Category Archives: Stories

TEDx Crying

  
Life is truly amazing. It really is, especially now that I am at a place in my life, 10 years removed from my husband coming out of the closet.

In the picture above, I am starting to shed tears of gratefulness on stage at the TEDxUniversityOfNevada event on Saturday, January 23rd, 2016. It was at the end of my talk/story, with advice for both the straight spouse and the LGBTQ spouse. I shared how thankful I am for Devon coming out to me, as it set me on a path to knowing and loving myself, apart from anyone or anything else, including loving my imperfect life. I pointed to him in the crowd, and teared up.

After the audience stood and clapped, I walked off the stage and bawled like a baby. It was surreal. 

I am so thankful for coming to this place in my journey. I am here to witness that you, too, can get to this place. No matter what, you are loved, loveable, and not alone. 

As soon as the video is edited and posted on TEDx’s YouTube channel in about three weeks, I will post and share it here. 

Thanks for the love people. My life is blessed and I am thankful to be able to be transparent.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily Fay Reese 

 

Questions Without Answers: John’s Story

Questions

I’ve been around the issues of Mixed Orientation Marriages for several years now, and while I have worked through most of my own stuff, it seems that some things still surprise me every once in awhile.

I usually hear from women whose husbands have come out of the closet.  It even appears in the media more than it should.  But when I hear about a woman coming out to her husband, I am still all:  “Huh?”  It often seems like it is less common, but logically, I know that it isn’t.  Why is that?

Maybe it’s because men are less likely to share and be transparent than women?  Is there a different kind of hurt?  Maybe you guys can shed some light on that for me.  I don’t have the answers for it.

But John… he’s a different breed to me.  His story has so many similarities to others… but he openly shares his heart in eloquent ways.  I am thankful he reached out.  I believe he will help you feel less alone if you’re in this situation yourself.

Keeping your feet outside your door.  That is the hardest part.  Kudos, John, for sharing and for trying to make it down this path that you didn’t expect to be on when you got married.  Keep moving forward, even when you feel like you’re moving backward.

Click here for John’s story of his journey after his wife came out to him.

TheRoadToBreeLOTR

Much love to you, John.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily

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.

ALoyalHelpmate

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.

UserManual

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.

SueSylversterMarriesHerself

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.

InTheEndBuddhasInstructions

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,

Emily Reese with The Reeses and Their Pieces RockChalkFamilyPic1

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. 

Sophia’s Story

Sharing is an important process of our journey.  And when told in confidence, trust is of utmost importance.  Thank you, Sophia, for sharing your story.
Sharing is an important process of our journey. And when told in confidence, trust is of utmost importance. Thank you, Sophia, for sharing your story.

I received an email from a wonderful woman who finally felt comfortable to share her story on my blog.

Her story? She is one of the rare women who has stayed with her family and decided not to dissolve the marriage. Her reasons are unique, and on this blog site, I try to approach the issues of Mixed Orientation Marriages and the people affected by it with an open mind: I won’t encourage people to get divorced, as though that is the only option. While it is very rare for two people in an MOM to choose to stay together, I admire those who try.

With her story, which is very lengthy, I felt that our conversational tone through email was a great way to present things. I have honored her by changing her name and a few of the things that may reveal her identity. She and her family have told very few people about their scenario for good reasons, which you will understand as you read her account.

Sophia, you are not alone and I feel honored that you trusted me with your story. Also, I love you… and your entire family.

If any of you have any follow up questions for her, feel free to comment under her story and I will relay her answers.

Also, if you would like to share your story, please do so by clicking on the tab Stories and reading the parameters that I have set forth there.  Sharing helps you and helps others.  It really does.

Thanks for loving and supporting those of us spouses who often get overshadowed in the very traumatic journey of a spouse coming out of the closet. Please click the link below, Sophia’s Story, that will take you through her journey under the Stories tab, and may you find some interesting tidbits that you can either relate to or will give you empathy and understanding of the journey and road that straight spouses and their families are often forced to travel down.

