Brokeback Marriage: Wife Starts Over -- With a Woman

PHOTO Shira Neuberger poses for picture with Kelly, the woman who moved into her home after her husband moved out.

By all accounts, Shira Neuberger seemed to be living a happy life. She had a handsome husband, two beautiful daughters and a pretty suburban home outside Philadelphia.

But last year, she stunned neighbors in her small town by splitting with her husband of seven-and-a-half years and inviting a new partner into her home.

Even more shocking to those around her, her new love was not another man -- but a woman.

Wife Begins New Life, With Another Woman
Wife Begins New Life, With Another Woman

Shira said that if someone had told her in July 2001, when she married her husband, John, that she would ultimately end up in a relationship with another woman, she would have been stunned. She said she entered her marriage blissfully happy, believing it would last forever.

Just a year later, the couple welcomed their first daughter, Karis. A second daughter, Sosie, followed in 2004.

As the years passed, though, doubts began creeping in about her marriage.

"We don't want to have those doubts of, 'Is this not going to work?'" Shira said. "I mean, that's a very frightening feeling. But the nature of our relationship was really changing."

As her marriage to John became increasingly unhappy, Shira found their sex life fading as well. Soon, depression had taken over, even getting so bad at one point that she resorted to electroconvulsive brain therapy -- once known as electro-shock treatment -- looking for relief. By 2006, Shira said, she was sure her marriage would not last.

"When I look where I am now, and I look where I was, it's a dramatic shift. And all the changes were very difficult. There's loss involved -- there's a lot of loss," Shira said.

A struggling Shira began to lean more on her female friends for emotional support. One of those friends was Kelly Durand, whom Shira had met at her children's gymnastics classes a few years earlier.

At first, the relationship was platonic, because although Kelly was a lesbian, she knew Shira as a married mother of two.

"I think there's something about it being off-limits that confines you to behave in a certain way," Kelly said. "I think it probably always was there, but like, you sort of keep your distance."

Brokeback Marriage: 'This Tension'

Shira had always considered herself a heterosexual. With the exception of an affair just after college with a woman, she only had been with men.

But in the months that followed the collapse of her marriage, she found herself increasingly drawn to Kelly. The two women grew closer and soon began spending more and more time together.

"As I developed feelings, I think at some point, I said, I sense this tension," Shira said. "I knew this was going to be very hard. It was very difficult to deal with the end of a marriage and then to feel like, 'OK, I'm now interested potentially in a relationship with another person. And also, it's a woman.' People do kind of have an extra level of horror for that."

Shira was about to experience one of society's last taboos: the switch from a straight mate to a lesbian lover. Although there have been recent examples in the media of this phenomenon -- on the television program "Grey's Anatomy" and with actresses Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche -- many still find switching one's sexual orientation hard to grasp.

Both Nixon and Heche dated men before their headline-grabbing relationships with women. Since famously splitting with Ellen Degeneres in 2000, Heche once again has been romantically linked with men.

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