BONNIE’S FINAL HEALING WEEKEND
This is a reminder that our Healing Weekend—my last—will take place in Philadelphia on October 23rd and 24th.This will be a wonderful weekend of sisterly bonding, sharing, laughing, crying, and learning. There is nothing more empowering than being in a group of straight wives who understand your pain and struggles. Their stories will truly inspire and comfort you. We also have some excellent speakers who will be sure to make you feel better! Please email me at Bonkaye@aol.com if you need information.
WAITING FOR AN APOLOGY
In our online support group, the issue of “forgiveness” often comes up. I did some research in my files for an article I wrote about this ten years ago. I think it expresses my feelings the best…so read on. I’ve added a few revised thoughts towards the end.
ACCEPTANCE VS. FORGIVENESS
Throughout the years, I have heard almost every professional state that in order to totally heal, you have to “forgive.” Now I’m not criticizing this thought—I just have never really understood it. That doesn’t mean that this concept is wrong—but maybe it isn’t quite right. Many say that you to need to forgive to move on. They say that living in a state of “un-forgiveness” is unhealthy—FOR YOU. And I do realize that when people don’t forgive, often it is because they are angry. I do agree that if you don’t channel anger, it can become bitterness—and that’s where the problem comes in as far as hurting YOU.
I guess where my thoughts differ are when it comes to “earning” forgiveness vs. blind forgiveness. Some women are far more charitable than I am. They are able to forgive their husbands for all of the lies, deceptions, loss of self and sexual esteem, and of course the marriage just because they are unconditionally wonderful women. Men luck out when they find women like this. I admit I am nice—but not nice enough to join this particular circle of friends. But I’m not judging—whatever works for our women works for our women!
My comfort level is on the next rung down of the forgiveness ladder. I believe in giving forgiveness when it is EARNED. Earning forgiveness doesn’t mean hearing the words, “I’m sorry.” It means saying them and understanding what you’re sorry about. Allow me to clarify that. I don’t expect men to say they are sorry because they are gay. Gay is not a choice—being honest about it is. But here are some of the things men can be sorry about:
1. I am sorry I wasn’t honest with you before we were married about my attractions to men. I loved you so much I really hoped those feelings would go away and I would be the husband you deserved.
2. I am sorry that I made you feel that something was wrong with you sexually in bed while the whole time it was me not wanting to be with you sexually because you are a woman and I am a gay man.
3. I am sorry that your life is now turned upside down because you had it mapped out to be spent with me until death did we part.
4. I am sorry you will be struggling with the challenges of single parenthood. It was not my intention to have children and leave them afterwards. I will do everything I can to be a responsible and loving parent even though we live apart.
5. I am sorry that I cheated on you and lied to you during our marriage. I was selfish in doing this and just trying to hold everything together because I love the family and could not figure out how to handle the situation.
Any one of these apologies is a good start in showing that your husband understands what is going on in your life and in your mind. The sad thing is that so many of our women never hear these words from their husbands. Instead, they hear constant blame and criticism explaining away the failure of the marriage as being the failure of the women as a wife. “You were never supportive enough.” “You were never clean enough.” And the best, “You were boring in bed.” Yep, I guess so. It is hard to be exciting in bed with a gay man when you don’t have a penis, isn’t it?
Anyway, you can read lots of articles about the importance of forgiveness. One article I read stated:
When you forgive it does not mean you forget what has occurred. Realize the pain of the experience may not completely leave and it is acceptable to grieve a loss.
You may have residual feelings of pain from a wound. Give yourself time to heal. Forgiveness does not deny responsibility for behavior.
Simply commit to not hold the other person in debt. The benefits far outweigh holding onto the pain.
So many articles that I have read all have the same message. Forgive—and you’ll be happier. You don’t have to forget—but at least forgive.
I still do not feel comfortable with that advice for everyone. Depending on the seriousness of the offenses, I just don’t believe in unconditional forgiveness. However—there is another alternative for moving on and letting go of the anger before it turns to bitterness—and that is ACCEPTANCE. When you can accept that your husband is gay and realize that you could never do anything to change it, you can start letting go of the anger. When you realize you weren’t STUPID, but rather loving and trusting, you have accepted that you are not to blame for staying so long or putting up with so much so that you can start to move on to the rest of your life which is waiting for you.
