TEXAS GET TOGETHER IN MARCH!!!
Plans are firming up for our Texas get-together for March 3-4 in Houston. I am really excited because we have some wonderful women in Texas who have been part of my support network for quite a while. It will be such a treat to meet or see again those who can come. And guess what? You don’t have to be from Texas! Come from anywhere for the opportunity to meet some of the most dynamic women you can ever hope to meet.
We will be staying in a wonderful spa resort for a fantastic discount price thanks to our support member Lynn who is doing all the legwork to make sure this is memorable and comfortable weekend. The dynamic Patsy Rae Dawson will be joining us to give her words of inspiration to our Christian sisters who still may have difficulty with leaving their marriages. And if you are as inspired by my friend Wendy, the author of Wendy’s Lists that you have read in my newsletters and heard on the Straight Wives Talk Show, you will have a chance to greet her in person and hear her inspiring words.
It will truly be an unforgettable weekend. If you are in the Texas area, or you would just like to get away for a healing weekend with women you will love to be with because they understand everything you are feeling, please write to me at Bonkaye@aol.com for the details. Treat yourself to healing!
NEW YORK DINNER GET-TOGETHER TUESDAY, DECEMBER 27
I’m planning to be in New York City on Tuesday, December 27, to meet with any area women who are available for dinner. Please email me at Bonkaye@aol.com if you’d like to spend a few hours together with me and some of our wonderful women. Dinner will be in mid-town Manhattan.
NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE
On November 24, 2011, this wonderful article appeared in the New York Times about how the author, Jane Isay, kept the marriage to her gay husband a secret from everyone—for the sake of her children. Isay is the author of the book Walking on Eggshells which many of our women have read and recommended to others.
I was not aware that Ms. Isay had a gay husband nor that she stayed with him for a long period of time after his disclosure. Allow me share this article with you titled “Keeping Marital Secrets Closeted.”
THIS summer, soon after gay marriage became legal in New York, my sons held a wedding for my former husband and his partner of over 30 years. The grandchildren were flower girl and ring bearers. The wedding thrust me back to the time when we faced a terrible choice and decided to stay married for the children. That’s what motivated my then husband and me to carry on our incomplete marriage for its last nine years, and that’s how we explained our actions after the divorce. It was a convenient truth, and also a self-serving one.
The year was 1980. I was waiting for my husband of 15 years to return from the last party of a psychiatry convention. I could hear voices from down the hall, happy men enjoying their time together. When he came in, his face was grave. He sat down on the bed and said, “I have something I need to tell you.” He took a deep breath. “I’m homosexual.” At that moment I saw my future collapse before my eyes. I got the chills and ran to take a hot bath. It gave me time to think and warmed me, but not for long. We spent the night talking and lamenting. On the plane home, we held each other and sobbed and planned. By the time we landed, we had decided to keep his sexual orientation a secret and stay married for the sake of the children.
Of course we both wanted to protect our sons, who were 10 and 14. Divorce was not uncommon then, but the circumstances surrounding our relationship were controversial and would have created a scandal in our small university town, so staying married for the children helped us both feel better about ourselves and our lies. We thought they didn’t notice any change, and we were mistaken. Secrets have a way of seeping into the atmosphere. Kids are natural observers. They watch parents like hawks, and they know when something is wrong, even if they don’t know what. I desperately wanted the charade to work at home — we were doing this for the children. So covering for my husband on his two nights a week out, and his two vacations a year became second nature — he was a busy man with many meetings.
I paid a price for my silence with my closest friends, because a secret of this magnitude builds barriers. I just couldn’t bear to show them the spot I was in. And I was leery of advice. When I felt so alone, I could always remind myself what a good person I was being, sacrificing for the children.
The other reasons for staying married were not so charming. If I had thought, I’m staying for the money, I might have questioned the lies I told my sons about where their father was on the nights he spent with his future husband. Or if he had thought, I’m staying to promote my career as a psychoanalyst, he might have felt a little heavy on the ambition scale. Or if we both had realized that we were just too scared to face the world alone, I might have given up some of the pretending, and he might have realized the gravity of his original secret.
But never mind. We had an explanation that made people admire us when we finally went public. Other truths might have evoked pity or suspicion: what’s the matter with her radar? How could she accept a half a marriage instead of a whole one? Who is she, really? To say we stayed married for the children put an end to uncomfortable questions.
If I had faced the other reasons to stay in the marriage, the burden of our lies would probably have been harder to bear. But the burden on our sons might also have been lightened. It’s not so great for kids to be told they are the cause of their parents’ behavior, especially when that’s only part of the story. When they finally learned the truth, our sons were more disturbed by our deception than by the facts. Our reasons didn’t seem to matter anymore. Truth trumps lies every time.
