Monday, February 20, 2017

Life Goes On, Part 2 (Leah Edition)

This is a recent pic of Leah and her fiance, shared with the world by her mother.  As she did not play as big a part in my life as C/Hayden did, this one doesn't sting as much.

I was tempted not to doctor the photo, but I made the better choice, I think.

Wishing them well, and Life Goes On.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

When Sex is the Topic, Start Slowly

Yesterday was our first session with the therapist in two weeks, having to postpone last week due to a scheduling conflict.  Both of us were eager to go, and when I arrived, DW was sitting in the waiting room scrolling through social media on her phone. We kissed and I sat beside her and we reviewed our days with each other. I had had a productive business call just an hour before, and I wanted to share with her that the call meant a significant amount of income over the next year, perhaps a quarter of my annual income from that prospect alone.  She congratulated me and said that her day was productive and mellow.  She works with kids and that always makes her happy.  Her co-workers are like an extended family for her too, and many of her closest friends are co-workers.

The therapist called us in right on time, and we headed back to the treatment room. We were told to sit facing each other, as in previous weeks, and start to take each other in. As usual, DW struggled to maintain eye contact, but she hung in there and is getting better at it.  The therapist did an exercise with us which had us discussing memories from childhood -- I was expecting this, since it is therapy, after all -- and we shared them with each other. DW learned some new things from me, such as a memory I had of when I was probably eight years old and had a birthday party where none of my invited friends showed up.  I don't dwell on it much since it's obviously not a pleasant memory, but what was curious about my talking about it was how DW looked at it.  She said, "What did you do wrong to make your friends not show up?" As if my actions and/or my behaviors (my character flaws?) were solely the reasons they decided against coming.  The therapist asked me the right question at the right time, seeing my face change after DW's question, and I said I was disappointed in DW's question, and wasn't happy that she went straight to assume the worst about me, when "maybe they were just stupid idiots and not being considerate." That's when DW's face started to change, and she realized she'd gone to a place she was used to going with me: of blaming me first before trying to understand. I get that, because I do it too; it's a powerful defense against establishing or maintaining a true connection.

When it was her turn, DW related several stories about her dad, and the tears came. She truly misses him, and it's exacerbated by the fact that just today his grave-marker had been delivered and needed modifications.  Funny thing was, she was relating these memories, and they struck me as so vivid and real, it felt to me like he was still alive, and it didn't really hit me until she said it that he was, in fact, gone.  I told her that and thanked her for keeping him so close to her heart; it would really be a big help to the kids as they grow older and start forgetting things about him.

She also talked about how, with the grief she was feeling around her dad's passing, and the coming to terms with my infraction, it was  difficult to keep all these balls in the air -- her being a wife, a mother, a worker -- and that she felt she was not doing a good job at any of them, that she wasn't giving her best to any of them.  I interrupted her and said, "I think you're wrong about that.  Sorry to be blunt about it, but you just don't see it. You should ask the kids you take care of, or their parents, or your co-workers, or your kids, or me, how we see your handling of all these balls. You get so much praise from all of us!  What is keeping you from hearing it and from owning it?"  She nodded her head, and the tears came some more. "I think that, if you could really accept all the support you get just in the praise alone, your stress level would be far lower, and you'd have the time you needed to take care of you, and to connect more to me and this marriage." She nodded again.  She knows it's true and she knows that her continuing to dwell on what's missing from her life instead of what she has right under her nose is contributing to the disconnection, not only with me, but our kids too. Imagine the difference between her shouting from the kitchen, "Porter, I need you to help me with dinner and the kids' homework!" and walking up to me, leaning into me, and saying, "Baby, I could really use your help for a little while with dinner and helping the kids with their homework." I'd tune out the first, and jump at the second!  I'm exaggerating a bit, but my point is that focusing on our connection rather than her overwhelming "must-do's" will get more of her must-do's done and also soften things up and make our connection stickier and more wonderful.

This exercise took a great deal of the session, and there were only ten minutes left when we were done. We had both wanted to start talking about our sexual issues, but they never really came up in the time we had left.  What we did do, however, was tell the therapist that we wanted to jump right into this discussion about sexuality next week.  She said that she would continue the practice of having us connect in this way, but it would not go as long. I said, "Sexuality is why we are here, and while I appreciate the ritual around creating a safe space for us to do that, we're both fully dedicated to this process now and to getting to the truth. We'd like to spend much more time on that than on 'getting connected' with each other. We live together, and we were, in fact, connecting with each other in the waiting room."  She took that in, and it looks like we'll be jumping right in next week.

