If the news of a divorce from a gay spouse is ever good, this would probably qualify as one of the best case scenarios we’ve ever seen.
Popular parenting blogger, Jill Smokler, of Scary Mommy announced her upcoming divorce from her husband on her website after careful consideration. Then, her husband submitted a guest article on his perspective.
“Once I came to terms with the fact that I was gay, I figured I had two options,” Jeff Smokler wrote. “I could die — either from my intentional neglect of my health and well-being, or perhaps from something even more tragic — leaving my children fatherless, or I could come out and hope that I remained surrounded by the love of my friends, family, wife and children.”
“For many years, I chose option one; letting myself slip into unhealthy habits and depression,” he continued. “So how then do Jill and I now find ourselves in this moment? What changed? The truth is, nothing changed. We were simply ready.”
The couple is committed to being honest, and to continuing to create a stable family for their children, and be supportive of their children.
The struggles of coming out, and of coping with the devastating realization for the straight spouse, are not easy. The Smoklers acknowledged that they experienced many years of tremendous stress and difficulty before arriving at the resolution: a divorce that is done as openly as possible.
Jill Smokler is among the luckiest group of straight wives. Her husband struggled with honesty and included her in his discovery and disclosure. They mutually share a partnership of family and personal connection. Letting go of the secret is freeing for both spouses when it is done together. For many of us, that is not an option. We are consigned to closets, experiencing ongoing denial, or threats or shaming by the gay spouse. We’re put off on the question of telling the kids, or we’re cast aside – as if the disclosure only belongs to the gay spouse.
The Smoklers have shown that coming out isn’t just a matter for the LGBTQ spouse. Coming out is a family matter which includes the straight spouse. Not everything is going to be easy, or smooth, or go according to one person’s desires and plans.
They aspire to show that divorce can come from a place of love – and there is no shortage of love in their relationship. We are all uplifted by this affirmation! Yet, a number of straight spouses are experiencing pain along with that sense of “Oh, OK, so it doesn’t always have to be terrible and terrifying for everyone.” It’s a relief that not ALL mixed orientations marriages that end in divorce end with abuse, gaslighting, deception, and shaming. It’s a relief to know that not all straight spouses go through the process of being discarded, or living down the writing of an untrue script.
What are some examples of untrue scripts?
1. This is no big deal. Other couples stay married. Other straight wives are SUPPORTIVE! (after all, look at Scary Mommy!)
It is a big deal, and the Smoklers have said so. And their support is for each other – and has developed throughout the 15 years of marriage. Many times, the feelings of the straight spouse are discarded, denied, ignored, or just plain unacknowledged. We discover that we don’t matter. The Smoklers matter to each other.
2. My wife chooses to be angry. She’s very bitter and hateful. No one can make you angry (unhappy, sad, distraught). Only YOU can make you angry.
Anger is a normal response, and it is a consequence of being hurt and deceived. It can take a while to work it through. And, it takes professional support, patience, and respect of boundaries and personhood. Also, wanting to have equitable distribution of marital assets, and adequate financial support or a fair decision on child custody and support is not about anger. It is about survival. It is about going forward as a family, in the best interests of everyone in that family, and it may not always be clear and easy to determine.
3. Everyone is gay. You are just repressed (judgmental, crazy, narrow-minded, etc)
No. There is a spectrum of sexual orientation, and many people are just plain heterosexual. They marry with the expectation that their spouse is heterosexual, or is willing to commit to a marriage.
4. My kids don’t accept me because my husband/wife’s family is religious.
While religion might inform some children’s beliefs, problems in relationship often have a lot to do with the relationships that have been formed throughout their lives.
We’re really encouraged by the honesty shown by Jeff and Jill ending a mixed orientation marriage with divorce in an honest, deliberate, and considerate way that affirms the entire family. For those of us who have not shared this kind of connection in our marriages, it is also affirming to know that it can be done, if the gay spouse is honest and loving, and the blame games are set aside.
The Straight Spouse Network is here to support all straight spouses, male and female, of LGBTQ people. Whether or not your spouse has come out to you or is in denial, whether you found out by discovery or disclosure, we are a peer to peer network that can affirm your experience, offer connection, support, and confidentiality. Your experience may or may not be as ideal as Jill and Jeff, but we are here for you, around the world.
When our spouse or partner reveals they are gay, many of us are flabbergasted. We thought we were with one person, yet we were really with someone different. We thought we knew them. We thought they were open and honest with us. And after disclosure we oftentimes spend quite a bit of time dwelling on the question, “Who is (s)he?”
Of course we do. We are confused. Hurt. Deceived. Angry. Who is this person? At some point, we realize they are what they are. They do what they do. We might not understand their resulting actions, or their new looks. While understanding that being gay is not a choice, we might seriously question their new choices on other matters, knowing they would have decided differently before. It’s confusing, so we ask, “Who is this?” Sometimes this question consumes our lives.
The most important question, however, is the one your gay (ex)-partner has probably long been grappling with — the real high-impact question for any of us.
Who am I?
We are shaken by the disclosure. Shaken to the core. We have huge looming decisions, most probably new to us. Yet if we keep asking why they are who they are, without asking ourselves those same questions, then we miss a huge opportunity. Yes, opportunity. Because this is the time to stop, evaluate ourselves, and decide who we are, who we want to be, and who we can become.
