There are no clowns to the left or jokers to the right. I’m just stuck in the middle — middle age that is. 53 years old. Wondering how I got here. Wondering where I am going. Trying to figure out what is going to happen next. Trying to avoid the feeling of being totally self absorbed. Afraid that I have become one of those people who always needs a crisis. Sometimes I feel like I am one of the most positively negative people around.
If you asked me last summer, I would have told you that I would be divorced by now. I know I wrote that here, said that once my daughter was in college, it was going to be time. Researching the costs of divorce had me convinced that I would not end up living in a box next to the town dump. My mind has allowed me to accept that divorce may be the best thing for me personally, at least when it comes to putting away a marriage that by most standards only leaves me wanting. My spirit still leaves me wondering. The part of me that always wants to be the good guy who does the good thing is still telling me that it’s good to stick around. Common sense has not allowed me to take that final step. While I may not end up living in a cardboard box, divorce will make paying for my daughter’s college education more difficult. My relationship with my daughter is the most precious part of my life. I do not want to risk her well being nor do I want to risk the relationship I have with her. Everything else is secondary.
On top of that, living with my wife and the teen male monster (as his sister calls him) without my daughter around has not been as bad as anticipated. Small breakthroughs that seem to indicate my wife may be interested in making our relationship better has Mister Good Guy wondering if he should give her a chance to prove it. I say that through clenched teeth as Mister Good Guy also has to force out negative thoughts on a daily basis. Focusing on the negative makes it so difficult to see the positive. All in all, since our daughter has left for college there have been several stressful moments, but those moments have mostly been due to the monster. My wife has been supporting me in front of him, with the exception of one particularly stressful incident where she threw everything on my shoulders because she just couldn’t deal with him, as well as making me the bad guy when the boy physically attacked me (‘you provoked him” — ummmm, how? By saying ‘no’ instead of giving in?). My wife seems to be trying, weakly, but she is trying to at least have a conversational friendship with me. And she has a full time job. That means that soon I will be able to afford a girlfriend.
Kidding. Just kidding.
Sort of. That is a concept I really can’t wrap my head around, not any more. There was a time when a girlfriend seemed like a good idea. I needed an object of my desire, a role my wife no longer wanted to fulfill. Years of neglect had me thinking I was entitled to seek attention elsewhere, a way of thinking I now see as a bit insane as it’s just not true or pure. Experience and thinking the whole thing through has changed that for me, at least the girlfriend idea. A lot of how I approach the opposite sex has changed. What I need from a woman really hasn’t changed, I don’t think, but the list of priorities at least seems to have changed. Sex has moved several spots down the list, a surprise to me when I realized that was really true. Some of that changed when I learned to accept that I am a middle aged man now, not really physically attractive any more and not as desirable, if at all. Maybe that is a shallow way to think, basically pushing sex back as a priority simply because it is not going to be as readily available as it was when I was that occasionally attractive young man.
You want to know what strikes me as strange about that last statement? When I was that occasionally attractive young man, I had no idea that I was. It is only when I see the best pictures of myself that I realize that it could have been true.
Middle age does mean that I have made enough mistakes often enough to have learned something from them. Like I said, experience and thinking things through has changed my perception of life, of what makes me tick. It doesn’t mean I am real positive that I have found any answers nor do I imagine that my perceptions are not going to change as I enter other stages of my life. Change is going to happen. One thing I have learned about sex is that it really means very little, is only temporary pleasure, if experienced outside of a relationship or in a relationship that is not complete. When applied to my current situation with my wife, a situation where affection and sex has been non-existent for over a decade, the decay of our relationship has made a return to a sexual relationship nearly impossible. Why?
It could be a defense mechanism. Having no desire makes it more simple to live without. I do not think that is completely it, though. A man needs to feel that he is important to his wife, respected, and my wife has sent me all kinds of messages throughout our marriage that her mother, sisters, family, our kids, her friends, our animals, pretty much everything takes precedence over me. I should be number one to her, dang it! She has not only repeatedly demonstrated that she does not respect me by her actions and her refusal to acknowledge my wishes in a number of areas, she has flat out told me that she does not respect me. Add to that the fact that each morning and evening I am subjected to a barrage of negativity and complaints that my male psyche is overwhelmed by, and it kills any desire to be close to her. Even now, when we could have a half hour together over breakfast before I go to work, I instead find myself fleeing out the door to avoid having to deal with the complaints (if you read my blog the other day, you know that).
What did I say about struggling to focus on the positive?
My needs for closeness, for affection, for affirmation, for that sense of importance that only a wife can give to a husband, all come ahead of a need for sex. What I wouldn’t give for a woman who just wants to be close to me, who doesn’t overwhelm me with her needs, a person that shares my common interests.. who isn’t a constant drain. That woman would get my desire and would fulfill it with very little effort. I want so much to be able to desire again.
A younger female friend of mine, one who can say pretty much anything to me and get by with it, jokingly started calling me COD recently. COD, as in ‘Creepy Old Dude’. I laugh because I know she is joking. Ha ha. I also laugh because it is a fear of mine. I can see how easily a man my age can be driven so much by a need for touch that it becomes lustfully creepy. Earlier this year, I saw a friend and coworker get fired for basically being creepy, a divorced man a little bit older than me who is consumed by lust for younger women to the point of it being a sickness. Not only did he shamelessly ogle (I am talking about leaning back in his chair and staring) any young female in the office who was reasonably attractive (marital status irrelevant), but he cornered any young woman he could get to talk to him. His intentions were clear and sometimes he stepped over the line, a line that wouldn’t be all that bad if his intentions were not clear. He had been warned and when another young woman complained, he was fired. The thing is that he is one of the more kind and caring people I have met, but he just does not think there is any problem with lust and sees no reason to control it.
I’m not sure I qualify as COD quite yet, but I know I can be that way some time. I really do need to be touched. Getting older has not lessened my appreciation for a woman, just broadened that appreciation. What makes a woman pretty to me has changed, an older woman more often than not more attractive to me than a younger woman. I look at the eyes first — I know that sounds like a fib — and what I see there is what is going to turn me on. That is when I worry about being a COD. Because when I see something in a woman’s eyes that I like, I can’t help myself but to check out the rest of her. That is when I AM a COD. I can feel that need to be touched, to desire and be desired, come up to the surface. This middle aged man can say some pretty creepy things when he is comfortable around a woman, probably pretty tame compared to guys like my ex-coworker, but still stuff that can be creepy. I hate that. I don’t want to be that way and I don’t want that need to be touched to control me.
I am not alone and I know it. There are plenty of guys who are experiencing the same type of neglect, same type of feelings. I see it. I hear it now and then in the things my friends say. Some guys give up. Some guys endure. Some guys turn to the darker side of life. Some guys get lost in a job or a hobby or the things they have. Some have an affair(s). Some guys just hope it will get better eventually. Some accept it as a stage in marriage and relationships, expecting that patience and sticking out will pay off in the long run. Some, not all, turn into CODs.
Middle age sucks, but I know it doesn’t have to be that way. I have a lot to learn. And maybe just maybe things will change.