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Straight Spouse: When Your Life is Not Politically Correct

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Imagine finding out your spouse was cheating on you, not just with one partner, but with several for the duration of your marriage. He didn’t come to you on his own and confess.  You discovered the truth after suspecting for years that something wasn’t right.  After unearthing hard evidence of his infidelity he reveals he wasn’t even faithful while you were dating.  The entire time your partner was having these illicit trysts, he exposed you to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.

You decide to leave him.  What follows is a vicious battle for custody of your children, your home, and every last possession between you.  He tires to refuse to pay for anything including child support.  Your husband even loses his job mid-divorce in an attempt to avoid his obligations to you and your children.  He uses every trick in the book to ruin you financially, and your divorce drags on for years.

Instead of taking responsibility for his actions, he blames you for the destruction of the marriage.  He cites your lack of emotional support for his infidelity.  If you had only understood and loved him better, he wouldn’t have gone looking for love and sex from others.

When your friends and family find out about his betrayal, your charismatic ex manages to spin it to his advantage.  He tells everyone that he was a loving and supportive husband.  He claims you knew of his many trysts and had some of your own.  Not only does your former husband get support from your friends, he’s given accolades.  An entire community embraces and welcomes him.  Any past transgressions are instantly forgiven.

Meanwhile you go underground. To protect your children you bury even more secrets, make excuses, and continue to live a lie. If you try to talk about what’s happened to you, your friends tell you to “have some compassion” for you ex.  Although some see the truth, few truly understand the extent of his lies, betrayal and profound selfishness.   You’re told to have empathy for the man who just ruined your life, because now he’s openly gay.

Now take out the confused sexual orientation. Let’s say a man cheated on his wife with multiple women for the entire marriage.  Would anyone tell the wife to have “compassion” for her ex-husband? Would people criticize her for not showing empathy to his lack of respect, impulse control and selfishness? I doubt it. Why are straight spouses supposed to instantly forgive a spouse given these circumstances?

What if both partners were gay. If a man was cheating on his spouse throughout the entire marriage then embroiled him in a nasty divorce would anyone ask the spouse to have compassion for his cheating ex? Could the cheater wrap himself in the flag of his orientation and say that he couldn’t help his actions because he was gay?

In a politically correct world these situations would be clear-cut.  The oppressed homosexual wouldn’t do anything cruel or self-serving and the straight spouse would be understanding and empathetic towards his or her closeted spouse.  Real life is not so neat and tidy.  Is it politically correct when a man loses access to his children because his cheating spouse relocates with her new partner to another state?   Is it politically correct when a woman kills herself after she finds out her cheating husband is gay?   Is it politically correct when a cheating spouses gives his wife HIV?

No one is advocating for closeted spouses to stay in the misery and torment that is the closet. It is much better for everyone involved when people live authentic and honest lives. No one who is currently living a secret life should remain deceiving his or her spouse in order to try to spare them the pain and heartache of a divorce. Chances are the straight spouse will discover the truth and the damage will only be compounded.

I know how difficult these situations are because I’m a straight spouse.  Many straight spouses have been told by well-meaning friends to have compassion for their exes who treated them so callously and without much consideration.    There is pressure to instantly forgive every lie and transgression, no matter how egregious.  To many straight spouses, this forced forgiveness feels like a second betrayal.  The concept is even harder to grasp while in the middle of a nasty custody battle or vicious divorce.

A few of my critics believe that when I write about these doomed marriages that I am attacking all LGBT people.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I love and support the LGBT community but I have a lot of conflicted emotions towards my ex-husband.  He is responsible for his own actions, and he does not represent every LGBT person or even every closeted gay man.  For some, saying anything bad about an individual LGBT person is somehow homophobic or politically incorrect.  Well no group is homogenous, and sociopaths, narcissists and selfish people can be of any sexual orientation.  LGBT men and women who openly deceive others to hide their true orientation do a huge disservice to the larger LGBT community. By hiding out they aren’t exactly helping the cause of acceptance and equality. They are in fact perpetuating the myth that the only way a person can live a happy and fulfilled life is to pose as straight.

