Category Archives: The Church

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

Speak Up, For Christ’s Sake

I need to vent.

One of the things that I am getting tired of hearing is the phrase: “But not all Christians are like that.” Or better yet: “Don’t judge me based on what [the right-wing flavor of the day] said. They are wrong.”

Like: I am a Christian, and I don’t agree with that. There seem to be so many of you.

Trust me when I say that I understand. I do. You know why? Because I used to say things like that myself.

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Too Afraid to Speak Up

But you know what I also did? I sat in silence among Christians, politicians and groups who misrepresented the name of Christ. Ultimately, I was a follower. I would rather sit there with my mouth closed than rock the boat against my pastor, Bible study leader, uber conservative friends, or my family. I would say things to others, usually in some sort of anonymity, that I am a Christian and I don’t think that way. I would act all offended, when really, I was too chicken to do anything other than defend myself with those words. Why didn’t I do more? Why did it take my ex coming out of the closet and me becoming the scorn of judgement before I could wake up and say something more than that?

The reason? Fear.

And if you are a Christian, then you know that there is no fear in love. If you are afraid to speak up to someone or about something, then that circle or idea is not loving, in my opinion. Christ is likely being used as a pawn for some sort of unloving justification.

And Christ wouldn’t want to be used in that way, wouldn’t you agree? (If you don’t agree, I am okay with that. I am going to love you anyway, and speak up anyway.)

I say all of the previous to challenge you. If you get it, if you don’t want to be associated with extremism, if you surround yourself with others who want to speak out but don’t, then I say boldly: you are part of the problem.

Silence is sometimes called for. The adage “Nothing says screw you better than nothing at all” can speak volumes. But also, at times, if you say nothing at all, you are perpetuating a problem.

Stop doing that, especially if you are afraid to rock the boat. If you are afraid, then maybe that means you should say something. Maybe that’s your conscience or even the Holy Spirit speaking to you. Stop being a follower of men and their ideas. Think for yourself. Towing the line is dangerous, especially with people’s livelihood.

For instance, legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people.

If you get offended when people post things against laws that seek to keep LGBTQ people from having basic secular freedoms, like marriage equality, then take it as a clue that others see Christ followers as bigoted. I don’t for a second believe that myself, but you should care that others do feel that way. Isn’t how the world views Christ important to you if you are ambassadors of Unconditional Love? If you are willing to see that and admit that it is their truth, don’t just say “I am a Christian and don’t feel that way.” How about you speak out against it instead of defending yourself? Then your words will match your actions.

Take baby steps, if you are too afraid to share your thoughts on social media. Why don’t you start with your church? Those you fellowship with? Your pastors, even? If you are confident in your salvation because of Christ, you should no have fear.

If you cringe at the thought of confronting those around you with civil conversation, then I will be even more bold and say that you really are part of the problem. Starting within the Church is the only way true change is going to come about. People like Dobson and Glenn Beck won’t last as long if they don’t have a following of people who are willing to agree with their ill-advised ideas (like Civil War will happen if Gays are given the right to marry). When these ideas are expressed and leaders in the church or followers of Christ don’t speak out against such nonsense, then their silence equals condoning.

Again, this must start within the Church. So if you find yourself defending Christianity by stating “Don’t lump all Christians under the same umbrella,” then do something more than that. Be proactive. Challenge others to think and not follow.

If you refuse to see the damage being done by a “handful” of people, if you refuse to hear the other side on how that thinking is keeping others from unconditional love, and if you are afraid to speak up toward those who are hurting the cause of Christ…

Then your silence speaks volumes. You are condoning those ideas.

Don’t be the three monkeys. DO something.

Speak up, For Christ’s Sake,

Emily

P.S. A friend of mine had an excellent point: Everyone speaks at a different volume, in different ways, and everyone has their own calling. If your calling isn’t to speak out against injustices toward LGBTQ people, then whatever it is, do so according to your own convictions and gifts. Just…don’t be silent. Don’t cover your eyes. And above all, don’t live in fear.

