Tag Archives: SSN

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 

 

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The Life Changer

How are you feeling today? What are you dwelling on? How are your thoughts and circumstances affecting you, right now?

If you have found my blog through a search engine on Google or because someone recommended it to you, then my guess is that all of the questions above could be answered with some version of the word crap.

That’s okay. I get it. Been there…done that…bought the Tshirt. Some days, I am still in that place; however, it has gotten better for me overall.

I am going to let you in on a little secret this Thanksgiving holiday. Here is why my life has improved:

One of the best things I ever did for myself, to keep making the best choices possible during my second bought with colon cancer, was to write something everyday that I was thankful for. I did this publicly on The Book of Faces, because that’s how I live: out loud. Plus, as a writer, I like the feedback (and let’s be honest: I like an audience and attention).

When you are going through the crap, like all of the shtuff that happens to your marriage and relationships after a spouse comes out of the closet, it is tough to see anything in a positive light. But you know what? That is okay. If I could be trite for a second, that is actually a part of the process.

Once I commited to doing this gratefulness exercise everyday for a week, a week turned into a month, and suddenly a year had gone by. Even when caca happened, I accepted the challenge to find something…anything…to be thankful for that day. One time, I was even thankful for my Mexican Blanket, and another, I was thankful for a much needed shower.

Even if I missed a day (and at one time a week), I willed myself to write something. Forcing myself to find cause to be thankful changed my life. It allowed me pause to analyze my heart and my mind. It gave me the opportunity to know myself at my core.

And knowing who you are at your core, apart from anyone or anything, is one of the best key points of advice I can give to someone who is struggling in life. If you don’t know who you are at your core, despite the hurt and devastation going on around you, you are unsettled with a mind that races 24/7, and this ship that you are sailing on will sink faster than you can say the word help.

So do something, starting now, to help find out who you are at your core. How about you start by committing to write something you are thankful for and why? What’s the worst that can happen? You feel a little better for two minutes? That’s a win in my book.

Then, during one quiet moment tomorrow, write something you are thankful for again. If you forget, do it the next day. Keep a journal with these writings in some fashion. Even one year later, I can go back and see myself transforming and getting to know who Emily is at her core, apart from anyone or any circumstance. It is pretty amazing to see how far I’ve come.

One of the interesting side effects of this commitment to gratitude is that it was contagious. My thankful heart became full and it was natural for me to encourage others, even when I was in the throes of battling for my life against cancer. That, my friends, was amazing.

You can have this experience, too. Invite others to go on this journey with you. If you are a visual learner, like myself, attach a picture, a symbol, or a drawing you make to your Thankfulness Journal entry. It can truly be a life changer.

Feel free to comment below with what you are thankful for and why. Challenge yourself to find something that can be perceived as bad, and turn it on its head into a silver lining.

Change the crap into something that helps you know your core. Be thankful. Know yourself. Watch yourself grow. The attitude of gratitude is one of the most powerful life changers the human spirit has. Tap into it. You will feel like a winner, at least for a moment, everyday.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, with love, from me.


Be Thankful, Live Life, Love Life, Imapact Others,

Emily

Giving Advice


When your spouse comes out to you, the burden that they have secretly carried is lifted off their shoulders, more or less, and gets placed squarely on your back without consent from you. It is an awful thing to grapple with, and while they can finally be free to begin some sort of a process of usually moving on (even though it certainly isn’t easy for them), you are left holding a huge weight that you never expected to have to carry.

Unfortunately, our modern world often leaves us feeling ignored while their bravery is celebrated. It is most often left to us to pick up the scattered pieces of our narrative, without much support from society…and sometimes from the people closest to us.

This happens time and again to us Straights.

I am preparing a TEDx talk for this coming January that addresses the above issue in part. It is pretty exciting for me personally, and I hope I represent us well.

This is the first thing my students see when they walk in my classroom at Rainshadow Community Charter High School.

 

This morning I read an excellent post on the Straight Spouse Network’s blog section. In it, they set the record “straight” about some poorly handled advice given in a column from the UK. I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I thought I would share it with you. My hope is that it helps you feel encouraged and lends insight to those who may need to support you, when they are unsure to how to help.

The Straight Spouse Network is an excellent resource for many straight spouses. Thanks for stopping by here to get encouragement, too. You can email me anytime and I will always do my best to NOT say the things that the advice columnist in the UK did.

I get you. I love you. You are not alone.

Here’s the link: Giving Good Advice in the Worst Way -Straight Spouse Network

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily

 

One of my favorite songs ever by Stevie Nicks, “Landslide”

 

Hitting Home

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Bonnie Kaye’s life has impacted many straight spouses over the years. Her story and writings have given encouragement and insight into the tough road we straights have laid in front of us to trudge down.