The phrase “we stayed married for the children” is like a silk duvet on a complicated and imperfect marriage bed. Nobody really wants to turn back the covers, the unhappy spouses least of all.
There were many comments posted after the article was printed. Many of them did not have sympathy for the author, although I don’t believe she was looking for any. But one profound comment by a straight wife really moved my heart:
Children know so much more than we think. Our puppet show may work for the outside world, but it is patently obvious on the inside. I thought I had successfully hidden my misery from my children and stayed married in a hugely dysfunctional and abusive marriage for over a decade. My ex was a closeted gay man but that was only part of it. Every time my sister would visit she would say, "I don't know how you can live here. It's horrible. You can't even breathe." I pretended to not know what she was talking about and was insulted. But my kids certainly did. Rather than believe we had the happy family I presented to the world, my children absorbed the misery and secrecy deep down, only they couldn't process it.
The damage is huge, over a decade later. Basically, the biggest damage is that they learned not to trust the evidence of their own senses and to think of quiet brutality as normal, and to think of their own needs as unimportant. It impacts their choice of partners, their life choices in careers, their ability to function. In weighing the decision whether to divorce, I should have taken all that into account. If you realize you're staying out of fear, comfort (money, social class), etc, it's easier to decide what to do. A marriage becomes much less justifiable when you are sacrificing your children for your own comfort and your own needs.
And now for the saddest comment of all was from an adult child from a straight/gay marriage:
You presented a most potent description of the damage done to the children when parents are keeping secrets and remaining in a marriage for the sake of the children. In particular you said: "Basically, the biggest damage is that they learned not to trust the evidence of their own senses and to think of quiet brutality as normal, and to think of their own needs as unimportant." My parents were wretched with each other, and told themselves they stayed married for our sake. We four grew up to suffer chronic depression, substance abuse problems, bulimia, and all the relationship problems attending those plagues. The toxic miasma of our parents' hostility poisoned every breath we took.
Why I loved this article and the comments after it was because it confirmed what I keep trying to hit home year after year. Staying in a dysfunctional marriage for the sake of the children is not doing anything to help the children except to damage them. The problem that I have with some of our women is that they INSIST to me that there is no way that their children know there is a problem because they are good “actresses.” I say HOGWASH—and that’s not a word I’ve ever used before in any of my writings. It seems pretty harsh, but I can’t get this message across any better without using this word.
If you are afraid to leave your marriage because you feel you can’t make it on your own, then just admit it. There is no shame in admitting this to yourself because this way you can really start to work on YOURSELF and understanding how to get “unstuck.” It may take therapy, support, education, or training, but it’s YOUR issue—not your husband’s. He can’t change—and he won’t change—so STOP trying to change him or “wish away the gay.” You can look for that little glimmer of hope like putting gold glitter on a picture without paste. It looks great for the moment, but when you pick the picture up, the glitter falls off and blows away. You may have calmer moments in your marriage when you can delude yourself into thinking that things are “going better,” and maybe they are momentarily. However, let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that’s how it will continue. Whatever temporary show of affection your gay husband is showing you is temporary. Like the glitter dust, it blows away quickly.
I grew up in a broken family. I had no role models to teach me what marriage was supposed to be like—only what it wasn’t supposed to be like. I grew up screwed up with values that were twisted at best. My parents thought they were “hiding” their problems from us by waiting until we were “sleeping” before they started to argue. They thought they were “protecting” us by picking the late night hours to argue. They weren’t. They were “waking” us. My father wasn’t gay—he was straight. But growing up with parents who were destroying each other was also destroying the children. I believed I was one of the major causes of my parents’ unhappiness. After all, wasn’t I what they were fighting about? This contributed to my own lack of self-esteem and self-worth throughout the years. Those feelings impacted the poor relationship choices I made throughout the years.
I am currently updating my earlier book from 2005 titled ManReaders: A Woman’s Guide to Dysfunctional Men which I will re-release in the next few months. One of my past support network members allowed me to reprint her letter that articulated this situation so well. I met Mindy in 2003 in the aftermath of her marriage to her gay ex-husband. It was a tumultuous marriage that escalated to physical abuse because of her ex’s frustration of living in a marriage where he didn’t belong. Since ManReaders was written for women with any kind of dysfunctional husband/relationship, I asked Mindy not to gear it to the gay part of the marriage and to make it more general for all women with abusive situations because the end results are the same.