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

A New Hope

It’s Sunday.  I have taken an unusual break from sitting on my front porch this weekend (a.k.a. The Coolest Porch in Reno… where a huge bear decided to take an evening jog by my house last week.  Let me tell you, it was freaky.). I am in South San Francisco for a much needed sabbatical from my busy life of raising my Three Little Birds and teaching other people’s kids.

That bear who ran by my porch scared the poo-poo out of me!  And yet... I stayed on the porch.  I'm analyzing why, still.
That bear who ran by my porch scared the poo-poo out of me! And yet… I stayed on the porch. I’m analyzing why, still. Any ideas?

As I write this, I am enjoying today’s unique sunrise from The Coolest Porch in San Fran.  I can see the bay and city from here and am wowed at the complexity of creativity and ingenuity of the humans that God created.  I mean, look at this place!  Not only did God allow for such a beautiful coastal area, but the Creator endowed us with the ability to come up with major technology and expansion prowess (even if some people may consider that a bad thing).  To piggy back on that thought, I am sitting here being able to write all of my thoughts in my head down into a computer connected to the world for anyone to read who feels inclined to simply “click” on my link.  Wow!  We are pretty amazing and intelligent people to have such a thing.

I love Sundays when I take the time to truly worship the Maker.  Life is so good!

If you want to get a copy of this book, you can do it at this link:  http://www.amazon.com/Walking-Bridgeless-Canyon-Kathy-Baldock/dp/1619200287/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1414874423&sr=8-1&keywords=kathy+baldock
Yes, I know this woman. Do you want MY autograph? For a small fee, of course (-:

I finally have the time to read the book that my good friend Kathy Baldock of Canyonwalker Connections recently published.  It’s good.  I mean, REALLY good.  What was supposed to be somewhat of a memoir when she first started tackling the topic of LGBT inclusion in the Christian church, turned into a lengthy research project that spans time.  It is insightful and in my humble opinion, an excellent piece of literature to be able to give to Christians and non-Christians alike.  It gives history, testimony and examples of God’s work in all people, including the LGBT community.

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And yes, my story is also included on page 326 in the chapter section about Mixed Orientation Marriages.  Some of the people I have had the pleasure of being introduced to (Chet, Lynn, Jerry, Mark and Cheri) are also included in that chapter, and their stories lend insight to affirming and non-affirming Christians as to changes the Church needs to make in handling families in their congregations when a spouse comes out of the closet.

There needs to be change. End of story.

I have never met an individual who has gone through the tumultuous time of a spouse coming out of the closet whose church and leaders handled the situation lovingly and with compassion.  And if yours did, PLEASE contact me.  I need to know your story.  We need some added hope here on this site regarding how churches handle our unusual situation!

Whoa.  That's a lot of letters!
Whoa. That’s a lot of letters!

It’s all about relationship building, when it comes to the Church and Christians finding a way to understand the LGBT community. If you’re new to this site and have recently found out that your spouse is gay or bi or whatever other letter represents your spouse, please know that you can find positivity here.  I understand if you are in the position I was in, nearly 10 years ago, finding out your spouse, Christian or not, is gay.

It simply sucks, to put it mildly.  There’s no other way around it.

And now what you have to go through, from this moment on, really sucks.  The only hope you can cling to is that if you keep moving forward in your unique situation, you are not alone.  You can also begin to hope that you will make it through this, however long it takes, by relying on stories and encouragement from others.  But you have to keep moving forward, trusting that you will turn out to be a more complete and whole person than you are now.  Because if you don’t cling to that, then you might be a miserable person in the end.  And no one wants that.

Be hurt.  Be angry.  Be bitter, even.  But move forward with all of the strength you can muster, even if you take 17 steps back.  You have to want to get through it to the other side, whatever that may look like for you, in order to get there.  And along the way, know that you are loved by many, especially the ones who have been through it before.

