Sophia’s Story: She Stayed

An ornate clock with the words Time to Share on its faceSophia, 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. 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.

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.

And now, presenting:  Sophia’s Story: She Stayed

~~~~

Sophia:

I just found your site through Kathy Baldock on Facebook.  It was refreshing to read my thoughts, my feelings, and a similar experience by someone who wasn’t angry or suggesting I “kick him to the curb.” For that very reason I have avoided “help sites” and

Here is the book cover to Kathy Baldock's book that is going to be released July 15.  Buy your copy ASAP.
Here is the book cover to Kathy Baldock’s book that is going to be released July 15. Buy your copy ASAP.

have pretty much been floundering alone; with the exception of a few friends and family members who are clueless but do try to keep and open mind for my sake.  My husband and I have been married 32 years, and he came out to me 7 years ago. I think I spent the first year somewhere between stunned and denial. The next year I cried…a lot…and then the anger hit and humiliation hit.  That I could have been so naive and that he could have been so deceitful wreaked havoc in my mind. However, 7 years later we are no closer to having our issues resolved than we were in the beginning. During that time, our only child, a son, came out to us too. My husband lost his job, decided to attend *****’s training, my dad passed away, all hell broke loose when his parents started hearing rumors about us, we gave up our church (that my husband founded) and then his dad passed away. Oh, and I won’t even go into the Gideon’s “intervention” and a local pastor’s interference!  Needless to say, many events have caused us to put the most pressing issue of our lives on the back burner.

My number one complaint has been and still is that I feel like I’ve been put on a playing field blind folded with both hands tied behind my back. Then I’m told to play the game.  I have no idea what I’m playing, where the boundaries are, or the rules. No matter how many times I ask these things I’m met with a blank stare, or something to the effect of “I don’t understand. What do you want me to say?” AGHHHH!!!!

I’m ** years old. Too old to have any more children and start over and not really interested in the dating scene.  The job market is worse.  I’m a certified ***** that has been working the past 17 years so I could stay home with our son. My husband is laden with this tremendous guilt that he can’t leave me desolate. I’ve told him I’m not interested in an open marriage or roommate. So here we sit…and sit…and sit. He attends meetings and therapy of all kinds, and  is pursuing more certification in *****. He is loved by all his coworkers and clients. He can help, encourage, and love on anyone….anyone but me. He just can’t seem to know where to fit me in. He can’t leave, he can’t stay. I mostly feel he’s waiting until his ailing mother (who he has never come out to) passes away. God forbid she would cut him out of the inheritance…and I believe she would if she knew for a fact he was gay.

HidingInAClosetOkay. I’ve rambled enough.  I think the day he and my son came out of the closet I was ready to crawl in one.  In some ways I think I have!

Thanks for lending an ear, Sophia

 ~~~~

Emily:

My Dearest Sophia:

Wow.  Just, wow.  Thank you for sharing your story.  My heart breaks for you, but I see so much strength in you.  We don’t know just how strong we can be until something like this happens.

The crappiest thing that is a common thread in most MOM marriages is that there is no How To Manual or a yellow book called MOM for Dummies.  I am convinced this is why the straight spouse in the MOM is the most underserved and often brushed by group of people.  We flounder on our own.  People want to help but don’t know how.

I really feel you, Sophia.  I feel honored that you shared your story with me.

And the Church factor:  SO many things there.  I don’t even know where to begin.

I felt like Devon just stood there like a deer in headlights for the majority of the time that we were “working” through our stuff. He was polarized.  I was the one who took the initiative almost always, and he played along… never really wanting to be the one to end it.

I don’t think you should necessarily end it, just so you know.  Each person’s journey is unique.  And the reason for staying together or not are also unique.

I do have an acquaintance here in Reno who has stayed married, is about your age I think, and continues to deal with the MOM because of the kids.  Do you have someone in your life that has that same scenario whom you can share your journey with?  If you would like for me to connect you to her, I will gladly do so.  I know both her husband and her well enough to connect you.  I met them through Kathy Baldock.

Kathy is like Kevin Bacon:  You could play the Six Degrees of Separation Game with her as the main person.

Also, let me know if you would like for me to share your story and in what capacity on my blog itself.  It may help others.  But there is no pressure from me to do so.

