I turn 46 in a few days. It’s not a milestone birthday, but it is something, I suppose.
I’m under a lot of pressure to keep after my business, and keep growing it as much as possible, and the daily work is starting to really pick up in speed. If you’d asked me last year at this time, I’d have told you I was VERY unsure about the success of my coaching, and would be under so much stress and pressure from my public transit gig that I’d probably have just slugged some coffee, shot you a dirty look, and headed out the door.
This year, in this pre-birthday space in time, I’m a much different person. I have a beautiful Boy in my bed. I have a burbling and flowing business that, while it’s a bit of a hustle, brings me utter joy the more I engage with it. I have my dog, faithful and steadfast. I have simplified my life by simply saying No and meaning it when I had to.
Things are better.
Things are vastly different from where I thought I’d be
When I started this site, I was attempting to play to my darker side. The sexy, slutty, experiment-in-body-positivity side that I had never nurtured before. I’d never felt so strong, so confident in my personhood. Today, that feeling has simmered into a fine, rich stew of life lessons and emotions. Having the support of the Boy, who sees me as a magical creature, beautiful in nearly every way, and who constantly has me on my heels, questioning every bit of self-doubt that still lingers in my body, has been transformative.
I have learned that I am not meant to manage everything, and that it’s okay to be humble and ask for help and forgiveness at times. I have an inner strength that has been so dormant and yet so persistent my whole life, and through my connection to him, and to the world around me, I’m able to foster more growth and compassion than ever before. When I stop putting in so much frustrated effort towards things that aren’t in my control or purview, I’m able to fully breathe and be myself, for the first time in my whole-ass life.
I turn 46, which is too damn close to 50 for my liking, but it also represents a beautiful moment to stop, take in the view, and spot the peaks and valleys I’ve already traversed.
I really am happy with the view from this vantage point.
This entire summer has been a journey through territory I’ve never traversed before. Quitting my steady, stable, union job back on June 1 was the first step into a whole new world for me. Suddenly, I found myself facing down the world and future without a guaranteed income, or plan for what to do after six months was up.
I also found myself at a massive crossroad with my relationships to others, especially with my former husband. I knew change needed to happen, and that I needed to face down something that had been nagging at me for a long time.
In the act of clearing the decks, in taking stock and making fundamental changes to my life in order to be a healthier, happier me, I stumbled, kind of haphazardly, into a deeper relationship. David, who returned to the house, and my life, all around the time that I was quitting my job and my marriage, has been by my side through this summer of realization and recovery, and continues to be an element of my life that I can’t quite put my finger on. Something there, here, between us, feels authentic in a way I haven’t fully realized or wrapped my arms around. I’m getting there.
On top of all of this, there’s my coaching. I’ve had a summer of taking on a few clients at a health club I started working at back at the end of May. It’s been some time getting my feet under me there, figuring out how to best find my place in the community there, and what skills and abilities to bring to the table while I’ve got my uniform on and I’m working with clients. It’s still all a little wobbly, but with each passing week, I’m meeting new and renewing clients there, and feeling much more confident in what I’m doing. I will be teaching a class there, later this fall, which will be for people who are nervous about weight lifting, and how to lift safely and with confidence.
Today, I’m coming up with a new pitch to gain clients on one of the coaching platforms I’m part of. I’m retooling my own approach (digitally) to ensure that the kinds of clients I’m getting are the kinds of clients I want – ready and willing to make changes, trust in the process, and let me hold them accountable. I’m also coming to terms with the fact that the money I had set aside to ride on while I got my wind in my sails is just about gone.
Soon, in the next thirty days or so, I’m going to be at another crossroads.
Will I be able to afford to continue on as a coach, full time, doing the thing that has brought me utter joy and a feeling of purpose unlike any other profession I’ve been a part of? Or will I need to sure myself up with a regular (albeit part time) job where I’m on someone else’s calendar and clock?
The fact is, I don’t know.
I don’t know if I’ll make it, but I do know that I’m trying.
I *do* know that I’m just going to have to give up and let the Universe guide me forward. Already, just this week, I’ve identified some of the barriers that stand between me and doing this sustainably and for the rest of my days, and it’s my own self-confidence in what and who I am.
