Today, June 28th, is the day that Devon and I were married, back in 1997, in that sweltering hot, Civil War Era church in Ft. Scott, Kansas.
I have decided that weddings are like funerals in this way: It is the one day while you’re alive, where all of the people in your life from all of your circles (family, friends, co-workers) are in one place to celebrate you and the love of your life.
No one who attends has in mind, unless they are negative in their thinking, that your marriage will be anything other than ‘til death do us part. The next time that all of those people will be in one place will be the day of your memorial service… or celebration of life.
When I walked around the corner to march up the aisle, with my arm locked in my dad’s, I fully expected to start sweating and bawling and have my makeup melt down my face. Instead, I turned the corner and locked eyes with Devon, who was bawling uncontrollably with joy.
And I knew that I wouldn’t have to cry. I would wipe his tears and snotty nose as we lit our Unity Candle and exchanged vows. I had a job to do, and that was to help Devon.
… for the rest of my life with him. And I did JUST THAT. I was his helpmate and happy to be so. This could also be phrased as his submissive wife, letting him lead our eventually growing family, and standing by my man.
10 years later, during Devon’s Big Reveal that he has been gay all of his life, was a true boat-rocker. My June Cleaver pearls broke in that instant and I realized that all of the moments up until that point were not what they seemed to be.
That’s how I felt anyway.
Was he crying at the alter because of shame, guilt or saddness of trying to cover up his true core by bringing me in as cover? The furniture we bought together for our first home, the prayers we shared, the decisions I backed for him as his submissive wife… were they all a part of his own life and his desire to look like something different than what he really was?
I have since met and spoke with hundreds of men and women who have gone through something similar. The feelings of betrayal and being duped, used and lied to, are very real. Some people hold onto those things and continually punish their gay spouse… and ultimately punish themselves and all of those around them.
But for some of us, me included, we learn to deal with those and find truth in our existence as a loving wife or husband, who unknowingly was living in a Mixed Orientation Marriage.
There is no How To Manual for straight spouses. No yellow and black Mixed Orientation Marriage for Dummies book. I wish there was. Unfortunately, the only thing available to help us through is our own moxie, fortitude and perserverance and the offerings of other people’s support and stories who have been down this road before us.
As I worked through my own emotions for about a year and a half (and then some) I sought out others who could help. It’s tough putting yourself out there because a situation like ours (especially with the added layer of Church and Christianity) is shrouded in shame, secrecy and bitterness. Many people that tried to “help” only wanted to find misery in my company, and that isn’t how I operate. I wanted to work through it and come out on the other side healthier, happier and more fulfilled. I wanted to believe it was possible because I didn’t want to die and have my celebration of life attended by circles of people who pittied me or my family.
There had to be hope. There simply had to be.
I finally found it by working through my stuff and began to view my wedding day, our furniture, our prayers and our decisions as REAL and true. Our love was not fake. Mine certainly wasn’t, and the day that I accepted as truth that I was sincerely the only woman that Devon ever loved was the day that I could let go with a smile. I also slept for 14 hours straight that night and woke up without a burden on my shoulders of “How am I going to fix this?” which ran my waking hours.
I could move forward and found out who I truly was without him. And I can honestly say that I love myself. I may even marry myself and invite everyone to the marriage sacrament. Sue Sylverster of Glee, you had a great idea when you did that.
So, how do you get through it? I really don’t have the answers. But what I do know is that if you want to come out a better person, you will.
The word accept is not something that says “I’m going to just roll over and take it.” What it entails is understanding what you can and cannot control. I could not control the choices that Devon made, my history of falling for him, my desire to stay married for the rest of my life or my attempts at trying to make him see the light that he was choosing himself over his family.
What I can change, which is hard enough, is my own self. My ability to work with something I could not change instead of against it. My desire to love unconditionally, which meant giving up my own control issues, finding ways to make lemonade out of lemons, and sharing the wisdom that I acquired and could use to help others just like me.
I can choose to love without agendas or desire to control. That is all I can control.
Me. Myself. And I.
Who do I want to become? What do I want my children to remember? What kind of legacy will I leave behind when I finally have everyone that I know and love at my celebration of life?
It is love that I want people to see and remember. It is empathy that I want people to feel coming from my heart and lips. It is a joy that surpasses any temporary circumstance that I want to have in Emily’s Scrapbook of Life.
That is it.
I want to remember for myself the happiness that I felt in marrying Devon as I helped him wipe away his tears and snot. It was real. It was sincere.
Happy Anniversary, Devon. Our marriage shaped us both (and our children) into who we are today. And we love ourselves.
We also love all of you. Unconditionally.
Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,