Category Archives: Gay In Denial

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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Well, That Escalated Quickly

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Whoa. Things went bananas today on my blog.  I just want to thank Noah Michelson and the Blogger Team at Huffington Post Gay Voices for giving me the chance to publish my piece on your page. Looks like I may start adding my story in bits to the blog section of Gay Voices for a different spin on the life that many people have found themselves in, usually unwillingly.  Here’s a link for the article, in case you missed it.

The Real Learning Channel: A Straight Spouse of a Gay Husband Speaks Out

If you’re stopping by my page and want to know a wee bit about my story and don’t want to sift through everything I blabbered about on here, you can go to the Risk! Live Storytelling podcast by Kevin Allison.  Click the link below and forward to the 19:30 minute mark.

Risk! Live Storytelling, Emily’s Story

Thank you for heading over to my blog. My goal is always to encourage, and if you have a story to share that could help our readers, hit me up by contacting through email (contactsamesides@gmail.com).

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily F. Reese

Broke-Back to the Future

This is the final piece I wrote for the Reno Tahoe Tonight magazine in the May 2013 issue.  Devon and I were blessed to be able to share snippets of our story and journey as we navigated the waters of his Big Reveal that he is gay.  In it, I refer to the movie Brokeback Mountain, released in 2005.  It was a turning point for Devon and his desire to finally come clean to me.  Thank you, Oliver X, for letting us share our story through your publication.

BrokeBack to the Future

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You know, years can pass by after a major relational hurt in your life, and even though you’ve moved on, forgiven someone and have healed your relationship, something random can trigger those old feelings again. It’s like Doc kidnapping you in his DeLorean and forcing you to relive your crap in the past. You may just find yourself right back to the very moments of pain years earlier.

This is why I have avoided the movie “Brokeback Mountain.”

I remember lying in bed with Devon one night, almost nine years ago, having our usual chit-chat, which often included conversations about movies. Devon fancies himself a movie critic, so we usually debated about the value of various films. This particular discussion led us to talking about what movies we wanted to see.

“I really want to see the movie Brokeback Mountain,” he casually stated.

My reaction fell directly in line with my Judeo-Christian, Leave it To Beaver, beliefs at the time. I dismissed him outright by saying: “No way. That’s disgusting. I don’t want to see two guys having it out in the wilderness. Plus, they cheat on their wives, all for their own desires. It’s gross and wrong and I can’t believe you’d want to see that.”

He hummed and hawed a bit, mentioned something about the fact that it had wonderful cinematography and the conversation ended there.

As an English teacher, this conversation would fall under the literary term foreshadowing. Indeed, five months later, the truth came out of the closet.

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Lord of the Rings: My favorite movie. I thought this was a funny comparison.

I often look back on that conversation and wonder if he was trying to open up and tell me something. As usual, I dismissed him and said something hurtful without even knowing it. We had lots of conversations before his Big Reveal that I view now as clues that I should have been less naïve.

When I found out that the turning point in Devon’s realization that he is a gay man was due to him viewing Brokeback Mountain (he actually left town to watch it and I didn’t know about it), I despised that movie even more. Devon revealed this to the readers of Same Sides in one of our installments of the Reno Tahoe Tonight several months ago. He mentioned that I still hadn’t watched it because of the hurt I felt from it years ago, but that maybe someday I would.

Well, I did. Over Spring Break. And it hurt. A lot.

I will tell you that the scenes with the two main characters “having it out” in Wyoming weren’t really as disturbing as they might have been to me eight years ago. The thoughts that I had during those moments were ones of me picturing Devon watching them and his possible realizations that he was unhappy with his life and our marriage as well as the fears that he may have had in telling me.

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The scenes which hurt the most were the ones of the deception that occurred in the lives of their marriages. Good God. I knew almost exactly what those ladies were feeling, especially the wife at home with her beautiful young babies, realizing that her husband wasn’t finding true fulfillment in their relationship… and not knowing why. There was deceit, to boot. The shock she felt when she saw her husband in the arms of another man was so real to me that I had to stop the film in order to catch my breath so I could keep watching. I even grabbed a glass of wine at that point.

And yet, she didn’t say anything. She wanted to deny it was happening. She let her marriage deteriorate and allowed her husband to live a lie. Their marriage was one big sham and she allowed this, not just him.

The interesting thing about the movie, ultimately, was the cultural era and time frame in which it was set. These guys literally couldn’t live openly. They accepted their fate and continued with their charade because they had no other choice. One of them was brutally killed because of it.

It was just so sad.

As I watched it, old wounds were opened in my heart. These were wounds I never wanted to see again. I questioned my decision to rent it when I finished it, sobbing uncontrollably like I did eight years ago when I first confronted Devon jokingly by saying, “What are you then? Gay or something?”

I had to work through those things all over again. But you know what? It only took me five minutes. As soon as I started to think about all of the blessings that have come from his truthfulness with me, I became the New Emily again, instantly.

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This New Emily has so much to be thankful for, and she owes it all to Devon’s Big Reveal.

1) I am no longer judgmental toward people who are different than me, especially the beautiful LGBT people in this world.

2) I am no longer living in a marriage where my husband isn’t able to be fulfilled. I can find someone who will be fulfilled by me and we can fulfill each other completely.

3) I walk in truthfulness and bask in its light.

4) I still have Devon in my life. In fact, I know ALL of Devon, not just the parts that he was willing to reveal when we were married.

5) My kids see us as transparent humans, willing to accept, willing to forgive, and willing to parent together. We even have a wonderful step parent in Felipe. We are all blessed beyond measure.

6) I can relate to people. All kinds of people. I can relate to mistakes, erroneous thinking, changed hearts and people who are hurting.

7) And well… I get to write about it. Devon gets to live openly in a loving relationship without fear of being killed for his love of Felipe. He didn’t have to cheat on me for years with another guy in order to meet his needs at his core. Sure, there’s still hatred and misconceptions out there, but the tide is changing and I get to be in the thick of it.

8) I now grasp what I’ve always desired to understand since I was a little girl: true unconditional love and forgiveness of others.

As we close out our column in the Reno Tahoe Tonight, our family wants to thank Oliver Ex and our readers for allowing us to share our story with you. It has been our goal since working through our issues to be transparent, loving and provide encouragement to others because of our lives. We are honored to have experienced what we have gone through so we can spread hope to others.

So hey, Doc, thanks for the ride in the DeLorean. I needed that.

Love, Emily

Great Scott!
Great Scott!