“By the time my wife told me she was gay, I was already a broken man.
For months, as I slept on the basement couch alone, the word ‘divorce’ had been spoken aloud between bouts of drinking and blurred confusion, but they were never spoken to her. I’d slipped into a sort of psychosis, wondering what had gone wrong and why all of my attempts to fix our crumbling marriage had failed. We had stopped having sex a year earlier, maybe two (I lost count), and even the slightest amount of affection from me – cuddling on the couch, a kiss at the door, a hug after work – was met with a stare that wasn’t exactly cold, but indifferent.
I’d done everything I was supposed to do. I found a woman I loved, we’d been together for almost ten years, we adopted two dogs, had a house, both had great jobs and vehicles, and the life in front of us should have been full of hope and love and children. We’d married two years prior in a beautiful ceremony among friends and family, and all of our friends thought we were the couple to be envied – the couple who were always rock solid, affectionate in public, showing everyone how much we loved each other every chance we got. Gross, right? I didn’t care. Because I was in love.
But what I came to realize was that those displays of affection among friends and family were entirely one-sided. She’d been faking it for over two years. Something had changed.
Everything came to a head one fateful night in 2015, after another fight about nothing. ‘Jessica, we haven’t had sex in six months, you won’t even look me in the eye anymore. This is killing me,’ I said.
‘Dustin, it’s me, and I need to figure some things out,’ she replied as she did so many times before. She’d promised to work through her issues, which she told me had to do with her body image, even though I’d always thought and told her she was beautiful. I didn’t know how to fix this, how to help her through it, but I always gave her more time. ‘I’m leaving with my friend to Washington State for four days on a girls’ trip. When I come back, let’s talk some more.’
And that was it. She left the next morning, driving across the border into the States fourteen hours, and went completely dark on me. In those moments, in those harrowing minutes, hours and days, I thought about killing myself for the first and only time in my life. I was weak, but the worst part was no one in the world knew what I was going through because Jessica and I wanted to keep up the façade that everything was fine.
I remember passing over a bridge in my car that first morning, my arm shaking on the steering wheel as I thought about pulling the wheel hard to the right and flying off one-hundred feet to my death. I remember pulling over on a side street, breathing hard and fast, trying to right my ship, thinking about people that I could call, but still too ashamed to admit that I was weak.
Instead, I told myself that when Jessica got back, we would figure everything out. This break was everything we needed, and when she came back, we’d lay it all out on the table, and I would be strong and FIX this. I didn’t spend ten years with one woman (my entire 20s) to throw it all away because we couldn’t talk about it, right? It was time to go to work.
I went home and wrote everything down that I wanted to say. I rehearsed it, and finally I talked to a close friend of mine, told him we were having some minor problems at home, and asked what he thought. I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders just telling someone, and my confidence grew. We resolved that I was going to fix this relationship, and we would be happy again. Because, god damnit, we were happy for a good seven years before things mysteriously conflagrated into a messy pile of sh*t.
When she arrived home from Washington, I was ready. We sat down on the couch upstairs. ‘Jessica, I have some things to say, and I want you to hear me out. Okay?’
‘No, Dustin,’ she replied, and I felt my confidence peel away, upset that she was taking away this moment. ‘I have something I have to tell you first.’
Oddly enough, at first I felt excitement at the thought that we were going to get into the real stuff, the real issues, but then the fear settled in. What if she ends it before I get a chance to fix anything?
‘Jessica…,’ I started.
‘Dustin, I’m gay.’
Explaining how I felt in this moment is impossible, and I’ve never been able to correctly articulate it. But something cracked and fell away inside of me; I couldn’t speak. I just remember a wave of emptiness, then a calm, and I guess I must have cried for the first time in the ten years of our relationship, because I remember her saying, ‘Oh no, oh Dustin, you’re so sad!’ as if it was a relief or revelation to her.
But the tears weren’t sad tears, nor were they particularly happy. They were a release, as if a rusted, worn valve had suddenly been cranked open, and all the confused thoughts, feelings and utterances of divorce and suicide all finally made sense.
Anger. Rage. Suspicion. Fear. Sadness. Betrayal.
Hope. Happiness. Freedom.
I’d been depressed for two years, but in that moment, I found some relief and understanding.
After some time passed, I asked her when she knew. ‘I think when those two girls at the Katy Perry concert asked for a foursome.’ That was almost two years before on her birthday. ‘When they asked, I felt so disgusted and jealous, but after I couldn’t stop thinking about it.’
She tried to fight it, and all those talks about our sexless marriage started to make sense. ‘It’s not your fault,’ she always told me. ‘It’s my problem.’ Well…no sh*t.
But it was my problem, too. I had lived in hell for two years, wondering what I’d done wrong, and I’d become an empty husk of a man. I can’t give her all the credit for my collapse, however. I gave up on myself long before she told me, even if I never ever gave up on us.
I was kicked out of the house a week later, left to pick up the pieces of my white-picket life. Worst of all, I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone what happened, because she hadn’t told anyone else and wanted to keep it quiet until she was ready. ‘My mother doesn’t even know,’ she told me, and the conversation after her first week out of the closet was always about how she needed to cope, how I needed to get out so she could move on, and how it was difficult having me around now, regardless of whether we’d spent almost ten years together.