The rest of Summer, and on into early Fall, and right up to my Birthday, this is my focus. Finding my self-confidence again, and getting myself to a place where I don’t need to rely on David, or anyone, to keep my head afloat and in the groove I’m in.
I bought expensive camping and show tickets for my favorite musical festival/gathering experience. It’s been the case that I’ve done this for the last five years of my life, and will hopefully be continuing to do so.
I have yet to regret this decision. Every time is, well, Above & Beyond.
Above & Beyond Group Therapy Weekender at the Gorge Amphitheater has been, and continues to be, a transformative experience of destination, magic, music, community, and higher-vibrations of humanity, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Each time I’ve gone to this event, my mind expands, my heart grows larger, and my appreciation for the life I’m living grows exponentially deeper.
This last weekend was no exception.
It was also the last big event weekend I would be spending with my now-ex-husband. It was also the first big event weekend I would be spending with my-now-present boyfriend. While it was a little weird to be sharing space with both elements of my life, then and now, it worked seamlessly. Ray ended up having a really good time, David and I grew so much closer and connected. The music and vibes and crowds all wove together to make it a peaceful, enjoyable transition between these parts of my life, and it took my breath away each time I thought about it.
I’m going to be enjoying the come-down from this experience for days on end, recognizing that this means my new life is starting, and that I can and will make progress and changes that lead me to an even more authentic life, boldly loving and dancing all the way along the path.
Every year since 2010, I’ve had a cold dead rock of emotion inside me on Independence Day.
It was the day my first husband ended my first marriage. It was under the banner of fireworks and pyrotechnics on the banks of the Charles River in Boston, the most Freedom Day place in America on the most Freedom Day of the year.
I was given my freedom, indeed, but felt the cage of all of those demons, that I’d entrusted my marriage to keep me safe from, open wide, and start chewing on me again.
I hadn’t faced down my darkened childhood. I hadn’t take steps to come to terms with my busted first relationship, that had been full of violence and toxicity. I hadn’t even really faced down my own self-destructive nature around food and exercise. Instead, I’d put all of my focus into my marriage, and into being someone’s something, rather than being my anything, at all.
And I started running. For my life.
First, it was running back to Maine, tail between my legs. Then it was actual running – ten miles every other day or so. Then it was to the bar, and drowning out my anxious self, slipping into that time and space that has no feeling and all physicality. Then, it was running on the open road in my car, clear to Denver. I barely paused there, and found myself doing the same sort of running, only this time at altitude – where the air is thin and suffocating all at once.
I finally ran to Portland, and it’s been here where I’ve come to rest. Nearly ten years with Ray meant slowing down, taking stock, and finally, for the first time, pivoting to face the things I could not, physically or emotionally run away from any longer. Hitting forty years of age was the fulcrum point, and since then, nothing’s been the same.
I got my eating and exercise in order. I made steps to embrace my need for mental health help. Now, more recently, I’ve set myself free from a job I hated because it was killing me day by day. I’ve got a massive new love in my life who’s showing that he wants to be here, and be present, even though he’s also stumbling a bit as well.
Tomorrow is the 13th anniversary of my Independence Day.
I’m going to make it a simple and gentle as possible, and remain thankful for the freedom I have in my life now.
I’m a little more free of my past, my demons, my bad choices, and a lot more free to make better, stronger, healthier choices for myself going forward. I have a lot more freedom to love in a way that suits me, and not just for the appeasement of others. I am free to smile in the sunshine, or smile when the rains hit my bald head. I am more free in my spirit than I have been in my whole life.
I quit my transit job as of June 1, 2023. It’s been just over twenty days since then, and I’ve been able to reflect a bit on a few things.
Most notably, my overall mental health has vastly improved. I’m calmer, sleeping better than ever, and feel a sense of peace unlike any I’ve ever felt in my life. Sure, I’m still worried about money and making ends meet, but not nearly as consumed by those pressures on to top of having to negotiate the daily grind that the transit job presented to me every damn day.
I get to wake up when I’m rested, sleep when I’m tired, set my own schedule, talk when I want to, be quiet when I don’t, and all the rest. I’m my own boss, my own leader, my own determining factor in my future. I have control over my life in a way I’ve never known before. I’m able to set boundaries and walls where I need them, and move them and adjust them on the fly. I’m not negotiating a whole pile of bullshit just to find happiness. I’m finding it, daily, in many ways.
