Out From Under – an important book about children

Stefanowicz, Dawn. Out from Under: The Impact of Homosexual Parenting. Wine Press Books, 2007.

Dawn Stefaniwicz: Out From Under

I haven’t read this book yet, but the interview of author Dawn Stefanowicz for Catholic World Report has me in near tears. I can’t read the interview without thinking of my own daughters and remembering the terrible tug of war they were caught in, and how helpless and ineffectual I was in protecting them – in large part because I wanted to “be nice,” but also because I simply was incapable of recognizing how deeply depraved my DH had become.

The issue of children in a marriage to a homosexual is a topic I know I need to address, but it’s bitterly difficult.

You’ll want to read this interview. It’s a good starting place, at least.

Chastity – A Politically Incorrect Perspective

Right off the bat, let me admit that I’m Roman Catholic, and I get the Church’s teaching about Chastity – sex as a unitive as well as procreative act, etc., etc. Up until about thirty, forty years ago, the mainstream Christian churches all shared this view, and most people were part of a Christian church of some description. That’s no longer the case.

In fact, I realize that most of my readers, now and forevermore, are probably going to consider themselves quite thoroughly independent of a religious perspective, so let’s talk about this chastity business from a very practical point of view.

As I’ve said before and will probably say again, women who’ve been married to gay men get all muddled up in confusing sex with affection with love. We are so habituated to equate the lack of sexual love or physical affection with the overall rejection we faced from our husbands that when a man comes along and shows us a bit of affection or sexual interest, we sort of lose our heads…

And it’s crazier, because a lot of us didn’t have sex before the wedding with our gay husbands. I thought DH had such exquisite self-control! but it turned out he just wasn’t interested. So when a man is interested… wow!

And then we find ourselves in situations we really don’t want to be in…

…with the “player” who just wanted the conquest and disappears after the encounter, leaving us wondering what happened! Was I not “good enough” for him, either?

… with the codependent man who is contented to hang around for easy sex but doesn’t want to make a commitment…

… with our judgment skewed in a very big way by all those endorphins and other horrormones that sort of hit us like a ton of bricks and interfere with our rational judgment.

And ultimately, what we want – to be loved for our whole selves and to belong to and with someone – has gotten sabotaged. We’ve been used. We feel it, as well as feeling cheapened, and exploited, and trashed.

So. Where does that leave us?

Let’s look at Chastity for a moment. Chastity does not mean never ever again having sex. Yes, I’m going to limit having sex to the context of marriage. What you do on your own is your business, but I’m not going to advocate any other course of action, okay?

Because, Look:

Chastity is liberating. It frees us from getting entangled in bad, toxic, exploitive premature “relationships.”

Chastity leaves us free to pursue healing and wholeness and our own integrity in a way that easy sex sabotages.

Chastity empowers us. It puts us in the driver’s seat, not our partner whom we’re trying so desperately to please.

Chastity gives us time and room to get to know a man’s character. Really. Sure, there’s always an element of risk – but that risk is exponentially increased, several times over, when those horny horror-mones kick in and are leading us around by the nose.

Yeah, the popular rhetoric these days is that women’s liberation is reduced to her ability to have unrestricted, consequence-free sex, but that’s a lie. Sex out of the context of marriage has emotional and spiritual consequences, and they’re very unpleasant.

So what do you have to lose by adopting chastity? A whole lot of baggage, it appears to me – baggage that actually thwarts us from achieving the life and love we really want.


The Friendship of Men

In my last two posts, I’ve addressed particular issues that arise as women who’ve been married to gay men re-enter the dating process. But there’s another arena of relationships with men that also needs some consideration, and that is the value of friendships with men.

I’m not going to call them “platonic” relationships, because good ol’ Plato was a thoroughgoing misogynist. The friendships I’m talking about are built on chastity, yes, but also on mutual respect and affection.

Several friendships with good men have been immeasurably important to me, as I’ve gotten over the trauma and the destructive influences of marriage to a homosexual. These men have demonstrated enjoyment in my intellect, found me an attractive and companionable conversationalist and comrade in our various shared interests (usually religious or political). Each in his own way has helped to restore to me some of the sense of my value and worth that the DH’s rejection and contempt had chiseled away over the years.

Friendships with men are wonderful things, but let’s face it: they’re loaded with dynamite and so must be handled carefully, prudently. And we’ve got to get it straight right off the bat: men cannot be the sort of emotionally intimate companions our women friends might be.

