“Don’t Deny the Rage” — Part Two

A tricky business, is anger. Many of us find it frightening. We hold so much in, trying to keep peace, to get along, to win the love and respect of our gay spouse — we hold in and suppress and even deny the very healthy and needed benefits of anger —

Benefits? Yeah.  I’ve come to think of emotions as something of a barometer.  Anger is one of the emotions that should register with us that something is wrong, somewhere.  Either someone has violated something very important or threatened to do.  Something is out of balance, needs to be identified and dealt with.

But when we’ve been — or felt — compelled to suppress anger (like Scarlett O’Hara, who always put off dealing with unpleasant situations: “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”), then we deny ourselves the opportunity to diagnose a problem and to figure out how to deal with it.

There’s not a lot of allowance for anger in marriage with a gay man. We have to be the “sweet” one, we have to keep peace, sacrifice even ourselves in order to get along.

This is part of the abusive nature of the relationship, of course:  Shut up or you’re a bitch. You don’t have a right to be angry. Your needs are inconsequential. You are inconsequential. You are stupid. You are unreasonable. You are demanding. It’s all your fault.  Everything would be just fine if you’d quit nagging, quit actually expecting anything of me.

Wait a minute.  It’s my fault because I expect you to behave like a husband instead of an employer? a dorm-mate with whom I am barely acquainted? It’s my fault because I have expectations? You mean, you want me to sit down and shut up and leave you alone? You can’t, or aren’t willing, to stretch yourself to be a husband, a companion, a lover — and it’s my fault because I actually believe the spousal relationship means something? It’s my fault because I won’t let you get away with ignoring something when, truth be told, you just don’t want to be bothered?*  

This is where anger kicks in and gives us power:  No.  And, what’s more, HELL NO.  I will not take the blame.  My expectations are not unrealistic — your laziness and apathy are unrealistic.  What’s more, you’re a selfish, cruel s.o.b. to expect me to live without companionship or even basic affection. You’re an abusive s.o.b. for thinking all I’m good for is to be a front for you, so you don’t have to accept responsibility for yourself.

I’m not willing to live this way. No.  Hell, No. (and I’m really not being profane, saying “Hell, no,” because it is a taste of Hell we experience in that situation).

 

*DH actually told our joint therapist, a couple years before we separated, “I know a good marriage takes a lot of work, but, frankly? I don’t want to be bothered.”  He said it in front of me, and I sat there and I took it.  Numb.  Too messed up to fight back. Too cowed, too messed up to even have alarm bells ringing that something was gravely wrong for him to say that.  Memories like that still pop up from time to time.  I have flashes of anger, in remembering — now I’m angry; then I was dead, inside.

“Don’t Deny the Rage” – Part One

When DH and I separated, I received the same advice from several kind and wise people with whom I worked at the time:  “Don’t deny the rage.”

I had no idea what they were talking about.  I was living on the epicenter of an emotional earthquake, I was wary and scared and anxious and tense and many, many unpleasant things, but angry wasn’t one of them.  In fact, anger was such an alien concept to me at that point, I didn’t even know what they were talking about. I’d been angry for years, but it had manifested as impatience, short temper, etc., quick firebursts that just as quickly, vented, died back down. I didn’t know what rage was.

It took a year, nearly an entire calendar year before it hit me, and even then it required a catalyst outside my own experience in the form of a terrible drunk driving incident that killed the wife and three children of one of my dear friends.  For my friend I became angry, and that righteous anger popped the cork and — I couldn’t get the cork back in.

It revealed itself in several ways:  Bursts of excessive energy accompanied by the strong desire to inflict deep pain on those who had wronged me. Black humor, self-deprecating humor. Sarcasm. Profanity. An inordinate desire for revenge — I adopted a motto that reflected my resentment at DH’s efforts to sabotage my independence and success: Success Is the Best Revenge; sometimes, later, I would modify it: Happiness Is the Best Revenge.

It boiled, it exploded, it simmered. It waited still and quiet beneath the surface then it would erupt at unexpected times and under, often, unreasonable provocations.

When it didn’t go away on its own, I became frightened, by its intensity and by its duration; this was not my usual outburst but a months-long, years-long storm.

