Hard Truths

Last November I acknowledged that there were some frictions going on in the relationship between John and me and that we were considering counseling. We did eventually see a couples counselor for awhile and for awhile things felt better. However, recently we called an end to our relationship.

Fortunately, we avoided much of the anger and animosity that characterizes the end of so many relationships. This doesn’t mean there isn’t/wasn’t hurt. The close of our relationship has been very emotionally challenging. We’ve committed to remaining friends. But for my part, I’m getting some distance for the moment, trying to get some perspective, and trying to re-engage who I am as an individual rather than who I was in a relationship.

I hope to get back to writing more. Sometimes it has been a challenge to keep up the posts, especially recently. More to come.

Advertisements

Valentine’s Day Out

This week for Valentine’s Day John and I had dinner out with another gay couple. It was at a chic restaurant that is normally only open for breakfast and lunch, but for the holiday had a special fixed price dinner. It was hard to mistake we were there for any reason other than Valentine’s Day.

In the past I’ve written about times when I’ve been concerned about how John and I might be perceived in public. Curiously, leading up to the dinner I found myself excited about making a subtle but public statement on this holiday that celebrates love. At dinner there were no stares from other patrons nor incredulous questions from the waitress. But, we were unquestionably two gay couples, one intergenerational, out celebrating our love. Visibility is so important to acceptance; It made me feel powerful.

Guest Post: Discovering Self and Others

Today’s guest post is from GtD reader Carl of Tucson, AZ. I appreciate him sharing part of his story; it highlights how relationships evolve overtime and how that causes us to evolve over time ourselves.

Tom and I are a good twenty-seven years into our time together. Lovers, buddies, partners, friends, housemates, sharers-of-pets, we’ve come a good way along the path together. You know: house, cars, yardwork, repairs, illnesses, triumphs, successes, failures– we’ve weathered them both individually and as a unit. Heck, our house is nearly paid-for!

A few years ago, Fil entered our lives. Thirty-three years old, he offered a newness to our studied habituations. Way different and more easy-going than we, he was filled with jollity, laughter, copious amounts of wine and off-centeredness. Fil lived up to his name, filling gaps Tom and I hadn’t realized were present in our lives as individuals as well as a pair. Fil came and went. I understood. He’d had his own life to sort out; we, ours. Then, out of the blue, a few months ago, Fil re-emerged, re-connected with us. He’d moved, gone to North Carolina, come back, become a caregiver for his grandparents, continued laughing, imbibing, being loving and caring. He’d come over for dinner, a movie, a night of massages and health tips– whatever. I figured it was cupboard love. I was OK with that. Really, I was.

Not knowing “the rules” of the new landscape, Tom and I both held back, resorting to entertainment rather than home-iness. Just what was going on, anyway? Fil would have none of it. True to his nature, he steamrolled good-naturedly passed the bs, landing fully in the moment. Ah, youth!

Now, after a few months of renewal, Tom and I have made a place for standing dates for movies, “Fringe”, good food and laughter, and continued baby-steps to a triadic comfort zone, where three people, two generations, differing ethnicities and family backgrounds and disparate personal histories begin to mix and gel their three personalities– two of whom love and respond to youthful playfulness, and one of whom self-confesses, to our delight, that he likes “grandfatherly types”, which, I hope, means wisdom, patience, stability, longevity– into a more unified sense of what a relationship means: Trust, sharing, a sense of belonging while exploring individuality. Allowing and encouraging the other partner(s) to grow and blossom is the test of whether we, from our differing perspectives, can and will develop our lives into something greater than what the sum of the parts may be. We have entered another point on the continuum of possibilities in human relationships. I look forward to the exploration.

Guest Post: A Poem for Intergenerational Love

On some unearthly plain where souls reside,
two old ones came together light and wise.
They spoke the silent language that souls use.
Their beings merged so that they thought as one.

