This blog is from the heart, informed by having been married to a closeted gay man and understanding how that experience changed the trajectory of my life, both as a woman and as a psychotherapist. Please add to the conversation and "Follow" if you're so inclined; all voices are welcome!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Playing catch-up

This memory, as with most memories that evoke strong emotion, is a visual, visceral snapshot. We are sitting on a bench along Lake Eola near his law office, watching swans glide across the water. I am wearing my pretty white Liz Claiborne dress. He is impeccably attired, as always, with the faint scent of Calvin Klein's "Obsession" cologne. We have been separated for maybe two months, three at most.  He is once again indulging my endless need for contact and conversation, my latest attempt to relieve this incessant grief-ache that plagues me.


He is light years ahead of me on this road we're going down. He got the map way before I even knew we needed one. New home, new love, new life. He makes a joke, the last word of which is "underSTAN?".

Stan is his lover's name.

He is not an unkind person by nature, this soon-to-be-ex-husband of mine. Rather, he is a prisoner just set free from a 30-year sentence. The guards came, with their clanking keys and heavy footsteps, and opened his cell door forever. And he left that prison with hesitant, uncertain steps at first, a newborn squinting in the sunlight of liberation, then began trotting, finally breaking into a full-bore sprint towards happiness. He has traveled so far and with such speed that I can barely see him anymore. And he clearly cannot see me. Because this joke, this light-hearted emphasis of his lover's name, is profoundly unkind and breathtakingly insensitive.

But he has no idea of the pain just inflicted. He is free. He is finally able to live as he is. And he is happy. How that joke lands on me doesn't even register.  He has found the heart salve that I am so desperately trying to extract from him.

And on the peaceful noonday waters of Lake Eola, the swans, mated for life, glide away.

To schedule a face-to-face or FaceTime session with Kimberly Brooks Mazella, LPC, please go to my website at www.straightforwardcounseling.com.  For information on our developing program of personal empowerment weekends for straight spouses, visit my Facebook page, Kintsukuroi, or www.kintsukuroi.life. I can also be reached at kim@straightforwardcounseling.com.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Grrratitude

This dinosaur recently discovered the joy that is satellite radio. All those years spent driving around without it...who knew the treasure trove of music and wisdom that awaited me?

Take, for example, Oprah's Lifeclass, Oprah's Soulclass, Oprah's anything. Oprah is my new addiction, my "Must Hear Radio."  Every single episode contains some gem, some piece of wisdom that knocks on my brain and says, "Hello? Anyone in there? Because this one's for you."  Between Oprah, Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Ram Dass, Iyanla Vansant et al., I am veritable fountain of spiritual and emotional growth. Of course, my aging brain forgets 50% of it an hour later, but in the moment, I am e-volved.

I can't recall with certainty the title of the particular program that really got my attention, but it may have been something like "Gratitude...Really?" or "Transcendence for Dummies." It was all about living in a place of gratitude, being thankful for the gifts received as a result of whatever #!*%! experiences we've been through.

I have actually preached about the idea of gratitude many times when wearing my therapist hat, and intellectually it makes perfect sense. But I am more than a little amused at how the person behind the therapist (me) was resistant to actually embracing and applying the concept to myself. The words "practice what you preach" and "therapist, heal thyself" come to mind...

So, here goes:

Rob, thank you for giving me the experience of having married you, and having shared your journey of coming to terms with your homosexuality. Because of it, I have learned or gained the following:

1. I discovered a depth of compassion within myself that I didn't know was there, because I felt your deep pain and distress even as I was going through my own.

2. I am a wiser person and a better therapist for having experienced such a profound loss...and even more so for coming out on the other side relatively intact. (You only get credit for the first part; the second part was all me).

3. Your description of your attraction to men as being "as fundamental as hunger" helped me not only understand you, but lets me now share my understanding with others that homosexuality is not in any way, shape or form a "choice" -- it's a hard-wiring over which you had no control, no matter how much you wanted it to be different.