We women are told not to get angry.  We are told from childhood to hold in our tempers. A grown woman who lets her anger flare is dismissed as a bitch. We are told to be nice and to do whatever it takes in order to get along with even the most difficult and unreasonable people in our lives.  This is fine to a point, but it misses the greater point that sometimes a line has to be drawn in the sand and defended with might and main:

You may not hit me.  You may not tell me I am stupid and worthless.  You may not dismiss me as insignificant. You might think it, but it is an evil, nasty, unfair and abusive attitude, and you may not inflict it upon me. You may not abuse me.

Anger is the only reasonable response to abuse.  I read somewhere that anger is a secondary emotion to fear or hurt.  That’s true to a point — we have been hurt and so we are angry. We are afraid of abandonment or of insignificance, and so we are angry.  That makes sense.  But anger is also simply the only reasonable response to situations of violence, or moral outrage.  This is, I suspect, a uniquely Christian idea (“Be angry and do not sin” — Eph. 4:26) but an important one.

Maybe what made my anger so difficult do deal with was that it was a combination, a culmination of All The Above. It was secondary to hurt – “why am I never good enough?” — and to fear — “What is going to happen now? How can I manage on my own?” but it was also a gut reaction to the fact that I was being abused.

My own letter to Lauren Pearson

Dear Lauren,
I have been very slow to write to you, following the avalanche of news items about your husband coming out as gay and leaving your family. There is so much – too much! – I have wanted to tell you, and too much anger for your sake to inflict so much on you.  I hope you saw Janna Darnelle’s letter in Public Discourse; I thought it was a fine letter, but there are things I thought ought to be said, that Janna never said. Now perhaps enough dust has settled that you might be able to think more clearly and my own passion on the matter might not add to your difficulty, so I will say them.

My husband did not tell me, when he left, that he was gay. When I figured it out, meeting his new “best friend,” he scoffed and denied and generally behaved very badly.  I suppose Trey has treated you more honorably in being honest – of a sort.  He gets some props for that.

But that does not make what he has done okay.  It doesn’t absolve him from his personal responsibility or his obligations to you, your children — and to God.

My imagination travels to your home, and how lonely and bleak things must have been for you, during the years of your marriage.  People assume that homosexuality is about sex, when it’s about everything — every dimension of human relationship.  I am lonely in my solitude, but I have never been so desperately lonely, so desolate in spirit, as I was during my marriage, when I wasn’t good enough even to be a companion and friend. All DH wanted from me was the “beard,” someone to hide behind; beyond that, he regarded me as pretty much useless.  I expect your life was pretty bleak, too; I’ve never heard an ex-wife say her gay husband was an affectionate, companionable man.

Friends gave me some very good advice, which I pass on to you. It perplexed and confused me at first, but it was good counsel:  do not deny the rage.  At the time, I didn’t know what they were talking about; I was many things during those horrible days — frightened, worried, confused, depressed — but I couldn’t register anger.  It was only a year later, when a dear friend suffered an unimaginable, obscene tragedy, that I experienced rage for him and his family, and, once the cork had popped, rage boiled out of me, years’ worth of rage.  It boiled and festered, and it frightened me.  But in retrospect, that rage gave me strength, and it is one of the things that kept me from a complete breakdown (to which I was frighteningly close). So do not deny the rage. 

“Straight Spouse” “experts” will tell you that you should be happy for Trey’s declaration, for his decision to be “true to himself.”  They say you must accept, support, and approve gay marriage in order to demonstrate support and love for your husband.  I say that is a wicked lie; it is a self-immolation; it is a violation against yourself and your identity as Woman as well as Wife.  We are free and independent and valued human souls, created in God’s image and bearing in our bodies and our feminine natures something of His own Character. We possess an intrinsic value in ourselves. Moreover, we are an inimitable and irreplaceable part of marriage. To support gay “marriage” is to betray ourselves and even the very vitality and glory of Marriage. Giving credibility, deference to a gay spouse’s choices is a violation of your worth and your dignity.  You are not an interchangeable part. Your role as woman and wife is not one that can be substituted by a gay lover, not even in the “dominant-passive split” of gay relationships.  I urge you to honor yourself — your own intrinsic value as Woman, as Wife.  Do not sell yourself, do not betray yourself, for an agenda that is built upon holding Woman in disdain.

