Former wife of a gay man tells her story.

It was like I’d walked into a brick wall when my ex-husband came out to me as gay in 2018. We were a family of four, with 2 boys aged 12 and 16 and married just under 20 years.

Even though I was in shock, I had no anger. Instead, I went into advocate mode for my husband and also a space of denial that somehow, we could stay together as a family. I knew we would separate eventually – but our eldest was in year 11 and I was determined to keep my children’s lives as stable as possible. We kept the secret to ourselves for 6 months and had counselling together and apart. In November 2018, we were ready to take the next step and change the dynamic of our family unit. The first to know, of course, were our children.

Also during that 6 months, having had a strong Christian faith for many years, I was desperately looking for support within the Christian community. When I expressed what was happening to my local Pastor, he was supportive of me, but also angry at my ex-husband, whereas I was in a space of complete compassion. I was sent video testimonials  of men who were gay – but stayed in heterosexual marriages as they had been “cured”. To me, this was just so incongruent. Eventually, I left the congregation as we were just not on the same page.

Additionally, in those 6 months looking for answers, I found the Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International (ABBI) website  with some resources and articles for people in our situation. That blew me away. I ordered Anthony’s autobiography, “#ALifeOfUnlearning”. I began reading it enthusiastically. About 3 or 4 chapters in, I hit a wall. The book was raw, too raw for me at that time. I couldn’t read on. I put it away for 4 years!

For the first two years, I remained very protective of my ex-husband. I was a massive advocate for him and his journey. I even advocated for him to his very own family, at times to acknowledge the real and true man God created him to be and it was Ok. My Friends at times were shocked how I, his wife, responded with loving grace and unconditional acceptance.

While “#ALifeOfUnlearning” remained on the shelf, I had my own journey to make. I spend the last 3 or so years emerging out of the marriage, becoming  independent and my own person.

Strangely, four and a half years later, I felt that it was time to pick up “#ALifeOfUnlearning” again and completed reading it whilst on an amazing 3 week adventure in the USA. I had reached a place in my own healing and processing grief where I was ready for the rest of the story. I have reached a point of where my-ex-husband is not the man I married at all. He is his true self. I love him as I would a friend and he is the father of my children. Ironically, outside of the relationship we had, I am now fully able to be me. I am strong, I am capable and a bold independent woman.

Finishing  Anthony’s book now, I found so many takeaways. So much of Anthony’s writings of his ex-wife’s experience resonated with me. I have similar feelings of forgiveness that she had. I’ve learnt it’s vital to understand the other. Yes, at times I felt like collateral damage, but I have my life too and I am determined to live it to the full. #ALifeOfUnlearning  has furthered my determination to separate God from the hurtful institution that is “The Church”. I hope as time goes on, I can be an effective ally to support the cause of ABBI and be a person who can bring change to the institution.

I have always felt that God was watching over me and a sense of spiritual security. Learning to be an ally, I have met so many wonderful humans in the LGBTQ Christian community.

I found love in a new man, which is wonderful. My ex-husband has just married his new man February 2023. His partner has been so kind to me across their relationship and wonderful to my boys. I feel we are quite the modern family! I attended the wedding  with my partner to cheer on my boys as they support their dad on his special day – also – I hate missing out on a party!

Love is Love. It’s that simple.

Love is freedom to be yourself. Love is peace in the heart. Love is truth.

Jo-Anne Otten