The reasons for this are twofold. First, sexual tension is an ever-present possibility in all relationships between men and women. It’s an especially huge factor for those of us who’ve lived in the affection-less environment of marriage to a gay man. As I said in my last post, sex and affection become terribly confused when we’ve been without affection or sexual love, and it’s terribly easy for us to lose sight of the boundaries between the two.

There are some pretty common-sense ways of reducing the risk. Avoiding talking about sexual topics and making sexually-charged remarks are two of the most important ones.  You see, making sexually charged remarks too easily get translated as come-ons; they entice us into wanting to push the parameters just a little bit further…  and then, you’ve compromised your principles, you’ve compromised and probably lost the friendship (for a while, at least, but probably permanently) and you’re still alone and trying to figure out what the heck real love really looks like.

Yes, some people will think you’re a prude – but better to be thought a prude, wrongly, than to talk yourself and a friend into a sexual relationship that will inevitably damage your friendship.

The other problem is that our men friends are frequently married or they have girlfriends. In this case, the risk of sex is simply not to be entertained in any way, shape or form. We want our lovers to be faithful to us, emotionally and physically; therefore we OWE it to other women to keep their husbands in line – at least, in line with us.

There’s another aspect to the problem. In order to keep the integrity of the friendship, we want to include the wives, so we’re friends with the couple, not just the husband. But…

Often,the wives (or the girlfriends) are suspicious and resentful. We become, we are, in a very real sense, “another woman,” an emotional and social connection with their husbands that reminds the wives they aren’t the be all and end all of their husband’s world. They resent another woman taking a place in their husband’s life that rightly is part of their own spousal territory. Girlfriends are always afraid they’ll be found less interesting, less important, and dropped in our favor.

Just as often, they prove a terrible disappointment to me. -Most of my men friends, I knew from work or church (or more recently the internet), and when I finally met their wives, with whom I’ve been eager to be friends, the dynamic just wasn’t there: I’d grown close in camaraderie to these men because of the dynamics of our shared work or political or religious views, because of our similarities; they had chosen wives who were good women, but not of the same passionate disposition or quickness of opinion, who are more complementary rather than comradely – which meant that the wives often struck me as… disappointing, often uncomfortable and rather insipid.

It’s been much easier to develop friendships with a couple of married men after I’d become friends with their wives. But in both those cases, the wife is my friend and the husband is adjunct – a different scenario than the one I intend to address in this post.

Frankly? I don’t know how to get around these difficulties. Right now, I’m blessed with several delightful friendships with men, but these friendships are rather limited in scope because of the sphere of life in which they were developed. I’m not interested in pushing the parameters beyond those specific and limited spheres. It’s comfortable and there’s a degree of safety there.

Others might disagree with me, but this is where I am right now, and I offer it to you not as a rule for life, but as an option to evaluate for your own use.

Next up: Chastity.

Ah, men – Part Two

After a few dismally disappointing attempts at dating, and after watching some other women go through the seek-a-man process, I have a few observations to offer:

1. Women who’ve been married to a gay man are scared to death of having to go through that trauma again. For years, I looked at every man I met as “gay until proven otherwise,” and I’ve discovered I’m not alone in this reaction.

2. Women who’ve been married to a gay man have a hard time figuring out what is “normal” (whatever the heck that means) heterosexual male behavior and character. After all, we completely missed out on our ex-husbands’ homosexuality! Bad “Gaydar” and all that.

3. Women who’ve been married to a gay man agonize over #s 1 and 2. Agonize. As if our lives depended on it.

4. Women who’ve been married to a gay man are sexually vulnerable. Because our husbands were so stingy with affection, we become programmed to equate physical attention with affection. With Love. When a man shows a bit of sexual interest in us, we’re so damned affection-starved it’s really hard to recognize that he’s interested in sexual pleasure and not necessarily in us as human beings, as living souls. Sadly, there are some men who will exploit our vulnerability for their own pleasure, just as our husbands exploited our trusting nature in order to provide some sort of front for their own sense of inadequacy.

5. Women who’ve been married to a gay man have a hard time recognizing “Players” from serious men, in consequence of #4.

6. Women who’ve been married to a gay man appear to fall into one extreme or the other: either we marry quickly to cover up our loneliness and fear of not being good enough (and not always well or wisely), or we get scared of our own inability to recognize “healthy” or “normal” men from the jerks.

7. Related to several of the above observations, women who’ve been married to a gay man tend to be adapters, people-pleasers, accommodaters. A girlfriend and I spent two hours on the phone, one night, talking about a man we both knew, who was making overtures to her, dissecting some of his quirks and trying to figure out whether they were “normal” or danger signals. “Is this something I should just put up with?” she asked. We just do not know the difference.