I guess this is ONE way to remember the Serenity Prayer.  Or, you could just get a plaque.  That would work, too...
I guess this is ONE way to remember the Serenity Prayer. Or, you could just get a plaque. That would work, too…

And if you are not a person of faith, you will get zero judgement from me.  If you are a person of faith, memorize the Serenity Prayer, stat.  Repeat it like a mantra, because the only thing you want is peace (serenity), and the only way you’re going to get there is to accept the things you cannot change, change the things you can, and understand the difference between the two.

I wrote a little piece about this prayer awhile back, and if you would like to read it, click here.

Love me some Star Wars... and some hope.
Love me some Star Wars… and some hope.

On a related note, there were some interesting things that happened this last week during one of the nation’s largest denominational get together conferences, the SBC.

Thank you, Kathy Baldock, Matthew Vines, Robin Lunn and Jeff Hood (and all you other warriors) who attended the SBC Conference this last week.  Your mission was to build relationships, and it looks like that’s what happened.  For those of us who have been hurt by the Church in some way because of the MOM that we didn’t ask for, your efforts to find a bridge between our stories and the Church is appreciated.

Here is an article posted in the Baptist News Global that mentions all of us straight and gay spouses who needed some bridge building between our faith and our situations, but didn’t receive it.  There is hope for us straight spouses of faith, and I am thankful these people are taking our issues to the front lines.

Emotions Mixed for Pro-Gay ERLC Conference Attendees

Life is wonderful, God is good, and there is no fear in love.  Find hope, find it somewhere, and cling to it.

Happy Sunday from The Coolest Porch in San Fran,

Emily

P.S.  If you want to purchase a copy of Kathy’s book, you can do so here.  Much love to you, my dear friend.  Our meeting was divinely inspired.

To Stay or Not to Stay: That Is the Question

The male singer with the high pitch voice is David Lindley, the Jackson Browne's band guitar player.
The male singer with the high pitch voice is David Lindley, Jackson Browne’s band guitar player.

The word “stay” has been floating around the interwebs a bunch this past week.  With all of the SCOTUS posts and people’s opinions on The Book of Faces, it’s getting a bit confusing.

Basically, by not reviewing any of the appeals, SCOTUS is saying that same-sex marriage is constitutional and will be allowed in the states where many stays and voters wanted it to be banned… or defined marriage as between one man and one woman.  In my opinion, there will be hold-out states, and eventually SCOTUS will have to face the issue and make a federal ruling.

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It’s a little more complicated than that, but for now, this Ally will take what she can get.  People should get married if they want… regardless of who it is.  Love is love, marriage is a state mandated right, churches will not be “forced” to perform marriage ceremonies if they choose not to (which they already have that choice) and no Church or religious belief should dictate that to any other citizen of the United States of America.  I wrote a post on my other blog titled “Kiss My Big White Butt” that basically spelled out how I feel about it.  You can read it here if you’d like.

But what about the word “stay” as used in Mixed Orientation Marriages?  Should you “stay” once you find out and not divorce, trying to work things out in a heterosexual marriage while dealing with the complexity of same-sex orientation in your spouse?

I don’t actually have the answers for you.  I have known people who have stayed and tried to work it out.  In the beginning of Devon’s Big Reveal, I was determined to make it work.  My view on the matter was a religious one, basing my actions and reactions on the “fact” that being gay is a choice.  Therefore, Devon could choose to not “be gay” and with the proper counseling and guidance and manipulation from me, he would choose to work through it and “stay” married to me.

Should I stay or should I go?
Should I stay or should I go?

My attitude continued with this until the day I finally accepted that he didn’t really want to stay in it.  His homosexuality was not a choice.  I was choosing to keep him around until I could convince him otherwise.  The day I realized and accepted that was the very day I could let go and tell him that I wanted a divorce.

