleep. Other Husband confirmed what I pretty-well knew. As surely as he knew I was falling for him (because I told him so), he also felt himself falling for me. He had to be firm because there might come a time when he wouldn’t feel fair enough to be firm later.
What does that mean?
His last wife made him promise never to do this to another woman again — “this” being “pretending” to love a lady, marrying her, and then ultimately abandoning the marriage out of a need for men. This is not what happened between them, quite; it is simply a reason he cited to her for his own unhappiness, and (more even than that) a distillation of what hurt her most. We all know what it feels like: we take the most painful thing our loved ones could think or feel about us, and we self-flagellate. She made him promise. He promised. He met Legal Husband. And then he met me. And I said:
“I think I’m falling in love with you.”
How terrifying, yes? The guilt he always carried, now multiplied by his promise to his hurt ex-wife. He needed to be firm with me, because he felt himself slipping. So he lied about being attracted to women. He never had to think about his feelings for me, and he never had to parse through the mixed feelings he had about himself.
Make no mistake: I’m not naive about his attraction to men. He is definitely more attracted to men than he is to women. He’s slower to notice women. He’s not one to comment on the attractiveness of women the way he will with men. But here’s the thing: I don’t need him to be interested in all of them. Many women I know — many people, in fact — would count this as sort of a plus. I just need him to be attracted to me. And he is. I know.
So does he. That’s actually the more important piece. Up to now, admitting an attraction to women has always meant an eschewing of his attraction to men. Faced with that choice, he had to stick with his attraction to men and forsake his interest in women. That’s not fair for him. I do not think Other Husband could ever be happy in a traditional, monogamous relationship with just a woman OR just a man. Here, in this case, society does not suit.
Would most people accommodate such a desire? In a serious, committed, family context, I mean. Perhaps not. But we do. And he does not need the whole of society to accept him; he just needs us. Friends who have known him through many years and many relationships report that they have never seen him happier than as now. This throuple has been going strong for over two years, most of it with all of us in the same home. Sometimes, one of the two of us will turn to the other and say, “Remember when we used to not kiss?”
And we respond, always, with: “Yeah. That was stupid.”
I’m not really going anywhere big with this. I’m having a very good month (and can’t say why–maybe soon). I just wanted to drop in to say that you don’t have to go in a box. You’re not part of a rummage sale. You are a rare specimen, of specific vintage and origin and history. Be authentic, unique, and fear not — for you do not need all the support systems. You just need one.