Cheryl was married to Joe for 15 years when she stumbled onto evidence of  homosexual liaisons on their home computer.  Stunned, she couldn’t believe that he had been arranging meetings with various men for months, but a deeper look at his emails and internet history made it undeniable. 

Cheryl confronted Joe directly and he seemed almost relieved to admit his secret activities that had gone on for more than four years.  His clandestine meetings with other gay men had gone beyond superficial sex and he was deeply involved with another man.  For weeks Joe had wrestled with plans to come out to his wife and say that he wanted to leave her.  Clues he’d left on the computer were not entirely accidental.

The two subsequently separated.  During the following months Cheryl tried to reconcile herself to her new single life, alone in an apartment, trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered confidence.  She couldn’t help wondering what Joe was doing, how he and his new boyfriend were getting on.  She couldn’t forget happy times she and Joe had shared, though she tried to stop remembering.  She knew they couldn't recover their marriage, which was irretrievably broken, but she and Joe had a long history together and she still felt tied to him. 

Cheryl’s challenge was to make a clean break -- first to grasp the fact that her marriage was over, and then to distance herself enough to recover.

Stories like these are common.  It seems particularly difficult for women to let go of their emotional ties after a separation.  What does it mean “to let go” anyway?  When a gay-straight relationship ends, the best definitions of this stage of recovery come from straight spouses themselves.  Here are some suggestions from the Straight Spouse Network, gathered from people who have moved through their conflict.

Letting Go

  • To let go doesn't mean to stop caring.  It means I can't do it for someone else.
  • To let go is not to cut myself off.  It's the realization that I don't control another.
  • To let go is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
  • To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.
  • To let go is not to try to change or blame another.  I can only change myself.
  • To let go is not to care for, but to care about.
  • To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.
  • To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
  • To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their own outcomes.
  • To let go is not to be protective.  It is to permit another to face reality.
  • To let go is not to deny, but to accept.
  • To let go is not to nag, scold or argue, but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.
  • To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it  comes and to cherish the moment.
  • To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone, but to try to become what I dream I can be.
  • To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.
  • To let go is to fear less and love more.

How these definitions might apply to a particular situation depends upon the individuals’ interpretation, but the principles are sound.  These definitions point to one conclusion:  The only factor we can control is our own mind.  Change your mind and you change your life.

Cheryl managed to pick herself up by starting with small adjustments in her daily routines.  She painted the walls of her new apartment her favorite color, light sage green.  Living in a different neighborhood, she shopped at a new grocery and found a choice coffee shop in easy walking distance.  She joined a fitness class and got acquainted with a whole new group.  She stopped talking about Joe to her old friends and made a conscious effort to live in the present moment, not looking back.  She even adopted a fresh hairstyle and a more casual, comfortable way to dress.  In short, Cheryl recreated herself and reconfigured her life as a single woman.  She is moving on!

Singer Lena Horne famously said, “It’s not the load that breaks you down.  It’s how you carry it.”  That concept applies perfectly to Cheryl and other straight spouses who have conquered their grief and fears to thrive in a new way.  Letting go is the first step.

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4 Responses to “THE ART OF LETTING GO”

  1. Patti says:

    The betrayal has been extremely painful for me because he never admitted that he was gay and basically lied to me all these years. He took my youth and used me as a cover. He took my femininity and rejected it. He threw me under the bus while I was a young and vibrant woman and then when he had enough of pretending he used a ruse forcing me to leave never admitting his preference men.
    Throughout our marriage I asked him if he was gay. He say no over and over again, however I did notice when he thought I didn’t notice that he was looking at men not women. He basically accused me of having an active imagination and that our relationship was good. NO, it was no good. There was no tenderness, no sex, no intimacy -- NOTHING. Am I mad -- you bet I’m mad. I’m in my 60’s now and despise most men and don’t trust any of them except family members.
    Yes, I’m moving on and I hate this man who took my life and used it for his own purpose when I had no idea what was going on. If he is truly a human being he would tell me the truth and ask for my forgiveness. I would wish him the best and if he found a man he loved I would be happy for him, but the lies are not acceptable.
    Of course there is more to this story. He paid attention a lot of my attention to my pubescent grandson and later took him on many trips alone that cost thousands of dollars. He became obsessed with my grandson and was extremely jealous of my grandson friends his age. Yes, I wonder what he has done and God forbid if anything was done to my grandson. I have a daughter who is a verocious and protective lioness who will tear him apart through the legal system and make sure he gets thrown in prison.

  2. Carol Grever says:

    Patti, your pain and anger are understandable, and, unfortunately, not uncommon. Long-term anger and hatred are great hazards. Harboring these natural resentments can eventually invite deep bitterness and even physical illness. My book WHEN YOUR SPOUSE COMES OUT: A STRAIGHT MATE'S RECOVERY MANUAL was my attempt to help people through such long-term challenges. In collaboration with an experienced psychologist, Dr. Deborah Bowman, I addressed issues like loss of trust and forgiveness. I highly recommend it to you and others who are suffering from lingering emotional trauma, Best wishes to you!
    Carol Grever

  3. Louella Christy Komuves says:

    Carol, You are such a gifted writer. Thank you for your blog so skillfully shared. And thank you for writing, Patti. I am wondering how long ago you and your husband have not been together? Having had a gay husband, I discovered that I have choices... like how long do I want to be angry (justified)? How long do I want to hate someone? I get to decide! Is it fair to others and to myself to not trust other men (trusting them until they do something untrustworthy)? I believe being angry and hating take LOTS of energies that I think are better spent on myself. What have you decided to do to take care of YOUrself? It's very important to feel all those things, for sure! (I believe all the stages of grief need to be worked through in order to "move onward and upward"). Nonetheless, how long we decide to dwell in those stages is up to each of us. I wrote a book about how I did that.(Silent Sagas: Unsung Sorrows)... it's also now on Kindle/Nook/PCs, too. You can find me on Google. I would be happy to answer any questions you may wish to direct my way. My best to you as you work through this painful process. Thankfully, no longer are we silent, spouses no longer need to be alone. We are here for each other!

  4. Patti says:

    Dear Carol & Louella,
    Apparently both of you missed my last paragraph. If it was a simple betrayal of my former husband having sex with other men it would be easy to forgive and then move on. Like I wrote, my story is more complicated.
    There is reason to believe my ex sexually abused my grandson when he was just a boy and God knows what else he has done to this boy. I trusted this man 100%. I had no doubt of his honesty and integrity as a human being. So please do not patronize me. I’m not some silly vindictive woman who is unable to forgive and that the solution is that all I have to do is to read some book to move on. I’m very aware what anger and hate does to a person but it’s not that simple. My grandson is displaying all the signs of a young man who has been abused. I will not go into details of my grandson’s suffering but let’s just say I am deeply pained by this possibility more than anything he has done to me.

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