How do I enjoy my lavender marriage?
September 22, 2014 5:05 PM   Subscribe

Hi MeFites, I post this anonymously because I don’t want readers to infer anything from my previous posts. I am a gay male in his 40s who married a straight female several years ago. She knew from the onset that I was gay and that I didn't like women, but accepted to marry me because she was in a bad relationship with someone who didn’t want to commit, and desperately wanted to found a family. Although my wife and I never had sex together, we have a son conceived through artificial insemination. She is a wonderful parent and we both love our son. How do I make myself being less bored by the situation?

Although my wife and I get on reasonably well given the circumstances, and almost never argue, I am bored out of my mind in this marriage, mainly because I don't love my wife and have never loved her. Our son is growing up and he is beginning to sense that the chemistry isn't right; there is an utter lack of intimacy between us parents. While watching TV, we sit in separate sofas and we never touch each other. Also, I don't like spending time alone with my wife because she is very quiet (and in my mind, boring). Sometimes, I even avoid eating at the same time as her because I know we will just be 2 strangers facing each other. I always invite friends at our table or over on weekends. Socially, we interact in totally different ways: I have many friends, like to go out a lot, love to entertain at home, etc. She's the total opposite: she has no friends, hardly leaves the house when she doesn't have to (her jobs takes her away from our town about 1 week per month, but for the rest, she is at home), doesn't talk much, and mostly keeps to herself. But she is a good hostess and friendly with my friends - if very quiet. Our interactions centre around our son or practical domestic issues.

With time, I have learnt to live an independent life inside and outside of the house, have even managed a couple of steady gay relationships (boyfriend never came to the house when the wife was there). I am not blaming my wife for the way she is because this is what I married into. But I am afraid my son, who he is a normal and happy kid, will pick up the dynamic and construe that as a normal marriage (parents who are not affectionate to each other, don't cuddle, don't have meaningful conversations, etc). I don't want to have a divorce since we live in a very conservative country where homosexuality is illegal, and I don't see myself settling with a male partner. Besides, I love that my son grows up in a house with his two parents.

Question is: what can I do to change my mindset about the whole thing, and how do I make this a more enjoyable experience for myself? Do I tell him when he is 18 that his parents' marriage is not what it looks like? Would I accomplish anything by telling him?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
To the extent you're thinking about the impact on your son -- and you should! -- you should discuss this with your wife.

Why did you marry her? Your question doesn't say.

You would probably be happier if you could find a way to consider her a friend, rather than a stranger.

You also would probably be happier if you allowed yourself romantic relationships that are not secret.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:15 PM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think you should try to form a friendship with your wife. It really sounds that you don't even like her. I think if you could find little things about her that you like, that might help a real friendship grow.
posted by saradarlin at 5:22 PM on September 22, 2014 [62 favorites]

If divorce is off the table, then you have to work on your marriage.

It's complicated by the fact that you are gay and not interested in intimacy with your wife, but I wonder whether you have been using that as a reason to excuse yourself from investing in your relationship with this woman who is the mother of your son and who is sharing her life with you.

How do you invest in your marriage? You spend time with your spouse. You work on seeing things from her point of view; you work on seeing her value and dignity and worth as a person; you find ways to value the things she values. You don't have to compromise who you are to find good things about your spouse and to honor and appreciate those things.

The picture you present is of you, by your own account a popular person, a bon vivant with friends and lovers, and your wife, alone in a loveless marriage; it is difficult not to think that you have gotten the better end of this bargain. I think you should try to find some sympathy for your wife and the position she is in.
posted by gauche at 5:26 PM on September 22, 2014 [96 favorites]

You are living a lie... I think it's going to be tough to enjoy that unless you find a way that you can live your life and be who you really are. I don't think you will need to tell your son at age 18 that the marriage isn't a real marriage, especially if you think he is suspicious already as a small child. You might not be doing him as much of a favor as you think by staying with his mom if you and she are unhappy, I doubt he will want you to stay in such a situation for his sake. I mean, even though you appreciate her good qualities, it honestly sounds like you dislike her company if you're avoiding being in the same room as her. It sounds like therapy where you reveal your sexual orientation is out and moving to another country or divorcing her are out, so I guess I will suggest that you get couples' counseling to see if you can improve your relationship platonically. But I will say that I am not sure it will be successful because I think very few people could be happy long term living a life of denial and secrecy.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:26 PM on September 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you live in a conservative culture where being gay has a truckload of stigma, and may even be unsafe or illegal (and violence against gays happens in NYC, so I can only imagine what the situation is where you live...)

I would hope you could muster more respect for your wife as a human being. Your wife, a person that shares a home with you. And has an income, so it's not like you are supporting her or anything.

