Monday, November 28, 2011

In the Pit With the New York Times


This weekend -- a bit dicey given the fact that this is the first major holiday I've had to celebrate without either of my parents -- fell into a bottomless pit when I read an article that appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 24. It hit kind of close to home....closer than I like for these things to fall....

I run it here for your perusal. How does it make you feel?

Keeping Marital Secrets Closeted
Published: November 24, 2011

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.
The author of “Walking on Eggshells,” who is working on a book about family secrets.


Reading this article forced me to revisit my not-so-happy place of a few years ago. You see, back then I felt like it was all my fault and I believed that I had caused all my wife's problems and unhappiness. A few wives jumped on the bandwagon and made it seem like my disclosure to my wife had been one grand scheme of deception to, in my wife's vernacular, "make her life hell." I soon noticed that many wives in this situation turn the tables and make the disclosure become all about them. Although I will dare the fates to say that yes, they are involved...and to some degree collateral damage, but this is not all about them.

Now, before everyone circles the wagons, and hurls arrows at me please remember that I am speaking from my own experience and the experiences I have observed in some of my more close friends' lives.

The struggling gay guy did not set out and rub his hands together one day and say...."Gee, let's see what poor woman we can hoodwink into marrying us so that one day in the future I can, after having lots of mindless gay sex, come home to say, 'Honey, I think I'm queer!' Golly gee...I sure am sorry that it's gonna upset your apple cart and plans for a long and blissful life together."

No, I did not feel that way in the least. I did not use my wife in anyway to conceal the truth. I genuinely thought I could change...or that all that needed to happen was for someone to mash the magic reset button to launch me onto the road of wanton straightness.

I was mistaken and fell for what I had been told by my clergyman. That God hated fags....and that in order for Him to not hate me, I must marry and cast all this aside.

He never told me the mechanics of how that was supposed to work. Better yet, how I was supposed to deal with the biological urges the ebbed and flowed with my raging hormones on a daily basis.

I loved men.

Plain and simple.

I needed to be with one.

I still do.

But the way that gay life is constructed, I am finding that a lot of men have very unrealistic expectations of what that looks like. Generally speaking, it's about 6'2", young, blond, buff, and hung. It even helps to have just stepped off the set of a male porn movie.

In the real world, it does not work like that.

Gosh...I wish my guy would show up.....FINALLY.


Anonymous Bill said...

It strikes me that your "guy" has showed up & that his name is Bob!

P.S. I wish you'd post your e-mail address!

12:03 PM  

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