Monthly Archives: February 2015

Keep It Secret. Keep It Safe.

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One of the most common things in this “situation” of our spouses coming out to us straight husbands and wives, is the theme of secrecy.

Not only has our spouse likely been keeping a secret and lying about their orientation during our heterosexual marriages, but then this burden, that we have been forced to carry, becomes shrouded in secrets from ourselves. The very thing we need is help, support and the ability to share, yet there are so many reasons we keep ourselves from being transparent.

This is perhaps one of the most painful experiences that us straight spouses can go through: the secrets we feel like we must keep.

I have experienced this for myself, even if you wouldn’t know it now. Now I live very transparently, sharing things I only dreamed about sharing during those first years of the Big Reveal, but couldn’t. I am one of the few lucky ones. So many live with those secrets for the rest of their lives, and it seems like it slowly eats them up inside, unless they can find a way to live with those secrets and still move forward.

For the person who has never been through something like a spouse coming out, it is difficult to understand. Even 10 years later, I sometimes forget how difficult and detrimental this secrecy was for me. Here are some of the hundreds of reasons the straight spouse doesn’t spill the beans:

1) The straight spouse (SS) desires for their gay spouse (GS) to change their minds. They still love that person and want their marriage to stay intact for them, for their kids, and for their social lives. They stay quiet, waiting, not wanting to have to backpedal on their story and have their GS have to apologize to the world, in a “oops! Just kidding and so sorry” kind of way.

2) The married couple will have to face criticisms, advice and emotions from family members and friends. The SS may even feel like a failure, and it feels like it is just easier to keep it secret than face the pain it brings to them and others.

3) The married couple may have to face the Church. Speaking from experience, this can turn out very ugly, for both the SS and the GS, and it seems like the worst option possible, during a time where the people they fellowship with should be loving them without judgment and surrounding them with empathy. Knowing how the SS may have judged others, if someone else had shared this secret in the past, keeps a SS from speaking out and receiving help that they know will not be constructive. Been there. Done that. Bought the T-shirt. I was the most judgmental person on this earth.

4) If the GS comes clean on their own (or not) and admits freely that they are gay, many GS’s insist that you cannot “out” them because it is not your job to do so. This happened to me, even though I was eventually willing to move forward and be accepting. I was accused on numerous occasions of trying to “out” my husband and ruin him, even though what I needed was support, and that was my only motive. I. Just. Couldn’t. Win.

5) In more cases than I like to admit, the GS is so selfish during that time, that they will do anything, at any cost, to intimidate their SS into staying quiet. They don’t want anyone to know because they sincerely believe that they will lose their jobs, their kids, their reputation centered around being “straight”, their financial life, and their comfortable ideas about what life should be like while they have lived a charade their entire lives. Many of these GS have been “caught” unwillingly and are not ready to face the truth about themselves, let alone to have others know the shame they have had in their secrecy. I have met SO MANY people who have been manipulated into keeping their GS’s secret because the GS uses the love the SS has against them, even threatening them emotionally, physically or financially.

The hardest part about number five is that there are more SS’s who fall under this category (unlike my experience), but they feel they cannot possibly come forward to prove this is happening. I want to speak for you without revealing who you are. You know you aren’t alone if you have found others like you, but how do you know you aren’t alone otherwise? No one talks about it! It is quite a conundrum. (I am not judging you for not coming forward. I am just trying to show that this secrecy thing is real and so difficult for those who feel alone. I want you to know that you are not alone, if this secrecy thing is new to you. Trust me.)

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So, what do you do now? You so desperately want to share your story with others so you can get the support you need, but you cannot, because it is just too much for you in your situation.

I wish I had concrete answers for you. I really do. This MOM thing is very complicated.

The thing I would like to offer here is encouragement and strength. You need to deal with your marriage relationship, while moving forward at your own pace, to start taking care of YOU. Whatever it is that you need to do, I support you. Just, try to work toward facing all the fears you may be experiencing, one fear at a time. You likely want to see light at the end of the tunnel, but you don’t know what life will look like and you are afraid of that. You think the worst, most of the time, even when you desire to think the best.

I have said it before, and I will say it again: whether or not you are a praying person, the Serenity Prayer offers the most simple focus anyone could ever ask for. Write it down and paste it on your mirror, your dashboard, and your forehead. Memorize it. Say it like a mantra.

The wisdom you are looking for in your unique situation can be boiled down to control. Accepting the things you cannot change. Courage to change the things you can. Wisdom to know the difference.

It is impossible to control others, even if we try. It is hard enough controlling ourselves, so why do we continue trying to control others, our marriages and any other situation we may face? Ugh. It is a life-long lesson. Even I still have to remind myself of this every day.

Letting go of control is so tough. So seemingly insurmountable.

But it can be done. Just like there are so many out there like you in your tough situation with your “out” GS or your “living in secret” GS, there are thousands of others who have come out on the other side of this painful closet situation. They are living fulfilling lives that look different than they ever imagined, and they are looking back on their pain and are proud of how they handled themselves, even if they have made mistakes.