Please keep in touch.  Let me know things that have helped you in your journey so that I can share them with others.  I’m not a counselor… just a person who knows what it feels like to be isolated and needing some people to truly understand me.

Also, while I haven’t mentioned your son, I want you to know that I love him, too, and I’m sure from your standpoint could have been difficult to deal with.

flying-freeThe burden you carry is a lot.  I’m guessing that if we happen to get wings like the angels in Heaven when we pass from this life to the next, yours will be so light and powerful, that the feeling of flying will be indescribably freeing… a complete contrast from the heaviness that you feel at times.

I love you, Emily

~~~~

Sophia:

Hi Emily,

It’s 1:00 a.m. and we just got back home from a trip to C******. Our son had his first practice session to try out for the ***** ***** Marching Band. There’s so much more I want to share, but it’s late and I’ll get back to you when I’m not sleep deprived.

VintageListeningToRadioSuffice it to say that I “introduced” you to my husband and we listened to you on tape. He cried, I seethed, and we both laughed.  In any event, thank you so much for your kind words and fast response. I do believe Kathy Baldock is a good judge of character and compassion! [This was in reference to my story as recorded live on the podcast Risk! Live Storytelling, at the 19:30 minute mark after the first story.]

More later, Sophia

~~~~

Emily:

Sophia-

EmilyOnStage2I’m glad you listened to that recording.  It was the first time I shared the story orally in front of a crowd.  My hope is that maybe your husband gained some insights into the other side of the closet from it.  At least you could laugh.  That is my goal in life most of the time, to hear people laugh.  In any case, I will friend you on FB and wait to hear more from you.  Please let me know if I can share your story.  It is valuable.

Much love to you and your whole family, Emily

~~~~

Sophia:

Emily,

If  you can use anything I shared you’re more than welcome to it, but I’d appreciate not having my name attached to it. We live in a small community of about 10,000 people; most of who are Republican, and evangelical Christian or Catholic. And probably the biggest gossip rat’s nest around. While I’ve come across several people in town who support marriage equality and gay rights, I’ve been pretty picky who I’ll actually open up to about my personal life. God forbid they’d see my name on a blog and make me tomorrow’s headlines at breakfast.

I probably should’ve added that when [my son] came out to us his freshman year in high school he had our full support. He told me first after walking around the house for two days like a zombie. I finally pulled out of him what was bothering him. We cried and hugged and then I told him about his dad. All the experts have since said that was a wrong move on my part. This was about him, not his dad and too much to process. [My son] was clueless about his dad. I thought I was helping. Heck, what did I know? I’m the only straight person in this whole household. The animals are all neutered and spayed and all hump each other, so basically whether human or animal I’m in the minority!

[My husband] and I met in a very strict Pentecostal church. About the only thing you could do in that church for fun was eating out and sex if you were married. Consequently we had a lot of fat available women who just wanted to meet Mr. Right and bare his children! By the time [my husband] and I started hanging together, he was in the process of ending things with his boyfriend and denying any part of being gay. It was a sin, an abomination, and one of the quickest roads to hell in that particular church denomination. Anyhow, we hung out for about 2 years and then eloped over ****** during his freshman year of college. I remember asking him that day if he was nervous and he said no. Later, as we were walking down the street as Mr. and Mrs. he told me he had a confession.  I jokingly said; “Well you picked a great time to tell me you’re gay!” I guess he about crapped his britches when I said that. Little did I know how true that statement was going to be 25 years later. I promise you I had no idea. He insists I did, or at least my subconscious did. I had a dream one night that I found him in bed with another man and laughingly shared the dream with him. He said he about soiled himself that day. He thought I knew. I didn’t, but maybe he’s right. Maybe my subconscious did.

Today among the obvious challenges in a MOM is the change in our spiritual life. We were both on fire, youth leaders, Holy Ghost filled, worship team members. He played piano and passion_05_worship_editorgan and I sang in the choir, ran the aisles and danced, and filled in on the piano. We team taught Sunday School too.  We were always on the same page where church was concerned. Not anymore. I attend St. Mattress and he seeks out anything that’s the opposite of being a Christian. I think he attends a Universalist Unitarian church occasionally. He’s somewhere between New Age and New Thought. I’m sort of a modified Old Thought old ways. He does not look, act, dress, or worship the same anymore. I’m afraid the only thing we have left in common is a history and a son. There are days I look at him and don’t even know him. I’m not quite sure where I expect this marriage to go or end….

But hey…as I looked over your Facebook page, it appears you’ve gone through another pretty tough event besides a gay husband. You’ve been undergoing chemo treatments? Your positive attitude and humor made that revelation hit me like a brick. I trust all is well with you. At least I hope and pray you are well on the road of complete recovery.

Again…sorry for the novel. Thanks for being there!  Sophia

 ~~~~

Emily:

Sophia,

I am just waking up and am glad to have woken up to this email.  Woman, we simply need to meet in person so I can hug you.

