Category Archives: Compromise

Politics and Tango-ing

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Since my experience on the TED Talk stage this winter, I have been mum on my website. Politics became my world and it was difficult to filter my life through anything but policies in education during my bid for our school district’s Board of Trustee position. I didn’t win in the primaries, but had an amazing time learning firsthand the process of grassroots campaigning and stretching myself in the world of civic duties.

 

Right after my TED Talk, my ex husband, Devon, also threw his hat in the ring for a position with the Nevada State Senate. He is still in the running and doing well; I have joined his campaign, along with my three kiddos and his husband, Felipe, to walk and knock on doors to help overturn the Republican majority in our state’s capitol in Carson City, Nevada. He stands an excellent chance, and the support at the national level to help him get there has been amazing.

When I look back on our lives, before the disclosure of him being a gay man living in a Mixed Orientation Marriage without my knowledge while he did all he could to become straight, I often pictured myself standing by him on a stage, supporting him as he sought an office with the Republican party. How ironic that I am still standing by him in a different way, as we all marched in the Reno Gay Pride parade with so many supporters, cheering him on to make a difference in the lives of people in Northern Nevada.

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I am glad I did my Ted Talk about my experience with him. Little did I know that when I was chosen for this opportunity, my transparency would help us both in showing that while there are many troubles in this life that we cannot predict, healing is possible and impacting others can happen in real, tangible ways. We are real people with real struggles that want to make a difference in the lives of others.

Life is definitely stranger than fiction, to be sure.

Politics aside, I have met many straight spouses along this journey. Most of us want harmony and peace in our relationships, and strive to make things amicable. Unfortunately, the adage “it takes two to tango” is more true than I can sometimes relate to. So many straight spouses experience narcissism, selfishness and untruthfulness from our LGBTQ spouses, that it is difficult to know how to encourage those who ask questions that I cannot relate to through my own experience with Devon. We had our tough times, to be clear. He messed up, but so did I. Somehow, with time and hard work, we made it to where we are today.

(Are there relationships that cannot be healed? Of course, especially those that are damaging to a person, emotionally, physically or spiritually. If that’s the case, tango-ing should not be attempted. I am speaking pragmatically to those that stand a chance.)

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When there aren’t two people tango-ing, bitterness and defensiveness occurs, often from both sides of the isle. We feel the need to protect ourselves and salvage something from a relationship that was based on dishonesty, particularly from a spouse who was hiding their sexual identity. There really IS no how-to book on how to make it through this road that so many have travelled because we are dealing with people and hurts that happen in relationships.

It seems that there are more negative outcomes than positive ones from the perspective of straight spouses. The advice that I gave in my TED Talk for the LGBTQ spouse in a Mixed Orientation Marriage is often unheard and unheeded. It makes me sad, but that does not mean that I won’t continue to speak out for both sides, within the perspective of my straight spouse experience.

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The one thing that heartens me when I hear from people, are the messages coming from LGBTQ spouses who have come out to their straight spouses, especially when they ask: What can I do to help my spouse who is hurt? My heart feels some hope for their relationship and future healing.

I wish there were more of those emails than the ones of pain and betrayal, though I welcome all dialogue. One of the things that I see as a common thread is many LGBTQ spouses who write OpEds in places like the Huffington Post Queer Voices section who make it all about the gay experience and overshadow their spouses who were hurt. In all honesty, I would love to see more LGBTQ people write in defense of their straight spouses and their experience. There are a few out there who do, but it isn’t happening enough.

I recognize the few of you who do attempt to show the same kind of empathy that many of us straight spouses try to show to the LGBTQ experience. People like Chet DeRouen, who speaks lovingly and transparently about his own experience and that of his ex-wife’s, Christa. They have a beautiful family, even though we differ politically. Here’s Chet’s blog if you want to check it out: https://whyamigayblog.wordpress.com

I have recently befriended a lovely couple in Northern California who have been on quite the journey together. They have taken their time, exhausted all possible avenues of keeping their marriage intact, and have made the difficult decision to divorce. They have finally announced their decision and life experience to the public, and I am thankful for their transparency. I know that they will still have difficulties, but the thing is, they are traversing this road together as much as they can.

Luanne, you have my heart and my ear anytime you need support. Matt, I am thankful that in our conversations you were willing to acknowledge the need to not overshadow the straight spouse experience, even while traversing your unchartered territory of coming out. It is people like you and Luanne who help ME to know I am not alone, and that healing really is possible.