We also struggle with basic friendships – the topic of my next post.

Ah, Men

So, why don’t you talk about men? a friend asked me. Dating, finding someone, that sort of thing.

I’m not a good person to ask about that. I haven’t figured it out.

Several years after the DH and I divorced, I remarried. He was a serious drunk (but, hey, he was straight!) and we didn’t last long. During the good times, he taught me to shag (the coastal swing dance, not the English version), we went camping and fishing, he made me laugh (and I still toss out some of his funny sayings, from time to time). But in the end he wanted someone to take care of him – to rescue him, if you will – so he wouldn’t have to take care of himself.

I sense a pattern, here: men who wanted to marry me so they wouldn’t have to face responsibility for the unpleasant and difficult realities of their lives. hmmmm…

and I’m a serious Rescuer and Fixer, hard-wired since childhood to put up with all sorts of foolishness in order to be “loved.”

I finally decided that I’ve grown comfortable in my independence, and we’ll let it go at that.

But men are a quandry. In the early years after the divorce from DH, I used to beg God to bring a good, Christian heterosexual man into my life so my kids could see what healthy married love looks like. It didn’t happen as I had outlined it to God. He has His own ways of doing things, it appears.

You see, I couldn’t be a good wife to anyone because I hadn’t figured out how to be a good me.  All those years in the contortion act, reading Relationship Books and trying this, that, and the other to try to win DH’s love, affection and respect… All a complete waste of time, not because they were lousy programs (I’m sure some of them were) but because he – as he admitted to one of our marriage counselors – just didn’t want to be bothered.

Plus, I didn’t have a strong enough sense of who Elisabeth was, under and behind and through it all. I’d been so busy trying to please, and to win his affection (which he couldn’t give me, anyway), that I had no idea what was real and honest and true about me. It’s taken a lot of years to sort out that issue, and I had to make a geographical change of scenery for a few months and discover some things about myself in a new and unfamiliar cultural milieu in order to begin – to begin! – to discover my own integrity.

But nevertheless, for what it’s worth (probably not very much, which caveat you ought to have figured out by now – I am not an expert about men or about romantic relationships!), I do have a few observations …

(to be continued…)

The Good News…

In my previous post, I said that we never get over the trauma and the wounds of having been married to a homosexual. And that’s true. The memories and the effects well up sometimes like a recurring case of athlete’s foot or genital herpes… and are about as pleasant.

The good news, however – and I say this with full sincerity – is that we can, and usually do! rise above it.

I say “usually” because the good times do far outweigh the bad. I’ve been known to say that I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy… but that I also wouldn’t take a million bucks for the experience. That’s because I learned a tremendous amount about myself during those years, and during the divorce, and during the recovery time.

I learned I am intelligent (he’d told me I was stupid). I learned I am attractive (he’d treated me with indifference). I began to come out of the cloud of pain and misery that had threatened, it felt, to drown me all those eleven years.

I found photos, taken at about the midway point of our marriage – I looked shabby, had a bad haircut, wore no makeup; misery and depression were etched in my face. I looked far, far older than my mid-twenties, which is what I was when those photos were taken. Just a couple weeks before I’d found the depressing photos, I’d gotten the proofs for a sitting I’d done for my work promotion – I laid them on the table, side by side.  The woman in those photos was laughing, sparkly-eyed…

That’s when I knew I was going to be okay – more than okay.

He told me I was stupid. “Success is the best revenge,” I told myself, and I became successful at the work he’d resented so vigorously.

He treated me as a non-entity, a personified abstract – not a person with a soul and a mind of my own, but a warm body to fulfill a title: wife. I decided, after I’d been successful, that “Happiness is the best revenge” must become the new motto.

It’s serving me well – because, by the Grace of God, I am a very happy woman.

Positive activism

In an arena where sentimentality masquerades for “love,” and “God just wants everybody to be happy,” we who have lived under the shadow of the rainbow – the shadow of our husbands’ homosexuality – can speak truth with love and with insight and with a power few other people possess.

We know the destructiveness of homosexuality on families.

We know the destructiveness of homosexuality in the character and personality of our loved one.

Love compels us to speak out: Homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle choice. It is physically violent, it is marked by emotional violence; it is a perversion – literally, “the alteration of something from its original course, meaning, or state to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended” – of the love and fruitfulness of life that God created man and woman to live in.

