Sunday, July 31, 2016

Bi-fidelity: email from a guy who's hiding something from his wife

At the end of last month, a reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I enjoy your writing and powers of analysis and thought it would be therapeutic to write for your comments and comments from your readers.

I've been happily married to my wife for over 30 years. We have children. We have enjoyable sex, although I now need the help of Viagra. Only in the last few years, I've come to enjoy gay male internet porn. I have indulged in mild activities, as you call them, in the sauna at my gym. I've even made a few forays to a bathhouse, where I've topped a few men with gusto. Terrified of STDs, I've never given or received oral sex, because it seems this just isn't done with condoms. Nor have I bottomed for anyone. But I find myself craving these experiences, toying with hookups but always canceling them, and posing on some gay social chat sites as quite the virtual rake.

I don't have the nerve to confess these bi cravings and escapades to my wife. The last thing I want is to lose my marriage and hurt my family by letting this side of me further out of the closet. I just wish I could have it both ways, like an old fashioned Parisian gent, married, but with tacit permission to see (not mistresses or prostitutes) but hunky studs for a good time now and then. Do I just forbear until my sex drive wanes altogether? Indulge in down low forays? Gamble on total honesty? What's a bi guy to do?

It was a couple of days before I saw the email, but as soon as I saw it I sent him a quick reply to say that I thought there were quite a few guys like him around. I also asked him if there was anything that he wanted to add, and within a day he'd sent me a two line email in which he simply said:

I do find the diet of monogamous sex hard to adhere to. But is loosening my self restraint wise, when, all things considered, I have so much to lose?

Initially this reader's story reminded me about the married guy with some gay characteristics who emailed me three years ago. However, although this reader and that guy have both had happy marriages, the reader is going in the opposite direction to the guy from three years ago. So perhaps they don't have much in common after all.

I've been thinking about this guy's situation for a while now, and the thing that I find hard to gauge is the relative strength of his heterosexuality vs his homosexuality. It seems to be that his homosexual side must be at least as strong as his heterosexual side, otherwise I doubt that he'd have felt the need to email me. If his heterosexuality:homosexuality ratio is 50%:50% then he can probably just indulge in occasional clandestine activities with other guys on the side. But if it's more like 5%:95%, or moving to be that way over time, then I'm not sure that strategy would work.

One thing that might tell the guy about the relative strength of his heterosexuality versus his homosexuality is the Viagra that he uses. Does he need Viagra to get an erection when he's watching gay porn or when actually meeting another guy? If the excitement of gay encounters is significantly greater than the excitement of sex with his wife, then perhaps he doesn't need Viagra for gay activities, which would suggest that this homosexuality is a lot stronger than his heterosexuality at the moment. Even it that's true it might still just be a phase that he's going through, like it was for the married guy who emailed me three years ago.

Depending on how much time he spends pursuing his hidden gay life, it's possible that his wife already suspects that something isn't quite right. Over time if he continues to have a lot of secret gay encounters, it way well have a corrosive effect on his relationship anyway, because it's almost impossible to hide absolutely all aspects of this kind of thing. So it could be a mistake to think that the current situation can continue forever.

In this situation a big concern is the reader's wife. A terrible outcome would be if the reader were to contract an STD and pass it on to her. Nonetheless it sounds like his fear of STDs is overdone, because condoms should protect against the worst ones, in particular HIV. Also, I've never heard of anyone catching anything nasty from receiving oral sex.

The only guy that I have activities with at the moment is my boyfriend, but when I used to meet other guys, I always used to ask them if they had any STDs as well as taking all possible precautions such as using condoms. Of course it's true that guys can lie, but a lot of people are honest so asking the question does reduce risk. I never proceeded to do anything with someone when I didn't get a convincing answer about STDs, and I would encourage the reader to pursue a similar strategy.

In all walks of life, new experiences are more exciting than well known ones. Perhaps the most important question for the reader is whether he still enjoys repeating the gay activities that he's already had, or whether it's just the possibility of new experiences that excite him. If it's mostly the new experiences then once he's done everything once, perhaps his need for gay activities will subside. Another thought is the fact that these activites are conducted in secret also makes them more exciting.

In any case, the reader's email suggests an irresitible urge to try the things that he hasn't done yet. It seems to me that he should at least find a way to try bottoming with a condom, and to receive oral sex, before making any decision about being more honest with his family.

It's impossible to give the reader any firm advice because there are so many things to consider, and so many things that are unknown. Nonetheless, I've tried to say some useful things, which will hopefully give the reader some things to think about. Do any other readers have anything to add?