Nicole had been married for 20 years and had three teenagers when her husband Liam suddenly filed for divorce. Four years after their divorce, he came out to their children but made them promise not to tell her. Two years later, he finally told her.
"I had no idea he was gay. We married when we were both young, just 24, and I was a bit naive. He did mention several times that every man has had at least one homosexual encounter."
Nicole says Liam was never interested in sex. "It's amazing that we managed to have three children. And he would never talk about it. We stopped having sex five years before we got divorced."
Liam now has a partner, a man who had been a close family friend. "We socialized with him and his wife and children." Liam told Nicole that he met Jake at a bowling alley. They quickly became friends. Jake would wait for Liam at his office and then go for drinks.
"They spent an extraordinary amount of time together. Liam would become very defensive whenever I questioned their relationship."
When Nicole learned Liam was gay, she says she was "shocked, grief-stricken, embarrassed and, at times, suicidal. I withdrew from friends and family and felt as if my life had been ruined. Many people told me that it was better that he had cheated on me with a man than with a woman. Those comments made me feel worse than I already did. I felt used, unattractive, unwanted and incapable of having a healthy relationship with another man — in other words, like damaged goods.
"I am, by nature, a very sensitive person. I felt such humiliation and embarrassment and was so acutely depressed that I was often unable to function. I was also so angry with myself — a very intelligent, insightful human being — for being unable to see the signs that were probably right under my nose. To this day, I cannot forgive myself for marrying this person, who obviously had no respect for me."
Nicole was advised to just get on with her life. "But I felt as if I had no life. Even now, 10 years, later, I still don't date. I have major trust issues with men and spend much of my free time alone.
"Many of my former friends have dropped me. One former close friend told me I acted weird. I tried to explain to her what depression was and how it could affect a person's behavior. Believe it or not, I could go to the grocery store and people would act as if they didn't know me. I also stopped being invited to many social events."
Nicole says she's lucky to have made new friends. She's been in therapy ever since the divorce, and that's been helpful, too. "But it takes time to heal. Any divorce, especially one as traumatic as ours, can take an extraordinary amount of time to recover from.
"I think I need to find some closure for this chapter of my life, somehow find a way to live more joyfully and let down my guard with people, especially men. I also need to find a way to forgive myself. I currently live a very quiet life and would like to continue doing so, without any more significant drama, if that's possible. Eventually, I would love to find a man with whom to have a loving relationship. After much soul-searching, I now believe this is something I want and deserve."
Were you blind-sided in your relationship? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to [email protected] And check out my e-books, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front" and "I'll Call You. Not."
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