Monday, January 25, 2010

Installment No. 3 - Coming Out Process

Hmmmm, I did not realize how long it had been since I posted last. To be honest, I had written this next installment weeks a go, but had some in trepidation about posting it. I have not figured out why, other then this is a personal story that impacts pepole that are very close to me and I am trying to be both honest and senstive at the same time ..................... here we go!

So here is where it gets a bit tricky. Tricky in the sense that over the past 4 years I have ended up in a place where I am the happiest I have every been, but it was hard getting here.

Whenever I tell someone my story, they always ask if it was hard. The answer of course is much more complicated then just simple yes or no. The older I get the more shades of grey I see and come to value in situations and this certainly is one of them.

Here is my attempt to explain what I mean. I had been through some life changes from a career perspective, my life slowed down significantly which gave me time to start questioning where I was in life and frankly if I was happy. The answers I kept getting back, when I was completely honest with myself, was that I was not happy (my daughter taught me a valuable lesson about being happy when she went off to college to play Div I volleyball and decided not to accept the scholarship and not attend that school. I think about that lesson often). I was not being honest or open to myself, my family and friends. I was turning 43 years old that year and I could not imagine being that unhappy for another 30 or 40 years ( I plan to live a long life :) ). Given that, it was time to make a change and deal with my feelings.

So I set out with the end in mind. I am a process guy at heart, and so I began to look at what was a head of me in methodical steps. Tasks that had to be completed before I was ready to speak to my wife, kids, mom, brothers/sister and friends. As you can imagine, trying to deal with this sort of situation in a task oriented way did not work out the way I had planned. My mind and emotions had their own plans.

What I had planned to do was after figuring out what I had been feeling for most of my life was real, in that I had my first experience with a man, was to get my life in order. My emotional, physical and financial life. I wanted to make sure I could support two households once I had come out to my wife and kids. I was not about to shirk my responsibilities to any of them.

From the financial aspect I began to prepare for the eventual separation and paid off cars, credit cards and looking for a much more secure job. I had, just a year earlier, opened up my own consulting company ( a life long dream of mine) but knew in order to meet my obligations to my wife and kids that I needed a steady pay check I could rely on vs weather I had paying clients or not. As luck would have it, I found a job in a few months that met our financial needs, so that task was done.

Next was how to tell my wife. I had no clue what so ever. So I looked around and found a therapist that specialzed in this sort of situation. I think it is important to understand that once I let myself deal with the fact that I am a gay man, I did not have an issue at all with that. I did not see the therapist to help me deal with that fact. Rather to help me explain that to my family. The biggest learning's I took away from my sessions with her was first to be honest and direct, and second, to give her time to catch up to me. I had months ( my whole life really) to deal with the fact that I am gay. She would have just moments to digest what I was about to tell her. That I needed to give her time to come to terms with the fact that her husband, after 22 years of marriage was telling her that he is gay and wants to move out of the house and live a different life. Man did that make sense to me. She needed time and it was not just all about me in this process. So after a few sessions I began to put a time line in place ( in my head ) of when to tell her. Again being the planning type I picked a date ( this all sounds so silly now to try to make this so formal a process ). The date was a few months away, it would take me that long to find the job, pay off bills etc. What I found however was that I was getting so anxious and nervous about telling her that I began to loose sleep. I had not slept a full night through in a few months. I think I got maybe two hours a night of sleep for almost 4 months. At the end of that time I was a basket case. I could not focus on work, the kids, nothing. One day, well before the date I had chosen to tell her, I lost it. I could not go on like this and I finally told her what was going on. ( unfortunately it was 3 days before our 23 wedding anniversary. I know, my timing sucked but there is never a good time to do this sort of thing) I was in tears before I even opened my mouth, and she was trying to figure out what could be wrong to cause me to be this upset. " I am gay", I said. As you can imagine she was shocked and was in disbelief. The conversation lasted a while that afternoon, we had many many more like that as she came to terms with the situation. Her first reaction was that I had found another women and using this as the reason, then the second was that she did not care and did not want to get a divorce and wanted to continue to be married to me. I was not about to agree to that............and not for the reason you most likely are thinking. I did not think that would be fair to her. She is a beautiful, smart intelligent women and staying in this situation over the long term would not give her the opportunity to find someone that would make her happy. These conversations continued for several weeks as we worked through the situation. We both went to visit the therapist to help. She needed a way to tell me what she was thinking and feeling, to express her anger, disappointment etc, and frankly I needed to hear that too. It was the right thing to do, as painfull as it was.

My new job started two months after I came out to her and it was in Kansas City MO and we were still in St Louis. My son was entering his Sr. year in high school so we were not moving him. I commuted between KC and STL for that year. She did not want to tell our son what was happening, she did not want this to be his lasting memory of his final year in high school. I reluctantly agreed. I would travel home to STL and we both would pretend, in public, that nothing had changed. Our conversations, in private, would continue, emotions very high as we both worked through the process. Discussions went on about what we would do after my son graduated, would she move to KC etc. She wanted us to continue to live together after the move. I could live my "double life" but in a marriage. After a few visits back to STL, I finaly told her that when she did move to KC, I was not going to live with her, that she would be on her own. ( I am talking being single, not financially). I did not think that living this way would be fair to her or to me. This was hard for both of us, but harder for her.

OK, I think that is enough for this installment. I am still working through how to talk about the coming out process with the kids...............


  1. Dear Alan, I hope you remember me from MCSI/FNBM in Las Vegas. I am so incredibly happy for you! I read your blog this afternoon and couldn't stop thinking of it. I read it again just now and am just beaming for you. My brother Adam and his partner Matt (8 years together) were married legally in California before the law changed in 2008 and had the ceremony in August 2009. Adam is a journalist for and also works for the Norman Lear foundation at USC. You look incredible, I can't believe the transformation! That's proof of how happiness can change your life! Congratulations to you and I look forward to reading more blogs in the future! PS.. I'm a proud sister and always forward my brother's stories.. Here is one to share with you.

    Emily Sanders (formally Rogers)

  2. Emily, thanks so much for the kind words and compliments. I apprecaite that very much. Yes I do remember your from Marin :)

    That is so cool about Adam and Matt, 8 years is amazing!!!! You must be proud of them both.

    I will read your brothers story today.

    Keep in touch,


  3. Emily, I just read the story, very cool. I love, LOVE Rent..........


  4. Alan,
    Yes, I'm very proud of them both for sure. They stay true to themselves and don't let anyone get them down. Adam specifically is very passionate about his place in this world. In college he worked for GLAD and worked hard at teaching others that we are all the same and should never be discriminated against.

    I know what he went through when he came out after high school and knew how difficult it was for him. I can't imagine how difficult that would have been for you to tell your family after 20+ years. I've seen what it has done for many of my friends after they come out. It's like a weight is lifted and they are just so much more happier to live their life without "the lie". I can tell that has happened for you! Literally 100 pounds of weight has lifted huh!!!

    Again, you look so fantastic and I'm so incredibly thrilled for you - I can't stop smiling for you! I'm sure that you've also inspired others with your story. I look forward to hearing more about all of the upcoming "chapters" that haven't been written yet. :)

    Here is my all time favorite article that my brother wrote. He really makes people think!