Many straight spouses discover in therapy that their exes struggle with profound narcissism.  A narcissist tends to not see other people as fully formed individuals but rather pawns or objects.  Narcissists lack empathy and usually take no responsibility for their actions.  In a narcissist’s mind, they are the ultimate victims.  Therefore they see nothing wrong with deceiving another person, to protect themselves or gain social acceptance. Narcissism has nothing to do with sexual orientation.  There are narcissists of every socioeconomic background, sexual orientation and ethnicity.  I would bet that psychological profiles of many of these men and women, would be nearly identical to those who marry others for a green card, financial gain or career advancement.

Of course not all mixed orientation marriages are the same, and some closeted homosexuals who marry straight partners are not narcissists.  Some met their spouses when they were quite young, before they truly understood their sexual orientation.  A few closeted homosexuals are strongly pressured by their families and communities to marry a straight partner.   In some rare cases, medical conditions can suppress a person’s sex drive enough to cloud their orientation.  Some mixed orientation marriages are open and honest from day one.  Just as there are many shades of the sexual orientation rainbow, the reasons behind mixed orientation marriages run a spectrum.

But given all that, no one has a right to assume all straight spouses have the same story.  When I and other straight spouses share our stories, we don’t do it to trash the LGBT community or our exes.  We do it to help other people who typically blame themselves for their shattered lives.  We do it to help dissuade the notion that sexual orientation is something that’s a lifestyle or personal choice.  We do it to show that encouraging LGBT men and women to retreat into “the closet” causes far more misery and suffering than to just the closeted person.

Hopefully one day soon we will move forward and marriages like mine and many others will become increasingly rare, but we aren’t going to get to that truth by creating a new closet.  Straight spouses shouldn’t have to create a false reality in order to protect their exes.  We will only arrive a new authentic way of living through truth, and many times our truth is not politically correct.

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Straight Spouse: Myth #1 – We Bounce Right Back

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Mixed orientation marriages are fraught with misunderstandings and misconceptions. When disclosure occurs many falsely believe that both partners are immediately healed.  The most common comment I get is:

“So you guys are still friends?”

Second only to:

“Well you’re both doing great, right?”

Everyone wants a happy ending, but these marriages rarely resolve well.  Of course not every mixed orientation marriage ends in divorce, and not every divorce is catastrophic. Regardless, in most cases life doesn’t go back to normal.

A few of my critics have argued that as a straight person I don’t face the same types of challenges my ex would as a newly outed homosexual.  They’re completely correct – I have no idea what it’s like to come out as a gay person after concealing my sexual orientation for most of my life.  I also have no understanding of what it might be like to grow up as a gay child, or to have my family reject me because of my sexual orientation.

The flip side of the dilemma is of course, that a gay person doesn’t know what it’s like to live as a straight spouse.  Although our marriages run the spectrum, for many of us deception, infidelity and betrayal defined our partnerships.  Taking the gay issue out of the equation, years of lies and cheating cause severe damage for anyone of any orientation.  Our partner’s sexual orientation disclosure creates causes more obstacles.

When do we tell our children? – Will they be ridiculed because of it?  Will they face depression or anger? Will the disclosure cause friction between our children and our former spouse?  If the truth is accidentally revealed will our children get angry with us for hiding the truth?  Some parents choose to keep this part of their marriage secret for years.  To say that this is a difficult burden would be an enormous understatement.

What do we tell friends, family and co-workers?  – Ultimately the reasons for our divorces are no one’s business.  What happens though, is if we don’t give people a reason, they might invent one.  I had to deal with so many rumors and outright lies after my marriage fell apart.  Some criticized me for publicly outing my ex-husband on social media, even though my ex-husband and I had both agreed that for us it was the best way to handle it.  Many straight spouses enter into a closet that our spouses left, some hiding the truth for decades.

Have I been exposed to HIV? – Even though HIV isn’t the automatic death sentences it once was, people are still dying from AIDS.  Of course HIV exposure is a risk with any cheating spouse, but the chances of infection are higher if the spouse is engaging in high risk behavior.  I’ve met more than one woman who have recently buried their spouses from full-blown AIDS.  Some extremely unfortunate partners have contracted the virus from a cheating spouse.

