"Where do we go from here?"
A reflection on the "coming out" of my gay Mormon husband, written December 2010.
I met my husband in high school. My best friend liked him during our Junior year, but I did not know him very well. Then he and I ended up in assigned seats next to each other in our madrigal choir our Senior year, and I was drawn to not only his gorgeous bass voice, but also his funny, yet quiet personality. He was the king of puns, saying funny things under his breath in response to something else someone had said. When I found out that my friend decided not to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins girl's choice dance in November, I timidly asked her if she would have a problem with my asking him. She was excited that I wanted to do so, and we began making plans for our group date.
I asked him by writing a message on a puzzle and putting it in a pumpkin. He answered by baking me a pumpkin pie and putting a paper that said "yes" underneath the crust. Wow, he could cook, too! We hit it off at that first dance. Soon he asked me out to go see a movie, and then to the Christmas dance. We spent lots of time together after madrigal performances during the month of December. When I accomplished something great or was having a bad day, he would bring me flowers. We attended every remaining dance that year together, and were known as the cute choir couple of the year. Our friends would tell us how cute our kids would be, and that someday they expected Scott to be the Bishop and me to be the Relief Society President. We enjoyed Disneyland together with the choir in the spring, and then he took me to a broadway production of Les Miserables in the summer. We went on hikes together, we watched movies together, often at his house. We sat at the piano, him playing one hand and me the other while we sang songs together, especially duets from the Children's songbook and Phantom and Aladdin. We would bake chocolate chip cookies and spend long hours talking and making out in his car or at the park or on my back porch. I taught him how to knit and crochet, at his request. We did baptisms at the temple together a few times. I became quite attached to his little brother and sister, and his dad seemed to really like me.
It was like a dream come true. I had never really dated anyone else or felt desirable at all. And all of a sudden I had a boyfriend. A talented, intelligent, sweet, handsome boyfriend that treated me like a princess and seemed to have a strong testimony in the gospel of the LDS church.
Before too long I was moving away to attend Snow college and he was preparing for a mission. We spent long hours on the phone. And he made his family wait until I was home late from a date with someone else before he opened his mission call. Sending him across the country to Philadelphia on his mission was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Every day my heart would ache for him. I longed to hold his hand and cuddle with him. I missed the sweet sound of his singing voice. And I missed having him around to cheer me up or calm my stress the way no one else could. I wrote to him the whole two years at least once and sometimes twice a week. I tried to keep my letters upbeat and spiritual. I heard from him much less often than that, but I knew he was busy, and when I did get a letter from him, I devoured it joyously. His mission experiences and faith uplifted me and I loved him more and more with each letter. He seemed to write better during the second half of his mission, after I wrote to him about someone I was dating. He wrote back panicked, told me that he could not imagine marrying anyone else and that he hoped I would still be available when he got home. I had an incredible spiritual experience while reading that letter, and I felt like I really should wait for him.
Within two weeks of him getting home, we were engaged, and within three months we were married. Scott's mission president had really encouraged all of the missionaries to trust in God when they had their families, and let the babies come. So two months before our first anniversary we had a beautiful baby girl, and sixteen months later (a bit sooner than we would have liked or could afford) we were blessed with a baby boy.
I remember that year being a particularly difficult time in our marriage. Scott had quit school the year before to take a full time job that was handed to him, but then the job became more and more stressful and they ended up letting him go. He attempted to start his own business, but that was not working out either. We had no money and lived on our credit cards for several months. The more depressed Scott became, the less motivation he had and the more money he spent. I was very tempted to walk away from him at that point, but I had made a commitment, I knew that I loved him and there was so much that was good in him, and there had to be a way to make it work. By the end of the summer, I decided I should apply for a job. I had a teaching degree, and we were both home all of the time, so at least one of us should be working and bringing in some money. I first applied to be a substitute because I had always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom (and I also assumed it was too late in the summer to obtain a teaching position) and subbing would give me flexibility. But a few days later I received a call from a local high school. They just had a math teacher quit and desperately needed a replacement to start out the school year the following week. I was not sure that I wanted to commit to a teaching contract, but based on our lack of income, it would be stupid not to take it. We attended the temple a few days later, and while we were there, I had the distinct words come to my mind that my children would be okay while I taught school, but that someone else's children needed me.