4. Because of my own battle with grief, depression and loss following the end of our marriage, I bring authenticity to my work, and am not afraid to share who I am with my clients, warts and all.

5. I gained a credible voice in the straight spouse struggle, and am in a unique position to be of assistance to both straight spouses and those coming out of the closet.

Would I want to go through it all again? No. But am I a better person for having had that experience? Absolutely. And so, in the end, I am grateful. Seriously.

So -- thank you, Rob.

(And thanks, Oprah!)

**Please visit our GoFundMe page at www.gofundme/kintsukuroi.com to see how you can help support personal growth and empowerment weekends for straight spouses. Thank you!

To schedule a face-to-face or FaceTime session with Kimberly Brooks Mazella, LPC, please go to my website at www.straightforwardcounseling.com.  For information on our developing program of personal empowerment weekends for straight spouses, visit my Facebook page, Kintsukuroi. I can also be reached at kim@straightforwardcounseling.com.



Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A gay man's perspective on straight spouses

This blog is worth a read --  it is by a young gay man in Malaysia. I very much appreciate his sensitivity to the damage done to straight spouses.





"I recently came across the phrase 同妻 (lit. "a gay man's wife") which means straight spouse. It refers to the women who are married to gay men.


A Chinese news channel had a cover story on these straight spouses recently.
Guardian UK also had an article dated years ago on the marriages between a straight and a homosexual person and the coming out of the homosexual spouses. The straight spouses were generally supportive of their homosexual spouses when they came out even though they have divorced.

But that's not the case for those straight spouses in the Chinese programme. Probably due to the norm of the society, the circumstances of the wives of homosexual husbands are usually not as optimistic as the ones from UK.

A rough estimate of the total number of straight spouses in China is said to be more than 10 million. That's easily two times the population of the entire Singapore.
The plight of these Chinese straight spouses include unhappy family lives, domestic violence, higher risk of HIV, pressure of public opinion and gossips, pressure from family to have children, depression etc. I guess the most direct one is that how can a person be happy to marry someone that does not love him or her? And I can hardly imagine how devastating it is for a woman to find out that the man that promised her happiness and stability for the rest of her life is gay.

Quoting from another Chinese TV programme that made the coverage on this issue, 'due to the ignorance of the traditional society, under the pressure from public opinion, 90 percent of gay man in China choose marriage, but most of their spouses know nothing about it.'
The keyword here is ignorance. Doesn't that sound similar to the Malaysian society?
The ignorance causes the heartbreaking stories and perturbing plight of the straight spouses. By making the society more homophobic, we will only produce more of these straight spouses in distress. Do we really want this in Malaysia?

So don't try to marry a girl when you know or even suspect you're gay."

**Please visit our GoFundMe page at www.gofundme/kintsukuroi.com to see how you can help support personal growth and empowerment weekends for straight spouses. Thank you!

To schedule a face-to-face or FaceTime session with Kimberly Brooks Mazella, LPC, please go to my website at www.straightforwardcounseling.com.  For information on our developing program of personal empowerment weekends for straight spouses, visit my Facebook page, Kintsukuroi. I can also be reached at kim@straightforwardcounseling.com.





Saturday, March 31, 2012

Beyond heartbreak

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”    ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

I have been so moved by the straight spouses who have been willing to share their stories, both via my blog and in my office. The quote above was posted by a gay friend on Facebook recently, and it just articulated so perfectly the healing that can and does take place in our lives. 

Even 25 years later it takes very little effort to recall, both cognitively and viscerally, those dark days and nights after my marriage ended. I saw clients all day, then came home to my empty apartment and cried all evening. To this day, there are songs I can't bear to hear -- "Somewhere Out There," "Lady in Red," and anything by Bob James and Earl Klugh. That music provided the score to my grief and can call it back in a flash. Red wine and Mint Milano cookies were a weak attempt to stanch its flow. Every pillowcase was stained with mascara. I felt discarded. Foolish. Sad. And profoundly alone. Believe me, there are no special grief exemptions for therapists. No tricks of the trade or inside information. 