After I was kicked out, I vividly remember going back to the house to pick up a few things, maybe a month later. The place was a mess, her new butch girlfriend had already moved in, and I had only told one person what had happened to me (the friend I was living with temporarily). I got upset with her, told her to start taking care of herself (it was filthy, and her new stray cat was peeing everywhere in the house). She wasn’t in her right mind, and she told me I couldn’t come back and I had to say goodbye to our two dogs.
I was still so weak, beaten down from the entire experience. But this crushed me, and I yelled at her and threatened to take them. She told me she was going to call the police if I didn’t leave, and I didn’t want a messy divorce for a litany of reasons, so I gave up on them. I only asked that I be given as much time as I needed with the dogs before I left for good. I can bring this next memory to mind like it happened yesterday:
I went into the backyard to say goodbye to my two dogs, one we’d had for nine years, and the other was still practically a puppy (but God did I love her). I sat down on a lawn chair outside, and the pups were jumping and barking around me, excited to play. I cried, telling them I loved them, and I would miss them, and they both jumped on my lap and sat there, looking up at me, wondering what the heck was going on. I had always been the playful one, but also the stern one, the trainer, and they’d never seen me like this. I hugged them tight, kissed them both on their heads, played fetch with them for a few minutes, and then turned and left out the back gate, face wet and red, head dizzy and unable to comprehend leaving for good.
I never saw them again. I couldn’t make myself face them; it felt like I was abandoning them. Worst of all, in that moment, I knew I couldn’t stand being around their unconditional love, because I didn’t feel like I deserved love. All the relief and understanding that I’d felt when she told me she was a lesbian had evaporated, and I was only left with the reality of the situation. Everything I had worked for, everything I had tried to achieve in ten years of being together was gone, irrevocably gone.
The experience liberated my ex, but it broke me. It took years of soul searching, self-work, self-love, and dealing with terrible jokes from well-meaning people to get to where I am today.
Now I own my own business, editing novels and mentoring authors for a living. I traveled the world for two years, living on beaches, working in hostel bars, climbing active volcanoes, swimming with sharks, motorbiking through Vietnam for three months on my own, almost dying countless times, and I came out a better person, a better man, and I’m finally settling into the rhythm of real life again, loving it. Almost four years to the date, I can truthfully say I’m healed and on the straight and narrow. But I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone.
Because after it happened, I questioned everything about myself:
What kind of man can allow her wife to turn gay?
Stupid question, but it still came up no matter what I did.
Maybe if I *ENTER SOLUTION*, things would have turned out differently?
Also a stupid question. Gay is gay, not a damn thing you can do about it. It’s not a choice. It’s a reality.
Maybe I’m just terrible at sex?
This one cut me deep. I wondered if I wasn’t fulfilling my ex in the ways she needed and that resulted in the switch to the other side (dumb, I know!). So I went on a two-year sexual exploration of myself, searching for that answer and I got it. There wasn’t a damn thing wrong with me – quite the opposite. But I had to mess around to find that answer, and in doing so, received a whole helping of insight around the male mind and how insecurity can play into our every action in the dating realm.
Still, these questions haunted me for many years, and while my situation may seem unique, it’s not.
The LGTBQ movement has ramped up in the past half-decade, and while it so so welcome and a change we needed, it has also resulted in thousands of broken marriages and thousands of men and women like me who have been blindsided and had their lives irrevocably changed forever. I never, in my wildest imagination, could have dreamed up a scenario where Jessica was gay, and neither could anyone else (including my lesbian sister!). To assume we should see it coming is not only victim blaming, but flat out hurtful. Think about your most treasured and heavily guarded secret, then think about how many people you’ve told. One? Two? Zero?
No, it’s impossible to see coming, so my message is to those individuals in a heterosexual relationship that know or are considering that they might be gay.
TALK TO YOUR PARTNER!
Don’t leave them in the dark. The hardest part of the entire ordeal for me was the two years prior to Jessica telling me. That is what broke me and made me feel worthless. The darkness, the state of unknowing, is what had me thinking about throwing my car off a bridge.
And if you meet someone like me, have some compassion and understanding. If I ever hear another person asking me if ‘I think I turned her gay’ again…it might come to blows. The damage you can do to a person’s psyche, even if they’ve worked through it, can be tremendous, and it’s just so untrue. Gay isn’t a choice, people, and to assume you can turn someone gay would mean that you can change them back. Ask the religions of the world how their ‘Pray the Gay Away’ tactics have been working.
Jessica and I are good now, though we only message each other on Christmas and birthdays for a quick check-in. I will always love that woman, but that love has changed into something I can look back on fondly rather than something that is growing and changing. It is trapped in time as memories and feelings, most of them positive in retrospect, and I forgive her and wish her all the love and happiness in the world, just as I’m sure she does for me. Because Jessica was my 20s, and we had seven beautiful years together even if we were together for almost ten.
My life was better for having her in it, and now it’s better for not having her in it.”
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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Dustin Bilyk. You can follow his journey on Instagram, Medium and his blog. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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