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Why I continue to write about Being a Straight Spouse

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Some people ask why I continue to write about this issue.  It’s been four years since I found out the truth about my marriage.  My ex-husband and I have made amends.  Although we didn’t go through every detail and every transgression on his part, we have reached a point were we accepted what happened.   He has admitted fault and sought forgiveness, I have accepted my codependency on him and my marriage.  I write about this because I know there are so many others like me out there, and because there is so much misunderstanding about these marriages.

Both partners suffer greatly.  We are left with broken trust, shattered lives and often broken families.  Many of us have great difficulty bonding with a new partner or marrying again.  Some are left to raise children on their own, many are financially ruined.  I have known a few stories where partners have contracted HIV from their spouses, or had to bury a spouse due to AIDS.    Some of us cut off our former spouses and try to rebuild our lives without them.

Our spouses have different repercussions depending on how much responsibility and accountability they take.  Some go even deeper into denial and refuse to accept themselves, and even marry another straight partner hoping to continue to live a lie.  A few partners decide that we caused their homosexuality or their infidelity and get vicious during a divorce.  I’ve heard absolutely horrific stories of long drawn out battles that are devastating.  Some regress to a more immature time in their lives and abandon their families, cut off all contact, even with their own children, a few completely disappear.  In one extreme case a man faked his own death, only to reemerge 16 years later openly gay.  Some spouses do everything they can to restore some type of relationship, they make amends, they ask for forgiveness, they remain positive parents to their children and do their best to rebuild trust.

In the most tragic cases both straight spouses and our partners have committed both suicide and homicide.  People are capable of doing truly horrible things, regardless of their sexual orientation.   There have been examples from straight spouses and their partners of self-inflicted violence, or violence towards their spouse.

For a lot of us, our situation lies somewhere between the extremes. a few couples even decide to stay together and redefine their marriages, although most of us separate or divorce.  The best resolutions usually occur with open communication and accountability for past transgressions.  Straight Spouse marriages are similar but they run the full spectrum of outcomes.

I still write about this because I know it helps other straight spouses find the help they need.  I still write about this because it could also help people who might be considering marrying someone to try to “fix” their gay tendencies or urges.  I write about this because I really don’t want it to keep happening.  I write about this because I’m sick of people making wild assumptions about us or our former spouses.

GLTBQ people should be proud of who they are, and should be able to marry whomever they want in an honest and open way. They should be able to be openly gay, and free to live happy and healthy lives and not try to hide behind a facade.   I do have empathy towards their situation.  But we can’t sweep the ugliness under the rug, and no one should get a free pass for abusive, neglectful, deceitful behavior because they were confused about their sexual orientation.  It’s not easy being gay, and the coming out process for many is long and difficult, but they should also come to terms with those they have hurt along the way.  The closet doesn’t just affect the person living inside of it, but everyone around them.   We all have suffered, but we will end the suffering if we all face the truth.  We cannot continue to live in proverbial closets where the dark sides of mixed orientation marriages are brushed aside or ignored.  The hate and prejudice directed at GLTBQ affects more than just the community itself.  The damage to those individuals and the self-hatred splinters outward affecting their families and loved ones – including Straight Spouses.

An invaluable resource for anyone facing this is the Straight Spouse Support Network.  There you will find access to local support groups in your area, chat rooms full of other straight spouses sharing their stories, literature and books written by and for straight spouses, literature and books written from our spouse’s perspectives and support for children affected by these situations.  SSN is literally one stop shopping for advice on just about every aspect of dealing with these revelations.   Author and therapist Bonnie Kaye has a blog for women who were married to gay men.  There are private groups on Facebook, retreats where we physically get together and meet other straight spouses from around the country.  You are not alone.  I might eventually just run out of things to say on the subject, but I will never stop supporting other men and women who find themselves in this most horrible shared experience.

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Life After Divorce: Do you REALLY have to be friends with your Ex?