I will now share it with you:
I used to keep track of how many minutes a day I spent in tears... and now I can't remember the last time I cried over something other than a tear jerking movie! I had been married about 5 or 6 years when I began to think that the life I was living actually fit the description of 'abuse’. I wasn't any different from any other abuse victim though - there were so many excuses... so many "I'm sorry's"...so many promises... and I believed it would get better.... someday. Of course - that "someday" never came...not in that life, with that husband anyway. The biggest regret of my life was that I allowed my two beautiful daughters to grow up believing that their father's abusive behavior was acceptable.
After twenty-five years of enduring abuse, a visit to my oldest daughter’s home made me realize that the change was up to me, I was the one that had to change. I was never going to change him - I couldn't do that. I also knew...that as I stood there looking at the bruises on my gorgeous daughters face, if I didn't make the change now, her abuser would end up killing her. If I continued to let her believe the abuse was acceptable, she would also continue to live it.
The legacy had to STOP - and if it didn't, my precious grandson would also grow with the same skewed belief of normalcy that would either turn him into an abuser or a life as a victim of abuse.
I left my abuser - it was probably the hardest decision of my life. I knew I would be giving up a life of beautiful material goods while also giving up a life of painful emotional and physical abuse. It was difficult to see that the payoff would be worth it - but it didn't take long. I knew I made the right decision to divorce when I didn't even think about keeping track of tears and conflict. I was able to sleep at night, I was able to work all day without abusive interruptions, I was able to call my mother and my friends and family whenever I wanted. I was FREE!
There aren't enough material goods in this world to be worth my life of freedom and happiness and the freedom and happiness of my children and my grandchildren.
I am now happily married, to a wonderful, peaceful man. My daughter
also divorced her abuser, and she is also now in a healthy, loving marriage.
Life is good - and I tell my new husband every day that I don't take a minute of this peaceful life for granted. I never will.
Bonnie, I pray that all women in abusive relationships can gain the self-confidence and esteem to find the peace that I have found. Thank-you so much for your hard work toward this effort! The LEGACY must be stopped!
I think Mindy’s letter still says it all. It doesn’t matter if the abuse is physical or emotional—it is still destroying you—and ultimately your children. The key to this is finding the strength and energy you need to stand up for yourself and move away from a situation that is so destructive.
Several years ago, I shared this letter with my readers written by my mother after the divorce from my gay husband. My mother passed away in 2000, but her words will always be a part of my heart and my actions. I hope they will inspire you during this difficult holiday time:
This is not the funny card I was going to send, but instead one the color of sunshine, the sun bringing to mind that whatever happens to people, joys, tears, health, sickness, weddings, or divorce, the sun always rises bringing new life, spirit, and vitality to the world. Remembering the words, “On This Joyous Occasion” from the first time, those occasions change, and we do the best we can to look ahead to brighter days and happier times. Divorce is a finality and a conclusion to a mistake. You should be proud that you brought this to an end from a legal standpoint and a morale standpoint. Your children will someday admire your decision, as to not divorce but know of the reason for your unhappiness would lower their feelings of strength they see in you and count on for their future. Someday, they may have to accept his failings but never your weakness. My life, in limbo all these years to suit your father’s fancy, has been unproductive, restrictive, and foolish on my part. Now it is too late to recapture my years, but I’m comforted in the fact that you face a free new road. Enjoy your freedom and strength. I am proud of you always.
I always take comfort in those words and can’t tell you how important they were to me haring them from my own mother who suffered with my abusive father for so many years.
I hope that hearing the inspiring words from others will give you the strength in the upcoming year to make some decisions that can “set you free” from the unhappiness so many of you are still living with. This not only applies to women still stuck in their marriages, but also to women still pushed into the back of their husbands or ex-husbands’ closets keeping “his” secret. Most importantly it also applies to women who are still questioning whether or not they need to tell their children the truth. I hope these letters will help guide you to realize that secrets destroy. The truth hurts…but secrets destroy.
COMIC JULIET JESKE – NO LAUGHING MATTER!
One of our support network members, Maggie, turned me onto a blog a few months ago written by a real “clown,” Juliet Jeske. Juliet has been performing as a comedian and a clown—yep, a clown--for over a decade. Her ex gay-husband is also a performing clown. I loved the article because it expressed the struggles that so many of you face moving from marriage back into single life, and I asked Juliet if she would be a guest on my radio blog show where she graciously joined me and my co-hostess Misti Hall on December 11.
