Carol Grever had been married for more than 30 years when her spouse, Jim, came out as gay. With two sons in their 30s, Carol was 50. Jim was 51. Putting the anger behind her, Carol has turned that devastating experience into a new life and new career. We begin Carol’s story with Carol talking about the divorce.
My husband didn’t tell me he wanted a divorce. He wanted to stay with me. He just wanted me to know he was gay and that he intended to continue acting on it. He had been promiscuous really for 25 years. That was what hurt the most – that he had been unfaithful for all those years of our marriage. I felt stupid. I felt blind.
It’s a little similar to someone whose spouse has had multiple affairs with women but in one way it’s easier. If my husband had been having affairs with other women, I would have tried to compete and get him back – I loved him, I still love him. However, having affairs with men, there’s no way I can compete. It had nothing to do with my attractiveness or my sexuality. However, you don’t understand any of that at the very beginning. What you see is I’m losing my husband. There must be something wrong with me and so it’s a blow to your self-esteem.
I don’t know how many times interviewers have asked me how could you not know that your husband was gay? How could you not see he was different from others?
Well, he was very good at compartmentalizing and covering up what he was doing. His job was such that he was able to travel on his own and when he was away, he was a gay man. When he was with me, he was straight. He was able to separate those two identities successfully for years. It was only when he came to that midlife crisis age – about 45 – that he started behaving differently and it did occur to me that he might be having an affair. He changed the way he dressed, he dyed his hair, he tried to look younger, he bought a very expensive Mercedes convertible and I thought chick bait. Well, it was except he was looking for other men.
When we divorced, I lived in this very large house with a large garden. I’ll confess, I was afraid. I was scared somebody would break in. I guess my greatest fear though has been that I would grow old by myself. That I would be alone, lonely and it looked like that was going to happen because I was at an age where I didn’t feel I could remarry. I felt old. I felt unattractive. I didn’t know what to wear. I couldn’t figure out who I was. We had sold our business so I didn’t have an office to go to. I didn’t know what I was supposed to look like. The clothes I bought in those days were dark colors. I looked like I was in mourning. I guess I was. They were all too big for me because I felt fat. It was a terrible time. No wonder I was mad at him!
I was reluctant to date. I was scared to death, to be quite clear. At my age, I was not willing to go out and do all the things one does as a 20 something. Then I went on a trip with a group from the University of Colorado and I rekindled a friendship of 15 years on that trip. I had known him from a business point of view for years but it never occurred to me that there might be something more there. Well, we ended up marrying a year later.
I know I’m a different person now. I hardly recognize the person I was when I was married to Jim. In the long run, this has been a very good thing. Can you imagine?
The Divorce Coach Says
Carol Grever is the author of two books, My Husband is Gay: A Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Crisis, and When Your Spouse Comes Out: A Straight Mate’s Recovery Manual. She has also produced a DVD, One Gay, One Straight: Complicated Marriages.