I started my business when I was 21, graduated with honors and a double degree at 22, was married at 23, and had a brand new car, a house and a storefront at 24.
Fast forward to year 26 and I was divorced, evicted, bankrupt and living with my parents.
Well, that escalated quickly.
In 2008 I met my to-be husband. He seemed like a nice guy: funny, good looking, and he could sing! A few dates later and we were official. A year later and we were engaged.
I started my business in late 2008 because I needed a hobby and an extra source of income. I was on Etsy at the beginning, and had success very early on. I was still working two part-time jobs, going to college full time and planning my wedding. Maybe if I hadn’t been so busy, I would have noticed the signs sooner.
I went to print an essay from my computer before I left the house to go to class for the day. And like all cheap Walmart printers, it decided to not work just when I needed it to. I ran into my fiancé’s office and jumped on his computer to print it. I went to log into my email and his was up so I went to log out, but caught a glimpse of an email title before I closed out: “Here are the pics you wanted ;)”.
OK I thought, it could just be a band member or a fan.
But immediately my heartbeat quickened. Should I click on it? Or just let it be? I felt ill, betrayed, enraged, and curious.
I clicked on it.
“Is that a dick?!”
My reality melted away and my life became one big blank stare. There was nothing else, but that email and the abyss it had created. Within it was a man, sitting at his desk with his penis out. The text in the email read something to the effect of, “I can’t wait to hook up again. It’s great that your girl is so busy.”
I didn’t print my paper. I just slammed the lid of his laptop shut so hard that I was hoping it would break in half -- just like I wanted to break him. I wanted to hurt him; I wanted to cause him pain and suffering; I wanted him to feel betrayed.
The wedding was only two months away.
At that time I wasn’t for or against gay rights. I was basically neutral because it didn’t personally affect me. Suddenly I was pissed at every single person I ever knew that had been anti-gay because they had inadvertently contributed to this deception and the need for gays to live clandestine lives.
That night after class I met up with my best friend at the local coffee shop. I had texted her earlier in the day saying that I had something important to show her and told her to bring her laptop. I knew my fiancé’s Gmail password, because it was his band’s email address that I helped manage (he was an aspiring country singer locally). So I logged in and showed her the evidence.
She had about the same reaction I did, and sat there slack-jawed and bewildered. After a few moments of silence she reached over, hugged me and told me she loved me.
We went through the rest of his inbox, and found that he was also a member of several gay and transgendered dating sites. She asked if I was OK looking at his profiles and I said yes; I wanted to know how deep the rabbit hole went.
He had full profiles on all the sites, with the tagline “married, discreet” or “just fucking, in a serious relationship.” Most of the pictures of him were dick pics, but then there was one that he had cropped. It was a picture of me and him! But he had cropped me out!
And then, he called. I saw his name pop up on my phone screen. I stared at it, at this point more numb than angry as my world began to implode. I answered.
“Hey babe, when do you think you’ll be home tonight? Just curious.”
“I honestly don’t know, I am getting coffee right now.”
“Oh alright, is everything OK? You seem upset or something?”
“Just a long day at school, I’ll see you soon.”
“OK, say around 9? Love you.”
CLICK. I hung up. All that was running through my mind was that he was hooking up with some dude in our house. In our bed. On our couch. Was this really my life?
I got home around 10 that night. I almost just went to my friend’s house for the night, but I knew I had to face reality.
My fiancé had called me several other times, but I refused to answer. I literally had no idea what to do. I was both enraged and defeated. I loved him. I trusted him. I was supposed to build a life with him. I took a deep breath and opened the door.
He was sitting on the couch, playing Halo like usual. He turned as soon as he heard me shut the door.
“Why the hell weren’t you answering your phone? I was worried sick about you!”
“That’s all you have to say? I thought you said you would be home at 9? Jesus.”
“We need to talk.”
“About what now?! Goddamn are you trying to make this about me now?”
“It is different this time, it’s important.”
I just stood there. I looked at him and then I stared at my feet, “Are you cheating on me?”
His face turned red instantly, like someone had flipped a guilt switch. “What the hell, where is this coming from?”
“I am asking you a simple question: Are you, or are you not, cheating on me?”
“OK, just come here and sit down and we can talk.”
“I’d rather stand. Answer the question or I am leaving right now.”
“OK, OK, OK.” He was waving his hands frantically. “I have been on a few dating sites recently.”
“What the fuck! Why??”
“Because you are never home and I am lonely.”
I was the one paying all of the bills while he built up his band. But he was right, I was gone a lot. The conversation went back and forth between him blaming me for his escapades and me asking him if he ever physically met anyone.
After an hour of fire breathing I let him embrace me, and he started to cry. He said that it was only a curiosity, that he wasn’t gay, and that he loved me. He wanted to still get married. After millions of apologies and promises I forgave him. I was naive, because I thought that being gay was something that he could change.
In 2010, I married a gay man. He loved me. And I loved him.
But obviously that wasn’t enough. It never could be enough. In 2013, after three years of fighting and infidelity, I asked for a divorce.
Our relationship had been based on a lie, so the foundation was never even there. My business tanked. I lost my best friend. I lost my car and my house. My family had even become distant, but they said I could move home.
My husband didn’t want the divorce and desperately fought to make it work. He said he loved me, and honestly I believed him. He said he hadn’t talked to any men since I moved out. I almost believed him.
I just knew that he probably could love and be loved by someone else in a much more real way. I didn’t want to live a life where I was a cover story.
The first month of separation I got a full panel STD test. One of my husband’s lovers apparently had herpes, because I did now too. That was the only “proof” I needed. I was mad but also relieved that it wasn’t something worse.
I lost most of my friends, as my husband claimed I started an affair and that’s why I left him. I resorted to drinking heavily, and I moved in with my parents. I wanted to tell the world what had actually happened but the only proof I had was herpes, which I didn’t want to publicly share.
It came down to me threatening my husband in the end, saying I had saved all of his emails and I would send them to everyone important in his life. He didn’t call my bluff, and like magic, the rumors stopped.
When we had our day in court and the divorce was final, I went home and drank by myself. Should I tell my family the truth? It was embarrassing, because I had always considered myself a fairly attractive woman, but now I was confused about my own sexuality.
After a lot whole lot of cherry vodka, I wrote my Mom a letter:
“Mom, I know you are confused and frustrated with me because I left my husband. I have no job. I drink too much. I am depressed. I want you to know the truth. Brent cheated on me, and it wasn’t with a woman. I love you.”
I left it on her coffee table.
That next morning, mom approached me and just stared at me for a solid minute, with tears welling in her eyes. “I had no idea. I am so sorry.” She wrapped me a hug so tight and warm that I felt five years old again.
It’s now 2015, and my life has been pieced back together. My business is rising from the rubble. I support gay rights today, because I was married to a gay man. I have donated my time and efforts to local Gay Pride events as much as I can. Around the holidays this last year, my cousin came out as being gay. I was a bit surprised when my parents both embraced him.
When people ask about the divorce now, I say I couldn’t handle the stress of being with a musician, and it caused us to constantly fight. Thankfully that question doesn’t come up very often anymore, as I was young, didn’t have any children and have moved to a new town.
Sometimes it’s almost as if that chapter of my life was a bad dream -- one with a very distant silver lining.
My ex-husband has not publicly “come out” and he still is an up-and-coming country music performer, so I don’t know he if actually ever will. Maybe he will be the first country singer to come out and blaze a path for the rest.
All I can do is hope that one day he will be happy, that he can find his kind of real love, and finally be set free.