Sunday, November 11, 2012

Growth = Grace or is that Vice Versa?

Part of my realization that I rushed into my second marriage way, way too fast has also been wrapped in a great rush of grace.  And that was realizing that in many ways, I've been able to work my way through the anger and bitterness I was carrying around after finding out I'd spent most of my adult life married to a gay man.

The bottom line of my relationship with this man is that we began as friends.  And now, that friendship has been salvaged, at least to some degree.

To me, that is grace.  We've had coffee together a few times this year and talked about his struggles and mine.  He's asked for my advice.  I've asked for his.  We celebrated our children's birthdays together, including his partner, and it was fine.  In fact, it was great for our adult children. 

But in realizing what I still have in common with this man (tons of shared history -- and herstory, too) I realized that I still love him deeply.  Not as I used to, e.g., as a wife.  But as a person.  He's really my oldest friend with the exception of my former roommate.  My inklings of how incredibly daunting and difficult its been for him to come to terms with his sexuality has created a new compassion, not only for him, but for other LGBT people who struggle with some of these issues.  And that, too, is grace. 

It's also been difficult to realize that my gay ex-husband "gets" me far more than my straight second husband.  But it's the truth.  That's a rare thing when someone "gets" another person. 

More grace: this doesn't mean that I don't recognize his personality and character flaws which I won't go into here.   It doesn't mean that the betrayal I experienced is any less.  It means that forgiveness is primarily to set free the person who forgives, not necessarily the one who has been forgiven.

One of my "she-ros" is Carol Boltz.  Carol was married to Ray Boltz, an acclaimed Christian singer, for many years before Ray finally came courageously and painfully out of the closet.  Carol, with an open heart, is a compassionate woman who is supportive and loving to her ex-husband and other LGBT folks.  And she does this firmly in a Christian context, without judgment.  When I first heard about Carol and corresponded with her via Facebook and email, I wondered if I'd ever get to where she is.  I still wonder, but I think I've made some baby steps.

And that brings me back to grace.  I heard from another woman friend yesterday who was struggling with how to confront a newly out male friend of hers who was still hiding much of his truth from his wife.  We talked about ways to do so without being harsh or judgmental.  Since he's a life-long Air Force officer, I suggested that she use the words honor and integrity.  This is because he swears up and down that he never was unfaithful to his wife during their marriage -- except once. The truth is he was unfaithful much of the 20-year-plus marriage which puts him and his wife at high-risk for a whole slew of STDs.  And his wife deserves to know this so she can get tested and have some peace of mind.  Where's the grace here?  Another closeted gay man in the church who has now been ostracized and judged.  And yes, he's in his 50s.  This man has struggled with his sexual orientation for 30-some years, gone through reparative therapy to (of course!) no avail and finally compartmentalized his life by having a series of male lovers while staying married to his wife.  Where's the grace in that?  I think the grace is that he's out, that he still loves God, and that he will eventually own his own truth fully.  And so will she.  Hopefully that grace will also keep her sane and able to eventually forgive him.  And in that forgiveness, she will begin to be free.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thoughts on Remarriage

So, I made a mistake recently.  Not just a small stub-your-toe dammit kind of mistake, but a I-think-I've-ruined-my-life kind of mistake.

I remarried.

I did so too fast, ignoring the red flags (again!) and am now sitting in my own mess (again).

I've read so many wonderful stories about straight wives who finally work up the courage to dump the gay husband and are swept off their feet by a fabulous straight man who teaches them to love again and redeems their shattered self-esteem by finding them sexually desirable ...

Yes, that was a run-on sentence.

And it's also what I THOUGHT or hoped or imagined had happened to me. 

I married the second man I dated seriously after becoming "suddenly single" after more than two decades of marriage. 