Keep your feet as best as you can outside of your door.

You can get to her story by clicking here:  Sophia’s Story

NeverAloneAubreyHepburn

Two/To Dads on Father’s Day

This morning, I woke up with Devon on my mind.

It’s Father’s Day and I know that he is happy thinking about our kids and enjoying the handmade cards they gave him, but he is also thinking about his own father, Fast Freddy, who passed away a little over a year and a half ago.  Knowing him, he is experiencing some sadness right along with the joy he feels over being the dad to our Three Little Birds.  Devon and The Reese Clan:  I loved Fred very much.  I am thinking about you all, too.

While we were married, Devon was a great dad, and still is today.  He has always been very silly with them and kept them in mind when making decisions for our family, with exception at times to the crisis we went through after his Big Reveal.  Decisions then were often a lose-lose scenario for everyone it felt like.  But ultimately, we made a great team as parents and sought to always provide a united front to our children, even if we didn’t always agree on particular topics.

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!

Devon and I were married a little over 2 years before we had our first beautiful daughter, Maddie.  Before she was born, I cannot remember any fights between us of significance. We intentionally didn’t have TV and went places with each other that kept our love and friendship strong… and some of these things we did were uber nerdy: we played ping-pong a couple of times a week at the rec center in Lawrence, Kansas (I kicked his arse most of the time… or at least, that’s how I want to remember it); we played board games; went on old people Sunday drives around neighborhoods and dreamed of the day we would own our first home, how it would be decorated, what we would name our kids, and trips we wanted to take together; we prayed together, read Scripture together and went to every church potluck we could schedule.

Dynamics changed once Maddie was born.  When people say their first year of marriage was horrible, I cannot relate at all.  It was the first year that Maddie was born which caused us to stress and argue the most.

I often say this:  When you get married, you don’t realize just how selfish you were.  And when you have kids, you REALLY see just how selfish you can be.

Sacrifice becomes your daily life.  You have to give up yourself – your dreams, time alone with just you or as a couple, your hobbies – more than you’d like to.

And with that first child comes the gritty reality that you don’t know what you’re doing.  It’s a lot of floundering and mistake making, and Devon and I had several fights over what to do when neither of us really knew what to do.  As the mom, I felt that I had the ultimate say over how to handle middle of the night crying fests, chaffed nipples and sleep schedules, and as the dad, Devon wanted to be included in on the tactics for dealing with things neither of us had answers to.  He would give his two cents worth, I would out right dismiss them, he would be hurt, we would argue… and then the argument became more about our own pride than sensible solutions that needed to be implemented.

I’m guessing most partners and spouses with kids have experienced the same thing.

And to this day, when we do occasionally argue, it’s almost always about the kids and how to handle things.  I’m thinking this will not end anytime soon.

DevonPlayingWithKidsOnFloor2
A dad on the floor makes him fair game as a jungle gym.

Fast forward to 2014.  Three kids, a coming out of the closet experience, 2 times dealing with cancer, a change of mindset about homosexuality not being a sin and a choice, my kids having two daddies… and still Devon is a great dad, and his husband, Felipe, is wonderful to our kids. I will never have to worry about having that evil step mom to compete with regarding who is the real mom of the family.  It’s all about me being the only mom they will ever have.

I kinda love it.

One of the most important revelations that I had after dealing for a bit with my own hurt after Devon’s big reveal, is that my children are NOT me.  As in, the betrayal I dealt with, the trust that was ruined, the crisis that was created by Devon coming out and the feelings of anger and working with instead of against the new life that I was to live… did not mean that my kids would have the same reaction, feelings, hurt or lifetime of distrust toward romantic/love relationships.  I often projected my own experience onto my kids, expecting that they would have to deal with or feel the same way I did.

