I had dinner with my wife on Monday. We have been separated for almost a year and a half. It was a nice, easy, relaxed dinner. We both have clearly overcome some of the pain and hurt of our separation and my coming out. Although, my wife’s pain is not to far below the surface, and I can not really talk to her about my life today without that pain quickly coming out.
When I look at my wife today, and what my life might have been like had I stayed married, I know I made the right decision. She is a wonderful, bright, talented woman. I’ve always seen her as a very special and kind individual. I still care for her today, but my feelings towards her have changed from the love I once felt to that of a close trusted friend. Since I came back out to her for the second time three and a half years ago, (the first time was 22 years earlier when we met), and later told her of my desire to move out of the marriage, I experienced the most painful period of my life. I knew that I could not stay married.
After many years of fooling myself that I was probably bisexual, by the time I came out (again) to my wife, I was very clear in my mind that I was gay. I needed to get to a level of integrity in my life that I did not believe I could do as a gay man married to a straight woman. So when I looked at my life and my marriage three and a half years ago, I knew that I could not navigate a life that was split between marriage to women and relationships with men on the side.
I felt I could barely navigate one relationship let alone two. After I had come out to my wife, but before moving out of my marriage, every time I told my wife that I was meeting a male friend for dinner, she would give me a hurt, pained and deeply uncomfortable look. That look had me want to hide away within myself and my stomach would knot. I became very careful what I shared with her in order to avoid the hurt and pained look from rapidly coming to the surface. For the last two and a half years of our marriage I walked on egg shells with her, watching my every word, and censoring what came out of my mouth.
When I envisioned my future, the thought of her continuing pain and hurt every time I stepped out into the gay world, our continued marriage seemed like an impossible situation. I felt I needed to be free to step out as an out gay man. I felt I needed to achieve a level of internal integration, healing and pride that I did not feel back then. At the same time I was frightened about leaving my marriage and starting over in my mid 50s. I painfully wavered back and forth for two years about leaving my marriage and home right up to the day I signed the lease for an apartment the month before I moved out.
I just joined an online forum of men who are gay and bisexual and married to women. It’s a fascinating group and I continue to be both moved and surprised by the stories men tell. So many of the men in this group seem to have chosen to stay in their marriage and negotiate something on the side with a man. One man wrote about putting his wife and family first, but also his wife knowing he would need an outlet on the side with men. I knew early on in my coming out process that I couldn’t do that. I commend these men for making it work. I do wonder, however, if they can achieve fully the feeling of integration, healing and wholeness that coming out in all parts of your life brings.
I have stepped out as a gay man on increasingly larger stages. Last Friday, an article I wrote as the Executive Sponsor introducing my company’s new LGBT Associate Resource Group to the organization was published on our corporate intranet site. The intranet reaches about 6,500 people, both employees and contractors who work for the company. At the end of the article I came out and spoke about my experience coming out at work. I spoke about how integrating and powerful coming out at work had been for me and how I felt I was now able to bring my whole self to work—a very empowering experience. When I saw the article with my picture on the intranet home page I felt so proud and joyful. I was really out and this felt like a big event.
Coming out has given me a whole life. Not that everything is perfect or my life is now complete. But as a human being I feel so proud and good about who I am today. I have a level of integration within myself that I once did not think would be possible for me in this life. And for the first time in many years I feel hopeful about what the future brings and the new opportunities that lie ahead.