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In some was I was lucky, the conditions of my divorce made my split extremely cauterized.  When I discovered my ex-husband was gay, I wanted out of the marriage immediately.  I saw no hope for reconciliation and had no desire to work anything out.  We had no children so I didn’t see the point in keeping him as a major part of my life.  For the first couple of years it was hard to sever that connection, but ultimately I think it did us both good to move on.  My divorce messed me up fairly badly, and I am still coping with the after effects on a day by day basis.  That being said, I have also found a disturbing and somewhat annoying trend with at least a half-dozen men that I have gone out with since my divorce.  They do the following:

  • Openly talk about their ex for most of the date
  • Admit to buying gifts, presents, for their former spouse – in one case she was already re-married
  • Remain Emotionally connected to a former lover even if they’ve moved on
  • Constantly post loving messages on their former partner’s Facebook wall, Twitter account or other forms of social media
  • Every status update, every twitter post – is somehow about their ex.
  • One man admitted he sabotaged his marriage because he was still not over an ex-girlfriend
  • On guy went so far as to ask me on advice on how to get his ex back – I was on a date with him at the time

Obviously this is a universal problem that effects men and women of all sexual orientations and gender identifications.  I think part of this stems from the relatively new concept, that one has to get along with his or her ex.

If a couple has children, then I totally see the point of wanting to maintain a positive, healthy relationship.  Otherwise, I am not sure it is always best to keep your former significant other as a huge part of your life.  I say this because time and time again I don’t see good outcomes.  Instead of the pain being intense, difficult and swift; the agony gets played out slowly and arduously for one if not both partners – sometimes for years.  One or both partners remain in a state of arrested development.  They might derive sexual pleasure from others, but they remain emotionally connected to someone who is using them, completely over them or toxic to their well-being.

Too many times one half of the union will still rely on the other for

  • Emotional stability – comfort
  • Some type of ego boost
  • A sense of normalcy
  • A place to dump their emotional baggage

Keeping a former love around in your life, even if just in an emotional capacity, can cause a person to not seek out that role in someone new.    I have known some couples that drag on this pseudo non-relationship far too long for anything healthy to come out of it.  Your relationship fell apart for a reason.

  • You constantly fought – damaging each other up in the process
  • You couldn’t agree on major life decisions – where to live, how to spend money, whether or not to have kids
  • You grew apart
  • One if not both of you couldn’t stay honest to the commitment – Infidelity or deception
  • Complete loss of trust
  • Untreated substance abuse
  • Emotional or physical abuse
  • Lack of respect or boundaries

Sometimes all the therapy in the world cannot change the fact that two people are simply not compatible.  Broken relationships are not necessarily a failure.  The damage that occurred in the partnership could be too great to repair.  Instead of holding on to an idealized version of an ex, a person should asses what went wrong, take responsibility for any mistakes or destructive behavior and then move on. Or they should do everything within their power to repair the damage, make up for their mistakes and get their former spouse back.  The middle ground is what can be so agonizing for so many.

In the cases of a straight spouse, sometimes our former spouses are just using us as an emotional crutch after massive deception and betrayal.  It is important to establish strong emotional boundaries so that a former spouse does not end up exploiting your emotions after they have just wrecked your life.   They need to grow up and deal with the consequences of their actions.  I have seen men and women complain about this problem repeatedly in straight spouse chat rooms, and discussion groups.  Our former spouses sometimes act like emotional vampires draining us of what little we have left.  It might feel scary to imagine life without your former spouse, but in the long run you will be better off if you allow some distance.

Relationships do not have to remain static.  It is more likely to rekindle a friendship with a former partner many years after a break up rather than immediately after the fall.  Just because we were at one time in love with someone doesn’t mean we won’t fall in love with someone new, or have a full life without them.  I have been guilty of this as well.  It’s human nature to want to fight for something that we once loved, but sometimes the best thing to do is move forward and not dwell on the past.

A Loving Couple: What Gay Marriage Really Looks Like

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English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So any regular readers of this blog already know, I am a straight spouse.  A straight spouse is a person who married someone who they thought was straight only to find out years later that their partner was actually secretly gay.   My marriage was smoke and mirrors of lies, deception and ultimately betrayal.  From the outside my marriage appeared completely normal but we were both stuck in a miserable union.  I blame homophobia and the fear of homosexuality in part for the phenomena of gay men and women entering into these unions.  Every straight spouse knows all to well the personal hell that is a mixed orientation marriage.  Our partners, filled with so much self-loathing, bent themselves into knots to become something they weren’t and thousands of spouses and children end up as collateral damage to these sham marriages.    And then there is a marriage, like this one…

Tom & Jon

I remember when Jon first met Tom.  Jon was an actor, and Tom was a writer.  They had the same easy-going sense of humor and love of all things nerdy.   Smart, funny and supportive of their friends they were both well liked by almost everyone who knew them. Tom and Jon were one of those couples that were so cute together, they even dressed alike.  I haven’t seen either of them in years but we keep in touch thanks to Facebook and email.