A lot of people are going to wonder why you married someone you don't seem to have a meaningful friendship with.

I'm wondering, too.

I'm wondering if it is too late to develop a close friendship with this person you share a family and home with.

I hope so.
posted by jbenben at 5:27 PM on September 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Put yourself in her shoes. She settled for a loveless marriage to escape something worse. Now, every day is lonelier and lonelier. The one man who is supposed to love her can't bear to be in the same room with her. You never touch her, not even in a friendly way.

Change your mindset by showing compassion towards the mother of your child. Find something to talk to her about. Find something that will connect you as her friend. And rub her feet from time to time.
posted by myselfasme at 5:28 PM on September 22, 2014 [79 favorites]

Have him spend as much time in the presence of happy, romantic couples as much as possible -- eat dinner at his friends' houses, maybe your parents, or your coupled friends?

Can you pretend she's your sister and you love her that way?

Better you (and she) find someone you're romantically interested in and allow your son to view what it means to have a romantic relationship. Subverting the definition of "marriage" to mean "partnership to raise a child" won't scar your kid in the slightest, but living a lie will.
posted by flimflam at 5:29 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you need to work on the friendship first. It's okay if you don't love her romantically in this situation, but you don't even sound like you like her.
posted by radioamy at 5:41 PM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Love is an action, not just a feeling.

You can, if you choose, muster affection and appreciation towards your partner. She is your partner in homemaking and parenting, right? And it's thanks to her that you can have a child and the trappings of the life that you need to have to stay safe and socially and economically accepted in your country, right? She's doing those things for you every day. Just… honor her, appreciate her, and find something to connect with her about. Watch her TV shows if that's what it takes. You're a better conversationalist? Prove it. Engage her. Do something nice for her every night. You'll be happier for it and so will your kid.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:44 PM on September 22, 2014 [26 favorites]

I will suggest that as a project, you and your wife try to read about the history of marriage. Because the agreement the two of you made may not live up to modern romantic fantasies, but it is not really that weird for the long history of the human race.

You might start by watching the movie "Out of Africa," which is based on the real life of a woman who married her dead lover's brother. They later divorced but remained friends, in spite of him being unfaithful and giving her an STD that left her sterile.

Historically, marriage was much more often for economic stability or political ties than for "love." Your marriage isn't openly hostile. Given that in the U.S. today, the divorce rate is around 50% (or a bit higher) and many people who married for love and then wind up divorced wind up extremely bitter about the whole thing, I really think you are very much taking the wrong point of view here. You are comparing yourself to an ideal that very few people actually manage to live up to.

I was married for more than two decades. I married for love. I am now divorced. I am not bitter, but I did not expect a perfect marriage. I was glad he didn't beat me and wasn't a drug addict. He moved out just before our oldest turned 18. We stayed together in part for the sake of the kids.

So you are giving this woman safety and security (or something like that) which she could not find another way. In exchange, she is also giving you some safety, given that you are gay in a conservative country where being gay is apparently a problem. It isn't romantic love, but it is a kind of love. It is two people taking care of each other in an important way.

Yours is hardly the first marriage that was not based on some modern ideal of romantic love. But it honestly sounds like a better marriage than a lot of them that are supposed to be based on romantic love. I suggest you start with that premise in remaking your view of your marriage and your relationship to the mother of your child.

best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 5:45 PM on September 22, 2014 [44 favorites]

Study her, and learn how to make her happy in little ways, then bigger ways. It sounds like it will be a little bit of a challenge for you, but if you're really good with people you might be able to figure something out.

Maybe you can host some kind of group regularly that she'll connect with. Do you know any other men in marriages like yours? Can you find one or two, whom you can then gauge for trustworthiness? It might take some months to set up safely, but maybe she could connect with a similar spouse.

Finding common interests with her, or even finding something she can be passionate about alone, also sounds like a real challenge. Maybe you all need to take a trip ... that she plans. If she hates travel (wouldn't be surprised if she did), maybe she'd enjoy designing and building a room on your house that could be just her domain, a place that she ultimately controls.

Do you both take an equal interest in your child? That could be a very significant shared project.

