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From a Straight Spouse: Some People are Gay…Get Over It!

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When I learned that the shooter in the Orlando massacre showed signs of being a latent or closeted homosexual my heart dropped in my chest.  It somehow hurt even more to know that part of what drove him to murder 49 innocent people was his own deep-seated self-hatred. I do not pity the shooter.  I pity a culture that reinforces the notion that being gay is a shortcoming, weakness, defect, perversion or a sin.  I pity his hateful father who admonished homosexuality days after the massacre.  The same man who used to insult his son by calling him gay and taught him to hate himself.   I pity him because he’s a pathetic excuse for a human being who will only be remembered for raising someone capable of such a horrific act.  My deepest sympathies go to the friends and families of the fallen, and every LGTB person who will feel less safe as a result of such an attack.

Despite the outpouring of support from people all over the country, I knew there would be a backlash.  It wasn’t enough that worst shooting in US history targeted the LGTB community, the critics of homosexuality had to get their digs in before the bodies were cold..  The first blow came in the form of a tweet by Dan Patrick the fiercely anti-LGTB Lt. Governor of Texas just two hours after the shooting.

Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.

He claimed the bible verse was randomly selected beforehand but he also posted it on his Facebook account three hours later even after numerous complaints on his twitter feed.

Then there was the video of a fringe Baptist Pastor Roger Jimenez

‘What if you asked me, “Hey, are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?” Um, no, I think that’s great,’ he told his followers, some of whom laughed. ‘I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job

Twitter was ablaze with homophobic rants and rhetoric.  ThoughtCatalog compiled a list of the worst.

One simply stated

At least it was gays this time and not innocent people

The blood of the victims was probably still fresh on the ground when these comments were made.  I get worked up about this topic because my life has been negatively affected by homophobia.  My ex-husband was a self-loathing closeted gay man who thought he could change himself.  I was unaware of his struggle with his sexual orientation and became collateral damage in his war with himself.   Instead of living his life authentically and honestly, he lived a miserable existence in hiding.  If he felt he could have lived his life happily and fulfilled as a gay man,  we both would have been much better off.  There are millions of other straight spouses like myself, and children who have been through the emotionally wrenching experience of a mixed orientation marriage. The hatred of LGTB people extends much further out than just the LGTB community.  It hurts their families, friends, and our culture as a whole.  Although LGTB men and women have made great strides in recent years, incidents like the massacre in Orlando prove we have a long way to go before true acceptance is possible.

I am not sure if I’ll reach anyone in my intended audience with this article, but I’m just so sick of the hate.  No one wins when LGTB men and women are shamed, labeled as sinners or treated like second-hand citizens. Homophobes use all sorts of reasoning to justify their hate, so I’ve compiled the most common ones here and intend to challenge all of them.

Homosexulaity and sin – Everyone has a right to their own religious views, but we live in a country with a multitude of faiths and belief systems..  I won’t break down every religion, religious text or reasoning for the condemnations of homosexuality.  That wouldn’t just be a blog article, it could fill several volumes.  In a secular nation, one person’s religion does not trump another person’s civil rights.   I don’t know how love can be sinful, and I know many loving LGTB couples.  Many of them are also devoted parents.  I’m agnostic myself, but it’s hard to imagine how any loving God would be against a healthy, happy, loving relationships between two consenting adults.

Gay people cannot be changed or converted through therapy.  – I could write several hundred pages on this, but instead I’ll just provide this handy link and quote about the widely derided conversion therapy.

To quote the Southern Poverty Law Center 

Conversion therapy – sometimes known as reparative or “sexual reorientation” therapy – is a dangerous practice based on the premise that people can change their sexual orientation, literally “converting” from gay to straight. Conversion therapy has been discredited or highly criticized by virtually all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations.

People who have undergone conversion therapy have reported increased anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicidal ideation.

Being gay is not a sickness or a mental illness – The medical community hasn’t believed that since 1973.  To quote psychiatrytoday.com 

In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association’s Board of Trustees removed homosexuality from its official diagnostic manual, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Second Edition (DSM II). The action was taken following a review of the scientific literature and consultation with experts in the field. The experts found that homosexuality does not meet the criteria to be considered a mental illness.