So began the routine of our lives. I worked full time while Scott stayed home with the kids and worked on computer projects to supplement our income. I had been going a bit crazy with two young children at home, and working helped me have a much-needed break so that I could be a better mom when I was at home. Our marriage improved drastically with some of the financial problems behind us. We soon bought a house closer to my job and together we enjoyed remodeling and decorating our home. I remember when we spoke for the first time in our ward, I introduced our little family. The main idea in my introduction was that Scott and I were kind of backwards when it came to gender roles in our family: I worked while he was home with the kids; he did most of the cooking and shopping, while I did most of the yard work.
We had been married nearly 13 years, and Scott and I were both thirty-four years old before he finally came to terms with the fact he was gay. Soon after he was sure of it himself, he knew that he had to tell me. People often ask me if I had any idea before the night he came out to me, and no, I did not. I thought back to specific moments, however, and I could not deny that the signs were there staring me in the face. Take, for instance, one of the times I took homemade chocolates to my friends at work. I am always upfront about the fact that Scott made the chocolates and that I really have nothing to do with it. As I was handing them out to four or five friends I eat lunch with every day, one of the ladies said, "Oh, what a pretty necklace!" I thanked her and mentioned that Scott had made it for me for our anniversary, that it had become somewhat of a tradition of his to make jewelry for me every year.
Then another lady said, "Did you get a haircut?"
"No," I replied, "but Scott did color it for me last night."
By this time, one of the men was raising his eyebrows and giving me a funny look. "He makes chocolates and jewelry, colors your hair, and stays home with the kids. Are you sure he's not....?"
I laughed. "No, he's not. We are just kind of backwards. I work and mow the lawn, he cooks and stays home with the kids." At that moment, I did not even consider the possibility that he might actually be gay. I think he was Elders' quorum president around that time. We had been married several years and had three or four children. With whatever I knew or understood about homosexuality at that time (which I now know was very little), that could not be him. There was no way...
About six months before Scott came out to me, an event happened that was apparently engraved in his memory, and strangely blocked from mine, but that sent him on a journey of self-exploration. One night we were lying in bed and I was desirous of some intimate time with him, but he was not interested. This was not uncommon, and sometimes I dealt with it just fine, but at other times I did not. This particular night I was quite frustrated, and spouted off questions to him: "Is there something wrong with me? Is there something wrong with you? Have you ever asked the doctor about getting your testosterone levels checked or if it could be something else?"
Scott assured me that it wasn't me, that it was him, that any time a picture of a naked or nearly naked woman popped up on the internet accidentally, that it did nothing for him.
"Then are you gay or something?" I asked with exasperation. He was silent. I started to freak out. "Please say something. I've heard horror stories of women like Carol Lynn Pearson who found out after she was married that her husband was gay, and then he left her."
"Please tell me that you aren't gay. Answer me!" By this time I was sobbing through my desperate plea for an answer.
"I'm not gay," he said softly.
Ok. I rolled over--my body still convulsing with the sobs that consumed me a few moments before--and slowly relaxed and fell asleep.
The conversation of that night really did not enter my head again, but apparently it was a pivotal moment for Scott. He began researching everything he could about homosexuality--scientific views, church views, you name it. He finally came to the conclusion that even though he'd never before considered the word, because after all, he was a righteous man, that he was...he really was...gay. He finally admitted it to himself and thought the words in his head, "I am gay" and immediately had one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of his life, Heavenly Father responding with an overwhelming feeling of His love, confirming the words in Scott's mind, yet also letting Scott know that it was okay, that it is who he is, and that God loves him just the way he is.
So, as I mentioned previously, at this point he knew he had to tell me, so he began to figure out how he should do that.
It was summer, 2008. In June we vacationed in the Midwest to go to church-historic Nauvoo, Illinois, and to visit family in the area. After a week or so to recuperate from our illnesses and vacation fatigue, the summer routine began. Some summers Scott has had a hard time heading to work when the rest of the family is home. His job is flexible, so he will usually work from home, or at least sleep in and head to work 9-ish or so, come home early and then work from home in the evening.
