September 28th, 2011 by admin
After 15 years of marriage, Meredith’s husband came out as gay and requested a divorce. In her interview, Meredith talks about how her husband’s announcement motivated her to look more carefully at the foundations of her testimony and turn to the Lord to know how to proceed. As she maneuvers her new situation, she is working hard to stay close to the Lord, do what is best for her children and continue to love her ex-husband.
How did you find out about your husband’s homosexuality?
I never had any suspicion. I truly never thought that this would be something that I would have to face in this life and never saw anything that would lead me to believe that. My ex-husband is a gentle person by nature and got very involved in exercise and doing marathons and triathlons, but I thought it was a little midlife crisis and it was okay because there was still balance. Then he underwent a drastic personality change. He became very angry and we had a lot of contention in our home, which did not exist in our prior 15 years of marriage. I work in healthcare, so I worried that he had a brain tumor and was trying to figure out how I could get him in for an MRI because his behavior was so different. We continued to have contention, and then he suddenly left. Within a week he told me he was moving out and that he thought it was the best thing for our family.
Before this I’d always had a testimony and been active in the church, but hadn’t had to work very hard for it. I got to a point where I thought, “I can’t fix this. I am trying to be as nice as I can, but this isn’t like him and I don’t know what to do.” Around the same time we had some other seriously life-changing experiences – the kind that bring you to the cliff and force you to rely on the Lord. I became much more diligent about going to the temple and reading my scriptures and praying, but I had to be scared into it almost, which is unfortunate, because it would have been better if I’d been more prepared for this and been doing it in my family before on a regular basis.
For a couple of months, he didn’t have a lot to do with me and the kids and was still very angry. It was about six to eight week before he talked to me, and in that time I feel that the Lord was preparing me for the crisis of my life that was coming. I didn’t know what was causing this emotional change in him and felt hurt because he was so short with me, but I loved him and was tired of being angry because it wasn’t helping. So I prayed for the anger to leave so I could get through this. Finally he told me that he needed to come and talk and I faced up to the idea that he was going to ask for a divorce. We sat down and he said, “I am gay. I’ve had these feeling since I was young, but always tried to push them aside and I just can’t do it anymore.” Luckily, my husband hadn’t engaged in any other relationships at that that point, but he wanted a divorce so he could pursue a different lifestyle.
Because he’d been carrying such a burden, after he told me, all the anger left and he became the kinder and gentler person I know. That was such a relief to have him back, because before that I couldn’t converse with him in any way. I think he wasn’t sure if he was going to come out. Since then, he has told me he hoped that if he was mean enough that I would leave and not want to have anything do to with him, but I wasn’t leaving.
What was your reaction when you found out?
I was definitely in shock, but as I said before, I think I was prepared because I did not feel anger. I know that seems unbelievable, but I needed to have that reaction. For me to be humbled enough and for my heart to be softened enough to hear him out and to even comfort him in some ways. I have great empathy for him and I don’t think he’s making the right choice by pursuing this lifestyle, but I love him very much. He also loves our kids and is a very good father.
After he left that night, I was still in shock. I have a good relationship with my home teacher and earlier that day told him, “My husband is coming over to talk to me and I’m kind of worried about it, so I may ask you to come and give me a priesthood blessing.” I did call and he and his sweet wife came over at 11:30 at night and he gave me a wonderful blessing that was very comforting and direct. It helped me have some peace in my heart, to try to grasp this, because my life had just shattered in front of me. It was so overwhelming.
What role has the gospel and your testimony played in dealing with this experience?
I travel for work once a month and needed to go on a business trip two days later. At first I didn’t know if I could go because I didn’t know what to do about the situation and we still needed to talk to the kids about getting a divorce. I spend a lot of time in the car driving for work, which has been so healing for me. It allowed me to have time by myself to process this in my head and really pray, as well as figure out how I felt, my questions, and how I was going to face this. My bishop also gave me a blessing and afterwards counseled me to write down what I remembered from my priesthood blessings because they would be a source of help and strength to me. I decided to go on the business trip and as I was driving, I started feeling the Spirit very strong, speaking directly to me. So I pulled over to the side of the road and started writing. I kept going until I had a two page blessing. I had so much anguish and the Spirit really helped bring peace to my soul and gave me perspective to go forward and function because I would have to face some hard things over the next few months. Now I go back and read over my blessings and they give me hope.