How do we live down the stigma? – Just as LGTBQ people have to deal with prejudices and hatred so do straight spouses.  I’ve gotten comments such as:

  • You had to have known he was gay
  • You turned him gay – this one happens more than you would think, I even once got it from an openly gay man.  I wish i had the power to change a person’s sexual orientation but that’s not a super power I posses.
  • There’s something wrong with you, and that’s why you married a gay man
  • You’re gay yourself
  • You’re sexually repressed, frigid or hate sex
  • Your ex is bisexual, no one is gay or straight everyone is bisexual – the term is sexual fluidity and I respectfully disagree with their opinion about human sexuality.
  • Your poor husband, that must have been so awful for him – I would never deny that it was easy for my ex, but it’s really the worst thing to say to me right off the bat
  • Maybe your ex is just using it as an excuse – Are you sure he’s gay?
  • Gay people are disgusting, evil and against God – people who make comments like these usually expect me to chime in.

Severely damaged sexuality – There is no way to sugarcoat this one.  Most straight spouses experience major problems with their own sexuality and self-esteem.  It’s soul crushing to discover that the person you thought was the love of your life had little to no sexual attraction to you.  To act as if we can simply brush this off and go back to a normal life is naive at best.  Of course we do heal and move on with our lives but the negative sexual aspect of our marriages cannot be denied.

It’s not easy to date again – That’s true of any divorced person especially past the age of 35.  I have no idea how difficult it is for gay men and women in the dating scene.  I would never even try to speculate at the specific challenges LGTBQ men and women face every day.  I just know my own experience has been bleak.  I’m nearly five years out and have had nothing even close to a normal relationship.  I’m somewhat isolated in my job, I’m over 35, I live in a big city, I have massive trust issues and difficulty bonding – whatever the reason I’m perpetually alone.

Our unique circumstances separate us from the general divorced population.  We have a suicide rate that’s over three times as high as people going through a typical divorce. Anecdotally I’ve found most of us have problems with bonding and trust and many of us have difficulty forming intimate relationships.

I’m not writing this to discourage straight spouses.  I just want to counter some of the biggest misconceptions about our experiences.  These marriages cause extreme damage to both partners.  Any privilege we have as straight people in a homophobic society doesn’t equal the destruction to our self-esteem, sexuality, trust and shattered families.  It’s not easy for us, or our closeted gay partners.  Despite the estimated 2 million people affected, the straight spouse community is largely hidden and underground.  Many of us suffer in isolation without knowledge that there are so many others.

I have nothing but love and empathy for LGTBQ people, and I hope that one day no LGTBQ person will enter into a fraudulent marriage.  If two people want to openly forge a mixed orientation marriage knowing the truth, that’s something else entirely.  Marriages like mine based on lies, are not victimless situations.  I will continue to write about being a straight spouse and be an advocate for our community until this finally stops being a problem.  I have tremendous hope for future generations.  LGTBQ people will be able to marry and live whomever they want.  Until then I will share the brutal realities in the hopes that truth will set us free.

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Sean Saves the World – A Straight Spouse Perspective

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NBC’s new Thursday night comedy, Sean Saves the World stars Sean Hayes as a gay single dad who suddenly finds himself the full-time parent of a teenaged girl.  I’m excited about any show which features a gay parent.  It’s also great to see another show tackle a mixed orientation marriage, like Fran Drescher‘s “Happily Divorced“. As a straight spouse myself, it’s good to see anyone telling our stories. Many straight spouses continue to hide the sexual orientation of their former partner or at least stay private about the reasons for their divorce.  Most people have no idea around 2 million straight spouses live throughout the country, in every economic, racial and cultural background.

Sean Saves the World has only aired one episode, and here is what we know so far about the characters:

Now that she is living with her father full-time, his daughter Ellie suddenly thinks to ask. “If your gay, how did mom and you have sex?”

To which Sean responds, “Gay, tried not to be, was, was again, was one more time because it was not unpleasant…am”

So the character knew he was gay before he entered into a marriage with a straight woman.  He either misled his bride about his true orientation, or she knew and thought they could work through it.  Their specific past is left ambiguous.  He never once says to his daughter that he hurt his ex-wife, or that he made a mistake when he married a straight woman.  I guess no child wants to hear that she is the product of a mistake, but he could have shown at least some empathy towards his ex.

Sean’s ex-wife Jill decides to take a job out-of-town, and Ellie makes the choice to live with her dad full-time to stay in the same school.