Here is their most recent blog post that is short and sweet. Hopefully other LGBTQ spouses in Mixed Orientation Marriages will read it and take to heart the delicate issues that are not one-sided.

https://medium.com/@mattnightingale/living-the-truth-d2058f937516#.6kzb018wd

It is also my hope that more LGBTQ spouses who have come out of the closet to their straight spouses will begin to share with humility, in places like the Huff Post, how to support the ones who often feel overshadowed: the straight spouse. When two actually do tango, things can be stranger than fiction, and a safe place for healing can happen.

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If it isn’t possible to Tango and make things amicable, take care of you. Below is a little something I like to look at with frequency. It keeps me focused on the larger picture of my own personal motto: Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others.

Love,

Emily Reese

InTheEndBuddhasInstructions

The Conflict Avoider

 

Check out TEDxUniversityOfNevada’s Facebook page for details of the Jan. 23rd event. Find it here at https://www.facebook.com/events/840345259417185/

 

Without revealing too much of my upcoming TEDxTalk in January, I have received some feedback about it that has been deemed controversial.

This is quite weird to me, because I have been a conflict avoider for much of my life. It has always been my goal to heal, to bridge gaps and to encourage. When I laid out my plans and practiced my speech in front of others, I never dreamed that what I would be saying would be controversial.

Clearly, if you have read my writings, you will know that I consider myself an Ally, even though it took my ex coming out of the closest a decade ago to get me to that point. I can relate to those who think that homosexuality is a choice and a sin, because I used to think that way. It was easy to think that way until I actually experienced my husband coming out of the closet, which is something many people can relate to once they are deeply touched by his issue, because of a spouse or a child leaving their closet. I had all of the answers before that…you bet I did. But once I knew the truth, I was forced to grapple with my beliefs.

The interesting thing is, the above isn’t even the controversial part of my TEDTalk. I am not even going to address it. It is controversial because I speak directly to the LGBTQ spouse who comes out and call on them to make the situation better by telling the truth and asking for forgiveness for specific things they have done to hurt their straight spouse.

What is so controversial about that? Isn’t that what everyone should do who is worth their salt in life and who wishes to live in integrity? It’s not like I am asking an LGBTQ person to seek forgiveness for being gay. It is about their actions and choices that hurt someone who didn’t deserve it.

I can guarantee that all of us straight spouses want to hear humility from our LGBTQ spouses, after the truth has been revealed, because so many times we don’t hear that. If you are one of the lucky ones to have experienced your spouse asking for forgiveness with humility, you will get it. It really helps us to heal and move forward.

As a side note, isn’t that what every spouse needs to hear from their husband or wife, no matter what the betrayal is?

So, even though this is apparently controversial, I have been encouraged to own my content and say what I plan on saying. If that causes controversy, then maybe in needs to be said.

So much for conflict avoidance. Sally forth, Emily. Let’s do this!

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily

What Your Kids Probably Want

 Having kids and going through a spouse coming out is horribly painful and difficult. Besides each family’s situation being unique in how it is handled, our kids are our biggest responsibility in helping them come out of this on the other side, as healthy and happy. I think the kid in the video link below says it all.

What do you think?

Kids take our cues on how to view and handle this tough situation. Protect yourself and protect your kids. Gosh darn it! What a difficult thing to do.

Much love to you all. I hope this little girl can give everyone the insight and wisdom we need.

Click here to view the video.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily and Her Three Little Birds

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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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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Rainbow Family Christmas Vacation

Never in a thousand years would I have pictured myself having holidays with Devon and his husband and my kids all under one roof… 10+ years ago. I wanted to share my Facebook Thankfulness Post from today to give you some perspective on what time and moving forward can do for families who have a spouse that comes out. I am not guaranteeing this will happen for you, but I want to encourage you to be open. Take care of you. Let go of things and people you can’t control. And above all, LOVE. Love yourself, love your kids, love your friends. Love really can heal things because it is powerful.  Happy Holidays from me to you.

My wonderful sister, Lora. She and her family are beautiful people, inside and out.
My wonderful sister, Lora. She and her family are beautiful people, inside and out.

Day 340: December 19, 2014

Thankfulness for This Time Last Year

Nothing like receiving a text at 4:30 a.m. this morning from my Sis. That’s okay, Lora. I wasn’t sleeping or anything.

Actually, I was wide awake. And I was thinking about the exact same thing you wrote. Woman! We are so connected. Do you have telepathy?

“I was just thinking that a year ago today I was out at your place helping you recover from that awful surgery. I’m so glad we’re a year out from that. Miss you. Love you.”

No kidding. Ditto on all accounts. Worst surgery I hope I ever have to go through.

I continued my recovery over Christmas at Devon and Felipe’s house. Lots of great drugs. Way too many tubes and bags coming out of me. But the silver lining was that I got to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning under the same roof as my Rainbow Family. That part was wonderful.

