I’m an artist. Being an artist is my salvation. I decided on that path when I was 7 years old. It allowed me to escape when my sisters were screaming, and pleading “Daddy please stop! Please stop.” When it wasn’t me that time. There was only once when he broke into that secret world and raging he threw a scissors at me. It stuck me in my face. My early marriage was supposed to save me. My young husband was my white knight. Instead he married me to save him – I just never knew what I was supposed to save him from. So I buried myself in my own little world of art and poetry and my children. And I didn’t dare ask myself if I was happy.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

How did I get it so wrong?

Someone asked in our straight wives group the other day, “How did I get it so wrong?”

Well I can speak only from my own experience but I have continually been amazed at how many of us had the same experiences and reacted the same way. I don’t
believe that was by coincidence. I think we were all chosen for a reason – because we all fit a certain type. Before we were even married my gay ex told me I was the “perfect woman”. We were still just teenagers so I didn’t understand how he could know what the perfect woman was like. It may have even been unconscious on their part, but I believe they knew early on what they needed or wanted in a wife for their unauthentic deceptive life. They seemed to learn early on what kind of woman would be a good cover. Maybe they even believed it was a certain kind of woman who could “fix” them however they believed that would happen. They seemed to have had a concept of what they would need in a woman to hopefully keep those gay desires at bay. It was all up to her – that perfect woman. And when these secretly gay husbands could not keep those thoughts and desires from their mind, they chose to see that as their wife’s fault for they could never accept any responsibility themselves. They believed their wife could not, or would not, do what was necessary to make them straight and they grew to hate her for that.

So what kind of a woman were they looking for? What qualities did we all possess in kind that they were all looking for in a wife? Maybe we could all write books on that one! Not what was it about us that made it our fault even though that might be how the gay exes would prefer to frame the question? But what good qualities in us were taken advantage of, usurped really, and drained of their potential to create our own happiness?  What was it that they stole from us besides our time and potential for our own lives? Maybe it was our faith in people, belief in our own perceptions or intuition, trust in our own ability to make good choices, or smart choices, belief that we deserved more, or questioning of our own sanity, or goodness. Maybe it was the ability to trust another man or your own ability to know a “good” one when you saw one. Because of that, especially with those who endured long marriages with these deceivers like myself with a 39 year relationship, 34 years married, it may be too late, recovery take too long, to ever experience another potentially happy union with a good and straight man. To never truly know how it feels to be loved by a straight man. Maybe it was all of those things that we lost… that were stolen from us.

Yes because they were cowards, we were allowed to accept all of the blame for the failure of our marriages and for our own unhappiness, and our gay ex’s unhappiness too. Maybe even for the entire family. Even when he continually rejected your sexual advances night after night you were made to believe there must be something wrong with you. I called it looking for the right key. It was my job, that plus carrying the entire emotional life of the marriage.  Because we were brainwashed, we accepted the complete burden of it all as our own, alone. We were made to own it at the same time they were disowning it, time after time. As my gay ex said so many times, he had no problems except for me – I was his only problem. We were all made to accept that as the truth of our lives together all so that our gay husbands wouldn’t have to accept their own authentic selves.

I believe early on that we let ourselves create a myth of the “forever husband.” We filled in the frequent silence with what we were sure they were really thinking, feeling ...making mental excuses for their "inability" to express their deep and true love which we just had to believe they really felt but couldn't express. I went so far as to tell myself he had some sort of disability somehow tangled up with his dyslexia and he couldn't put his love for me into words but I KNEW he felt it. And I went further to convince myself that if he had developed any other disability it would be my duty to accept it if I really loved him, so I must accept this one. But I was wrong, we were all wrong. It was all a myth and unbeknownst to us we all helped to create it. We made the mistake of believing in them. They didn't deserve it. They didn’t deserve us. They certainly didn’t deserve the lifeblood of our true and pure love, or all the other good parts of our selves that they stole one piece at a time over our lifetimes. We deserved more...so much more…but we didn't get it so now we have to give it to ourselves; we have to love ourselves and forgive ourselves for giving so much of ourselves away to men like them. We need to believe in ourselves! After all we are still standing, wounded maybe but still here. We have rescued what remains of our authentic selves and we must flourish. We cannot allow ourselves to give one more drop of our precious true self to such undeserving, narcissistic men.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Still Feeling Lost

                                                        © MaureenKavaneyTillman

The overriding feeling of mine that prompted this digital artwork was that of floating above everything, of being disconnected and lost. It's a feeling I have struggled with for way too long. One of my fellow straight wives saw something else in this piece. First of all that is what I want my work to accomplish, so that everyone who looks at it comes up with their own story of what my work means to them. My  friend saw rebirth here, of putting the pain of the past in the past where it belongs and allowing oneself to be reborn into their new authentic beautiful life. I prefer her interpretation, her cup half full, over my continually cup half empty outlook on my situation. I need to adopt it. Thanks friend.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I hung my head down
til my chin burrowed into my chest.

