Author Discovers Her Groom-To-Be Is Gay
It was 2006 when 36-year-old Forbes magazine writer, Kiri Blakeley, received the shock of her life. When her fiancé and partner of 10 years asked to have a “talk,” she expected they’d be finalizing wedding preparations. Instead, he confessed that he’d been cheating on her for years—with men.
Blakeley details the crushing realization and its aftermath in her new book, Can’t Think Straight: A Memoir of Mixed-Up Love (Kensington, $14.95), released today. The book chronicles the year after she discovered her fiancé’s other life, as she attempts to maintain a demanding career through intense grief, obsesses over the signs she missed and challenges herself to trust men again.
Counselor Bonnie Kaye, a leading expert and author of several books on gay men in heterosexual relationships, estimates that approximately four million women have been affected by this situation, and Blakeley agrees that it’s “more common than we’d like to believe.” She opened up about her former relationship, the break-up’s affect on her career and her fears about publishing an account of her darkest moments. A condensed version of our conversation appears below.
Forbes: The book begins with a scene that will likely terrify all current and future brides-to-be. What happened that night?
Blakeley: I had been with my fiancé for over 10 years. We lived together, and we had just discussed moving forward with the wedding ceremony a few weeks prior. One night around 11 o’clock, I was getting ready for bed when my fiancé, Aaron, said: ‘Kiri, we need to talk.’
I came in to the living room not expecting much. Then he said, ‘I think I’m having issues with my sexuality.’ I did this laugh/scream hybrid: ‘Haaa!’ I didn’t know if he was joking. But then he started to cry, hard. I’ve never seen him cry like that. Then I knew he wasn’t joking.
What did it feel like to listen to the man you thought you’d be walking down the aisle with come out to you about being gay?
Surreal. I felt like I was in a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. I’d known him for so long, and we’d been through so much together—the death of his father, the death of my niece. This wasn’t a guy that was giving off signals. He wasn’t out ‘til 3 a.m. There weren’t any strange phone calls. I didn’t smell Axe body spray on him when he came home from work. This came like a lightning bolt completely out of the blue. I felt like everything I’d known was not true. If my judgment was so bad about this, then what else was I wrong about?
So in one moment a 10-year relationship dissolved?
That was the end of the relationship as I had known it. It’s one thing if your man comes to you and says, ‘I’ve fallen in love with my intern’ or ‘the girl who makes my coffee in the morning.’ It’s another thing when he says, ‘I’m sexually attracted to men.’ I’m not a man. I couldn’t compete.
What were the stages of grief?
At first I was numb. My brain shut down. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I was a walking zombie. In fact, I was a danger to myself walking around. I would walk into oncoming traffic. The next stage was anger. I told him to leave the apartment. I changed the locks. I hid his stuff.
In the book you describe feeling compelled to find out everything you could about his secret life during your relationship. What did you discover?
It was a few days later when I was at work that I decided to go into his email. I discovered that not only had he been cheating on me, he had been having an affair with a man who he had emotional feelings for. Then I got even madder, thinking: ‘Not only are you cheating on me—with men—but you’re having an affair with a man that you love.”
That’s when I really went ballistic. That’s when I felt like going home and destroying all of his things. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to pull back on that chemical reaction that floods your brain.
And there hadn’t been any red flags?
He grew a beard about a year before I learned that he was gay. I didn’t like it or understand it. But if a man grows a beard, you don’t think he’s gay. In retrospect, I found out that he was taking pictures of his beard and sending them to other men.
It was our sex life that was the main red flag. We would have sex only once every couple of months. One time we went eight months without it. But we had been together 10 years. I know a couple right now who just had a baby and have not had sex in over a year. We even went to therapy about it. He would sit there and say, ‘Oh, I’m tired,’ or ‘Yeah, we gotta work on this.’ He never piped up and said, ‘It’s because I like men!’
At the time, you were working as a staff magazine writer here at Forbes. How did you deal with this huge personal devastation and maintain professionalism?
I had a great supervisor. I did call in sick and take a couple days off. The first day back, I went directly to this female supervisor, who was a friend, and told her what happened. I needed her to know because I wasn’t myself, and I didn’t know how I was going to function.
She was very understanding. She knew I couldn’t handle really difficult assignments, so she made sure I didn’t get those for a few weeks. Everybody should have somebody like that at work. We are all just human, and we do have bad days and weeks.
Did you have to deal with office gossip?
I’d lost a lot of weight, and people were noticing. I told colleagues flat out what had happened. If you deflate the situation, I think it causes less chatter. They were as supportive as they could be.
How much time did it take to be back at your fullest?
After a month, I wanted to throw myself into work. I hadn’t been alone for over ten years, and it became a comfort. The only thing that got me back to equilibrium and feeling like myself again was time. Two years. Three years. I’m still working on it.
Why did you decide to write this book?
I didn’t think about getting it published when I started it. I had to get out my feelings. It was what got me up in the morning. It was what gave me a reason to live—to not harm myself.
When you eventually decided to publish it, were you worried about putting your life out there for people to gawk at? Were you concerned about potential ramifications in your career?
I was very worried. A lot of the book has to do with my dating life after becoming single. It gets pretty raw. It was during the editing process that I started looking at the material and going: Oh. My. God. Everyone is going to read this–my friends, my family, my coworkers. I was imagining that I would get fired.
Then providence came in the form of a layoff. But I’m still concerned. Is anyone ever going to hire me again after reading this book? I wouldn’t bring it up in an interview, but it is out there. If they see it and have questions, I will answer whatever questions they have.
Has this experience changed your outlook on men and on relationships?
It will affect my relationships for the rest of my life. I know now that you cannot ever truly know anyone. If you do, you got lucky. Most of us don’t live with extended family, so we have this one person that we wrap our lives around. That makes that one person indispensable, which is very scary because people are flawed and people do lie.
Do you think you’ll ever want to get engaged again?
I am dating someone now, but I’m living alone. I would be willing to get engaged again and get married. I would be aware that it could fall apart. But someone could get hit by a truck too.