Shattering the Clay: How Could You NOT Know?

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If you missed Part I of this stunning series, Shattering the Clay, by Anonymous, please CLICK HERE to catch up.

When I tell people the reason Ford and I are divorcing – the true reason – I can see the question in their eyes. The discreet ones don’t give it voice. From the others it gushes in a flood of words and confusion.

“How could you not know he was gay?”

Life would be so much simpler, I suppose, if people were all neatly labeled and categorized.

This man likes show tunes and drinks oolong tea with his pinky up. He’s small and delicate and is more interested in fashion than football. His house is tidy and clean. He is gay.

This man likes football and beer. His idea of a good time involves poker and eating nachos. He goes to strip clubs on bachelor parties and says he wants to add Katy Perry to his “list”. He’s large and masculine and thinks a 49-er trashcan is decorating. He is straight.

But life isn’t that simple. The first man, I would have made my friend and called for advice on which shoes to wear. The second man, I married, never imagining the height of his facade, the depth of his secret.

On the Day of Disclosure, Ford and I had just returned from yet another therapy session. I was frustrated with the lack of progress. After five years, we’d more than paid for our therapist’s trips to Hawaii. Our marriage, however, was crumbling and I couldn’t figure out why or how to fix it.

I stood in the doorway of our house, tears in my eyes, angry words of frustration passing over my lips. I wanted him to hug me, to kiss me, to show me some sort of affection. He repeated the same phrase, “I can’t.” To which I replied, “You won’t.”

Then he held up his hand. The look on his face made my stomach knot as some inner part of me recognized the seriousness of the words forming in his mind. He took a deep breath. Then another. He clutched the frame of the door and said, “I have to tell you something. Something that will stop all this.”

In that moment, I knew we were on the edge of a precipice. A part of me wanted to quiet his words, keep him from speaking what I understood, deep in my heart, was the beginning of the end of us. We walked to the couch. We sat down. He took my hands in his.

“I’m gay.”

He continued, the words pouring out in a torrent of relief. He told me he’d always known. He told me he thought he could make it work. He told me he married me because I was so kind and loving. He told me he wanted normalcy, not the life of controversy being gay would involve. He told me he wanted the wife, the house, the kids, the dog. He told me he loved me, but wanted to be in a relationship with a man. He confessed to seeing two men holding hands in IKEA over the weekend, the sight nearly bringing him to his knees with longing.

Each word struck my numb body like shards of ice. I stared at my hands in his. I could hear the tick of the clock, the sound strangely loud. I could feel my chest moving, assuring me I was still breathing. I saw the wide wet circles on my skirt and wondered distantly what they were from. Ford released my hands and tried to wrap his arms around my stiff body. He pulled me to him, the smell of him so familiar and comforting, yet suddenly so alien.

Who was this man I’d married? Who was this man who had fathered my two children? Who was this man who lived and laughed and fought with me for nine years?

When people ask that question, the question I dread, I reply, very simply, “I just didn’t.”

I never suspected. You see what you expect to see. A gay man would never ask me out on a date. A gay man would never pursue me. A gay man would never marry me. A gay man would never father my children. A gay man would never work through marriage counseling for years.

And yet, he did.

And he is.

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  • Frelle

    so grateful for the story you’re telling.  not just for you to speak it but for so very many men and women to read it.  You are brave and beautiful. *HUG*

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you so much. I hope, I truly hope, someone out there reads it and realizes they are not alone. Far from it, actually.

  • Sara at Saving For Someday

    Thank you for continuing to share, and speak a truth many are living and wondering what is to come. You are so brave, and I hope you kow that you are supported in so many ways.

    • Erin Margolin

      If there’s one thing this experience has taught me, it’s to ask for and search for help. I don’t think I could have survived without the support of family and friends. The comments I’m receiving from Erin’s blog have added to the feeling that I’m not alone and that I’m supported even by those who don’t know who I am.

  • Maven

    Erin, you’re writing is beautiful.Through it all you have found an incredible voice. I haven’t been around for awhile but had to comment because I was so taken by what you have had to say. Love to you.

    • Erin Margolin


      You are so sweet—but I didn’t write this. I am hosting a guest blogger who’s writing this series. This is the second installment. She wishes to remain anonymous and cannot post this to her own blog, so I offered to because most people know that my dad came out when I was 15…anyway, thank you SO MUCH for reading and commenting and I’m letting Anonymous log in as me later to reply to comments.