I slept for 14 hours straight that night and woke up with the most peaceful feeling I had ever experienced.

So… I didn’t stay.  I’m glad I didn’t.  NOW.  But it took me a year and a half to get there, and I tried everything I could think of, even some things I’m not so proud of.  I used scripture and the kids against him, for one, and for that, I am sorry.  In the end, however, that year and a half was a time of growth and grappling with big issues, with the biggest being my own belief system.  Before that Big Reveal, I thought I had all the answers.  After those words “I am gay” came out of his mouth, I truly learned what it meant to walk in someone else’s shoes and being judged for they very thing I used to judge others.  It was tough.  Once you live out something that was not expected to ever happen in your life, you gain empathy and wisdom beyond what you thought you could bear.

How long will it take you, as the straight spouse, to decide what you should do?  I don’t know.  Some lovely people I have met on this journey and through this website are still married after years of dealing with it.  Some of that has to do with age and the length of time they have been married.  Some of it has to do with their kids.  Many times, however, it has had to do with religious pressures based on fear… and that is no way to live.  True love has nothing to do with fear, and many times true love has to do with letting go.

Of course, this is all based on my own experience and others sharing their experiences with me.  I will not judge if you choose to stay.

However, I encourage you to truly evaluate your reasons behind staying.  Is it in any way based in fear?  Like, being afraid you won’t find anyone else?  Afraid that you can’t live without him or her?  Fear that people would find out and you’d lose friends and family over it?  Fear that others will be mad at you, or at your spouse?  All of these things can and will work out, because I have experienced it.  So have others.

Do what you think is right.  But try working toward not living in fear.  Fear is stifling and causes too much anxiety and unhappiness.

Be happy.  Be free.  If you can do that and “stay”, then by all means, do it.  You deserve the best in life, because life is too short to live it in fear.

Love, Emily Without Judgement

NoFearInLoveTattoo

Foot-In-Mouth-Disease and Letters In Red on Sunday

Pedestals:  No Bueno.
Pedestals: No Bueno.

Lest anyone forget, I have been where a vast majority of mainstream and Fundamentalist Christians have been with nearly every contentious issue and litmus test for being a “true” Christian.  This is especially true for the topic of Homosexuality.

This thinking/belief boils down to this:  You cannot be gay and a Christian.  If you are gay, you cannot “practice” homosexuality.  So, your options are:  1)  Live a life of celibacy (which is a “gift” according to the Scriptures and not something to force on someone), or 2) Get married to someone in a heterosexual marriage (because being gay is a choice and you can change to being a heterosexual)… and a third option during the process of #1 and #2 would be some sort of ex-gay therapy.  (Now, if you don’t believe the horror stories about those kinds of therapy, then you haven’t been willing to look into it.  Hit me up.  I can give you a plethora of people I know personally who experienced these kinds of interventions.  For every one person it supposedly “worked” for, there were 1,000 others that it didn’t work.  Which is why Exodus International finally had to disband after causing YEARS of harm to the LGBT community.)

One of the things that got me thinking today was this article in the NY Times, Pastor Led Son’s Gay Wedding, Revealing Fault Line in Church.  It’s well written and thought provoking about how the traditional and fundamentalist church treats its pastors and the LGBT community.  It made me think about how I would have reacted at one point in my life, before Devon’s Big Reveal.

Other people have the answers for gay people who are struggling with not wanting to be gay, wanting to have a relationship with God, and not wanting to hurt those they love.  It’s quite a pickle for the LGBT person to be in, to put it mildly.

I had the answers.  You bet I did.  And I was able to let them roll off my tongue as though I had the gift of prophecy.

This pic is awesome.  I love stuff that looks like kids made it.
This pic is awesome. I love stuff that looks like kids made it.