Openly gay people are not a sign of the collapse of society  – LGTB men and women have been around since the dawn of humanity and have always been a part of the spectrum of human sexuality.  LGTB people have existed even in places where the punishment for homosexual behavior was death.   In some Native American tribes homosexuality and gender fluidity was not only tolerated, it was revered.   To quote http://www.dancingtoeaglespiritsociety.org/

It is told that women engaged in tribal warfare and married other women, as there were men who married other men. These individuals were looked upon as a third and fourth gender in many cases and in almost all cultures they were honoured and revered. Two-spirit people were often the visionaries, the healers, the medicine people, the nannies of orphans, the caregivers They were respected as fundamental components of our ancient culture and societies

Homosexuality is not unnatural. –  A common argument is that since homosexual sex does not lead to procreation then it must be against the laws of nature.  Homosexuality is also expressed in over 450 different animal species on this planet.  Obviously humans aren’t the only species that has non-reproductive sex.

HIV is not a plague sent to wipe out gay men  – Sexually transmitted diseases are not limited to the LGTB community. Although HIV rates are higher among gay men than the general population, anyone under the right circumstances can contract HIV.  HIV is also not the killer it once was, as most patients live long lives if they get early treatment.   Daily medications like PreP also can prevent the spread of the virus.   It’s also not the only potentially lethal STD. From the 15th century until the discovery of antibiotics Syphilis infections ravaged Europe.  Even today if left untreated Syphilis can cause disfigurement, brain damage, and eventually death.  HIV isn’t a plague to wipe out any specific group, it is simply another nasty sexually transmitted pathogen.

Gay men are pedophiles who abuse children and turn them gay –  Every time I hear this one I slightly lose my mind, so I’m going to write this in all caps!  THIS MYTH HAS BEEN WIDELY DISCREDITED MULTIPLE TIMES!  IN STUDY AFTER STUDY OVER THE COURSE OF DECADES RESEARCH DOES NOT LINK HOMOSEXAULITY TO PEDOPHILA!!!!!  To quote the Southern Poverty Law Center 

According to the American Psychological Association, children are not more likely to be molested by LGBT parents or their LGBT friends or acquaintances. Gregory Herek, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who is one of the nation’s leading researchers on prejudice against sexual minorities, reviewed a series of studies and found no evidence that gay men molest children at higher rates than heterosexual men.

 

The Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute notes that 90% of child molesters target children in their network of family and friends, and the majority are men married to women. Most child molesters, therefore, are not gay people lingering outside schools waiting to snatch children from the playground, as much religious-right rhetoric suggests.

When children see a same-sex couple holding hands, kissing or locked in a loving embrace it won’t scar them or cause them to turn gay.  – If two adults are showing affection in a fairly conservative way – holding hands, walking arm in arm and kissing – it’s not going to harm anyone else around them.  A child is not going to suddenly think they are gay after observing two gay adults.  Sexual orientation is deeply rooted into a person’s psyche.  If you were to ask most LGTB people when they knew they were gay they would answer it’s something they’ve always known.  No event flipped the switch in their heads from straight to gay.  If anything young adults who come out sooner as LGTB are less likely to get married to a straight partner.  They are less likely to live a confused and tortured existence.   If a child who will ultimately grow up to be gay sees a loving same-sex couple together, they are more likely to grow up without self-hatred.

There is no “gay agenda” – I can’t even humor this one.  The only “agenda” LGTB people have is to live like anyone else.  They aren’t out to recruit the rest of the world or change anyone else’s sexual orientation.

Homophobia claims many victims –  LGTB youth are more than twice as likely to try to commit suicide than their straight peers. Studies have shown that 15 to 43 percent of LGTB people as well as 90 percent of transgender men and women have faced some sort of harassment or discrimination in the workforce.  In 28 states it’s still perfectly legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation.  Even in 2016 children are still rejected by their families for coming out.

