I Knew It! Now I’m Going to Punch You in the Coccyx!

When Devon first came out to me, I simply did not know how to handle telling people. silence1

As in, telling people at all.  I felt like I needed to keep it confidential because I just knew in my heart of hearts that he would “choose” to live the heterosexual lifestyle we had always lived and that his homosexuality was just a struggle (a.k.a. “sin”) that was his to fight.  And I was going to help him fight it by doing everything he needed me to do.

And so, I initially chose not to tell anyone that we knew, even my own family, because if he came around and realized that we could work through it, I didn’t want him to have to backtrack and have to explain himself to friends, family and colleagues.

In addition, Devon actually told me that I couldn’t tell anyone during our discussion after he revealed to me that he was gay.  The people in our church circles?  Well, they would likely jump to conclusions that he was some kind of pedophile, since we worked with the youth.  Perhaps an exorcism or a “Matthew 18” reprimand would happen.  This was mortifying, both to Devon and me.  The people he knew professionally?  He was afraid of losing his job over it.  My family?  That was an absolute no-no, especially because he didn’t want to be looked at as a home-wrecker, a person living in sin, or be lectured by anyone who felt his struggles were a choice and that he could “pray the gay away.”  (Honestly, he has always been afraid of my dad.  He was the last person Devon wanted to have find out.)

The submissive wife in me at the time obeyed his desires.  I could see some of the logic in it, but the biggest part of it was that I didn’t want to do anything that would potentially push him away from me.  If I “outed” him (which he felt was his job to do and not mine) I would be damaging any chances of him choosing our marriage over his homosexual core.  I actually felt that everything fell on me to handle this the right way.

What was the right way?

cryingOnBeachSo I isolated myself.  I cried alone.  I drank lots of wine.  I took day trips to Tahoe when the kids were in school and just cried on the beach, all alone. I sought the Lord in prayer with primal screams out in my van in the garage after the kids and Devon had gone to bed and my mind wouldn’t stop spinning.  I went to work out at the gym at 3 a.m. for four hours just to escape for awhile.  I sought online support groups, of which there were very few at the time.  The main Christian one that I reached out to, Exodus International, was a complete joke… they didn’t have any answers or advice that was based on the reality of my situation.  They existed for the sole purpose of turning gay people straight.  Unbeknownst to me, Devon had attended an Exodus International support group meeting the first year of our marriage while he attended KU.  He went running from that meeting and never wanted to go back, and ultimately, the spouses were an after-thought.  The Straight Spouse Network was around, and while they seemed to have a grip on how to get me some support through chatting with others who had experienced this, they did very little to address homosexuality, the straight spouse and the kids in light of our Christian beliefs.  They did support staying together if I wanted to, but they were a secular group… and that didn’t jive with my reasons for staying.  God wanted us together.  He hates divorce.  I couldn’t be a part of a group that was okay with divorce or didn’t espouse Christian beliefs.

Yes, I used to think this way.  The Straight Spouse Network seems to have more to offer these days, but a decade ago, they weren’t as extensive as they are now.  They are still considered a secular group, and anyone coming from a Christian background has an added layer of ick to deal with.

And so I floundered.

About 2 months after his Big Reveal, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I told our best friends about it over the phone at 4 a.m. in my van in the garage.  And then I called my sister.

Devon came unglued.  Enraged.  Scared.  And he blamed me for wanting to “out” him to everyone.

Devon was very used to being in control of his life.  He had to.  Looking back, he had a lot to cover up in his own mind and wanted to look like something on the outside that he wasn’t on the inside.  I am not joking when I refer to him as having OCD.  He may not have been clinically diagnosed with it, but he displayed many symptoms.  Ultimately, he nit-picked at things that didn’t matter because it gave him a sense of control when he couldn’t control the things that really mattered, like his homosexual leanings.  The kids and I got the brunt of his controlling issues in the form of having a neat and hyper-organized home, portraying perfection while in public settings,  showing that outwardly he was the head of the household and I was his submissive wife, and the kids were perfectly behaved, just to name a few.

Essentially, I was enabling him to continue to live in the closet by remaining silent to others about the traumatic Big Reveal.