There are several things I must urge you to keep in clear view: Homosexuality is currently a very popular, lauded lifestyle choice, but it is physically, emotionally, and spiritually dangerous. I urge you to resist sentimentalism, in this period of your separation.  You will surely be under a great deal of pressure to be “supportive,” but I want to tell you again: “support” is a lie. You cannot support a man in self-destructive behavior and be true to yourself or your promise to love, “for better or for worse.”  This is the worst, and you must keep a clear head about you in order to survive, and survive well.  

The gay lifestyle is dangerous. Gay men have a range of infections and physical disorders that the straight community never hears of, or imagines. The abuses they put their bodies under are brutal. There is nothing sweet or loving or “supportable” in any of it.  And AIDS is on the increase again, in the gay community. So are other STDs, many of which are becoming drug-resistant. For a painfully honest look into what the gay lifestyle is really like, you might want to investigate the work of a man named Joseph Sciambra.  The truth is unpleasant and painful to see, but in the Name of Love, I believe you need to look, anyway.  

Gay men resent opposition.  Brace yourself.  You may be sorely tempted to go along to get along.  I must tell you:  it is not worth it. At least, it wasn’t worth it for me. I thought being kind and sweet and accommodating would win his trust and something akin to love. You will be told you must, you will be sorely tempted to go along with Trey’s decision in order to get along with him.

Something very ugly is happening, here.  What you have gone through is, in strictly impersonal psychological terms, abuse.  You have been used to protect and make “safe” a person who engaged you in this situation under false pretenses.  The consequences to you of this use have been deemed unimportant — because it is predicated upon the presumption that you, yourself, are unimportant.  Again, this is abuse.  And the insistence that you must now deny your anger and your righteous sense of having been betrayed in order to “support” and even cheer your husband in his decision is a continuation and a perpetuation of that abuse.  What is worse, you are being required — by the gay community and the “Straight spouse” group — to not only endorse the abuse, but to participate in inflicting yourself  with that abuse by “supporting” Trey in his choices.

I beg you to be clear-thinking and to stand firm against that destructive idea.  In fact, a friend said this to me, and I share it with you:  you can’t get someone to heaven by encouraging their lies.

It can even come masquerading as “help.”You may hear or feel a little voice telling you that you must go along in order to wield influence with him. This temptation will masquerade itself as a false heroism:  that you and you alone have the power to save him from himself.  This is a false heroism because, as a man, he must own responsibility for his own choices, he must stand on his own two feet. You might say, “I believe in your better self,” but you are fooling yourself when you think that you, and the power of your love for him, can help him to achieve that better self.  

If he were capable of that love, he would never have left his family for the gay community.

No matter what the revisionists say, Homosexuality is neither normal nor is it an acceptable choice for a Christian.  Sexual depravity is part and parcel of pagan culture, explicitly and unquestionably forbidden by God.  Deconstructionists and revisionist are playing a nasty and deceitful game to deny this, but history and sociology support the traditional Biblical view of heterosexual monogamy and chastity as normative, and the solely acceptable choice for the Christian disciple.

There are no easy answers for the challenges you face.  Janna urged you to fight for your children.  I second this. You will have to face the fact that perhaps Trey would never willfully hurt your children, but you cannot assume that his chosen companions will be conscientious.  Some of them will prey upon your sons, they will scorn and ridicule your daughters.  The wounds inflicted on my daughters by their father are enormous; I thank God! that we did not have sons who might have been preyed upon by his friends. We had a neighbor who did not protect his son from his friends, and the result has been more than tragic.  Fight for your children.

None of this is easy, and I do not have Janna’s sweet and gentle spirit. I am angry for your sake and for your children’s. This may seem excessive to you, even this far out from the initial shock. But I am with you in this bizarre sorority, and in our shared suffering.

 

Still trying –

In the fall I went to a retreat for women who are married to men with same-sex attraction or sex addictions.  It was a profound experience, one of the key defining points of my life.  It was strange, and wonderful, and heartbreaking, to be in a room full of women who live with the same struggles and sorrows I experience.  So  many times, as they told their own stories, I found myself thinking, “What! You, too?” There was an unexpected universality to our experiences.

One woman spoke of how her husband cringes when she touches him. I know that cringe well. Another spoke of her anger at being deceived and lied to and blamed for what had happened in their marriage; I know that situation well, too. One spoke of how unfeminine and undesirable she had come to feel, and I wanted to cry (and, later, I did cry. Buckets, I think.  A box of tissues’ worth, at least — and I don’t cry) because that is what I have lived with every day of my life for many years.  More years than she has been alive.  More years than any of them had been alive.

