Recently I was asked point blank why I stay with Darrin. The impetus behind the question came from a conversation with a friend in which we were discussing the number of people we knew who had recently coupled-up. Those people span many different ages and are all gay. This is because my friend is gay and has limited her inner circle of friends to gay people. I am the only "gay" friend who lives a heterosexual lifestyle. My friend knows and likes Darrin, but she said she's always wondered how I can remain with him.
I've never been asked this before. I've been told I should leave, that I'm being dishonest and hurting my husband and children by maintaining a charade which will eventually crumble. I've been accused of undermining the acceptance of gay relationships and marriages by remaining in my mixed-orientation marriage. I've been introduced to prospective mates, placed in my line of vision to help me come to my senses and embrace my true self. I've been told that all my emotional problems, including PTSD, are the result of my current living arrangement (which is largely harmonious and peaceful, as well as delightful and fun), and have nothing to do with being a rape and abuse survivor...
I've never been asked.
The novelty of being consulted rather than assaulted threw me a bit off balance. I'm used to having to be defensive, or simply ignoring the person who assumes or predicts much about something they know little.
Why do I stay with Darrin?
There are a number of practical reasons:
1. I love him.
2. I enjoy spending time with him.
3. We have built a lovely family and we'd like to maintain that family unit.
4. I promised I would.
My friend listened intently, then pointed out that none of those reasons would be enough for her to stay with a man. She insisted that being in love, being completely attracted to one's mate, feeling a sense of "home" with that person...all those things would trump the reasons I just named.
I disagreed. Reason number four, alone, will keep me with Darrin forever. The only possible way I would break that promise is if he became abusive, if he was unfaithful to me, or if he told me he no longer wished to be married to me. She said I'm committed to a principle or an ideal, not a person.
I said, no.
I openly admit to not being physically attracted to my husband--or any man, for that matter. I've mentioned that I find women beautiful and still have moments when I feel physically attracted to someone. My friend said I'm completely missing out on a relationship which would feel whole and complete.
What my friend does not understand--but I do--is that no relationship is whole and complete, regardless of how it feels initially. She cannot understand this because her longest lasting relationship had a duration of ten years, and the final three years of that relationship were spent in turmoil, times of separation, and infidelity. My marriage is twice that long, has never felt the sting of infidelity, and we have never been separated, nor have we wished for that. My friend envisions a marriage akin to a partnership-- amicable, sexless, and cooperative.
I simply smiled and shrugged, suggested this was something my friend could never understand, and changed the subject. She said she believes that I, myself, do not know why I stay in my marriage, then allowed the subject change. But she is incorrect.
I know exactly why I stay.
I stay because although strong physical attraction to my husband is absent, a deeper, emotional attraction to him exists. This emotional connection causes me to desire, initiate, and enjoy a fulfilling sexual relationship with him. It is unique and joyful. I have no reason to look elsewhere for this.
I stay because I love waking every morning to find him beside me and knowing he will return to me each night. I love talking with him, telling him my deepest thoughts and listening to his. I love seeing him in a crowd and knowing I am the person he is looking for and when he finds me, he will come to my side and within moments, my hand will be in his.
I stay because I love laughing with him, making fun of his odd quirks, being aggravated with him. I love the entire spectrum of emotion and affection I share with him, and I know that any discord will be resolved. It might take time, it might hurt a great deal, but it won't separate us or cause irreparable damage.
I stay because if I told Darrin I wished to leave, he would let me go, but he trusts that I will never ask. He places in me implicit faith. He expects that I will always be present in his life. He believes I love him and that I know he loves me.
I stay because, no matter what my friend perceives, I am in love. Perhaps I am not in love in the way she would define it. Perhaps I am not in love in the way the world would define it. Perhaps Darrin and I have created our own definition of being in love; one on which we both agree; one which will endure because in the end, we will both stay. To me it's not a question of why I stay with Darrin, it's a question of why, given the joy and contentment I experience right now, I would ever wish to leave.