What it feels like when your husband tells you he's actually gay

What it feels like when your husband tells you he’s actually gay: By a doctor’s wife whose husband hid his sexuality for years, just like Phillip Schofield

  • Alana Kirk’s 13-year marriage ended when her husband told her that he’s gay 
  • She and the hospital doctor had a whirlwind romance, engaged within a year
  • Mother-of-three said she thought of Steph Lowe when Phillip schofield came out
  • Alana revealed she’s at her happiest, fives years since her relationship ended 

How do you think you would feel if your husband suddenly announced that he was gay? Shocked? Angry? Heartbroken?

Strangely enough, my first reaction was one of relief; relief that lasted about 23 seconds before I was swept away by a tsunami of other, darker emotions.

In those few seconds, every moment of self-doubt, every dent to my self-esteem, every sleepless night of confusion and despair, every gut feeling I’d suppressed during 13 years of marriage finally found a breath of solace.

It was the relief of realising I wasn’t mad or unlovable. That was five years ago. It would feel like months, even years, until I was able to come up for air again.

When Phillip Schofield came out on This Morning last Friday, the response was overwhelmingly supportive. It was an incredibly brave moment.

Alana Kirk (pictured) who was married for 13 years, recalls her reaction to her ex-husband telling her that he’s gay

All I could think about, however, was his wife Steph Lowe, sitting at home, proud of the man she loved, but probably devastated by what his announcement meant for her and what it has probably meant for a long time.

Looking back, my husband’s sexuality affected me long before I found out. By then we were in our mid-40s, with daughters aged four, six and seven.

We’d met travelling in south-east Asia in our 20s and had a brief, intense relationship, falling in love with the mountains of Borneo as a backdrop.

Years later when we met again, perhaps because of that previous experience, we became serious very quickly. I loved his energy and his sense of adventure that matched mine.

Within weeks we were living together, got engaged within a year, and married months later in a whirlwind of excitement.

Everything — sexually, emotionally — seemed normal. I was pregnant within weeks of the wedding, and our three babies came in quick succession. Just after our third daughter was born, I was catapulted into helping to care for my mum, who’d had a stroke.

It was easy to put the growing distance between us down to hectic lives, but deep down I knew it was more, a niggling feeling I couldn’t articulate. His tendency to lie, even about minor things — the moves he’d make in a game, whether a pack of cigarettes I found in his pocket were his — had already caused a crack. When I challenged him, he denied everything until I doubted myself.

Alana said when Phillip Schofield came out on This Morning last Friday, all she could think about was his wife Steph Lowe, pictured: Philip and Stephanie at the National Television Awards in 2014

He was a hospital doctor and I worked in the charity sector at the time. We loved our girls and our life was very full. However, I felt increasingly isolated within our marriage, sensing a mental and emotional detachment I could never quite get to the bottom of.

I began to doubt myself, my instincts, even whether I was a nice person. My ex-husband is very friendly and gregarious, and when I tried to talk to friends about my feelings that something wasn’t quite right, often they just couldn’t understand. I barely did!

He could be very loving, but there were countless little episodes that hurt me, like when he arranged Christmas with his family without consulting me. Individually they didn’t amount to much, but together they made me feel trapped. It was as if everyone else thought we were perfect, and I was the one rocking the boat.

The last three years were very hard. I knew he was depressed after the death of a close colleague and very stressed with work. I wanted to help and even begged him to go to counselling, hoping the ‘real’ him would emerge.

Our sex life dwindled, with no intimacy in the two final years of our marriage.

Looking back, all the signs pointed to an affair. He’d go out without telling me when I was away caring for my mum. Once, he even stayed out all night. I’d spent the early hours of that morning calling police stations and A&E departments wondering if he would be found beaten up in some alleyway. But somehow I couldn’t believe he’d cheat on me.

Then one weekend, in the middle of another row, I broke. I still don’t know where the words came from but, grasping for straws, I asked him: ‘Are you gay?’ He collapsed on the floor and nodded, and then came my 23 seconds of relief.

Alana revealed she and her ex-husband considered staying together, but it became clear that it would be an emotional disaster (file image)

Next, the shock hit me. I cradled him in my arms, pushing away my own need to be comforted. I spent that afternoon arranging counselling for him, while for me, the next few days felt like being caught in a blizzard, unable to see or think straight. We talked and rowed and cried. I initially thought we could stay together, as Phillip Schofield and his wife have decided to do, ‘for now’. But it became clear that would be a disaster for us both, emotionally. In those early days, he confessed to feeling this way for a long time, and to seeing men at the end of our marriage.

He didn’t want the children to know yet so, when we sat them down a couple of weeks later to tell them our marriage was over, we kept it vague. Supporting their shock and pain was the worst thing I’ve ever had to go through.

Then I had to tell the truth to my family, and my close friends. Next came the humiliation of getting tested for STDs, and I have never felt so lonely in my life. Thankfully the results were negative.

He initially moved into the spare room, but left for good six weeks later. I’ll never forget standing in my kitchen hearing him walk out the front door for the last time.

Afterwards, there was one question I was asked more than any other. I was never sure whether it was out of curiosity or an accusation: Did I know?

Did I? I’m honestly not sure. I knew, from early on, that something was fundamentally wrong.

Phillip Schofield and his wife (pictured at the National Television Awards in 2019) have decided to decided to stay together ‘for now’

Had he been a bit more open about his past, including previous sexual experience with men, would I have still married him?

Most probably, yes. Would I have figured out the truth sooner, helped him as he came to terms with his sexuality, saving myself years of pain and self-doubt? Most probably, yes.

I completely understand that fear and guilt prevented him from being honest, but the fact remains he took a gamble on me. Had I had all the facts, I would probably have taken that gamble, too — because I loved him. Instead, I lost a bet I didn’t even know I’d staked everything on.

He never intended to hurt me and his pain was palpable, but I felt that mine was always secondary. I’ll never forget seeing a text ping on his phone from a friend in the subsequent days. ‘So proud of you! Be true to yourself!’ it read.

He was brave, strong, about to embark on a new life (albeit tinged with pain and guilt), while I stood in the debris of a marriage that had been a mirage. I felt unable even to be openly angry, because, of course, he had no choice but to be honest about himself.

But while that texter was rightly proud of him for coming out, did they ever consider the shattered person who had also been held back by that marriage?

Who had also been denied an authentic, loving relationship?

Alana (pictured) said five years since her marriage ended, she’s the happiest that she’s ever been and her ex is in a loving relationship

Their lies become yours, by default. You wonder, was he repulsed by you walking around in underwear? The rejection had a huge impact on my self-esteem.

Eventually, it became too hard on me having the children think it was my fault their dad had moved out, so I insisted they be told he was gay. They love and accept him completely, but were devastated by the break-up, with sleepless nights, tears and panic attacks.

Five years on the tsunami has subsided. My ex is in a loving relationship, and I’m probably the happiest I’ve ever been, with a new career as a coach for midlife women. My children have two parents who love them very much, and we are happier people apart.

I’m so grateful for my girls, but I do resent the years that were stolen from me afterwards, years when it was clear I was unhappy.

I believe it isn’t just coming out that’s an act of bravery; it’s doing it in partnership with your spouse, with honesty, integrity and mutual respect — rather than behind a veil of lies and betrayal.

I hope that, as society becomes more tolerant, fewer of us feel we have to lie — to ourselves and to others — about our sexuality. And fewer of us go through what I did.

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