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!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A picture is worth a thousand hurts

We have a little members-only virtual clubhouse where fellow str8s meet to swap stories; vent frustrations; share the devastating pain of an unwanted, unplanned divorce; tell the occasional off-color joke; give and receive virtual hugs; commiserate about learning to date again; and generally just hang out and talk about the shared experience of having unknowingly married a closeted LGBT person. With a membership of over 450 people, it's certain that most of us will never meet face to face. But the bond isn't any less strong simply because of the electronic venue; in fact, our common str8 experience makes for an immediate sense of "knowing", like running into another American in Greece and suddenly that person is your new best friend. No backstory needed; I know you.

Today people posted pictures of themselves and their spouses, pre-divorce. I'm not sure who started it, but by the end of the evening there were over fifty pictures posted, including one of my favorite photos from my own wedding day. Lots of happy, smiling faces. Wedding photos, recommitment ceremonies, vacations, new babies, father-daughter dances...they could be pictures of any family, anywhere. Except for the accompanying captions:

"This was taken one week before she left me for another woman."

"At a friend's wedding. Found out later he hooked up with one of the waiters at the reception."                       

"He liked to take pictures with everyone; I was just another casual person to take a picture with."

"This was on our honeymoon. I thought I was the luckiest guy in the world."

"With our daughter before a dance. He had been dating his boyfriend for three months at that point, unbeknownst to me."

"Holding our baby. I found out right before I gave birth that he had been soliciting sex from men online."

"This was during a short-lived happy period. He lost a damn good woman."

"This was on my graduation day. He came out less than a month later."

"This is the picture he used to meet men online."

"I took this picture on a romantic lunch date. He used it on a gay dating site less than three weeks later."


And my own description of that favorite photo: "It's interesting...I'm kissing HIM, while his hands are not touching me at all."


I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was exactly about the photo-sharing that got to me. It's not about TGT (that's "the gay thing" in str8 shorthand). I understand the closet, I feel deep compassion for the struggle, I appreciate the desire to live the "acceptable" life and have the husband/wife, the 2.3 kids and the golden retriever. I really do get that, and work hard in both my personal and professional lives to promote equality. No one should have to pretend to be someone or something that they aren't.

That said, I found myself feeling emotionally triggered as I scrolled through the pictures again and again. As I sat here struggling to find just the right words to describe what I was feeling, another club member beat me to it with her very honest and to-the-point post:

"It is really interesting to see all the photos, but it is also sad because not one of you in those pics thought that the person you fell in love with would one day end up gay. Right now I am angry at him and all of them for the hurt and the pain that they have put us through. I am angry that so many of us are struggling financially because of their [behavior]. I am angry because so many of us are on meds because of the sh*t we have gone through. I am angry because many of us were made to feel sexually inadequate because of their inability to be honest with themselves. Lastly, I am angry because so many children have been hurt by this. We also deserve happiness and peace in our lives."

And that, for far too many members of our not-so-little club, is a pretty clear snapshot of the other side of this unhappy closet.

**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.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Piece by peace

by guest blogger Ken Rinehart
Last weekend I bought a mandolin. For about two months I have been coveting this beautiful work of art. Saturday the guy in the combo department at the local music store decided he wanted to deal.
The significance it represents in my life is daunting. This August it will be two years since my wife walked out of my life and started her new life with another woman. At one point I had $15 to my name, so I sold my prized possession    my mandolin    for $75.
Since August of 2011 I have experienced the death of my father and the death of my sheepdog. I lost faith in my church and beliefs I held strongly about my purpose on this earth. I lost some of my dear friends, lost close contact with much of my extended family. The world and my understanding of it was squarely upside-down. I sold most of my possessions, or at least the ones I could get some quick cash for.

I had no choice but to just look up. Looking down took me to an even more crippling place. In some strange way it was learning to totally reconstruct my life in ways I had never imagined or even knew existed or knew how to start.
Ironic as it may seem, I am grateful for that experience. Truly grateful.
The trial of forgiveness is something that has never been challenged in my life. No one has ever taken everything I have given and piled it up in my room and said "no thanks" so briskly and rapidly as they exited my life without explanation or seeming concern about my well-being. I would like to say I understand. I would like to say "all is forgiven."
Phrases have come with this journey:
   Everything happens for a reason.
   You got a lot on your plate.
   God doesn't give us anything we can't handle.
Those are from people that don't know or understand what this felt like. Just as I will never know the grief of losing a child. What it's like to suffer some traumatic loss. To truly know you have to experience it, heart and mind.
I asked someone early on how is it possible to be a victim in this without adopting a victim mentality. She said, "Being a victim is a state of mind you put yourself in." "Being a victim of circumstance is just a fact in this scenario."
Many things have happened. Numerous things have unfolded. Unconditional love from strangers that I never had experienced before nor thought was possible. Development of inner strength that to this day is surprising and disarming. Falling in love again, only this time feeling more like an adolescent with higher stakes.
All of these things and more only started to unfold when I lost the story of "someone did something to me." Life changed. I am not entitled to know the story that someone doesn't want to honestly and openly tell me. It's silly to expect someone to act the same toward you who is preoccupied with their new truths unfolding, truths that go deep into the recesses of denying their sexuality. I have found it is true of only a few of extraordinary people. The honesty, the openness of moving through and out of a marriage with kindness and compassion toward one another. It's hard enough with two people without the twist of same sex attraction.
Weeks ago my new love was having a heart procedure. Side by side her gay husband and I stood  in the hospital waiting room, waiting to get an update. Our mutual love for her and our deep friendship is something that is hard to not share with those that don't understand anything outside of a "traditional family." What was and is true is that we don’t need to. We know what this is.
I bought the mandolin. I walked out of the hospital with my new family. I am surrounded by so much love from friends I can hug daily, and those I have never met.
For this, too, I am grateful. Truly grateful. 
To those that reflected back to me who I really am. To those who have graced the path with their stories, their experiences, guidance, and wisdom. To those who allowed me into their lives when they were at their weakest points. To my true love who appeared and blindsided me when I wasn't looking, and embraced me in that parking lot in Chicago where life changed on its axis. To the god within and without that never abandoned me even when I thought I lost faith in the ever-present light and goodness.
Although I never thought I would say or write these words, I am grateful to my ex-wife for loving me the best way she knew how, and starting me on this journey as she started hers. I hope and pray that one day we will be able to talk about both of our journeys with each other, in peace.

**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 a support group, either in person or online, contact the Straight Spouse Network at www.straightspouse.org.