I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad recently. He died a few years ago, and I have mixed feelings about that in light of my current situation. On the one hand, I’m glad he’s not around to witness the breakdown of my marriage and I’m glad I don’t have to even think about coming out to him. On the other hand, I would have liked to have had the benefit of his experience and also to tell him that finally, after over 30 years, I understand a bit better what he went through when he and my mother separated when I was 12 years old.
A week or so ago, I wrote about us finding out that we were the subject of gossip in our ward. We had hoped to forestall that eventuality as long as possible so as to give us time to work out the logistics and finances of when I will move out and when we will tell our younger children that their parents are going to separate and eventually, divorce. Seeing that the control of the story line had been taken somewhat from us and knowing what this would mean, my wife and I were suddenly faced with the prospect of moving up our timetable. What had previously seemed “out there” and fuzzy and not quite real was suddenly very real. This development affected both me and my wife.
I’ve already written about “hitting the wall” late last week. What I didn’t realize until Sunday was that my wife had also kind of hit the wall. She initiated a pretty intense discussion Sunday afternoon in which it became obvious that the reality of everything had suddenly hit her as well: even though she had been talking about the prospect of divorce for over two years, this prospect had unexpectedly and without warning come into sharp relief. I think it scared her, much as it had caused anxiety and disorientation in me.
What became clear with the passage of time is that we had passed, without at first realizing it, into another, more advanced stage of separation – even though I continue for now to live in the family home. With each passing day, I increasingly fade out of the day-to-day routine of our family. This isn’t something I planned or she planned; it’s just happening. With each passing day, I find it more uncomfortable to be “in” the family home but not be “of” the family. Similarly, my wife finds it uncomfortable to see me withdrawing and going out.
Meanwhile, our kids are sort of in various stages of understanding what is going on – and even those who know I’m gay and/or know that we are separating and divorcing don’t really understand everything that is going on; they can’t, at least not right now. This is one of the things that has reminded me of my dad. There were things I didn’t understand back then; things which I understand now, or at least I think I do. Of course, the situations between his family and my family are very different in some significant ways. But, nevertheless, there are similarities.
Both my wife and I know that the time must soon come when I must actually leave the family, and one of the things that I have suggested we do to prepare for that is that she go out one night every week, both so that she can have some time out and so that I can have some time alone with the kids at home. I can well understand, now, my Dad’s need to have his own time with me and my siblings all those years ago, away from my Mom, on his own turf and his own terms. In some ways, I felt like I never had a relationship with my Dad, never knew him, until after the separation. Though, again, his situation and my situation are very different in some significant ways, I do hope and believe that my relationship with my kids will improve, in the ways that really matter, after we separate.
Meanwhile, we both continue to feel out our separate ways. As for me, I have had occasion this past week to once again reflect upon how grateful I am that I came out: the prospect of continuing to come out and to live life as a gay man has made the impending challenges of separation and divorce easier to contemplate and face. Without those prospects, life would be incalculably more difficult.