I made TONS of mistakes. Ask my friends. Ask my kids. Ask my family.

Ask my gay ex husband.

My fulfilling life includes constantly learning how to let go of things I cannot control. It also includes forgiving myself and loving myself. That is what I can control. Myself, the thousands of others who are going through this, and those who have moved on to something more beautiful, love you and support you. You really can do it. Borrow our faith that we have in you. Believe that you will make it.

You will.

In the meantime, get a tattoo of the Serenity Prayer and repeat it like Rainman would. What have you got to lose? Control? You never had that in the first place. You have everything to gain, which boils down to having you. You are loved. You are loveable. You are stronger than you think you are. You have wisdom, peace, and courage. Believe in yourself, because in the end, you are all you really have in this life, and you are worth it.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,
Emily

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It’s Sunday! Wake Up, Church!

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I still love Sundays, even though I cannot step foot in a church, nine years later.

To say that my husband coming out of the closet shook my faith, is an understatement. Looking back, my faith needed to be shaken; but at the time, for a year and a half, I believed with all of my heart that if I prayed enough, read scripture enough, and loved Devon to death, that he would choose my kids and me over his “sin.”

I knew the scriptures inside and out. Devon had been an elder and lay youth pastor, for Pete’s sake. We raised our family “God’s Way” and understood that nothing was impossible with God. So, of course, I relied on that fact when I faithfully proclaimed that this was just a test, and his “same-sex attractions” were temporary and a choice.

But once I had the epiphany that I could not change him, that I could not control him, that I could not manipulate him into staying and I needed to let go for my own physical, mental and spiritual health, I did not realize just how ingrained this idea of homosexuality being a sin is, within the Fundie church body. It actually can cause more hurt and derision for the people who need the church the most.

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My pastors? Their reaction went something like this:

Regardless of what he is doing, you need to do these three things: 1) Get involved with a ‘Life Group’, 2) Strengthen your faith, and 3) Remain faithful so that you won’t be tempted yourself. We have found that the faithful spouse tends to cheat also to get their needs met; you are still married. Don’t forget that.

Then they handed me a cassette series on the “sin” of homosexuality…that I already had in my plethora of resources.

Hmm. Like I didn’t already know or do those things. Like I needed to do anything at all, as though it was in my control. Like I hadn’t already remained faithful to a “T.” Like those tapes were going to bring me comfort and save my marriage.

They kept looking at the clock during our meeting, as though I was bothering them. They prayed for me, handed me the tapes, and pushed me out the door.

I never heard from them again, until Pastor B emailed me and asked for the tapes back. Good thing I didn’t burn them. I would have owed money for the garbage they fed to me that day.

I had a small group of trusted people that I eventually let in, after living in secret about this for many months, as an effort to help me and convince my husband to repent. They were close to us in our other church, served with him on the Elder Board, and loved my family and me. To make a long story short, their hearts were in the right place. They wanted me to save my marriage as much as I did. The men reached out to my husband and tried to meet with him, with very little fruit. (Looking back, I am glad you didn’t, Devon. Even though I am relaying pain here, I am so happy with our story, and I really do love you.) I spilled everything to them, including my own sin and my entire heart.

Then, with the exception of one couple, they chose to use my heart for saving my marriage, against me.

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Once I came to the epiphany that nothing I do can change what has happened, I felt free to let go of our marriage. It was the first time in a year and a half that I slept a full 14 hours. Peace reigned in my heart, and I knew I could move on.

But two out of the three couples did not agree. Essentially, their reaction can be summed up like this:

We believe him when he says he hasn’t cheated on you. It doesn’t seem like you want to save your marriage. You have no grounds for a Biblical divorce; perhaps you just want to go out and ‘sin’ yourself.

I became the scapegoat. Instead of facing the fact they they were wrong, and maybe even their paradigm about homosexuality and what God can and cannot do was wrong, they blamed me.

Way to go, Unconditional Love! Way to be a witness, Believers, of how to win hearts and minds!

I then had a flood of hypocrisy that I had to face. I would have likely said, done and thought just like them, until the coin was flipped. I became the scorn of judgement, and since then I have learned that Unconditional Love, by definition, does not place burdens on another person. “Speaking the truth in love” coupled with judgement does not work. It drives a wedge.

What I find most interesting, is that even though people (especially the four who made me the scapegoat) know that my ex is now married to the man they claimed he wasn’t cheating on me with, I have yet to receive an apology from them. I found that sometimes I need to forgive over and over again the hurtful words that were spoken to me, and it is especially tough to forgive people who haven’t admitted the hurt they doled out, nor asked for forgiveness.