So yes, he finds me desirable and attractive.  Which is swell, just swell.  Only now that the infatuation and flattery has waned, I don't want him to touch me.  He irritates me beyond belief.  He has a plethora of incredibly annoying (to me) habits and idiosyncracies such as:

  • Combing his hair at the table, raining flakes of dandruff as he goes.
  • Spending hours in the bathroom producing sounds that sound like trumpeting elephants in the jungle and not cleaning up the remaining detritus.
  • Not cleaning any of his detritus, for that matter.
  • Blowing his nose into his hands (he says its more hygienic, for gosh sakes)
  • Biting his nails.
  • Picking his toenails and leaving the remaining debris.
  • Forgetting to flush the toilet, no matter what "number"
  • Lecturing on whatever topic he chooses for hours (he has a law degree)
  • Trying to solve everyone's problems and oh, by the way, he's the only one with the real solutions.  Everyone else's ideas are just plumb stupid.
  • Speaking "down" to my adult children and me.
  • Being passive-aggressive.
  • Staying out until 10 p.m. or even later every night at work.
  • Referring to me and my adult children as "you people". 
  • He hoards stuff and keeps insisting that we move into his home which is packed to the ceilings with stuff and has broken windows, broken plumbing and the like.  My condo, on the other hand, is clean, cozy, and well decorated, not to mention has a low monthly mortgage.  And it's entirely in my name.  
Need I go on?  So after waking up one day and realizing I felt like I was trapped in a nightmare and miserably unhappy, I called my friend who recommended a counselor.  The counselor is, by the way, very good.  She helped me unpack a lot of baggage.  But before I even saw the counselor, here is what I'd figured out.

With my fundamentalist Christian background, I taught my children that abstinence was the only way to go -- in other words, zero sex before marriage.  After all, the gay husband and I were able to do this and were proud of it.  I had sex with my current husband well before our marriage and I felt guilty, guilty as sin.  I wanted to be loved.  I wanted to know what it was to be desired by a straight man.  But, instead of understanding that as a very natural desire, all I could struggle with was what I'd done.  And I wanted to legitimize my behavior.  Now isn't that just a fine reason to say "I do" to someone?   I already knew my daughter had struggles with him, but I asked her if she thought I shouldn't marry him and she wasn't able to tell me what she really thought (which was "no!").  Now, she won't even come around if he's going to be there.  It's how she's protecting herself from what she calls "The Bulldozer".

Well, The Bulldozer loves me in his own way, and I'm going to have to break his heart, I guess.  One thing I have learned is that (a) you can't change other people and (b) there is a kind of healthy selfishness one must exercise in order to embrace your own sanity.  So, if I think I sinned by having pre-marital sex, you can only imagine my struggle in considering divorcing a man who is faithful to me and vows that he's committed to our relationship.  (Although I do observe the behaviors and find that statement a bit questionable.) 

What was it my mamma always said: Marry in haste, repent in leisure.  Well, at age 59, I don't have too much leisure time to waste. 

I have so many friends who lament their singleness.  And, ironically, I lament my second marriage.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Anniversary Effect

No, not as in wedding anniversaries.  As in close to the time someone near to you died.

I'm walking down the road of another anniversary effect time -- November is when my grandmother died.  November is when my father had the catastrophic stroke that led to his death.  November is when I was digesting the fact that my former husband was "probably" gay.

November is also when I had my first date with my current (and new) husband.

Every year since that first date, we've commemorated by doing the same thing -- attending the final night of a local film festival.  This year, however, we didn't and I feel as if I blew it.  His father is dying, he's struggling to keep his business afloat and I said I would buy the tickets.  And I forgot, because, I, too, am working long hours and juggling lots of plates.

I was already feeling the various pangs of anniversary angst and when I remembered I'd forgotten ... well, let's just say I cried a little bit.

This morning, I got up, got dressed and went to church for the first time in several months.  I had a serious desire to partake of communion, more than anything else.  I experience more grace in Eucharist than I do in anything else at church.  It's wild, because having been brought up a Southern Baptist, I spent most of my life afraid to take communion lest I fall into judgment for neglecting to confess a particular sin.

