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SPOUSES
 

Huffington Post: Women Share the Moment They Found Out Their Husbands Were Gay

BBC News: How I Found Out My Partner Was Gay

Straight Spouse Network: Discovering Your Spouse Isn't Straight

NPR: Place for Straight Spouses After Their Mate Comes Out
Info: On The Down Low

TED Talk: Straight Spouse Speaks Out

 

When You Discover Your Partner is Gay

 

 Many gay men and women end up marrying people of the opposite sex. But what is it like for the spouse who eventually finds their marriage breaking down?

 

 According to one comment that is typical in these circumstances, "They may go on and have a wonderful new life while leaving a crushed wife behind. You just feel like your whole life is wasted and there's no closure."

 

One of the most difficult things for many spouses is watching their former partner being celebrated as brave for coming out, but knowing the damage they've left behind.

 

 

When Your Spouse Reveals His/Her True Sexual Orientation

   

You've had your suspicions. Your normal sexual appetite is considered by your mate to be excessive. Your spouse doesn't want to have anything to do with you sexually and acts repulsed by sexual activity. Your partner becomes more and more secretive and moody. You notice him/her looking at people of the same sex differently.

 

Then you discover the truth and learn that your spouse is gay or bisexual. As your world turns upside down, and as your partner 'comes out', you find yourself shoved in the closet. Although you may feel alone, isolated and shamed, you are none of these.

 

Statistics Concerning Mixed Orientation Couples

 

Mixed orientation couples means that one spouse is either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  According to the Straight Spouse Network, it is estimated that there are up to 2 million mixed orientation couples. According to Amity Buxton of the Straight Spouse Network, "When the gay, lesbian, or bisexual spouse comes out, a third of the couples break up immediately; another third stay together for one to two years, sorting out what to do and then divorce; the remaining third try to make their marriages work.  A half of these couples divorce, while half of them (17% of the total) stay together for three or more years."

 

 

 

The Family Pride Coalition compiled the following statistics:

 

--2-4 million mixed orientation couples, and more than 80% get divorced.

 --3.5 million children are born to mixed-orientation couples.

 --20 percent of all gay men in America are in a heterosexual marriage.

 --50 percent of all gay men in America have fathered children.

 --40 percent of all lesbians in America are married to a male partner.

 --75 percent of all lesbians have children.

 

 Key Issues Facing a Straight Spouse

 

 --Sexual rejection.

 --Damaged sexual self-esteem.

 --Questions like "what did I do to cause this" or "am I not masculine/feminine enough"?

 --Low self-image and a high level of self-doubt.

 --Concern about the children. How will they handle the news? What about the gay influence when they stay with their gay parent?

 --Shattered beliefs after living a lie.

 --Confusion about marriage and whether it is worth saving.

 --Fear of having your family torn apart.

 --Hurt over being violated and lied to.

 --Handling feelings of rage, bitterness, fear, shock, despair, devastation, repulsion, hurt and anger.

 --Questions about infidelity.

 --Coping with shame, secrecy and a fear of lack of acceptance.

 --Dealing with a gay spouse who doesn't want to limit sexual preference.

 --Fear of having been exposed to or having contracted sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS.

 

Range of Emotional Responses of Straight Spouses

 

Shocked... Alone... Isolated... Betrayed... Confused... Relieved... Hurt... Disbelief... Bitter... Empathic... Self-blame... Shattered trust... Panic... Guilt... Disappointment... Fear... Anger... Rage... Shame... Denial... Despair... Devastation... Repulsion... Victimized... Entitled... Acceptance

 

Things to Do and Not to Do

 

 --Don't isolate yourself. Your family is in crisis. Seek out a support group or professional help.

 --Decide what you both can and cannot live with. Some people can look past sexual preference and some can't.

 --Don't assume that your marriage is over. Some straight/gay marriages are happy unions. However, studies show that out of 15% of couples who try to make it work, only about 7% make it long term after learning one spouse is gay.

 --Accept that it takes two to make a marriage. One spouse can't save a marriage alone.

 --Get checked immediately for sexually transmitted diseases whether or not your partner admits to any sexual infidelity.

 --Remember that no one can turn a person gay.

 --Do take care of yourself as you go through the grieving process. Your marriage as you knew it is over. If you stay married, it will be changed. Try to accept this reality and move on with your lives.

 --Telling your children depends on their age and understanding. You may need professional guidance to deal with this. It is important for them to feel loved and secure and that they know they are not to blame for the situation.

 --Don't let the years of deception and the sense of betrayal take away from the good times and the positive memories you had in your marriage.

 

 

 

This is Not Your Fault

 

Although the trauma of being a straight spouse can be overwhelming, it is important to realize that the situation you find yourself in is not your fault.

 

The first year will probably be the toughest. Faced with this life-changing experience, you and your spouse can make life-giving decisions for you marriage, for one another, and for your children.