Each of us has obligations and responsibilities. We all have desires and regrets. There are many ways to explore who we are:
- Taking time off from the normal activities
- Hiring a life coach
Why does it matter? We all want to find our purposes. Most of us want to do more. The shakeup makes us realize that nothing is permanent. Nothing should be taken for granted. Our time is precious. We each deserve to pursue what we need and want. The angst, inaction, and guilt from not exploring who we are can be physically self-destructive.
Yet we are convinced, many of us, that this sort of thinking is selfish. We are given life to serve others, and/or a deity. Perhaps that’s the way you were raised as a child. This line of thinking is not a free pass. We still need to decide how we will serve others. Also, until we take care of ourselves, we are not fully available to help others. Pushing our real selves down pushes down the potential to do more for others.
We also need to frame how we will act now, in response to them being gay. How will we treat them? How will we deal with shared assets? How will we handle the children? To direct our positions in those decisions, we have to have a foundation of self.
So when you’re finished asking who they are, start exploring the more important question, “Who am I?”
By Cindy Vanderpool
There is no doubt in my mind 9/11 clearly represents both sides of the proverbial coin, yin and yang, death and birth, fear and love, chaos and calm. It is remembered as the day our beautiful country woke up and a new level of consciousness was achieved in the name of humanity. We all lost loved ones that day – fellow souls in this human experiment. Make no mistake, your tears are genuine though you may not fully comprehend the load.
Where were you? These stories serve to heal the hurt deep inside; to find the common thread of our experiences; to join us in energy and synchronicity. As a 24 year federal employee of our great nation I could recount my whereabouts with sadness and anxiety yet my real story begins and ends with where I wasn’t.
I wasn’t safe in the arms of my spouse. TGO worked just south of the Pentagon whilst I was merely minutes north in DC. Ironically, it was this day I realized we were continents apart. When he reappeared later that evening with no explanation, no willingness to account for his absence, I wanted desperately my own groundhog day, to un-see what I saw playing before me, a hole to jump into; somewhere to just go and disappear.
Fortunate for me my stubbornness kicked in; the totality of my life experiences served me in a single moment. Although I felt very alone and afraid, I look back on this day 10 years ago and am pleased and elated that for the first time in my life I called upon my own strength and power. It would be two days later on 9/13 that I asked that all important question “Are you gay?” and trust me when I say the earth moved as I stood shaking in my boots when those words slipped from my mouth.
My lesson from 9/11 is that good trumps evil, light shines after the darkness, love rules over fear, calm sprouts from chaos and the universe always offers us an opportunity for birth when a death occurs to balance energy and emotion. We just have to know where to look – inside.
My thoughts are with you all today as you remember…….my prayers are with those of you who lost a spouse, child, sibling, relative, neighbor, friend, co-worker……..and my wish is that we all continue to experience love in abundance.
“I lost my wife. Maybe”
Those are the words of a man who has survived the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The physical disaster which caused his loss is something that few of us can identify with or imagine. His words tell us that despite events that left tens of thousands of people dead within a few hours, he’s still hoping that his wife is alive among the tens of thousands who are missing. They convey an awful uncertainty.
He doesn’t know for sure if she is dead or alive. Eventually he will know for sure, one way or another, probably within months at the most. And he’ll begin the process of grieving and rebuilding his life, with or without his wife.
Mental health experts are now finding that the timeline for recovery from a man made disaster is much longer than the timeline for recovery from a natural disaster. They point to the ongoing problems Japan will have, not just for recovery from the earthquake and tsunami, but surviving the crisis of nuclear meltdown will carry its own burdens of trust, ongoing fear of radiation damage, a loss of security.
What does this have to do with the straight spouses of gay people? Plenty. The crises of discovery, disclosure, and ongoing adjustment are also man made. Unlike other marriage breakups, the circumstances of our separations and divorces are not preventable by anything under our control. Straight spouses often enter a closet of confusion, shame, and anger as their gay spouse emerges from their closet – or they feel locked in by a gay spouse who continues to deny the obvious truth. Moreover, when there is no confirmation or affirmation from counseling professionals, clergy, family, friends or the gay spouse themselves, the straight spouse can often experience ongoing feelings of isolation, and submerged grief.
It may seem offensive to some to compare marriage to a gay person to a tsumami or an earthquake. But straight spouses often describe the moment of discovery or disclosure as an important event in their lives that rocks them to their core. A homosexual person has a lifetime to understand that they are gay. A spouse has a much more brief time to adjust, and the effect on their lives can be cataclysmic. The experience of having no affirmation, confirmation, or getting misguided advice from those who do not understand the timely process of grief, anger, acceptance, and resolution may actually prolong the time needed for the spouse to heal.
Unlike the tsunami or earthquake, the crisis of discovery or disclosure in a mixed orientation marriage is a man made crisis. It is all too often survived alone, despite the profound change to the emotional, social, and familial landscape of our lives. The Straight Spouse Network is here so that no one need be alone when facing the unimaginable experience of discovering a spouse is gay. There is life, healing and hope. It takes support, understanding, and healing takes time. Lots and lots of time.