  • Faiqa

    Forgive me, I am sure the people who asked you “how could you not know” are well intentioned, kind and good people.  But they display a basic ignorance about sexual stereotyping and gender norms that lead them to ask these questions..You didn’t know because he didn’t tell you.  You didn’t know because he asked you to marry him, as you have so eloquently stated. Again, your writing is beautiful and your voice is important.  Thanks for sharing and thanks Erin for sharing your friend’s words with us.

    • Erin Margolin

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. And, I have to confess, I was probably one of those people not so long ago. Human sexuality is so complex on many levels. This experience has shattered my previously held ideas of gender norms and sexual orientation. I keep telling myself it’s a learning experience and even though I dread that question, maybe it’s part of my path to help educate.

  • Melissa

    Of course you didn’t know. I can’t imagine how you must have felt in that moment. Your story is heart wrenching and your writing is beautiful. 

    • Erin Margolin

      In my more…snarky moments, I’ve asked people if they know their husband is straight. They, of course, reply. “Yes!” I add, with a small smile, “Have you asked him?” We believe what we’re led to believe.

  • Good Day, Reg People

    This is why blogging is wonderful.

    Those words have to come out.

    They validate what your life is and has been.

    You have a voice here.

    WIthout telling our stories, I think we’d go crazy.

    I think we’d all just lose our minds.


    • Erin Margolin

      And this is why I’m so grateful to Erin for allowing me to use her blog. These words have been trapped in my heart and in my mind. They’ve pushed and prodded and expanded until I thought I’d never be able to write again unless I first released them. Each post I write sends sunlight through the fog, eating away at the knot. 

  • Jana Anthoine

    Wow. I’m so proud of her for telling her story. 

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you so very much.

  • Kimberly All Work No Play

    I’ve cling to every word.
    You are amazing for sharing this.
    I don’t get how people could ask you “How come you didn’t know” because gay men don’t all act like..well feminine. Like I said in my previous comment, I fell head over heals for a man who was very much a manly man…and he was gay.
    I think society has such a stereotypical view on the gay community as a whole.
    What they should be asking is “Why did he decieve you all that time?”
    Or simply just listening to you and supporting you.
    Sending you much love for sharing this.

    • Erin Margolin

      You have the same sort of insight I’ve come to have because you’ve been there. The stereotypes do exist, but there are a lot of gay men out there who act very straight. It’s funny. Most people feel I should be angry or upset that Ford lied to me for so many years. I don’t feel that way. I feel sad for him that he lied to himself for so many years.

  • Cherry

    “You see what you expect to see. A gay man would never ask me out on a
    date. A gay man would never pursue me. A gay man would never marry me. A
    gay man would never father my children. A gay man would never work
    through marriage counseling for years.” So true. I’ve experienced that many times, although not in the same context as you. The on-looker who hears the story at the end, believes s/he would have know the person was gay or an adulterer, a liar, a pedophile but not necessarily so.
    Thank you for sharing this and your wonderful writing. Cherry

    • Erin Margolin

      After Ford’s disclosure, I started to think of others who have been led to believe they were married to someone who didn’t really exist. You believe what you see. And when you look through the filter of knowledge, it’s hard to understand how someone wouldn’t know. It’s like watching the last five minutes of “The Sixth Sense” and then wondering why everyone was surprised at the ending. Everything is so obvious if you know the last chapter.

  • Ally

    Really wonderful writing, and heart wrenching (in so many ways) story.

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you so much for your comment. It is, as I often say, a tragedy. Thankfully, I have a good sense of humor and understand that tragedies are a great basis for comedy. Some days, that’s the only thing that gets me through.

  • Jackie

    Your friend has a way with words…. this story is wonderful and thought provoking. I hope that everyone reads it.
    I can’t wait to read the next part.

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you so much. The words for these posts have poured out in a way that surprised me. I’m so thankful Erin offered to let me visit her home to post it.

  • Anonymous

    What an incredibly brave act to tell your story and you’ve done so with so much beauty and integrity. Thank you for sharing this piece of your story with the world. You are an amazing person.

  • stephanie

    These guest posts are so amazing.  I have a friend ‘whitney’, he Dad is gay.  She has two younger brothers & her parents were married almost 15 years.  No one had any idea because he wasn’t a stereotype, sometimes you just don’t know.  I hate that her mom had to go through it and I also hate her Dad had to.  Your guest poster is brave for sharing her story, a story I know you and many others can relate to.