“Remember that sweet time on sweet earth when
we met to teach each other about love?”
“You were eighteen,” “And you were sixty-two.”
“How did we pull that off?” they thought and laughed.

“Remember when we hiked that buggy path

Aaron and Sam

with bracken on our heads. We looked so dumb”
“Remember the trout lilies and shadbush,
the hemlocks and the mosses and the ferns?”
Each thought how much that precious time was worth,
and with a sigh confessed, “I miss the earth.”

The preceding poem is shared with permission from GtD reader Aaron (27) and his partner Sam (70). Sam wrote this poem on the occasion of their 5th anniversary a few years ago. I’m thankful for such a beautiful tribute to intergenerational love.

Not So Happily Ever After: Relationship Reality Check

Recently I started feeling bad about my relationship with John. We seemed to always be snipping at each other, our goals didn’t seem compatible, and I was finding myself wondering if it was really working. I was feeling like I was at a point in both my career development and in our relationship that I wanted more independence. John on the other hand was expressing the feeling that he needed to depend on me more; he is recognizing that is age is affecting his capacity to do certain things. Together these anxieties started putting a major strain on our relationship.

Eventually it all came out. We had a weekend where we just had to spill the beans; to talk about what our worries, desires, and concerns were. For the first time in a while we started talking about these difficult subjects. It is funny, early on in our relationship we agreed that open communication was optimal, yet we still found ourselves falling into the habit of withholding our feelings.

At one point I decided to look up information about relationship development and found several articles on the stages people go through in relationships. I found this one, 5 Stages of Committed Relationships, particularly enlightening. All relationships start in a romance stage where your partner can do almost no wrong. This is the sort of romance depicted in movies and TV shows. Having been together for more than four and a half years now, John and I have certainly moved past that point. As we looked at the stages it became pretty clear that we had progressed to stage three; the power struggle stage. This is the stage where differences between the individuals become the most exaggerated and difficult to manage. This is also the stage where most couples break up.

Strangely, realizing that we weren’t alone in this sort of tumult in our relationship diffused a lot of the anxiety I was feeling. John and I were both able to acknowledge that there are things in our relationship we are concerned about, but that we value each other and the relationship enough to try to work this out. Now we’re doing better now, but looking at attending some couple’s counseling to take us that extra mile. I’m happy we took the time to step back and reflect on our relationship. How easy it could have been to simply caved to our frustrations and thrown in the towel rather than trying to actually address the problems.

As a postscript; I realize that being a part of a mixed age gay relationship may make this sort of relationship anxiety harder to deal with. I’ve recognized that I find it hard to bring myself to ask friends for relationship advice when it comes to dealing with problems between John and me. I have no sounding board to vent my frustrations or to bounce ideas off of. I worry, because our relationship is unconventional, that friends or family may interpret my frustrations as confirmation that the relationship wasn’t meant to be in the first place. There is a lot of pressure to present our relationship as one of domestic bliss; but that is really an unrealistic fantasy we shouldn’t have to hold ourselves to.

Guest Post: Options for Senior Gay Living

Recently I was introduced to a new venture in the UK to provide senior care and housing to the LGBT community; it is called Rainbow Senior Living.  I’ve been corresponding with their Commercial Director Rodolfe Mortreuil and I am impressed with his organization’s mission.  I invited Rodolfe to write a guest article for From Gay to December.  The following are his thoughts on the complications of living out late in life.

Upon reading the latest From Gay To December article, I was once more distraught by the recurring theme of stress and emotional suffering that partners of ailing seniors sometimes have to face.

This is not a new issue and there is a lot of documentation and writing on the hardships faced by caretakers, whether they be professionals, family or close friends. Nearly all of that literature however concerns straight people. It seems at first glance that nobody out there knows about the added difficulties that occur when the ailing senior is gay.

