Wednesday, May 10, 2006
What I learned in Enniskerry, Ireland (cont.)
Ever since I came out to my wife, K, and began in earnest the process of accepting myself as a gay man, we have struggled to find our way. Most people who know us think we've done a good job, both individually and as a couple, but it has been extraordinarily difficult at times. The challenge has been that it often appears that there are only two ways forward, neither of which feel right to us--to me. Whispering in one ear is the collective voice of my gay friends, telling me that I need to move out (I still live at home, in a separate part of the house) and move on as quickly as possible. It's too painful, they say, for K and I and to continue to be present in each other's lives when we need to find ourselves and when I need to begin enjoying freedom as a gay man. In the other ear is the voice of my Mormon friends and family, telling me that I need to stay in my marriage and honor my marital commitment and my temple covenants, whatever difficulties may come. I made my choice, they say, when I kneeled across from K at the altar in the Salt Lake Temple nearly eleven years ago.
I'm exaggerating for some effect here. Most of my family and friends, gay and straight, are quick to say that they can't and don't want to tell us what to do or how to move forward. But those are the two options that most people see for us. But neither has felt right to me or to K. So we've been on a quest to find a "third way" that honors the sacrifices we have made for each other, the love we continue to feel for each other and the responsibility we feel toward our children. We want to give each other the freedom to move on, but we also want to preserve that which need not be set aside. It has been both a individual and a joint quest.
I think at times we have both wondered if we are simply fooling ourselves or living in denial. We are ending our marriage and we need to start over. Maybe a clean break is what we need. Maybe we need to rip off the band aid. We've pondered this together and individually. Our lives are increasingly independent anyway.
But here's the thing. I really like K. She and I were friends before we were ever spouses and as I have gotten to know her again over the past eight months, I've rediscovered why. She's kind. She's caring. She's funny. She's smart. She's honest. She is supportive and understanding and loving not just to me but to all the people in her life. In other words, she's just the kind of straight girlfriend any gay man would die to have. How can we cut each other off without doing lasting damage to our *fabulous* friendship and the sense of family we have worked so hard to first create and now recreate?
We have to find a third way.
K and I were in Ireland together over the weekend. We planned the trip months ago but as it drew closer we weren't always sure we'd make it or that we'd actually want to go together. But as the day of departure approached, we decided we wanted to do it. Remember--we like each other a lot.
Over this past weekend in Dublin, K told me that she felt differently about me. When she looks at me, she no longer sees her husband, but her best friend who also happens to be gay and the father of her children. She sees me emerging as the happy and openly gay man that she knows I want to be. She also confronted me with my continuing inability to be open and comfortable about my identity all the time. She told me that if we genuinely want to continue the friendship then I have to be myself all the time with her and stop worrying about hurting her. I have to truly and honestly be me. She told me, in essense, that it's time to stop acting like her husband when I clearly wasn't anymore--and when I didn't want to be anymore.
Sunday we left Dublin for the day and went to the little village of Enniskerry in County Wicklow. It was a beautiful day and we wandered around and had a nice picnic lunch. Toward the end of the day we spent an hour or so in a cemetary connected to the village church. We walked around and took pictures and looked at gravestones and considered all the lives that were represented and remembered there. And we felt a connection to each other, a deep bond of friendship. K looked at me and affirmed me and told me that she wants me to be happy as a gay man. She told me that she wants me to find happiness with another man. She's done this before, but this time I let myself really feel what she was saying. Or, more accurately, I let myself feel the truth of her words. I let myself accept it without feeling a gay husband's guilt. I let myself acknowledge to her that that is what I want too.
And I told her how much I wanted her to be happy and to find someone who would love her. I told her how much I wanted to be supportive of her as she moves into a new phase of her life, and I told her how much I wanted to be a part of that, not as her husband, but as her friend and as her partner in taking care of two precious little girls.
I felt God's love wash over us. I felt the Spirit whispering to me that the course we are on is the right course for us. I felt God's witness that I should rejoice in this second chance that he has given us to live our lives more honestly. I wept as I spent time with K and as I pondered the memory of the lives and the sense of family that surrounded us in that graveyard. I saw carved in stone at the bottom of a gravemarker these simple words: "God is love."
And that's what I learned in Enniskerry, Ireland. That love--God's love--really is the third way we have been searching for and that our love for each other as deep and true friends is what will sustain us as we move into our new lives.