My feet felt like they
were sinking into the ground.

I had witnessed the dissolution
of my family, my life's work.

I don't recognize
what's in front of me.

I don't recognize
my previous life.

© Copyright poetry and artwork Maureen Kavaney Tillman 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bonnie Kaye ... Teacher, Advisor, Friend

There is one woman I credit for my recovery and healing from the devastation of discovering my husband was gay. Her name is Bonnie Kaye, herself a straight wife survivor. She has dedicated her life to helping women in this situation find their way out. Late one evening in 2007 when I was at rock bottom not knowing where to turn I decided to email the author of many of the books I had been reading as I searched for months for guidance. It was Bonnie Kaye. Although I felt that such a busy well-known author would never have the time to respond to me, I proceeded anyway and wrote and wrote pouring my heart out onto the pages of my email describing my 39-year relationship with my husband. I sat staring at the email on my screen for a long time before gathering the courage to hit send. I was afraid it was going to be just another vain attempt at finding solace. So I was completely stunned when within 5 minutes Bonnie had answered me saying, “I am here for you.” And she has walked beside me the whole way this past decade. I could not have done it without her. She is the author of 6 books on the subject of and for straight wives of gay husbands including these 2 of her more recent editions for which I was honored to create the covers :

Message from Bonnie Kaye:
“My goal is to get this message out that you are not responsible for your husband’s homosexuality. You had no part in creating it, nor could you prevent it from surfacing when it did. Almost all gay husbands love their wives when they get married. They are hoping this love will be strong enough to stop those attractions to men—but it’s not. In time, their feelings surface or resurface and they need to act on them. Gay is not a choice because if it were, no man who is married would “choose” it. However, honesty to you, the wife, is a choice. The greatest gift a gay husband can give his wife is the truth. As difficult as it is to know this, it is much worse not to know it and not understand why your marriage is so off track. I can offer you information that will help you come to terms with your situation, free monthly newsletters loaded with important information, on-line support chats twice a week, and pain-pals to help you one-on-one get through the worst of times. I am here for you to listen, console, and help. Feel free to contact me at any time.”                                                                                              Bonne Kaye

Sunday, June 16, 2013

In a Dark Place

                    Awakening in this dark place ...

                               I was taking it a day at a time,
                               Like some 12-stepper working the program.
                               Now I am taking it one step at a time,

                                To get from morning til night.

      © Copyright for all poetry, prose and artwork belongs to Maureen Kavaney Tillman

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This Straight Wife is Still Here

I was too young, too innocent, and too gullible to be getting married, but I believed we were destined for happily-ever-after.  It was 1971. I was leaving my abusive father’s house to create a new life with my young husband. We were 20 - year - old college students. I was an artist, a poet … and a dreamer. I thought he would be my rescuer.

Instead he married me to rescue him - to fix him  - and as a cover. Not as a partner nor a lover nor even a friend. And he understood early before any vows were exchanged that I would not fix him, or in truth I could not, and he hated me for it.  It was all a secret, one that I was too blind, too invested in denial to understand or accept... for almost 40 years.

So I woke one morning and realized my whole life had been a lie. The marriage I thought was - never existed. The man I knew and loved -  never existed. I needed to grieve for a husband I lost who never existed. It was crazy time.  It would be a long time before I would trust my own perceptions again.

I had come into my marriage with one little cloth suitcase. I left with a moving van. I bought a house I loved and prepared it for my new solitary life and retirement. Then the Great Recession befell this country and I could no longer keep up with the expenses. Recessions have no quarter for artists and poets … or dreamers.

These days my life remains in storage – my furniture, artwork and art supplies – everything, as I figure out what the next stage of my life will look like. But I can still afford new art supplies, and writing just requires pen and paper, or my laptop. And hopefully new dreams will come.

My creative self helped me escape an abusive father, sheltered me from an unhappy marriage, and now in my 60s comforts me in my confusion and loss. Being an artist or writer is solitary work, just as is losing myself in the land of denial. Today I try to keep both feet on the ground and live in the real world; but my brushes, my pens and laptop are always at hand.

    © Copyright for all poetry, prose and artwork belongs to Maureen Kavaney Tillman