And this retreat was glorious! – but coming home and returning to real life is so hard.  Living alone, I had a buffer and my season of grace dragged out much longer than that of the other women, who had families to return to, and family needs to address.  For once, I have seen my solitude as something of a luxury.

The luxury couldn’t last, of course. A visit from a beloved friend sent me into a tailspin.  I became so anxious during the visit – of being boring, or annoying, or that my house (which announces my coexistence with the black dog to anyone who comes in) would appall him . . .   when I wanted him to be comfortable and at peace and to see me at something resembling my best, I certainly was not.

There are still bruises and when those bruises are bumped, I yelp.  And my friend bumped into one I hadn’t yet encountered, and I don’t think I really recovered from that  – and I didn’t yelp, I roared.

It is so hard to love someone, and at the same time to feel that these circumstances of my past have so battered and warped me that I am no longer worthy of being loved.  “Would Christ Himself see you that way?” he asked, when I confessed this to him, in fear and trembling, one evening.  Ahh, Darling, but Our Lord is not so fastidious as mortal men.  He sees beyond the superficial things that are, so often, all that we mortals can see.  There are times when spiritualizing a corporal problem doesn’t help, and this is one of them.

Nevertheless, I will go back and re-read my notes from my retreat, and I will talk with these other women some more, and I will write, and I will try to live well and to see and honor my best self — even if.

But it is hard to feel condemned, rather than called, to being alone.

Holiday challenges — Part One

The holidays are upon us – which for me runs from a couple weeks before Thanksgiving (family birthdays) until after the first of the year.  This is the time of year which brings out the best of people.  And the worst.

This is my “Black Dog” season — short days, frequent bad weather, being alone in a season that highlights families.

But for many people who have families, holidays can also be difficult because of unpleasant family dynamics.  Sometimes families bring out our inner child – not in a good way, but the uncertain, insecure, emotionally dependent . . .   Family stresses can cause us, or people we love, to turn in on themselves, to put up barriers and walls, to push away the very people who love them/us the most.

There’s not much to do.  All the hype about holiday as an idyllic season only makes things more painful when idyllic is one of the last adjectives one would reach for, in describing the holiday realities.  The movie Love, Actually, is a pretty sad but realistic portrayal of how disappointing Christmas can be.

What to do?

I haven’t decorated my house in years.  What’s the point, when no one will come by, no children will come home to celebrate? But I find myself committed, impulsively, to buying a Christmas tree from a local businessman, and so I’m going to decorate.  —-  and why shouldn’t I? Am I not capable of enjoying the festive glow of fairie lights in the tree? and Christmas dishes and wreaths and candles and the Nativity scene (I do hope the pieces are still intact!) and all of it?  And is it not perfectly realistic and reasonable to decorate the house for my own pleasure?  And so I shall.

 

 

Finding Healing

Despite my anger over what has happened between me and my ex-husband, and in the gay agenda in general, I have learned that there is a lot of woundedness there which truly warrants compassion.

Gays aren’t born that way — twin studies have always verified that — but they are born with a personality, a disposition which renders them at odds with the traditionally masculine world and sets them up for possible imprinting and identification as same-sex attracted.  In a gender that applauds athletic prowess and physical agility, the more sensitive or artistic male may have a sense of alienation from other boys.  He identifies more with girls.

Sadly, the sensitive male — and this includes my ex-husband — often possesses great moral insight and a strength of character that deserves to be recognized and respected as manly qualities . . . but are not.  DH was a force of nature when it came to personality, strength of opinion, power of persuasion.  In our circle of friends, he was universally regarded as a chaplain or sorts, a spiritual mentor.  He was loved and looked up to . . . but it wasn’t enough. He couldn’t recognize our esteem. Years later, when I told him how we’d felt about him, he wept.  He was still wracked with disbelief in his own worth.

That strength of mind and will and faith are what made me fall in love with him.  Of course, my love couldn’t begin to heal his broken spirit; that required the affirmation of a masculine man; I, a woman, couldn’t meet his deepest emotional needs.  It takes a man to teach a boy how to be comfortable in his own skin as male. His father, a good man, a brilliant man, was also of a more sensitive nature:  quiet, gentle, studious.  Introverted. He could teach his sons how to handle the basic mechanical maintenance of their cars (masculine skills set), but he wasn’t in possession of those interests and skills that would have helped his boys fit in more easily with the other boys in the neighborhood.  DH preferred music to sports; he built up the self-defense of dismissing ordinary boys, then men, as “idiots.”