You see, part of the anger you have inside of you is towards him—but part of it—on some level--is also towards yourself. It may be subconsciously, but you buy into the external messages that keep telling you that you should have known and taken action sooner. It’s so nice when other people outside the situation start making judgments on your life, isn’t it? Life isn’t always that clear-cut. Sometimes those shades of gray are hovering over you and drowning your thought processes. You’ll blame yourself for the problems in your marriage because you start to believe the words that your husband keeps telling you over and over again. He’s happy—you’re the one with the problem. These guys know if they repeat a lie enough times, the person they are lying to will start to believe it. Remember that “Gaylighting” theory I spoke about last year—the one that is the calculated process of making you think you’re imagining everything that is actually true? It’s easy to be deceived in this situation, and at times, even easier to live in a state of LIMBO for fear of changing the known to an unknown. This is the problem of living in fear. The fear of the known is often less paralyzing than the fear of the unknown for people who are already living in their own private hell.
Getting back to my point--if you can allow yourself to accept the situation rather than forgive it, well, that is fine too. You don’t have to feel “obligated” to forgive or forget—just to accept what is. And once you accept that “it is what it is,” you can start putting the anger behind you and move forward in re-finding yourself.
Now, I still stand by those words written ten years ago. However, I would like to add an additional thought.
About ten years after my marriage was over, my gay ex-husband accused me of being an “angry woman” and not letting go of my anger against him. He asked me what it would take for me to “get over this.” I said to him that if he would listen to the pain I had gone through and truly understood it--that would help. He sat with me and let me tell him all of the pain he caused me, long after the marriage was over. He said to me, “I am really sorry. I didn’t realize I hurt you so much. You know I love you.”
At that moment, I felt so valued and validated. I could finally forgive him, and, in turn, I would allow him to tell me the details of his lust life—and I did listen for a long time. I was so stupid because as the ultimate narcissist, he now won me back as his “best friend” to listen to him complain daily about everyone who didn’t agree with him and every problem he had. I should have paid better attention to my own writings and advice. But he was manipulating, and I allowed him to be. I can give you a lot of bad excuses, but that is what they are—bad excuses. The day finally came many years later when I realized I was encouraging his bad behavior.
This epiphany came about for me after watching an episode of the Sopranos. Perhaps some of you recall this show about Tony Soprano—a gangster with no conscience—who didn’t hesitate to “whack’ an enemy…or sometimes even a friend. The man was totally compartmentalized and had no conscience for his crimes. However, he was a dedicated father who loved his children and took care of them. It was hard to hate him when he was so full of misdirected love. My ex was also a sociopath with no conscience. The difference between the two of them was that my ex-husband was not a devoted father—but he sure enjoyed telling everyone he was.
On one of the later episodes of the show, Tony Soprano’s therapist was mocked by her colleagues for treating a notorious criminal. They asked her how she was able to keep working with him year-in and year-out because he was a sociopath who had no intention of ever changing. Sometimes he really played her with minimal attempts to change—or at least he verbalized that to her. But after a number of years of treatment, she had to face reality and let him go as her patient. As one reviewer wrote, “Instead of trying to get better, he was just practicing his ‘gift of gab’ on her.” Sociopaths are really good at doing this.
I realize now that when my ex-husband told me he was sorry, he really wasn’t sorry at all. He was just in the process of roping me in once again as his audience. I was so willing to settle for so little—just like when we were married. Any drop of kindness was over magnified 100 times in my own head. His apology allowed him to continue to abuse me mentally for many more years until the day I said, “STOP—I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE.” Like Tony Soprano’s therapist, I realized there would never be any change—for the better.
That is why I have learned that words without actions to back them up are merely words—and meaningless. Some of us are so damaged from these marriages that we are so happy to keep the crumbs being strewn our way in the form of “friendship” following the marriage. Too many times I have heard our women say that their new “friends” (i.e. their ex gay husbands) have a need—as mine did—to talk all about their new relationships as if we were their best friend, asking us for advice. How hurtful is that? Very. But they don’t think about that. They weren’t worried about hurting us while we were married to them, so trust me when I say they care even less now that we are not married.
The lesson to be learned here is this—Forgiveness on our part can come in some form when there is concrete efforts made to make up for the damage. Talk is cheap as they say. Actions are what count. And without the actions, it’s just cheap talk,
I AM ENOUGH
I hear women using the phrase “I am enough” all of the time—and it really makes me upset when I hear it. It is like putting yourself down instead of building yourself up.
In one article I researched, it said:
‘I Am Enough’ means knowing that you are enough just as you are. By accepting that you are enough, you are able to love who you are. When you accept that you are good enough as you are, you can spend your time and energy on giving and receiving that which you deserve.
A bad marriage of any kind is depressing, and I am sad for women who find themselves married to men with all kinds of personality disorders. It’s never easy on them. But take that and multiply it by 100, and then you will get a more realist overview of the damage done to us by our gay husbands.
My radio shows will resume in September. If you are willing to share your story to help other women, please let me know. Here are some recent ones if you missed them!
Dr. Margalis Fjelstad
Love and peace of mind, BONNIE