I still have some things to sift through, especially with my finances. I need to take stock of where I am with my income, and what I have in the bank, and organize my money a bit more. I’ve been spending a bit willy-nilly as of late, and that needs to stop. Money, so far, is a finite resource, and given I only have met a few clients at the new job, and only for an intro meeting, I don’t have much coming in from that – yet. I was just handed a list of people who I can follow up with, and have, with regards to getting them to meet with me at the club. Still, until those turn into standing training clients, I’m still grasping around in the dark. I’m still leaning into my online clientele, and that’s okay, for now.
The other major change that’s occured is, of course, the return and resurgence of David’s place in my life. He wasn’t supposed to be here. He was supposed to be in Denver, living his best new life or whatever, but, instead, he’s come back.
I’m still wrapping my head around this fact.
We spent last weekend driving to Salt Lake City to pick up the rest of his belongings from his sister’s place. I got to meet one of his oldest friends, Sean, and also meet his sister, brother-in-law, his nieces and nephew, and have a nice chat with his dad again.
David’s family is supremely important to him, and while he doesn’t like to admit it, he feels like he’s got to carry them in some fashion. I’m not sure what that will look like going forward, as he’s still got to get his own feet under him, but I know that he’s, more than once, talked to me about what happens when his dad, who’s 73 years old as of a few days ago, has a decline in his health. It’s coming, and David is preparing himself for it daily. I already know he’ll be leaning in on me when things turn for his dad.
Beyond all of that, we both recognize that this time around for us, we are seeking comfort and peace with each other. No more drama, secrets, or fear of asking questions that are hard, or might cause concern. I feel like he’s hiding far less from me this time around, and I’m actively facing each day with him as a new experience to enjoy, rather than putting any weight on our future. He doesn’t have much to show with regards to sticking power and being present in a long-term relationship, so I’m still a bit guarded. I think that’s okay, though, and it’s helping me keep my inner codependent self at ease. I don’t *need* David. I don’t need his validation or approval or any of that. I *want* his presence in my life, in as many ways as possible, because I do, in fact, love him. However, it’s not a desperate kind of love. It’s easier, calmer, more gentle.
It’s better this time around, in many ways.
Plus, let’s be real. The sex has been amazing. Connected love-making with David has been the cornerstone of our connection, and it continues to be. Exploring my sexuality, our shared and disparate kinks, and all the rest, has been a JOY to experience, and I can’t wait to see what we get up to.
That was his text message to me, three days after he landed in Denver.
He’s on a plane back to Portland tomorrow.
I’m not 100% sure what’s going to happen next, but I’m picking him up at 5:40p at Portland International Airport, and we will be in the same domicile for the foreseeable future.
When he left, I made sure he kept the house key. It’s a thing I do for the boys I’ve loved, and a way to make sure that, no matter where they are, they know they have a place they can come to when things go sideways. If there’s one thing in life I know, it’s that things go sideways. All the damn time.
I just didn’t expect them to go sideways so quickly for him.
I asked him for more details, and from what he could tell me, the place he landed was no home. Not even in the slightest. He had nowhere to sit, could barely sleep, nowhere to store or prepare food. It all just was terrible.
I could have started in on him, about making a rash decision and jumping headfirst into something he wasn’t 100% sure about, but I refrained. Why? Because I’ve done the same damn thing, three monumentally terrible times, and I know how it goes. I know how the heart can take the lead and all that. I know what that rush of new and different feels like. I get it.
Instead, I just listened. I reiterated what I felt for him, and what I still feel for him, and he’s admitted that he’s been harboring feelings for me still all through this little side quest of his. He’s been struggling with who he is, what he is, and all the rest. He’s not happy, and he’s strayed too far off the path he was intending.
So? He’s coming back. And my friends are none too impressed by it. I’ve had more than a few people reiterate that he hurt me pretty badly, that he treated me very poorly, and that he’s taken advantage of me in ways that are deeply painful. I know he has. I recognize the truth in their spoken words and my lived experience. I know that letting him back into my life comes with a phenomenal amount of emotional risk. I own all of that.
