When her boyfriend of 10 years broke the news that he was gay, Kiri Blakeley felt blindsided. “One night, Aaron (not his real name) called me into the living room as I was in the bedroom getting ready for bed by saying, ‘Kiri, we need to talk.’ I came in and sat down, not knowing what to expect. He told me he was having ‘confusion’ about his sexuality. It was the absolute last thing I expected to hear,” Blakeley says.
When Blakeley, a blogger for Forbes.com and author of Can’t Think Straight: A Memoir of Mixed-up Love, asked him what he meant by “confusion,” he said he’d been “fantasizing” about other men. “We then talked a lot. It became clear that he wanted to explore those fantasies and that our relationship needed to end, because he wanted to explore those on his own,” she says. The next day, still hoping her boyfriend wasn’t really gay, Blakely looked on their shared computer and found “pictures that he’d been sending to men, and his browser history showed he’d been browsing the M4M ads on Craigslist almost every day.” She then called her boyfriend at work, and he admitted that he’d been cheating on her with men for the past two years.
We talked to Blakeley about her experience to see how others might learn from it and if she believes there are any “signs” that one’s partner is gay. Here’s what she had to say.
View Singles on Match.com
Q: What was his reason for not telling you earlier about his feelings for other men?
A: The main thing was that he did not want to be gay. He simply didn’t want it. It’s a difficult life; even though he lived in New York City, worked in an artistic industry, didn’t grow up in a religious household and had a tolerant family and an openly gay sister. This wasn’t something he envisioned for himself. In reality, however, his life changed very little after he came out… except he lives with a man now. He has the same friends, family and job. It was all down to fear. Also, he told me he didn’t relate to the stereotypical image of a gay man — someone who is effeminate, who wears certain kinds of clothes and listens to certain music. These are HIS words, not mine.
Q: After you talked with him about his true feelings, did you start to realize there were signs all along? If so, what were they? Are there any universal signs women should be aware of?
A: Nope, there were no signs of homosexuality, no signs of cheating — none. I know that’s a scary thought to accept. If this hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t believe it, either. I will say that our sex life had slowed down considerably. However, we’d been together over a decade, and I knew many friends who had the same issue. I thought that was just what happened in a long-term relationship. He also grew a beard about a year before he came out, and it turned out he was sending pictures of it to other men who liked beards. But many men grow beards; are they all gay? You tell me!
There are no universal signs. Anyone who wants to say, “Well, you were engaged for 10 years and not married, that’s a sign,” go ahead and say it. But it was me who was reluctant, not him. He wanted to get married, and pressed me on it two weeks before he came out. I was reluctant because everyone in my family was divorced and I was a bit worried that getting married would ruin our relationship. I finally decided that thinking that way was ridiculous and we moved forward with our wedding plans… and then he told me. For me, having a loving relationship was the goal, not a marriage certificate.
Q: Have you heard many stories from other women who shared a similar experience to yours?
A: Oh yes, I’m getting a lot of emails from women. Some had it happen to them in the past and they were equally floored. They seem to be the only ones who understand that there aren’t red (or, in this case, rainbow-colored) flags waving in your face when someone decides to hide something. Some women even told me their guys were physically intimate with them on a regular basis — and also with men. So, maybe they were bisexual. Who knows? The jury is still out on bisexuality, according to experts. Other women have been married with children for decades, then logged into their husband’s computer last week — looking for tax information or something — and found nude photos or emails from men. They are completely taken by surprise by this, left questioning everything they know about their marriage. It’s hard to hear, but if someone wants to hide something, it’ll get hidden. And that’s just reality, I’m afraid.
Q: How did the knowledge that your boyfriend was gay and subsequent breakup affect you?
A: It affected me in every single way possible. I distrusted people in general. I distrusted my own judgment — not just about people, but everything. You have to understand, Aaron was the kind of guy every woman dreams of finding. Sweet, reliable, romantic, helpful, supportive and honest… or so I thought. He did everything right. He had everything the dating advice books tell you to look for in a man. And yet he was chronically — for years — cheating on me with men. To know that someone can act so lovingly towards you, to always say that he wants to marry you, and then find out he’s been sneaking out and lying to you all along — well, you just sort of have a mental breakdown. You don’t understand people anymore. You have to learn everything all over again.
Q: Did your experience with him affect your ability to trust yourself and others around you? If so, how have you dealt with it?
A: Yes, I stopped trusting other people and myself. I dealt with it by drinking more than I usually do and deciding that I would shut down my emotions. I thought: If I can’t trust a guy like Aaron, then I can’t trust anyone. So I decided that I would just be a sexual being, not an emotional one. I still wanted to feel a connection but it couldn’t be emotional, because that was too much of a high-risk proposition. However, that didn’t work out because I’m not really like that. I want love; I want an emotional connection. That’s just who I am. Unfortunately, people who do this kind of thing often leave their partner in emotional turmoil. They figure out who they are, and then they move on. It’s the partner who gets left behind that continues to struggle.
Q: Did things eventually improve for you?
A: I’m much happier than I was after the break, of course! I’m in a committed relationship now. I have made peace with my ex and still consider him a friend. But I’m not going to deny that what happened still affects me, because I know now with crystal-clear clarity that you can never be completely certain you really know another person — and, of course, that’s scary. But that’s life. I would rather have that than the alternative!
Q: What advice would you give to others who are going through this or have gone through it in past relationships?
A: Everyone has a different process. Some people will stay home, do yoga, meditate and watch Oprah. Others, like me, will go a little wild. I can’t say which is better. The only thing I can say is to not do something you can’t take back, like taking revenge by destroying your partner’s personal effects or calling all of your friends to tell them everything. That will end up hurting you more than your partner. There are support groups out there, too, like Straight Wives and the Straight Spouse Network. I didn’t know about them when it happened to me, but they could be helpful for some women that find themselves in the same situation.