This morning, as my alarm clock rang at O-Dark-Hundred, DW reached over to me to stroke my arm. I appreciated the attempt to initiate physical contact.  As I slid over to hold her, the connection disappeared, however, as she tried to go back to sleep. I suppressed the disappointment and knew that it was early and that we'd have another chance later. But it's true that a deeper physical connection is essential to the success of our marriage. It doesn't have to be sexual, but her touch is like medicine for me, and I get a huge lift out of feeling her hands on me.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Sugar Dating Age Difference

I saw a piece on Let's Talk Sugar today that addressed Sugar Babies and the possible awkwardness of being seen in public with their Sugar Daddies, who are often much older men.  Here was the advice the writer gave:
There’s honestly no need to correlate the stares to negative thoughts. It’s so easy for us as females to think the worst, but someone could just be looking at you because you look absolutely stunning and are mesmerized by your beauty.
True! So much of what we think is happening in front of us is simply the stories in our heads. We don't know why those ladies are staring at us. It could be how happy we look together despite our age difference.

I remember one time out in public with C/Hayden when we were shopping for lingerie and sex toys. The store  employees didn't give a shit that I was 45+ and she was 20-something.  To them we were customers and we were spending money.  Ka-ching!  But I remember what led up to that day.  Our shopping day was her finally agreeing to let me buy her stuff for her birthday. It didn't occur to me right away that she didn't really want to be seen out in public with me. This was especially true because she had, at that point, been with her then-boyfriend (now-husband) for about three months.  I think in her mind it probably gave her second thoughts in case someone she knew saw us together.  I know how that feels.

Another encounter with being seen in public was Leah, who balked at being out together because she had a boyfriend at the time.  I don't know if the age difference meant anything, but certainly it's at play.

The most direct experience I had with the age difference was with Dale.  We met for lunch prior to sleeping together, and as we left the restaurant, I saw a table of middle-aged women giving us That Look. I can't believe that it's been six years since then (nearly to the day!).  Dale is now a married mother of two. Time flies!

Funny how things changed though. After Leah, there were no women who ever expressed a moment's hesitation about being seen in public with me.  Audrey and I met other couples in public places and went to a sex club together as a couple.  Granted, many of the other dates were lunches that could easily have been construed as lunch between co-workers.  Natalie, however, was a dinner date, and she gladly kissed me in public on the sidewalk while we waited for our cars.  Aussie and I spent quite a bit of time at restaurants and bars, and also kissed me in public.  So did Gemini.

I think that, as I work on healing my marriage, and finally settling our issue of sexual incompatibility so that I can enjoy sugar dating in the open, the issue of being seen out in public will become more prominent.

For now, my advice is fuck everyone else and enjoy yourself; no one really cares about who you're seen with in public.  Just be careful that you're not where people you know would see you and ask questions.  Discretion!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Postponed a Week -- No Counseling

Because of a previously-scheduled appointment for one of our kids that happened to coincide with our weekly counseling sessions, we canceled this week.  Unfortunately, DW didn't check her calendar until yesterday, or else we probably could have move the kid to another day.

I told DW that I felt bummed that we wouldn't be sitting together with the therapist. "Me too," she replied.  "It's been good for us."

The pace of our life of late has been pretty hectic, and it's taking a toll on us. Homework, sports practice and competition, travel, work.  All of that while we witness the slow dismantling of our democracy at the hands of an incompetent, "fascist, loofa-faced shit-gibbon."  Insult of the century, I have to admit.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Inching Closer

As I drove home from work to meet DW yesterday for our fourth therapy session, I decided to reach out to Mel. Can't escape the fact that I miss her and would like to see her again.  I asked her if she were still moving out of town, and she said if she found the right job she'd be leaving.  I asked her if my being available to see her again could influence her decision one way or the other, and she said she has to think of her financial needs first.  I then asked if she'd want to see me again if she decided to stay here, and she said, "Of course!" I caught her up on where things were, made no promises as there were none I could make, but assured her that if I were able to see her again, I would, and would do so in the open with DW's full knowledge.  That seemed to make her happy.  The conversation then ended as I arrived home and I told Mel I'd contact her later.