But I will also own that so much of me really needs to see where this story goes next.
I guess stay tuned. Reserve judgement if you can, or let me have it if you feel that’s necessary.
It’s been about a year or so since I was told, “You’d make a great trainer” by my former coach and personal trainer.
In that time, I’ve secured a certification as a nutrition coach and personal trainer, started my own virtual coaching platform, joined forces with my former trainer as an assistant coach on his platform, and, as of this week, I’m officially a personal trainer at a local health club here in the Portland, Oregon metro area.
This is *surreal* to me.
About five years ago, I was not the man I am today.
In fact, I was about seventy pounds heavier, a heavy smoker, and every-night drinker. I was spiraling, at best, trying to manage my stressful public transit job, a relationship that was wavering around in the wind, and not quite sure what to make of myself. I’d had a shitty doctor’s visit, with the warning that I needed to shape up, or get on the pills I’d need to keep my blood pressure, cholesterol, and such all in alignment with the living.
I was a mess. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. I was running away from my past traumas, trying to drown out the ever-increasing anxiety about the state of my life, and the way my past kept knocking at my door. I was determined to out run all of it, and in the end, had blown out my knee in the process.
When I turned 40, I made a choice. I chose to defy the statistics, and lean into something my doctor had been telling me, off-hand, for a while.
Eat right and Exercise.
And that’s what I did.
And when that started to work, when I started to feel control over my body, my choices, my world, I started to flex the same skill in other areas of my life.
I got some help with my mental health. I faced down my fears of being on meds, of needing therapy, of having to say out loud the things that were scaring me, keeping me up at night, and all the rest. I found lovers who saw me through the fog of my anxiety and alcohol abuse, and told me that I was worth of love and affection.
Now, as I start on this next new journey in my life, I’ve peeled away the people who have been resistant to my new-found use of the word “no.” I’m starting to value myself, my time, and my energy, in a brand new way.
I’ve stepped away from my job in public transit, a job where my anxiety was crushing me, the pressures on me to perform at 100% every day were mounting, and where a deep lack of respect for my humanhood was a constant daily challenge.
I’ve taken on the challenge of helping others find their inner drive, spark, and motivation. I’ve decided that helping others achieve their goals is a big enough passion of mine, that I can dedicate my life and livelihood to it.
I get to teach, something I’ve been born to do, in a way that also incorporates showing others how to love themselves a little bit more, how to make good, small choices daily that will have long-lasting impacts on their overall wellbeing, and how to show up for themselves first. I am leading not only through knowledge and expertise, but by example, as I’m also an open book to anyone who cares to know more.
There’s so much more ahead for me in this next, new journey, and I can’t wait to share it. Day by day, I will be improving my life and the lives of those around me in fundamental ways that I don’t even know how to measure as of yet.
The Boy has given me a date of departure. He will be out of here, and out of Oregon, by June 3, 2023.
He’s been existing in the spare room in the apartment, and for a solid month or so, we’ve been mired in a strange interaction that has been full of both friendship and peace, as well as fraught emotions and pointed arguments. Back and forth, sparring over stupid details, and both of us just in a constant state of heightened emotional being. We are both exhausted by it.
He gave his notice to the job he landed here, a job which he loves, yesterday. His realization that his current income means he won’t get approval for an apartment anytime soon on his own, plus his heart strings being pulled to the Rockies, has been a thing to watch him wrestle. From my vantage point, he’s simply following another guy, and uprooting himself again for another person, without the real effort it takes to put down roots anywhere. I see this in him because, like him, I did the same thing around his age. I get it. Perhaps he’s seeking redemption like I was, a savior, someone to hold him captive long enough to settle him down, much like I was. Perhaps it’s something more. I don’t know. The part that stings the most, for me, is that I was hoping to be that man for him.
Part of me still longs for it, if I’m totally honest. I have offered him a second chance with me, but he simply refuses to entertain the idea. He’s as stubborn as ever (and as me), and is just charging forward with everything. So, we part ways in a few days, and I don’t know if I’ll ever hear from him again. I can only hope that we at least part on good terms.
His departure isn’t the only thing I’m wrestling with either.
