“I carry the trauma of a thousand women”
That phrase appeared in my head this morning as I was doing a yin yoga class. The instructor, a wise and talented friend and therapy colleague, was talking about protection and vulnerability. As I breathed into the pose, shoulder blades “sliding down my back,” those words emerged as if watching them being typed onto a screen:
I carry…the trauma…of…a thousand...women.
As a therapist, I’ve been a container for trauma for over thirty years. And as a straight spouse whose focus is helping other straight spouses, the trauma of my former husband – a man I loved dearly – coming out as a gay man gets mixed in the emotional soup.
There are times when I am so triggered that I want to scream. Not triggered by my clients and fellow straight spouses so much, but rather on their behalf, particularly when talking to people who don’t/won’t/can’t understand the straight spouse experience. “NO!” I say, “It is NOT just like other divorces!” The invalidation is a dull knife to the heart; not a clean incision, but rather a painful jab jab jab
**Note: Before I continue, let me make clear my compassion for the LGBT spouse’s experience, which, although differently painful, is just as real. In this moment, though, I need to write about me. And Us. The “left-behind spouses,” as one divorce attorney very indelicately put it.
Even though I’m thirty years out and happily remarried, I can return to my own despair in an instant. That exact moment that I knew…which was decades beyond when he knew. The smirking faces of people out in public, like old girlfriends and other gay men. Crying quietly in bed beside him as the minutes to our inevitable separation ticked away. The nights of waking up to find myself wandering around my apartment, looking for him, then remembering he was gone.
But every day, I carry the trauma of a thousand women. And men. The broken-hearted spouses in my office. The thousands of straight spouses on Facebook with our many secret groups and private rooms. The people who email me, usually starting with “I just discovered…”
I carry the trauma of a thousand women, just as they carry each other’s.