Anyone terrified of same-sex marriage should watch this video.  Jon and Tom are just like any married couple.  They have a lot of the same interests, they love each other deeply and live fairly ordinary lives.   When I watch this I don’t see the end of civilization or the return of Sodom and Gomorrah, I just see a wonderful man who is very proud of his partner and his marriage.   And honestly I have been witness to some fairly dysfunctional and abusive straight marriages…haven’t we all?  Marriage is a crap shoot and if these two men can live together happily with their two cats, why should anyone care?  The whole point of a secular marriage is if one of them gets sick, the other one can visit them in the hospital, if one of them dies they can leave their estate to the other and on and on.  They should have the right to the same legal protections that any married couple have in this country.  Same sex couples aren’t storming churches demanding that the faithful accept them into their congregations.  They aren’t  pushing for legislation to ban straight marriages, or to make it legal for a gay employer to fire a straight employee based on their sexual orientation.  They aren’t promoting laws to make heterosexual sex illegal.  They aren’t designing programs to make straight people gay.   They just want to live their lives in peace.  This is NOT the end of the world, this is normal.

Dating After Divorce: NYC – Gay or European?

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Anyone who has lived in New York city for any length of time is familiar with the following expression.

“Gay or European?”

Before I start I want to say first that there are many shades of the sexual orientation rainbow.  Meaning, some gay men act, dress and look no different from a typical heterosexual man.  My ex-husband is an excellent of example of a gay man that most people thought was straight, including most gay men and myself.  At the same time some straight men act, dress and look more like a stereotypically gay man, and then we have the Europeans.

Due to cultural differences of men from one of the many countries in Europe, including the UK the distinction between gay and straight can get blurry.  Making this even more difficult is the rise of metrosexual men in New York.  That is heterosexual men who are openly into fashion, grooming, and their overall appearance.  I am not against any of this, but given my history I am a bit cautious about ending up with another gay man.  I have never been a huge fan of the super macho jock types so what is a girl to do?

If the man you are talking to has several of the following characteristics…pay close attention.  One or two may mean nothing, but several may be cause for concern.

  • Impeccable or trendy wardrobe
  • Especially tight clothing
  • Amazing shoes
  • Complicated haircuts
  • Bleached hair, tipped hair, streaked hair – always exceptions of course
  • Tank tops – Not the wife beater style but the skin-tight athletic ones
  • Skinny Jeans – a favorite of young men and hipsters too.
  • Feminine mannerisms
  • Bow ties – This one is tough as many straight men love bow ties
  • Leather pants, leather vests, leather clothing in general
  • Scarves worn indoors, not as outer-wear
  • Cute little hats worn indoors
  • Use of glitter, rainbows on clothing, makeup – foundation especially

The last one would probably indicate gay, I mean most straight men don’t wear foundation unless on a movie set or on stage and glitter is usually worn by teenage girls, burlesque performers and some gay men.   But expressing one or a couple of the above traits can mean nothing.  I knew one extremely straight individual who loved bow ties, amazing shoes and tailored suits but he was an upper crust academic so that could explain some of his fashion choices.   I also know many men under the age of thirty who fancy themselves rocker or hipster types who commonly wear skinny jeans, tight clothing or eyeliner.  And a man in leather pants, might just like leather pants…but if he is wearing a matching leather vest, no shirt and a leather cap, chances are he is gay.  Nipple piercings used to mean gay, but I probably know more straight men who have them now, than gay men.  Just as tattoos are sported in equal numbers by both gay and straight men and are hardly a good indicator of anything.  Now if they have a tattoo of a gay image or say the words “Gay Pride” then it might be safe to say they are gay. Earrings whether in one ear or both ears and nail polish don’t indicate anything either, as I know many men that paint their nails black or silver and earrings have long since become mainstream.

