I was five months pregnant when an innocent venture into my iCloud feature showed me the websites currently open on my boyfriend’s phone. Some of them dating sites. Some of them porn. All of them gay.
There had been some changes to his behavior since finding out I was pregnant, and I’d chalked them up to feeling the pressures of the American man to “provide” or whatever. The night I found out I was pregnant, he hadn’t come home. A few other nights he also hadn’t come home. These kinds of uncharacteristic rebellions became semi-normal, but never comforting.
He was "out with a friend" when I’d discovered this browsing history. Since he didn’t have many friends, I was beginning to wonder who he was really with. I joined as a member of one of the dating sites to get a closer look at what I was dealing with. It was a male to male hookup site. His profile said “my house ok” (my house? It was okay for them to come to MY HOUSE?). This was a site I knew for a fact some of my co-workers were members of, and I began to wonder if I was the only one who didn’t know.
I didn't freak out (at first). I mean why would those be up on his browser, there must be some hilarious story behind this, right? RIGHT?!? But when I began to think back on all of the times he didn't come home, or he seemed erratic, my head began to swirl. I tried to access his email, his Facebook, anything that would give me more information. He didn’t exactly have a good track record of being honest with me, but this was the first time I’d ever traced it to cheating. I was in a panic.
I wasn't angry as much as confused. I felt less angry than I'd think I'd feel if it was a male-female dating site. Because if he's gay, he's gay, and that doesn't speak to any of MY inadequacies. Instead, I felt compassion. I imagined that he’d been hiding this his whole life.
I spent a lot of time asking myself if he came out to me as bisexual could I live with that? Sure. Could I live with an adulterer of any sexual orientation? I don’t think so.
All the while, I was pregnant and getting even more pregnant with every passing day. I felt angry at him for doing this to me in such a vulnerable state. I felt terrified at the idea of having to start a new life prior to the arrival of my baby. I felt even more terrified at not having his financial support during my unpaid maternity leave.
In such an emotional state, I felt bitter that I hadn’t found this out in my first trimester, when maybe I would have had the option to not carry. After all, I’d always wanted a family, not just a sperm donor. But I loved my unborn child and it was a fleeting thought. As a woman in her mid-late 30s I was grateful to have a chance to become a mother, and grateful to him for helping me to become one. I vowed to show my child what it meant to carry on when unexpected things happen, and to never settle for less than he deserves.
When I confronted my partner, he denied it all. He still does. To an extent. I took a snapshot a picture of his online profile and sent it to him. While he denies any bisexuality and denies ever having met up with any men (or anyone for that matter), he did admit to finding the site risky and exciting. He said simply that there was a thrill in having an online persona that wasn’t really him. I’ll never know which story is true. But I know enough to know he’s not telling me everything.
We plugged along for the next few months in complete utter discomfort, largely ignoring my findings. He’d sold me enough on the “risky” aspect of his behavior for me to keep quiet and leave him alone. I became accustomed to walking on eggshells because I somehow felt bad that I’d discovered something he was ashamed of.
The day before I had the baby, I found he had another active profile on the same dating site I’d found him on months earlier. This time he’d left the browser up on the iPad. I left the house, and I sent him berating texts all night long. I sat in the parking lot of the hospital for hours that night, just hoping to go into labor so he would miss the birth and feel awful. I cried and cried and cried. I knew that night that we were over. Officially, irreparably over.
I went into labor the next day. We went to the hospital together, and the happenings of the night before were swept to the side in all the excitement of the birth of our child. I felt love, friendship and partnership in those moments. I also felt sadness. Because I knew we wouldn’t be a family the way I’d intended.
But we still are a “traditional” family even now. Traditional in the sense that we live together and co-parent very well. I should note he is an amazing father, and the love he has for our son makes officially separating very difficult. But, being with someone who is incapable of being honest with themselves, or the person who cares for them most, is a toxic relationship. I knew the line had to be drawn in the sand. I try daily to find a balance between being a mother AND a former partner to a man who either doesn't want help or doesn't know how to ask for it.
Even now, after our child’s birth, I can trace his history to sites of the non-hetero nature. I don't know why he won't tell me, and I don't know why he's ashamed. I’d actually be relieved if he'd come out of the closet to me. There were other reasons this relationship didn't feel right and the idea of both of us getting out without hard feelings, over something neither of us had control over, sounds AMAZING. Still does. Since that seems impossible right now, I hope that he can find the comfort he needs.
While on maternity leave I read another xoJane "It Happened To Me" about a woman who met the man of her dreams while pregnant with another man’s baby. It was comforting, it made me feel less alone and it gave me hope even though I felt fear of the single-mother-of-an-infant stigma. I'm not the first single mom. I’m not a pioneer. I’m not the first woman this has happened to. I thank all who tell their stories. You are not alone.