I fell in love with "Gary" during my junior year in high school. We met at a house party and quickly became inseparable. I loved him so much and knew that he loved me, so near the second year of our courtship, we made love ... it was the first time for both of us. I didn't know what it meant for other girls to give their virginity away, but I knew what it meant for me: He would be my real, only true love.
I went on to college as planned, while he did his tour in the Marines. We wrote faithfully in the beginning and kept our flame alive for many, many months. However, Uncle Sam had other plans, and soon he was sent 3,000 miles away. We kept in contact for a while, but then, as often happens in long-distance relationships, we began to drift apart. Finally,all communication stopped, and we went on with our lives, eventually marrying other people.
Twenty-five years later, imagine my surprise when I went online and discovered an email from Gary. He had found me through Classmates.com. Later that evening, I heard the voice of my first love, a man I had never forgotten. Like a replay from the past, we talked for hours. It was like we had never parted. We shared that we were both separated from our spouses and how it must have been fate, or even God, because we had found each other at the time our hearts needed love the most.
Within two years of reuniting, I sold my home in California and moved to Virginia to be with him. We moved into an apartment temporarily while our dream home was being built from the ground up, and Gary proposed to me on the newly poured foundation. Eight months later, we received the keys to our new home, and we were married the same evening in our empty dining room.
For a while, my life seemed perfect. I had a handsome husband, a brand-new home, we both had stable careers. My husband went to work every day and came home on time every night, which gave me such a sense of security. I should have been a very happy woman, but for some reason, I wasn't. I started spiraling into a deep depression, and I couldn't understand why.
Looking back, I have always had uncertainties about Gary, ones that I was almost scared to admit to myself. I know it sounds weird, but it was almost like he seemed too good to be true.
About four months into our marriage, I noticed that he was pretty secretive about certain aspects of his life. Often when he left the house, he would just suddenly appear dressed and at the door: All he would say is, "I'll be right back." It would be three to four hours before he came home.
He also seemed overly cautious with his cell phone, keeping it close to him at all times and would get upset if I answered it. I didn't understand this because I opened all of our mail and I thought I was privy to every aspect of his life -- as he was mine. But he was always on his cell and the majority of the phone calls were on his way to and from work.
And, although he's very masculine, he had what I thought were a few effeminate quirks that would show up once a blue moon. It was nothing more than a tilt of his hand or a lilt of his voice, but it was enough to make me wonder. Before I left California to be with him for good, I even acted on what I was sure were my ill-founded suspicions: I asked Gary if he was gay or bisexual -- or whether he had ever slept with a man.
"No," he told me, flat-out, as if I were being ridiculous.
When I got to Virginia, I found that Gary had a lot of acquaintances, but hardly any male friends. And, to my surprise, I found myself getting jealous when he would run off to chat with the male neighbors, without knowing why. Around certain men, I even felt myself acting possessive and catty. None of it made sense to me.
Our sex life, although very physically satisfying, felt very emotionally un-fulfilling for me because it didn't seem very intimate. The deep passion we shared when we started dating again was no longer there. Instead, Gary's performance in bed was almost mechanical. I'd also noticed that I could walk around our beautiful bedroom with nothing on and my husband's eyes wouldn't leave the TV. I could take a steamy shower with him, and he wouldn't get an erection. I would try to squeeze up against him in bed at night and he would nudge me away. Here I was, a newlywed, and I felt very lonely and insecure.
One night, I was lying in bed feeling extremely sad and lonely. I had been crying all day. My husband was sound asleep beside me. Something told me to listen to Gary's cell phone messages. I slid out of bed and took his cell phone into the bathroom. My hands were already shaking, it was almost as if I knew something disturbing was about to happen. Suddenly, I heard a man's voice calling my husband, "Baby."
My heart started pounding, I couldn't breath, and my body began to tremble from head to toe. The man was telling Gary how good he looked as he walked into the office today. He called him "his baby," and sounded very proud. As I was reeling from shock, I heard another voice message from the same man, telling Gary he couldn't get together with him at the job this weekend, and he hoped he wasn't mad. The tone was very intimate -- the way a man would speak to his woman. The way Gary didn't speak to me.
I was in total shock, but what was really strange as that I felt the depression slowly lifting from my body.
For the first few minutes, I walked around in a blurry haze, shocked and scared. I knew my life was about to change drastically from the dream life we had built together. It was so surreal, and I felt total despair. In a dream-like state, I walked over to his side of the bed and looked down at him in disbelief. Who was this man? How could he have deceived me this way?
I knew I had to face the truth. I reached down and shook him out of his sleep and as usual he looked up at me with a little smile.
"Yes, Baby?" he said.
"How could you?" I screamed. "How could you do this to me?!!!"
"What's wrong?" he asked with a confused look on his face.
"I listened to your cell phone messages."
His eyes got big, and I saw the fear register.
"You're going to try to destroy me," he said.
He sat up in bed, silent and turned away from me as I stood there frozen in agony with tears streaming down my face. Because he wouldn't look at me or answer any of the questions I hurled at him, I stormed out of the room and went down to the family room and lay on the couch. I cried all night long.
At first, I couldn't get my mind to wrap around the truth: This wonderful, gorgeous man, who I loved so much, had lied to me, tricked me, deceived me, conned me. He was actually on the down-low
... my husband slept with men. I wanted to die.
While I threw myself into work, in denial and trying to live in an impossible situation, Gary continued his life as if nothing had happened. Every night I cried myself to sleep and every morning, I woke to the reality of my shattered life. Most days, before Gary left for work, I stood before him begging for answers, needing an explanation, but he just ignored me.
"Have a nice day," he'd say, as the door shut behind him.
Gary's decision to stay true to his deception caused an unbearable tension between us. One day, during a heated argument, he finally caved: "Joy, I will never tell you the truth," he said. With that, I realized the hopelessness of trying to keep on living a life that was clearly broken. I put our dream home up for sale and filed for divorce.
I have since dedicated my life to helping other women who find themselves victims of down-low men
. Meanwhile, Gary is currently engaged to another woman.
Joy Marie* is the bestselling author of The Straight-Up Truth About The Down-Low; Women Share Their Stories of Betrayal, Pain and Survival."
*She authored the book, and this story, using a pseudonym.