Anyway, if you make her happiness a personal challenge and project, and approach it with optimism and patience (I realize you've probably tried something like this already), you'll likely become more interested.
posted by amtho at 5:46 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

So I'm in a typical hetero love/sex-based relationship, and I've realized that oh boy do relationships take WORK. One thing that helps me is to evaluate if something is important to the relationship. For example, I can be sort of a homebody and not want to go out and do things. But my partner wants to go out and be social. So often I decide that it's more important for him/the relationship that I go out than I stay in. I don't do it all the time but I try because it means a lot to him.
posted by radioamy at 5:47 PM on September 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

Despite what people seem to think, rarely arguing is not really a good thing necessarily. In addition to getting better acquainted with your wife, let yourselves have more arguments. I'm not saying to pick fights, but if something irks you, let her know, and tell her to do the same. It's one way of getting closer to someone, really. Just be sure to listen, and don't interrupt.
posted by Koko at 5:56 PM on September 22, 2014

Are you committed to staying in the home with your wife and helping to raise your son? If so, I think you need to do two things:

1. Sit down with your wife and lay this out to her (um, maybe not saying you don't like her but do express that you don't know how to relate to her and feel like you have little in common). See if you can come up with some mutual interests. Start small. Maybe once per week you go on a "date" doing some activity that you're both interested in trying. Try cooking dinners together another night each week. Develop a friendship. You don't have to cuddle on the couch - friends don't always do that! But you should enjoy spending some time with each other if you want to make it alive.

2. As your son gets older, stay an active participant in his life and help him understand that there are all kinds of relationships and teach him about love. There are plenty of kids who grew up with parents who weren't in love and they managed to scrape by without any direction - your kid has a chance given that you WANT him to have some direction.
posted by joan_holloway at 5:56 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Couple comments removed. If you cannot be constructive, do not answer.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:01 PM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have a close friend who was raised, in one house, by parents who had divorced when she was an infant. It was a convenience marriage in the first place (green card) and it disintegrated fairly quickly, but both parents had strong feeling about raising her in a two-parent household so they stayed.

Her parents were civil and friendly and by all accounts they had a warm level of intimacy that you would expect from relatives who live together. It was not romantic, but they were family.

I think that the lie, that you're in a love-marriage, is putting undue strain on what could be a positive relationship if not for those high expectations. Your son only needs age appropriate details, but I think that growing up with knowledge about the true nature of your relationship (mom and dad are friends, mom and dad love you very much) will help everyone significantly. I would follow the model that is recommended now for children who are adopted where you tell them early and often so it's never perceived as a secret.
posted by telegraph at 6:02 PM on September 22, 2014 [12 favorites]

Do 3 kind things for this woman every day for a year.

Come back and let us know how you feel once you put in the work.
posted by bfranklin at 6:15 PM on September 22, 2014 [25 favorites]

I think this is totally salvageable, and I admire you both for being committed to your son in the ways that you are.

One thing you could do that might be beneficial all around would be to make a point to compliment your wife both directly and indirectly at least once a day or a few times a week. You can also express gratitude to her, and you can express gratitude for her to your son, which would model some pretty nice behavior for him in the long run. Doing this genuinely and authentically is a great way to tap into the things you admire and appreciate about your partner. Stuff like, "We are so lucky to have Mommy. She takes such good care of us. Let's do something extra nice for her today. How should we say thank you to her for all that she does?" is just awesome and makes a big difference both in the short and long term. And you are lucky to have her, just as she is you, and your son is lucky to have both of you.

But do start considering how you're going to talk to your kid about this, and do that considering with your wife. Your son will not be worse off knowing that there are many types of families, and that yours is a happy one regardless of what might be considered "standard".
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:16 PM on September 22, 2014 [9 favorites]

Wow, I wouldn't tell your son if you live someplace where being gay is illegal. I've been on the receiving end of TMI from small children who cheerfully repeat everything their parents said the night before.

If your son is over 12 then maybe, ok, but I wouldn't otherwise.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:21 PM on September 22, 2014 [13 favorites]

More children. Give you both something to talk about. Friendship takes effort which she doesn't seem to warrant from your perspective. So become a parent, and the more kids you enfold the happier you will become. This can be natural born or adopted children, it doesn't matter, you will become good at it because it matters. Your private life outside the home is yours. Make some time for that, as well. Sleep, who needs it.
posted by ptm at 6:39 PM on September 22, 2014

You work on finding common ground with your wife for your child. Children learn about what relationships are supposed to be like first and foremost from their parents. As a product of a loveless/likeless marriage, I can tell you I have a very warped and pessimistic view of relationships from watching my parents interact for over 40 years. I think if you can demonstrate mutual respect, understanding, and joy between you and your wife (none of which requires romantic love) it would go a long way to not damaging your child emotionally. It troubles me that you state "I don't like women" and I hope that you meant that only in terms of sexual attraction and not your general feelings about women. Because you are teaching your son about that by example too.
posted by cecic at 7:11 PM on September 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

It's unreasonable to expect that you're going to start loving your wife in a sexual/physical way, but do you like her?

I can definitely see a situation like yours working out if the two partners are close friends who enjoy each other's company and have a strong emotional bond as individuals. But right now it sounds like you guys are dysfunctional even on the level of roommates, let alone family.

