By Rick Clemons
Beyond the initial hurt, lies and confusion, there is more to be said. The question is -- are you willing to listen?
I always dread these types of conversations, yet on the other hand, I also get simultaneously excited because I know I'm about to go there -- to a place where I can be raw, naked, real. They call that space "the truth."
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During these moments, I am ever mindful of the hundreds of thousands (maybe even millions) of other people out there who are also struggling to finally say what I'm about to say.
I have something to confess to you and I truly hope you will try to hear it.
It took about five years, after coming out and delivering the "I'm gay" blow to our relationship, before I felt like my ex-wife was finally hearing me and that I, in turn, was finally hearing her. I feel fortunate that we got to that space. Most fractured couples do not.
I knew the big, shifting moment was happening when I finally said, "I need you to hear this, and I mean really hear this." Yes, I was standing there with my testicles in my hands (metaphorically speaking) when I said those words. I was scared, but I knew that I needed to say what was about to be said. Why? Not to clear my conscious. Okay maybe a little, but that wasn't the primary objective. Mostly, I wanted to ... needed to ... share things that (even as we were breaking apart in one sense) might help reconnect us in a more honest way.
I wanted to help everything make more sense; not to take away the pain she felt, but hopefully, to at least ease it. I wasn't looking for forgiveness (just because a truth hurts someone doesn't mean you've done something wrong). I simply wanted to provide insight that might help her understand, on a visceral level, that none of this was a rejection of her. It was was all me -- and me being incapable of loving her in the way she deserved to be loved. The truth that I revealed to her -- that I am gay -- may have started me on a road to greater honesty and clarity in my own life, but it simultaneously thrust her into a deep shadow of confusion about what (if anything) had ever been true or real in her life. Or rather, in our life, together.
So what did I do? I started dropping little mentions about our life together and how I felt about her in moments when such conversations felt right. Moments when I knew those words could be said and actually heard. Words that I hoped would help us both heal, be better co-parents, and to love each other in a new way.
With each of these mentions and in each of these moments, I became more humbled and she became more empowered. At times we were quickly embroiled in chaos and anger once again, but I came to realize that was precisely what was needed for our mutual healing to continue.
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Probably the most valuable lesson I've learned from these "coming out confessions to my ex" is that, in any relationship, it takes two -- two to tango, two to argue, two to procreate, two to love, hate, cry, and, ultimately, to make the effort to understand. It has now been over 14 years since I uttered the words, "Frankly, my dear, I'm gay." But even after all this time and all of the healing that has occurred between us, I know there are still more confessions I'd like her to hear.
To that end, here are a few of the confessions I've already made and a few new confessions that I hope she'll hear in her heart for the first time:
- I really did love you. I just didn't love you in the way you define "love" in your heart, mind and body. I apologize.
- I enjoyed the act of sex with you, but I was never really fully "there" with you sexually. I tried.
- I hid my truth and escaped into sex outside of our relationship with men, which left less time for us. I'm sorry.
- I didn't marry you just to have two beautiful daughters, but I'm glad you are their mother. I'm blessed.
- I didn't intentionally marry you to see if it could "cure" me of being gay. I married you because we clicked on so many other important levels (except for that gay thing). I'm glad for the time I spent with you.
- I lied (and was ultimately pretending) at the altar on our wedding day, and in doing so, I let you build false hopes for your future. I'm sorry.
- I shared laughter, tears, joys, and challenges of a long-term relationship with you because so many aspects of "us" did work. I'm grateful.
- I never let myself fully be "me", so you never had the chance to know the real me until after I came out. I apologize.
- I didn't know how to be man enough to stand up for my beliefs and my truth at age 19, yet, if I had, I never would have met you or had our two beautiful daughters. I'm lucky it worked out that way.
- I believe that we all have more than one soulmate in our lives, and you're living proof of that. I thank you.
Confessions are like the pooper-scoopers of our lives. Once the "crap" of reality drops on the sidewalk, you can either leave it there for someone else to step in, or grab your pooper-scooper and clean it up yourself. I prefer cleaning up the mess of coming out myself. After all, it was my own "stuff" that caused the pain and drama to begin with, not my ex-wife's or anyone else's.
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