Juliet is in the process of writing a book. Her blog has now been recognized internationally and her articles are printed in the Huffington Post. Many of her topics deal with dating in New York as a single woman and are quite interesting. Her blog about her marriage to a gay man really hit home to a number of our readers, and Juliet said I could share it with you:
Divorced after being a straight spouse two years later.
I still remember my wedding day, vividly. Any day planned and fretted about for months is going to stick in your brain for a lifetime. Any day built up as the beginning of the rest of your life will burn into your psyche, in the same way horrible trauma sears its pain and anguish deep into your bones. Try as you might, you can’t shake it the pain becomes a part of your very foundation. Few positive memories have the same effect.
For whatever reason, our bodies, hearts and minds tend to cling to the negative memories such as: being humiliated in front of your class, not being able to get jeans off in time due a broken zipper and wetting myself at girl scout camp, seeing my father lash out at me in a yet another blinding rage, losing a job or role for reasons unknown, having a voice teacher tell me I would never be a singer, seeing the face of a lover suddenly go cold and distant, having no one show up to my 13th birthday party….and on and on and on. The traumas and disappointments get inside of you like a bad virus you can’t shake, but the good memories fade quickly. The memories replaced instead by just vague emotion. Instead of specific images they blur into shifting colors through a window. Instead of the detailed sharp piercing prongs of negative memories happy thoughts become reduced to feelings. I can’t remember holding my cat for the first time, hugging a friend I haven’t seen forever, the first kiss from a person I adore, winning a competition….they drift, they fade only warm pretty shadows remain in their place.
The memory of my wedding day is now traumatic but still beautiful in my mind, so like the crazy nuanced event it has become, it is now a hybrid of negative crystal clear clarity and blurred fuzzy happiness.
The one image that keeps coming back is the walk down the aisle. I used to have PTSD style flashbacks of the very event. I would be sitting on the train or reading a book and for no reason it would flash into my brain as clear as it was actually happening. The cathedral, with his family on one side and mine on the other, the organ music, with all of these faces turned towards me. It was so overwhelming, all I could do to get through the ritual was to focus on my soon to-be husband and move closer and closer to him and the rest of my life. I knew that if I turned to look at people on either side I would start crying and I didn’t want to cry on my wedding day so I kept focusing on the task at hand and that was to get down the aisle without shedding a tear. My husband was now my new family, the scars and damage from my old one were over and I had chosen this new man to start over and help wipe away the darkness and pain of the past.
Since my divorce, I have had recurring nightmares of being outside of my body trying to run up to myself in the moments while screaming
“Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it”
The sound of my screams echoing through the great hall of marble, but no one looks up, no one even flinches and I still just keep moving forward. Nothing I can do can stop me, it is like looking at ghosts re-enacting the same scene in a play over and over.
I hate it when people say,
“Well at least your husband was just gay, it could have been a lot worse”
Or anything to the effect of that I have somehow had it easier than a typical divorced person.
I guess in some ways I have, in that the end was so absolute. There was no reason to second guess why I was leaving my husband, no amount of couples counseling, no amount of therapy or listening skills that would have made anything better, no horrible act of betrayal that I would regret for ending everything. But on the downside I felt cheated. I got cheated at a chance at a normal marriage, with a man of the same sexual orientation who loved me like a man is meant to love a woman, in mind, heart and body.
I was cheated of the chance of having children and being a mother. I know I might still have time left, but dating at age 38 is difficult as half of the eligible men already have children and don’t want more. And in my current state I couldn’t afford to raise a child on my own, as I can barely take care of myself. There are times on the subway or in the park that even the sight of a young mother with her child will send me spiraling. Suddenly tears come from nowhere and I can’t make them stop. Why is she so lucky to have the one thing that I will never get to experience? I am constantly told that I shouldn’t give up hope but I haven’t been able to sustain a relationship for any length of time and every other man who I find compatible is already a father and doesn’t want more children. I had to end therapy because literally every single session was the same conflict, the same fear, the same resentment over probably losing the chance to be a parent. When my therapist suggested I go back on medication, and then tried to get me to justify what I consider a fairly innate human desire to procreate I couldn’t take it anymore and ceased the sessions.
I was cheated of the dream that everyone has when they get married, that despite the obstacles in life and arguments, fights, and petty annoyances I no longer have a partner for life. I was cheated on the intimacy of an adult human sexual relationship. It seemed normal at first but it quickly became dysfunctional but because I loved my husband I stuck it out, and now I beat myself up for not leaving sooner.
So over two years have passed, but I am still not right. I am still not healed and I don’t know if I ever will be. I am suspicious of every man I meet, and I trust no one, it is so debilitating that I actually stick around in relationships that aren’t fully formed, that aren’t as scary, that aren’t as real…I am scared to have a real one.