You say you got together because she was a friend who wanted to settle down and start a family. How did you guys meet? What do you have in common in the most basic sense? Surely at some point you must have liked spending time together. Can you find that common ground again?

Also, I strongly feel that growing up in a nontraditional family like this should be something your son is aware of throughout his life rather than something that is announced to him at 18. That perspective comes from living in the US, where being gay can be socially unacceptable but is not illegal, and alternative families like yours are very common. I also feel like, if you and your wife can't rekindle whatever closeness you once had, there is no harm in divorce.
posted by Sara C. at 7:21 PM on September 22, 2014

First, I want to validate your feelings of frustration and loneliness: I hear so much desperation and sadness in your message, even though it was expressed in a very even-keeled way. I actually think there is a lot of hope in your situation and starting to create that plan of action with your wife now. I think it's hard for many Americans and citizens of countries that are pretty gay-friendly (even if there's still far to go!) to imagine what your situation is like, living in a country where being gay is punishable by death. Please do not let those of us living in such different places make you feel judged or wrong for having gotten married, and I say this as a queer person myself. I have a friend in a situation similar to yours and I've learned a lot from her, such as how much pressure she gets from LGBT people from more liberal, privileged (and often white) backgrounds to live life the way they feel is best, i.e. being out even if it means losing family connections, etc. (I say this as someone who can be impatient this way myself, not just to point fingers at others. :-) I want people to feel free and safe to be themselves and live honest lives but know that's a luxury many don't have and it's important to do what it takes to get by. I mean, we all compromise one way or another in our lives and that's OK as long as we're honest and fair to those who really matter. Many people may disagree with me here and that's OK but I want to say this to you.

Second, I want to recognize your worries that your child would somehow grow up lacking since his parents were not in a romantic relationship but I would like to counter that. If you two are respectful and caring of each other and affectionate towards your child, I think you're totally fine. The question is just how to express this. I'm having trouble phrasing them but have a few more thoughts on how in some ways you're allowing heteronormativity to excuse you from having a warm partnership. (Eek, I gotta try to explain this better!) It's understandable but not an excuse; even romantically-involved heterosexual partners have different interests, personalities, etc. but still can find a way to make it work. (And many of those relationships become less romantic or even completely non-sexual over time but the shared goals remain.) It could be a friendship that you and your wife forge or, as flimflam suggested, perhaps you could love each other as siblings do. (I really like that approach because siblings, as much as you can love them, can be annoying but compromise is a must since it's generally harder to distance oneself from family than friends.)

Third, I'd talk this over with your wife and see what she wants and expects and hopes for. There are big issues to work out but then also little things you two can do like figure out five family activities to do together each week, like three meals, one outing, and another activity. Times where you give it your all and care about your child and wife as best you can (because clearly you do!) I teach public school and can tell you that most families do NOT eat meals together anymore and they're still close families: they just bond in different ways.

I'd also look into going on a platonic date or two a week with your wife: activities you both enjoy and can bond over. I'd hope that you'd feel more OK about otherwise having different lives. I hear you that it's frustrating how your life doesn't go out much but I can imagine that it could be hard for her to go out in a country as conservative as you mention. Perhaps you can help her find one activity or even an online group where she feels at home: again, technically it's not your responsibility and I know you're trying but I think that kind of support is also a big part of partnerships.

Good luck getting started with all of this!
posted by smorgasbord at 7:31 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think what I was trying to say above per the heteronormativity as an excuse is like this: you are defining a good parenting partnership as being grounded in a romantic relationship. But because you two don't have -- and have never had -- a romantic relationship, you've excused yourself from doing the heavy lifting necessary for any and ALL partnerships. SO, while you're "excused" from having a romantic relationship with your spouse, you're NOT excused from having a caring, committed platonic partnership with her. What you're feeling right now is the clear and direct result of your not having put the necessary work into such a caring, committed partnership. You and your wife can totally have one but it will take hard work from the both of you, especially you since you are unhappy with the current status. How does she feel?

Honestly, it sounds like she's trying to at least go through the motions by helping you host the parties even though she's more introverted as well as pretty darn supportive of your having boyfriends. She sounds like a pretty awesome wife and great partner to you as well as loving mom to your son, as you've said yourself. She's allowing/enabling you to live the life YOU want without asking for much in return, especially since it sounds like you're giving all of your emotional energy to others like your son and romantic/sexual partners and not to her. I am positive that you bring a lot of good things to the table but there are few people who would do that for another person the way she is for you. I'd start by asking yourself -- and her -- what are some things you can do to support HER emotional and social life, like bfranklin said. I'd also look into connecting with other people in similar parenting situations to strategize, to see how they maintain a respectful and caring relationship with their non-romantic/sexual parenting partner. Ideally, people in-country would be best but those all over surely have advice that would apply.
posted by smorgasbord at 8:25 PM on September 22, 2014 [33 favorites]

Ok, I am going be tough.

