Kiri Blakeley’s memoir, Can’t Think Straight, could be subtitled “how to get back in the dating game after your fiance tells you he’s been cheating on you with dudes.” Though the first chapter of the book is about how she dealt with her boyfriend-of-ten-years’ revelation, the rest is about getting back into the dating game and going on with her life, with alternately sad and hilarious results. She talked to TheGloss about how she moved forward.
I think the first thing everyone wants to know is: did you have any clue that Aaron [your former fiance] was gay?
I was getting ready for bed one night and Aaron – who I had been with for ten years – called me into the living room and said we needed to talk. I thought he would say “You need to do the dishes” or something, but I sat down and he said “I am confused about my sexuality.” I didn’t know if he was joking, but I know he is not a prankster. I didn’t know whether to laugh or scream, so I did both. I just stared at him waiting to hear what would come next, and he started to cry. Then I knew it wasn’t a joke.
I was asking him, “Why do you say this?” He told me he was fantasizing about men and I thought ‘well, fantasies happen, maybe he had one or two and is just freaking out.’ I said, “Hey, it’s normal, don’t be ashamed, it happens.” But then it became clear as we spoke more that he wanted to explore the fantasies and that it was a serious thing and that our relationship would have to end. Then years of my life came to a screeching halt – no foreshadowing. I almost had a psychotic break from reality. I was awake in a nightmare, a weird waking nightmare.
I went to bed eventually and in the morning I called a gay male friend and told him the story. He didn’t quite believe it; he thought was it was a weird excuse. I went into [Aaron’s] computer thinking it was about something else and there I saw gay porn and pictures he took of himself and sent to other men. I went into his browser history and saw Craigslist ads, and that’s when it came out that he had been cheating on me with men for two years.
Did I see any signs? No. if I had had any inkling he was gay I would not have been so shellshocked and bowled over. It was like a summer lighning bolt out of the blue.
Once you have knowledge of something you can go back and look and say “Oh, okay, that makes sense.” The main thing was that our sex life had dwindled pretty considerably. We’d gone to therapy. But he didn’t have trouble getting it up. He went down on me. I figured it was normal, because lots of couples have their sex life slow down. The other sign was that he grew a beard about a year before he told me, and he wouldn’t shave it even though I asked him to – he was very attached to it. Turns out he was taking pictures of his beard and sending them to other men who sent pictures of their beards. It was telling that his beard was more important than my opinion. But he was such a great guy in every other way – he did household chores, he was there for me through traumas, he was always sweet and told me he loved me.
Lately, a lot of people have claimed it’s a trend for people to come out as gay later in life, often after being married for years – take Meredith Baxter or Portia de Rossi [both of whom were married to men], for example. What’s your take on this?
My best friend from college – her parents divorced after years of marriage and her mom came out as a lesbian. You hear a lot about women leaving relationships and then coming out as lesbians. Men do it when they are still in relationships. Maybe women are more honest? Maybe women are more concerned about fidelity and the kids and keeping the marriage together? I don’t know. Also, I think in our society it’s more acceptable to be a lesbian than to be a gay man.
This isn’t the 1950s. We have a long way to go, but I don’t think people look at the woman as the ogre who turned the man gay. I will say that since the book came out it was interesting to see the comments online when people saw my picture and how insulted people were that a guy would leave a “pretty girl.” I thought that was odd. People actually got hostile about it. “How could you prefer men over that hottie?”
How did you move on? I know how hard it is to move on after a longterm relationship, no matter what the reason was for the breakup. What tips do you have for getting back in the dating world?
I hate to agree with those stupid rule books that tell women not to sleep with men on the first or second date. I understand what it’s like when you are hurting or horny or both. But study after study has shown that women are much more emotional about sex than men are. I will not deny I had some hot sex after the breakup– and I would not take that tback– however, there was an emotional pain that accrued as a result, because I got attached when I did not want to. So be careful.
Also, forgive yourself if you do things you wouldn’t normally do– drink too much, smoke, sleep around, whatever. You are in pain and have a little free pass right now. Just don’t give into the temptation to do something you can’t take back – such as take revenge by destroying personal effects, posting TMI stuff on Facebook, calling his new girlfriend (or boyfriend!). Resist that very overpowering desire, because it will hurt you more than him. Try not to let your anger over a breakup show in your new dating profiles, ie “Don’t be a jerk or a cheater LIKE MY EX!” No man wants to step into another’s man’s mess. By all means talk to your girlfriends, though. Talk their ears off!
Would you have been more upset if Aaron had left you for another woman? Or did the news of his sexuality compound how you felt about the breakup?
Everyone asks about that – even Aaron asked me that question. I would say it’s equally upsetting in different ways. You are upset that the person is cheating on you, but if it’s with a man yopu don’t get competitive. You know what he has that you don’t. You don’t try to look sexier and win him back. But in another way there’s no hope. You can’t go to therapy for being gay. The big thing is that he had hidden something so integral about himself from me. It’s hard to know why someone hides their sexuality when they’re simultaneously pressing you to get married.
We told our family and all our friends that we were engaged. He ran into our bar and announced it to all our friends. I called my sick elderly grandmother and she was so happy to hear the newsthat she burst into tears, and he allowed me to do that. We had been engaged about nine years. He asked me to marry him not long into the relationship. We moved in together after six months.
Do you still keep in touch with Aaron at all?
I will always care about Aaron until I die. If something happened to him, I would be devastated. But I had to begin to realize that we would not transition into being best friends. We tried that, and it didn’t work for me. I had too much anger and hostility because of the chronic cheating and lying. We keep in touch, mostly by email, but we don’t hang out. He lives with a man and he has been with him for a few years. And I am in a relationship.
I got a lot of shit for keeping the engagement ring – “whoever turns gay, the other one gets to keep the ring,” that’s how I feel. I got so much shit for that online. I kept our apartment because I paid for it. Of course I was keeping it. I did make him pay because we had to get a lawyer to make sure I owned the apartment myself. He was sleeping with men when were buying it; he was lying to me then. I was the one who put 100 percent of the down payment.
Even though your book isn’t just about what happens when your partner tells you he’s questioning his sexuality, that seems to be what most people have responded to the most. What kinds of comments have you gotten from people who’ve read the book?
I was shocked at how many women emailed me. I got emails from women who said things like “I have been married for 30 years, we have three kids, and last week I went online and found out he has gay porn and is writing to men.” [These women are] not like me, in a position to get out and be financially independent. It is heartbreaking to hear all those stories.
People also want to know how you learn to trust again, and after anyone has been devastated in a relationship it is always difficult to get back to that sense of innocence and optimism. I still struggle with it.