They were wrong and judgmental and downright mean at the flip of a switch, even if they felt they were “speaking the truth in love,” to a woman of God who was experiencing the worst pain of her life. I have often toyed with the idea that I should confront them, but to what avail? Telling someone they need to ask you to forgive them does not create sincerity and humility. The only person I can control is myself, and that is hard enough. I have to forgive myself, sometimes daily, for bitterness and for words spoken judgingly toward homosexuals, which exacerbated my husband not being honest and hiding his struggles from me.

Obviously, today, I wouldn’t change a thing. I was able to forgive Devon, change my heart, see the truth about Unconditional Love, and realize the error of thinking regarding “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I love myself, my life, my core, Devon, Felipe, and my new and unique Rainbow Family. All of the stuff in my past is just a tool to use to offer encouragement and empathy to others.

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The purpose behind sharing this isn’t to bitch and complain and remain bitter. Actually, the purpose is twofold: 1) to share my experience so others know they aren’t alone, and 2) to help people in the Church to realize that there is an extreme need to offer resources for the straight spouse in a situation where their LGBT marriage partner comes out of the closet.

I certainly do not want to overshadow the LGBT person’s need for help, too. But through my experience, and knowing hundreds of straight spouses in this situation, there is a dire need for clergy and believers to offer true empathy and support for the straight spouse.

I am so thankful to the author of the article link below. In it, she shares her experience with the Church and makes an excellent case for a better understanding from them toward spouses like us. Don’t tell us that if we do this or that, or pray more, or read scripture more, or have caution in not having an affair ourselves, we will see the results we long for. If there is nothing we can “do” to be saved except to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, how could we possibly do anything to make our marriage stay intact?  Just give us love. Give us the support we need by pointing us in the direction of others who have been in a MOM before us. Don’t place burdens on us.

That’s not Jesus’ way.

Here is the article referred to above. It was spot on. Click here: Dear Church Leaders. If you are reading this as a pastor or Christian, the Straight Spouse Network, as well as Canyonwalker Connections, are just two of a handful of resources I can recommend.

Blessings on This Blessed Sunday Morning,
Emily F. Reese

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No More Mr. Nice Girl

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It has been nearly 10 years since my husband came out to me, and while I contend that things are amicable at this point, every once in awhile, I still feel the twinge of not feeling so nice.

No, Devon, you didn’t do anything wrong today to deserve my pissed offedness. It is simply stemming from about four emails that I received over the last week from readers who are so fresh (like days) who have just found out their spouse is gay.

It makes my heart sink every time.

I think about the road and emotional roller coaster I went on, for a very long time. And I LOVE roller coasters.

But not that one. That one sucked.

I so desperately wanted to not be angry. The love I had for my husband, the desire to always be by his side no matter what happened, caused me to cringe whenever I felt the heat of anger rise up my neck. How could I accept being so angry at someone I loved so deeply?

Most of the time, I would try to ignore it and swallow my pain. However, when I did this too many times, I would explode with irrational words, almost like a pressure cooker threatens while screaming over the flame. I ended up hating myself for the words I would yell with vitriol, the irrational behavior I would portray, and the horribly unloving thoughts I would have.

So much for always trying to be nice.

I am no counselor, but I have a feeling my counselor would say not to let that happen. I needed to deal in a healthy way with each feeling and scenario.

Easier said than done. Thank God for counseling.

But over time, I began to understand that if I didn’t, I would end up a bitter shell of myself. At that point, I didn’t even know who I was without him, and it scared the crap out of me. I did know that I didn’t want to be bitter, so I learned to express myself, deal with my own shite, and accept the things I could not change. Really, I could only change myself, and that was tough enough.

I am not sure how to end this, except to say that I understand. I know what it is to try your hardest to be understanding and nice all the time, especially when you want to save your marriage, desperately. But sometimes, you just can’t be nice. You aren’t a person with superpowers.

But if you deal, look forward to a day where you will be okay, you actually will look back and see that you may be a half-breed Super Friend.

It’s okay to be angry. Forgive yourself when you aren’t nice. Just…don’t be a pressure cooker. That’s messy and dangerous.

I love you and I feel you.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,
Wonder Woman

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I Love You

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What a blessed life I live.

I am a mom of three Tweens/teenagers. That alone is enough to give me license to not get things done. On top of that, I am also a teacher of teenagers. Add that in my life, and you can only imagine how exhausted I am at the end of each day.

Honestly, I barely have time to take a proper dump when nature calls.

But I wanted to let you know that I love you. I have received many emails from oodles of amazing people since my piece The Real Learning Channel was published in the Huffington Post Gay Voices. Some of them were simple but profound thank yous. Others are heart wrenching stories from people who are just now going through what I experienced nearly a decade ago.

I wanted to let all of you know that I have read your messages, and to apologize for not getting back to you sooner. My intention was to respond back right away; however, my life has gotten in the way a bit. Please know that you are not bothering me, though. Keep writing.

I plan, over the next several days, to start responding to all of you.

Remember that I love you. Deeply. You are not alone.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,
Emily