Tuesday, June 06, 2006

A Wife by Any Other Name...

I am flattered that Hurricane agreed to let me introduce him to all of you, and remove this last vestige of anonymity in our journey. We have had an interesting couple of weeks since we sent an e-mail to our friends and family and on balance, feel stronger and more sure of our decisions and path than ever. I am eager to begin posting here, and elsewhere, as my true self, with no question of cowardice. I am proud of the way I have handled this situation, I am proud of my loved ones who have been touched by our story and are interested in helping us instead of judging us. Most of all, I am proud of my one-time husband and best friend, Chris Williams.

Rather than bore you with biographical details, I will make this short and simply tell you that Chris is one of the most honest, trustworthy, caring, talented, intelligent, articulate individuals I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

Our friendship began over twelve years ago, after we had been acquaintences and "ran in the same circle" for a few years. He had been on a mission, where we had exchanged a few brief mailed words, and we were both attending the University of Utah. One snowy January day in 1994, my family experienced the tragic loss of my two-year-old cousin to congestive heart failure. I had spent many hours with this precious little girl over the course of her short life, and with her parents and siblings, on the roller coaster that only those with a terminal illness can appreciate. On the morning she finally died, I saw her in her father's arms and was distraught. I had, of course, classes scheduled and although I didn't feel like going, something compelled me to campus. Instead of sitting in my class, I simply took my usual path from one building to the next, where I often ran into someone I knew. I thought I would feel better if I could just tell someone what had just happened. Chris was one of the first people I saw, and though he was with a couple of other friends with whom I had a closer relationship, he didn't hesitate to hug me tight and express his sorrow at my loss. From that moment, I knew he was someone I would connect with, and we began to hang out together all the time.

We have recently been able to return to that friendship, but on a deeper and more meaningful level as our relationship was enriched by the ten years we spent as a married couple. Chris and I are committed not only to our children, to our collective future, and to our household as a loving and spiritual home, but to each other as important partners on the journey of life. I have been struggling over the past few months to come up with something we can call each other, something that means not spouse, since we are no longer that, but more than friend, since that is thrown about so casually. We simply cannot invoke the term "ex," as it sounds so bitter... We need a word that conveys the importance of our relationship, the nature of our partnership, while still leaving room for potential spouses for each of us in the future. Chris has taken to calling me "WINO" (Wife In Name Only), but obviously, I think we can do better.

The recent hub-bub over the book and film The Da Vinci Code has thrown the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene into speculation. I don't mean to digress, and I won't, except that some of the confusion seems to stem from a word used to describe Mary Magdalene as Jesus's "companion" in the gospel of St. Phillip. Some have commented that since in Jesus's tongue of Aramaic, the words "companion" and "spouse" are the same, that they must have been married. Some have pointed out that this particular gospel was written in Coptic or Greek, and the word used to describe her was koinonos, which means "religious partner," "friend," or "companion," but NOT spouse. Perhaps we can start using this term, but it doesn't roll off the tongue that easily.

So I don't know what to call myself, and I don't know how to convey to others in simple terms what our relationship means to each of us. Perhaps there will never be a concise way to describe it. I will tell you that I am not the wife or ex-wife of Chris Williams, nor just his friend, but myself, Keri-Kathryn (Fowles) Williams. I can't think of any other name I'd rather have.

It is rather long, however, so on this blog I will be known as "KK." I don't know if Chris plans to continue posting under the name "Hurricane," or if he'll adopt a username closer to his own now that we have no secrets. I invite anyone who wants to post here to be as courageous as we have been, and let us know who you are and if you are personally acquainted with us. Friends, come out of the closet.


Travis Stratford said...

Shout out to you and Chris from your former BK neighbor and current friend.

Keri, you've been amazingly strong through this whole journey. You rule.

Chris, does this mean you aren't going to watch sports anymore? Maybe we can go interior-design window shopping sometime soon?


Chris said...

T, I'm still going to watch sports, and not just because I like watching athletes. But we can totally do the window shopping thing, too. Just tell me when.

KK, I love you to death.

D. Fletcher said...

Well, finally!


Uncle D.

Elbow said...

Thank you for being so amazing. You have given me hope on this really scary journey.
I look up to you both.

Sara Stratford said...

Well done, Keri.

We love you guys! There has been non-stop pressure to get a dog at the Stratford house... thanks a lot! :)

When are you coming to see us?

A Troll At Sea said...

Chris and KK:

What an amazing moment to be allowed to share. Thank you so much.

You give me hope, though my own path looks so different, that there may be some kind of peaceful resolution possible.

It's not always easy to hold onto, hope.

Blessings on you both,

KK said...


here's a quote I like, which has been a theme for me since the beginning of this journey. It comes from Stanley Hauerwas, who is a peace activist and minister.

"Hope does not necessarily take the form of excessive confidence; rather, it involves the simple willingness to take the next step."

Whatever your next step is, it is hope to take it.

KK said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
natalie broadbent said...

Keri and Chris, With what seems to be a very difficult situation, you are both so balanced and on top of things. I know that your whole family will thrive in the loving home you will continue to make for them. I admire the strength you have both shown in the past year.

From a former Brooklyn neighbor and a current NJ friend,

Natalie Broadbent

Dave Walter said...

KK and Chris: What exceptional people you are. Thanks for sharing your story.

Heather O. said...