Even your animals aren’t straight?  I nearly shit myself with laughter when I read that!

I will write more later, Emily

 ~~~~

Emily:

Hey Sophia,

I am getting ready to copy/paste/formulate your story to share on my blog.  Don’t worry:  Once I have what I think is a final copy, I will send it to you first for your approval and for you to review if there should be any changes or deletions regarding making sure your anonymity is protected.  I feel your story is very valuable because I am sure there are other women out there like you who have chosen to stay married and just deal with it.  I believe you are a rarity, however.  I know of only one other family who chose to do that, the one I mentioned about linking you up with.  People almost always end their marriages.  I want to support people who choose to stay for any number of reasons, without judgement.  I feel that the support site Straight Spouse Network works from the assumption that divorce is the only option, which is why I didn’t rely on them for support during my own process.  They also do not tolerate religious views, while they rightfully condemn ex-gay therapy.  There isn’t a place where people can have a happy medium regarding these topics.  Or at least, none that I am aware of.

I would be interested to know more about your experiences with the Church and Christian friends.  If you could expound upon that and add reasons why you have chosen to remain silent about it to others, that would be great.  I think I understand why myself, but readers may find it interesting to hear your side of that issue.

Anyway, get back to me when you can.  If you’d like to rewrite into one document some of the things you have shared with me, that would be great.  But, I think I can put something together fairly easily based on what you’ve already shared.  Let me know if you’d like to do this before I start hammering something out.

Much love to you and your family, and I am grateful that you reached out, Emily

 ~~~~

Sophia:

Hi Emily,

First I trust you’ll do the right thing with whatever you use that I send and thank you! What immediately attracted me to you was the positive upbeat attitude and humor you presented in your blog. Again, that is not what I found on other support groups. It read like the “diary of a bunch of angry housewives who wanted testicles for dinner.”  I was once a part of an ex-PC group (people who left the Pentecostal Church) who reacted the same way. They wanted to constantly play the victim card and blame their every problem in life on that church. I don’t need that kind of encouragement.  Sure I get mad. Sure I have days when I could not only help him pack but I could help the door hit him on the butt on his way out! 🙂 But, I don’t want to live or die there, okay? TruthNotGossipAs for our church and Christian experiences. Well, I danced around the issue with a good Christian friend that we used to home church with. I never came out and said I was referring to my husband or son. I just mentioned that when you could put a face on the very thing you hated, you might have a change of heart, like for instance homosexuals. She said it was our duty as parents to teach our children right from wrong and that things like murder, stealing, and homosexuality are wrong according to God’s word. Well, as you can guess I didn’t share any of my personal life or story with her after that. When we poured our hearts and story and literature out to our associate pastor and his wife it just sat there like a big old smelly elephant turd.  It was always present and we always tried to ignore it. Then he (the associate pastor) started making sarcastic hurtful remarks about gays. He even had the audacity one time to ask me how our sex life was. We finally had to confront the turd (not the associate pastor! haha) in the room and be honest about its existence and that he did not support my husband, our son, or the fact that we wanted our church to be gay friendly. His wife didn’t necessarily agree but wasn’t one to stand up to whatever he decided in their marriage either.  [My husband] contends that he bore his soul to our congregation, told his very personal story and they all betrayed him. He said he didn’t ImWithStupidAntiGaySignsknow what he expected from people but he didn’t expect them to dessert him like they did. My feeling is, if a wife struggles with the coming out story, what on earth did he expect from a congregation? The pastor that busted his chops to get the word out about my husband, is the type who would think carrying signs and protesting your church would be God’s will. He never did that, but we were warned he was very capable of it. I still think he runs when he sees me coming….lol