Sometimes we have trials that the Lord gives us directly and sometimes we have trials because of the actions of others. I believe that Heavenly Father still uses those trials. He doesn’t necessarily want to direct them to us, but he knows that there are things we have to live through and grow from. This has been the case with me. I have really had to turn to the Lord, put all my faith in Him, and turn this over to Him because I don’t understand it. For a while it was so hard for me to understand why homosexuality is here because it’s so contrary to the plan of salvation and is destroying my family, but finally I found peace through lots of prayer, pondering and study. The answer I received is that there are many things we’re not necessarily going to understand in this life, but we will eventually. I have a strong testimony of the gospel, I believe the words of the prophets, I believe in the plan of salvation and the Proclamation on the Family. Those things guide me.
I had such anguish and would ask, “How do I move on with my life? Is he gone forever? What’s going to happen? I know you can’t really tell me the future, but I need some direction.” I received strong revelation as a sweet mercy of the Lord to know that all is well and that he will return in time. But I know that it’s not today, it’s not tomorrow, and it’s probably not in five years. It may not be in this lifetime. But we were sealed in the temple, he has completed all the covenants he needs to make in this life, and I believe that in the Lord’s time he will make things right. That helps me to have more of an eternal perspective to do the hard things and to be with him and have him around us as much as possible.
How have you explained the situation to your children up to this point?
Up to this point it’s been pretty vague. When my husband started being angry all the time, they definitely were affected. He explained that he had to leave because he feels differently and that it’s what best for our family. It’s not the greatest explanation, but it’s worked so far. Telling children you’re going to get a divorce is horrific. I did not want the divorce but really had no choice in the matter. That is something that my children have really struggled with. They have wondered why I agreed to the divorce, as if that would make it not happen. I’ve just said that sometimes we don’t truly have a choice and that I’m trying to make the best of it and do the best I can as a result of the situation. Choices have consequences whether they are our choices or the choices of others.
My younger child is struggling with the whole situation much more than my older child. It was just so shocking for all of us. It wasn’t like families that have lots of conflict for a long time. It all happened within a few months and then he was gone. So in some ways it feels more like a death than a divorce because everything changed so quickly. It’s heartbreaking because my youngest child will be baptized next year and knows his father won’t be able to do it and he’s really having a hard time with that. I’m fortunate to have family members nearby, and I try to have my kids around family as much as possible, hoping that the support will help them through all of this as they grow and develop.
When do you plan on telling your children about their father’s sexual orientation?
He would like them to know sooner than I would. He doesn’t have anyone in his life at present so there’s no reason to talk to them about it right now. That’s not always the case. In many situations you end up having to tell the children sooner than you many have wanted. But from what I’ve read and felt about it, you need to wait until after they’re 12, because before then they’re not going to understand it in the scope of sexuality and family roles. I just pray that when the time comes I will be blessed with wisdom and be able to explain the situation and put it in perspective so they can really grasp it. My husband still lives somewhat in the same community, and he tends to be pretty careful about not exposing us. He tries to protect the children as much as he can, but he’s still out there dating and doing other stuff, so it’s going to come to light and I’m hoping that we can be the ones to talk to the children instead of it coming out in a different way.
I wish that I could carry the burden for my children forever, but I can’t. This is going to be something that they’re going to learn about, and that’s okay. I want them to be accepting and respectful to all people, no matter their beliefs or choices, but I worry since it pits a mother against their father as far as actions. I have to trust that the Spirit will bear witness to them of the truth and lead them to find peace. I believe that, because the Spirit has prompted me, “Things will be okay, all is well. You just need to be a good example and keep the commandments and keep doing what’s right. Keep reading your scriptures and keep praying and they will find peace in time.”