LineInTheSandAfter a couple of months of counseling with a wonderfully non-judgmental Christian man, Larry, I set up a boundary that Devon would ultimately be unable to keep:  He had to not be friends with Felipe, whom he claimed was just a friend and nothing else.  The ultimatum was that if he continued to remain friends with him, then he would have to move out.  My line in the sand was drawn.

It lasted two weeks.

Then I told my dad.  He flew out a couple of days later to confront Devon as he moved out that weekend.  Yes, it was ugly.  Needless to say, there was no “repentance” on Devon’s part, no realization that he had made a mistake, no asking for forgiveness, and the final words were not pretty… from both sides.

Finally, I was somewhat of an enemy to Devon.  He was constantly accusing or assuming that I was out there to spread the news that he was gay.

I wasn’t.  I kept things as quiet as possible… until I felt I needed the support, regardless of his wishes.  I usually let him know before I told someone, but it wouldn’t have mattered.  He got angry whether I told him beforehand or not.

This is the part of being the straight spouse in a Mixed Orientation Marriage that is one of the toughest issues.  The straight spouse feels completely alone in dealing with it.  No How-To Manual, no step-by-step tired and true way of dealing with a husband or wife coming out.

Gradually, I involved a very small group of people from our old church to help us in any way that they could.  The men tried to meet with Devon, which was fruitless, and they actually believed him when he said he wasn’t cheating on me with Felipe.  The ladies met with me through Bible study and prayer, and they offered their support.  And when it came down to it, the majority of them (barring J and K) felt that my decision to divorce was unfounded.  It was ugly, actually, and I was very hurt.  I still work through that to this day, and my bitterness toward how they handled things is lessening.  I would love to have them ask me to forgive them, but it was much easier for them to reject me as a scapegoat than to admit that maybe their own thinking and handling of things was wrong.

So be it.

None of the above mentioned people had any clue that Devon had struggles in this area until they found out from me.  It was always a shock when people would find out.

But, there have been a handful of people, mostly those who were friends of ours that were not in our family or Christian circle, who didn’t appear to be too shocked.

Here is the phrase I hated hearing the most from them once I finally started sharing my story more openly:  “I knew he was gay from the first day I met him” or even more expressive by proclaiming with a smile or some sort of joy “I KNEW it!”

To put it bluntly, don’t ever say that to someone who tells you their crushing heartbreak of a story about their husband or wife coming out.  EVER.  Even if you think it.  Just DON’T SAY IT.

It is hurtful.  I remember feeling like I was being punched in the coccyx when someone proclaimed their all-knowing gay-dar to me.

I was married to the dude.  I had sex at least three times that produced three kids, loved him, he loved me… and you knew the whole time?

Seriously, shut up.  Not helpful.  At all.

And if you really did know, because apparently your reaction shows that this scenario is all about your wisdom, why didn’t you tell me?  I realize that ultimately people don’t think before they speak as often as they should, but this is the very last thing you should ever say to someone who is experiencing a spouse coming out of the closet in a heterosexual marriage.

I will also admit that even if you had told me because you really did know, I might not have believed you.  Love causes a blindness that borders on the irrational at times.

It is certainly true that I can now look back after finding out the truth on that day of Devon’s Big Reveal, and see some signs.  But they aren’t as clear as the insensitive proclamation “I knew it!” would make it seem.

Please be aware of how you react to the news when someone you know experiences this life-altering event.  If you have said this to someone in the past, I encourage you to ask them to forgive you for it.  It might not bug them now, but I am guessing at the time that it felt a bit like being slapped in the face… or punched in the coccyx.

SlapInTheFaceComic

That was a little bit about me and the early days of finding out (nearly a decade ago), being isolated, finding bravery to tell people and the very worst thing you can say to someone.  There is so much more to the story than that, but I hope that what I have written here helps you to not feel so alone.  Because you aren’t.  And I love you unconditionally.

And truly, my life is beautiful now, so don’t forget that part of my story.  I always want to encourage and not discourage or feed anger that you may rightfully have.  Be in the moment, work through your stuff, but don’t forget to keep moving forward, even if you feel like you’re walking backwards.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily Reese

What has been your experience as it relates to telling others?  I would love for you to comment below here, but if you would like to keep it more confidential, you can always email me by using the contact form below. 

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