‘Til death do you part didn’t include this life-changing reality check.
Michael was a breath of fresh hair: clean cut, funny, always smiling. Not the Don Juan type of guy I’d been used to. We met at a singles party and continued our conversation the next weekend at a happy hour, and had coffee afterward.
As we walked to our cars, I gave him a big kiss in the parking lot. Little did I know that he would eventually turn into my husband — a gay husband, at that.
I didn’t realize until the next day that, while running to his car after our smooch, he’d broken his foot. The following day, he arrived at my house with his foot in a cast to take my six-year-old son and I to lunch. Fortunately, his father was a podiatrist.
Before we left the house to go to lunch, my son was calling him “Daddy.” We laughed and it seemed like an omen at the time.
Although I didn’t know Michael in high school, we were in the same class and our first date was to our 10th high school reunion. He often sent me beautiful flower bouquets at work.
Our relationship escalated quickly and within a few months, he put an engagement ring on my finger. We planned our wedding so that we had a year to get to know each other.
I converted to Judaism in order to get married in his conservative Temple. I took the Rabbi’s conversion classes and he gave me the Hebrew name of Zimrah, meaning melody (song).
Soon after I converted, I got a phone call from Michael sobbing uncontrollably. I didn’t understand exactly what he was saying, but it sounded like he was trying to say he stopped by to visit a male friend and another male friend, someone he also knew, came to the door in pajamas.
It seemed odd that he would get so upset about that if he weren’t involved with one of them. It was the first time I thought that maybe my clean-cut fiancé was gay, but Michael vehemently denied it. I planned to break our engagement off and go to Florida for a few days to pull myself together.
Michael’s parents called me a few days into my trip and promised me their son wasn’t gay, but they said if anything would ever happen, they’d always take care of me. I wanted to believe them. That evening, Michael and I talked for several hours until he convinced me he wasn’t gay.
It didn’t take long for things to get back to normal and I continued planning the wedding, registering for gifts and attending bridal showers. It was a constant flurry of excitement.
I was confident about my decision to take Michael back and we got married at his Temple on a gorgeous October day. As I walked down the aisle, with 150 guests looking on, Michael mouthed, “You’re beautiful.” I felt like a pretty lucky girl.
After our reception and a catered dinner at his parents’ house, we left for our honeymoon. The fun part of our marriage was filled with family events, parties with friends, dinners out, disco dancing and vacations.
It seemed like a normal marriage… until things began to unravel. After we got married, we started talking about adopting a baby. We registered with the Jewish Welfare Services but had no idea how long we’d have to wait.
A few months later, right after Michael and I had an argument, the phone rang and it was the agency. They said they wanted to meet with us regarding a baby. Before I knew it, I replied, “We’ve changed our mind!” And we never brought the subject up again.
After a couple of years, I began to wonder “is my husband gay?” I don’t know what my first clue was — his “soft,” manicured, impeccable, Calvin Klein appearance, his gay friends, his interests in fine jewelry, interior decorating, and his culinary skills… or if it was the twice-a-year sex.
One evening, opening the drawer on our nightstand, I discovered a Cat-O-Nine Tails, a multi-tailed whip designed to lacerate the skin and cause intense pain, which he was hiding. At the time, I wasn’t sure what it was, but I had an idea.
I asked him if he was gay and he replied, “If you think I’m gay, you’re sick and you need to see a psychiatrist.” During this time his friends would call the house and hang up if I answered.
One night I heard him on the telephone making plans with someone to pick him up a couple blocks from our house. The next morning he gave me a step-by-step account of his imaginary “walk” around our neighborhood.
My world fell apart the day Michael came home from work. He’d been arrested for shoplifting from a fine jewelry store. I never questioned the lavish gifts he gave me, but then it made sense.
He found out that detectives had been following him for months. He got off easy; his cousin, who was an attorney, represented him and he only had to pay restitution.
While having lunch with a friend who was a Domestic Relations Judge, I told her about the issues with Michael and I’ll never forget her words: “If you can’t trust someone, you have nothing.” Case closed.
I filed for divorce and after the papers were served I called his mother and told her the reason. She cried. His parents never kept their promise to take care of me and that was the last time we spoke.
The universe has a funny way of pushing you to do something. It came in the form of a telephone call from a girlfriend. She was the wife of Michael’s best friend from high school. She said Michael called him that day to tell him he was going to commit suicide because his lover jilted him. And she said to me, “We’re getting you out of there as soon as possible!”
Within a couple days I’d arranged for a mover and found an apartment. On moving day, Michael let me take whatever I wanted but then followed my car to see where we were moving.
Once we were settled in the apartment, I asked my son if he knew anyone who was gay. His response was, “Dad?” I had no idea he knew.
As I was leaving my office for the dissolution hearing, Michael had a dozen lavender sweetheart roses delivered to me. He was obviously sad at the hearing, but I wanted to get on with my life. I was angry with him because I felt he wasted seven years of my life. He couldn’t hide behind my son and me any longer as a straight family man.
One year later, my son and I moved to Florida and I cut myself off from all our friends so Michael would have no way of finding me.
As the years passed, my hurt and anger dissolved. It didn’t matter to me if he knew where I was living or not. I had no contact with him until over thirty years later when my (now) husband and I went to a mini class reunion.
I didn’t know if he’d be there so I was surprised when Michael stopped by our table. He was still clean-cut and smiling, but his Calvin Klein image was now just ordinary.
He seemed nervous and I sensed he was afraid I was still angry with him. Instead, I was happy to see him and my husband graciously brought over a chair for him and took a photo of us. We spoke as though no time had passed and our conversation, which seemed like an hour, was healing and therapeutic.
Since our divorce, he earned his graduate degree, moved out of state, and now works for a large hospital working solely with women patients. He’s also openly gay now.
My husband and I plan to go to my 50th class reunion this year and I understand Michael will be bringing his significant other. It’s amazing to think about all that transpired since our first date at our 10th class reunion forty years ago.
When I think about our years together, it’s bittersweet. Although I wish I’d listened to my inner voice the first time I sensed Michael was gay, I choose not to dwell on the hurt, but remember the good times — and we had plenty of those.
This article has been republished from Your Tango with full permission. You can view the original article here.
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