So far the premise is perfectly reasonable although most single parents would at least wait four years until their kids are out of high school.  Relocations are a common issue with shared custody agreements.  The point where the show started to physically hurt me came early when Sean’s mother played by Linda Lavin exclaims, “She (Ellie) has been abandoned, she has no one.”

Sean then tries to defend his ex-wife “Jill didn’t abandon her, she took a job.”

Later in the episode the daughter laments, “I was abandoned, and she sucks (Her Mother)”

I know these are fictional characters but I couldn’t help but think of the same woman, watching her marriage dissolve soon after the birth of her child.  That is hardly an easy situation under any circumstance.  So far the viewer knows very little details.  We know their marriage ended soon after the birth of their daughter but that’s about it. Did his ex-wife know he was gay?  Or did she have to find out the hard way?  From the character’s own admission it would seem infidelity had something to do with it.  There is also no mention of a second husband, so we are to assume, Jill is still unmarried and raised her daughter as a single parent.  Unfortunately for most straight spouses we find out the true sexual orientation of our partners after years of betrayal, secrets and lies.

Television producers have long been obsessed with single dads.  Although in reality, most primary single parents are mothers, network executives can’t get enough of the fish out of water scenario of the harried father trying to raise children.  Notable examples include such classic shows as, The Andy Griffith Show, My Three Sons, Full House, Different Strokes, Blossom, Punky Brewster, My Two Dads, Two and Half Men, Full House, Silver Spoons, Who’s the Boss, The Nanny, Arrested Development, and Louie.  So many shows feature single fathers a comprehensive list is at www.TVDads.com

My hunch is that NBC wanted to give Hayes his own vehicle, and decided to go with the popular single dad storyline.  I get it, and again I’m glad to see a positive portrayal of a gay single parent.  Sexual orientation has nothing to do with anyone’s parenting skills, and it’s about time another sitcom followed the lead of the extremely popular Modern Family in which two gay men lovingly raise an adopted daughter.

I just wish the straight spouse wasn’t vilified.  Many of us have gone through absolutely dreadful experiences, especially with divorces involving children.  In some circumstances when the gay half of these mixed orientation marriages comes out of the closet, they find themselves eager to re-live the years they lost.  Some regress so strongly, they quickly forget about the responsibilities of parenting altogether.  Others might fight viciously for full custody when they were the ones who lied, cheated and may have even exposed their spouses to STD’s including HIV.

Sean Saves the World is extremely formulaic and over uses canned laughter throughout. Hayes is a likable actor with great comic timing, physical comedy and intensity.  The writing is nowhere near the level of Will and Grace the long-running hit that made his career.  Chances is are, Sean Saves the World won’t make it a season as it scored a 43% on Metacritic and has had disappointing ratings. Despite its name, a television sitcom isn’t going to change the world.  I just wish instead of showing a warped, biased view of a mixed orientation marriage they might have made a show about a gay parent in a loving relationship, or at least made his ex-wife an actual character on the show.

I can’t help but think of the fictional Jill holding her newborn daughter and hearing the following words from her new husband, “I’m gay.” Instead of raising her child with a man she thought she would spend the rest of her life with, she is going to have to raise her with the part-time help of the self-admitted “fun weekend dad.”  Most of us don’t immediately bounce back after finding out our marriages were fraudulent. Many straight spouses continue to have a strained if not openly combative relationship with their former partners, and a few are flat out abandoned.   Maybe the show will turn around and become a huge hit, but if it does I would love to see more equitable treatment of one of the few straight spouses on television.  Reality doesn’t make for a fun wacky sitcom I guess.

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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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How did you not know? – The worst thing to ask a Straight Spouse

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It’s the one question we all cringe when we hear it.  The one thing that brings more resentment and anger than any other.  The one inquiry that if people stopped and thought about it before they said it, they might not even think to ask.

It starts with the obvious

  • How did you not know he/she was gay?
  • How could you not tell he/she was gay?

The there is the mildly accusatory

  • He/She must have given you signs.
  • Didn’t you always have a suspicion from the start?

To the downright shaming

  • I just don’t understand how a person wouldn’t know their spouse was gay.
  • Didn’t you guys have sex?  How could he/she have sex with you if they were gay?
  • You knew before you married him/her right?

