Coming out as a gay man in 1979 was a difficult, painful, and years-long process that I have no interest in repeating. My world turned upside down over night. I didn’t know how to act or what to do. Coming Out for Dummies hadn’t been written yet. A complete and total absence of positive role models didn’t make a rough transition any easier.

So I made it up as I went along. On numerous occasions I wished for an older, more experienced gay man I could turn to for advice. Even one such person could have helped me to avoid making some of the decisions that I now recognize as reckless, foolish, or downright insane.

Nearly twelve years ago, I met a sweet young man in a local chatroom with whom I felt an instant connection. He was half my age, born within weeks of the day I came out, and struggling with many of the same issues I’d dealt with at his age. We had long online discussions where I shared my experience and offered advice. A few weeks later we met in person, and then he started hanging out at the house with me for a few hours once or twice a week.

Because of the age difference, I told him we could never be a couple because it wouldn’t be fair to either of us. We became best friends and even fixed each other up with guys nearer our own ages. After the dates, we’d get together and talk about how it went. Mostly, we ripped them to shreds. He didn’t think any of the guys I was seeing were good enough for me. I felt the same way about the guys he’d been dating.

Though we weren’t technically a couple, we saw each other five or six days a week. My difficulties with the age difference faded. In a lot of ways, he’s always been the mature one. Resisting the charm of a sweet and gorgeous man half my age was simply more than I could do. We’d known each other for almost two years when I finally threw in the towel.

The years we’ve spent together have honestly been the best in my life. I believe in Karma and know he was my reward for all the crap I put up with from his three predecessors. I am a better man in more ways than I can count because of him. We’ve been through a lot together, and through it all he has always had my back. He is absolutely the finest man I’ve ever known.

Him being a good southern boy, the age difference made it difficult to be equal partners. It took months to get him to stop answering my questions with yes sir and no sir. Our friendship gave us a strong foundation for working through issues that came up.

As is always true, our relationship changed. We grew up together, made each other stronger, and held each other close through some difficult times. We’ve laughed together, shared adventures I’ll treasure for the rest of my life, and taken great pride in each other’s accomplishments. I love him with all my heart.

In the last few years, we’ve taken more and more to doing our own thing. I thought this was a good thing, but realize that as I’m want to do, I may have gone overboard. He found other things to do as I  spent every spare minute at my computer working on my writing career. The book coming out has meant spending even more on writing stuff. Even though it eats into our time together, he’s been incredibly supportive and is very proud of my success.

Over the years our relationship has evolved to become more like a father and son than lovers. Earlier this week we talked. He’s ready to leave the nest, and I love him too much to try to stop him.

At first I was devastated. I ain’t gonna lie. This wasn’t my idea. I spent the first hours thinking about all the things I was going to have to do for myself, and in the process, realized how much I’ve come to count on him and how much I’ve taken him for granted. I’m kinda high maintenance. He’s never complained, but now he’s done–and I can’t say I blame him.

The next layer of devastation revolved around my belief, based on previous experience, that we’d break all ties and go our separate ways. But over the last few days as we’ve talked, I’ve come to see that it’s not going to be that way. We still love each other. We’re still best friends. And we will always be chosen family.

Last night a friend told me he was inspired by my always positive attitude. I learned long ago that we choose how we see the world, and that focusing on the negative makes for an ugly ride. If I dwell on the loss, regrets, the mistakes I’ve made, I couldn’t get out of bed. There’s a silver lining in every dark cloud and I’ve learned to hunt for it as soon as the horizon darkens.

Though this wasn’t on my bucket list, I’m embracing the opportunity to focus on my writing career. I have an incredible network of supportive friends and family. And having been in a relationship for all but a few months of the last 35 years, I’m ready for some time on my own.

We’re not breaking up. I prefer to think of it as restructuring. We plan to get together regularly for dinner or just to hang out. In many ways, we’re going back to the relationship we had before we became lovers. Folks around Athens will still see us together, whether at work, at the gym, or at various events we might attend. I’ll have full custody of our two dogs, but he’ll have generous visitation rights and keys to…

My Glass House

12 responses to “Restructuring”

  1. . What an incredible love story,and with no bitter words of anger, my heart goes out to you both, I just wish all relationships that come to an end could end with such positive thoughts. I want to press the dislike button, as I hate it when things come to an end. I do hope that your transition period can be as smooth as is possible. You are a very brave person to share such a time with us. Lots of love xxx

    • Thank you. It’s not going to be easy, but I know we’ll make it through to the other side and both be better for having done so. I’ve done ugly break ups before. This is harder, in some ways, but worth the effort.

  2. Michael,

    I’m impressed with how much dignity you two handle your new situation. It shows just how much you love each other.

    Maybe you both need time for yourself for a while to evaluate life and your goals. I sincerely hope you’ll find a new level in your relationship (instead of a break-up) and make it work again.

    ~ Chris

  3. Your awareness and consciousness do you credit, Michael. It’s never easy, but you make it beautiful. You’re growing…and what more do we want for our lives? : ) I’m glad I know you.

  4. Oh God, I’m so behind… and I just saw this. Michael, I’m so, so sorry. We only just met, but I feel for you.


    • Thank you so much. Knowing there’s still going to be an “us” makes the coming changes a lot easier. The love and support of my friends goes a long way, too.

  5. this article and all the comments are so good! I’m a 28 years old and just recently i started dating a guy who’s 39 at first i didn’t want to acknoledge that i’m attracted to him and interested only because of the age difference. i had this thought stuck in my head that i want someone young (around my age) and we can feel young together, and for a couple of months i was stuck with this barrier. eventually something happened and i just couldn’t resist! we just started dating but already i feel that it’s very natural to be with him and to be attracted to him. and of course he treats me really nice… it feels like im with a man now. no more mixed up and emotionaly crippled boys.

    • Thank you for reading and for commenting. Your eleven-year age difference is half as great as ours and seems like nothing to me now. Make sure you become friends first, then anything else that happens is gravy. Good luck!

  6. I’m so sorry to hear this, Michael, and admire how grownup you both act through it. I’ve always admired people who can stay friends after a breakup, knowing first-hand how impossible it can be if both parties aren’t the adults they claim to be.
    Change is indeed difficult, but something good comes out of almost all change as long as you wait long enough 😉