Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Julie's Story

It is strange to say that things got better when my life began to fall to pieces. But that is exactly what happened. From the beginning of my marriage, I always felt that things were not quite right. I can remember how hard I tried to keep everything together. I felt the pieces coming apart long before I was willing to let go and let them fall. When he finally “came out” and told me what had been going on his entire life, MY life finally started to take shape. This is my story.

After a year and a half at Brigham Young University, I decided to go on a Mormon mission. My original call was to Venezuela, but after spending 3 months in the Missionary Training Center, in Provo, Utah waiting for a visa, I was reassigned to Santiago, Chile. I had no idea the change in my call would change my entire life. With less than 24 hours notice I was headed to Chile. Upon arrival I met, the man I would later marry, my first zone leader.

In July of 1996, unbeknownst to one another, we each made our way to Utah. After finding out that I was in town, he called me. We were both in school at Utah Valley State College and we began to spend a lot of time together. Within a month we were inseparable. In February 1997, he decided to move back to Florida. In March, I made a trip to Florida. We were engaged two weeks later and he kissed me for the first time.

We were married August 1, 1997 in the Orlando Florida Mormon Temple. While in Florida, we had two children, our first son was born in June 1998 and our second son was born in June 2000. Our second little guy was born with a genetic mitochondrial disorder and still spends many days and nights at doctor’s offices and hospitals. When it came to responsibility, the birth of our first son marked the day I became a single mother.

In March 2002, after a promotion to General Manager of the hotel he was working at he started to work extra long hours, specifically Sunday nights. During the week he would come home in the evening for an hour or two and then “have to go back to help his staff”, returning home very late. Consequently, from March through September the boys and I lived our own lives, only seeing him whenever our paths happened to cross. There were many times that I caught him lying. He would get defensive and say that I wasn’t trusting like I should and I would let it go. I always got the same sick feeling inside and knew that something was not right. His stories never added up or made sense.

Throughout our marriage we had one argument that cycled about every two months or so. The two major areas were his lack of spiritual and emotional commitment to marriage and family. Spiritually, he gave nothing. Here I thought I had married a righteous priesthood holder, in the temple, who would be the patriarch of our family. I soon realized that many things I thought I knew about him were not so. Day to day help and support with household tasks and the boys was non-existent, unless I begged. Emotionally he gave nothing to the boys and me and sexually he avoided me like the plague. By the time we cycled through to the next argument, I was empty. Sobbing, I would let out all my feelings, trying to get through to him. He would tell me I was crazy for making a big deal about nothing and then, to get the argument over with, he would tell me, “It is not you, it is me. It is all my fault, I’ll do better.” But things never got better, until….

September 27, 2002, my 29th birthday. I had spent the previous night awake with our youngest having a major crisis, the day at the doctor’s office and then ended up with him at the hospital for rounds of medications and IV fluids. He finally joined us at the hospital about 45 minutes before they discharged us. We got home around 11 P.M. and he did his usual which was to sit on the couch, turn the T.V. on and make comments about how tired he was. He didn’t want anything to do with me emotionally or sexually. We hadn’t been intimate for about 4 months and I sure wanted to be with him. So after yet another rejection we began our typical argument, except due to the circumstances this time was much worse. At this point he said that he only had “struggled” with same-sex attraction, but was still worthy to go to the Temple and had never acted upon those feelings. I was angry, humiliated, terrified, confused, crushed and most of all scared. The world I had known was crumbling and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. After many intense emotions and hours of tears, silence and conversation he begged me to stay, no matter what. I had no idea he envisioned me by his side, holding one hand while boyfriends held the other.
After the initial shock, all the questions, none with easy answers, started eating me away. How did this happen to me, I had made all the right choices? What happens to my covenants? How did I not see it? How did I not know what he was doing behind my back? How will this affect our children? Does reparative therapy really work and if so will he really love me like I deserve to be loved? How can I still be in with love someone I despise? Forgiveness, yeah right. For me, the most difficult and the most motivating question was, Who am I? In my very proactive approach we headed to LDS Family Services to begin weekly Reparative Therapy. We also began regularly meeting with our Bishop. He went to LDS Family Services and the Bishop a few times on his own and then quit seeing both by mid November. I continued to go alone but I my focus changed. I started sticking up for myself, feeling that way to much emphasis was on him, his problems, his choices and his decisions for our family. I felt that I needed help to and that I deserved a say in what was happening to my life and our family. I was not willing to sit back and let people tell me that I just had to stand by and support him in whatever he was choosing to do if he wasn’t going to commit to our family. I was just as important as he was and this gay life of his was directly affecting me.

