Archive | June 2012

Do we ever get over it?

I met a lovely woman, yesterday, introduced by a mutual friend. Yes, she’s also an ex-wife of a homosexual.

She said to me, “It’s been more than five years, now, and I’m still not over it.”

I cringed.

The fact is, I’m not sure we ever do “get over it.” I’m not sure we ever fully get past distrusting our own judgment. Or looking at every man we meet with scepticism.

Other women presume the men they’re meeting are straight. After all, only about 3% of the population is homosexual, so their chances are pretty darn good that they’re right, that the good-looking, charming man they’re meeting is, indeed, heterosexual.

But once you’ve been married to a homosexual, that statistic seems inverted. Somehow it feels as if 3% of the male population is heterosexual and the rest, certainly all the ones we’re meeting, are gay. Or less than fully masculine, anyway (which is another complaint altogether).

We look at a man with an eye toward evaluating whether he’s gay. In our self-defensiveness, he’s gay until proven otherwise. Okay, I’ve not fully figured out how to “prove otherwise.” I just doubt and essentially expect that he’s gay.

My mantra

During the earthquaking days of my discovery of my husband’s homosexuality, one thought kept going through my head:

If I’d been perfect, it still wouldn’t have been enough.

Resource Recommendation:

Prager, Dennis. Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization. Special Issue of Ultimate Issues 6.2 (1990).

I’m starting out these resource recommendations based on the resources that helped me back in the time when I was finding out about my husband. There are more recent works, obviously, but I’ve not read them yet – and, frankly, since all this is emotionally and spiritually taxing, I’m not going to be burning up records, buying and reading the newer sources. Bit by bit, brick by brick, right?

Dennis Prager’s Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization was probably the first thing I read on the topic, when I was starting to realize what was going on with my ex-husband. I’m pretty sure it was the first time I had heard of the collapse of the 1973 APA (American Psychiatric Association) Convention, when it was decided to remove homosexuality as a mental illness from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders).

Prager discusses that event and its ramifications clearly and rationally, which is useful. What I, as a then-evangelical Christian, found most useful – and continue to do as a Catholic – is that Prager looks at homosexuality from the perspective of a practicing Jew; he takes a theological and sociological analysis of homosexuality throughout history and its effects on civilization, particularly how the Judeo-Christian paradigm stands unique in history as requiring a heterosexual, monogamous sexual expression.

But he doesn’t limit himself. Prager looks at the behaviors of those other cultures, the ubiquity of homosexuality, relying on a scholarly work by a writer who is actually rather sympathetic to what was called, back then, gay liberation.

Then he addresses the biblical opposition to homosexuality (and here he is always addressing behaviors, not attractions or “orientations”). This is the work which also introduced me to the recognition that homosexuality is, ontologically, misogynist. “…it was Judaism, very much through its insistence on marriage and family and its rejection of infidelity and homosexuality, that initiated the process of elevating the status of women. While other cultures were writing homoerotic poetry, the Jews wrote the Song of Songs, one of the most beautiful poems depicting male-female sensual love ever written.”

The final section of the work addresses the social issues surrounding the homosexual controversy. At this point it should be noted that Prager’s a bit out-of-date: the Episcopal Church, the United Methodists, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., and others have long since approved the ordination of openly practicing homosexuals. Prager’s discussion of why it would be wrong to ordain homosexuals is still  very much applicable to why it was wrong for those denominations to change their historical position calling homosexuality sinful.

Some pithy quotes:
“Historically, it was Judaism’s sexual values, not homosexual relations, that have been deviant.”
“It is not overstated to say that the Torah’s prohibition of non-marital sex made the creation of Western civilization possible.”
“According to Genesis, man’s solitude was not a function of his not being with other people; it was a function of his being without a woman.”
“Women have suffered in societies that have been particularly tolerant of homosexuality. The emancipation of women has been a function of Western civilization, the civilization least tolerant of homosexuality.”
“Wherever homosexuality has been encouraged, far more people have engaged in it.”
“Societies, far more than individuals, choose whether homosexuality will be widely practiced.”
“If Judaism were more concerned with compassion, it never would have banned homosexuality in the first place. The whole world was celebrating it, yet the poor Jews got stuck with heterosexual marital fidelity.”

Judaism, Homosexuality and Civilization is available for $5 for a PDF download, or $12 for an MP3 download, or $15 for a disk through Dennis Prager’s web site.

Taking care of yourself: Grown-up pleasures

In the pursuit of wholeness and recovery after the divorce – maybe any divorce, but certainly a divorce from a homosexual husband – it is necessary we should pursue some adult-level pleasures:

1. Readers Digest has had it right, all those years: Laughter is the best medicine! Enjoy friends who make you laugh. Watch old comedies (for some reason, old comedies are much funnier than newer ones). I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Kathryn Hepburn and Cary Grant movies, Philadelphia Story, Holiday and Bringing Up Baby. And my first relationship after my divorce, I entered into simply because my friend made me laugh… and I realized after our first date that I’d nearly forgotten how to laugh.

2. As a reader posted in a comment, last night, Take up a new hobby. She mentioned learning a musical instrument; I already play a couple of instruments, and I can attest to the therapeutic value of music.

3. Dance! I took up contra dancing, learned to shag and swing. Wonderful activity and even more delightful social activity. One of the things I loved about contra dancing is that I could walk in the door by myself and dance every single dance of the evening, with a different partner each time – that’s one of the rules of the game. I’ve got a belly dance instructional DVD now – we’ll see how that goes.