As to why I remain silent about sharing our life with others: Well first of all it’s none of their d@$*n business! Secondly I think I take a personal delight in making people guess what’s going on since this town is notorious for its gossip. Thirdly, I don’t know what our story is yet. I don’t know where we’re going, what in the heck we’re doing. Until we figure it out, what’s the point? I have shared with my family, and three good friends. Beyond that nobody. My husband’s family only knows what the gossip ring has told them, but he has NEVER admitted anything to them. His attitude is that one of the few things a gay person has control over is who they choose to come out to. And he refuses to be pinned against an accusatory wall and forced to tell. Our son’s attitude is “Why does it even have to be an issue? Why can’t I be G**** who is a musician, or attends **** State? Why does it have to be G**** who is gay? A person’s sexual preference shouldn’t be a label or attached to who that person is.”  Out of the mouths of babes…

If there’s anything else I can share, anything else you can think of, just let me know. Start hammering away!

Thanks for being there!!  Sophia

 ~~~~

 Isn’t she a beautiful and articulate woman? How did her story touch you? What follow up questions do you have for her? Please place your comments and questions below and encourage Sophia without judgement as she travels down the road she never expected to have to travel on. She is keeping her feet grounded as best as she knows how on this road, and I am confident that her transparency will encourage others.

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6 thoughts on “Sophia’s Story: She Stayed

  1. Hi Emily,

    I’m a new board member of the national organization and local facilitator of the Straight Spouse Network in the DC area. My ex disclosed 6+ years ago (after 25 years marriage and 4 children) and we lived in a MOM for almost 2 years. I tried to make that work but found that for me it was a one-sided benefit to her, while it nearly killed me from the inside out.

    I enjoy your perspective in the blog and came across this comment that concerns me, “I feel that the support site Straight Spouse Network works from the assumption that divorce is the only option, which is why I didn’t rely on them for support during my own process. They also do not tolerate religious views, while they rightfully condemn ex-gay therapy. ”

    Perhaps you could expand on your experiences that led you to this conclusion. My experience has been that the organization is accepting of all choices including MOMs. Some of the board members have been or are in MOMs. There is also religious diversity and acceptance, including a faith-focused private Facebook discussion group affiliated with the network. In my local group meetings I have never judged someone’s direction or faith choices because there is certainly no one right answer in dealing with this difficult situation. I also know the founder, Amity Buxton, and find it difficult to think she does “not tolerate religious views.” I’ve read her books and spoken with her many times. In fact she works with many faith-based organizations to help them deal with people in our situation.

    Lastly, if you know of any men who have or are in a MOM, I would appreciate introductions. I often get asked about how a MOM can work for men with lesbian spouses and there is little to go on. I am also writing a short guide for men who learn that their spouse/partner is gay and want to properly address the topic for that.

    Thanks!

    Ron

    1. Ron,

      First of all, thank you for stopping by and reading my site. The time you took to read and your feedback is somewhat of an honor to me. The fact that you are a male who experienced a MOM is also something that seems somewhat… not as common? At least in my own world.

      I also completely appreciate your candor regarding your question of my comment about SSN. There is a part of me that wishes I could go back and slightly tweak what I wrote in my conversations with Sophia through email. When I posted this, I knew that it could be taken as harsh. However, it wouldn’t have been honest of me to change it since it was simply my perspective as I was dealing with my husband coming out of the closet nearly 8 years ago… and part of my email conversation with Sophia.

      So, I will qualify it slightly here with honesty and hopefully you will take it as constructive criticism.. and not personally (-:

      During my own time of dealing with Devon coming out, we were very much entrenched in Fundamentalist Christianity. Eight years ago, there were few options to choose from for me to find support. Exodus International and SSN were pretty much it. Exodus failed me from the second I called them. (Big shocker, there.) I looked at SSN (skimmed, really) and during that time, while I know that SSN could have been good for me, I didn’t feel they were very clear on how someone like me (who thought being gay was a choice and a sin) could work through this issue and stay in a marriage… and CONVINCE Devon of the same thing.

      I do remember the mission statement at that time, but for me, it didn’t mention religion enough. Perhaps it just wasn’t clear enough to me when my crisis first occurred.