Hi MeFites, I post this anonymously because I don’t want readers to infer anything from my previous posts.

I am left wondering what you don't want us to know. Tell us. You didn't have to give a reason. So I want to make sure I have everything I know.

Second, you say you are afraid your kid is noticing that his parents are not mates. The problem is that he can tell there's something not like his friend's parents. The kid knows. So give him some explanation. It can be a big gloss of the situation, but he has to be told something if he asks.

Third: is your wife happy? Is this a healthy situation for her? Could she find love?

It might be good for her. I'm certain your son would like to see his mom's face lit with that.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:47 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

On the secrecy thing:
Definitely explain to your son, in age appropriate ways.

E.g. Why did Mommy and Daddy get married?
Because we wanted to have a child, very, very much.
People get married for different reasons - some people fall in love, some people have their families pick someone they think would make a good husband/wife, and we got married because we wanted to have kids, and now we do! We have you!

That is enough for now.

When he's a bit older, and if he asks about love, explain that some people fall in love, and mention that sometimes people fall in love with with same gender, but that it's illegal where you are.
Just be very matter of fact about it - different things are illegal in different countries. Sometimes that's not always right. Kids pick up from an early age that the world is a complicated place. I'm sure there will be other things that are illegal in your country, that are legal in other places, which you can also give as examples. I mean, 'Police sometimes do bad things' is a conversation many kids have very, very young.

He WILL figure it out before he is 18, so the best job you can do as a parent, is make it very clear that you have not lied to him, so make sure he always knows that his parents got married in order to have a family, not for any other reason. You also want him to know enough about the situation of gay people in your country for him to understand why someone wouldn't talk about that, so that it's not a shock when you either tell him, or he figures it out himself.

With your wife - I think you are a bit hung up about what things you do with your partner because she's your wife, and what things you don't do because you are gay. If she was a room mate/house mate, you'd be very happy with her, right?
I suggest - support her. Just make a point of trying to make her life better. You'd be surprised at how much warmer that can make you feel about someone. You don't have to have things in common, other than your child, to want her to be happy and succeed in life.
If you are bored, get more hobbies.
Also - ask her if she wants a hug sometimes. It sounds like you have boyfriends, but she doesn't. It's ok to give her a hug as a friend.
posted by Elysum at 10:23 PM on September 22, 2014 [15 favorites]

Maybe you and your wife need a vacation. Is there any overlap in preferred destinations? Traveling brings everyone together!
posted by oceanjesse at 5:17 AM on September 23, 2014

I just want to second the "not arguing doesn't mean things are OK" thing. I've been in bad relationships where we never argued and our main problem was the one that you seem to be having now - a complete lack of connection and communication. We didn't fight because we didn't ever communicate about anything "big" and touchy that might set one off. Which meant most big issues between us never got resolved and we just seethed about it until it blew up the whole thing.

Have you talked to her at all about your concerns? She may worry just as much as you do that your son isn't really getting a good relationship modeled to him. From there you might be able to work out some arrangement that creates a compromise. Maybe you won't ever be the typical romantic couple, but you can still be affectionate and loving people who share with each other. Which is really what children need to see more than some Hollywood romance stuff.

I will say that personally I think divorce might really be the best option here. If you're living somewhere in the U.S. (just my own country-centric guess here) even if there are still old laws on the books about homosexuality being illegal they're pretty much never enforced anymore. So more than likely your biggest problem would be social stigma/gossip rather than getting thrown in jail. Which might end up being an issue anyway if word ever slips that this is a lavendar marriage (and honestly it probably will someday).
posted by Kimmalah at 5:26 AM on September 23, 2014

If you're in the US, even if there are old laws on the books against homosexuality, they can't be enforced. The Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003 invalidated those laws.
posted by Anne Neville at 6:33 AM on September 23, 2014

The romantic/sexual love is off the table, obviously. Thats ok. You both signed up for that. But some sort of love for her, as a person, as the mother of your son, as someone who made some unusual sacrifices... that is whats missing here. In fact, your 'dislike of women (who married me for a kid)' seems to be dipping into disdain. And contempt is the fastest thing to kill a marriage, romantic or domestic.