It is not out of a selfish desire for vindication but of a deep and Christ-centered love that protects us from giving in and playing along with the game that says our husbands have the right to be happy, no matter what.

We know better.

Do we ever get over it?

I met a lovely woman, yesterday, introduced by a mutual friend. Yes, she’s also an ex-wife of a homosexual.

She said to me, “It’s been more than five years, now, and I’m still not over it.”

I cringed.

The fact is, I’m not sure we ever do “get over it.” I’m not sure we ever fully get past distrusting our own judgment. Or looking at every man we meet with scepticism.

Other women presume the men they’re meeting are straight. After all, only about 3% of the population is homosexual, so their chances are pretty darn good that they’re right, that the good-looking, charming man they’re meeting is, indeed, heterosexual.

But once you’ve been married to a homosexual, that statistic seems inverted. Somehow it feels as if 3% of the male population is heterosexual and the rest, certainly all the ones we’re meeting, are gay. Or less than fully masculine, anyway (which is another complaint altogether).

We look at a man with an eye toward evaluating whether he’s gay. In our self-defensiveness, he’s gay until proven otherwise. Okay, I’ve not fully figured out how to “prove otherwise.” I just doubt and essentially expect that he’s gay.

My mantra

During the earthquaking days of my discovery of my husband’s homosexuality, one thought kept going through my head:

If I’d been perfect, it still wouldn’t have been enough.

Resource Recommendation:

Prager, Dennis. Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization. Special Issue of Ultimate Issues 6.2 (1990).

I’m starting out these resource recommendations based on the resources that helped me back in the time when I was finding out about my husband. There are more recent works, obviously, but I’ve not read them yet – and, frankly, since all this is emotionally and spiritually taxing, I’m not going to be burning up records, buying and reading the newer sources. Bit by bit, brick by brick, right?

Dennis Prager’s Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization was probably the first thing I read on the topic, when I was starting to realize what was going on with my ex-husband. I’m pretty sure it was the first time I had heard of the collapse of the 1973 APA (American Psychiatric Association) Convention, when it was decided to remove homosexuality as a mental illness from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders).

Prager discusses that event and its ramifications clearly and rationally, which is useful. What I, as a then-evangelical Christian, found most useful – and continue to do as a Catholic – is that Prager looks at homosexuality from the perspective of a practicing Jew; he takes a theological and sociological analysis of homosexuality throughout history and its effects on civilization, particularly how the Judeo-Christian paradigm stands unique in history as requiring a heterosexual, monogamous sexual expression.

But he doesn’t limit himself. Prager looks at the behaviors of those other cultures, the ubiquity of homosexuality, relying on a scholarly work by a writer who is actually rather sympathetic to what was called, back then, gay liberation.

Then he addresses the biblical opposition to homosexuality (and here he is always addressing behaviors, not attractions or “orientations”). This is the work which also introduced me to the recognition that homosexuality is, ontologically, misogynist. “…it was Judaism, very much through its insistence on marriage and family and its rejection of infidelity and homosexuality, that initiated the process of elevating the status of women. While other cultures were writing homoerotic poetry, the Jews wrote the Song of Songs, one of the most beautiful poems depicting male-female sensual love ever written.”

The final section of the work addresses the social issues surrounding the homosexual controversy. At this point it should be noted that Prager’s a bit out-of-date: the Episcopal Church, the United Methodists, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., and others have long since approved the ordination of openly practicing homosexuals. Prager’s discussion of why it would be wrong to ordain homosexuals is still  very much applicable to why it was wrong for those denominations to change their historical position calling homosexuality sinful.

Some pithy quotes:
“Historically, it was Judaism’s sexual values, not homosexual relations, that have been deviant.”
“It is not overstated to say that the Torah’s prohibition of non-marital sex made the creation of Western civilization possible.”
“According to Genesis, man’s solitude was not a function of his not being with other people; it was a function of his being without a woman.”
“Women have suffered in societies that have been particularly tolerant of homosexuality. The emancipation of women has been a function of Western civilization, the civilization least tolerant of homosexuality.”
“Wherever homosexuality has been encouraged, far more people have engaged in it.”
“Societies, far more than individuals, choose whether homosexuality will be widely practiced.”
“If Judaism were more concerned with compassion, it never would have banned homosexuality in the first place. The whole world was celebrating it, yet the poor Jews got stuck with heterosexual marital fidelity.”

Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization is available for $5 for a PDF download, or $12 for an MP3 download, or $15 for a disk through Dennis Prager’s web site.