Interview with Carol Grever, author of My Husband Is Gay: A Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Crisis, Glimpses: A Memoir in Poetry, When Your Spouse Comes Out: A Straight Mate’s Recovery Manual, Memory Quilt: A Family Narrative. Carol is a straight spouse recovery expert, as well as a practitioner and teacher of Buddhism.
This is a summary (not a full transcript) of the interview
What brought you to a meditation practice?
It was chaos in her personal life that brought Carol to a meditation practice. She says that her former husband came out after 30 years of marriage, so the rug was pulled out. He was in a relationship with another man, unbeknownst to her for most of the marriage. He led a double life for almost all of those years. He said to her that he had, “homosexual tendencies”. But he had acted on them for a long, long time.
She was also looking for meaning in her life.
Meditation became her refuge. It was a way to let go, to be in the moment, not to go back to the “what ifs”, and “how stupid I am”. She could get into the present moment.
This transition didn’t just go from one day to the next right?
They put their personal life on the back-burner. They had a business, and it took about 4 years, before they lived apart. In the beginning of that, they tried to make their marriage work. They decided then to separate, being unable to make it work.
She was taking Shambala weekend retreat training in a retreat setting during those 4 years of struggle. It’s typically 8 hours of meditation training. That is how she kept her sanity through meditation practice.
What were some of the breakthroughs during these meditation intensives?
Staying in the present moment is very important. And not trying to go back and second-guess everything.
Learned to follow the breath, “If you can stay and follow your breath, whatever is happening, will pass.”
The concept of impermanence became real. Whatever it is, will pass.
She was learning about the depth of her own spirit. She was feeling mostly sadness. She was in deep grief, felt betrayed, angry at times. As if someone dear had died. In a way that had happened, because the man she thought she knew was not the same man.
Was this one of the reasons you were drawn to Pema Chodron as a teacher, she often talks about these things, having the rug pulled under from you, impermanence, groundlessness, the certainty of uncertainty, everything falling apart, and so on.
Yes, she went through a similar experience before she became a nun. Her husband also ran away with another woman. That gave her a depth of understanding for situations like Carol’s.
Pema told Carol the first time they met, that, “having the rug pulled out could be very good news”. Carol was in the depth of her sorrow, so thought it was crazy at first. Pema also said, this is an opportunity to grow. So she started looking at the event that way from now on.
She also started studying meditation with meditation teacher, Dale Asrael of Naropa University. She is a wonderful teacher, that is how she began. She then went to the Rocky mountain dharma center, and got connected with Pema Chodron. She further did the Shambala training.
Carol also leads a Dharma reading discussion group, a small Sangha, or community. That is also very important to her, along with lojang practice, and meditation. She does work with straight spouses, and interviewed hundreds of straight spouses, which is how her books came about.
What insights did she get after she started seeing the events as an opportunity?
Carol learned how strong she can be, she felt devalued at first, unworthy, there must be something wrong with her. She was blaming herself at the beginning.
She learned through these quiet times, that this had nothing to do with her (that her husband is gay). It had to do with her husband needing to become more authentic in his own life. She came to appreciate that, that was one of the real benefits of a meditation practice. She could sit with it, and begin to understand it.
This doesn’t have to remain a crisis. She came to see that they could both come through it.
So you developed compassion then for this struggle for authenticity? We all struggle to with being authentic due to society’s, parents, etc expectations.
Yes, you learn to forgive, forgive what came before. And understand that the other person was doing what they thought they had to do. Her husband is now free, authentic, and married to his male partner. They both now have a wonderful life.
“We had to free each other”.
And understand the motivations in order to pass through it and heal. And forgiveness is a big part of that.
How do you see your practice now?
She has learned that service is the real reward, and is the real path. She took up the Mahayana Bodhisattva vow as a Buddhist. The gist of that is that to exchange self for other. To put yourself in the other person’s place. It’s about service.
Since then she has devoted her time to service working through the blog, and doing peer counseling, and working with straight spouses. The books are also part of that. She writes and teaches in this dharma group. She feels she has a sort of perfect circle of activities to act out the Bodhisatva’s vow.
You’ve written a book of poetry as well, where you talk about how your sense of self changed, could you read a couple of poems?
She realized she had a kind of record of turning points through her lifetime. Some are through her experience as a straight spouse, and some as a Buddhist.
She reads from, “Glimpses: a memoir in poetry”.
This first poem is about looking back (a record of turning points):
(some sentences from this poem)
..What was certain wasn’t..
..Tree ornaments lovingly hung.. radiate moving memories..
..Time passed, prior life with it.
..What was certain..wasn’t..
..It happens this way…another year, another begins.
…We pack away the past..
…out of sight, but always present.
…Ornaments and delusions, keen reminders of all we were, when we thought we knew.
It kind of captures the movement of this life. Everything changes. It’s not bad.. it’s how we grow, it’s how we learn..cannot escape impermanence, it’s not all bad, and these reminders are really precious.
She just read Thich Nhat Hanh’s, “No death, no fear”. She talks about photographs of yourself, how they are the same, yet totally different. It demonstrates the movement of life.
She also reads the poem, “On Separation”.
..Root bound no more..
..Total change required..
..circling inner walls..
..Wounded but vital..
..Timid new roots push tenderly past outgrown patterns..
..Boundaries fall, rawness feeds renewal…
Renewal is a daily recurrence. Clinging to non-movement. Friction and clinging cause so much pain, trying to stop the movement.
My hair is graying..
My mind is straying..
It’s not too late to contemplate..
To heal all hate…and mend my faith
My days are free..to just be me..
It’s truthful, it’s authenticity. She sees that in her own life, how in business how she was trying to Be who she was not. She kept the front up, and it was exhausting. When she was done with the business, and she sold it. Her first thoughts were after this business, “Who am I”? She didn’t even really know.
Now she is beginning to get a feel for something greater than what she thought she was at that time. She now sees her as part of a bigger whole, the ultimate.
She really wants and is becoming more real now, authentic.
Books Authored by Carol Grever (Click on the images below to purchase)
What do people in a situation where they discover that their spouse is not straight. A combination of therapy, spouse recovery, and spiritual practice?
- Some use the Straight Spouse Network (SSN)
- Straight Spouse Connection (Carol Grever’s web site)
- Peer groups are also very helpful to talk about it at first.
- Spiritual practice like Buddhism
When you’re sick of hearing the stories, which is a sign of growth. Then you can move into a longer term therapy, you can do a long-term recovery.
Is this still as much an issue?
Yes, social pressure, career pressure, religious pressure is still very much an issue keeping gays and lesbians from coming out. Still a lot of prejudice in the work force, difficulty in advancing. Carol knows this, because her books and offerings still help many people.