ex-husband’s secret is no longer yours to keep
After 22 years of (what I thought was) a storybook marriage, my husband confessed to me that he had been secretly pursuing his latent sexual attraction to men. I was devastated but determined to make sure our divorce was amicable and respectful. We have since both been kind and generous to each other and have made our split comfortable for our two children.
Though he has a steady, public “friend,” he has chosen to be elusive and not publicly come out, and this has left our friends asking me well-intended questions in their efforts to support me. I feel like my past marriage was a lie for so long, and I never want to have to lie to others again. I need the support of my friends. His own family was very hurt and confused and ready to blame me, and I had to tell them in order to save my relationship with this family I loved and was losing.
I know I’m not supposed to care about what other people think, but it’s also important to me that I not lie to friends and family members. How obligated am I to keep his secret?
Dear Conflicted: You’re not. Many of your obligations are things that, by your account, you’ve already done: You looked out for your children, you worked hard to keep the divorce amicable, you were sensitive in letting your husband set the pace for going public with his homosexuality. But enough is enough. You have feelings, too, and your now-ex-husband owes you as much sensitivity to your needs as you showed for his.
Especially now that your ex is appearing publicly with a steady male companion, you are more than entitled to tell the truth about why your mar- riage dissolved.
I say that, though, with two caveats: First, it can’t be even remotely about payback. That doesn’t seem to be what you’re after, however, it’s easy for someone who feels wronged — and you were indeed wronged — to derive a sense of satisfaction from saying, “It wasn’t me, it was his fault.”
So tell your innermost circle and leave it at that. This is about securing needed support and removing the weight of secrecy, not about setting the record, er, straight. Your husband’s public appearances and the adding of 2-plus-2 will disseminate the truth naturally anyway.
The second caveat: You don’t need his permission, but you do owe your ex a courtesy call before you drop your end of the veil. Explain that you’ve gladly given him time to emerge at his own pace and will continue to have his back — but, now that he seems to have emerged just fine, you’re going to answer questions truthfully instead of evading them.
I only wish you had gone with the courtesy call before you told his parents, to give him a chance to level with them himself. In what appears to have been a disciplined response to this unwelcome challenge, that might be the one time you flinched. Your husband deceived you awfully, yes, but it still wasn’t fair to risk his relationship with his family just to save your own.