My Quest to Help Other Straight Spouses
“I met Rob on a blind date arranged by mutual friends. He was a tall, handsome attorney. A week after we met I graduated with my Master's degree. He took me out to dinner and ordered champagne to celebrate. I’d never had champagne before. I was swept into this life, and I loved it. He treated me like a princess. We were married ten months after we met. I was the happiest I'd ever been in my life, personally and professionally.
"At some point Rob began spending a lot of time with a man I didn't know. He would talk about Dave and Dave's girlfriend "Sue," but we never socialized with them. One morning I finally got up the nerve to ask if Dave was gay. When Rob responded, "I don't know," in that moment I knew. This conversation occurred in February; we were divorced by December. That began an extended period of grieving. I was completely shattered. If I could have worn black every day, I would have. Those were lost, lost years.
“In my wildest dreams I would not have expected my husband to work out his unresolved conflicts about his sexuality at my expense. You don’t expect someone to marry you when they didn’t mean it. This is the person I stood at the altar with, and I said those vows and meant them with all my heart...and he did not.
"It cuts to the very core of your feelings of self-worth."
Rob and Kim - 1985
“I reached out to any number of people, and it felt very empty because nobody knew what to say, plus I did not know a single other person to whom this had happened. I reached out to the minister who married us, a very nice man; his only suggestion was that 'maybe [I] could just get a roommate.' I reached out to the psychiatrist I was working for at the time, and to one of my former professors from graduate school. They meant well, but I think you really can't understand the devastation unless you’ve been through it. As Jean Schaar Gochros, PhD, noted in her book, "When Husbands Come Out of the Closet," it truly is "a profound sense of unique isolation."
“Eventually I started facilitating support groups for other straight spouses because I knew -- and I know -- how alone you feel. I distinctly remember the emotion I felt during the first group when the heads started those knowing nods. I think it was as healing for me as it was for anyone else in the group!
“I feel a great sense of responsibility to be of assistance to other straight spouses. People often ask, ‘At the end of the day, aren’t you exhausted by all those stories?’ And I’m not, because it’s so much more than just listening to the stories. It’s the knowledge that I have been able to help, even in a small way. So if someone comes in with tremendous sadness and I’ve been able to offer them something that has lifted that sadness or moves them in a positive direction – then I’m not exhausted, I’m excited. I never want anyone else to feel as alone with their despair as I did all those years ago.
"I’m genuinely grateful to have the opportunity to help.”
- Kimberly Brooks Mazella, LPC, in her own words.
On Facing Your Fears -- "Run Towards the Roar"
There is a parable that was recalled often over the years by Kim’s friend and colleague, the late Steve Bercov. It tells of a pride of lions on the African savannas – some young, fast and powerful; others old, weak, and toothless. Once they spot their prey, the pride divides into two groups: the older, toothless lions move upwind on one side of the prey, while the younger, faster members of the pride creep downwind. The older lions, while weak in body, have maintained their ability to roar mightily. As they roar in the direction of the prey, the herd of unwitting animals runs quickly in the direction away from the roar…and right into the mouths of the waiting young lions. The whole pride then enjoys a sumptuous feast.
The lesson of this story, and one of Kim’s guiding values, is to run towards the roar in life. Do those things that scare you, that force you out of your comfort zone, because those very things that frighten or intimidate us are often toothless and have no power outside of our own imaginations.
Running towards the roar has been transformational for Kim personally and professionally, and she encourages her clients to take risks and stretch, to find the courage that lives within us all. It's been a long road, with times of fear, doubt and despair. But along the way there has also been self-discovery, a new sense of worth, and even joy and laughter. Run towards the roar, indeed.