Instead of writing some of my own words, since I have been quite busy with school st arting for my students at Rainshadow Community Charter High School, I thought this would be an excellent article to share. Enjoy it, gain insight and hopefully some encouragement from it.

Also, I love you.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

Emily

Bonnie Kaye’s Storyhttp://www.out.com/news-opinion/2015/8/13/meet-women-who-pick-pieces-after-their-husbands-come-out

A Case of the Clingons

You’ve built a life with someone; a life financially, with offspring, social circles, extended family, memories galore.

And then they come out, rarely willingly. It usually happens because they get caught. Maybe a Craigslist ad was carelessly left open on a computer screen. Maybe some texts or dirty pictures from an iPhone were downloaded to an iCloud account. Or maybe they were caught in some other red-handed way.

No matter how you find out, your world as you knew it, as you planned it, explodes into chaos. Nothing makes sense, and things make sense, all at the same time. The truth was right in front of your schnoz, sometimes for years, but you couldn’t, and sometimes wouldn’t, see it. This Truth is something you want to know all about, but don’t want to know, simply because of the pain it brings.

Earth shattering, gut wrenching, baby-barf in your mouth…painful Truth.

How could this have happened? I loved my spouse. What did I do wrong? How could I be so stupid? What did I do to deserve this? Was anything real? Was my entire marriage simply a sham?

Can I fix it? I need to fix this. They are saying some of the right things, like:

I love you and want to make this work. I won’t do it again. I am not really gay. Please forgive me. I will change. Don’t tell anyone. I want and love no one but you.

We cling to those words. We are afraid of what lies ahead, the unknown, without them.

I can’t make it alone. Our kids will be devastated. I have invested my best years in this marriage. Who am I without them?  I love him/her enough to stand by them, help them through this…believe them.

Actions speak louder than words, and their actions don’t match. Not even a little. Sure, there may be a few times where they hold you, listen to you, send you flowers…but those are not consistent. They distance themselves emotionally and physically, sleep in a different bed, do irrational things like make a large purchase without telling you, secretly spend time on the computer doing God knows what…and the whole time you try to cling to what they say, not what they do.

Your whole focus becomes them, changing things to keep them close, and keeping your marriage intact. In fact, maybe even your dual-life spouse revels in that. They see that they’ve got some control over you and milk it for all it’s worth. They don’t want to change things either, but from an even more selfish standpoint. You, your family, the life you have built is their beard, their cover. The idea of giving that up is painful, just as it is to you.

You both have so much to lose. So, you get an acute case of the Clingons.

I mean, who wants to believe that they made such a life altering mistake? No one. Not a single one of us.

This is not about divorce, even though you may be considering it in some fashion. This is actually about finding yourself. Really knowing who you are apart from anyone else. The major portions of your identity are wrapped up in your spouse and this life you have made together, which actually is turned on its head.

It comes down to taking care of you. Sure, you need to think of your kids, your finances, your friends, your extended family. But…

If you aren’t taking care of you, apart from anyone else, those things are going to crumble anyway.  Depression is common, and if you don’t seek professional help and others who have been where you are, you will be eaten alive.

The overwhelming panic is the toughest thing to deal with, it seems. If you aren’t taking care of you, standing up for yourself, facing things as head-on as you can, then this ship you are sailing on is going to sink, fast.

So, what are some things you can do? I can give you a random list, but I would LOVE to hear from others who have been where you are, in the comments below. Comment anonymously if you would like, because I know many of you will read this and have some practical advice for people who have found this blog, desperately searching for answers.

Here is a small list of my own. Again, add to it, readers, so you can help those who need it.

  1. Find a good counselor that isn’t there for saving your marriage only. Find a personal one just for you and your needs.
  2. Find time to journal.
  3. Go someplace quiet on the regular, by yourself, and cry.
  4. Read uplifting quotes.
  5. Find a confidante who will not try to fix the problems you face and won’t get annoyed listening to you.
  6. Take bubble baths.
  7. Watch funny movies.
  8. Read funny books.
  9. Take a daytrip somewhere that you have always wanted to do.
  10. Stay away from negative people or triggers, as much as you can help it.

Above all, find the things that you cling to and move toward reality, which is who you are at your core. Get to know yourself. Forgive yourself for mistakes. Allow yourself to feel. Try not to beat yourself up for not seeing the truth. And if you do beat yourself up, keep telling yourself that you are loveable, you aren’t alone, and you are worth so much more.

The more you get to know and love yourself and your core, the easier it will be to make seemingly polarizing decisions.

Cling to those things that are wonderful, praiseworthy, beautiful, and lovely. Eventually you will find yourself transforming from a Clingon to a Superhuman. One who can hold their head high and move forward in life with the confidence of a powerful, loveable and dignified individual…

Apart from anyone and anything.