Keri and Chris-

Let me first say that I can't possibly imagine how hearthwrenching and difficult this whole thing must be for you and your two girls. My heart goes out to your entire family as you try to make sense of all of this. And remember that while you may have been dealing with this for months, the rest of your family is only hearing of it now. Be patient with us as we sort out all of our thoughts, and know that first and foremost, we all love you and are praying for you.

I do think you will find it as no surprise, however, that many of your family members find this whole thing incredibly sad, and in a sense, are in mourning for you. We mourn the loss of your marriage and the stability that provides for your children. We mourn the loss of your fellowship among the Saints. We mourn the loss of your testimony of Jesus Christ. But most of all, we mourn because we have seen this happen before to people we love, and frankly, it has never ended well. Maybe you guys are better equipped, better informed, better prepared than the others we have seen go before you. Still, we have rarely seen this path lead to happiness, and, for those of us who love you, that is what hurts the most.

For me personally, I find the whole thing extremely disorienting, which is something I imagine you have felt as well, in spades, I'm sure. But I also have to say that I am surprised that you have chosen to disclose this information and the literal disintergration of your family in such a public manner. By blogging about your divorce, which is devastating under the best of circumstances, it seems you are almost glorifying in the destruction of it. I realize that nobody glories in the collapse of something to which he or she have dedicated two decades of their lives, but I gotta say, sometimes it comes across like that on this blog. This also makes me sad.

Please know, however, that you are loved, and we hope that despite our differences and disagreements that you will remain a part of the family. As optimistic as you are about your future, it is bound to be rough (you're thinking, Hey, like we don't already know that?), and we hope to be there for you when it does.

Chris said...

Heather, I can understand why you feel the way you do, particularly if you choose to view what is happening to our family as disintegration. But please know that we don't view it that way at all. There is a lot of love in our family, between our children and their parents and between Keri and me. That love has been what has seen us through some very dark days and what has brought us hope and optimisim about our collective and individual futures.

I recognize that our decision to leave the LDS Church is also one that troubles and saddens you and others. But I have to take issue with your characterization of our spiritual journey as a "loss of testimony of Jesus Christ." Certainly our beliefs have lost their distinctly Mormon character. But I know that I speak for Keri when I say that our faith in a God who loves and redeems us is still very strong.

We chose to be public about this for a couple of reasons. First, we wanted people to hear about what we have been and are going through directly from us. When divorce and homosexuality are involved, the rumor and gossip possibilities are endless. These things are best heard directly rather than through the grapevine. Second, we believe quite firmly that others can learn from our experiences, both the good and the bad. From our perspective, the Church and its culture do a poor job of addressing gay issues in a meaningful way, particularly for gay people and their families. Even those who seek to address these issues in an open and honest way must do so from within a closet of sorts. We don't want that. So we have chosen to share our story and our journey with the broader world, despite the risk that it appears self indulgent.

Finally, we'd ask that you not pre-judge any outcomes here. Since we started talking to others about our situation, we freuqently hear that these things never end well or that we have no good choices. In fact, I now know several gay men who have managed to not merely preserve, but transform their relationships with their spouses and children in very positive ways. We aren't under any illusions that there won't be difficult moments ahead. There will. But that's life, and if we can continue to work through all of this with faith, in God and each other, and love, for God, each other and our children, then we're confident that we will be better off for having taken this journey.

Thank you for you love and concern, Heather.

Angie Gubler said...

Chris and Keri,

I love you both and am thoroughly enjoying all the blogs – well written, as always.

I found it especially comforting, from a completely selfish standpoint, to talk to Keri today. She really has never sounded better.

Chris, can I go window shopping with you and Trav?

Love, a former parisioner, friend and current LV stripper (joke!)

sara stratford said...

Heather O.: I would argue that ALL blogs are self-indulgent. You can write whatever you want and edit out the comments you don't like. It's no more self-indulgent than you writing about your impending move or how sick your family is, and the kids' shows you enjoy. If it's cathartic for Chris and Keri to do this, I highly encourage it.

Chris, Angie and Travis going "window shopping" together? Yeah, right. Like those three could go to DWR or Moss and not purchase anything! Keri and I will be at Barneys, "looking at" shoes! After that we can head to Magnolia and "watch them make" cupcakes...

Chris said...

Angie, I have to say that were you to come out as a stripper that would be far more interesting and scandalous than me coming out as gay. :-)

Mike Kessler said...

Keri, I loved your story. And please slap Chris for calling you WINO. My husband and I also have problems with "naming" his former wife, as neither of us can bring ourselves to call her "ex". She's much too treasured and loved, and will always be a member of the family. You and Chris are very, very fortunate to have such a wonderful friendship.

Buckley said...

Keri and Chris,

It is a difficult path you have chosen, but it's certainly easier and more honest than the one you have had to endure so far. From one who has been there, I wish you the very best.

Take advantage of all of us who have offered help, support, a shoulder, ideas, humor, or whatever else you need. We all benefit from helping others.

Buck Jeppson

Leonard Reil said...

Probably too take for many to see this, and not many will know the name. But I still wanted to answer Keri's call to come out.

I only know Keri through Chris, and Chris I've only met once in person. But I've known him for many years online, from a number of forums. And I just want to say here how incredibly touched I've been by their lives and how proud I am of both of them - of the way in which they are dealing with their lives in a manner that so strongly manifest their love for each other and for their daughters. I hope they will always nurture that and hope all of us can support them in their lives.