Now, did they have to deal with this new life and have some hurt or emotions to work through?  Absolutely.  And maybe stuff will come up in their lives that stem from the Big Reveal in the future.  But their relationship with their daddy, while it may have changed in some ways because we didn’t live under the same roof, was not damaged, especially because they saw the example that we set when it was all said and done.

You see, Devon will always be their dad.  It’s not like the kids had to decide between keeping their relationship with him or putting a retainer down for a divorce attorney.  There wasn’t a romance involved, only the love and respect that Devon and the kids had for each other.

Him being gay did not change his Daddy Status.  I was the one that had to change my ideas of what they would do and how I thought they would react.

My middle daughter, Kate, said it perfectly: When he told us he was gay, I don’t think I was too surprised, not because I knew, but because it didn’t make him any different to me.

Isn’t that beautiful?

And it helped me to remember that Devon is and always will be that fun, responsible and good example of what a father is to his children.

Now, to the many people who seek to use this site as support for their scenario of a spouse coming out of the closet, I am aware that this particular post may tug at emotions you are still working through.  I want you to know that I am in no way attempting to intentionally put something in your face that would try to hurt you in any way or sway you to handle your lives like I did.  I realize that each family’s scenario has intricacies that can make a situation more difficult than my own.  This post, however, speaks to my own journey with Devon’s Big Reveal and how far we’ve come since that Day.

And my experience is this:  I chose to work with my situation instead of against it.  There have been so many blessings that have come from this, particularly that my kids have two daddies who love them and would die for them, just like I would.  My kids are secure in our non-traditional Rainbow Family and there is so much love surrounding them from all sides like bubble wrap, which is really wonderful.

So, Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there, gay, straight, or otherwise.  If you are a dad, you are at your core, a dad forever.  And kids will love their parents, even if they can be hurt by us.  Keep in mind that kids are almost always quicker to forgive us than we are at forgiving ourselves, and I want to be just like them in my own grace, mercy and forgiveness toward others.

And to those of you who have households with two daddies:  Thank you for loving your children just like any human would.  You being gay simply does not matter when it comes to loving your kids.

Happy Father’s Day, Devon.  And also you, Felipe.  Two dads and one mommy?  People should be envious.  Our lives do not suck.

Love, The Only Mom Our Three Little Birds Will Ever Have

P.S. One of the earliest blog posts that I wrote was a special message to Devon from our kids a couple of years ago.  It’s precious and funny, and will reveal a lot about Devon’s relationship with our babies.  Check it out here:  We Love You, DaddyDFKMTJumpingFamilyPhoto

 

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

The Big Reveal: Been There, Done That, Bought the Tshirt

my_former_spouse_swears_on_the_bible_but_needs_tshirt-re0b0242342a444679f13742fa747b6a5_8n2up_324I remember the day of Devon’s Big Reveal like it was yesterday, even though it was almost a decade ago.

The feeling of betrayal that I experienced on that day has been unparalleled since.  This is really saying something because I have felt betrayed since then by a different love in my life.  Which is of course, another story.

But when I think about all that I’ve experienced since that day, there really is no comparison.

When I look back with hindsight, I think I handled myself better than some people might.  I was completely floored, of course, but my love for my husband was put to a true fiery test in those moments, and I survived.

So did he, despite the fact that it was probably one of the toughest moments of his life, too.

I think the hardest part was knowing that when I got up that day to go to church with my kids while Devon was out of town once again with his friend Felipe, I didn’t have a friggin’ clue that my life (which was so beautiful and perfect) would be shattered into oblivion.  No time to prepare myself.  No room for speculation about what was up until the very moment I jokingly and sarcastically said:  “So what are you, gay or something?”  His pause spoke volumes, but until he said, “You knew this whole time?” I had no idea what was coming.

And in that moment, his burden was lifted and placed onto my shoulders.  He had time to digest.  Time to process.  He ultimately had his entire life to work through everything that he could up to that day, within the bounds of still keeping it a secret.