Not A Clingon Anymore,

Emily

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

Happy Anniversary, WuzBand

Today, June 28th, is the day that Devon and I were married, back in 1997, in that sweltering hot, Civil War Era church in Ft. Scott, Kansas.

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

I have decided that weddings are like funerals in this way: It is the one day while you’re alive, where all of the people in your life from all of your circles (family, friends, co-workers) are in one place to celebrate you and the love of your life.

No one who attends has in mind, unless they are negative in their thinking, that your marriage will be anything other than ‘til death do us part. The next time that all of those people will be in one place will be the day of your memorial service… or celebration of life.

When I walked around the corner to march up the aisle, with my arm locked in my dad’s, I fully expected to start sweating and bawling and have my makeup melt down my face. Instead, I turned the corner and locked eyes with Devon, who was bawling uncontrollably with joy.

And I knew that I wouldn’t have to cry. I would wipe his tears and snotty nose as we lit our Unity Candle and exchanged vows. I had a job to do, and that was to help Devon.

… for the rest of my life with him. And I did JUST THAT. I was his helpmate and happy to be so. This could also be phrased as his submissive wife, letting him lead our eventually growing family, and standing by my man.

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10 years later, during Devon’s Big Reveal that he has been gay all of his life, was a true boat-rocker. My June Cleaver pearls broke in that instant and I realized that all of the moments up until that point were not what they seemed to be.

That’s how I felt anyway.

Was he crying at the alter because of shame, guilt or saddness of trying to cover up his true core by bringing me in as cover? The furniture we bought together for our first home, the prayers we shared, the decisions I backed for him as his submissive wife… were they all a part of his own life and his desire to look like something different than what he really was?

I have since met and spoke with hundreds of men and women who have gone through something similar. The feelings of betrayal and being duped, used and lied to, are very real. Some people hold onto those things and continually punish their gay spouse… and ultimately punish themselves and all of those around them.

But for some of us, me included, we learn to deal with those and find truth in our existence as a loving wife or husband, who unknowingly was living in a Mixed Orientation Marriage.

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There is no How To Manual for straight spouses. No yellow and black Mixed Orientation Marriage for Dummies book. I wish there was. Unfortunately, the only thing available to help us through is our own moxie, fortitude and perserverance and the offerings of other people’s support and stories who have been down this road before us.

As I worked through my own emotions for about a year and a half (and then some) I sought out others who could help. It’s tough putting yourself out there because a situation like ours (especially with the added layer of Church and Christianity) is shrouded in shame, secrecy and bitterness. Many people that tried to “help” only wanted to find misery in my company, and that isn’t how I operate. I wanted to work through it and come out on the other side healthier, happier and more fulfilled. I wanted to believe it was possible because I didn’t want to die and have my celebration of life attended by circles of people who pittied me or my family.

There had to be hope. There simply had to be.

I finally found it by working through my stuff and began to view my wedding day, our furniture, our prayers and our decisions as REAL and true. Our love was not fake. Mine certainly wasn’t, and the day that I accepted as truth that I was sincerely the only woman that Devon ever loved was the day that I could let go with a smile. I also slept for 14 hours straight that night and woke up without a burden on my shoulders of “How am I going to fix this?” which ran my waking hours.

I could move forward and found out who I truly was without him. And I can honestly say that I love myself. I may even marry myself and invite everyone to the marriage sacrament. Sue Sylverster of Glee, you had a great idea when you did that.

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So, how do you get through it? I really don’t have the answers. But what I do know is that if you want to come out a better person, you will.

The word accept is not something that says “I’m going to just roll over and take it.” What it entails is understanding what you can and cannot control. I could not control the choices that Devon made, my history of falling for him, my desire to stay married for the rest of my life or my attempts at trying to make him see the light that he was choosing himself over his family.

What I can change, which is hard enough, is my own self. My ability to work with something I could not change instead of against it. My desire to love unconditionally, which meant giving up my own control issues, finding ways to make lemonade out of lemons, and sharing the wisdom that I acquired and could use to help others just like me.

I can choose to love without agendas or desire to control. That is all I can control.

Me. Myself. And I.

Who do I want to become? What do I want my children to remember? What kind of legacy will I leave behind when I finally have everyone that I know and love at my celebration of life?

It is love that I want people to see and remember. It is empathy that I want people to feel coming from my heart and lips. It is a joy that surpasses any temporary circumstance that I want to have in Emily’s Scrapbook of Life.

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That is it.

I want to remember for myself the happiness that I felt in marrying Devon as I helped him wipe away his tears and snot. It was real. It was sincere.

Happy Anniversary, Devon. Our marriage shaped us both (and our children) into who we are today. And we love ourselves.

We also love all of you. Unconditionally.

Live Life, Love Life, Impact Others,

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.

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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.