Friday, November 19, 2010

Glee-ful: Affirmation and Pursuit


Okay, so as I wrote here and here, I’ve realized that when I got married, I abandoned most of my own interests and tastes in favor of those of my wife in order to feel like I had truly “bought into” my heterosexual marriage.  There were some after-effects of child abuse in the mix as well, but the bottom line is that I substituted a false persona for my real identity.

Having made that discovery and come to some understanding of how this substitution had come to pass, my next item of business was to start working on removing the false persona and re-discovering my true identity.   To do this, I felt that one of the first things I needed to start doing is to actually affirm and embrace my own interests and, if necessary, to separate myself from my wife in so doing.

I should probably explain that my wife has always seemed very confident in her own skin, and this is something I’ve frankly resented over the years.  And because I was not confident in my own skin, I always felt inferior to her.  I was afraid to embrace my own interests because that would separate me from her and would possibly subject myself to “gay analysis” by her (since she has known since before our marriage that I was and am attracted to men).

And because of this inferiority complex, I also felt very vulnerable:  I felt like she would make fun of me or treat me as somehow inferior for, e.g., listening to classical music instead of rock, or watching a movie she thinks is “weird,” or reading a book that she has no interest in.

After I wrote the foregoing, I had an epiphany of sorts, experiencing a significant insight into my own childhood and past.  I can clearly see now that I behaved in much the same way when I was a child: I hid my true interests because I was afraid of ridicule from my parents (mainly my father) and my older brothers.  (Hence, one of the reasons that I have suffered from a fragmented and repressed identity for most of my life.)

One of the most traumatic emotional experiences I can recall from my childhood was when I was in 4th grade.  My brother and I each had bulletin boards that we hung in our shared room.  There was a period of time when I enjoyed decorating my bulletin board with seasonal themes like the teachers did at my school.  I would go to the local office supply store and purchase construction paper and cut-out items, such as pictures of cats and pumpkins for October, or Pilgrims and a turkey for November, etc.  I would come up with a design in my head, create a background out of construction paper and then proceed to put the rest of the items up to complete my design.

I recall that it was January, because I can picture in my memory a frozen skating pond on my bulletin board.  My dad said something at dinner one night about my bulletin board.  I can’t recall what exactly he said, but I know that the message was that creating these bulletin boards was kind of a sissy thing to do.  What I can recall very clearly is going up to my room, and while crying and sobbing uncontrollably, ripping everything off my bulletin board and tearing it into tiny pieces.  I never again designed and created a bulletin board.  I had learned my lesson ...

So, getting back to my wife, I can now see how I have been repeating the same pattern with her, afraid to express my true interests for fear of ridicule.  (How pathetic is that?!)  The pattern in our marriage in this regard has always been:

  • I defer to her interests, and
  • I don’t express or pursue any of my interests, because
  • She is not interested in anything I am interested in, and therefore
  • If I pursue my own interests (alone), I will possibly subject myself to ridicule and/or “gay analysis” and also create “space” between her and me, and
  • This has pretty much never happened before in our marriage.
A therapist I’ve seen recently has explained to me that, any time a long-standing pattern in a marriage is disrupted, it can and usually does cause some problems.  But I won’t go into that.

Suffice it to say that, for me, to actively pursue my own interests for the first time in our married life is a pretty big deal.  To do so means overcoming fear of ridicule and fear of creating space in what has been (I’m being honest) a pretty codependent relationship (at least from my side of the street – again, just being honest.)

(Parenthetically, I am reminded of something that I was told some years ago by a counselor, an extraordinary man with incredible insights.  After a couple of sessions, he remarked, almost off-handedly, that I had never allowed myself to have passions, let alone act upon them.  I have often pondered that comment, which has grown in meaning and increasingly resonated with me over the years.)

Sooooooooo …. ALL that being said, I took a small step Tuesday night:  I went into our bedroom and watched Glee on TV for the very first time.  I almost felt like I was watching an R-rated film – not because of Glee’s content, but because I was actually nervous about it, afraid of the disapproving look on my wife’s face if she were to come in and ask what I was watching. (Glee wouldn’t be her cup of herbal tea, and it would be fertile ground for “gay analysis.”)  And I had actually recently heard a Mormon kid refer to the show as being “bad” and “inappropriate.”

You know what?  I loved it!  Now I understand why it is so popular – at least with some people.  And I wanted to share this experience on my blog.  Because even though it is just such a small thing, it is one of the steps I have taken and am taking to affirm and pursue my genuine interests, on my way to becoming a real person instead of a cardboard cutout.

So, I’m “Glee-ful” today … because I loved the show and the music and because I’m full of the other meaning of “glee”, i.e., delight.  I am delighted (“greatly pleased”) that this insignificant little thing has made me feel more alive to life and to who I am.  Gee!  I feel like … like … singing in the rain!


  1. In many ways, this is a universal thing. No matter what it is inside of us we fear will be exposed, we do certain things, take on beliefs, or whatever to distract from them. I had a lot of trouble with this growing up in regards to, little things like riding horses, composing music, or even liking the color green. Sometimes I was able to push back and let it out and find ways to ignore the ridicule. Other times, it was just too much and I stuffed it down until later, but if I could never find any affirmation for it, I let it die in a pool of bleeding regret.