I’ve asked my husband, a partner of mine for nearly a decade, to end our marriage. Along with the Boy and I going our separate ways, so too are myself and the man I married a few short years ago. He too is also still in this two-bedroom apartment, with the both of us swapping out nights on the terrible sofa in the living room and the comfy bed we no longer can share.
The decision to ask for a change in our marital status came as a shock to him, but was something I’d been chewing over for quite some time. Lots of things are factors in this move on my part, but most of all is the disconnect between us. His job took so much out of him, leaving very little for me and for us, and the resentment of having to carry the house, the relationship, and all the rest, simply became too much for me. I reached a breaking point, and when I realized that love could feel better than it did, that I could, in fact, be with a person who fosters an alignment between my mind, heart, and full body, and not just pieces of me now and again (something the Boy taught me), I needed a change.
He’s changed jobs, thankfully. He’s also verging on moving out very soon as well, having been on a voracious hunt for a new place to live, one that will accommodate visits with our dog, and give him access to his job and the nightlife he likes. The apartment hunt has been super tedious for him, but last I knew, he’d found a place that would work. His housing decision, it should be noted, was all self-driven. I never asked him to move out. He has opted to flee this apartment we’ve shared, citing access to work as his real reason, and I’ve let him run with it. I’ve also secured the apartment here as mine alone, qualifying to be on the lease as the sole occupant, which was a bedrock stability moment for me, as well. He knows where I live, and is always welcome to come for a visit. He remains a friend, though I don’t know how much our paths will cross as he dives into this new direction in his life.
I will be living the single, solo life in a very short amount of time.
I have not lived by myself, on purpose, ever. I’ve always either been seeking a partner to join me in living, or been living with a partner or roommate for all of my adult life. This shift represents something quite massive for me, and I’m both nervous and excited for it. After losing two major relationships back-to-back, I know I need some time to heal and pull myself together. I want to explore the ways that I give out so much energy to others, and how to keep healthy boundaries for myself, so as not to give away so much in the future. I need to settle into love with myself, and find that deep-core self that is a more true version of me for others to get to know, and possibly love.
I have so much to do for myself in the coming weeks and months. I am going to dive deep into my personal training, stepping away from my transit job in good time, so as to be available for coaching at any time during my day. I’m ramping up at a fancy health club nearby that signed me on as a trainer, and still running my own virtual training website, AND working with a second coach on his virtual training program as well. I’ve got my eyes on mid-July as the moment I hang up my keys and turn in my uniform, but it all depends.
I’m also taking this pivot-point in my life to do some deep financial restructuring, and getting my fiscal feet under me in a way that’s far more solid. I spent years trying to buy the happiness that I was missing in my life, and have since learned that it is impossible to do that. You cannot fill in that void with things, no matter how much you try, and in the end, it just adds to the pile of stress and worry, and that moment of joy become obscured in interest rates and credit scores. It’s far past time to reckon with this in a fundamental way.
Throwing a stick of dynamite into one’s own life is a scary fucking proposition, but I do know, in the end, I will emerge a better, stronger, purer version of myself. I didn’t know I could light my own phoenix fire, but here I am, holding the recently-lit matchstick in my fingers.
The Boy and I had yesterday together, most of the day, anyway. We started off by going to the gym, with a plan for hiking after.
At the gym, though, and I’m not sure why I let myself get to this level, my anxiety flew through the roof. I found myself rushing through my workout, really amping up with thoughts that were short-circuiting, and all the rest. At the end of the workout, I nearly stormed out of the gym, and had to catch my breath in the Jeep for a bit. My brain just couldn’t decipher out joy from the endorphin rush of the workout, and the adrenaline that was pumping through my body.
The Boy could tell I was upset, but I remained silent, and just drove us home. I asked, briefly, if he was still up for hiking, to which he said yes, and that’s what broke the ice. I admitted that I was in the middle of a panic attack, and that I just needed the trees. He needed food, but was very agreeable to getting out to the woods. In time, and with some more breathing, I was able to bring myself down out of the rafters, but in the quiet in the Jeep, I also watched as he dove into his text messages and totally checked out on the present-tense with me.
He’s got a new beau, some man from Denver that he’s fallen for, and who is captivating him.
The lump in my throat that had been there for a while, regarding my connection to the Boy and myself, grew a bit bigger.