How did you decide to take the steps to relocate?
Financially, I couldn’t afford to stay in the house we were living in, so I prayed for lots of guidance and the children and I were very much protected and watched over. Moving was hard because it was our family home and it felt like another blow, but it was for the best. We haven’t relocated very far, but we’re in a different ward, which was good for my kids so we had a fresh start coming in as a set of three, instead of a family of four. There weren’t a ton of questions and my ward has been really kind. My bishop knows the situation and has been great about keeping everything discreet and private, knowing my wishes for my children, that they are struggling with this, and not wanting to add any more grief. He’s been very thoughtful about choosing my home and vising teachers and assigning me a calling.
How did you decide who to tell about the situation?
We ended up telling his family together, which sounds crazy, but I think I was also spiritually prepared to help him tell them. I feel blessed with an eternal perspective on this because it’s not something I had before. It’s helped to me do the really hard things and be more charitable because that’s also not a quality I possessed previously. But I am starting to understand what that means. They all love him and took it well, but everyone is on the same grief train. I am very close to his siblings and parents and we see them on a regular basis, which has been an amazing strength to all of us. I think my reaction helped them accept it as best as they could. My siblings are supportive and have been from the beginning, but my parents really struggle with it. They are doing better, but initially it was not good. My parents had some old fashioned and incorrect ideas, such as equating homosexuality with pedophilia. I’ve tried to help them understand that my husband is making choices that I am sad for and don’t agree with, but he’s still my kids’ father and he’s a very good and loving father who needs to be a part of their lives. It was really hard when things they said were not supportive, adding more grief. I was in such a state of shock that I just couldn’t take it for a time.
Outside our families, I have a few friends that know. I’m very private because I want to protect my children, but have come to know people who have this same issue in their own families that I wasn’t aware of before. It’s amazing how the Lord puts people in your life to prepare you for what you’re going to have to face, and it’s comforting because they understand and we can talk about things. I have some nonmember friends from my professional circle that know and have been very supportive, but there are only a select few people in the community or at church who are aware of what’s going on. My bishop from the ward I was living in when I found out prepared the new bishop for the situation, so I didn’t have to start all over again.
Has this experience affected your sense of self?
No, and that’s a blessing from the Spirit. I don’t mean it in a proud way, but I have known from the beginning that this is not about me. That’s not always the case. I know there are some women who wonder, “How did this happen? What did I have to do with it?” This is his choice and decision. He’s using his agency. I’ve tried to focus now on my role as a mother, feeling heavy responsibility at times, trying to be an example for my kids in how to interact with their father, as well as with other people who may be doing things that we don’t agree with.
What can others do to support those in a situation such as this? What has been helpful or unhelpful to you?
It’s helpful for people not to be judgmental. There are so many ideas and strong opinions about homosexuality in society, which is part of the reason that I want to keep my children as protected as possible. For the most part, anyone I’ve talked to has been very kind because often they’ve already had experience with this issue. I am also careful because I am sensitive to the issue and feel suffocated by it at times. I finally found some peace realizing there are many things in this life that people face that just don’t make sense, like mental illness and autism or physical disability. You really have to follow the prophet with this issue and form your own opinion based on what the Spirit witnesses to you.
How have you coped? What tools have you used to process the emotions involved with this life change and the grieving process?
Before this I didn’t understand grief. I am grieving the loss of my spouse, and the spiritual death of my spouse for the time being. I have incredible grief for the loss of him in our lives on a constant basis, but we love him very much and we pray for him to be well and watched over. I have an amazing ability that I did not have before to not be angry, and I try to not be, because I think that could consume me and make it so I’m not at my best in being a mother. I’m disappointed, frustrated, or sad at times, but I deal with that and pray for strength. The grief is cyclical and there are still things that still hit me and days when I’m emotional and teary, but I find strength in having a personal relationship with the Savior that I didn’t have before. I’m grateful for that and feel like it’s a blessing from this trial. There are days when I feel angels carrying me through, being with my children.