I didn't, however, ask my husband to go with me.  I needed time to myself, to be still and be with God.  It was refreshing.

So much has changed in my life and in my heart since I've begun this little adventure in occasional blogging.  The most obvious is, of course, my new marriage.  The least visible is probably my attitude toward gays and lesbians.  Today, I realize that they are who they are and who they are is probably who they were created to be.   I believe that reparative therapy is an oxymoron and damaging.  (The people I've known in the church who were/are gay and tried not to be are now either dead or out.  And yes, many of them were once married.)  While I don't embrace the darker sides of gay culture, I've known enough genuinely devoted gay couples that I question why they can't marry.  I think that sexual promiscuity is a sin against one's own body whether you are straight, gay or some variation thereof.

Big, big differences.

One of the biggest is that my former husband and I are now on reasonably good terms.  I like his partner very much.  I invited them both to my wedding.  (They both attended, too.)  These changes have had some positive impacts on our children.

HOWEVER, those clanging, pesky anniversary effects ... yes, well, for me, Thanksgiving is probably the noisiest and most painful.  I miss having Thanksgiving at my old house.  I miss my former husband's inherited silver and china, not to mention the antique breakfront that held so much of that stuff.  It had become "ours" not his, and isn't it silly that I miss getting it out, cleaning it and making a pretty table with it?  Why is "stuff" so important all of a sudden?  Or is it the traditions and the old history of things that seemed good and stable when it really wasn't?  I don't know.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Gay Ex-Husband ...

Yeah, today is his birthday. 

Examining the copious amounts of lint in my navel, I have to say that I'm not sorry he was born, just sorry that I married him.  And even then, that sounds as if I'm sorry I had my children.  I'm not.

And yet, there was my first child.

Today is also the 24th anniversary of his death.  He was less than 36 hours old when he died.  He as born with Edwards Syndrome, today known as Trisomy 18.  It was a stunning surprise, a shock, and the horror was that he died on his father's birthday.   I remember a dear friend bringing some goodies to the hospital waiting for my return from seeing my son at Children's Hospital.  We never made it.  She gave the goodies to the nurses and went home.  Another friend drove home and threw up out the car window she was so upset.  It was a horrible, horrible night, and yet one with little glimmers of grace all around. 

So forever more, I will always view July 1 through the lens of grief ... the grief of losing a child and the grief of marrying a gay man.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


James Bond famously drank them (shaken, not stirred) and it seemed manly.

Why, then, is learning that my ex gay husband now favors dirty martinis so ironically hilarious to me?

Maybe this is more amusing: Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini.
The bartender asks, “Olive or twist?”


Friday, May 7, 2010


Last night I had a very healing and hilarious experience, chatting online with a group of straight wives via Bonnie Kaye's support group.  I was struck by how so many of us use humor as a coping mechanism.  Last night's chat got a little bawdy, but for me, it was filled with belly-laughs which are so very healing.

I also learned about Misti Hall's blog, Straight Spouse Coaching and was very taken by her most recent post on the wounded feminine spirit.  Misti articulated something I've intuited very deeply for years and I'd like to riff on it a little bit this morning.

Years before I truly outed my gay ex, I ran across a book by Linda Schierse Leonard called "The Wounded Woman: Healing the Father-Daughter Relationship."  This was one of those books much like Alice Miller's "Drama of the Gifted Child" which was very emotional for me to read.  (In fact, I think it's time to pull out "Gifted Child" again and revisit it!)  So here it was, somewhere in the 1980s, and I finally owned that I was walking around with a gaping "father wound."  My father loved me, but he had difficulty with emotional intimacy and my mother had basically kidnapped me when I was young, taking me away from a very dangerous situation (physically and emotionally), but depriving me of any contact with my dad.  I contacted him when I was in my late teens and we then attempted to rebuild our relationship, something that was ongoing until his death in 1997.