Over Thanksgiving weekend our youngest son had one of his worst crisis'. He was so sick that I was scared for his life. I spent four days in and out of the hospital with him as he needed special IV medications. I was exhausted from, once again, dealing with it all alone. It was on day three that he announced that he was leaving for a week to “figure things out”. It was during that time that I found out he had been going to gay clubs and that a few other people knew about his hidden life. When confronted, he told me that it was only one club, once a week and he had never acted upon his feelings; he only went looking for acceptance. According to him, there was “only one gay club” in the city and it had a drag queen show on Sunday nights that he liked because “it was funny”. At this point our Bishop asked our parents to get involved. Our parents came and we all met with the Bishop. That night he made the decision to come home, commenting, “I never left the house looking for sex.” Over the next 2 weeks we spent time discussing how our family would change if he made the commitment to go through years of reparative therapy and how it would change if he chose to leave us for a homosexual life. He asked me if I was would stay and let him have his gay life on the side. I was appalled and humiliated. I was willing to make whatever sacrifices were necessary if he committed to our family, but not if he chose to continue the gay lifestyle or if he chose to leave our family.
December 26, 2002, two weeks after his decision to come home, he made the choice to leave our family for a homosexual life. The day he left, we sat down together and wrote a “Property, Child and Support Agreement” that outlined exactly what we both wanted to happen to our home, assets, debts and children. At this point, a friend told me about Carol Lynn Pearson’s book, “Good-Bye, I Love You.” Finding too many similarities, I struggled to read it and chose to file it in my growing knowledge of homosexuality.

Night after night I continued to wake up with a sick feeling in my stomach. One of those nights I called him and told him I knew there was a lot he wasn’t’ telling me that I deserved to know. He came over the next day and finally began to tell me the truth of who he was, the life he was living and where the boys and I fit in. His comments were, “I am 100% gay. I’ve been living the life since I was 17.” The lies, deceit, infidelity, and cover-ups came gushing out. Pretty much our entire relationship was a lie. He never really wanted to get married or have a child, let alone two. I was important to he but he never had romantic feelings for me. He said he loved me but he was never in love with me. He thought that I could be the wife that could possibly fill the void and change him. Almost immediately after our wedding he realized the void was still there so he continued dabbling in his double life. When we found out I was pregnant he was hopeful that a child would do the trick. When that didn’t work either, he quickly began to live and juggle two completely separate lives.

During Thanksgiving he was in the middle of an affair (not the first) that had been going on for some time. He frequently visited sex booths, using his callings in the church, college classes and sending the boys and me on long trips to visit my parents as his covers. He also did the night club scene as well as had memberships to men’s clubs and bath houses. Working two jobs facilitated living “the life” as openly as possible without getting caught. When others started finding out about his life, he let me take the fall for his choices. My self esteem was almost destroyed by those who cowardly put the blame on me. For a time those comments caused many hours of me blaming myself and wondering what I could have done better. My final conclusion: not a single thing. I made every right choice I possibly could. In my heart of hearts I knew that, so no matter what was handed to me, I relayed on what I knew to be true. He wasn’t willing to admit that I had nothing to do with his homosexuality nor that he’d been gay and living it, since he was 17. It was easier for him to let people think that it was my fault than for him to be honest about who he really was.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and after hours of listening to him tell me about the secret life he had been living behind my back, I gathered up the boys and walked around the corner to a friend’s house, opened the door, asked for her and collapsed on the bed. That was my rock bottom. My bishop was called, I called my parents and on Wednesday, the boys and I headed to California to get away. My parents along with amazing friends saved me from a complete emotional and physical breakdown. There were certain people, carefully placed in my path, who walked step by step with the boys and me as the foundation of our eternal family collapsed.

I don’t remember much about the plane ride to California except that, I knew that if I could just get there my mom would be waiting. The boys and I spent the next three weeks trying to figure out how to get up in the morning. By the end of the planned three weeks, I made the decision to stay in California. My father accompanied me back to Florida to pack the house and go to court (Florida law is only 20 days for the divorce to be final). My father and a close friend supported me in court. It was a very emotional moment as we walked out of the courtroom, I took off my ring and my friend mentioned that we could see the temple from the window. I looked out and sure enough, while standing in the place where my eternal marriage had just ended, I could see where it all began.

In California, I continued my weekly counseling at LDS Family Services. My personal dedication to getting better and having a professional coaching me made the process happen very fast. In February I started an amazing experience, working through the grieving process and forgiveness. I remember not understanding how I was going to get from A to Z, but week by week I did it. My sessions in therapy were difficult, sometimes almost unbearable, but by the end of April I had completed every step and achieved my goals. I was able to forgive all the hurt, humiliation, lies, deceit, lost dreams, abuse, and anger. Sad, that my family and eternal marriage fell apart, yes, but there was an amazing peace that came with grieving those losses, forgiving myself and him and accepting that I would be OK and could move forward in my life. Throughout the year I have continued to counsel with my Bishop and Family Services to increase the peace and happiness in my life. I have realized that refocusing my efforts to continually find peace is an everyday goal and an everyday achievement.
Most of my questions are still unanswered by something more than the simple text book answers. But the more I search within myself and learn about me the more peace I am finding. In all the mess that my life has been the greatest blessing has to be finding ME. I have picked up the broken pieces of my life, one at a time, examined them, reshaped some of them, and fit them back together in a way that I can be the person I am today. I am not the same person I was a year ago, I never will be. I am stronger, more alive.

Finding out who I am and where the boys and I fit has become my journey. I am happy and my boys are happy. Life can be really hard but at the end of each day we have each other. The three of us are who we depend upon, where we feel safe and where love is simple. The boys miss there dad, but are very accepting of their new family where “daddy doesn’t live with us, is just mommy’s friend and still loves us”. To my journey’s end I will continue to pick up the pieces of my life, one at a time, examine them, reshape some of them, and place them back together in a healthy and happy way that my boys and I can thrive on, be who we are and fit where we fit.

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