    • Erin Margolin

      My heart goes out to her and her mom. Please let her know there’s a place that provides an amazing amount of support for spouses of gay spouses. It’s called Straight Spouse Network and they have a website. No matter how far along this journey her mother is, it would be worth a click.

  • A Herndon

    This is amazing; thank you for sharing your story in such a profound way. The stereotypes are what make us all so “sure” we’d just know. Someone “looks” gay, “dresses” gay, “acts” gay. Bull. That you are both suffering is what makes it worse, and I’m so sorry that both of you hurting.

    • Erin Margolin

      The stereotypes are one of the reasons Ford thought he must not be gay. He said he saw the way gay men were portrayed and didn’t feel the image fit him. He felt there must be something wrong with him.

  • Pam @writewrds

    Your story is so powerful and so very very appreciated. I’m really grateful you shared it.

    Thank you. And hugs.  

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank YOU for your kind words. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support from Erin’s readers.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing. This will make me more conscious of asking that question if this happened to someone I knew. Your courage in posting about this is amazing.

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you so much. It’s not that the question hurts, it’s just the answer makes me feel somewhat…foolish. Suffice to say, there’s no way to know and hindsight is always 20/20.

  • Jbswrker

    your story is MY story, too;  married 20 years, with 3 incredible children, and i NEVER had a hint, or an inkling;  if i had, i would never have been married 20 years!
    it has been a very long time since the divorce, but well-intentioned, inquisitive folks still do ask if i knew…..i find that now i just pre-empt them, and say, “my former husband came out of the closet, and i never knew he was gay”; there have even been those who wonder if i could determine if their spouse was gay (i would say that i am not the best person to ask, right?!!!)
    keep writing, keep telling…it is still very healing for me to do so!

    • Erin Margolin

      That’s how I feel exactly! I ticked off all the “normal” reasons for the distance in the relationship – job stress, babies, even me. He’s not the sort to have an affair – he didn’t have the opportunity. Him being gay was never on my radar. (Pun intended.) If I would have known – as soon as I DID know – I would have stopped the therapy, the fights, the trying. It was all so pointless.

      I’ve had friends ask me the same thing to which I reply, “Obviously I’m not very observant.” I have to tell you, though, I’m not certain any man is straight anymore. They’re all gay until they prove otherwise. I hope that eases in time because not every man has a great sense of humor when I question his sexual orientation. :)

  • Guest

    My MIL didn’t know for 20+ years. Now that I’m divorced, it wouldn’t completely shock me if my ex-husband was gay, too.

    • Erin Margolin

      I have a friend who was married to a lesbian. Now, years later, he’s dating a great woman and the more they talk, the more convinced they are that her ex husband was gay. I think, after going through it, we’re more in tune to the idea and I think it happens more than anyone would imagine

  • Aninchofgray

    Dear Anonymous, You so beautifully used your gift of writing to show us what you have been through and are going through. Thank you for doing this.

  • Dana Reeves

    I didn’t know either. Looking back, I recognize the signs and signals. But at the time, it was simply the last possibility – one that hadn’t even crossed my mind.

  • Anonymous

    I’m finding that words are failing me after reading your story. So many emotions are going through me right now. I feel so much for you and for Ford; I just want everything to be easier for you both, for everything to be perfect and right in your worlds. But that’s not the way life is. We don’t all fit into perfect round holes. This is such a profound reminder of that. Thank you again for sharing. By sharing, I have no doubt you are helping so many others. 

  • Kseckenrode

    Thank you so much for sharing this.  This is my story, too, although I was married 32 years when my husband came out to me.  He still isn’t out to most of his friends, and hasn’t found a lot of support.  I have told my story to the people who count in my life, and have found incredible understanding and support.  The “how did you not know” question is there, but I tell them that if he didn’t know/realize/accept this, how could I?  and that answers their questions.  We are working through a divorce as amicably as possible.  I have moved out and he is still in the house until we can sell it.  I made a commitment to myself to be the best I can be through this process, and am finding that I have a lot more strength and courage than I thought I had.  I hope that anyone else who finds themself in this situation will  seek out the Straight Spouse Network and get the support and comfort that can only come from people who’ve been in this situation.