Andrew Sullivan relates stories from readers who have endured the unique and nuanced pain of discovering that a spouse was gay after hiding it from them for years. It is so difficult to paraphrase these stories because they are inevitably so complicated and sad, and every detail matters. One woman sums up her experience:
I knew he would never pull the plug on our marriage, so fierce is his guilt over what he’s done to me. Over the past seven years, I have passed through all seven stages of grieving that Kubler-Ross outlines, because I was in mourning for the life I thought I had and the future that I thought we would have. It’s taken this long for me to let go.
And it is all just so sad. I have to part ways with the person that I thought I would grow old with, who knows me better than any human on earth, who laughed out loud with utter joy when our daughter was born, who read each Harry Potter book aloud to our son until he was old enough to read them himself. I’m not mad at him anymore. I’m just so very sad.
Another reader relates the sadness and frustration of his mother:
My mother will never forgive my father, which I understand. She told me this terrible statement after it came out that my father is gay: "Your father never fucked me for 20 years and I thought it was my fault". For her, he stole her womanhood; he stole the possibility of making love and being loved by a man who desired her. That’s what hurt me the most.
My ex-husband and father of my two oldest sons passed away of kidney cancer last November…The first hint I got was from my Mom; she called to tell me she read his obituary in the paper and wanted to know why the memorial service was being held in a “gay church”.
I laughed and told her that “churches can’t be gay”. She just said that that was what she had heard. I didn’t think anything else about it until my oldest son came home for the service and during dinner I jokingly repeated what my mom had said expecting my son to laugh along. He didn’t laugh. He looked down and said “Mom, there’s something I have to tell you: Dad was married to a man for the last five years of his life.”
I can’t regret loving him because of the wonderful sons we have. I only regret not being the one he could trust with the truth of his life.
I’m crying now writing this. It’s been 38 years since we married, 28 since we divorced and six months since he died, and I am still trying to finally have some closure.
There are so many of these straight spouses of closeted gays out there still and they are the very real, and often ignored, collateral damage of anti-gay rights campaigns. I was one of them once - a closeted lesbian married to a man. I’m not sure I’ll ever completely let go of the shame I have about marrying someone while I knew stuffed way deep down, but could not accept, that I am a lesbian. Did I love him? I did. Passionately, though fleetingly. We too lasted 10 years before neither of us could take the distance my secret knowledge created between us.
To your reader and her own heartache and her regret of “not being the one he could trust with the truth of his life.” Please try and let that regret go. He could not trust himself with the truth of his life. Why in the world would you hold yourself to an even higher standard of truth than he could even give to himself?
Sullivan sums it up:
This is the flipside of the social conservative debate. One of the great threats to successful marriage in this country is the way in which fundamentalism and homophobia coax gay people into straight relationships which are, at root, based on a lie. The human pain and wreckage this causes - to both gays and straights, and especially children - is immense. Yet so many on the right seem not to care or even notice. They just want us to disappear. It was so much easier when we didn’t so obviously, you know, exist.
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