ex-hus­band’s se­cret is no longer yours to keep

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360BETS -

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.

cAroLYN hAX

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