We started off on the trail, and since the cell signal died, he shoved his phone into his front pocket, only to pull it out to snap photos of flowers and things we saw along the trail. We talked, lightly, and generally, but it was when he started shooting a video, explaining where he was, that I paused again.
I knew this was probably one of the last days I’d be carrying a candle for what he and I had shared previously, as a closely-tied intimate couple. Those days were, at last, over, in my heart. I just paused, watching him wander down the trail ahead of me, and felt my whole self say goodbye.
The hike turned into quite the challenge towards the end, with some cliff scaling and usage of ropes to steady our ascent and descent. The payoff, however, was amazing. It was a waterfall, the kind that Oregon loves to deliver, with water cascading out over a basalt ledge, forming a basin, and an alcove behind the waterfall, where he and I found ourselves, covered in mist and mud, and in awe of the flow of water from above our heads.
In that roar of water, I told him that I loved him deeply, that I would always love him, and that I am having to let go of the love of my life. I squeezed his hand as he stared out at the water, knowing that he heard me, and we had a moment of silence between each other.
The walk back, was quiet.
The drive home was also quiet.
We ended up separating for a while when we got home, exhausted and tired, and laying down in our separate places. After a hot shower, and some food, we ended up chatting a bit more, and I found myself feeling both relaxed and quiet, with a lot of emotions bubbling up, but keeping myself in control of them.
This transition between us will be peaceful going forward. I’ve lost the fight in me to try and find a way back into his heart. He’s got his sights set on someone new, the next new thing for his own life, and I realize that, perhaps, this is what it feels like to be a Dad, for real, letting his beloved Son leave the nest they’d shared.
I will always love him, deeply and profoundly, as his impact on my life is still reverberating through everything I say, do, and feel, and I know that I am proud of him for doing what he needs to do to achieve the things he desires. Did we both fuck up along the way? Yes. Do we both care for each other still? Yes, as well.
Ray and I got married on October 22, 2020, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and shortly after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away. Things all around us were torched and burnt, literally, in downtown Portland, but high overhead, over the entrance to the Portland Art Museum, a large neon sign with the letters “LOVE RULES” towered over us while we exchanged hand-written vows in front of a Justice of the Peace, who was also officiating over two other weddings at the same time, and location. It was all quite unique, to say the least. Ray stood high in his 9” heeled boots, and I was dressed in my best Canadian Tuxedo with my harness. The dog was there, wrapped in a Pride flag, and a few of our friends were witnesses, all masked with wide grins only noticeable by the smile lines on the sides of their faces.
What nobody knew, at that moment, was how much doubt I was filled with.
I’m a divorcee. I’d been married before, and discovered VERY quickly that marriage was not something that reflected who I was, or what I stood for.
I had made vows in a similar fashion to a man as an attempt to fix a very-broken relationship, which worked for some time, until it didn’t, and the marriage, and our relationship, failed about a year later. It was a very predictable failure, but in the time I was married, and carried myself as a married man, it was very clear to me that peoples’ perceptions of me had drastically changed. I got strange questions from everyone, gay and straight, about the roles within our relationship. I was treated differently among my friend group. I was treated very differently whenever I’d meet someone new, someone who was clearly interested in getting to know me, but who saw my marriage as a massive iron fence that kept us at a distance. Every time this would happen, I would find myself getting frustrated, feeling like there was a lingering missed connection happening in front of me. Hell, I got a “missed connection” on Craigslist while being married, when I was at my part-time evening job, and event that sent my then-husband over the jealousy edge.
It was a journey to being finally able to file for divorce and legally remove myself from Nathaniel. Bounding from state to state, where same-sex marriage was just becoming a patchwork of states who had it, and most who didn’t, meant I had to wait until the Obergefell ruling in 2015 to finally be able to submit my fee, send the pile of documents to Nathaniel’s parent’s house, and get them returned to me, and legally end that mistake.
In those years of separation, Ray taunted me a bit, calling himself “the mistress” and while it was a funny-ha-ha, it also stung every time he’d say it. I soon saw this small jab in the ribs as a measure of my worth to him. I knew that, at some point perhaps, he would want to have my hand in marriage. If I didn’t offer him this, as part of the next-step on our relationship escalator, then it would run the risk of losing him, or at the very least, build resentment and detachment between us.
