If It Tells You It's a Duck, It's a Duck
Jessie says her husband Chris "alluded" to being gay at different times during their 21-year marriage. She never took him seriously, although she did become suspicious a few years before he came out to her.
"I'd lost a lot of weight, and I had total strangers checking me out, but I didn't see that same interest in my own husband's eyes. Even before that, he would sometimes turn down my flirtatious invitations. I dismissed this -- until I lost all that weight. Then I knew I wasn't the problem."
The confession came one afternoon while they were on their way home from a visit to Chris' family. "He actually shouted it. I was driving, and it's a wonder I didn't have a wreck. His next announcement was just as shocking: He had cheated on me with a man.
"For the first time, I understood the meaning of a broken heart. My chest hurt physically."
The next day, Jessie did something she never in her "wildest dreams" thought she would have to do. She called the HIV hotline.
"There I was, trying to talk to the counselor about HIV testing and the best way to go about it."
Jessie and Chris went to the local Health Department office, as the HIV hotline counselor suggested. They were each brought into a separate room. Jessie had to explain "in great deal" to a "rude" nurse why she thought she might be at risk.
"This was the first time I had verbalized my husband's confession to anyone. Then she did the pelvic exam. There was a second nurse that was sympathetic to my situation. When we left the office, the second nurse gave us her business card. She would be the one to call us when the test results were in the following week.
"That was a long week. When we returned, we were given the option of private consultation, but I said that wasn't necessary, as the tests had come back negative."
Although Jessie no longer had to worry about being HIV-positive, she was still in so much pain she contemplated suicide. The pain wasn't caused by her husband being gay. That was something she had suspected. The pain was caused by the betrayal.
"I never thought he would cheat on me. He was no longer the man I thought I knew."
There was a bottle of leftover pain medication in the medicine cabinet. "I kept thinking about it those first few days. All I had to do was swallow those pills and the pain would go away. Finally, I found that bottle and poured the pills into my hand. There were seven of them. I looked at them and then flushed them down the commode so they wouldn't be a temptation to me any longer. My children wouldn't understand. I had to get through this for them."
Jessie and Chris decided to stay together.
"I made a promise on our wedding day, for better or worse. I'm sure no one would have faulted me if I had thrown him out that day, except myself. I needed to know I tried to save my marriage. How could I look our children in the eye if I didn't try to save the family?"
But will it work?
What was the most shocking thing you learned about your partner? Send your tale, along with your questions, problems and rants to firstname.lastname@example.org. And check out my e-books, "Dear Cheryl: Advice from Tales from the Front" and "I'll Call You. Not."