But my shattered life has in some ways made me stronger, like a piece of metal cracked and then welded back together, or a bone broken and then reset. I am no longer the same shape, my insides, my skeleton is not the same, and I don’t react to pain the same way. I am far more empathetic to another person’s pain especially anyone divorced. I feel deeply for them, and I cut them a lot of slack for self-destructive behavior or lashing out at themselves or others. I know they are in a ton of pain and that most of their actions are not directed at me or anyone, but instead directed at the emptiness inside of them.
I have also learned that I have to heal myself before allowing anyone else in. I no longer have my husband to unload my emotional baggage on. And friends get tired when I repeatedly do it to them, so I am now forced to deal with it on my own, with just my broken heart and damaged soul to mend myself. These things have definitely made me a better friend and a better person, but the lack of trust and emotional scars have made me more skittish and more apprehensive about letting anyone new in. I have become damaged goods complete with certain memories playing repeatedly in my mind. Hopefully I will one day be able to replace the photo sharp negative ones with more blurry happy thoughts. But until then, I try to ride the nightmare of the memory of walking to my new life of fraud, deception and loss. Two years ago I was pushed off a cliff and I survived, now I just need to figure out how to pick of the pieces and start climbing again.
If you would like to read some of Juliet’s thought provoking writing, you can visit her website where you can see this beautiful young woman in action including a Youtube Video interview from a show in Australia. You can also access her blog from her website at www.JulietJeske.com. I’m a fan—I’m sure you’ll be one too after seeing her or listening to her. You can hear Juliet on the archives of our radio show at Blogtalkradio.com. Put in Straight Wives Talk Show December 11, 2011.
Each month I receive letters from my readers. I always ask before printing those that I find most helpful for permission to reprint. It can be reprinted anonymously or with any name you choose. These letters help inspire other readers—like you!
Bonnie, I have not read your news letter for a couple of years now as I have "gotten on with my life" now, having moved out 5 years ago from my closeted husband of 20 years. But seeing the newsletter in my in-box like monthly clockwork has always given me a special comfort.
In November's newsletter I enjoyed reading the last letter. I identified with what she said so very much! I too am experiencing love from a heterosexual man for the first time (i didn’t date much before i married at age 26) and there is NO COMPARISON in the way this heterosexual wonder-man treats me and loves me. Women out there who are on the fence, just know that it is true, gay or bisexual men are not treating u the way that u deserve. The way that a heterosexual man would treat u. I too thought I wasn't pretty enough or skinny enough now I have the best love-making that is all about me (he does things to make me happy, not like the narcissistic ex who it was all about himself, even on our wedding night, and who also gradually dwindled the sex down to every couple of months to virtually non-existent sex.)
My ex died last year. He was HIV + so I am so glad he lost interest in me or else I too might have contracted the virus. Because of course he wouldn’t wear a condom because he had just gotten clipped. He died of pneumonia - age 49. What a waste of a life... But mine is just starting! So take heart, things will get better. Be true to yourself, take care of you and you will get though this! And trust me, there is sweet love at the end of the dark tunnel....
HAPPY AT LAST! Finally LOVED!!
From the West Coast USA
Please pass on this message to "Sarah" from the mailbag.
From day one, my gay ex-husband (now of 3 years, HOORAY FOR ME!!) said only one thing that I believe is so true (probably the only true thing out of his mouth), yet so hard to accept. He said "GET OVER IT--JUST BE HAPPY." Well it took some time, and the anger rears its head (mainly because he puts his 4 daughters LAST all the time). His "happiness"--alcoholism and "going out"--comes way before any school function, sporting event, or social function for his daughters now ages 10, 11, 13, and15. However, it is time for YOU TO BE HAPPY SARAH!! Forget his inability to be an upstanding guy! Forget his inability to be an upstanding dad! Forget his inability to be truthful with himself! (It will never happen anyway) YOU know the truth, YOU are stronger than HIM!! Tomorrow is a new day, and you were put on this earth for a reason. So YES, MOVE ON and BE HAPPY! For those of us who ever wanted a title (like Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief, etc) we have it--STRAIGHT SPOUSE! Proud of what we have endured and PROUD TO MOVE ON!!!
Well my dear friends, here’s wishing you a wonderful holiday season filled with hope for brighter days. I will have online support throughout the holiday season. If you would like to join my support chat for extra support, just drop me a note and I’ll send you directions. Remember—you are not alone. And thanks to all of you—either am I!
With love and hope,