The partner of the author of From Gay To December is lucky, in that he has a loving partner willing to step up to the plate in his hour of need. However research indicates that 80% of elderly gays – male or female – live alone and there is also heart-wrenching research that shows that they are 10 times more likely than elderly straight people to have nobody to call upon in times of need. Nobody at all. In those situations their only solution is to call upon professional help. When looking at this solution, it quickly appears that, unless one is lucky enough to live in about 15 places in the US where there is a gay-friendly community for the silver generation, one will have to take what’s on offer: a care company which may well be very good in delivering care, but which is almost guaranteed to not have a clue when it comes to gay issues. Would you like to come out as gay to someone you do not know, who will help you with very personal care such as bathing or dressing a wound?

Most people, as it turns out, don’t dare risk it and go back in the closet for the rest of their days because of it.

The author of From Gay To December is not so lucky. It is well known that caring for a loved one is possibly one of the most stressful situations to find oneself in. The responsibility is a huge burden, the impact on the every-day life is tremendous. There seems to be no outside help available, if only someone to talk to and often there is also a feeling of guilt about wanting some time to oneself, when our beloved is in need of us still. Here again, being in a gay relationship only makes the situation even more lonely, with few wishing to take the risk of facing the negative judgment of a well-meaning but poorly-informed (or downright intolerant, in cases) professional caretakers.

Yet all is not dark in that picture. Recognition is growing in our western societies about the right to equal and respectful treatment of Gays and Lesbians, while concurrently awareness is growing, with an assertive baby-boomer generation coming into retirement, that there are emotional, cultural and social needs to aging that have not yet been addressed for everyone.

The answer to our greying gay generation is sprouting all over the US , in the form of gay-friendly retirement communities, help-groups, social housing groups… often carried by the energy and commitment of a few people committed to taking the fight for equality and dignity to the latter part of gay life. In the US today we have found about 30 such projects, either already running or in development.

Alas, in Europe, where I write from, the situation is so much worse and once more America leads the way in tolerance and initiative. Our venture is attempting to be the first in the UK (a country with one of the most advanced gay–rights legislation!) to offer a solution to aging gays and their caring partners, enabling them to continue their life with dignity and comfort regardless of their state of health.

The situation worldwide is not good, yet. But it is getting better every month, thanks to a grassroots movement which may still be largely below the radar of most people, but is nonetheless increasing its pace and impact. I am proud to be a small part of it.

New Responsibilities With Older Partners

For the first time in my life, I’ve had to take complete responsibility for someone and their well being.

Recently John had some minor surgery which required general anesthetic.  I took him to the appointment, listened to all post operation care instructions, picked up meds while he was in surgery, waited through the procedure, and took him home afterward.  It

wasn’t until later that afternoon, once we were settled back in and home and John had mostly come out of the anesthesia, that I realized how much anxiety I had built up about taking this responsibility.  Sure the surgery was minor and on an out-patient basis, but I still worried that the worst could happen.

I grew up as the youngest child, I’ve never babysat, and the most responsibility I’ve probably ever taken for a life other than my own was during brief periods of pet sitting.  For the first time I had to care for someone that was utterly helpless, if only for a few hours.  For the following days I helped John care for his surgical site and watched what he did to help him maintain doctor’s orders.  For years now I’ve realized that a day would come where I’d truly have to care for John.  Being more than 40 years older than me it is almost inevitable that his physical condition will impact our quality of life; that I will need to do more for him.

In hindsight the most frightening thing me for during this period, is how unprepared I was mentally and emotionally to be a caretaker.  Leading up to the surgery the anxiety got to me and by the day of, the muscles in my back were in knots.  For the first couple days John was my clear focus.  Fortunately his recovery was swift, but I’m not sure how I would fair should a prolonged period of such intense care be needed.

However, the on the plus side, I did have this experience under rather controlled conditions.  The surgery wasn’t urgent, we were able to plan for it, and recovery only took a couple of weeks.  I don’t want John to have to rely on me, but I want to be there for him  should the need arise.  Hopefully, this experience has tempered me for a day when he will need more.  Hopefully I can rise to the occasion.