I wonder how many of us straight wives have father wounds.  I wonder if that puts us at higher risk of getting into an unhealthy relationship with a closeted gay man.  I know for me, I didn't know what "normal" male behavior was, because I am an only child, raised by my mother and my grandmother.  I had no male role models or connections growing up except my distant daddy.

Early in my recovery process, I was an avid participant of COSA (Codependents of Sexual Addicts), basically an AlAnon program but with a different addiction going on.  And, while I no longer attend meetings, I do still cling to the philosophy of the 12 steps.  I noticed that the overwhelming majority of us in the COSA group had some sort of sexual abuse or violence in our past.  Many of us -- myself included -- are rape survivors.  That's another kind of wounding, which also creates post-traumatic stress issues.

Like moths drawn to the fire, are we drawn to these dangerous men?  I think that on some level we are.  Until we are able to really dig deep into our own woundedness, own it and begin to heal, we'll be attracted to the relationships that feel like "home."  And don't get me wrong -- a great relationship CAN and SHOULD feel like a homecoming.  But not like Dysfunctional Family Robinson kind of home -- the abnormal "normal" so many of us grew up with.

Misti talks about how during the straight/gay marriage, the straight woman begins to lose her sense of femininity.  I also lost my sense of self -- what my counselor called my "voice."  We sense on some level that our husband isn't truly attracted to us physically.  Even as a newlywed, this fed into my already huge poor self-image and my thoughts that I was too fat, too ugly, etc.  Eventually, I became anorexic.  (Hard to believe if you see me now!)  I asked my ex once why he didn't intervene with the anorexia and he said "I didn't know what to do."  Puh-leeze.  But that's another story.  If we had an argument, he'd say that I couldn't expect me to "perform" or be interested in physical intimacy after "how I had demeaned him" and "made him feel shut down."  Finally, in my late 40s, I added to the litany of my faults that I was too old.  

Interesting, isn't it, that part of this toxic tango is that we are more willing to blame ourselves and build the house of cards that is denial even higher than to admit the honest truth: he's gay.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thoughts on Flowers and Other Things

My doorbell just rang a few minutes ago and Fed-X was there with a flower delivery.  For me.  That was a nice surprise.  I love flowers.  I love to have them in the garden, to smell them, to see them, their colors and form.  I especially love very fragrant flowers like old-fashioned roses and lilacs and phlox.

These flowers were accompanied by a very loving, lovely and thoughtful note from my significant other.  This is a man I wish I could have taken home to meet my mother.  He is not perfect, but he is a wonderful human being and the quintessential "nice guy."  He has his moments of being oblivious (his term), but he is a man of heart, of integrity, of intelligence, of patience and (best of all!) he loves me for who I am.

And yet, when the delivery came, I put it on the island in the kitchen and went about my business for a little while.  I didn't open the box for about 20 minutes.

Took me a couple of minutes of self-reflection to realize why.

It's because flowers -- like my friend, the rose -- still, at times, have a bit of a thorny memory to them.  One of the last several things my gay ex-spouse did in an attempt to mend our marriage was send me roses.  Another afternoon, he knocked on the door and handed me a single red rose.  I can tell you that both times, the flowers went straight to the garbage can -- and no, I didn't throw them away in front of him.  I was gracious, although not ebullient in the receiving, because there wasn't a sense of honesty in the giving.

Talk about way too little, too late.

On another note, I found it interesting today to learn that Christian artist Jennifer Knapp recently came out as a lesbian.  That took a lot of courage.  And it was in reading a related article about Knapp in Christianity Today that I learned that another Christian artist, Ray Boltz, recently came out, as well.  His wife, Carol, is another straight wife who has a blog, My Heart Goes Out.  This particularly touched me because my ex is musically inclined and for years was involved with or lead worship teams at the various churches we attended.

It's early Friday evening.  I'm about to pack it up and head off to the gym.  It's been cool, windy and sometimes rainy all day, which kind of suits my mood.  Good thing I have a beautiful bouquet of flowers in my living room to brighten things up.