Where is the common ground you two can meet in the middle? It cant be your son. You both love him and want to be good parents, but that is NOT about YOUR WIFE and YOU. She's obviously got some interesting qualities to be in this relationship. Shes got stuff worthy of admiration, and perhaps, even love. If you absolutely can't find some way to get this boredom/disdain out of the way, you are modeling way worse than an asexual marriage. You sound pretty checked out already.... and if you can't stand this woman, even as a roommate/friend, the question you have to answer is... why not? And what are you going to do about it?
posted by Jacen at 6:35 AM on September 23, 2014

Dear OP - I am an asexual woman married to a gay man. We married for other reasons than sexual intimacy, obviously, but we are best friends. We have been married for 15 years. My husband has relationships with other men. That is not a problem for me and we have always been honest about our needs. My husband considers me his primary partner though and he treats me as such.

If you plan on staying in this marriage, you might want to start talking to her honestly and sharing some of your wishes, some of your dreams for the future and listening to some of hers. If she is hoping for a sexual partner, obviously that is not going to happen, but if she is looking to be friends with the man she lives with, there is no reason she shouldn't have this. You have things in common. You want to be good parents. You have dreams and goals. Ask yourself this, do you want to be a good husband? If you do, then there are things you definitely need to change about the way you are behaving with her.

I am open to PM if you have questions you don't want to ask on the green.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:42 AM on September 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

Was this whole thing arranged by your families? Everything in your post is so passive and you seem to have such deep, overwhelming contempt for your wife that I can't wrap my head around the marriage being your idea. And yet you say "she accepted to marry" you, so it wasn't HER idea either.

If both of you are basically stuck in an awful situation with people you fundamentally dislike, and it wasn't either of your choices, frankly your child would be infinitely better off with divorced parents. But if divorce is off the table, you're going to have try to find some empathy for your wife. It's not your wife's fault you live in a conservative country that wants you dead or imprisoned, after all.

Of course she's quiet; she has given up (possibly not by choice) all hope of a romantic, supportive marriage. She has resigned herself to a sexless, loveless existence so that she can have a child. And now she finds that she has not only give up sex and love, but also even the barest hint of friendship or companionship. Her husband takes lovers and throws parties and lives around her, and her friends might even know about the lovers and pity her. And if they don't, who can she even talk to about it, if revealing the truth about her life could land you in jail and destroy the only things she has--stability and a father for her child?

You, on the other hand, have literally almost everything you could want: respectability, a large group of friends, sex, love, a child. But you're disdainful of her and I think it's at least partly because she's a constant reminder that you're forced to live a lie.

I think if you want to find happiness in this marriage, that's where you have to start working: you have to start chipping away at that resentment, and see the person that your wife is, and start empathizing with her as someone who's just as trapped as you are, and not just some vague boring symbol of the oppression your society--not your wife--created.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:03 AM on September 23, 2014 [16 favorites]

I will add that my parents were both heterosexual and had three kids together "the old fashioned way," yet were not demonstrative in public (something my mother complained about a bit, but not real bitterly, calling him a "touch me not"), and mostly had separate friends.

So I kind of feel like you are reading in weird problems that aren't really there or perhaps exaggerating them based on knowing the whys and wherefores. The public face your marriage presents does not sound to me like it is necessarily radically different from the public face of a lot of heterosexual marriages. My parents seemed a bit like Archie and Edith on "All in the Family" and I didn't in any way think they were weird or not intimate or something. I thought they had a really normal heterosexual marriage which largely matched stereotypical married couples portrayed in popular media of the time. Your wife knows a very dangerous secret of yours -- that you are gay -- and keeps your secret (which might be part of why she is so quiet). This is another kind of intimacy and another foundation for trust. Sex is not the be all and end all of trust and intimacy.

And, frankly, from what I have read (and seen), a lot of heterosexual relationships really do not treat the wife/woman all that well. I don't just mean generally. I mean it really isn't terribly uncommon for heterosexual men to treat sex as something that happens in order to meet their own needs, with relatively little regard for what the woman needs sexually. Not all men are like that, but it is common enough that I do not think it is unreasonable for a woman to feel that being married to a homosexual man who treats her decently is a better deal than being married to a heterosexual man who is a jerk and ALSO demands she service him in bed. Just because a man and a woman engage in sexual activities together does not automatically mean she is getting her sexual needs met by him. In some marriages, servicing the husband in bed is just one more icky chore for her to do, on top of the housework.

I have read a lot of books and magazine articles over the years about relationships and married couples and the like. Just like you present one face to the world -- married man, father of a child -- while hiding another -- that you are gay -- so do a great many other people. I have read that bisexual men sometimes marry a woman and strike a deal with her that allows them to have boyfriends on the side so long as it does not interfere with their lives. This is a huge secret and not something they tell the world at large. It is not terribly different from your situation, even though you are not sexually intimate with your wife.

