Friday, September 5, 2008

Colleen's Story

I think the thing that surprised me the most by the story I read on your web site is that there are still women marrying gays in the Mormon church—let alone the world--when things are so much more open now. When my story started--I thought all gays lived in San Francisco and they were a limited bunch. I had even had a heated debate with a Catholic friend of mine about gays a few years before I started dating my future husband. It also interested me to note that in the story posted on your web site that the wife had received the answer to her prayers as to whether marrying her husband was the right thing--as I had the same thing happen--but more forceful.
I had been in a singles ward for several years. I had been presented several opportunities to marry outside the church, but I wanted the "for time and all eternity" marriage. I wanted to be assured that I would never be alone--that I would never lose the man I loved--and so I held out for that "dream." I was giving up on that singles ward when in early June of 1982 I had a dream about someone that I would meet in my ward—to hang on. Then a month later, I had another dream that that person who would be my husband would be at church the next day. The dream was so vivid that I waited in the foyer watching each person come in. I finally went into opening exercises late and sat down by a friend on the back row. Within minutes, another friend of mine came in with someone new and they sat down right next to me--with the new person sitting RIGHT next to me. It was crowded on the bench--so it was rather obvious. I was never one to pursue guys or flirt--but this was the one I had dreamed about and so I made an effort--and it wasn't long before we were friends and then began dating. To make a long story short--I was confused about where things were going after seven months--so I confronted this guy as to how serious he was in the relationship and it was then I was told that he was gay. His apartment window just happened to have a perfect view of the Logan temple out the window (notice how those temples are right where they are supposed to be) and I remember staring at it thinking, "I'm not my mother's little girl anymore." Dr. Phil--one of my heroes--states "ten defining moments" . . .

I fell into a suicidal depression over this situation. I talked to the bishop over and over again--I did typing for the bishop and we were already good friends beforehand and my boyfriend was the financial clerk--so I spent a lot of time sorting through things with him. I didn't feel like I could tell anyone. I felt completely and totally alone. It was a huge burden. I was suicidal for a year--thinking about how God could put something like this on the earth and not have a solution for it. How could this person be damned if there were no answers? I saw God as an authority figure--sitting at His judgment bench with his gavel--but as time went by, my feelings changed. My belief system completely changed.

I had to deal with all the things that had happened in his past and learn to forgive him for it--I had to either let him go or stick it out. He asked me over and over to wait for him to work through his problems--that he'd always dreamed I'd come into his life to share his burden. I dated more that year than in my entire life--probably because I was so distracted that I really didn't care--when lo and behold, I met someone new. This person scared my gay boyfriend and after I moved away to get away from the situation--he asked me OVER THE PHONE while I was at work to marry him. I spent the next day in bed. A very good friend--who was another bishop that I worked with--gave me a blessing. He promised me that my husband would never leave me. He said to me, "How would you feel if God gave you this and you turned your back on it." I know he said this only because he truly believed it--and still does. I was already STUCK. The bishop of our ward told me that it would be okay--that if I had any doubts in my mind--to put them aside. The LDS Social Services therapist told me that it would be okay if we got married--to just not worry about it. I just realized this past summer that once I was in the situation--there was no other choice--I had to go forward. I had to take the chance--I had to give this person more in his life than I saw the gay world as offering him. I said yes. When I finally said yes--I had joy that I had never felt before. I had my doubts--many, many, many, many doubts as the three months passed to our wedding, but the day I went to the temple for the first time--those doubts flew out the window—my suicidal depression went away while in the temple. I was told in no uncertain terms that this was the right thing. The day I married him was one of the happiest days of my life. Everyone told me that I couldn't have this—and here it was MINE.

We had twins 14-1/2 months later--a boy and a girl. He had been told as a child that his first child would be twins. That was the first thing he asked the doctor when we went to the first appointment, "Is it twins?" In so many ways—it seemed our life was charmed. We got the house we wanted, our children were robust and healthy even born a month early. I landed a job that made it possible for me to work at home . . . the list goes on and on.

