Brokeback Marriage

You are a happily married wife and mother when suddenly you find yourself attracted to … another woman? It happens more often than you think, which is why one Chestnut Hill therapist is busier than ever

AS SHE HEADED east on the Schuylkill, Dana* couldn’t stop her hands from shaking on the wheel. I can’t afford a setback, she thought. Every step forward had been such a huge undertaking. She flipped on the car radio to calm herself. George Michael’s baritone was crooning: “I gotta have faith, faith, faith … ” Thanks, God, you’re really having fun with me here. Dana hadn’t told a soul where she was going, and navigating the Expressway on a dark Friday night made it feel like a secret mission.

[sidebar]The journey had begun five years earlier, after Dana turned 40. She found herself feeling strangely attracted to a female co-worker at the store she managed. The way they laughed so easily together, the way the woman affectionately touched Dana as she talked, flooded her with strange sensations. What is wrong with me? she thought. Am I crazy? I love my husband. I love my kids. I love my life. What is this? She’d never looked at a woman that way. She’d married a man she was madly in love with — a law-enforcement officer who had brought her breakfast in bed every day of their 15-year marriage. They’d had kids, bought the house of their dreams — a three-bedroom colonial on a peaceful tree-lined street in Yardley — joined a Catholic church, attended PTA meetings, and fallen neatly into the framework of their small community.

Dana never told her husband about her Sapphic attraction. Instead, she quit her job and made an appointment with him for marriage counseling, convinced she was just missing their earlier intimacy and passion. He worked for the city by day; she sometimes logged 70 hours a week working nights to cover private-school tuition for their two boys, who were then eight and 10. After some joint counseling, she suppressed her feelings for her co-worker and went on with her life.

Two years later, Dana met another woman at work whose presence hit her so powerfully that she could no longer deny something was happening. The two talked in the car for hours after long shifts. One day the woman — a lesbian, it turned out – stole a long, sensuous kiss in the bathroom. “I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak,” Dana says, her blue eyes widening. The electricity consumed her. “We started meeting in broad daylight in parking lots, getting half-naked in the car in the community where we both lived and worked. We were willing to risk everything for those stolen moments.”

The affair infused her with new life. Being with a woman, this woman, felt more right than anything she’d ever experienced. But it was also killing her. For a year, she hid the affair from everyone. Her girlfriend came over often, but it appeared the two were just friends. Finally, wracked with shame and guilt, Dana left her husband and moved in with a friend. A month later, on a cold February day, she sat her husband down and told him the truth: She was in love with a woman.

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