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.

 

 

An Open Letter to a Young Woman in Crisis

Dear Friend,

I am friends with your husband through an internet venue, and he’s told me that things are pretty rocky between the two of you right now. He’s also told me a bit about his past, so I feel so many things I wish we could sit down and talk about, you and I.

First of all, I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been through this scenario can even begin to guess what it’s like for us. Parents, siblings, best friends. . . unless they’ve been through and experienced our particular, warped dynamic, they just can’t understand. No matter how much they believe they do.

You’re a bit ahead of the game from most of us, because your husband told you, before you were married, what happened to him when he was younger and what a painful wound that has left in his sense of himself. Still, until you lived with him, you couldn’t be sure . . . also, as you told someone else, you felt coerced into the marriage, regardless.  So you felt cornered, then, and you feel cornered now.

So.  Right now you have two choices: to go, or to stay. Sounds and looks simple, but it’s not. No matter which you choose, you’re facing a frightening set of risks.  Let’s talk about those.

First of all, women do choose to stay with a gay/ssa spouse. Sometimes, it’s easier, especially for older women who are not emotionally up to starting from scratch, after years not having to be self-supporting, or who don’t want to see their families fractured into bits. There’s a bit of safety in hanging on to the hurts and disappointments and the unhappiness we already know, rather than facing the hurts and fears and risks we aren’t sure we can survive.

No one will blame you if you stay.

Also, if you stay, you might have a stabilizing and redemptive effect on Hubby, and that’s not a bad thing.

However, if you stay you are going to have to learn not to play passive-aggressive games with your husband to punish him for not being quite who you wanted him to be.  You’re going to have to take the initiative to grow up, to build a life of your own within the marriage that brings you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.  You’re going to have to learn to live your life, not be a passenger being carried where you do or don’t want to go.  You’re going to have to take some risks, and some of your efforts will be disappointing and possibly embarrassing, and you’re just going to have to accept that.

You’re going to have to own your depression and face it and work to master it.  You’re going to need to make choices about independence and self-fullfillment even within the marriage that, so far, you’ve been hiding from making.

If you stay, there are things you will lose.  You will not have the sort of husband you thought you’d one day have; yours has too many scars in too many places, and he has cultural shaping that probably can’t be altered.  You will have to come to accept your husband for who he is, not resent that he’s not who you wanted him to be.  Give your disappointments a proper funeral, mourn them for a day or two, then get over it.  This is your choice, now; you are not a victim of someone else’s choices any longer.

You say you don’t want to have children with a man who has same-sex attraction, so you have opted for a celibate marriage.  You will have to come to terms with that decision, too; it’s a painful one for a woman who’s always dreamed of having a family. Frankly, I think it’s the only responsible choice you can make when you aren’t sure how the ground is going to rumble and roll, next, or what part of your life might possibly collapse around your head. But he’s not happy about it, and he also has rights for marital affection and intimacy — even if it’s only “of a sort.”  You’re going to have to face that conflict head on and there isn’t an easy resolution for it, even using Natural Family Planning diligently. Again, you’re going to have to be an adult, not a dependent.

Of course, many of these issues are going to be with you if you decide to go.

If you go, you can’t just go home and expect your parents to take care of you.  First thing you know, you’ll be finding yourself “coerced” into another marriage, and another man might not have as many good things going for him as DH does now.  Face that.

If you go, you need to prepare sensibly, build yourself up to be self-reliant, and then step out in courage and determination, and deal with things.  You’ll need to face and fight back against your depression.  Granted, SOME of it will probably evaporate when you’re no longer in the ssa-marriage; but some of it will haunt you for the rest of your life and you might as well start learning to get the mastery of it now, before you’re utterly and completely crippled by it.

If you go, you have to own responsibility for making this choice.  It is, after all, your choice.  Don’t blame him – don’t punish him. Simply own your choice as your choice and be done with it.  Because, Dear, face it: under other circumstances, you’d probably like your DH a lot.  There’s a lot about him to like. And to respect. And admire.  So look honestly at who he is and admit you’re going because you want a different sort of life.

No one who has a clue what you’re going through will fault you for going.

And the rest don’t matter. They can take a flying leap.

You’re going to have to be able to grow up enough to be able to say that, by the way, and mean it.  Regardless of your choice.

Dear, you were a child, emotionally, when you went from your parents’ home to your marital home.  You cannot remain a child any longer.  DH has in many ways treated you as a child – I fault him for this, but I fault you for playing into that role.  You’ve both got a lot of growing up to do.

But you can do it, and I want you to know, I am rooting for you. Whatever you choose.

Much love,
E.

Isolation

For such a small, neglected, and insignificant little blog, I hear from a surprising number of women fairly regularly.  This always surprises me.  Someone takes time to post a comment, or to send me an email . . .

The recurring theme of the messages I receive from other women is that of feeling isolated.  “No one knows . . .” they say.

They’re right.  No one who hasn’t been through a marriage and divorce with a gay man has any idea what we go through. It’s a subtle and insidious form of abuse, what we live with in the marriage

And, as one woman recently pointed out, when we divorce a gay man, the social reaction is different.  A woman divorces a man who’s been committing adultery, everyone sympathises with her, supports her, sympathises with her in the sense of the betrayal she’s experienced, the humiliation . . .

But when a woman divorces a man for being gay, or he leaves her for another man, the ex-wife is completely overlooked in the general rush to applaud the man for being gay.

That’s all that matters in this society — he’s gay, he’s got to be the hero. Isn’t it wonderful! isn’t it good! He has finally been able to come out and to live honestly.  Now he can be happy – – –

So it’s terribly lonely, even more so than a regular divorce.  And, as this same (very astute) woman pointed out to me, “I know a lot of women who’ve gone through divorces, but none of them have a gay (or transgender) husband.”  So our situation is odd and we go through it very much alone.