Then, the political landscape changed around us in 2016. We found ourselves surrounded by right-wing Proud Boys more than once here, in our hometown of Portland, with a hatred in their eyes and looking to hurt someone.
In 2017, I turned 40, and the doctor told me that, without changes, I was about to start down the path of my predecessors, with pills to manage blood pressure, cholesterol, and all the rest. My anxiety was at an all-time high, and things between Ray and myself had definitely changed. We both were in survival mode.
We both lived in terror, tied to the news feeds and alerts telling us how the world was burning down around us. Then Pandemic hit, and suddenly the world stopped. Ray lost his job, and fell into an even deeper depression. I maintained my employment, barely, but suffered through three bouts of COVID-19 in the process. I had been able to shift my attention to my health, however, and found myself transforming away from the crisis-in-waiting that my doctor had warned me about. I took my anxiety to a new level, though, and used it as fuel for changing my physical self. It was a fine line between the person with eating disorders I’d been years prior, and this new “eating right and exercise” person I’d strived to become, but I managed it to the best of my abilities. Ray, though this, took a different path.
In 2020, I asked Ray to marry me. His health had taken a sharp downward turn, and with the external pressures of the world we were in at the time, I knew Ray wanted the security that marriage could offer him. He needed my health insurance, and as an added measure against the changing laws and politics, simply having a domestic partnership would not be enough to comfort him. I felt obliged to do what I could to shore him up, even at a huge emotional cost to myself.
I still didn’t trust in the institution of marriage, and felt that it was not something I could defend or believe in. That right among same-sex relationships was a pivotal change in our wider LGBTQIA+ community, and that fight had cost us a lot of political capital that should have been spent on protecting the rights of those at the edges of our ranks – specifically trans people and queer/questioning youth at risk, for example.
I still do not fundamentally believe the institution of marriage as it stands, in the society that we have around us, is a good fit for me. It is a framework that limits expressions of love and passion and joy, and subscribes people to titles, roles, and expectations from external, unspoken forces, all of which do not apply to everyone in equal measure. It forces a homogeneity where spectrum and difference between individuals should be celebrated and lifted up, again, in my opinion and from my perspective. Your individual experience and mileage may vary, and if the structure of marriage suits you and your beloved, by all means, you should have that right. Thankfully, for you, you still do.
It is not a right I wish to exercise, however, I have done so, and I regret it.
As I found my feet, grounded myself in schedule and ritual, and discovered more about how my heart works and how my love flows, I found myself moving forward. Ray, on the other hand, while supportive, also remained in survival mode, taking a job at a liquor store that was something, but only barely, and not at all what he wanted. Eventually, he ended up taking a job at a winery, where, at last, he could use his training as a sommelier and graphic designer, to start the career of his dreams. For a small time, it was wonderful to see him dive in deep with the job, to start living his dream, and make some actual progress. His mood was high, but it would not last.
As I started to actually face down my mental health issues around anxiety, depression, and trauma, his job started to pile up on him, and squelched any joy he initially had for the position. Managers were coming at him from all sides, piling on more and more tasks and responsibilities, all while not compensating him appropriately at all. The stress and pressure pushed Ray back into survival mode, all while I was making huge leaps forward in my own life.
Ray was unable to be present for me during any of this growth. We became two ships passing, and when he did have any free time, it was spent in recovery mode from a grueling work week. The house became my responsibility to maintain. The day-to-day chores of dishes, laundry, cleaning, and the like, had to fit into my schedule that was already filling up with not just work of my own, but also my passions such as writing, and soon, more people and heart-piece holders who wanted more of my time. These lovers bridged some of the gaps I was feeling in my relationship to Ray, and offered me a chance to really inhabit another version of myself. For the most part, I have remained with all of them for an extended amount of time, and they’ve all seen me grow and change into a better, stronger version of myself. I still love them, individually and uniquely, and look forward to how our relationships change and grow through time. Ray, on the other hand, is still in survival mode, and now, as I’m feeling like I’ve made some real advances in my personal life, I find myself questioning my place in his world.