FWIW: Lots and lots of heterosexual men seem to be bored to tears by their wife. So, really, that's a very normal thing in marriage. I am telling you that to say it isn't because you are gay -- what you feel is fairly common in marriage and you should view your boredom as NORMAL, in some sense, and not damning evidence related to your sexual orientation. During my divorce, I had a relationship to a man who had been married a long time and was habitually unfaithful to his wife. One of his big complaints was that his wife was boring. I once attempted to tell him that I thought she was probably boring to him because she was his wife, but I was unable to figure out how to express myself adequately on the topic. I suspect my own husband also found me "boring" while other men thought I was exciting and interesting and were constantly hitting on me. So I kind of think this is situational and not really "her" per se.

But the main thing I want you to hear is that men often find their own wives boring and this is likely unrelated to your sexual orientation. (My suspicion is that when a woman has children and is thus financially dependent upon her spouse for not only her own survival but also her children's welfare, she does all she can to be inoffensive to her husband. And this makes her "boring." This can be true even if she has a job. Men tend to make more than women and even if a woman makes good money, being a single parent is generally a hard life.)
posted by Michele in California at 9:51 AM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

It seems to me that if you are going to enjoy living with this person, you need to work on developing a relationship on some level. Maybe think of as developing a good relationship with a relative like a sister, aunt, or cousin, or just a good friend you live with?

Along those lines, a common Ask MeFi recommendation is John Gottman. He spends a lot of time analyzing and working to change the conversations and other interactions couples have - decent brief summary here. The basic idea is that if you have a continual series of negative interactions with your partner, it sends both of your moods into a negative spiral and the relationship becomes hard to sustain. To turn that around, you need to have four or five positive interactions for every negative one.

A positive interaction can be as simple as thanking someone for making a meal, saying you appreciate the way the person cares for the child, or telling the person you love him/her (or if you don't, that you like him/her, appreciate him/her, like or appreciate something specific about him/her, etc).

The point is, this gives you a very simple thing to work towards, that very positively affects your relationship--just having more positive interactions and conversations with the person and fewer negative ones. This affects your mood and attitude towards the other person, and their mood and attitude towards you.

MeFi recommendation here and some of Gottman's books here.

His books are somewhat marriage/couples focused but the principles strike me as being equally applicable to any serious relationship where you are creating a household together.
posted by flug at 9:54 AM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I really feel for your wife. It sounds like her life is lonely, that she made a difficult but brave choice in marrying you in order to have a child, and that she has no one she can confide in.

Perhaps she seems boring to you because she thinks that any confidences or openness about herself would be unwelcome. It sounds like she tries hard to meet your stated expectations (good mother, good if quiet hostess) and then otherwise to avoid offending you. Where you say "boring", I hear "frightened" -- frightened because she needs to maintain a household with someone who does not love, like, or respect her.

You ask how to be less bored, and like many of the other posters I think the answer is to become at least friends with your wife. To do this you'd have to find out more about how she thinks and feels, to show and feel respect for her, and especially to let her know that she can trust you.
posted by shattersock at 10:12 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

While I understand that you feel frustrated and sad, I strongly agree with the commenters who are feeling sad for your wife. You don't seem to voice very much appreciation of what she does or who she is. Simply because you will never love her sexually and romantically, does not mean that you cannot love her as a friend and as a life partner, and the fact that you don't say anything about that makes me wonder if you (consciously or unconsciously) look down on women or consider their desires and inner lives to be less real and valid than yours. I think you should consider rephrasing your question this way: "How can I help my wife enjoy our lavender marriage?"

I also think you might be able to benefit from reading about famous marriages like yours (here's just one example I Googled just now), and seeing their marriages as models of the friendship and partnership you should seek to foster in your own.
posted by honey wheat at 10:47 AM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

She is a wonderful parent and we both love our son. How do I make myself being less bored by the situation?

Right now you are focusing on things you don't like about your life.

You need to focus on things you are grateful for in your life. Focus on what you can appreciate about your situation.

Try keeping a gratitude journal.

If you are having trouble getting started some other commenters have pointed out a few things above.
posted by yohko at 11:22 AM on September 23, 2014

I've continued thinking about this throughout the day. Here are some of the things my gay husband and I do together.

Go motorcycle riding in the mountains.
Watch movies
Play with our dog.
Laugh at our dog.
Talk about how painful it is to have aging parents with Alzheimer's
Drink coffee and watch squirrels on the lawn
Clean the house
Water the garden
Go to Disneyland
Have dinner together
Have dinner with friends
Have breakfast together
Work on Hallowe'en props
Throw annual Hallowe'en parties
Talk about friends.
Do crosswords.