When my children turned 6--just after the second one had gotten through the worst of the chicken pox--he told me that he had been cheating on me since 2-1/2 years into the marriage. We went through therapy through a well known psychiatrist in Salt Lake City--and now I suspect that psychiatrist was gay--although married (but we all know that story). He would tell me that we had a chance--while he told my husband "you are nice looking, you can easily find a partner." We made it through that situation. We determined to stay together. I gave him leeway--I didn't want him to go and he didn't want to go. I had learned early on that his gay feelings--that his cheating--had nothing to do with me (it didn't mean it didn't hurt). This was between him and God--and I loved him. We WERE --and I mean this from the bottom of my heart--WERE the best of friends. We were close--closer than most couples we knew. Of course, we had our issues that all couples have . . . but he was the one I always turned to--and he to me emotionally. He had a hard family life and we were everything to him. He was an EXCELLENT father. My children still tell me how they had such a happy childhood—they spent hours and hours hiking the hills, hunting bones (which my little girl liked to do!!!), lighting fires up the canyon (which my little boy liked to do)--and we went on trips. He bought an old camper and fixed it up and we camped all the time. It was always hide and seek when dad came home--they would hear him come in the garage and they would hide--and he would hunt them down. If he got home and we weren't here--he'd hide and they'd find him. We had a really good life—why let it go. He was also in many church callings. He is the outgoing one and I'm the "reserved" one. We had a lot of friends in the ward--and I had several people tell me that he was the nicest person they had ever met. They adored him.

THEN--in May of _____? I had spent many days in SLC at UUMC with my older brother. He had a brain hemorrhage while going to University of Utah at age 42 to get a degree in Russian and German to be an interpreter. He was in his last quarter with a 4.0 grade point average--when he had a brain hemorrhage (he lost the speech center of his brain--so lost his Russian and German—he now does well with English). I went down several times a week to go to rehabilitation with him. My husband met me on Friday evening in Primary Children's Medical Center parking lot so he could go to a Family Fellowship Conference while I took the kids home with me. He came home on Sunday and told me that divorce was inevitable. We went to more therapy--the therapist told us to make pros and cons lists of why we should get a divorce. I made a huge list--but my reasons for getting a divorce had nothing to do with him being gay--it was more an issue of him "sucking the joy out of life on a daily basis"--he only did this to me--no one else. He didn't even make a list--he told the therapist that he couldn't BE DIVORCED and he couldn't imagine his life without me. Just as I'd get stable--feeling like things wouldn't change--he'd tell me (the night before my birthday--notice how they do this)--that he was looking for an apartment. I'd get prepared for him to leave--and he'd say, "I'm not leaving." At Christmas, things were uneasy. On January 3rd--I had a doctor's appointment in SLC and my kids went back to school that day. My car kept overheating on the way home--so it took forever. I walked in my bedroom and there was something on the bed that I had been asking him for for months--and I knew something was wrong--that he had left that there for me. I alked over to his side of the closet, opened the door--and everything was gone. He had left me a taped message by my computer. At first I felt bad for him--then I got mad. . . . he came back the next day--and came home the following Monday and told me he was getting a divorce and I kicked him out. He lived with some friends for a few months--but we had the basement finished so he could move back and we could raise our kids together, but he had already met someone who worked for him. My husband moved back in—and this "friend" of his moved to California (as a ploy, I know). In October--my husband said he couldn't be away from this guy--so I said "Go—go to California for six weeks (as he could get that much time off work)--and see if you can find a job--see if you are happy." He went . . . he left on November 9th. He cried the whole time he was gone. I don't even remember years anymore . . . I think it was seven years ago this week. I was at a store on November 10th this year waiting in the car for my daughter--and a profound sense of sadness came over me and tears just started to fall. I couldn't understand why--and then I came home to write an e-mail to a friend and I realized--that I had even forgotten—November 9th--it had passed and I didn't even know. You do get better . . .

Well--my husband--came back two weeks later as he couldn't find a job and I made the threat that I would take the kids and disappear if he didn't come back and at least work his job and help support us--so he came back. His boyfriend followed two days later. Over the next four years--just as I would start getting strong, my husband would call and say he was coming home. I was more than welcome to it--finances were in the toilet--and I was a basket case--and then he'd back out. Just as I gave up that he and his boyfriend would break up--they broke up. This boyfriend was horrible to all of us. It was an abusive relationship--but I blame my husband for even being involved in it at all. He didn't allow my husband to give me any money without a huge fight. I didn't have family to help me—I was actually the one who everyone relied on and I was too proud to ask for help. I was ON MY OWN--completely alone. I had only been working part-part time--and I work a job that requires self-motivation--of which I had none. I slept in the day and got up when my kids were coming home from school. I used credit to pay all the bills--and . . . finances just continued to get worse and worse. So--I don't have a very promising story. Maybe my story can help everyone else avoid my pitfalls!

That first year after he left--we lived from one catastrophe to another. Then one morning as I was watering lawn, my precious dog was hit by a car. The thing that had kept me going all these months was looking for the "small miracles" in my life--and this dog was one of those. That day--something in me died. I became suicidal and homicidal. I hate to say it--but it is true. I saw this world as such an ugly place--such a painful place--that why would I want my kids to have to live in it. The things I never wanted my children to have to go through--I had not been able to protect them from. I went back to another therapist for one visit--and he said, "You can either lay on the bed and be depressed or you can choose not to think about it." And I chose not to think about it. I shut down—I didn't think--I only solved things as the crisis came upon me. Things went from bad to worse, obviously! At this point in my life—someone needed to take over and let me heal--but there was no one there to do it. I call this my Andrea Yates period. I was completely out of my mind. There are things I did that people tell me that I have no memory of.

Then I saw Dr. Phil on Oprah for the first time--and that day--I called for a new therapist. I lucked out and got the best. I went to him twice a week for months and then continued seeing him for four years. He got me working on a regular basis. He got me to take steps in starting to re-live my life. When family members came to me with problems, I could refer them on to him rather than try to fix it myself.
But--just as my husband was breaking up with his boyfriend--my youngest brother ended up on my doorstep. His wife wanted a divorce. I let him move in--and he was a mess. This was the second hardest time of my journey from when my husband left. When my brother was home--I had to be at his beck and call . . . as we share the same genes--we both deal with severe depression—and so I worried constantly about him--and at the same time, my husband was suicidal. My son stayed with him a lot of that summer--and my children tended my nephew. It was a crazy, crazy, crazy time. Because of past financial problems, etc., and now my new load--I was frantic. I was in fear of losing my home, etc., etc. My brother told me of his mother-in-law--who is not a member of the church and is alcoholic--who had gone to the bishop of the ward she lived in and he was paying her house payment. I knew right then that that was my answer--I HAD to ask for help. It was one of the hardest things I ever did--but something I should have done in the very beginning. The church helped me save my house and get me back on my feet financially--they provided food, etc. If I had gone to them in the beginning, things never would have gotten so bad.

Just this summer--I found the energy and the time to start walking again--something I love to do and haven't done since all this mess began. I go to the middle school track and walk--and listen to music that makes me strong--and I realized how far I've come. I feel myself healing as I walk that track--more than I did in all those years. The fresh air, the escape from the problems—the load I carry--the reconnection with the person I WAS--and I realized that back when all this started I had begged God that if nothing else—I would live until my twins turned 18--which they do this coming Friday--and I had made it. My financial mess was so bad back then--that I look back in COMPLETE DISBELIEF and AWE that I didn't lose my house--that I am still putting one foot in front of the other--that my kids are strong and beautiful--the most wonderful children anyone could have. They have fought their own fights--and chosen to live good lives--when their friends have chosen other paths. There have been times they had to completely cut ties with friends--while in high school--and choose to not take drugs, etc., etc., and they did it. They are my best friends. I know the "experts" tell you that you can't be your childrens' friend—but you can. We have the best relationship. I have allowed my husband (and he is still my husband--he has never divorced me and I never had the strength to do it myself--let alone the money) to maintain a relationship with his children visiting them at our home--so that they weren't exposed to his lifestyle too much--and my husband and I are now very good friends. We will never be what we were before--but we all do things together--we even travel together. He dates all the time and I encourage it. I don't want him back. I don't know that I ever want to marry again either--I'm glad that I stayed single while my kids were young as they needed ME--not a step-father--and I was definitely not ready for a new relationship. Rather than a "new father," I say get a dog. Our dogs have carried us through emotionally.

Another thing that helped us is humor. As crazy as that sounds--my niece was living here when my husband left with his boyfriend and she has a very dry sense of humor--and when things were the most tense--she would do the most insane things and we would find ourselves in fits of laughter. We continue doing this--because sometimes life is just too much to handle. Sometimes things are such that if you think about them too much—or too hard--they just might kill you . . . and I think you all know what I mean by that.

My answers--that I have found--is that there are no answers. I read an article once about a mother whose son had died and she said she just couldn't find any answers for why he had died--and she finally realized that it was UNACCEPTABLE that he had died--and when she allowed herself to think that--then she came to terms with it. Whatever the reasons--why all this came to be in my life and my childrens' lives--I did realize while walking this summer--that this is not what God wanted for my life--but this IS my life. I use to believe that if bad things happened to you--then you must have done something to deserve it. I no longer believe that. When my husband first told me he was cheating--I was berating myself—telling myself "if only I had done this, if only I had done that--if only . . . I had been perfect--" and the feeling came to me "I love you just as you are--you are a good person--this has NOTHING to do with you . . ."

I can see now--as I look back--that my life is a MIRACLE . . . the fact that I am still alive, that I am still putting one foot in front of the other, that when the money shouldn't have covered everything it needed to--it still did, that my children turned out well even with their parents' insanity, and that when things seemed utterly hopeless, God would send a "small miracle" to remind me he was aware of me. I no longer feel that my husband is damned. I feel that him leaving us will be more of a burden to him—than his being gay, but as I told his sisters--I am the last one who will allow him to be punished for who he is. I don't know what place gays have in this world--I have found peace in knowing that someday I will have my answers. I am no longer "active" in the LDS Church. It doesn't mean that I don't believe MOST of what it teaches. I feel that in going through this--I found a more loving God than I ever believed in as a young girl. I know he loves me, my children, and he loves my husband--and he aches for our pain. I have many, many reasons for being inactive--too many to explain here. We all have to come to our own decisions.
My advice to anyone out there is--you have to do what you know is best. You have to believe that God loves you. If you are going through separation, divorce, etc., go straight to your bishop for financial help--don't try to be strong and brave, etc., etc., go ask for help NOW (as if you can avoid the financial struggles--it will be a shorter road to recovery). Get a therapist and stay in therapy for a long, long time. Get on an antidepressant. Don't try to go it alone--

I still believe and always will that my husband's place was here with us. It was destiny--I know he wasn't supposed to leave. A lot of ex's of gays wouldn't say that. For us--that was the answer. For him--it was. He will always need us more than we need him actually. The thing that is hard about watching a show like Will and Grace on TV--is that it is too true to life. The gay does want his wife and his lover . . . and because of the answers I received . . . the things that have happened to me because of the situation with gays--I know his place was with us. That is not an issue any longer—but everyone's answer is different. You have to do what you feel is right.

My best advice is to "listen"--because God is aware of you and your pain. He showed me that in my darkest hours--and when you are too broken to listen--he IS CARRYING YOU--I know that with all my heart. Look for the little miracles in your life--they will sustain you . . . This is a life-long road--once this is a part of your life--it always will be. It will have an effect in every decision you make, every thing you do--for the rest of your life--BUT that CAN be a good thing . . .

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Updated 10/26/2010:

Since I wrote my story I don't know how many years ago, HUGE CHANGES have come about in my life and in my feelings about the LDS church, being gay, and my marriage.

I am now an Ex-Mormon and I post semi-regularly on two websites for ex or post Mormons. I have come to accept my husband JUST AS HE IS. I no longer have "questions"--I have all my answers. Do I know why he is gay? No. That doesn't matter. It is all very simple.

Someone on one of those Ex_Mormon boards stated one day that he is Native American and gay--and that the LDS church taught him to hate two parts of himself. I realized THAT DAY that to ask my husband to change to straight would be to ask him to disappear. Gay is what makes him who he is--the unique and wonderful person that he is. I can't imagine my world without HIM JUST AS HE IS.

The "love of my life" came back into my life 6 years ago. I didn't marry him at age 20 because he wasn't Mormon. Before he came back into my life, I had an "epiphany." I had been too busy taking care of my children to figure out what I felt about the LDS church. I had a good friend whose daughter was getting married. Every time something would go wrong with the plans for the wedding, her daughter would say, "The church is still true, so why does it matter." I couldn't get that statement out of my mind. I wrote in my journal at that time and I said, "BUT IT MATTERED TO ME." It was that very day that I lost all my beliefs in the LDS church. They just crumbled. This was before my boyfriend came back into my life. I had been such a devout Mormon that this boyfriend WOULDN'T, COULDN'T believe I didn't believe any longer.

Being gay, straight, lesbian, transgendered, etc., is about the WHOLE relationship. It is about emotional, mental, physical, psychological, AND sexual. AND when you put someone straight with someone gay/lesbian, then BOTH people are not in the right relationship for themselves.

I had someone who I admire recently say to me, "It isn't about gay, lesbian, straight, transgendered, etc., it is about who we connect to, who we love."

The pain will NEVER be completely gone for what we have all been through, but I have found my answers and I am at peace in my relationship with this man who is the father of my children and who "was" my husband. I feel that we saved each other.

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