LGTB men and women are not going to go back into hiding.  No amount of hateful rhetoric, bullets or bombs that will stop anyone from being gay.  We need to come out of the dark ages and accept people for who they are.  I want to grab the father of the shooter and every other homophobe by both shoulders, look them dead in the eyes and scream

The real sickness in our culture is not homosexuals but the hatred and bigotry expressed towards them!

All the hate in the world can’t stop love, and sexual orientation is much more than just sex.  LGTB men and women love their partners with the same intensity and devotion as any straight person would.   Some people are gay, and the haters should just get used to it.

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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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Straight Spouses: Homophobia – An Equal Opportunity Destroyer

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I have a litmus test that I use when meeting new people.  When I reveal why I got divorced – the way a person responds tells me all I need to know about them. Because of this blog, and my advocacy for the straight spouse community, my story is extremely public.  I’ve gotten comments like:

  • That’s impossible, you had to have known he was gay.
  • Then he was bisexual because no gay person can have sex with a straight person.
  • Homosexuality is sinful, disgusting, immoral, against God.
  • What an asshole – I hate f*ggots.
  • You turned him gay.
  • So do you hate gay men now?

Many who start trashing LGTB people expect me to chime right in.  It usually unnerves them when instead of joining them I immediately defend the LGTB community.  The gay haters expect me to agree with them because my life was negatively impacted by a gay person’s actions.  What they don’t understand is that I believe that my ex-husband was born gay, and that his sexual orientation was in no way shape or form a choice.  I also understand that if he wasn’t filled with so much self-hatred about being gay, he probably wouldn’t have married a straight woman.  He was desperate to try to suppress his sexual orientation and a lot of his motivation was due to self-loathing.  I also know that my ex-husband does not represent the entire LGTB community and his actions are his own.  The factor that indirectly lead to our marriage was – homophobia – the fear and hatred of homosexuality.

At the same time because I keep writing about the topic of Straight Spouses, some LGTB people have accused me of being homophobic. Some comments I’ve gotten:

  • Mixed orientation marriages are very nuanced.
  • Gay issues have nothing to do with you.
  • You are not allowed to write about your marriage – only your own experience.
  • It’s impossible for a straight person to be victimized by a gay person, because gay people have such a rough time of it.
  • You have no idea how hard it is to grow up as a gay child.

These same people will also say I’m playing the victim, yet in their own statements they are proclaiming their own greater victimization.  I admit I don’t know anything about growing up gay, but then a LGTB man or woman doesn’t know anything about being in a fraudulent marriage or living as a straight spouse.   Trying to compare each other’s personal experience or pain is a circular argument that gets both sides nowhere.  We have both suffered and the cause of our torment is from the same source – homophobia.

I could show the people who accuse me of being anti-gay the stacks of hate mail I’ve gotten when I’ve been published in support of the LGTB rights.  I might show them screen shots of the pure vitriol on my twitter account when I’ve dared to speak out in support of same-sex marriage or criticize a company like Chick-Fil-A for it’s anti-gay policies.  In fact my destroyed marriage has made me even more passionate about gay rights.  Homophobia is an equal opportunity destroyer, it hurts not just LGTB people directly but radiates out to negatively affect loved ones, family members and of course straight spouses.  My ex-husband’s self hatred and fear of his sexuality is exactly what motivated him to enter into a sham marriage.

No two straight spouse situations are exactly the same.  Some met their partners at a young age before either one of them truly understood their sexuality. Others are so deep in denial that they truly can’t comprehend their own sexuality and have no intention of misleading their spouse.  Some closeted partners remain faithful and do not have any sexual encounters outside the marriage.  However in the majority of cases our stories are far more tragic.  Many of our spouses had homosexual encounters before marriage and hid their background.  Lying about one’s history is a form of deception or fraud, regardless of the circumstances.