 

These decisions may mean the end of your marriage. Some couples stay married and some don't. Moving on and letting go will take time and it will take a willingness to forgive.

 

[Source: Sheri Stritof / About Relationships]

 

Huffington Post: Women Share the Moment They Found Out Their Husbands Were Gay

BBC News: How I Found Out My Partner Was Gay

Straight Spouse Network: Discovering Your Spouse Isn't Straight

NPR: Place for Straight Spouses After Their Mate Comes Out

About Relationships: When Your Spouse Reveals True Sexual Orientation

Info: On The Down Low

TED Talk: Straight Spouse Speaks Out

Mixed Orientation Marriage (MOM): Support and Encouragement

 

Comments From Straight Spouses 

 

“I felt I was not an adequate man. It completely destroyed my self image”

-Dan, whose ex-wife is a lesbian

 

“We’ve survived 7 years of marriage by tolerating the ambivalence of what we are and the uncertainty of what could happen”

-Barbara, whose husband is bisexual

 

“Being a ‘straight spouse’ does not automatically mean ending your marriage. It does mean you have to decide what’s important to you, how flexible you are willing to be, and how committed you and your partner are to each other and the marriage”

-Miriam, wife of a male-to-female trans partner

 

“I was doubly traumatized by the deceit. I thought, ‘How could I have missed the signals?’”

-Wes, whose ex-wife is a lesbian

 

“My deep rage persists to this day, five years later. Anger is my only connection to Tim’s gayness.”

-Moira, whose husband is gay

 

“Everything I thought I understood was wrong. My memories of our marriage and our life together lost their meaning. It was like I had fallen off a cliff and there was no bottom.”

-Anna Marie, whose husband is gay

 

“I have met and learned to appreciate the men that he loves, who have helped him become a much happier and whole person. The days of depression and anger are gone. The days of rejecting me sexually are gone.”

-Paula, whose husband is gay

 

“My wife chose to act on her deviant desires, lose her faith and everything she has ever pretended to be, and we will get divorced from the results.”

-Joe, whose wife is a lesbian

 

“I was able to accept that he was gay and be supportive of his decision to leave once I knew that he was gay. It took a lot longer for me to get over being angry that it took him a year to tell me the truth. His secrecy was a personal affront and said to me he did not trust me.”

-Sandra, whose husband is gay

 

“Why wasn’t there any intimacy? What was wrong with me? Why was he depressed? What was he withdrawn? Why did he think he was in a prison?”

-Amity, founder of Straight Spouse Network, whose husband of 25 years came out after they separated

 

[Source: Gary Williams and Anita Neuer]

 

NPR: Place for Straight Spouses After Their Mate Comes Out

TED Talk: Straight Spouse Speaks Out

Info: On The Down Low

About Relationships: When Your Spouse Reveals True Sexual Orientation

Mixed Orientation Marriage (MOM): Support and Encouragement

 

Recovering From the Shock

 

When a spouse reveals his or her true sexual orientation, it can be very traumatic for the partner.  A process of healing or recovery is required.  Here are the typical stages of recovery for a spouse who discovers that his or her partner is gay:

 

Stage One: Disorientation - Disorientation, disbelief, denial, and often relief.

 

Stage Two: Acknowledgement - Facing and acknowledging the reality of the partner's sexual orientation (or gender identity), the spouses' own pain, and changes in their life resulting from the disclosure.

 

Stage Three: Acceptance - Accepting present reality and realizing the irreversibility of the new aspects of the partner even if the marriage might continue.

 

Stage Four: Release - Letting go of past assumptions about themselves, their marriage, and their partner.

 

Stage Five: Identity Healing - Healing their own identity and integrity including self worth and value system.

 

Stage Six: New Normal - Reconfiguring and refocusing themselves to view their situation in perspective and formulate a belief system with meaning and purpose.

 

Stage Seven: Transformation - Transforming their lives based on their reconfigured worldview.

 

[Source: A.P. Buxton, Paths and Pitfalls: How Heterosexual Spouses Cope When their Husbands or Wives Come out," Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 2004.  Also, J. J. Bigner and J. L. Wetchler, Relationship Therapy with Same-Sex Couples]

 

Organizations
 

Family Pride Coalition

Straight Spouse Network
Children of Lesbian and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE)

 

Publications
 
The Other Side of the Closet, Amity Pierce Buxton
Married Women who Love Women, Carren Strock
Is He Straight? A Checklist for Women who Wonder, Bonnie Kaye, M.Ed.
Uncommon Lives: Gay Men and Straight Women, Catherine Whitney
In the Meantime, Iyanla Vanzant
Husbands who Love Men: Deceit, Disease, Despair, Aileen Atwood, RN, Ed.D.
Living Two Lives: Married to a Man and In Love with a Woman, Joanne Fleisher
My Husband is Gay: A Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Crisis, Carol Grever
Silent Partner, Dina Matos McGreevey

 

 

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