Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We Will Always Be a Family

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.


  1. Dear Invictus,

    So many things I feel and think about as I read your post this morning:

    1. I, too, am often disappointed at other people's need to meddle in other people's lives: to judge, gossip, impose, weave negativity ...While we cannot control or choose what other people do, we can only choose what we do and what you and Katie did, luckily, not only allowed you to express the news to your children in a loving, peaceful way, but it enabled both you and your wife to come to an important revelation about the eternal aspect of YOUR family that is not restricted within the confines and definitions of the church.

    2. Which brings me to the next point: how you are, once again, pointed to a direction of making your own definitions of what is family, of what is respectful behavior, of what is love. These definitions will continue to change and evolve, but with your ink and your pen ... your heart and vision dictating its scope.

    I am very respectful of your situation as that: your situation. However, I would like to share with you my experience as a young child who went through divorce between the ages of 4-6.

    I can only say, as a child who was young when my parents divorced: young children feel these things going on around them. While they may not know exactly, they sense and feel. The feelings I have from my experience are ones of dire exile (granted that this is due to the age difference between my siblings and me and the relationship that I had with my mother and my father) ... everyone else was busy with moving on with the news or the situation while I was stuck there with all these frustrated feelings (I now know that it was due to my not knowing or having anyone talk to me). I can't help but wonder if my parents and the people around me would have reached out to me in love, to explain what was going on, and to define "divorce" in my particular situation to me and "family", I think that i would have felt less isolated, less stressed and anxious .... just some food for thought:)

    hugs of strength to you,

  2. "What is it that prompts people to, “dementor-like”, feed off the challenges faced by others?"

    I believe it is basic insecurity. People look at their lives and problems and desperately seek to find someone they can feel with a worse situation.

    You seem some calm and reasonable about all of this. Perhaps it isn't the way it is on the inside, but I'm very impressed. Your family certainly seems to be safe in your loving, thoughtful hands.

  3. I'm afraid the "ward gossip" is just around the corner, knocking at my door... It just found itself into my home yesterday, so can the ward be much further behind?

  4. @Libellule - As always, thank you (!) for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments. This experience was so interesting in so many ways (some negative, some positive), but the wonderful thing that came out of it was one of the things you touched on: the realization about our family. What made this so remarkable to me was that I know it didn't originate with me. And because of this, among other things, it opened up my vision of what is happening with our family.

    @ControllerOne - I think you're right about the dementors, which is a very apt metaphor, I think.

    As to your other comments, thank you for your kind words. There will no doubt be rough seas ahead, but I really and truly believe that our family is safe in Someone Else's loving hands - the realization of which is part of what makes this journey so wondrous.

    @Beck - I just read your post from yesterday. Wishing you strength and guidance as you weather this storm, whatever it is.

  5. Thank you Invictus. I'm so sorry to hear you have to deal with this. This kind of thing isn't unique to Mormons, but Mormons are exquisitely good at it. Unfortunately, there will always be Dementors feeding on what they perceive to be the trials of others. And, sadly (to take the analogy further), those Dementors have made what could be a wonderful church into an Azkaban-like fortress of despair and darkness disguised on the exterior as a gleaming city on a hill.

    Sending good thoughts and love your way. Keep practicing your Patronus charm, and remember that chocolate always makes you feel better after a Dementor attack. :)

  6. @Pablo - As Tennessee Ernie Ford used to say, "Bless you pea-pickin' little heart"! I got a good laugh out of your comments about chocolate and the Patronus charm (now, let's see ... what would that be a metaphor for?). As to your comment about Askaban - wow! powerful, sad and ... true. Good thoughts and love back to you, Pablo. Wishing you well!

  7. It was inevitable. For future reference, I always found the following response was very effective to any such outrageously insensitive, intrusive busybodies: "I'll forgive you for asking such a personal question if you'll forgive me for not answering."

  8. Thanks, Rob. Good advice. I'll also pass this along to my wife.

  9. Let no one but yourself and your family define who and what you are...I love Rob's words of advice.