A few Straight Spouses I’ve known have had to bury their husbands with full-blown AIDS, some have even contracted HIV from a cheating spouse.  Others find themselves embroiled in vicious custody battles which drag on for years.  A few are completely abandoned physically and emotionally once their spouses are finally open about their sexuality.  Many Straight Spouses are financially ruined.  In the most twisted cases a closeted spouse will retreat even deeper into denial and marry another straight partner.  Many won’t even identify as bisexual but will insist they are straight, despite hard evidence of numerous affairs and sexual trysts with same-sex partners. Some create complicated lies to push all responsibility and blame on their spouses.  A few even claim their former spouses made them gay.  All of this behavior is a direct side effect of the hatred and fear of homosexuality.  Without homophobia there would be no reason for a LGTB person to enter into a mixed orientation marriage under false pretenses.  These marriages often leave both partners extremely damaged and is hardly a victimless crime.

When people in the LGTB community want to negate what happens in mixed orientation marriages they are hurting their larger cause. Straight Spouses are living proof that the hatred of homosexuality impacts more than just LGTB men and women.  If anti-gay forces could actually see what their policies were causing – divorce and broken families – they might reconsider trying to pressure LGTB people to live as heterosexuals.

Every group of human beings includes a few narcissistic, selfish and even sociopathic individuals.  Many people who marry others under false pretenses tend to share some of these personality traits.  It is not to say that these few represent the majority of the LGTB community.  Most LGTB people would never marry a straight person.  A generation ago it happened much more often, because hatred towards LGTB people was far more pronounced.  Hopefully as LGTB men and women are more accepted, and have equal rights, fewer LGTB people will feel the need to live a lie.   I have empathy for those who hate themselves so much that they enter into these marriages, but they lose my sympathy when they will not take responsibility for any harm they caused.  In many cases the deceptive spouse refuses to take any accountability.  Being gay and having a difficult childhood does not absolve anyone of the responsibility of hurting other people. Just imagine if every minority group tried to argue that every individual in their group had immunity for their actions due to their oppression – no one would buy that argument.  Homophobia is a mitigating factor, but a liar and a cheater is still responsible for his or her infidelity and deception.  Of course some mixed orientation marriages are open and honest.  If these marriages work for the two people involved in the partnership, good for them.  Unfortunately most mixed orientation marriages are based on massive deception.

I can’t speak for all Straight Spouses.  I’ve met a few who for religious or personal reasons, do no agree with homosexuality.  I can say though with some confidence most Straight Spouses want what the majority of LGTB people want – a culture that accepts being gay as normal as being heterosexual.  By speaking our truth and sharing our stories we are proof that a life inside “the closet” has real victims. Both spouses are harmed by these sham marriages as are our families.  It would make my life much easier to hide and not speak about this, but people need to know the ugly reality of what happens when LGTB men and women try to force themselves to live a lie.  There is nothing wrong with being gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or any of the many varied forms of human sexuality between consenting adults.   Straight Spouses do not hold the entire LGTB community responsible for the actions of our spouses.  We do NOT condemn LGTB people for being authentic and living their lives openly – no matter what their orientation.  Deception and lies, however wreck nothing but havoc and the reality of our situations needs to be exposed.  This is not a Straight Spouse vs. LGTB situation.  We’re really on the same team. Straight Spouses shouldn’t be forced into the closet our former partners just left.  As uncomfortable as our stories might make some people, they need to be heard.  A gay person may have hurt us badly, but that doesn’t mean we are against gay people.  In fact we want LGTB men and women to live as normal a life as anyone and for all marriages to be based on love and honesty – not deception and fear.

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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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Life After Divorce – Do you feel Worthy of Love?

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Broken Glass at Work-6 (Photo credit: akeg)

As in all my blog posts, I have changed a few details and left some things vague to protect the identity of others.  If you think I’m blogging about you, I’m probably not!  There is a lot to my personal life that I don’t share on this blog or with anyone.  I’ll just let that be a mystery to everyone but me.

A man I was casually dating made a comment that stuck in my brain a few months ago.  He is dealing with his own major breakup, one that I suspect also has elements of fraud.  He lamented that one of his other lovers might be falling in love with him to which I responded, “Well you have nothing to worry about with me, I’m not.” and then he bemoaned “Why not?  Am I not loveable?” and I thought, “No it’s because you have multiple lovers, why would I bother investing in you.”  I knew enough to not get too attached to him, but my heart broke a bit for both of us when he said it.

