Ward gossip reared its ugly head and made itself visible this past weekend. It had apparently been stalking us for quite some time, but had been hiding in the cover. My wife and I weren’t entirely surprised to discover this; we had expected it, but we were still caught off guard by its sudden exposure.
Without going into all the details, my wife (whom I call Katie) was asked point-blank late last week by someone who knows many people (but is not herself) in our ward, whether it is true that my wife and I are “splitting.” Katie, needless to say, was very taken aback.
Ever since reaching the decision last fall to separate, we have gone to great lengths to “keep up appearances.” Because I would not be in a position, due to financial considerations, to move out until sometime this spring, we decided that – for the sake of our children – we would try to keep our plans to ourselves until I was ready to move out. We didn’t want to have to tell our younger children until just before I leave, and we wanted to be able to control the “story line” up until that point. And we certainly did not want it noised about that I am gay. I don’t care what people will think of me, but I care very much about hurtful and hateful comments that might be made to my children as a result of my coming out.
Well, it became apparent in Katie’s conversation with this person that there has been more than a little “chit chat” going on in the ward about our family. Katie’s first reaction was to ask why her friend (whom I’ll call Tiffany, which somehow seems an appropriate name) had asked this question. When Katie pressed Tiffany about what she had heard, she mentioned a number of things that she had heard from several “sources” (which, of course, Tiffany refused to name). Nothing concrete, of course, just innuendo, supposition, guesswork and less than charitable conclusions. But close enough to the mark in some instances to hit home.
Taken off guard, my wife confirmed to Tiffany that we are indeed separating. It wasn’t until Saturday morning that Katie had a chance to tell me about this conversation. I was incensed, but not surprised. We knew it was coming, but I suppose it is human nature to believe that people are better than that. We want to believe that, but in the end are often proven wrong. What is it that prompts people to, “dementor-like”, feed off the challenges faced by others?
Now that we knew that scuttlebutt was going around about us, we decided it would be prudent to talk to our two younger teenagers before they heard something from somewhere else. We did not tell them I am gay; I am saving that for later with these two particular children. But we did tell them that we are separating and will eventually divorce. They took it well; of course, they probably already suspected since I have been sleeping downstairs for several months.
Due to their ages, I felt it was important to address the “eternal family” issues, i.e., the constant stream of messages they receive in their church classes, in church magazines, etc., about the importance of eternal families, how divorce is the ultimate failure, how the family circle is broken, etc., etc. I told them, with Katie sitting next to me, that I didn’t want them to worry about these things, that everything is going to be ok.
It was then that the words came out of my mouth almost without thinking: “We will always,” I said, “be a family.” And as soon as I said them, I was struck by the fact that I had not previously thought of our future in quite these terms, nor had I ever articulated this thought in my mind in quite those words. As soon as I said them, I knew that the thought had come from “out there” and that it was true. Katie then added, “The dynamics are changing, but we will always be a family.”
I know every situation involving mixed-orientation marriages and the divorces which commonly result from such marriages, is different. Things may change between my wife and me as we move into the future, but I am very grateful that, right now, things are fairly amicable between us and that we have each accepted reality and have chosen to make the best of that reality. We know that we will always be bound together by the bonds with our children and that – though not the textbook Mormon family – we will always, nonetheless, be a family. A family composed of individuals and characterized by real, authentic relationships and, hopefully, love, affirmation, and acceptance of each other.