So, obviously, when Devon came out to me, I fell pretty hard from my pedestal.  I’m glad I did.  I wouldn’t change a thing… NOW.  But I sure tried to change things, especially that first year and a half.  I had people who loved me and supported my views that homosexuality was a sin and a choice.  I began to think a little differently as time moved forward, but not enough to question my beliefs regarding homosexuality.  It came down to me wanting Devon to remain my husband.  The very last thing I ever wanted was a divorce.  Heck, I was even willing to remain married to him if we never had sex again… as long as we were together and he did not seek a relationship or sex outside of our marriage.

I have shared a few stories on this blog and our earlier one (SameSides: Amicable Divorce)  that were words and attitudes I had which hurt Devon and all LGBT people, without me intending to be that way.  This was because of my worldview regarding homosexuality and Christianity.  I justified my judgement as “truth in love” when truly, at its essence, it was judgement.  To the well-meaning groups of ladies that I had the privilege of knowing through BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) during that year and a half in my life, I am very thankful that we weren’t allowed to get too personal in sharing prayer requests.  I couldn’t ask for Devon to choose to be straight or come back home to us during prayer time because that was a boundary BSF implemented, which kept a lot of gossip from spreading (prayer circles are experts at crossing gossip lines).

But the times where homosexuality was brought up through our readings or discussions, hurtful things were said that cut me to the quick and made me bleed inside.  I learned very early on how much I had hurt Devon and others through my prideful “wisdom” before Devon coming out of the closet by hearing words from other ladies lips that were the exact things I used to say and think.

This is what I call Foot-In-Mouth-Disease.  All of us are prone to it, regardless of our beliefs, love, or intentions.  I have accepted this about myself and feel qualified to see both sides of the divide regarding homosexuality and judgmental thinking.

I have no idea who "Gob" is, but this album cover is perfect!
I have no idea who “Gob” is, but this album cover is perfect!

Which is why I feel the need, especially lately, to simply go for it and call hypocrisy and judgement from Church dogma out in public ways.  Sometimes I do this with anger, other times I have done it with gentleness, and a few times I have lost friends over it.  I am learning how to balance love with truth, anger with empathy, and honesty with compassion.  I don’t hit the mark very often, but I’m trying.  I am thankful to those of you who don’t agree with me on things but stick around anyway.  It gives me hope that we can all help make this world a better place for everyone.

So on this Sunday, while many Christians are in church, I still don’t feel comfortable walking into one.  Someday I might, but today I will praise The Maker, The Universe, God… from the comfort of my computer at Devon and Felipe’s house while I recover from my last round of chemo.  The people and space that represent God’s unconditional love are right here, under The Reeses and Their Pieces Headquarters, where we can be together in peace, love, acceptance of differences and in fellowship with each other, building each other up and reflecting a little bit of The Letters in Red that are so precious to me these days.

Jesus did things right.  He kept his cool.  He didn’t suffer from Foot-In-Mouth-Disease.  Ever.  So I will look to him before I look to anyone or anything else as my example of how to live and love.  I am grateful for getting to a place of desiring to balance Faith with the realities of my life.  I’m doing that with the very thing that my dad always said to us growing up:  “Look to the Letters in Red.”

And if you aren’t religious, you won’t get judgement from me.  I am thankful I have the background I have because I get it when words are spoken in judgement, which are masked as “truth in love.”  Is there such a thing as “truth in love?”  Sure.  But if it doesn’t match with the Letters in Red, then you should be thinking twice before speaking them.

Happy Sunday to all people.  Unconditional love is the bomb, and without me knowing that I suffered from Foot-In-Mouth-Disease, I would have never gotten to this place of remembering the best advice from my pops:  Look to the Letters in Red.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Chemo-Done-And-Foot-Out-Of-Mouth-For-The-Moment Gal

Foot-in-Mouth Disease visits me often.  I think it is a virus possibly.  Wish there were an immunization for it.
Foot-in-Mouth Disease visits me often. I think it is a virus possibly. Wish there were an immunization for it.

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.