His freedom turned into my nightmare.  My heavy heart, mind and even my physical body was crushed under the weight of it.  As I tried to make sense of my entire life from that moment backward, I received very little help from him, though I do know now that he did the best he could at that time.  My questions, which seemed insignificant to him, were of utmost importance to me.  I often received half truths, dismissals with a “none of that matters now” and stumbled upon things that I was never meant to see.

And honestly, things started to make sense. I had a need to review every little thing that transpired since I met him.  Some of these things may have seemed insignificant to him, but I simply needed to know.

I don’t know what it is about our base need to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even if knowing that information wouldn’t change a thing about the situation.  But I needed it.  All of it.  And I began to get weary of asking things and not getting the truth I was seeking.swearingOnTheBibleI’m sure Devon justified not answering all of my questions because he thought, or knew, it would only hurt more.   We all do that.  We justify lying because the truth will hurt potentially.

But hearing the truth was usually not as bad as where my mind would trail off to.  Many times it was a relief to hear the truth rather than believe what was in my noggin that kept spinning and spinning and getting worse with every turn.  I needed the crazy to stop in my world so I could feel some semblance of control.

I came to learn the hard way that control is just a figment of our imagination.  I have a hard enough time controlling my mind, my actions and my life in general.  I cannot ever control what someone else does in their own life, let alone what they me do to me.

I learned how to accept.  Which stunk at first, but it got easier.

If I could say one thing to the spouse who has come out of the closet to their straight spouse, it would be this:  Remember that you have had much more time to grapple and figure out who you are as a member of the LGBTQI community.  Give every amount of time, energy and truth to your spouse that he or she asks, without justifying that you would only hurt them more.  And don’t put a time frame on it.  While you may need to set up some boundaries for your own mental health and sanity, when the person who never expected this to happen in their lives is asking you questions, you owe it to them to give everything you have.

And to the straight spouse with the burden you never dreamed you would carry:  Keep moving forward, even if you feel like you are going backward.  You will make it through this.  You will… if you expect to do so.  Write everything down.  Be as civil as you can while being real.  Share your story with people you can feel safe with and free of judgement… toward you and your gay spouse.

Move forward as you look backward and remember:  You aren’t alone.

Love, Emilyjust-keep-swimming-dgcarx

The Most Common Question

KidRaisingHand
Oooo! Oooo! Pick me! I have a question!

For those of you who do not know this about me, the number that I’m about to throw out here is pretty impressive and staggering to most:

There are 42 first cousins on my dad’s side of the family.

Yep, that’s a lot of cousins.  My Grandma and Grandpa Strabala had 13 kids.  It was pretty easy to multiply a large number of my generation to make 42 cousins.

It was really fun growing up in my family.  Sunday dinners of pot roast and mashed potatoes with my grandma’s famous chocolate chips cookies, were like a huge party.  All the time.

One of my oldest cousins, Dan Harbit, is a thoughtful person.  He often seeks to understand me, social issues and the hearts of people by asking tough questions in respectful ways.  When I was in junior high and high school, he and his wife, Jane (and their kids) attended the same church that my family and I did.  I love them.

My Cousin Dan Harbit with his grandson at Lake McBride in Iowa
My Cousin Dan Harbit with his grandson at Lake McBride in Iowa

So, he offered the very first comment and question to this blog since I released it just yesterday.  And I’d like to honor him by answering his question in a post, not just as a comment.  Here is what he asked:

Hi Emily, I have been very busy and just had a little time to Facebook and spotted this. Very interesting. And leads me to ask a question that I’m sure many wonder about and maybe you could blog some insight to. Why does it take 10 years and 3 kids before you figure out you’re gay and decide to come out? I know several people that have experienced this situation but never understood why they couldn’t figure it out before they caused so many so much hardship. I’m not trying to be judgmental just looking for some insight and understanding. Thanks, Love Ya

Here is my response:

Dan-

First of all, Hey Cousin!  I always appreciate your well-thought out comments on Facebook and your delivery of them.  Give my love to your family from me.