I picked up DW and we drove to the therapist's office.  We were both in a good mood and looking forward to additional work on our marriage. We passed the time getting the lay of the land around the kids (homework, schedules, etc.) and our other obligations, and followed the therapist into her office when she came out to get us.

At first we were sitting facing the therapist, but she later had us facing each other again, knees touching, when it became clear that we were talking less to each other than to her about each other.  It worked.  We started connecting more at that point.  One thing I discovered about myself is that I've been very dependent on the facts of what has happened in our relationship since we got married. Facts that help create the narrative that I've wanted and needed to help me justify redefining our relationship to include my seeking other women for sex.  "I am open with my feelings," I added, "but if we're going to move forward and rebuilt our trust, we first have to agree on reality." Both the therapist and DW agreed with that.

DW also surprised me during the session by announcing that she realized that the last time we were in counseling, five years ago, she pulled out of therapy just as we were starting to talk about sex, which is where I'd wanted to go.  She apologized to me for that, and then said she wanted to begin talking about sex now.  I felt a smile cross my face, and a feeling of validation come over me. "I was just going to say the same thing," I said, rubbing her knees.

We didn't have much time left in the session by that point, but we agreed that the next session would be about sex and sexuality.  There is so much I want to discuss in that area that I think it'll cover multiple sessions.  I think it might be wise to discuss with DW what we should cover first.

One of the things I want to explore with her is her early sexual development. I know when she lost her virginity and with whom (I've met the guy; he's a decent man who got married less than 10 years ago). When we first started dating and planning our future, I simply took it as a given that, having had a long relationship with her boyfriend, plus a few semi-long relationships after that, that DW would have a fairly decent sexual vocabulary and a fairly wide range of experience.  What I eventually learned, however, was that her skills were limited, and that her interest in and experience of sex didn't stray very far from the conventional. Once we had kids and I left the 12-step program for sex addiction, however, it became clear to me that DW and I were not a great sexual match.  But divorce was never an option for me, and as long as our kids are young and living at home, it still isn't an option.  Now I want to know who taught her about sex, and what stopped her from expanding her sexual knowledge.  Learning this would help me, either to confirm what I believed about her sexuality (asexual to limited hetero), or to gain a deeper understanding of it. Given where I think we need to go in our relationship as it pertains to sex, I should understand more before I propose the type of relationship I want and believe we need.

After the session, we drove home and began setting up for dinner. I took a few minutes while alone to text Mel again. I told her that I truly believed we were slowly getting to the point where an open marriage was a real possibility.  She asked me what would happen if DW refused?  I replied that, if DW refused to a) wake up to her own real sexuality, b) step aside while I explored mine, c) did some of both, or d) came up with her own solutions that we could both live with, then it would be e) divorce.  Mel sent back two heart emojis.  I was a little turned off by that  for some reason. I don't want her rooting for my marriage to fail, if that's what she's suggesting, and I don't want her expressing any sort of affection for me, at least not at this point, or expressing any hope that something will happen and we'll see each other again.  If I do get to see her again, the dynamic would need to be different. Having DW trusting me and being more affectionate and sexual with me would fill the emotional hole that women like C/Hayden, Jade, Leah, and Mel filled for me.  Arrangements would again be like they were early on, when I was with CC and first with C/Hayden, and with Audrey.  A simple sexual outlet. Perhaps that will be enough for Mel; hope so.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Setting the Tone and Defending My Terms

The therapist had DW and I sit facing each other in the treatment room. She told us to take a few minutes looking at each other and taking each other in. I had arrived late to the session and was tense from having to negotiate traffic with so many cars in my way and every light turning red just before I arrived at the intersection.  Madness!  I managed to shake all that off with a few deep breaths and then take a long look at my wife. However, DW struggled to maintain eye contact, and admitted it was difficult for her.  Not because she was angry and couldn't look at me.  She asked, "Do I have to just look at him?  Can I take his hands, can I rub his knees, or is it all just eyes?  I find it uncomfortable to just stare at him."  She said that last sentence few times, each time leaning toward me, putting her face very close to mine, and opening her eyes wide, as if that were the therapist's direction.  "I don't think she suggested you stare," I said. "I don't think you need to fix your gaze on me 100% either. Just take me in with your eyes for a few minutes. And you can just sit back and relax."  She really struggled with it!

