I had dinner with my wife this evening. We have been separated for one year and three months. Generally the conversation was lite, but pleasant. But when I began to talk about joining the board of an LGBT health care organization, and later in the conversation, going to an LGBT synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I could see her start to look uncomfortable. I thought, ‘after all this time, her anguish is that close to the surface?’ I asked her if she was doing ok with the conversation and then it became clear that she was getting increasingly stirred up and upset.
My life is heavily LGBT focused at this point. This is the life I want to lead! So why did I feel like crap when I left the dinner? What had started out as a pleasant dinner got uncomfortable very quickly as I began to open up about some of the things in my life that are important to me that happened to be in the LGBT community. It’s no secret to her that our marriage ended because I wanted to live an out life. But any hint of the topic still brings her tremendous pain.
I don’t even know where to go from here with her. While we’re able to be together and enjoy each other’s company, it hurts that I can’t share with her what is happening in my life today. My life has taken off in what feels like such a positive and powerful way, but then one dinner, and it brings me down. Seeing my wife’s discomfort, as I talk about aspects of my life, triggers old pain and unsureness within me.
For so many years, I felt I could make my wife smile. I could take away her hurt. When she was upset, I would comfort her. Not this time. The hurt is too big. The life decisions I’ve made about coming out visibly and proudly are too painful for her. So the truth is, she will be unhappy. My life will bring her pain. But, I need to live my life in the best way I can. I need to live my life out, and proud. I plan to be visible in the gay community. I plan to have a life that is active and gives back to the gay community. I will not hide in the shadows anymore about my sexuality.
For so many years I kept my attraction to men hidden in our marriage. It wasn’t a secret. It was one of the first things I told my wife when we began to date in 1991. But at the time, I thought my interest in men was something that was more in my past, and told her so. We soon stopped talking about the topic of my sexuality and it went underground for the next 20+ years. Early in our marriage I thought I might be bisexual. But increasingly over time it became clear to me that I was gay. But I had made a commitment with a woman I cared deeply for and I hunkered down. I had a child I loved and an extended family I cared deeply for, and I hunkered down. I hunkered down until the gay would stay down no longer and was demanding to be released.
In the last year and three months I’ve come out in all parts of my life. It feels like my life is taking off in new and exciting ways. But seeing my wife’s hurt brings back all the pain of what was a very slow and torturous separation. After I came out to my wife, (for the second time), three and a half years ago, I spent two years longer in the marriage than I had wanted, at her request, in order to keep the family together until my son was older and had completed 11th grade. Those two years were torture. It was incredibly painful and disintegrating to go home each night and put on a happy face before my son and pretend that everything was just great.
When I saw my wife begin to get upset at dinner tonight, I had that same old tortured feeling that I used to have before we separated. Her face took on a painful, hurt, tortured quality that I didn’t know what to do with. We were at an impasse. So, I change the subject. We moved on and began talking about something lite and easy.
Bottom line. I’m tremendously grateful for my new life. I know a lot of men who have come out later in life and it has not gone as well. I love the life I am living now and would never go back to my marriage, even though I care for and respect my wife. That said, I can’t take away my wife’s pain. I can’t stop her hurt. And at this point it is really not my responsibility. All I can do is move forward with my own life and life as best as I can. And my life at this point is pretty damn good.