Around the beginning of July, he started getting up at 5:30 or 6 to work out and then left for work by about 7. I was still in bed and often still asleep (he would wake me to kiss me goodbye, as I usually do with him during the school year). This behavior was kind of strange, since he has never been a morning person. Then he would come home between 5 and 6, help with or make dinner, and then sit quietly and read a book. He loves to read, so the reading was not unusual, but he seemed distant somehow. I asked him a couple of times if everything was okay, and he sincerely answered yes, but did not want to talk much with me or anything. Just read his book.
Okay, whatever. We’ve been through this before. It’s not worth getting upset about.
One day he said “We should go to the temple sometime soon.” It had been awhile (if you don’t count doing baptisms in Nauvoo with our daughter), so it was not strange to suggest that we should go, but it was usually me that presented the idea, not him. That seemed a little weird to me. I asked him if there was any reason in particular, and he said no, that it had been a long time and he thought we should go. He seemed frustrated that we could not figure out a time that week that would work. I even had a conflict Saturday morning.
July 11th, my daughter and I hosted a mother-daughter Mary Kay party. A few days before the party we found out that there was also a family birthday party the same night, but the invites were out, and it seemed like the perfect way to get rid of the boys for a few hours. So, Scott and the three boys headed to the family BBQ. They returned home when the party was winding down and most people had left. We got the kids to bed, then Scott helped me clean up, helped me decide what Mary Kay products to order with the credit from my party, and then started shutting out lights to get the house ready for bed. Before he set the alarm, he went out to the garage and brought in a plastic bag with something in it. He had kind of a strange look on his face, so I asked him what was in the bag, and he said “let’s go in the bedroom and talk.” I started to get worried, and I think as we started walking out of the kitchen that I might of said “Is everything okay with your job?” I really worry about money, especially after our extra vacation expense, and so Scott losing his job is one of my worst fears. It has happened before, and I have never gotten over the anxiety that came from that year of no income and the circumstances and way that he was terminated.
He quickly said “No, no. My job is fine. Don’t worry about my job.”
We sat on the bed, he shut the door behind us. I waited for him to say something. He looked scared to death, was fidgety and couldn’t say a word. Normally he is a pretty calm person and does not get nervous about things. He started blowing air through his lips, like he was trying to keep from hyperventilating, and then said, “I knew this would be hard, but I didn’t know it would be this hard.” I started freaking out. I said, “Are you sure your job is okay? Are you sick? Are you dying of cancer or something?” He wouldn’t answer. I started pacing, my heart was pounding. Heat rushed up my body to my head and I felt like I was going to pass out. “You have to tell me, now. Would it help if I stopped looking at you?” He said maybe it would. I took a deep breath, sat down on the bed with my face to the wall and my back to Scott. He said something about my needing to hear him out and try not to react after the first sentence. I said okay, and finally he said “I am gay.”
I totally did not see that one coming, but I was so relieved that he had finally said it that I let out a sigh of relief and through stressed laughing said “At least you haven’t lost your job and you’re not dying of cancer.” We both chuckled at that. I don’t remember everything he said and everything I asked, but I do remember that immediately the thought “Where do we go from here?” kept going through my mind….
Some of the things we talked about….
His experience with coming out to himself, the fact that he did not choose to be this way, feelings in his past that he tried to suppress and ignore, the fact that he has been faithful to me and never had relations with any men, about Carol Lynn Pearson and his experience reading No More Goodbyes and anything else he could find to read (that is what was in the bag that he got out of the car), the friends and love and acceptance he had found online, the fact that he was so scared to tell me and didn’t want to hurt me, but simply could not bear to keep it from me any longer (it had only been about 10 days since he had figured it out.)
The main point he seemed to want to convey is that life could no longer be the same, and that he could not make any promises to me that he would be with me for the rest of our lives or forever, because he did not know what the future might bring, and he didn’t want to risk feeling the need to break such a promise later.
I’m not sure exactly how I felt. I can’t really remember. I was numb. I was in shock.
We finally decided we should go to bed.
