Harriet and James married in the 1970s, but their relationship broke down a few years later. After another marriage ended, James eventually came out. He and Harriet were reunited as friends, and remain close to this day.
Harriet Allen, 61, is a retired teacher. She is currently single and lives in Leeds: James and I met in 1973. What I remember is the feeling of warm safety he gave me — and we laughed a lot. I was 25 and he was 24 when we got married, but in the summer of 1977, the cracks started to appear. Though I loved James dearly, I didn’t really fancy him, and I had always known he was holding something back. When a close friend of his told me, “James is gay,” it made instant sense. I believed, and still do, that James had never been unfaithful to me, but I decided to leave. It was horrible for us both.
Within a year, I had met someone I wanted to marry and James agreed to be my witness at the wedding — he even wore the pink dungarees I asked him to! Soon after, we lost touch for several years. Then, out of the blue, he got in touch. His partnership had broken down, and mine was in dire trouble. From that moment, we have always been there for each other. In 1999, when I was 50, and single again, James even arranged a silver wedding anniversary for us! I loved the fact that we could celebrate 25 years of love. When James married David, I was jealous, because he had found true love with such a lovely man (just what I would like). I’m single at the moment, but any partner of mine would have had to accept James. I may not have the forever marriage I so wanted, but I do have forever love and friendship with a man I’m proud to have in my life.
James Nash, 60, is a poet and writer. He lives in Leeds with his civil partner, David: Marrying Harriet in 1974 was a denial of my sexuality, but it gave me the sense of belonging I had desired all my life. Back then I saw no way of being gay and having the life I wanted. When we split up, I felt lost. I made some tentative forays into exploring my homosexual nature, but hadn’t the courage to pursue it, so I continued to have relationships with women. Harriet remarried and I was genuinely happy for her. I remarried in 1979, and when that broke up after 12 years I felt that I should “come out”. Harriet had moved to Provence and I spent a week there in 1991. I remember sitting on the banks of the Ardèche, talking about where our relationship had gone wrong.
Harriet was generous and encouraging, and I went back to Leeds full of new vigour to pursue my dreams of becoming a writer and finding out who I was. Once I felt I’d been entirely honest about my identity, writing poetry flowed more than naturally for me. I feel Harriet and I had a very successful marriage up to a point. And Harriet loves David, and he loves her. David is a fashion designer, and when Harriet went to Glyndebourne a year or so back, he made her the most beautiful dress. Now we live only a few miles from each other in Leeds, and our affection for each other is alive and well.
- The Guardian