In this episode:
Mike has known Janine since the eighth grade. While in University, they connected over their shared passion for crossword puzzles. Gradually, their friendship evolved into something more. On one of their early dates, they were so immersed in their conversation, they didn’t realize they closed down the restaurant. Chairs on the tables, floor being mopped, they were asked to leave. In that moment, Mike knew he was in love. Janine fit perfectly into Mike’s large, gregarious, boisterous family. An ‘aha’ moment for Mike… “this girl is cool!”
Mike and Janine had a solid, loving, fun marriage. They grew up together and their relationship, and subsequently a family, grew with them. Family was their priority; they also emphasized taking care of and looking out for each other. Helping each other manage diapers, sleepless nights, car seats, the chaos of a young family, and careers, they operated as a unit and loved being together.
Although he didn’t fully recognize or accept it, Mike’s sexuality has always included an attraction to men. Stopped at a red light in early spring, Mike realized that he wasn’t eyeing women in their dresses, he was focused on men jogging. Their marriage defined by trust, Mike knew he needed to share these feelings with Janine. Unable to hold it in any longer, he overcame his guilt, shame, fear, feelings of isolation, and he confided in Janine.
Mike fought accepting he is gay; with Janine’s support, he spent two years exploring his sexuality. Fearing judgement from others, he and Janine turned inward. Mike stopped sleeping, became anxious, panicky, spent days screaming at the top of his lungs inside of his head. It was scary and there was no escape. Knowing something had shifted, Mike questioned “Who am I to do this?” Mike finally realized this wasn’t a choice he was making. This is who he is.
“I’m gay,” Mike blurted out at the breakfast table moments before their daughter’s book club was arriving.
No preparation, the words tumbled out. The truth spoken from his head, heart, and stomach, a weight was immediately lifted off of Mike. Juxtaposed with the look on Janine’s face as the rug was pulled from underneath her. Mike and Janine both shut down, went numb, and simply survived that terrifying day.
The following weeks and months were carefully navigated. Their children and keeping life as normal as possible were their priority. Mike found an apartment close to their family home and was present for breakfast, after school, dinner, bath time, stories, and tucking his children into bed.
Although they feared being ridiculed and gossiped about, Mike and Janine slowly let family and friends know. Although there was worry and deep sadness for their separation, Mike and Janine’s family and friends were a tremendous support which helped them stay strong for each other and their children.
Mike found few resources that resonated with him. He found support at Gay Father’s of Toronto; however, Mike felt in limbo. His greatest sources of support were Janine, his exploration (and current) partner, and a therapist.
The most challenging aspect of Mike’s journey has been finding himself. He’s a gay man and a dad, a friend, someone living a “straight” lifestyle. He lives a family-centric life. Mike acknowledges that it is going to take time to fully embrace is identity as a gay man. He doesn’t see this as a challenge, just the next phase in his journey.
The biggest gift of Mike’s journey? Feeling the power of love; realizing that love and family can take any shape or form. Mike and Janine call their “less conventional family” the “new normal.” Seeing their children embrace this experience has been a gift. Mike asked their daughter to share her feelings on their new normal.
“Daddy, what’s wrong with more people to love and more people loving you?”
As a parent, you want to keep your children safe and ensure they know they are loved and secure. For children can do anything from that place of knowing.
Single parenting is a challenge. Although difficult to do it all, be the cooker, cleaner, washer, driver, the hugger, it is so rewarding. Mike bought a home three streets away from Janine. Their children walk back and forth. Mike loves watching them roll with it, and they are rolling with it really well.
Mike advises gay spouses to seek out platforms – like An Unexpected Launch – and to know that while you feel alone, you are not. Every family is unique; there is no one answer or way to approach this journey. Mike recommends letting your spouse in; you can’t do this alone. Mike realized his coming out was inevitable; he could not have endured burying these feelings and his truth. This journey may be hard yet be true to yourself and let the light at the end of the tunnel be your North Star.
Mike’s greatest hope is that his family continues to thrive, grow, and carry on what they’ve started. That they continue to embrace who they are, realizing there is so much love and that they are all ok. Mike also hopes all in our situation find peace, new hope, and happiness.
“With love and support you can overcome anything. Be true to yourself. It’s not an easy path but it’s one you must travel.”Mike C.
Janine’s Story Mike’s former wife, Janine, shares her journey with Mike
Gay Father’s of Toronto Every man at GFT is a father, step-father, or the partner of one; and all struggle with questions about sexuality, parenting, and responsibilities
Thank you for listening!
May our stories help forge your path forward. I hope you’ll stay tuned for our next episode and in the meantime, learn more about my story on my blog.