4. Indulge in a “Gracious Lady Luncheon.” Put on your favorite dress and a hat and take yourself out to a “nice” place to eat. You know – the kind where the nice waitress comes and takes your order at your table and brings your food to you and clears away the plates when you’re done. Department stores used to have attached restaurants where customers could sit down for a nice meal; nowadays there are all sorts of little cafés and sandwich shops where the food is good and the ambiance charming.

5. I have go give Sarah Ban Breathnach credit for this one, from her book Simple Abundance*: create a scrapbook of things that you really love, using clippings from magazines, catalogs, etc. I was so confused by all the different messages I was processing about what I was supposed to like, do, be… this little exercise gave me a tangible means of sifting through all the data and discovering just what I, on my very own, like to surround myself with, wear, look at, do (flowers, the colors pink and red, dresses, antique hats, cats and dogs, roses, Chanel No. 5…)

6. Eat right and take your vitamins! — When we’re tired, physically or emotionally, and possibly depressed, it’s so easy to go to the “comfort foods,” and to eat in excess. Take up some culinary skills, go for good ingredients… but don’t just eat sandwiches because they’re easy and effortless.

As for vitamins, spend money and get good ones. The cheap ones don’t digest properly and aren’t absorbable in the bloodstream, so you’re literally flushing your money down the toilet by taking them. Try this: pour 1/4 cup of vinegar into a glass, and drop one of your current vitamins/supplements into the acid. Wait 15 minutes. If the vitamin is still sitting there, unchanged, then you’re not digesting the things. And if you don’t feel noticeably better in an hour or so after taking your vitamins, they aren’t being absorbed into your bloodstream.  I’ve gotten very good results with vitamins from Nature’s Plus (from my local health food store) and from Melaleuca (direct purchase, membership required).

7. Fresh air and sunshine. You’d think that would be obvious, wouldn’t you? But when we’re even mildly depressed, it’s easy to hole up inside the house in artificially heated or cooled comfort. How long can you wait to turn on the a/c in the summer? Fresh air is so much healthier, so much more invigorating, than air conditioned air.

And you don’t want to court skin cancer by getting a suntan, but you do need a few minutes’ exposure to sunlight every day. Open the curtains and flood your home with natural sunlight. Go out early and walk around the yard – or walk late in the day to destress after work. Take up an outdoor hobby that gets you outdoors, regularly.

8. Writing in a journal can be a good way of recording the changes that are going on inside yourself and serve as a very good catharsis.

To be continued…

 

*Ban Breathnach, Sarah. Simple Abundance. New York: Time Warner, 1995.

Taking Care of Ourselves – Childish pleasures

Make a picnic.

Sit out in the yard at night and look at the stars.

During a partly cloudy day, what pictures do you see in the clouds?

Buy a coloring book and a 64-count box of crayons. Color.

Play dress-up. What you wouldn’t dream of wearing in public, you can wear around the house. You can be a Princess, a Gypsy, a Greek goddess…

 

 

Taking Care of Ourselves: Count Your Blessings – Literally!

One of the most effective ways I fought depression during the Dark Days was what I came to call my “Blessings Journal.” I saw a bluebird in the backyard – not a common occurrence at the time – and grabbed a brand new notebook and wrote in it:

Bluebird!

After that, I noted rainbows, wildflowers, a deer grazing by the side of the road, compliments… anything and everything that reminded me that there was still beauty and sweetness in the world.

The listings got a bit more detailed: the way the light filters through the dogwood leaves in the back yard. or The smell of plowed ground when it starts to rain. Each incident, no matter how “ordinary,” served as a reminder that God loves me.

And, by making me more conscious of the beauty surrounding me at every turn, the notebook became a major tool in my personal battle against emotional defeat.

Taking Care of Ourselves – Professional help

Since there are no solid statistics on wives of gays, I can’t assert that all of us battle depression or anxiety disorder, but I bet that very nearly all of us do. The question in my mind is whether we would have done, in other circumstances.

No matter. The action must be the same: first, get professional help. Talk to your M.D. and see whether you need to be on medications for a while to help you get out of the emotional dungeon. Get some professional counseling to help you find your balance and you way back to “normal.”

You might even need help learning to know what “normal” looks like.

No, that advice is not 100% foolproof. You might have a doctor who’s eager to write up prescriptions whether they’re really needed, even when non-prescription therapy might be as effective or more so.  You might have to go through several different meds to find the one that balances you out better than the others – a disheartening and costly process. And finding a good counselor can be like pulling hen’s teeth. I’ve been blessed to have found two very good ones over the years, each of whom I saw on a short-term basis to help me over specific difficulties, but they are exceptional men and women.

You can do it all on your own, as I’ve done most of the time. But a good counselor can help speed up the process. Streamline it. I’ve done a lot of wheel-spinning and self-sabotage over the past 20 years, between my most excellent counselors, going it strictly on my own – but I’m stubborn, that way.

But even with professional help, the onus of responsibility falls on us to take care of ourselves. If you have meds, you have to take them regularly. If you have a counselor, you have to explain and too often defend your values systems. You have to pay attention and work with the counselor – he/she can’t do your work of getting well for you.

We really do have to take care of ourselves, that’s the whole point.

I’ll be sharing in some additional posts some of the helps I’ve found that kept my head above water during the bleak times.