Secondly, I have been asked this question in some form or another many times, but it has often been brought up in a spirit of anger from people.  Yours was not.  Thank you for asking it in a non-judgmental way.  I have had to delete comments before from others on our other blog because they are mean-spirited and hate-filled toward Devon.  The curious thing is that these questions, at times, come from other gay people, and I can only assume that they have never experienced the lengths that gay people can go through to NOT be gay and try to “change” into a heterosexual person.

So, to answer your question from MY perspective, which honestly I feel that Devon could answer even better than me since it was ultimately part of his specific journey, it boils down to the fact that he didn’t want to be gay.

This is very common for many people in the LGBT community.  I mean, think about the social stigma that was even worse 30-40 years ago.  We grew up during a different climate than today.

Here are a few things that Devon has revealed to me about his experience with this.  I will list them.

1.  Devon knew he was gay from an early age (something like 5 or 6), but didn’t understand what it really was.  Most kids don’t grasp the idea of sexuality that young.  But he knew he was different.

2.  He was bullied and teased growing up and called gay, fag and other things.  You can imagine how this could have affected him.  Essentially gay = bad.

3.  And then there’s the Church factor.  Which is a VERY big factor for many people in the LGBT community.  You know as well as I do that the preaching and teaching from the pulpit, discussions and prayer circles often centers around people changing, people needing to stop their “lifestyle” or that “same-sex” attraction is a sin that cannot be actively pursued if someone is to be an official born-again believer… all because of about 7 main verses from the Bible that discuss homosexuality in some form or another.  And honestly, it’s only been in the last century that the term “homosexuality” has even been in existence and has become a true dividing line in Christianity.  In fact, today, it has become entirely TOO focused on by “fundamentalist” Christian people and churches, in my opinion.  There is no written “gay agenda”, there isn’t a war that the LGBT community is inflicting upon our society.  That is all fear-based, straw-man tactics that the other side of the issue uses to rally the fellowship of believers into a frenzy (this is obviously my opinion, but I can honestly say I used to be JUST LIKE THAT myself, so I feel that I have a unique perspective that others don’t).  If you go to visit http://canyonwalkerconnections.com/ to my friend Kathy Baldock’s site, she gives detailed research about the topic of scripture and homosexuality.  Her new book just came out, and it is very powerful.  She is a straight, intelligent and strong Evangelical Christian herself.

4.  Devon truly loved me.  Yes, he was even attracted to me.  We had a great marriage.  It helped him to suppress who he was deep down, and while many people see that as me being used (and trust me, I had to work through that in the early stages of him coming out), it was simply more of him doing whatever he could think of to change.

5.  I don’t regret him coming out one bit.  Especially years later, knowing that we wouldn’t have had our Three Little Birds in this world if we hadn’t have married.  It was all worth it.MKTLittleAtBeach

And ultimately, it has caused me to understand how to truly love someone unconditionally, which has been my desire since I began my relationship with God so many years ago.

So it wasn’t necessarily a “one day he just decided he was gay,” though it seemed like that to me in the moment.  Did it hurt and change all of us, including extended family?  Yes.  Many relationships with others were damaged and cannot be repaired, which is not coming from us, but from people who won’t repair it because of their own beef with homosexuality.  The process of “coming out” is very unique to each individual.  It is scary.  It is especially scary when a gay person has built up walls of decisions and ideals to break through those and come clean.

I believe that our world today is much different than when you and I were young.  Our society is shifting regarding ideas of being gay.  It is much easier for people to come out early on compared to 20 years ago, which makes it harder for people to understand our generation and older generations of not wanting to be gay and the lengths many LGBT people go through to try and “change” who they are at their core.comingoutofaclosetI appreciate that you have asked the question regarding people coming out to their spouses at such a late stage in the game, where spouses, kids and friends/family get hurt along the way.  I hope that my answers to you are clarifying to some degree.

You are a good man, Dan, and I am thankful to call you family.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily