I am just beginning this journey. My husband of 26 years came out to me Jan 15 2004, a little over a month ago. How do I describe my world now?
First of all HUGE relief that all the marital problems weren't all my fault or just my imagination. Here I was married to a "wonderful" man, had four great kids, no financial problems, all active in church... so where was my craziness and pain coming from??? Now I know without any doubt that a large part of it came from the lies and secrets that tainted everything in our family like a slow poison. Even though unseen and unknown, secrets affected our family as surely as a toxin. And the effects will be long lasting.
I cannot blame all of my pain on Jim's same-sex attraction (SSA), but so much makes sense, now that I have all the pieces. I conquered my personal demon – depression – several years ago after counseling that finally led me to my Savior and self worth. I feel that the personal strength gained by overcoming depression and working on healing my own wounds has helped me to deal with this new life that I am beginning.
I feel deep sadness for the dreams that I must now grieve. I went to the Mormon temple alone for the first time last week. It was hard, yet I felt sadness and pain, yet such peace and worthiness - interesting combination... I can’t bear to think of the mission Jim and I will not serve together, grandchildren that he will not bless, weddings he will not attend, a Sunday School class of 13-year-olds that love him that wonder why he has not been there at church for the past month, a ward choir that depended on his beautiful Italian tenor voice. I am finding that grief is a physical experience, not just an emotional one. I feel it deep within. The closest comparison is the feeling I had after giving birth, when I missed that child within me. That emptiness, that wound. There is a place within me that will forever bear the imprint to those dreams, but will never be filled.
I have much pain for our four children - two sons aged 25 and 21, two daughters aged 20 and 16. They love their dad. In spite of the conflict and bickering and low-grade unhappiness that was in our marriage, he was and is a great dad and loves his kids. He told all four of them about his SSA within a couple days of coming out to me. Each had a different reaction, but all expressed their love to him. The reaction of my 20-year-old daughter was representative of all of them - "You are my dad, and I love you. But you are creeping me out." How will my children see life now? How will they understand God or religion or marriage or themselves? Will it bring them to greater love, compassion, and righteousness – or drive them into a place of pain and confusion, without boundaries, where nothing makes sense? Only time will tell.
I also have felt jealousy for the first time in our marriage. For some reason, I never felt jealous when Jim went on business trips. I knew he would never leave me for another woman. Jim still always tells me how much he loves me, and that I am the only woman he will ever love. It just hurts to finally see him as a whole, real, honest person after years of deceit and unfaithfulness - to be able to finally love him as real person - and yet not have him with me. Jim moved out of our home into an apartment the week after he came out to me. Both of us felt it was a boundary that would create peace in our lives, and it has. Now that he is out of our home, I no longer feel jealousy. Now I am grieving and feeling the emptiness and loneliness of letting go.
So what about anger? I have felt so much anger for so many years towards Jim. He was so "perfect" - always on time for meetings, loved to cook and clean, was sociable and fun, etc. I often felt that he looked down on me and was disgusted with me. It made me angry that I would never "measure up" to what he seemed to want. Well, hello! Now I know that it was literally impossible for me to be what he needed... I had so much anger that a man, who is so "active" in church, would not pray with me, hold FHE or father's interviews, read scriptures, or go to the temple very often. Now I understand why he wouldn’t do those things. He never felt worthy. He was trying so hard to be perfect so that his SSA would go away. He wasn’t trying to be better than anyone. He was trying to exorcise his own demons. I do feel guilt for how I treated him, with anger and nagging and pleading. I only wish he would have confided in me years ago, so that I could have understood him and not taken the negativity personally. I just didn’t know the burden that he carried, the wounds he has, or the depth of our “incompatibility.” Now I do, and there is no anger left.
The honesty, courage, and tenderness surrounding his coming out has defused much of my anger. We had been talking about separating for nearly a month. We had gone to the Bishop and Stake President, and I was desperately trying to find a way to fix our marriage. But I just couldn’t come up with any solutions, and I there was nothing more I could do. I felt resigned, and agreed with Jim that we needed to separate. Then one night he finally told me the 'rest of the story.' It may sound strange, but it was a deeply spiritual moment. I literally saw his soul for the first time in years. He has carried this burden since the age of three. He was converted at the age of 19, and when he was called on his mission, he told the stake president about his SSA, which he had no yet acted on. The response was that since Jim had dated a little and liked women, he was normal. He was advised to go on a mission, get married, and that with patience and righteousness those feelings would fade away. It didn't happen that way for us.
Another emotion that I have is a deep love and hope for every member of our family. I don’t know what the future will hold for us. But right now it seems like our family is coming together in a way that is miraculous. There is much more to our story than this short snapshot. But I can see my children treating each other with more love, being more open, less judgmental. It seemed like before, we were all trying to measure up to this “perfect” man who was strangely distant and disconnected from each of us. Now we know that his perfection is not our standard. Now is the time for each of us to find that standard of perfection. And the one I have found is perfect trust in the Lord and his plan.
I have NO doubt that I was supposed to marry Jim. I am forever grateful for the children we have together. Jim is the only member of his family that joined the church. His father is an only child in a line that would have ended with Jim if we hadn’t married and had children (none of siblings have children). Who knows about what promises we made before we came here to those family members in the past and future? Jim is a man of deep spirituality and sensitivity. He believes that God created him this way. He wishes he could wake up one morning and his SSA feelings and yearnings would be gone. He wants to go back and live with his Heavenly Father. He loves the gospel and knows it is true.
I also believe with all of my heart that no one has control or choice over SSA. I do not personally believe that people are born with SSA, since that would be a case of Heavenly Father contradicting his own plan of happiness. I do believe that it is a complex construct possibly involving the unique tender personality of the child, trauma and parental bonding problems. (See Richard Cohen’s “Coming Out Straight.”) No one is to blame. It is a side effect of a telestial world. I do believe that we are all accountable for our choices, but I am not sure to what degree agency is mitigated by trauma and a shattered framework. I will leave that up to the Savior. All of my unanswered questions I have put on the shelf. At some future day, I will have answers.
Throughout this past month, little miracles have occurred. The first one was finding Wildflowers. I have found great support in the women who have shared their experiences here. Within a couple of weeks, several women in my ward had come to me and “confessed” that they had a son or husband who had come out to them. Each of these sisters had suffered silently and alone. I feel great peace and strength as we share our experiences with each other. I am convinced we cannot heal in isolation.
I also feel great concern for those who struggle with SSA, especially those who are LDS. It is a very difficult situation. Many of them miss the brotherhood and community found within a church that they can no longer be part of. The choices for those who are gay and LDS include either to live a lie in a marriage – which we know first-hand leaves wreckage in its wake – live alone and lonely forever, which drives many of them to take their own lives. They can spend countless hours and enormous amounts of money on counseling – which may work for some, but for many leaves them doubly traumatized. Or they can “accept” their life, and live openly. I have found that not all gay men are into porn or drugs or clubbing. There are a few who, however strange it may sound, have set up own standards to avoid those things. What unacceptable choices! I just see no good options, and this breaks my heart again.
I also feel worry and concern about the future, especially for Jim. I worry about his health – physical, emotional, and spiritual. Will I, as Carol Ann Pearson, have to care for this man I love as he dies? Would it be any less heart wrenching to watch him begin to die spiritually? Will his feelings for me and our children change or grow cold? I am not a big worrier. I realize that I will be given the strength, support and wisdom to deal with any of these eventualities as they come. In the Lord’s wisdom, He does not load us down with all the equipment and tools we need in life until the very moment we need them. I love the Alcoholics Anonymous phrase, “God may seem late, but He is always on time.” I believe that with all my heart.
Colleen, who I met on Wildflowers and was my only support in those first few days, told me that often these husbands will return to us for spiritual support and the “woman’s touch” that doesn’t exist in their world. Colleen also told me that Dr. Phil once said to one of the 9-11 widows, “your previous normal is OVER and as each day passes, you will develop a new normal.” I am beginning to accept this “new normal.” I feel great strength and clarity, blessings that I am sure come from keeping my covenants. Plus I now live in a world where the LIGHT is turned on. No more secrets and lies. The moment that we begin to keep secrets, a slow poison begins to work within us and within those around us. While we do need to be tactful, discreet and use wisdom in telling our stories, we MUST not be silent or suffer alone. Isolation is Satan’s greatest incubator for depression.
If you are reading this, welcome to what I have termed the ‘Bizarro Sisterhood.’ It is kind of like the Relief Society of the Twilight Zone. It is not made up of sisters who are living a perfect life. Rather it is made up of perfect sisters just living life. Not of our choosing, we have for some reason been entrusted with unthinkable challenges. In spite of our imperfections, we are given an extra helping of strength, of miracles, of comfort, of beauty, of love. We are all Heaven has to create a bridge of light to those we love who are in a dark kingdom. Though our stories are all different, we all share the same pain and longings and questions. Of one thing I am sure, there are fields and fields of Wildflowers in Heaven.
BE STILL MY SOUL
Text: Katharina von Schlegel
Music: Jean Sibelius
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
Thro' thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul; thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and wind still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hast' ning on
When we shall be forevr with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone.
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when changes and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.