    You have a great talent for the written word and it's really awesome to read your experiences. I've managed to get through much of this without the aid of a professional therapist but I'm starting to hit some serious brick walls right now.

  2. Great post - my wife is clearly different than yours but still plenty in common with our marriages.

    As for Glee, I think it connects to your post in more ways than one...

    I believe that gay men relate so well with Glee not only because many of us love the arts or because we want to see Kurt find happiness but because we see ourselves in the main character, Will, and his disastrous marriage.

    Granted he's straight - so it's not entirely the same. But, season 1 made it clear that his marriage was only successful when was somewhat beat down and unhappy. As he "found himself" with the newly established Glee club and gained confidence, his wife began to feel threatened.

    His wife's response of faking a pregnancy echoes what we often see from our wives of trying to pull us back into heterosexuality. but in the end, her plan backfired and pushed him further away from her.

    Anyway... I'm probably over-thinking it. But, I am also a Glee fan. My wife actually was the one who got me watching it (I originally had figured it was some lame High School Musical type thing). Now, my wife is starting to say that we have to stop watching it because it has become too inappropriate. We'll see where that goes.

  3. "Jeff" - Sincere thanks for your comments. It's obvious that I need to go back and watch Season 1 so that I can better appreciate what you have written. I am intrigued by some of your other insights and comments and hope that you might read and comment on some of the other things I have written on my blog. Thanks again!

  4. Gwyneth Paltrow is my hero; her performances in that episode were amazing. I have had "Forget You" stuck in my had for the last several days.

    Glee has become one of my favorite shows on television because it's so campy, but can be so authentic as well. I just can't help getting emotionally invested in it. Andd I'm a sucker for musicals and Lea Michele's voice...

    Last night I was looking at the Glee Christmas album. I highly recommend listening to "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Kurt and Blaine's blend so well :P

  5. Hey apronkid - Interesting that you would recommend "Baby, It's Cold Outside." I went through the songs on that CD and "Baby" was the only one I downloaded. I agree: it's a really nice number.

  6. You said:

    A therapist I’ve seen recently has explained to me that, any time a long-standing pattern in a marriage is disrupted, it can and usually does cause some problems.

    Absolutely. All change is resisted in an existing system. There's pushback. There's anger, sometimes a lot of it.

    It can be useful to keep this in mind when making personal changes. The resistance you encounter is an unavoidable side effect of being in a family system.

    Harmony in and of itself isn't necessarily the goal. Sometimes you just have to rip the band-aid off even though you know it's going to sting. While there are no pat answers for how to do this, clear and compassionate communication is a useful tool.

    Eventually, people in your life do process the changes you make. It gets better.

  7. MoHoHawaii - Always appreciate your comments and your very relevant and timely counsel.

  8. I LOVE GLEE! (Like you wouldn't know that already visiting my blog!)

    I think for me it was Will & Grace that became my gay show--and annoyed the hell out of my X--that started making me be more comfortable in all things gay. I'm glad that TV networks have made an issue to push for gay characters. Right now anytime that Glee and Modern Family are on, you can almost guarantee that I'll be glued to the darn tube. Congratulations on making this step!

  9. Don't take down the bulletin board: keep it up! Your father's reaction was obviously a result of his own inability to know how to relate to something outside of the "male box". You have nothing to hide: you are touching so many people with the identity you feel deep down inside of you. This identity is let out when you write ... and we are all supportive of this and can relate to the thoughts that your writing provokes.

    Thank you, Invictus, and stay strong and true to yourself ... no hiding!
    ( )

  10. Hey, thanks for the welcome to the Glee Club, Miguel. Now I guess I need to watch Modern Family! (I was always afraid to watch Will & Grace - gay factor.)

    Libellule - Thanks for your kind words. Yes, this process of writing is very therapeutic and revelatory.

  11. Give it time; you're still pretty new at this gay thing. It's been four years since I finally accepted myself. Glee is a favorite show for both me and my wife (although, I think I probably enjoy it more than she does). We also watch Modern Family, Project Runway, and Top Chef together. Recently we started watching The Arrangement - which is a reality show for floral designers. This is significant because The Arrangement is on Logo - the gay cable station.

    There are other shows on Logo I watch by myself - but she is fully aware since I record them on the DVR where they show up in the list of recorded shows. Recently I watched "Were the World Mine" while she was in the room sewing - she thought it was weird, but said it reminded her of a Disney movie.

    I don't know if I'm finally becoming comfortable in my own skin or if I'm just getting old and curmudgeonly and no longer care what other people think :) But, there have been definite changes in me. I now cry in movies (although, I've yet to allow myself to cry in front of my wife). I put the latest Glee CD's on my Christmas wish list (I already own the first 3).

    And yes, you definitely need to go back and watch season 1 of Glee. Put the Glee season 1 DVD's on your Christmas list :) Yes, it will invite "gay analysis"; but, you're going to have to confront that sooner or later. And, your wife is going to have to learn to accept you for who you really are and not the facade you've built up which will slowly crumble away over time.

  12. Thanks, Abelard, for your comments! And, er, you're right: I'm *definitely* new at this gay thing.

    Thanks for your insights and observations and for sharing your experiences. I particularly appreciated the last couple of sentences you wrote.

    I know I say thanks a lot, but ... thanks!