It was about five years ago that I found out the man I had been living with for 10 years was gay. And I don't mean he was my roommate and I had inexplicably not noticed his gentle touch with household ferns or his uncanny ability to pick out a cute outfit for me. I keed, I keed. I know all gay men aren't fashionable green thumbs. Not all of them know the difference between hummus and Baba ghanoush or can make a mean quiche. No, I mean this was the man I was supposed to marry. We were engaged and had just started to make some wedding plans when he dropped the gay bomb on me.
There is simply no underestimating the devastation of finding out the man you'd spent most of your adulthood with was gay and had been seeing men on the side for quite awhile. But ... I'm glad it happened. Here's why.
Before I found out about my fiancé, I had some pretty solid ideas about relationships. I grew up in a dysfunctional family and watched my mother make a lot of bad choices in men. That's the key word: Choices. I figured this whole man-woman thing was simple enough. You just had to choose the right person.
It was the same with my friends: When they complained about their boyfriends or husbands, I was usually ready with some kind of pithy response like, "Well, didn't you know this about him?" Didn't matter if he was an alcoholic, overspent, cheated, or (a real example) turned out to be in the Mafia. I'd be all, Ohhhh, didn't you know? Yeah, I was judgmental. It was inconceivable to me that you wouldn't be able to tell, pretty much right off the bat, what kind of man you were getting involved with. It didn't occur to me that people change -- or that people can be pretty damn good at hiding things.
So when this happened to me, a lightbulb flashed on. Ohhhh, you mean bad things can happen to smart people? You mean people don't necessarily walk around with signs saying, "I'll cheat on you" or "My social drinking is going to become a real problem down the line" or "Maybe I'm great with the dog, but I'm going to be a lousy dad"? Now I was the one getting the ol' Ohhhhh, didn't you know? eyebrow raise. Karma is a bitch.
Now when I see judgmental comments online, or I hear them in real life, I just laugh. You wait, I think. In fact, I think most of the time when women are being judgmental about other women's relationships, they just haven't found out something about their husbands yet. If you haven't, and never do, then you should still be nice to those not as lucky as yourself -- because you didn't necessarily choose correctly. Luck played a role too.
My gay fiancé made me a better person. A better friend. A better listener. In short, he wisened me up. I'm not saying everyone will be betrayed in a relationship -- but at some point, almost everyone finds themselves looking at their significant other and thinking, Who are you? How did I get here?
That said, at first, you're a victim. Then you're a volunteer. Being non-judgmental doesn't mean I'm not going to tell you that you're being delusional if you are. But I'll do it nicely.
Has a breakup ever made you a better person?
Image via Vinni23/Flickr