None of these are sexual and none of them are affected by our sexuality. They are all because we like each other as human beings and enjoy spending time together. Some of them are boring, but boring is part of married life. Some of them are lots of fun and we relish those times. Again, I've got to say, it's all about communication. If you're not talking to her about the stuff that matters, it's not going to be pretty.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:39 AM on September 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Encourage your wife to have lovers (I am assuming that she doesn't already). If she were having more fun in life I imagine she would be less boring to you. I'm not liking how most of the proferred solutions here involve giving her more of yourself. Who says she wants more of you?

I don't know what could be more fun than lovers, but if she is not interested in that, help/encourage her to pursue things she is interested in and passionate about. You seem to know that you are free. Does she?
posted by kitcat at 2:54 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

To clarify the above, to solve your boredom problem, I am 100% in agreement that you need to be friends with your wife. You see her world as being very small. To enjoy her more as a friend, help her expand it. Be co-conspirators in getting what you want out of life. It can be devious and wonderful.
posted by kitcat at 3:01 PM on September 23, 2014

Well, the problem with encouraging her to have lovers is a) what if she gets pregnant? (please note this is a concern a homosexual male does not have when he seeks out a male lover) b) what if her new lover decides he wants her for himself? c) a conservative culture that frowns on homosexuality tends to also frown heavily on female infidelity (while sort of doing the wink wink, nod nod for male infidelity -- "men have needs" and all that) and d) various typical social dynamics mean that when a husband or other man in a woman's life "encourages" her to have lovers, it is usually experienced as whoring her out rather than setting her free. It usually is not done in a manner of "oh, go do as YOU please." I tends to come across more as "this is one more thing I am imposing on you."

So I suggest the OP tread very, very lightly should that idea seem useful and relevant to his situation. (Yes, I realize that in an ideal world...etc....this is NOT an ideal world we are talking about.)

Though, on preview, I think the general sentiment in the clarification has merit, I am skeptical about specifically encouraging the wife to take a lover.
posted by Michele in California at 3:06 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe the lovers suggestions was naive and this may be as well, but I imagine there must be other couples who live in this kind of secret arrangement? If you live in a larger city? If they could be found, it might be possible to befriend them so that your wife has another woman to talk to. She probably doesn't have many friends simply because she can't confide in other women. She might find it hard to relate to them and 'pass' as a normal wife and mother. And if they were to suspect something, that could be dangerous for you both, so she doesn't try.
posted by kitcat at 3:29 PM on September 23, 2014

I grew up in a home in which my parents barely tolerated each other. They didn't fight - they just took out their vitriol and bitterness on us. My sister and I used to pray that they'd get divorced just so we could breathe air that wasn't tainted with contempt and hate.

So - what on earth is possessing you two to stay together? You need to end this whole farce now - before your son is further damaged by it - he's too young to understand the "whys" but he sure as heck understands the tension, deep in his heart and at the gut level also.

You each deserve a relationship with love and friendship and humor - and I just don't think you can get there from here. It's not as much a question of your "mindset" as it is what's in your heart, and - is there anything in your heart that would warm to your wife if you gave it all you have? She's not coming up to your expectations, meeting your needs, being all that she needs to be to keep you happy. Baloney. You're the gay man here - the one dishonestly using the marriage - and using another human being - as a cover for yourself. How is it that you can so smoothly blame your wife?

When I was younger I had a couple of gay men friends whom I absolutely adored being with because they were so much fun and I didn't need to worry about the dating game business with either of them. Sophie1 gives some examples of how being a "mixed" couple isn't the problem - the problem is your resentment for your own situation being directed smack onto your wife like it's all her fault.

If your culture demands that you remain married, then it's the culture you need to blame, not your wife, who's putting up with you because she probably has no choice - again, culture-wise. If the culture has nothing to do with it - for everyone's sake, separate, divorce and move on. Find someone to love and let her do the same. Your son will be much healthier and happier dealing with things as they are as opposed to dealing with shadows and lies and barely suppressed rage.
posted by aryma at 5:44 PM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention, yall need to be encouraging and reassuring your son CONSTANTLY that yall love him and he is ok. He is probably internalizing that something is wrong, and as kids are wont to do, likely feels somehow that is involved him.
posted by Jacen at 7:40 PM on September 23, 2014

You did not mention why you married the woman who is now the mother of your child. There must have been serious reasons. Is this a way for you to survive as a gay man in your country? Why did she agree? She must have seen something valuable in your marriage. Even if you do not cuddle and have no intimacy, you can try to renew the mutual understanding you had when you entered this agreement. Perhaps if you talk honestly with your wife, you may find a way to support each other, while accepting your mutual limitations. You can approach the task of rearing your son as a project on which you and your wife work together. If this was your work and she was your coworker, you would have to find a way to communicate and collaborate.
posted by Federica at 6:29 PM on September 28, 2014

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