After a few minutes we decided we should watch some TV to help get our minds away from the subject so that we could try to sleep. I have no memory of what we watched.
When we turned the TV off and tried to sleep, I couldn’t. I had no idea what all of this really meant. Was my marriage now over? If he’s always been gay, and we have survived this long, can’t we keep living like this forever and pretend that nothing had changed? Does his being gay mean that he has never been attracted to me at all? In high school, through his mission, through our 13 years of marriage, was I nothing more than a friend?
He snored off and on through the night, so I think he slept more than I did. I cried softly into my pillow, my mind kept going through all of these questions. I have never been so confused and felt so helpless.
Around 3 a.m. I got up, found my scriptures and went in the living room. I read my patriarchal blessing. I read his patriarchal blessing. I read the Book of Mormon. All three things brought me comfort. I had interesting thoughts and impressions. Now I wish I remember was those thoughts were exactly and what exact scripture passage I read, but I don’t remember. I went back to bed around 4 a.m. and finally slept for a while.
Then at 6 when the light started to come in the window, I woke up. The thoughts and questions filled my mind again. I desperately needed more sleep, but I couldn’t. Maybe some music would help me relax and sleep. I picked up my pocket PC and starting perusing my MP3s. “Where do we go from here?” Those words of a song went through my head along with the notes over and over, but I didn’t know the rest of the words very well. I think I have the song, yes, Brooke White sang it on American Idol during Andrew Lloyd Webber week, written for the movie version of Evita a few years back. Where is it? That’s it. “You Must Love Me.” Scott is sleeping (I can hear him snoring). [play]
Where do we go from here?
This isn't where we intended to be
We had it all, you believed in me
I believed in you
What do we do for our dream to survive?
How do we keep all our passions alive,
As we used to do?
Deep in my heart I'm concealing
Things that I'm longing to say
Scared to confess what I'm feeling
Frightened you'll slip away
You must love me
You must love me
Why are you at my side?
How can I be any use to you now?
Give me a chance and I'll let you see how
Nothing has changed
You must love me
My quiet tears turned into audible sobs. I couldn’t believe how perfect the words were. I had to hear it again. I sobbed harder. I didn’t want to wake Scott, so I went to the kitchen to get some ibuprofen for my pounding headache. I got a cup from the cupboard, then turned to head toward the fridge for water.
I jumped. Scott was coming down the hall and into the kitchen. I was sure he had been asleep. Seeing him, I felt like he was a different person, like I had no idea who he really was, a stranger in my house. He had tears streaming down his face. He tentatively came to me and hugged me and said “The second time through that song was too much to bear.” We hugged for a long time, crying together. He loosened his grip, looked me in the eyes and said, “I didn’t choose this. You understand that, right?” I nodded to comfort him. But in my heart, I did not know that. I did not understand until a day or two later when I began reading No more Goodbyes. Then I started to really understand. And then also, I started to really hurt, for him, for me, and for us.
And I kept thinking…
Where do we go from here?
The day after Scott came out to me, I was very tired due to lack of sleep, and very emotional. I attended a Relief Society breakfast. I wasn’t sure I should go, but I decided I needed to try to get away for a bit. I piled on the makeup to hide my puffy eyes. I had some very light conversations with some very good friends, and no one asked me if I’d been crying or if something was wrong. Talking to one of them about it weeks later, she did notice that I was quiet and preoccupied that morning, but decided it best not to ask. She was probably inspired.
I left the breakfast early to attend our oldest son’s ice skating lesson with the rest of the family. I was consumed with my thoughts. I sat there watching my husband, feeling still like I really did not know him.
After the lesson, we decided to take the kids to see Wall-E. It ended up being a bad choice for me as I cried at the blossoming romance in the movie, keenly aware that the romance in my life was not what I thought it was.
Other details are a blur… I got some sleep the next night, but I don’t think I slept soundly, and again, I woke with the morning light and then my thoughts kept me from sleeping any longer. We went to church, I probably attended choir practice, then we were off to Scott’s parent’s house for our typical Sunday night visit. As we sat at the kitchen table, playing games with his parents and his sister and husband, I was keenly aware of my inner thoughts and the fact that I usually shared my struggles with these dear people, but right now I could not. I desperately wanted them to know so that they could love and support us like we needed them to. I was very uncomfortable and distracted. During the game, I looked at the cards in my hand, trying hard to concentrate on my strategy. Out of my lips came the words, “Where do I go from here?”