Then they all left for NY. That made me sad and feel sorry for myself. Again, thankfully I had great drugs and wonderful Wendiana to help me out for a week with those spazzing dogs and movie marathons.

I was sad I couldn’t go with them. That’s what makes this holiday so special. Today we leave for a mini Rainbow Christmas vacation to Sacramento. All of us freaks in one car being a weird family. Basketball, music, shopping, laughter and memory making. To top it off, the whole doing Christmas under one roof was a brilliant idea, so we’re doing it again.

This is going to be one amazing holiday. I couldn’t have guessed in a million lifetimes that I would be where I am today, thinking like I do, without all of the blessings that my life “tragedies” have brought. I love my family. I love my life. I love feeling thankful.

Also, F you, Cancer. I made you my Bi**h.

Happy Holidays,
The Survivor

Happy Anniversary, WuzBand

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.

Look at our baby faces.  And my eyebrows.  I wish someone had encouraged me then to get my uni-brow waxed!
Look at our baby faces. And my eyebrows. I wish someone had encouraged me then to get my uni-brow waxed!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

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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. 

That Damn Wedding Album

I’m a clutter whore.

I keep anything and everything.  It used to drive the OCD man crazy.

If Devon hadn’t have come out of the closet, our differences on our housekeeping philosophies would have driven us apart, I’m sure of it.  But you know, gay trumps clutter any day.

So when it finally came time to move out of our foreclosed home, I had been living there by myself for nearly a year.  The house was disgusting with piles of ka-ka everywhere.  I even had kept my Christmas tree up until April.  No kidding.  I think I kind of rebelled against him in a twisted way with my new-found freedom of not having to keep the place neat and orderly all the time.  I now despise June Clever, who wore prim and proper little dresses with pearls and carried a vacuum in her purse.

Like seriously, I pretty much didn’t fold one ounce of laundry for I think 5 months.  Ask my kids.  I would simply fish through a Mt. Everest of clean laundry everyday in order to get dressed.  They used to lie on it like a giant Lovesac and watch Hannah Montana.

I’ll bet it was uber comfy.

Wait.  Who am I kidding?  I would still be doing that today if my oldest daughter didn’t like to fold laundry so much (this is beyond my understanding).  Thank you, Devon, for passing on that mutant gene.

You can only imagine what it was like when it came time to sort through household junk and decide what he would keep and what I would keep.  I pretty much just wanted to leave it all there and start over.  I considered pulling a trailer trash move and walking away from everything just so I wouldn’t have to sort through and organize things.

Devon’s solution was to come over when I wasn’t there to find the things he wanted.   I was glad about that arrangement.  I definitely didn’t want to hear a lecture from him about my slovenly ways.  I’m sure he took a look around, baby barfed a few times on the dry brown lawn, and set to work.  I had already given him a list of things I definitely wanted and set a few things aside.

But, that damn wedding album.

That was a doozy.  I really didn’t want the stupid thing because at the time, I was still really struggling with my hurt and anger.  He didn’t want it that badly either because it made him cry.  Actually, everything makes him cry.  He’s the biggest bawl baby ever.

But we knew we needed to keep it.  You know, our kids really loved that album.  For me it produced hurt.  For them it produced nostalgia.  They loved us both.  Without the two of us marrying, they wouldn’t have existed.  That is a very amazing thing, really.

I put my hurt aside, he put his tears aside, and we kept it.  I gave it to him for safe keeping because I really wanted all of the scrapbooks I had created.  There were times that I considered cutting out his face from the pictures out of spite, believe me.

Today, I am so glad we kept it.  With time, my hurt healed.  We worked on our relationship to make it as amicable as possible, which also took time.  Today, I can sit down with the kids and look at that album with them.  They can even ask me questions about our first date, what it was like in the hospital when they were born and how Daddy reacted, what our favorite vacations were together as an intact family… and I don’t get sad anymore.  That one really took time.

It has been so important to the kids though.  When they see that we aren’t bitter toward each other, at least with our demeanor and words, then they feel more secure.

At this point in my journey, I can finally look at the pictures from that day and not feel bitter that Devon hid his homosexuality from me.  For a very long time, I felt like our marriage was a sham.  Once I finally accepted as truth that I was the only woman he ever loved, I felt free to believe that he truly loved me and that my relationship with him was real.

Keep that wedding album, people.  You might be glad that you did someday.  I fully believe that if you work through the bitterness, the betrayal and the lies that were lived by your gay spouse, you will make peace with the life you lived.  It is genuine.  Your love was genuine.  And your kids need to know that.

Oh, and don’t cut out any faces.  That looks freaky.

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We went on tons of family vacations to Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay, California. This is one of my favorite pictures of us. I still have it framed and displayed in a prominent place.

Blessings, Emily