And of course none of these traits are inherently bad.  There is nothing wrong with a man who wants to wear leather chaps, or rainbow hot-pants, but they are probably not batting for the hetero team.  There is also nothing wrong with a straight man that loves fashion as I can think of several straight men that have an impeccable and creative wardrobe of absolutely stunning clothing.  We are much better off as a society with these gender distinctions murky with fewer people feeling trapped to adopt rigid gender standards.  Women have also blurred gender lines in dress and behavior.

I met a European man the other night who was wearing black skinny jeans, combat boots up to his knee and a form-fitting tank top.  He also shaved his head completely bald and openly admitted to photographing BDSM scenes of gay men.  Although he repeatedly claimed he was heterosexual I wasn’t completely convinced.  To prove a point about his uncircumcised penis he nearly whipped it out in front of me and a group of men.  I asked him not to as I didn’t really want to see it, and he didn’t but I think it was a close call.  He said dramatically

“Why not?  We are all whores here now aren’t we?”

To which I replied.

“Well, no we aren’t, so please, I don’t want to see your penis”

He obliged and it stayed in his pants.  The man lamented that since living in the United States many women usually think he is gay.  I explained to him that is wardrobe choices might be confusing things unless he was in a goth bar.   I wished him good luck as he accompanied a bunch of openly gay men to a gay bar.  I wanted to add that hanging out with a bunch of gay men at a gay bar is probably not the best place to pick up straight women, but I didn’t want to spoil the party.  The combination of his wardrobe, the near penis sighting, his profession and activities – going to a gay bar left me undecided on his true sexual orientation.  He was the living embodiment of “Gay or European”.

I wish there was a definitive way of knowing with absolute certainty if the macho baseball cap wearing man in khakis is on the down-low, or the man in the tight pastel shirt wearing is skinny jeans is hetero.  There is none, so you have to take everyone on a case by case basis.  And then of course there are bisexual men, which I just flat-out don’t understand and openly admit it.  But any man who admits he is bisexual, at least you know what you are dealing with, it is the men who claim they are 100% heterosexual, while having homosexual sex, that are the ones to avoid.  I am all for honesty, and if you know your partner is also sexually interested in men and you can handle that, then go for it.

Now you would think the best test of whether a person is gay or not is to have sex with them.  If it were so easy!  Most straight spouses I know had normal if not earth shattering sex lives with their spouses for at least part of if not most of their marriages.  Just because a gay man can have sex with a woman doesn’t mean he wouldn’t rather be having sex with a man.  The saddest part of all of this confusion is that any gay man wouldn’t want to live openly as gay, but would instead jump through hoops and pretend to be straight.  With the changing attitudes about homosexuality we might someday arrive at a time when the easiest way to find out a person’s sexual orientation will be to just ask them.  Until then, if the guy is wearing glitter….assume he is gay unless it is Mardi Gras or something and then…well…I don’t know, my gaydar is obviously broken. 🙂

Divorce – The Blame Game and the many shades of gray

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So I am starting this one worked up again, as that is usually what compels me to write.  One of the things that kind of drives me crazy with divorce is the “blame the victim” mentality.  That is, for some there is never a victim in a divorce, that both sides of the conflict must share the blame of the split and they won’t budge from that viewpoint.  Another blogger, who I absolutely won’t mention as I don’t want to give him publicity or attention cherry-picked one of my articles.

This is how he quoted me.

By her third sentences, she regrets having acted as she tells others they should not — “but not completely.” Why? you may ask. No need: Her run-on sentence goes on to say that she was “mad, extremely mad at my husband who had been…” blah, blah, blah.

Those blah, blah, blahs….that he left out were in fact quite important.  I wrote the following.

I was mad, extremely mad at my husband who had been lying to me for years and living as a closeted homosexual. I had nine years of sacrifice and struggle to keep a relationship together that was ultimately a fraud at its core.

My critic also goes on to criticize me for basically taking none of the blame of my divorce.  And to quote him directly, he claims

“I was 100% right and he was 100% wrong” story.