      I am aware that SSN does have resources available for people regarding religion and LGBT issues. One of the things that is difficult for a person seeking help, who comes from the perspective that I had at the time, is that if it isn’t easy to see right away where the support and resources are, the whole site or organization is written off. I’m not saying that’s RIGHT to do, but it is reality for many people. I hope that makes sense. I suppose that people who feel that the Bible is interpreted as “homosexuality being a sin” also believe that any “secular” group is not “Biblical.” It’s sad, but it is absolutely true. So, SSN is easily written off by Fundamentalist Christians.

      As far as “divorce being the only option”, when a person like me from a religious background doesn’t find help on the SSN right away regarding Christianity and LGBT issues, it is assumed that SSN thinks divorce is the only option. I’m not entirely sure how to explain why, but I suppose that because thinking like that is either an all or nothing kind of thing, that is how it is viewed (i.e.: Because SSN doesn’t say that homosexuality is a choice and a sin, then they probably think divorce is the ultimate outcome.)

      Since I have dealt with all of this for many years now, I certainly have changed my tune. I am well aware that SSN does not judge or try to change people into thinking that divorce is the only option. There are also, now, many groups and support networks out there for people who do continue to live in a MOM. But at the time, there were very few options.

      I believe that I wrote to SSN when I first opened up this blog to request to be put on the SSN list of resources because here, I offer a clearer perspective that focuses in part on religious backgrounds of people who have a spouse that comes out. It is such a huge sub-topic of the MOM experience in our society and people need a place specifically for that. A Facebook group and some resources to read/listen to are great, but through my own experience, I think there could be more to offer on the SSN. That’s why I wrote to y’all (-:

      Like I said, I wish I could tweak my statement to Sophia a bit, but I decided to go with what I said in the text regarding SSN. I kept it in part because I have spoken with a myriad of people who have said that the support they sought through SSN wasn’t clear enough to them on how to meld their religious background with the reality of their situation. SSN does tolerate religious views, of course, but for those people like me, it is difficult to see… when during their initial crisis, religious filters are all they CAN see. (My hope is that this doesn’t offend you and that perhaps it could be used to somehow help SSN to offer more groups for those seeking help with a background like mine. Does that make sense?)

      I do want to state clearly that I want people to use SSN as a resource (I have SSN listed under resources on this blog). It is a well-established, professional organization with a wonderful reputation for helping others. My hope is that SameSides can be a sub-support for those who find what is shared here as helpful. I am well connected with my friend Kathy Baldock and others, many of whom come at LGBT issues and MOM with Christianity in mind, so I will try to hook you up with some men who experienced MOM for your book/resources.

      Gosh. This was really long. Of course, I am a word freak and sometimes try to use too many words to talk about something that is easier to sum up than it is in my head. I hope some of this helped explain what I meant.

      Ron, thank you for taking the time to read the stuff on here and respond to it. If you would like to chat more, we can do it through these comments or you can write to me at my personal email at mlereese@gmail.com.

      Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,
      Emily Reese

      1. Oh… one more thing. I found this in one of the posts that I wrote which sums up more clearly what I formulated above regarding the SSN:

        “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.”

  2. I’ve been in touch with Ron. But if the straight spouses are lonely, invisible, the straight husbands of lesbians are a minority of a minority. ALL the books are written by women; lesbians coming out or straight wives of gay men. There’s almost nothing for us.
    Part of the pressure towards divorce is that most MOMs don’t last, do break up, and there are a lot of str8s who’ve divorced and feel that the time they spent trying to make it work was time wasted, when they could have been getting out and getting on with rebuilding their own lives.
    We struggle to stay together. There friendship, closeness, much that we share. But no intimacy for many, many months. And it is acid to the soul to know that you have given your all in a relationship, and that your partner – through no fault of their own – was never able to fully reciprocate. A deep and important part of their being was reserved for attraction, love, lust for someone of their own sex. It is a living hell. Even as life goes on day by day, with many good pieces.

    1. I completely understand the feeling of “time being wasted.” I suffered from the same idea in my mind. One of the blessings in my situation is that it happened in my own life at a fairly young age (31ish). For others who don’t find out until they are older with kids out of the house, this can be especially difficult. I have met many women in particular who feel especially cheated because of the timing of their spouse coming out. It is good to hear your perspective as a husbands whose wife came out. Looking forward to hearing more of your story. So glad you stopped by!

      Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,
      Emily Reese

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