Scott and his sister have this habit of breaking into song whenever anything prompts them to do so. Immediately, his sister started singing, “Where do we go from here? This isn’t where we intended to be...” She started gazing into her husband’s eyes as she sang. I turned on my PDA and hit play, because the song was there ready to go. Everyone was surprised, but didn’t ask about it as the sister continued to sing. Before too long, I couldn’t take it anymore and I burst into tears, turned to Scott and apologized, and abruptly left the table to cry loudly in another room.
Of course, everyone was shocked and had no idea what had happened. Scott made some kind of excuse for me. They all know I am an emotional person, so I’m sure it wasn’t too disconcerting. I quickly gained my composure and returned to the game, pretending nothing had happened. No one said anything.
When we got home, I told Scott that I needed him to tell his sister so that I could have her to talk to and lean on. We started to make plans for how and when to tell her.
The next day we got up early to go to the temple. We had a good discussion on the way. When we got there, we discovered that it is closed on Mondays. Duh. So then we had more good conversation time on the way home.
Sometime Monday I started reading No More Goodbyes by Carol Lynn Pearson. I cried and cried through each agonizing story of self-hate and suicide. The stories were not sugar-coated. They were someone’s reality, a reality I never knew existed for these dear people. The last thing I read of it on Monday afternoon was a quote on the first page of the next section of the book, the section about mixed orientation marriages: “Should I smile because we’re friends, or cry because that’s all we’ll ever be?” The reality of my marriage hit me like a brick. I went into the next room and shared the quote with Scott, but as I read it I broke into tears and could not finish reading it such that he could understand me. I decided I needed a break from the book. It had been a very emotional day.
The next morning I again woke early and could not sleep. We planned again to attend the temple early, but it was much earlier than I needed to be up. I decided to read. I went in our closet and sat on the floor to read so that turning on the light would not wake Scott. I read about failed mixed orientation marriages, and I came to the conclusion that our marriage was officially not going to make it. I kept reading and cried and cried. Scott got up and showered. I wanted to keep reading, but I knew I needed to get ready, so I closed the book and dressed for the temple. Scott could tell I was really upset, but did not know exactly why. I was quiet during the ride to the temple. Scott was afraid to ask me to share what I was thinking and feeling. We attended a session. It brought some comfort, but still, my mind was tormented with the reality of my life and fear for what it meant. I could not be alone with four children to raise. I could not lose my best friend. I COULD NOT DO IT. Why me? What was going to really happen to us?
In the dressing room, one of the temple workers was the mother of a high school friend. She greeted me happily and asked about how our family is doing. I lied and said we were fine, even though I desperately wanted to share with her what I was going through. I had not been able to share it with anyone but my Heavenly Father, which was good, but not enough. I quickly changed the subject and told her about our family vacation to Nauvoo and asked about her daughter. A few weeks later I found out from my mother-in-law that she had heard through the grapevine that this lady has a gay son who has left the church. I couldn’t help but think that maybe I was being prompted to tell her the truth about my life, rather than just wanting a shoulder to cry on.
On the ride home, Scott was brave enough to ask me what I was thinking and feeling. I let it all out, and it felt good. I wished I had told him how I was feeling before we went to the temple. He told me some of his ideas that felt right for the future, of course with a disclaimer that he had no idea what the future would actually bring. Some of his ideas were not very comforting, other than he said he could not imagine a future without me in it.
When I got home, I found some courage and began reading again. I had two more chapters in the marriage section to read. The next one happened to focus on positive mixed orientation marriages and how some people are able to make them work out. Oh, how I wished I had kept reading before the temple, that I had gone with this comfort in my heart from Carol Lynn Pearson: “I speak for romantic love. I speak, too, for trusting the mystery, for forgiveness, and for believing that love in all its forms once created can never be undone. And that not only in eternity, but here, hidden under the grey, all is well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Peace began to fill my heart, and I began to heal and to trust my Heavenly Father that he had brought Scott and I together for a purpose, and no matter what the future might bring, we would have each other as best friends, and all would somehow be well.