His comment haunted me.  Not because I was really in love with him, but because on a very primal level I feel that way about myself.  Even though I don’t want to admit it, and I try to suppress it, I still feel – I am not worthy of love.  My actions only feed the beast of self-doubt and insecurity.  For whatever reason since leaving my husband, I have fallen into a pattern of dating men who aren’t really there.

Most of my partners are deeply in love with someone else, and it’s extremely painful to go through this again and again. It just supports my fears of not being good enough, maybe if I was younger, taller, thinner, made more money, had a more traditional job, didn’t write this blog, lived in a better neighborhood….someone would cling to the hope that I might return their devotion. I almost feel like these women have something magical about them that makes men become obsessed, or maybe they are masters of manipulation.  It doesn’t really matter, as I seem to have the opposite qualities.

There was the intellectual who secretly pined away for the woman who broke up his marriage.  He was beyond emotionally distant with me and I found out the truth through basic cyber sleuthing.  Then there was the man I met online who was also a straight spouse, who was still madly in love with his now openly lesbian wife.  He basically vanished after an intense date with me.  Another man who cursed his cruel and manipulative former spouse yet also openly worshiped and praised her for her beauty.  Even during my most intense post-divorce affair, my boyfriend would openly talk about a woman who had dropped him unceremoniously.  I resembled her so much we could have been sisters, yet she was the one who still had his heart.

In all of these relationships, I am never enough.  My body is always used as some sort of band-aid until they can get their true love back, and so far none of them have succeeded. Why do they get so hung up on women they can’t have?  And why do I keep falling into this pattern?

Do I feel that I am not worthy of love?  I think deep down I must.  I try every day to quiet these monsters in my head who reinforce this.  The number one question I’m asked since my breakup with my husband is, “Is he seeing anyone?” and I always respond with “Hell if I know, it’s not my business.”  I honestly don’t want to find out.  One of the tragedies of mixed orientation marriages is that although these splits are quite hard on both spouses, one half deals with a deep betrayal.  The betrayal erodes self-confidence and trust, so we are left somewhat shattered at the end of it.  Many straight spouses have problems forming bonds and relationships post-divorce.  We are so damaged we can’t have anything but superficial connections.

Am I unworthy of a loving relationship?  I don’t think so, but why can’t I make anything work? Why do I waste my time on lost causes?  Why do I run from nearly every possible scenario that might lead to a stability?  How can I lie down next to a person and feel absolutely nothing?  Why do I become fixated on men who don’t really want me?

My relationships aren’t real, they are just slivers of human connection that I build up in my mind.  I’m stuck in this horrible repetition that doesn’t seem to end. Things have improved. At least I know I have a problem with this.  I no longer kid myself that is always the man’s problem.  It’s my problem, as I’m the one wasting time on them.  Over four years and I’m still trapped by these circumstances.  I focus on what I have – amazing friends, a loving family, and my health.  I hope I won’t become one of the permanently single.  I don’t want to live alone for the rest of my life. This will not always be the new normal. I am worthy of a loving relationship.  With the exception of a few demented souls or sociopathic personalities we are all worthy of a loving relationship.  I’ve got to break this cycle…I’m just not sure yet how to do it.  I know I’m broken, I just have no idea how to fix myself.

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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 as Straight Spouse: Living with the Scarlet G

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G (Photo credit: chrisinplymouth)

In the American classic  “The Scarlet Letter” Nathanial Hawthorne wrote about Hester Prynne, a woman who conceived a daughter through an adulterous affair with a minister.  Her community, in 17th century Massachusetts, forces her to wear a red-letter “A” upon all of her clothing as a constant reminder of her transgression, and to publicly humiliate her.

Since I left my closeted gay husband nearly three years ago, I can relate to Prynne all too well as I have felt like a giant “G” for gay follows me wherever I go.  But in my case the symbolic “G” I wear on my heart is bedazzled like a disco ball and surrounded by flashing lights.