Straight spouses are men and women who end up in a mixed orientation marriage.  For the vast majority of us, we had no idea that our partners were homosexual or had any gay tendencies.  There is a saying in our community.  When our spouses come out of the closet we go into one.  Many straight spouses don’t want to bring added shame and stigma to their kids.  They also don’t want the judgment for something their spouse did.  So most straight spouses don’t openly talk about what happened to them.  It’s estimated that there are about 2 million straight spouses in the United States.  It not that we were all so sexually repressed we didn’t know the difference, we just married liars.  Our sex lives started out normal, and became dysfunctional.

Would anyone think to ask these types of questions to someone who had a spouse who was a serial cheater?  Would they think it was appropriate to blame a person who married a charming and habitual liar?  Would they assume that a person somehow should have seen signs of a well orchestrated cover-up?

Another one we get is along the lines of logic

  • Well I just don’t see why logically he/she would do that
  • That just doesn’t make sense, no one would care if he/she was gay

When anyone uses logic in the same breath as human sexuality I have to laugh.  Did it make any logical sense for Arnold Schwarzenegger to cheat on his beautiful, well-connected wife with the family’s average looking housekeeper?  Did it make sense for Anthony Weiner to repeatedly send explicit text messages and images to women he didn’t know, AFTER he had to resign from congress for the same behavior?  Did it make sense for Rhianna to date Chris Brown again AFTER he brutally beat her?  When it comes to sex and relationships, people act illogically all the time.  Gay men and women who marry straight partners are absolutely desperate to live what they see as a normal and healthy life.  Deep down they hate themselves and will do anything to try to fix what they see as a major flaw.  In most cases, our spouses viewed us as little more than props for their illusion.  They might have cared for us a great deal in their own twisted way, but ultimately we were means to an end.

Sex is relatively easy for most adults to pull off.  If we felt like our lives depended on it, most of us could stomach having sex with just about anyone.  We probably wouldn’t really enjoy ourselves, but if the alternative meant losing everything we held near and dear to our hearts, we might be able to find away through it.  That is basically how a lot of our spouses compartmentalized sex in our marriages.  As harsh as it may seem, most of our partners admit to fantasy, imagery and role-playing in order to have sex with their straight spouses.  The entire time they really wished they were with a same-sex partner.  For some of us, our partners could only pull off the charade for so long until our marriages basically became celibate.  Some used excuses such as past sexual trauma, erectile dysfunction or lowered hormones.   Meanwhile most if not all of these closeted gay men and women were actually having some type of homosexual sex outside of the marriage.

What is even worse is the assumption that sexual orientation is always so obvious.  Not every gay man speaks with a lisp, swishes when he walks, or spends an inordinate time on his appearance.  Not every gay woman dresses in a masculine way, has a short mannish haircut or refuses to wear makeup.  In fact, very few gay men and women act like a two-dimensional stereotype. There are many shades in the sexual orientation rainbow.  For a lot of straight spouses, our partners would appear heterosexual to most people.

When my ex-husband officially came out of the closet, even his close friends were in a state of disbelief.  Some even thought I may have started gay rumors to slander him.  My ex was notorious for leaving our apartment in shabby clothing, cheap shoes and looking generally disheveled.  He also aggressively pursued me and had multiple ex-girlfriends.  His last was a long-term relationship with a stunningly attractive Asian woman.   I didn’t know until I was many years into the marriage that he had sexual dysfunction or lack of sex in all of his previous relationships.  I didn’t know until after our divorce that he probably had same-sex relationships or at least homosexual sex long before I met him.  My case is typical, not exceptional.  Most straight spouses really do have no sign that their partners are living a secret life.  Much like the spouse of a philanderer is often the last to know that their spouse has had multiple affairs outside the marriage.

Ultimately people want order and rules in life.  They want to believe that bad things don’t happen to people without a reason.  They also want to think that somehow if they were in a terrible situation they would figure out a way to get out of it.  Well two-year olds sometimes get cancer while a few horrible people live well in their nineties.  The wealthy are sometime the nastiest most undeserving people, while some with very little have no limits for love and compassion.  Bad things sometimes happen to good people.   A wife or husband might be betrayed by the person they most adore.  I know these concepts might seem fairly obvious but I honestly wish more would think of them before asking:

How did you not know?

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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.