I wanted to be his all-in-all.  This was an unrealistic expectation, particularly given the circumstances.  Men need other men in their lives to push them to be stronger, better — “iron sharpens iron.”

Not only could I not be his all-in-all, the fact is that his misery with himself  rendered him too wounded to be able to love me at all.  I can pity him for this woundedness now.  It does not justify how he treated me after we were married, during our divorce, and after, in his continued insistence that, first of all, he wasn’t gay, but then, yeah, he was gay but that still had nothing to do with the divorce.

But it does allow me to look beyond my own sufferings and loss to find something in him that I can pity.  And I’m able after many years to remember that beautiful boy we all loved and looked up to — and to realize I still love him.

And in loving him, interestingly, I’m not tied to him by sentiment, but I’m at long, long last! liberated to get well, myself, and to build a proper life for myself, in which I can be my best self and not be entrapped in the bitterness or the resentments that had been my daily fare for so many years.

Anniversary musings

Thirty-nine years.  That’s how long we would have been married.

That’s an enormous number. I’m not sure I have quite gotten my mind around it.  Of course, we have been divorced for twenty-five. That’s another big number.

It’s bigger, still, when I realize how old I’m getting, and when I have conversations with men friends and feel myself keeping them at arms length, looking askance at what might well be ordinary male behavior or perspective (Particularly Alpha Male doings) —

because the fact is, I don’t trust any more.  I’d like to.  I look at some of my men friends and I know they are good men.

But DH was also a “good man,” and look how that turned out.  If he could deceive so completely, how can I trust anyone?

I don’t.

Why I Oppose Gay Marriage — Part Three: My Gay (ex-)Husband

It’s not “just about (me.)”  I don’t oppose gay “marriage” out of personal resentment.  This issue is a lot bigger than my personal feelings (which are a lot more complicated than mere resentment).

When DH left us and began to openly hang out with his gay friends, his personality underwent a distinct change.  It wasn’t for the better.  The energetic, cheerful, beautiful boy who was always eager to help others, kind, compassionate . . . the “chaplain” of our circle of friends for more than a decade! – became cold, angry, remote.  His sense of humor vanished; he became crude and sarcastic.

This wasn’t just a matter of resentment towards me, as the villain ex-wife; he pushed away all our old friends, friends who loved him and would have accepted him regardless his lifestyle choices.  But suddenly they were “stupid,” “idiotic,” or some other quality that left them unworthy of continuing his friendship.

Through DH and a couple of gay neighbors and coworkers over the years, I’ve noticed that the gay community is badly mis-named “gay.”  Maladjusted, angry, resentful, hypercritical, backbiting . . .  the list of unhappy adjectives grows and grows.  It’s not about lack of social acceptance, either; even in safe, loving environments, even with a privileged status in our society, now, homosexuals are not gay by any stretch of the imagination.  Camp, maybe, but certainly not gay.

What does this have to do with gay marriage? And why would I want to deprive someone I claim I love of the comforts and benefits of a life partnership?

The real issue isn’t about “rights” or recognition; it’s about people being at war within themselves.  DH is angry because he’s at war with himself. His choices have violated the very best of who he is. I know that, and our friends see it, and on a deep level I think he knows it, too. Knows it and resents it.

See, the more you have that should make you happier, the more you resent that you aren’t happy, you blame everyone else and set a new objective to achieve, certain it will resolve the restlessness you’re feeling.

So the “program” isn’t working for gays.  When “progress” creates more bitterness and aggression, then the program is an utter failure.  Gay marriage won’t make gays happier; it is just one more false ideal to push toward.

Angry people make lousy spouses.  And legitimating gay marriage will, I fear, only further entrap miserable and bitter men and women in a lifestyle that has sucked the joy out of them, and replaced joy and well-being with misery and resentment. I see gay men and women becoming not more contented with the progress they’ve made in social recognition and approbation, but more and more hostile and aggressive. Fighting everyone as well as themselves, and getting more deeply entrenched the whole time.  

I want DH to be free of these traps. I want him to be honest with himself and true to his best self.  Gay marriage won’t give that to him; in fact, it will give him just the opposite, the inverse, of what he wants.