Three days ago, and after some extensive soul-searching and consideration, I told Ray that I wanted to not be married to him. I wanted to just be his Person, in a loving and supportive relationship, but without the title and status of married and husband. I tried to explain that I made a mistake, that I wasn’t living my Truth back in 2020, and that I regret not listening to the voice inside me who tried to warn me that I was not making a decision that I fundamentally could support or stand behind. I cried and shook for quite some time, the day before my wedding day, and had to convince myself that doing this for him was for the betterment of my life with him.
As it turned out, and as time passed, our relationship got weaker and weaker. His job was taxing him so much, and he simply stopped seeing me for me, or any of the progress and growth I was undertaking. I was simply his husband, managing the house, responsible for x, y, and z, and just…taken for granted.
It was a series of young men that I brought into my life, individuals with such hopes and dreams for themselves, with a keen eye for finding “the one,” that really made me pause and reflect on the marriage I had with Ray. While they brought their whole selves into the relationship with me, with passion and energy and drive, it would come to pass that my polyamory was not in alignment with who they were, and subsequent breakups and distance between myself and them would have to happen. Three times in the last three years, this has occurred. Each time has presented a new opportunity for me to examine myself and my relationships, and every time, that old ghost of regret that was formed on October 19, 2020, as I stood in our old bedroom and wept deeply for the wedding that was about to happen, but that I really didn’t believe in, would appear.
With the last Boy, and our subsequent relationship change, that was just like the last two Boys who’d attempted the same with me, the shoe finally dropped. I was not happy in my relationship to Ray, though I still loved him deeply and wanted to be a structural support in his life. Realizing that love, and relationships, like most things in the known universe, exist on a spectrum, surely I could make some small adjustments to align my relationship with Ray better with the values and flexibility my heart, mind, and body needed. Simply removing the title of “husband” was a start. I wanted to be free of the unwritten and invisible cage that word and experience had put around me and my heart. I wanted to be free to let my love and affection flow where it wants to go, and be more present in my connection to Ray in the process. I want do define our connection on our terms, and in our own way, and not rely on some musty document and state-approved contract to do this for us.
When I presented this to Ray three days ago, however, it did not go well.
The last three days, in fact, have been me trying to reassure him that, in fact, nothing between us has changed, that I’m still right here, being me, doing the things I’ve been doing this entire time, but that I just want the title of “husband” removed. I don’t want to be in a state-sanctioned marriage. I want to simply be his Person, the man I was on October 19, 2020, but now with much more strength and inner validation, willing to accept that marriage is not for me, and that I can love just as powerfully and with more authenticity than any unspoken societal framework of marriage could ever provide.
He, of course, saw this as a massive threat to his stability. He still is in survival mode with regards to his own life and work and finances. He also decided that this shift meant “divorce,” a term I actively did NOT use on purpose, and that his “whole life was crashing down” now. Divorce, much like Marriage, is a loaded, culturally HEAVY word, that conjures up so many feelings and images and responses in people because it’s associated with loss, pain, and an ugliness that we’ve all come to expect whenever a relationship changes. It’s been three days of reassurance, of letting him process his anger and rage, and finally coming to where we are this morning.
He recognizes the real source of his instability isn’t with my ask to change our relationship status. It’s really with his job. He is still at the winery that has been adding more and more to his plate, and not meeting his compensation needs appropriately. The “job creep” in terms of what is part of his work responsibilities is real, and he’s at a breaking point. This morning, after we got to that understanding, I told him that my needs – that my change in how we relate – has no real hard time frame, and that I’d much rather he sort out his work situation first, which at this point means finding his way out of the role he is in, and that we can revisit my needs and desires at a later point. Does this mean I’m putting him first again? Yes. Am I comfortable with this as I have a better understanding of what marriage and being a husband means to him (it’s a matter of security, not just a matter of love)? Yes.
The other fundamental thing I would love to see for him? Getting a handle on his long-term depression. It’s been a massive factor in our relationship since we first started seeing each other nearly a decade ago. I’ve offered him both a roadmap, as I’ve undertaken my own mental health journey, and the resources to start down that path for himself, through medical coverage and a means to pay for whatever support he needs. Still, that’s a ‘lead a horse to water’ situation. It’ll be his choice to make, and the consequences of his choice are also his to manage.