When “Happy Enough” Stops Being Enough - February 2023
Before coming out, Maleea says, “I was happy enough. My marriage wasn’t horrible. My husband and I were high school sweethearts and married six months after graduation. We were best friends. We traveled together. We were raising five kids together. I was happy enough - until I wasn’t. Growing up, I felt ‘free’ in many moments and experiences as a child; however, to say I felt free to ‘be myself’ was never on my radar. Looking back, I feel okay saying I didn’t really know what that meant. Who was I? I was just a kid in a small town who always felt weird. Different. A kid who enjoyed things most of my girlfriends didn’t. A kid who related to the boys more than the girls. The closest I ever “felt” I was myself was when I was with a particular friend who lived in the country. She had horses, motorcycles, tree houses, and a creek that we played in. Those are my most freeing memories.”
Maleea and Katrina “Kat” Kalb both lived completely different lives before marrying each other, but they were hiding secrets. They didn’t get the opportunity to fall in love as teenagers or dream about each other as young adults. For both of them, wondering who they were was a question that marinated in the back reaches of their minds.
The only child of a single working mother with very little family nearby, Kat spent much of her childhood alone.
“I always felt like I was on the wrong planet. I didn’t feel like I was like the other girls. And there were big expectations of me to be a good child, to be easy, to get good grades, to be fashionable, etc. The only place I could be free to be a kid and a tomboy was when I was with my mother’s sister.”
Kat and Maleeah knew who they were supposed to be … but did knowing who they were supposed to be have anything to do with how they felt inside?
Kat spent middle and high school being “best friends” with the boyfriends of my girlfriends, all the while harboring secret crushes on my girlfriends. I found myself “sensing” that other girls were “different like me,” and I kept my distance from them to avoid guilt by association. High school was especially challenging, fighting against what I felt was wrong about me inside. She aligned herself with popular people but never felt “like them.” She poured herself into sports, grades, and clubs.
Praying the Gay Away
At the University of Oklahoma, Kat got heavily involved in the Baptist Student Union. Through this, she said she found friends and a family and got a direct confirmation that “something dreadful was wrong with her” and that through the power of God, she could rid herself of all that wretched wrongness.
This path led her to devote her life to ministry, which led to a constant ebb and flow of praying the gay away, fasting, studying the bible, bible studies, deliverance conferences (a generally agreed-upon definition of “deliverance ministry” usually focuses on the casting out demons or spirits in an attempt to solve problems related to specific demons) all to get rid of the spirit of homosexuality. When she was 25, she put herself in conversion therapy as a last hope of being free. It did not work, and the feeling of deep failure led her to two suicide attempts.
Meanwhile, Maleeha was experiencing her own torment. In 2005, after her second miscarriage, she began a deep dark mental spiral that was the beginning of her facing her authentic self and her demons. She had a nervous breakdown and spent three years with a psychotherapist, a psychologist, and an EMDR-certified psychotherapist. “My now ex-husband traveled so much for work he barely recalls how sick she was. At the end of those 3 years, I came to accept (in my head) that I was gay. It would be another 13 years married before I actually said it out loud in a setting of acceptance.”
The road was hard getting to where they are today. When they first met and started forming a relationship, they both agree was “the best of times and the worst of times.”
Maleea had asked for a divorce. When she and Kat started dating, he was furious and hateful, devastating to everyone. At the same time, they were in love, Kat says, and “had so many confirmations from people and the universe that this was divine and meant to be. We couldn’t have enough time together. We were so consumed with this beautiful thing we never thought we would ever experience.”
“I was experiencing something I had dreamed of, hoped for but had been willing to forego experiencing,” says Maleeha. It was like young love in the body of a 46-year-old woman. The emotions were so big. For the first time in my life, I felt things I was pretty sure existed but had accepted I would never actually experience them. It was wonderful, and it was terrifying,” she says.
“Oh yes,” says Kat. “Coming out late in life is hard enough. Going through a divorce to be your authentic self comes with stress, judgment, and grief. The best thing we had was a circle of supportive friends, especially Sara Cunningham, who knew we made the right decision and supported us every step of the way. And that’s the best thing to have… support. Friends who would go through those tough times with you. And the best thing we did was get a couples counselor.”
It took a while, but when the dust settled, they gradually started to visit each other's parents. And then started integrating their kids, which was a step-by-step process. They started dating right before COVID hit, so they quarantined together whenever they could, but they weren’t even around their own kids at times.
“I spent many years fearing the hardships I knew would come if I ever came out,” says Maleeah. In 2019, when I decided to take the plunge for the second and final time, all those fears came true - along with many more. What I feared the most was telling my children. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was afraid of losing family and friends. And I did. A lot. However, I do not regret anything.”
At Last … Authenticity
“We are very aware that not everyone gets this kind of love. And we are equally grateful that we could have lived our whole lives and not known what we were missing. We know what it cost us to be authentic and free, and we also know a deeper level of divine connection and timing,” says Kat. “If anything in our life were different, we would never have met each other. So even the trials and grief are part of the bigger picture. We love our life together and living all the new moments. We get family moments that we love, and we get alone, “young love” moments too.
No more settling for “happy enough.”