This morning, on a dating website I get the following from a man who lives in all places Northern Illinois…I live in Brooklyn, NY so I have no idea why he wrote to me to begin with…

You seem to have a history of dating gay guys, at least that’s how your answers look to the casual observer. What’s up with that? You also said you just got divorced, is that what happened? I feel bad for you if that’s what happened… 🙁 Also, sex with the lights on should be a bit different than with them off, not exactly the same.

There is nothing on my profile that indicates that I divorced a gay man.  The questions section is a separate section that another user would have to dig deeper to read.  A few of the questions are about having sex with someone of the same gender or bisexuality, I did make some comments in that section but I never once say anything as blatant as…my ex was gay.  I write things like if you even think you might be gay, please keep looking I am not the girl for you.   The man from Illinois who sent this lovely email to me this morning…looked gay himself.  He had artificially streaked blonde hair, and a couple of modeling shots that looked straight out of a gay sporting magazine – hairless bare chest and all.

I debated if I should just delete the email and move on.  The last line about “sex with the lights on” really pushed me over the edge so I decided to write a response.  I basically told him he was projecting and that to most women he might appear gay himself.  I also encouraged him, that if he was gay that he should come out of the closet.  I even suggested he read a book about gay self-hatred called “The Velvet Rage”.   I know I should have deleted the email and not given it a second thought, but I sort of snapped.  And I wouldn’t normally try to forcibly “out” anyone but since he had done the same to me, I didn’t hold back.

I spend nearly every day of my life trying to talk myself down from the very things this stranger from Illinois put in his email.   Every day, I reinforce the sentiment that I am worthy of a normal relationship, that I am not defective or sexually inadequate.   But then something like this happens and I think to myself…

“Maybe that is why I have had such a hard time dating”

Maybe deep down that is how straight men see me, as damaged or frigid.  They may think to themselves what kind of woman would marry a gay man?

Because I have been so public and open about my situation I cannot escape my past.  A common saying in the straight spouse community is that when our spouses come out of the closet we retreat into our own.  In many mixed orientation marriages, a straight spouse is forced to keep secrets for months, sometimes years to protect their partner.  I understand why each situation is different, as there are no easy answers for many mixed orientation marriages on the right time to disclose the truth.   In my example I really didn’t see the need to continue the lies as my spouse and I had no children, and his sexual orientation would not affect his career.  When my spouse came out of the closet, I made sure the doors were open as wide as possible.

I don’t regret that decision, but there has been a cost.  By putting it out there, I can’t decide when I reveal this information to a potential new partner.  If I try to hide it and they find this blog or any of the articles I have written for the Huffington Post, I look suspicious.  Even if I wanted to delete every article that I have written about my marriage on this blog, the Huffington Post pieces remain, and I honestly don’t regret writing a single syllable.  And since I have been working on a memoir about my marriage for months, the topic dominates my thoughts anyway.

I assume that some men might think I am asexual, have a decreased sex drive or that I find them attractive because they read as gay.   I have no idea, but I know that since I have been single, I have had very little luck dating anyone.  I guess many think I must have had something seriously wrong with me to have ended up in such a marriage.

But what I have found when I have met other straight spouses is that the problem doesn’t lie with us, it lies with our spouses.  Most straight spouses are if anything, too loyal, nurturing and understanding towards their partners.  We attracted our spouses in part because they knew we were the type of people who would stand by them.  And then we get stigmatized when we did nothing more but to love another person unconditionally.  It hardly seems fair, but so much of being a straight spouse is not fair.

Since I started writing about my marriage I occasionally get insanely cruel comments from strangers who mock my circumstances.  I know I would have laid down my life for my spouse if needed, and that I put my entire heart and soul into my marriage.  I  believed that marriage was a sacred institution and did everything to keep mine intact.  But there was nothing I could do to keep a house of cards from falling over.  And now despite everything I have done to improve my life and move on, there are some that would still blame me for the lies of my former partner.  But thanks to the internet I know I am not alone and that straight spouses are some of the strongest people out there.  Eventually this will be so far in my past that I will no longer be defined by it, I will be in a loving committed relationship and won’t have to deal with random closeted men from Northern Illinois sending me hateful emails.