Fairy Tale Gone Awry

This story appeared originally on Feminist Mormon Housewives in June of 2012 at the following link.

Once upon a time there was a girl who looked kind of like Snow White. Her mom made her a Snow White Halloween costume one year when she was in eighth grade, and she wore it every year and to other costume events when they presented themselves for several years. During this time, she met her Prince Charming. They sat next to each other in their madrigal choir class their senior year of high school. She asked him to the first girl’s choice dance of the year and the rest was history. They had LDS seminary and AP English and concert choir together as well as madrigals. They ate lunch together and became pretty much inseparable. It took many months of dating before Prince Charming even kissed Snow White. It was frustrating to her, but she just took it as a sign of what a respectful (and shy) son of God he was, with much strength and integrity at controlling his feelings and actions.

It was very difficult to be without him for two years while he served a mission, but she endured, and wrote faithfully. She dated other boys, but if things started to get too serious, she would call it off because she had to wait and give her Prince Charming a chance.

Maybe it was the influence of the “City of Brotherly Love,” but within ten days of Elder Charming’s arrival home from Philadelphia, the royal fairy-tale couple was engaged, and two and a half months later, they were married in a Mormon castle, also known as the Salt Lake Temple. Figures of Snow White and Prince Charming and even the seven dwarfs adorned their wedding cake.

Yes, this is my story. It started out as a fairy tale, but that does not mean that life was perfect. Any marriage is very difficult, and is fraught with issues like finances and sick children and heartbreak and tears. But we endured rough times, and we supported each other both financially and emotionally as much as we could. He started a business; I began teaching high school math. The children came one by one, and for most of them he was a fabulous stay-at-home dad while I touched the lives of other children at my full-time job. He liked to cook, I hated it. I liked the yard work, and he did everything he could to get out of manual labor in the yard. Together we made an excellent team most of the time. We were the perfect little Mormon family, frequently serving in positions in the church that involved music, but also in positions of leadership, like Executive Secretary and Elders’ Quorum President and Primary President.

One of Scott’s clients hired him full time, and we had a beautiful home built for our family. Deciding exactly what features we wanted in our home was very stressful, and I always thought that if our marriage could survive that, we could survive anything.

Then in 2008, after thirteen years of marriage, four children and a recent wonderful and spiritual family vacation to Nauvoo, Scott said he had something important to tell me. He sat there, nervous, unable to say the words. Being a very intense and anxious person, I began to pace, fearing the worst. I suggested things that he might be trying to tell me: “Did you lose your job?” “Are you dying of cancer?” Finally, when I had begun having a panic attack in anticipation, I turned so he couldn’t see my face–just in case that would help him speak–and he said “I’m gay.”

I was so relieved that it wasn’t one of my other fears. We laughed about that a bit. Then we talked some more and he gave me a copy of a book called “No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around our Gay Loved Ones” by Carol Lynn Pearson. Finally, we went to bed, but I couldn’t sleep as the shock settled in and I began to cry. As the days and weeks progressed, we talked about the gay thing constantly, and we began to tell Scott’s family and then our two oldest children. Our marriage actually became stronger and we went through a honeymoon phase of sorts, rediscovering intimacy with each other based on this new enlightenment. We started blogs and documented our journey. I even wrote an anonymous letter to some sisters in my ward that had said ignorant things in Relief Society one day during a lesson on the family proclamation regarding gay marriage being the work of Satan and how some gay couples even want to adopt children.

Eventually the bishop found out through an anonymous tip, we assume from someone in Scott’s family even though they all deny it. He called us in, and was very serious about drilling Scott on his adherence to the law of chastity in both thought and action. He would not let us use the word “gay”, and was very upset about the letters I had sent to the sisters in the ward, which shared my changed view and support of gay rights. In November 2008, two days prior to the Proposition 8 Gay marriage ban in CA, Scott came out to our ward in Fast and Testimony meeting. The next month he baptized our third child. Things changed with how members of our ward interacted with us, some for the better, but many for the worse. At the end of that same month we began to have monthly parties at our home for gay Mormons that we had met through our blogs online. It was incredible to meet such wonderful people, to provide a place of sanctuary and refuge for many of them that were either still in the closet or that had been rejected by family. We and our children loved and accepted them for who they were.

Also around that same time, Scott was finally ready to act on my request that he have a vasectomy. Pregnancy and birth control pills are both very hard on me, and since he now felt that the future of our marriage was uncertain, he agreed it best that we not have any more children. Imagine our surprise a year later when I discovered I was pregnant. Just a month or so prior to this news, we had both been unable to renew our temple recommends from both our Bishop and Stake President because of our associations with other gay Mormons and our public views on gay rights. Scott had recently stopped attending church, and now became very depressed at the news of the pregnancy. He began to let go of me emotionally little by little. He was honest with me every step of the way, saying that he couldn’t survive our marriage if he didn’t also get some male interaction and touch.

He began cuddling, with my permission, with other gay Mormon friends of ours. Then he began frequenting gay clubs and bars. He began to have a drink once in a while. At first I was furious about his drinking. The tension in our marriage became very difficult for both of us, especially through a physically miserable and emotionally-fraught pregnancy. Then, a month after our sweet little boy was born, Scott wrote me a letter saying that we were over, that he could not be in an heterosexual marriage any more. He moved downstairs. He resigned from the church. Each blow of change in my life was so hard, but I tried to understand and endured and we remained fairly good friends as we continued to co-parent while separated within our own home.

When family or friends were critical of his actions, I would defend him for the most part. He did not choose to have feelings for men. And if he stayed with me at this point he would be condemning himself to a life half-lived. He would have died little by little internally, and it would not have been good for either of us nor for our children.

He stayed in the basement for about a year, but things became more and more tense again, and finally we both decided it best if he move out. What an incredibly painful experience that was for both of us last summer! Scott experienced panic attacks and I thought my heart was breaking to little pieces.

But time heals and it does get better. Life is not easy as a full-time teacher and single mother of five, but Scott helps a lot and things are really good between us now. We are still very much a family and the kids even recognize that things are mostly better this way.

None of us really attend church any more, but I’m not sure yet if that is a temporary or permanent change for me and the children. I know that taking a break is what’s best for us at the moment, but many in our extended families continue to worry about our lack of church attendance, and so I’m always a little bit anxious talking to them and wondering if anything will be said, because sometimes it is and their disappointment is obvious.

I never dreamed that I would find myself in this situation. But despite the challenges, I would not trade my five beautiful children or the many friends I have made through this process. I have grown in so many ways, and I know that the rest of my story has yet to be written. I firmly believe that life has great things in store for me. Hope is such a beautiful thing.