Couples Chronicles — Interview 22
The Thought of Loosing Charley and Carl
at the Same Time was Just Unbearable
First published in January 1989
© 1999, Demian
Carl, 32, and Tim, 28, have known each other for six years. Carl is a software engineer and Tim has worked as an environmental activist, but currently does word processing. Initially, they were roommates for nearly two years. They have been living together in the Northwest for almost a year. They call each other “partner.” Charley, 5½ months old, has been a part of their family for the past four months while Carl and Tim await final notice on his adoption. Carl works at home part-time so he takes cares of Charley four days a week. Tim works 9-5 and cares for Charley during the evenings and one day on the weekend. Charley also spends two days at day care. During their free time, both men enjoy country western dancing, but Tim often needs the time just to catch up with chores.
What did you first think of each other?
Carl: I remember first thinking that you were handsome.
Tim: I didn’t think much about Carl when we first met at a college function. The second time we met, at a Laundromat, there was a little bit of sexual tension.
The third time we met was when I needed a room, and a mutual friend knew of a vacancy where Carl lived. I moved into the house with Carl and another housemate. Carl and I hit it off because we both like long, philosophical discussion-arguments. We also talked a lot about parenting and both expressed an interest in becoming parents.
Carl: When Tim moved out to pursue his career, I felt lost and lonely. It was like my best friend was moving away. The relationship has intensified since then.
Tim, what was your family of origin like?
Tim: I come from a family which was out of the Donna Reed Show: mom, dad and two boys. I was raised Unitarian.
When I was nine my parents divorced and I stayed with my mother. She became progressively liberal, experimented with all sorts of social trends, and is presently involved with Eastern religion.
I have a great relationship with both my parents, but always have been much closer to my mother. They both talk about their grandson, and mom is coming for Christmas.
When did you first recognize you were gay?
Tim: I was 16. It was a great revelation for me. Since then, it’s always been so perfect and natural for me.
Carl, how about your family of origin?
Carl: My mother is somewhat involved with Charley. She flew here shortly after he arrived and stayed four days while we were settling in.
My father and I are having a feud. The trigger was that we are planning to legally add a common last name to all our names. It is important for our family identity. He exploded because he has been sitting on issues for 12 years now; about me coming out, me having a family, the name, a whole sequence of things.
How were they when you were young?
Carl: I now recognize that my father is an alcoholic and he is responsible for verbal and emotional abuse toward me. I’m figuring out ways to take care of myself and be safe.
My parents have been twice married and divorced from each other. The family was middle class and suburban, my mother was a homemaker until I was in high school.
I had no religious training from my family, but in high school I became a Jesus freak and got involved with a very fundamentalist church. I maintained a Christian lifestyle for years.
I used to walk through the bookstores and check out the gay book section. One day I found the title The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay. It was like, “Bonk!” The book hit me over the head. I purchased it and devoured it that evening. I decided I no longer had an excuse to not be gay, which was my primary motivation for getting involved with fundamentalist Christianity.
I had known since I was eight that I was attracted to men. Somewhere I had learned what homosexuality was and that it was not O.K. I was paranoid that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, or someone would find out, or that I was somehow warped.
Any previous major relationships?
Tim: I’ve had a lot of very serious relationships. Carl calls them “my six wives.” They varied in length from three years to six months, from when I was 16 until I was 22.
I feel more comfortable in a serious, long-term, committed relationship.
Carl: Tim saw me through a divorce. I had been in a relationship with a man for three years. The breakup was long, arduous, messy, addicted and violent. I moved out when we started beating each other up. Before that, I had another significant three-year relationship.
I got involved in an “almost” relationship after Tim and I had decided to have kids and planed to move somewhere together to build our family.
Weren’t you were beginning a relationship with Tim?
Carl: Tim and I are not lovers. Our relationship is founded on a long-standing friendship. It’s like a brother or sister relationship. We have a common interest in parenting.
We have a marriage of convenience. It is a contractual arrangement, but also based on our friendship. A lot is there except for a sexual relationship. If we could be legally married, we would.
Was your relationship ever sexual?
Carl: No. At this point, sex between Tim and me would feel like incest.
We are good companions who have a similar outlook on the world. For example, we do drag together. There are a lot of places where we touch bases.
It’s very confusing for the rest of the world.
Tim: Especially when we are out together and trying to make a pass at someone.
How do you deal with the confusion of others?
Carl: Sometimes we don’t say anything. Other times, I generally say, “We are parenting partners, not lovers.”
Tim: Some people accept that readily; other people not only have trouble with it, they simply won’t believe it.
Are you looking for lover relationships now?
Carl & Tim: Yes.
Tim: Ideally, we would both like each other to be happy and have lovers. It would be great if those lovers want to help raise Charley; if there were four daddies.
Does that mean they would be welcomed into your family?
Carl: They could be welcome.
There is a method. We have a seven-page written agreement, which we call “The Family Pact.” It outlines financial duties and responsibilities to each other and to our family; where we are going to live, how we change where we live, how we resolve disputes, how we will settle if there is ever a need or desire to separate.
There are clauses about including others in our family. If Tim or I take on a lover, that does not mean that they are de facto included in the family.