It was really nice to have the summer to process through everything before I had to go back to school. Scott and I both began to devour the words of other gay Mormons on the Internet. Scott already had a blog and I decided to start my own blog at the end of August to help me write out my feelings and experiences, mainly for myself, but also for others who found themselves on a similar path.
We began to come out to important people in our lives, starting with Scott's sister and then with his dad. After praying about it, we talked to our own children, despite his sister and dad's pleas that we not do so. We have never regretted that decision. We have continued to be completely honest with them through everything since, and even though it has not always been easy for them, it definitely has been the right thing to do, and they have been amazing. Shortly after that, Scott wrote a letter to all of his ten siblings and step-siblings. The responses were varied, with those that were most active in the church having the hardest time, and with others being incredibly supportive. Telling my family came more gradually and happened without really planning for it, but rather in conversation when the time seemed right.
Eventually our bishop found out what was going on in our lives, despite the fact we had both decided that we did not want him to know. Scott had not done anything wrong, so there was no need for repentance, and therefore no reason for him to know. We don't know who called and told him, but he did not handle it well, and thus deepened our agonizing struggle with the church. We were already having a hard time with the church's participation in the gay marriage ban in California, and with homophobic comments that came up during lessons at church, but things for us personally became much worse. We both felt prompted that Scott should share his story with our ward by bearing his testimony in Sacrament meeting. The reactions and consequences of that decision is a whole other story for a different book, but neither of us can deny the spirit we felt that told us that it was the right thing to do at the time.
Here is a quick overview of what has happened with regards to the church in the two years since: Scott baptized and confirmed our third child, but a few months later we were unable to renew our temple recommends as our leaders questioned whether we could say that we sustain our leaders, but they did give Scott permission to ordain our second child and oldest son to the office of a deacon. Then we both took some time off from church attendance while we continued to send our children, and now we have each chosen different paths. I am back to full activity with the children, with temple recommend in hand, and Scott has recently had his name removed from the records of the church. We are both content with our choices, and I have learned to accept the fact that I have a different perspective than I used to, which makes church much different for me than it used to be. But I feel strongly that the gospel is true, despite some confusion amongst members (and leaders) about homosexuality. I need the gospel in my life, and I believe that members of the church need me and my children to help them more fully understand sexual-orientation and unconditional love. Sometimes I am sad at Scott's decision and I wonder what eternity will bring for his soul, but I believe God is merciful and that he knows what is in Scott's heart and will reward him accordingly in the life to come. I believe that the Atonement might be even more powerful than we can even imagine. I hope that someday he will come back to the church, but I am fully aware that it will most likely never happen. So, we continue to try to accept each other's beliefs and decisions without judgement.
Meanwhile, things have also changed drastically in our relationship. My worst fears of two and a half years ago are coming to pass, but I am strong and handling it well, ever grateful for the blessings in my life. I am certain that the prayers of our many friends and family are carrying me through. It has been incredibly difficult and painful for both of us as Scott has decided that he cannot continue to live pretending he is something that he is not. During the past year, as we were unexpectedly pregnant with our fifth child, Scott began to let go of me emotionally, one baby step at a time. A month following the birth of our son, at the end of July this year, he wrote me a note to let me know that he couldn't do it anymore, that he would move downstairs for now, and then we could slowly proceed to work through details of a divorce. Writing and sending the message to me caused him his first real panic attack because he did not want to hurt me, but knew it would. And yes, it was extremely hard on me and I have been through many different phases of anger and depression and resentment and confusion. But I have also handled it with grace, with smiles and laughter and hope that everything will work out for the best for both of us. I still have times when I hope he will not find the love of his dreams, and that he will decide that having a romantic relationship with me has trade-offs that are just as good as anything else he could find in the long run. But I know he firmly believes that will never happen, that the chapter of his life that includes an intimate relationship with me is now over, culminating in the addition of another beautiful child to our family.
6 days ago