I hate to break it to this self-proclaimed divorce expert, but sometimes…divorces really are that lopsided.  I can think of my example, and most straight spouses.  A straight spouse is someone who was misled by a closeted homosexual into believing that they entered a marriage with a heterosexual partner.  In some cases, the straight spouse may know beforehand that their partner is gay, has gay tendencies or a gay past and they choose to marry them anyway.  However usually the closeted partner will go to extreme lengths to hide their sexuality.  When the truth is finally revealed what is the straight spouse to do to save the marriage?  Continue to live a lie?  Live a non-traditional marriage perhaps having new sexual partners, but remaining in a sham marriage? My ex-husband begged me to stay with him, work out an arrangement, live with him in a fraud, he was willing to do almost anything to keep me.  I didn’t want to live a lie anymore so I left him.

The only exception I can think of is that if a gay partner and a straight partner choose to stay in a relationship and everything is above-board and honest.  I know of a few examples of non-traditional relationships that work quite well.  But in my situation deception was the only thing keeping my marriage together.  And I knew that by keeping my ex-husband in the closet would ultimately destroy him.  Because “the closet” is a horrible, miserable existence.

If anything by leaving my husband I released him from this destructive self-loathing.   So I am not going to take half of the blame for my divorce.  I was fully committed to my husband, I never had an extramarital affair and that was even after my marriage became celibate.   I put up with lies and excuses because I was dedicated to making my marriage work.

There are other examples of blame not going evenly to both partners, such as

  • One partner is physically abusing the other or abusing the couples children
  • One partner is a serial cheater and has not been faithful to their spouse and cannot be faithful to any partner
  • One partner is leading a secret life that puts his or her family in jeopardy.  i.e. criminal activity without the other partners knowledge
  • One partner is mentally ill and refuses to get treatment
  • One partner has a substance abuse problem and refuses treatment
  • One partner marries the other for a green card or other fraudulent reason

I know it might seem impossible for my critic to admit that there charming yet nefarious people out there who have absolutely no intention of keeping their marriage vows, but these situations are quite common.  I blame myself for picking the wrong partner, but I won’t take responsibility for his lies.

In some marriages both parties have made multiple mistakes, or perhaps entered into the union before they were ready.  They may have both been emotionally abusive to one another or had extramarital affairs.  Financial or lifestyle issues and lack of communication might tear them apart.  Or they simply could have grown into two very different people than when they entered the marriage.  In these cases there are many shades of gray.  Even infidelity sometimes occurs because one partner simply wants out desperately and is looking for any excuse to end it.  They have an affair, admit it immediately and their marriage is over.  Not exactly a serial cheater who lied for years, but a desperate person looking for and end to a broken marriage.  I have had friends go through nearly every scenario, and in most cases the reasons for a split is very murky.  Neither side can blame the other without taking some blame themselves.  But when one spouse enters into a marriage with a secret and lies, there is little the other spouse can do to change that.

Human relationships aren’t so neat and tidy or democratic.   So to those who insist that I or any other spouse like myself should accept responsibility for a person who repeatedly lied during the marriage I say they are way off base.  The best thing we can do is avoid picking another deceptive partner and move forward.

 

Huffington Post Readers – Some Questions Answered

So I didn’t want to get into it with the article that I just posted on the Huffington Post, but I am so tired of all of the “blame the victim” comments in regards to my divorce.  Maybe 5% of the readers will end up at my website and then actually go to this blog, but I still want to print this as the Huffington Post doesn’t let me respond to comments.

I plan to take this post down in the next couple of days, as it really doesn’t serve much of a purpose but I would like to clarify one thing before everyone jumps down my throat about how I should have stuck around and tried to make my marriage work.  First off, you don’t know much about me and you don’t anything about my marriage, so it is extremely presumptuous for you or anyone to tell me what I should have or should not have done regarding my divorce.  But I have the absolute best reason to have terminated the marriage.  Drum roll please….

My husband was a closeted homosexual.  I had no idea and he was in denial when we got married, and after nine years together I found hard evidence to the fact and left him.  We are on good terms, all things considered, and he lives openly as a gay man now.  He is much happier living as a gay man, but it has been hard on both of us for obvious reasons.

So to the strangers who feel compelled to lecture me on “giving up on my marriage”…you don’t know enough about my situation to tell me that.   And I mean that with the deepest sincerity.  If the hell that I have been through for the past two years has taught me anything it is to be less judgmental of other people’s divorces.  Because no one ever really knows what goes on in another person’s marriage, and I am living proof of a marriage that most people deemed as ideal, was in reality a total fraud.