Tim: They have to go through an approval process. If one of us had a lover, the other would spend a lot of time around them, because we spend a lot of time around each other. That person would probably be around Charley too.
If that person decides they are ready to make a commitment to our family and to Charley, then we would talk about whether he is going to be a family member. Basically, that’s just housemate agreements. I don’t want to live with someone I can’t stand, and I don’t think Carl does either.
At what age would Charley have a say in the process?
Carl: No specific age is outlined. The agreement says he will be included as he is developmentally able, as we see fit.
How were you able to bring Charley into your family?
Carl: We are adopting Charley through a local private agency, but he’s from the Midwest. Charley was from out of state because our local state adoption agency is known refuse local infants to lesbians or gay men, even though it would be legal to make such placements.
We had a gay social worker at the agency we used.
Did a gay social worker make any difference?
Carl: Yes. It made life much easier. Your social worker has almost all the power. They come to your home and decide your suitability for parenthood.
Our plan was to work the grapevine when we came to town, find out who was in social work and sympathetic, and then work with their agency. It happened far faster than we expected. In a month, Tim found an agency and a social worker for us. It took three months to complete the application, a process which typically takes a year and a half, or two.
Is it a joint adoption?
Carl: It’s a single parent adoption. The only way two people can adopt a child together in this state is to be legally married. We understood that the state adoption agency actively discouraged joint adoptions by unmarried couples, even though such arrangements are legal.
Which of you is legally adopting?
Carl: We don’t disclose that. We consider ourselves equally his parents. One of us will be the legal guardian and the other will be covered by Wills, Power of Attorney and Nomination of Guardian papers when the adoption is finalized.
Why get a baby?
Carl: I’ve been involved with kids for a long time and had been thinking about having children for six years.
When playing with the children at a company picnic, one of my really good friends who knew I was gay, turned to me and said, “Why don’t you have kids?” It was validating to hear that a straight person thought I would be a good parent; I never thought I’d get that.
That night I stayed up very late thinking and decided it was time to start the process.
Were you living together at that time?
Carl: No, and I knew I didn’t want to be a single parent.
I had talked with lesbian parents and discussed co-parenting with several lesbian friends. A couple years had gone by and, for those two women, it was not yet time. This first option was out, so I considered adoption or surrogate parenting, but the place and time were wrong. I was living in a very small town in a conservative state.
Surrogate parenting is very expensive, so I decided to pursue adoption; not that adoption’s exactly cheap.
Tim: It was a lot more expensive than we anticipated.
How expensive was the adoption?
Carl: Ten thousand dollars. Costs included mother’s hospitalization, foster parenting during the time he was not placed, and fees incurred by two different Midwest adoption agencies. We’d expected fees to be in the range of $4,000 to $6,000. It was difficult to get the money together.
My initial contract with Tim was that everything would be 50/50, however, Tim was eating away at his savings and couldn’t meet his expenses, so we negotiated a change.
The alternative — which I never considered — was that the relationship would dissolve. For me it was, “No way in hell, I don’t want to be a single parent. I don’t want you to move away again.”
Tim: It was a very major crisis for me. I felt like it was going to be the end of the relationship. I can’t remember when I’d been more upset. The thought of loosing Charley and Carl at the same time was just unbearable.
Another issue that came up was my career. I am feeling at a loss for a center outside of my home. Fortunately Carl has been an absolute saint supporting and being there for me; managing to keep a cool, relatively logical head about it, and yet still be compassionate and open with his feelings.
I think it is a demonstration of what our relationship is about. We’re very committed to each other as people. I expect to spend the rest of my life with Carl.
Carl: I talk about the day I’ll buy us a Winnebago and we’ll go traveling when we’re retired.
The flexibility and accommodation in our relationship is there. I came out of this particular crisis feeling much closer to Tim. We went another level deeper.
Besides the finances, have there been other challenges?
Tim: When a new baby comes into a house, the mothers and the fathers frequently have a “postpartum” depression. It happens with adoptive parents too, and I had a real bad one. That and the money hit at the same time.
Your life changes dramatically when you have a baby; your priorities, the way you look at the world, everything is different. The depression is an introspection, a pulling in, to deal with all this change.
Have you sought emotional assistance?
Tim: Besides friendship, no. Carl suggested I might want to see a counselor, but that brought up more concerns about money, so I just didn’t.
Carl: Our gay fathers group has been supportive.
I notice that the two of you are white and Charley is black. Did you request a black baby?
Carl: Yes. To get a white child is next to impossible.
Most of the white children get placed in “perfect homes,” with a mommy and a daddy who live in the suburbs or the country, and have lots of money. Black and brown kids from this country, Amerasian children from Korea, children from India and other countries, or kids with physical disabilities are more available, so the process can go much quicker. We didn’t want to wait.
It would have been our preference to have an open adoption. (ed. Where birth parents have approval of adoptive parents and maintain contact.) The reality is that if we had sought an open adoption, we probably wouldn’t have been picked by a mother. At the very least, we would have waited longer.
In the process of visualizing about a baby, and thinking about the possibilities and probabilities, there was one very strong image. The picture that flashed most often was a little black boy with very chubby cheeks. I was having these images of Charley nine months before he was born.