After my husband told me that he was gay, six days after our 12-year wedding anniversary, I was in severe shock. But I knew enough to realize I needed professional help. The next day I called my Employee Assistance Program and talked/cried to a counselor on the phone for about an hour. He really didn’t know what to say and I think he was relieved when he could sign me up for a session with someone else that perhaps had more training than him.
My appointment was for the coming Friday. Lucky for me it was Valentine’s Day, the precise day you do not want to think about your eventual divorce. Since our anniversary was at the beginning of February we never really celebrated Valentine’s Day. But now this one was special. It became the Valentine’s Day when I knew I didn’t have a Valentine anymore.
After work I drove myself to the office of the new counselor assigned to me. Although I was aware a counselor could potentially be a poor fit, I had never experienced this personally. In the past my counselors had always been adequate enough that I kept going until I felt better. My past successes, however, had been associated with those “normal” situations, i.e. my parents’ separation, the death of a friend, postpartum depression, etc. On this fateful day I learned that sometimes it is necessary to shop around for the right help.
When I arrived I was given a form to complete for my employer. Counseling, which is included in my medical plan, is primarily meant to reduce absenteeism rates, not to deal with the mental health issues of employees. The questionnaire asked how many times I had been absent from work or had to leave early or start late in the last two weeks. At the end of the sessions I was supposed to fill out another form. I never got there.
When asked, “Why have you come today?” I bluntly answered, “My husband just told me he is gay.” Why beat around the bush? I filled out the rest and handed it to the counselor. She read through the form and when she came to my reason for being there, the uncertain, “Oh my, what do I do with this?” smile appeared on her face. She said something about the referral not mentioning the reason I was coming, which I found odd because I told the man on the phone exactly why I would be crying on the line for an hour.
She asked me what my greatest fear was with this new twist in my life. I said I feared being alone. I then told her about how my GH (gay husband) had gone to a Gay Dad’s Support Group for the first time the day before and how I felt he was really different than the man I knew. She told me it sounded like I was already alone. This was true. I still am, with the kids being the exception.
I mentioned GH was still in the same bed with me. She didn’t like this. It’s as though she thought I should have kicked him out immediately. This irked me. I felt judged and I have learned from my own Straight Spouses Support Group it is not uncommon for spouses to stay in the same bed for a bit at least until things are figured out.
In 12 years of marriage I had never kicked him out of bed. It was his bed as well as mine. It really hadn’t crossed my mind at that point. Now had he told me he had cheated that would have been different. He knew that was a deal breaker. I would have kicked him out of the house and, in the beginning, he still told me enough truths that I didn’t believe he had begun exploring sexually at that point. But these were my choices, and should not have been subject to the counselor’s scrutiny.
After the shock about the bedroom she turned her attention to my kids. They were six and almost two. We hadn’t said anything to them yet. It had only been six days. She muttered to herself with the uncomfortable smile still plastered on her face that they were too young to understand and we didn’t have to say anything to them yet, but I should find books to read to them. I was pretty new to the whole gay spouse thing but even I knew there are no children’s books on this topic.
Sure I can find books on having two daddies or two mommies, or this is my gay aunt/uncle. But I was pretty sure given the uncomfortable nature of the topic no one had yet ventured into children’s books about my father/mother just told us he is gay. Maybe one day I could write one. I’m sure it will go over like gangbusters.
My session lasted about an hour. The counselor’s mouth must have hurt in the end from all of the fake/nervous smiling. At first I thought about coming back, mostly because I didn’t know where else to go. But then she said she wasn’t going to schedule another appointment with me right away. She said I could call her if I wanted to see her again and if she hadn’t heard from me in three weeks she would close my file. This to me was code for, “Please don’t come back. I can’t deal with this.” So I took her card and never called her again.
To her credit she did make one good suggestion. At the time my GH and I had talked about possibly moving into a house where he could live in the basement. I had mentioned this to her and she said we should go to couples counseling. I remarked, “Why bother? We are no longer a couple.” She said this counseling would help us figure out where to go from here. It was good advice and after a bit of searching we currently have a counselor that is trying to talk us through the separation process, with varying results.
As for me, I found another counselor who is also inexperienced with the gay spouse issue, but is very honest about it and approaching the counseling more from a bereavement point of view. It helps me see things a bit clearer so I continue going.
When I think back to my first session I can now smile. In some ways it was actually quite humorous. I hope that counselor did a bit of research afterward in order to prepare for the next time someone writes, “My husband just told me he is gay,” on the form. But a part of me still suspects reading those words will always be shocking.