Richard* and I met at university and, even though we were registered for different degrees, we somehow became good friends. It wasn’t until after he’d broken off an engagement with his high school sweetheart and I’d returned from a stint overseas five years later that we became romantically involved.
In retrospect, I believe we mistook the connection we had as friends for something more. We got married after living together for nearly four years. That was eight years ago… But we didn’t make it to our eighth anniversary…
The first sign that something was up
We’d been dating for about two years when I first discovered the gay porn. I was doing a spring clean and found video tapes hidden in the cupboard. I went cold and felt as though I’d had the wind knocked out of me.
Eventually, I built up the courage to confront Richard about it, but he simply explained to me that a gay friend we’d spent the weekend with had asked him to pass on the tapes to a mutual friend. It was perfectly plausible – I knew both men, their history and connection.
READ MORE: 10 signs you’re in a toxic relationship
But although I’d been convinced otherwise, the seed had been planted. To be honest, I always had a nagging suspicion (or fear) that Richard might be otherwise inclined. There had been rumours that he’d broken off his previous engagement because he was gay, which didn’t surprise me at the time… Heaven alone knows why I didn’t think about that prior to walking down the aisle.
Another faint tinkle of alarm bells
After the porn incident, things were fine for a while. We moved into a flat and became distracted with work, social engagements and the daily grind. Then one day, Richard said a friend was feeling depressed and was coming over to talk. No prizes for guessing the details – this friend was gay, but before you shake your head at me, the friend (who’d been married previously) was also a familiar part of the crowd from his old neighbourhood.
I heard the faint tinkle of alarm bells, but I told myself not to be ridiculous – Richard’s line of work made him sufficiently equipped to counsel a troubled friend, so it made perfect sense that this guy would be coming over for a chat. I made myself scarce and thought nothing more of it. When I think back now, I believe Richard was the one who needed to talk to his once married, now openly gay friend about his own dilemma.
Despite all the warning signs, two years later we got married and now have a child together. I continued to ignore my gut feeling, even when he became increasingly cold and even aggressive towards me. I just couldn’t believe what was happening and buried everything beneath a happy-go-lucky exterior.
I convinced myself that couples went through things like this, but the more I observed our married friends and how they related to each other, the more I realised I was fooling myself. The problem was that I just couldn’t get out.
Finding him on a chat room wall…
At one point I saw Richard’s contact details posted on a chat room wall expressing interest in hooking up with guys, who “must be discreet”. Determined to know, once and for all, I pretended to be a bisexual man and posted my fake details in return. I started receiving emails from my own husband, interested in connecting with “Paulo”. He told me/Paulo that he believed the Greeks had the right idea by being married to women while sleeping with men.
Later, when I revealed myself as Paulo in a joint therapy session, he brushed it off as if it had never happened and I started believing that maybe I was crazy. I don’t know why he had such a hold over me. Maybe it’s because I have such a deep need not to give up until I’ve tried absolutely everything to fix a situation. Maybe I really believed he was a tormented soul who needed me to be there and love him more than I needed to feel loved. Or maybe I couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning him the way he claimed his mother had done.
Why Couldn’t He Just Say It?
I think I needed him to actually say the words out loud, but he never did. Not to me anyway. He told a mutual friend whose married brother had also come out of the closet. Amid all the lies, all I wanted Richard to do was come out and say it.
I was willing to be there for him, to stand by him, but he would hear nothing of it. He actually threatened to kill himself if I left him. He was desperate, but not because he loved me or wanted me, but because a failed marriage would leave a hole in the armour; cracks in the façade for the truth to shine through. The sad irony is that most of the people he believes would judge him, don’t. There are many who always suspected he was gay and it wouldn’t shock them in the least.
Unfortunately, Richard is his own worst enemy. In the end I left him, not because he was gay, but because I’d allowed him to suck the life out of me. My story is not unique. There are many people who will read this and relate to that little voice they’ve silenced. If I’ve learned anything from this, it is to truly and honestly believe in the importance of nurturing myself, never to dismiss my instincts and to trust that my intuition will never fail me.
This is article was first published on Women's Health SA.