I clutched the phone in my shaking hand, listening to it ring on the other side.
“PFLAG, this is Mary.”
“Hi Mary.” I tried to keep my voice from trembling. “My, uh, husband, um, just came out and I was wondering if you have any support groups.”
“Your husband came out?” I could hear the note of enthusiasm in Mary’s voice. “Why that’s wonderful! Good for him.”
“Yeah,” I said dully. “It’s fantastic.”
“We have a group that meets twice a month. You’ll learn how to support him on this journey and how to help him come to terms with his new life.”
“Oh. Um,” I swallowed the lump in my throat. “That’s good. But see, the thing is,” I stared at the ceiling willing my eyes to stay dry, “I need someone for me.”
“We’re really about helping friends and family of gays and lesbians support their loved ones.”
“Isn’t there anyone for me?” I swallowed the lump blocking my throat.
“Well, I honestly don’t know.” Mary rushed on. “But I’m sure you’d get along great with us! We have so many wonderful members. Do you have children?”
“Yes. They’re 18 months and five.”
The line was silent. Mary’s voice was quiet. “Oh.”
I stared out the window at the budding tree. I promised to attend the next meeting, knowing I’d never meet Mary. I hung up the phone and walked to the computer.
What to do when your husband tells you he’s gay
I typed the words into Google. Google had never let me down. Google always knew all the answers. This time was no different.
I clicked on a site, its plain black and white format comforting. I clicked on the Open Forum. I scrolled down the list of conversations, reading faster and faster. I opened a new box and started to type, my heart pounding.
My husband of eight years told me he was gay two hours ago. I don’t know what to do. What do I do? I need help. I need someone to tell me how to fix this. I need someone to tell me it’s going to be okay.
I hit publish and stared at the wedding picture next to the printer. I looked so happy in that picture. So in love. I hit refresh. Responses filled the page.
“Go to the doctor. Get tested for STD’s. Get a lawyer. But most of all, know you are going to be okay. We’ll be here for you.”
“Get tested as soon as possible. Even if you think he’s been faithful. We know how you feel. You’re not alone.”
“We’re here. This is my phone number. Call me, please, if you feel like you can’t handle this.”
“Don’t worry. You’re going to be okay. I promise you’ll survive this. We’re here for you. Welcome to the familee.”
“You can’t fix it. But you CAN survive it. You WILL survive it.”
Message after message filled the screen. I clung to them like a lifeline. I held tight to their words. I’d found my people.
I was walking a path – a tough path filled with brambles and potholes, but a familiar path. One day, my walking partner pushed me off a ledge. I landed, bruised, confused, disoriented. I looked around and nothing was familiar. I stood screaming for my partner to send down a rope, a ladder, help. My voice echoed off the walls of the cliff. I waited to see his familiar face looking down, to see the comfort of his smile, but the top of the cliff remained empty. It got dark and cold. I wrapped my arms around myself and turned to see where I was. I saw a light glimmering in the distance and walked toward the warmth it offered.
I came upon a group of shaken, confused people huddled around a lantern. There was someone else there, someone who kindly handed out warm drinks and said, “Don’t worry. You’re not alone. I fell down that cliff not so long ago.”
When dawn snuffed out the stars and the sunlight illuminated my new path, I realized, quite suddenly, that it isn’t as rough as my old one. There aren’t as many brambles or loose rock. It’s flat and smooth and populated by more people than I ever imagined.
The Straight Spouse Network was a haven during those first blurry months. They’re a haven still.