So I know heartbreak. And, to the extent possible, I know your heartbreak. And while it never goes away completely, there will come a time when it no longer defines you. A time when it is no longer your first awareness in the morning nor your last thought at night. And you can love again, love someone who will treasure and protect and deserve your trust. A secure net for your leap of faith.

Wishing us all peaceful hearts.



The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice ‑
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible. 

It was already late                                                                                  
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do ‑
determined to save
the only life you could save.

                      ~ Mary Oliver

To schedule a face-to-face or FaceTime session with Kimberly Brooks Mazella, LPC, please go to my website at www.straightforwardcounseling.com.  For information on our developing program of personal empowerment weekends for straight spouses, visit my Facebook page, Kintsukuroi. I can also be reached at kim@straightforwardcounseling.com.







Sunday, February 19, 2012

Collateral damage

When my husband came out all those years ago, I didn't know, or even know of, any other spouse who'd had this type of experience. As a therapist, I felt like a fraud. As a woman, I felt like a fool. I was embarrassed, devastated, and utterly alone with my grief.

"Didn't you know?!"

"Just pretend he died."

Or the most hurtful, from a fellow mental health professional --- "Well, that wasn't a marriage!"

Well, it was, actually. It was my marriage. My dream. My love. My trust. All shattered by a lie. A completely avoidable lie.

In a 2009 Washington Post article I referred to straight spouses as "collateral damage" (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/06/AR2009110602953.html). The Department of Defense defines collateral damage as "unintentional or incidental injury or damage to [a] person..." as the result of combat. The 19 children who died in the Oklahoma City bombing? Also "collateral damage." Dramatic comparisons, perhaps, but those of us whose spouses come out feel just that incidental.

C'est la guerre.

In war, the total collateral damage can't be precisely counted. The same is true of straight spouses. We don't "come out" for any number of reasons -- embarrassment; trying to maintain a certain image; protecting our spouses and families; and on and on.

It's time to come out and be counted. We are not incidental. We are not collateral damage.

There are a surprisingly large number of us who have not made public our situation. We are loving, trusting people who, every day, work to overcome pain, embarrassment and the ultimate betrayal to piece together new, authentic lives.

And, we count.


To schedule a face-to-face or FaceTime/Skype session with Kimberly Brooks, LPC, please go to my website at www.kimberlybrookslpc.com. For a support group, either in person or online, contact the Straight Spouse Network at www.straightspouse.org.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

...and so it began.

Laura to Kim: "Kim, this is Rob."

Kim' inner voice: ("He's GAY!")
Kim to Rob, extending hand: "Nice to meet you."

Why did I not listen to my Wise Mind, my knowing Self, my spot-on intuition? Standing before me -- a ridiculously tall (at least to my 5'2" mind), very handsome man, an attorney. Nice smile, salt & pepper hair styled just so, plaid Ralph Lauren shirt over a maroon sleeveless tee, just a wee bit snug. A blind date arranged by mutual friends.

And my gut says he's gay. Screams, really. That should have been the end of it.

It was, of course, not.

That moment, that simple introduction, that immediate and involuntary tamping down of the knowing voices would come to shape and define the rest of my adult life.

In my clinical work with other straight spouses, this aspect of my story seems less commonplace than other pieces. There are so many experiences, feelings, and thoughts that we all share, but similar instances of my electrical shock moment -- "he's gay!"-- aren't revealed very often at all. Vague suspicions or a niggling feeling that something's just not right are more the norm, and those often don't poke through the soil until after many years of marriage.

But we all wind up in the same place -- heartbroken and confused.

How did we get here? Shared denial? Naivete? Blind faith? Con? Only in retrospect can I see that my own marriage to a gay man was the blending together of many complicated ingredients, not the least of which were two large dollops of wishful thinking, one on each of our parts, that our marriage was what it seemed to be...and that he was not.

To schedule a face-to-face or FaceTime/Skype session with Kimberly Brooks, LPC, please go to my website at www.kimberlybrookslpc.com. For a support group, either in person or online, contact the Straight Spouse Network at www.straightspouse.org.