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, 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.