Priesthood blessings have played a big part in the healing process. Writing them down afterward, then going back and reading over them, trusting in the promises. I also received counsel from my bishop to keep attending the temple because we don’t comprehend all the blessings and protection that come from our temple service. So I try to go to the temple at least once a month. If I’m really struggling, many times I go to the church website and look at general conference talks on various subjects. I am almost always led to something that helps answer a question or gives me comfort and peace.
Having a close circle of family and friends has also helped me survive this. With grief it’s helpful to have people in your life that don’t want to give you all their opinions or that are experiencing some of the same emotions. So I talk to family members a lot because although I may be dealing with the consequences day to day, they are still grieving because of the choices of their child or brother. It’s helpful to talk about how I’m feeling or if I have a fear of a question. I talk to my brother-in-law a lot and it helps to put things in perspective because there’s so much about this particular issue that we don’t understand.
Have you pursued any of the traditional counseling or therapy routes?
We were seeing a marriage counselor for a month, but I didn’t want to go back because she didn’t understand and share my perspective on the gospel and the family unit. If I were to see anyone it would be with LDS Family Services, but I haven’t felt compelled to.
What’s your relationship with your ex-husband like now?
My ex-husband and I are very good friends. We still do many things as a family, such as celebrate holidays and go on vacation together. It doesn’t make sense for anyone who’s looking at divorce in a traditional way, and while it’s hard, I’ve been blessed with the capacity to do what’s right for my kids. It’s important for them to have a relationship with their father, even when he and I disagree on gospel principles and things we never used to. For the most part, he and I have a good understanding of what our family rules and standards are at this point.
Sometimes doing the things that are typical to a married couple, I still wake up and go, “What happened?” But I think that one of my roles is to show him that we still love him and that we’re still here. I’m not saying that I’m not going to move on with my life, but I think that part of what I need to be doing is raise my kids and do the right things as far as teaching them about the gospel and trying to influence him in that way. One thing that I deeply grieve is that I don’t feel the Spirit with him anymore because I miss it terribly. But I hope that he feels that influence in my home.
What advice would you give women facing similar circumstances?
Pray for strength. I really have found so much peace in turning this over to the Lord, knowing that I can’t control this. I need to take care of my own salvation, take care of my children, still be kind, and have faith and hope. For a while I was so consumed with my husband’s decision and worry about him and his testimony that it was overwhelming. Finally I had a blessing that said, “You need to focus on your own trial and your own growth, and peace will come from that. I am aware of all of my children.” I think there’s a lot of peace that comes from being humbled yourself and trying to have the Spirit soften your heart and help you cope because there are so many emotions involved.
Let the Spirit guide your decisions, your interactions, and your conversations about the topic. Each person has to decide how to handle their personal situation because sometimes there has already been infidelity or another partner involved. The subject is so contentious in society and it’s hard not to get caught up in that. The Proclamation on the Family came out in 1995 and I’ve read it before, but didn’t really go back and examine it until a few months ago. It’s amazing to me how it’s prepared us for what’s happening today.
What motivated you to nominate yourself for the MWP?
I kept hearing about individuals struggling with this issue, which is becoming more and more prevalent, but hasn’t been talked about much. I hope my story can help others who are facing this. I found the MWP during my trial and it has been so comforting for me to read the entries of other women, so I wanted to add my own testimony. I believe that people definitely struggle with homosexuality in this life and I hope that people would treat everyone with respect and dignity, no matter their choices. My situation is better than some, but worse than others, and I empathize with people who are struggling with this, either personally or with a loved one.
I absolutely know that the Savior and our Father in Heaven know each of us intimately. They know our situations, our thoughts and feelings, and the worries and sorrows we feel in our hearts and minds. I know that living the gospel principles will bring us true happiness. We are sent to this Earth to learn and grow, but also to show that we can be obedient to the laws of God, even when it is difficult due to our own limitations, temptations, and desires.
Interview produced by Nollie Haws.