Many little girls, often daydream of walking down the aisle, on the most joyous day of their life – their wedding day. Heart racing, nervous smile plastered across her glowing face, never once thinking that the man she’s walking towards is hiding a secret that he’s too afraid to share.
Many young men envision meeting their soulmate, sharing their life with the person of their dreams, having a family, and living the life that’s expected of them – married to a beautiful woman and being a supportive husband and father. Yet some men are torn apart inside by the secret they keep that leads to heart wrenching guilt, shame, and fear of failing everyone they know.
Regardless of the scenario, whether it’s a man or a woman hiding their secret, at some point, the pain of pretending to be someone they’re not becomes greater than the transparent truth of living and being who they’re meant to be.
In that moment, all the years of love, parenting, and life building are diminished to a rubble of memories. Tortured wails of “How could you do this to me?” by an unsuspecting spouse, are just the tip of the betrayal iceberg that sinks the life once known by all concerned.
On the other hand, many couples in a mixed orientation marriage bravely join forces, standing tall in love, vowing to get support for overcoming the wicked temptation of same-sex attraction. Prayer, therapy, retreats, hard work, and tear-stained conversations litter the landscape of a marriage in defense mode, all in the name of “make it work, just make it work!” However, even the most resolute attempts to stay afloat in the life ring of “Until death do us part,” find many couples surrendering to the truth that fixing the same-sex attraction, or fixing it enough, as Matt the husband your about to meet said in his TEDx talk, isn’t going to happen. To quell the truth of a spouse embittered in their own internal tug of war with who they are vs. who the rest of the world expects them to be, is practically a death sentence in and of itself.
While both in-the-know spouses may give a mixed orientation marriage a fair shake, many are faced with the harsh reality, that denying the truth of the same-sex attraction only leads to deeper levels of guilt, shame, anxiety, depression, and more often than not ugly embittered relationships that lead to divorce. Matt and Luanne Nightingale are trying to walk the road less traveled, one of gratitude and hope, for unraveling their 25-year relationship.
Granted, it’s a common, and a completely acceptable, rationale human emotion to want to lash out, be angry, and desire the betrayer, pay, pay, pay for the lies they’ve laden into a 23-year marriage, that never really was the storybook version of the storybook marriage they thought they were living. However, by changing perspectives a little and dramatic shifts of thought, one begins to see the beauty of diversity, if one chooses to do so.
Even though the wounds are still freshly cut, and like many heterosexual spouses, Luanne is getting the raw end of the deal (a justifiable feeling that most heterosexual spouses feel) by having her little girl dreams of happily ever after shattered, the question remains, “Why me, why now, why to begin with?” As understanding, compassionate, and loving as she can be, it doesn’t take away the gut wrenching blow to the heart, self-esteem, and trust that Luann built in her marriage to the man that she loved.
When faced with the harsh truth, Luann and Matt faced eerily similar circumstances and questions that thousands of other same sex couples caught in this mixed-orientation marriage turmoil have faced. Heart-wrenching questions like, “Do we try to make this work?” or “How do we undo the damage, un-tell the lies?” and the ever so popular, “What does the future hold for either of us, our kids, our family?” Yet, they found a path.
Through open, honest, transparent communication, Matt and Luanne have chosen to accept the truth of Matt’s same-sex attraction – him a little more easily, her a little more painfully. Leaning into their relationship built on love, respect, support and brutal honesty, they’re now, in their own words, “Trying to do this well.” The “This well” being, creating an environment for themselves and their children where the family thrives rather than survives as their marriage unravels – she as a single, pained and saddened heterosexual mother, he as a single, excited yet sorrowful, gay father.
While brutal honesty and truth often slice deep into the jugular of life, transparency for being known for who you are is a blessing that eradicates guilt, shame, and self-loathing, opening one’s self, and hopefully others to the light of living truth for truths sake. In the light of Matt’s truth, his real truth, he and Luanne are building a new foundation that embraces the reality that who you are is who you are even though at times it hurts and brings up anger and confusion. However, both Matt and Luann have found that any attempt to fight your truth only compounds the darkness, hurt and pain which in turn, eventually manifests as a person living a pretend life having pretend relationships.
On Saturday, November 6, 2016 Matt and Luanne bravely, both in their own unique way, took the stage at TEDx Sonoma County to share their story, their journey, and their truth - a truth that demonstrates with respect, support, honesty, and a deep dive into forgiveness and understanding that both of them are trying to navigate the waters of unraveling a marriage of deception and lies, with dignity and love.
Selecting gratitude and hope as their guideposts, Matt and Luanne’s TEDx talk demonstrates their ability to find common ground in what could easily be a chaotic war of love gone wrong. Yes. This is their path of choice, but it does beg the question, “What’s possible when gratitude and hope are chosen over bitterness and you done me wrong thoughts?”