Once that was over, I recognized that the therapist was setting the tone for what was to come next.  I don't think there was any sort of script, but she definitely was looking for us to go in the direction of total openness. I certainly wasn't going to be closed off in there but I could see how old wounds could inhibit us.

My DW is working hard to differentiate between her grief over losing her father, her grief over my infraction, and her general stress about much in her life -- the kids, the job, etc. She and her immediate family all cope with pain by keeping busy, by putting off the feelings until it's more convenient to let them out.  While there's sense in that, DW keeps herself so busy that the therapist believes she keeps her grief bottled up for too long, and needs a more regular outlet to bring it out. Of course, I volunteered to be that outlet, but that will probably not come until after she feels she can fully trust me again.

Moving on, the session turned to the subject of openness, as I had suspected. I don't recall the exact line of discussion, but I said that I was as open as I could be given the circumstances.  I added, however,  that I reserved the deepest, darkest stuff I struggled with -- when I felt insecure, when I was deeply depressed, when I felt totally off center -- for my closest male friends. For many years, I've had a circle of men in my life who, while I call them friends, are so much more than that. We are each other's confidants, brothers in battle, and support system when we come up against our shit. They are my safe harbor, where I can be completely broken and trust that I'll be led to whatever truths I need to face that will help me pull myself together, and put me back on the path to becoming the man I've always wanted to be.

At this news, DW started to tear up.  "I want you to bring that to me too," she said. "I want to be able to be there for you. And I don't want there to be any secrets anymore."

I had to be very careful at that moment. She was showing me her vulnerability around our relationship dynamic. I wanted her to understand that I was not going to hide things from her, that I would have an open heart and mind. But I knew better than she what she needed from me.  She didn't want to see me at my worst; she needed me to be her champion, her hero, and her warrior. To protect her and the kids, and to provide her with not only the income, but the leadership, to achieve the vision of her life that she's held in her heart. That role has been the foundation of how I've shown up in the marriage since day one, and even during the nearly nine years that I took care of my sexual needs outside the relationship. Long story short, DW was bumping up against one of those areas of my identity that I would not compromise. Like my sexuality, which I fully own and won't ever adjust again, how I process my pain is not something on which I'm going to budge.  I needed to be firm, but I couldn't be combative.

I began quietly and slowly. "I'm afraid I'm not going to back down here; this is an area where I'm not going to change. There are just some spaces that are my own. My men's group is that space, and that's where I'm going to bring my worst stuff. You have always known how I'm feeling about something, I always let you know when something is affecting me, but if I'm ever in a place where I'm overwhelmed, or feeling unmoored, then I take it to my men.  You do not want to see me at my worst, trust me. You need me grounded, and centered, and focused, and taking care of you and [the kids]."

She could not disagree, and she thanked me for holding to my terms.  The therapist seemed amazed at how easily that conflict was resolved. "This is how we resolve conflict, although it doesn't always sound like this.  We're both trying harder," I said.

My beautiful DW is softening, her vulnerability returning, and there has definitely been less angst in the house.  I never expected to hear her say it but she said she is happy with this therapist and that we're in therapy.  Makes me happy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Third Session Is Today

DW and I go in for our third session of counseling today.  The first two, while revealing, have mostly been about intake and gathering information about our pasts, in order to establish a baseline of pathology.  Today, the real work begins.  I'm sure the therapist will have some questions directly related to the "infraction," DW's reaction to it, and how we want to move forward in its wake.

DW has not spoken in a couple of weeks about not being sure she "can get past it," or if she'll be able to trust me again. I don't want to read too much into things, because she might ambush me in therapy when all of her shit gets further stirred up.  I've been showing up, supporting the family, keeping the peace, and generally being affable and engaging with everyone in the house.

My agenda, if I'm allowed one, is to sift through my own stuff as it comes up and to keep asserting that our sexual incompatibility is unresolvable, at least in my opinion, unless and until DW revisits her sexuality and/or steps aside to let me explore mine.  I'm open to other solutions, but there is no avoiding it.  We will have to confront it head-on and make some difficult decisions, even if they're in force for just a while instead of forever.  Communication is, of course, key.