“I was just about to stand up and leave. I didn’t want to sit through another choir concert by myself. I was tired and done with the day, but just as I was standing up, I turned to see an attractive young man standing at the end of the row looking down at me.
‘Hey! Can I sit here?’ he asked, motioning to the empty bench next to me.
‘Sure!’ I responded with a hit of excitement in my voice. This was definitely going to make the night more enjoyable.
‘My name is Steve.’
‘I’m Jessica, great to meet you.’
The rest of the concert was spent chatting in hushed tones. The time flew by. When it was over he asked for my number. I was ecstatic. I left the concert on a high, the one you get when you meet someone new and you can feel deep inside your life is going to be changed forever.
And mine was without a doubt changed forever in ways I never would have imagined.
We were married 10 short months later. The excitement and joy continued until one day, six months into our marriage, I stumbled across something on the computer that sent me into a spiral. It was pornography and not just any type of porn, but it was all gay porn. I could not wrap my head around what this meant, and at the same time, it was so blatantly obvious: my husband was gay.
Steve was in denial. He was adamant he wasn’t gay. He had spent years keeping this side of himself suppressed and hidden. The idea of being gay was something he had never allowed to come to the surface, but while he sat there and told me he wasn’t gay, I knew in my heart this was something he would come to terms with in the near future. There were a lot of tears that night as we discussed and chatted. It was the first of many of these nights to come, but we learned that as we talked about hard things, we grew closer together.
A year later when Steve was in counseling for his concerns around pornography, his counselor leveled with him. The pornography was an issue, but the real issue was Steve was gay. It was at this point Steve came to terms with this truth. We talked about what this meant for us, and at that point in time, we saw no reason to end our marriage. We were happy, content, and had a healthy thriving marriage. We loved doing things together, we were best friends, we had a fulfilling sex life, and were trying to start a family together. We saw no reason to not continue forward. A few years later, we brought a beautiful baby girl into our family. Penny was (and still is) a source of joy, peace, and happiness in our life.
Through all of this, there was a side of Steve and went unfulfilled and wore on our relationship. We attended support groups for several years. They were helpful for both of us. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other. We learned who we were, who we wanted to be, and what we were capable of. I think what really worked about our marriage is that we gave each other space to feel all the things and figure out who we were in a safe space. We talked about Steve’s sexuality on a regular basis, almost daily for the last couple years of our marriage. I began to realize I was strong. I had developed healthy habits of coping and addressing Steve’s struggles, and I was able to share these with others. The more we shared and were able to provide support to those around us, the more purpose and understanding we had as to why we were going through all of this.
Memorial Day weekend 2011, almost seven years into our marriage, Penny and I went to a family reunion out of state. When we flew home, Steve came to pick us up from the airport. I have the clearest memory of that moment. Penny ran to Steve and threw her arms around him. I watched filled with joy to see the love they shared. I then stood frozen as Steve’s eyes caught mine as he stood up from their embrace. Something had changed. Something was wrong. I could feel it to my core. I was scared and worried… Steve had an affair. It was crushing.
Although I was not naive to the fact this was a possibility, nothing can prepare you for this moment. It hurt more than I can ever put into words. There were nights spent in tears and heartache trying to reconcile all the emotions we were feeling. I knew how much Steve was hurting as well. He felt horrible for hurting me and for doing something he felt carried so much shame. He had cheated on his wife. He felt lost and confused. He was torn between staying in our marriage and living a life that felt more natural for him. One he had craved for years. One in which he was with a man and lived what was his truth.
We stayed together after the affair. We struggled to make sense of it all. It was an emotional, devastating time in our marriage. Any attraction Steve once had for me was gone and that was hard for me to accept. We ultimately decided it was best for both of us to get a divorce, even though the thought of losing each other felt emotionally overwhelming.
As we continued forward and navigated our divorce, we found a new way of viewing our life together. We shifted not only the way we viewed divorce but also how we viewed our relationship. We chose to create something beautiful. We chose to not see this as a failure but as an opportunity to love and support each other in a new way. It was important for us to continue to be the best of friends, for ourselves and for our daughter.
We want our daughter to know her parents love her and we love each other. I am an active member in the LDS church and Steve is not, but we are very supportive and respectful of the other’s life choices. We are trying to teach our daughter to be open to other paths in life, both for herself and others. There is no one clear path to happiness, it looks different for all of us, and we can love and support each other no matter what path we choose. That is the message we are hoping she receives from all of this.
I have been remarried for 7 years now. My husband (Matt) has two kids of his own. We have learned a lot by navigating the joys and struggles of step-parenting and co-parenting. Matt was the last piece to really making our co-parenting situation work. He is supportive of my relationship with Steve, and they have developed their own relationship based on mutual respect and love. They go out and do things together and take our girls on daddy-daughter dates. Steve is at our home once or twice a week for family dinners, we celebrate holidays together, and we are willing to have the hard conversations that allow us to continue to grow closer together.
We have made it a point to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations in order to see what we are and are not okay with in our co-parenting relationship. It takes time, patience and understanding to figure out what works in each situation. Every situation is unique, and while we know (from personal experience with Matt’s ex) it is not possible for every situation to look like ours, we hope that by sharing our story we will open others up to looking at their situation with a new perspective. We hope we can help create new ways of thinking, more understanding, more love, and more focus on what is truly important in all co-parenting relationships which are the children who are involved.
Matt is now my best friend, my confidant, and my rock, but Steve is next in line after him. I don’t know what I would do without these two men in my life. Their examples of love, strength, faith, happiness, and joy push me to be a better person every day. There is too much negativity in this world to not love those around us. There is always good to be found and gratitude to be had, we just have to be willing to look for it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica Frew. Along with her husband, Matt Frew, and her ex-husband, Steve Stoddard, she hosts a podcast, which can be streamed wherever you get your podcasts. You can follow their journey on Instagram and their website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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