I was in my late 20s and living in London when I met Tom. I still remember my first sight of him, at a bar I frequented: amazing muscles, chiseled jaw, tan, and outdoorsy. He was a no-nonsense, jeans-and-T-shirt kind of guy who seemed completely at ease with himself.
I had recently ended a long-term relationship and was thinking about playing the field a little, but meeting Tom quickly put a stop to that. Here was this gorgeously handsome, tough-looking Australian hunk of a man and, when you added in the sense of humor and creativity that oozed out of him as soon as we got to talking, I knew I had met someone special. Needless to say, I didn’t hesitate to say yes when he asked me out.
Our first dates were a blur of hysterical laughter and great sex. I couldn’t believe my luck. Tom was sensitive and caring, witty and affectionate. We loved the same movies and TV shows, and we had similar ambitions. He’d always wanted to run a small theatre company; so had I. We both wanted to own a large piece of land one day and run a hobby-farm. We seemed like a match made in heaven. It was almost too good to be true!
But a year down the line, I realized that Tom wasn’t quite as textbook perfect as I’d made him out to be. One of my best friends was a man named Lee, who was not particularly flamboyant about his sexuality, but always spoke openly about his partner and their lives together. Tom was charming towards Lee in person. However, in private, he seemed judgmental and would make little jibes about him. I confronted Tom about it, but he swore he wasn’t homophobic; he said he just didn’t see the need for Lee to discuss his private life.
I tried not to judge Tom harshly for feeling this way. He’d grown up in a very small close-minded country town. I was curious to learn more about Tom’s upbringing, so, when he suggested that we spend a year visiting Australia together, I leapt at the opportunity. We traveled to his hometown in 2005 and I couldn’t get over the warm welcome his friends and family gave me; these were my kind of people and it really cemented my feelings for Tom.
Towards the end of our stay, Tom surprised me by arranging a weekend away for the two of us at his friend’s beach house. On our last evening there, he asked me to go for a sunset beach stroll. It was perfect; the sound of the ocean, the vibrant sunset, and just standing there, hand in hand, with this beautiful man. And just before the sun’s rays finally disappeared below the horizon, Tom took a diamond solitaire ring from his pocket and asked me to marry him. I don’t think I’d ever been as happy as I was that night.
In 2007, we got married, in England, and two children soon followed. We stayed in the U.K. for some years due to work commitments, and things weren’t always easy. Tom missed Australia and our social lives clashed a little. He asked that I didn’t try to include him when I was out with some friends he found to be “too much.” I noticed that it was usually my gay friends, but he never complained about me spending time with them, so I didn’t feel like I could say anything about it.
In 2015, we returned to Tom’s hometown in Australia for good. His original circle of friends was waiting for us with open arms. They were a great group, and many of them had kids similar in age to ours. Our days were filled with parties, barbecues, and holidays with the gang. It was perfect.
At one of those parties, just before Christmas 2016, there was a late arrival. When this man walked in—extremely good looking, tall and slim with very dark hair and a bit of a bad-boy air about him—Tom’s face turned pale. Everyone else greeted him warmly, but Tom did everything he could to avoid the man, whose name I soon learned was Mike. As we made our way home that night, I asked Tom about him. He brushed me off a little, telling me that he’d known Mike as a teenager and had never trusted him because he was “into sketchy stuff.”
Mike seemed perfectly respectable and pleasant to me—the bad-boy edge could be explained by the fact that he worked in the city, was a sharp dresser, and was single. Maybe he was just a bit of a philanderer or something?
Still, I didn’t push it. But we continued to bump into Mike at various gatherings, and Tom always went out of his way to avoid him. I saw Mike make repeated efforts to engage with Tom, but the most Tom would give in return were one-word answers before moving away from him. Other people noticed the behavior, too. One friend asked me why Tom didn’t like Mike. The truth was, I had no idea.
One evening, a number of us had drank a fair bit of wine and were having a great time when Mike arrived. Tom was outright rude to him and insisted that we leave. When we got home, I accused Tom of being jealous of Mike because he was good looking and charming—it was all I could think of to explain his behavior. I told him that everyone else had noticed he’d been awful to Mike, too, and that it made them uncomfortable.
Though he could barely get the words out, that’s when Tom finally admitted that he’d “had a thing” with Mike when they were both about 20. It was as though he was confessing to murder, even though what he was describing was nothing more than a prolonged (and rather passionate-sounding) kiss. He said it hadn’t gone further than that—and that he’d hated that part of himself ever since.
Then, Tom admitted that he wasn’t “fully gay,” but that he was bisexual.
He was so embarrassed and upset, he started to shake. I didn’t understand why he was this upset over a kiss! But I was also a little worried. Did him being attracted to men mean that he’d want to explore that side of himself? Did he still like Mike? Was that what was causing this distress?
As we talked late into the night, Tom explained that, where he’d grown up, being gay was something that—to put it nicely—was frowned upon. When he was 15 years old, an effeminate boy in his class even left his school as a result of vicious bullying.
The idea of being gay was so abhorrent to Tom that he’d convinced himself that he was the straightest of straight guys. Living in fear of being outed, he’d cultivated a hyper-masculine persona—the same one that attracted me to him in the first place—to compensate for one little kiss.
I was heartbroken that Tom had felt the need to fake this version of himself for so long.
He said he was worried I’d leave him if I ever found out. But we’d had an amazing love life for all these years, I told him. His being attracted to both men and women wasn’t a problem for me as long as it wasn’t for him. He said that he had no desire to end our marriage at all and reassured me that it was me who he wanted to be with.
I was worried that he may feel later on that he didn’t get to fully explore his attraction to men fully, but he was definite about the fact that he had chosen to spend his life with me and that meant being faithful, no matter his sexuality.
In the seven years since Tom came out to me, he’s opened up a lot and we’ve even discussed what kind of men we both find attractive (I’m more into Tom Hardy, while he’s a Bill Hader type of guy). We’ve told some of our close friends, too, and, overall, Tom says he feels much happier with himself. He’s also apologized to Mike for being rude, but Mike told him not be silly. It was a long time ago, he said, and he understood Tom’s worries completely.
I can see a weight has been lifted off Tom’s chest and our life together is better than ever because there are no secrets between us now. After letting go of that self-hatred, Tom says he feels like his world is a lot more colorful and beautiful. And, ultimately, a happier Tom has meant a happier me. And for more on how to maintain a healthy and happy marriage, check out the 50 Best Marriage Tips of All Time.
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