In the midst of my divorce I came out to my (soon to be) ex-husband. At least one trusted friend argued against it. Sure, he's a good guy, but divorce makes people crazy, she said. Don't do it until afterward. But I felt a strong need to be honest with him. He had left me for another woman, which was wrenching, but, as a therapist (a new therapist) said to me not too long ago, really, who left whom? I started leaving him early in the marriage. In a way, I owe him a debt of gratitude for freeing us both.
He and I had lunch, ostensibly to talk about the kids. After a certain point, I said, There's something I need to tell you. He was looking really great in those days... leaving me had done him wonders. He was trim, impeccably dressed as always. I am in a relationship, I said, with Felicity. She and I had traveled together, and he knew that. In a way, our traveling had provided the impetus for my beginning the process of telling my family. As she and I had sat on a plane, and I had gone through the usual silly hope-I-don't-die stuff, it hit me. What if I died in a plane crash (or in some other way) and my family never knew one of the most important things about me?
Back with my ex, I started to cry. A small smile crept to his lips. I had wondered, he said. Then, after a pause, I'm really happy for you. I could see that he meant it. What wondrous love.
Immediately we began to talk about how I might tell the children. This was complicated. I knew they loved Felicity, but I also knew that this would be a shock, coming, as it probably would seem to, out of nowhere. The fact that I was closeted was an enormous factor in this decision-making. I was loath to bring my children in on knowledge that would force them to keep a secret. The whole thing is so dreadfully unhealthy. Also, they are such social creatures, my children-- I couldn't imagine them being able to refrain from sharing it with at least a close friend or two-- at which point I might as well give an interview to the local paper. But I also longed for the complete openness with them that had always characterized our relationship, until my relationship with Felicity had begun. I longed for them to really know me.
My ex and I agreed that, for now, I would not tell my kids. This was November of 2005, and they were both teenagers. Still, the relief of the ex knowing was enormous. I felt that I could go through the divorce, our financial arrangements, etc. with some integrity.
About six months later my son (who is nearly 20 now) was watching me do the dishes while we chatted. I was telling him of a meal I had cooked for Felicity, and which I thought he and his sister might like. (She was out with friends.) He took out the trash, and then returned to stand next to me at the sink.
Mom, can I ask you kind of a wierd question? Sure, I said. I knew immediately where this was going. In fact, I see now-- I had probably more or less deliberately provoked it. He continued, Are you and Felicity... a kind of... thing? I did what my therapist told me to do, should this question ever be asked. I said, Why do you ask? He cocked his head and gave me the same look I had given him his senior year, the one and only time he had come home reeking of vodka. The look that says, come now. We're not going to do this, are we? He said, Mom I can assure you this conversation is entirely confidential. I laughed. Yes, I said. We care about each other a lot. Wow, he said, after a minute, sounding a little like the wind had been knocked out of him. Then he laughed. This is going to take some getting used to. And then he hugged me. Mom, you know I just want you to be happy. And then, after a pause, Actually it's kind of cool. Do you mind if I tell?---his closest friend, daughter of another local minister.
Then we had the big conversation about how it was very important that he not share this information with anyone. He could talk to me, he could talk to Felicity, he could talk to his dad or his dad's girlfriend or even, if he wanted, a therapist. But no friends. It was vital. My life in ministry would be over. At the drop of a hat.