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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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Is Living a Life in The Closet a Victimless Crime?

A wall closet in a residential house in the Un...

A wall closet in a residential house in the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently wrote a piece on the John Travolta sex scandal.   What surprised me more than anything were the comments condemning me for having disdain for “The Closet“.   I am not shocked by any comment as  I get all sorts of negative comments, some vicious, some personal attacks and some that are just downright baffling.  It really takes all kinds in the comment section of a Huffington Post piece! 🙂  In most examples people just project their own agenda or perspective on to my articles no matter what I have written.  In some cases they even put words into my mouth, or proclaim that I am making blanket statements when I am not.

But the comments that really floored me were in defense of a life lived inside “The Closet”.   One commenter got so worked up he referred to me as a bigot.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a bigot is the following

Bigot – a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially: one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.

I guess he might be right to a point, as I don’t really like liars.  I don’t know if I would say I treat them with hatred and intolerance, but I think adults are accountable for their actions.  If someone wants to hide their sexual orientation, it’s their right, but the minute they mislead someone else to keep their secret – they tend to lose my sympathy.

My critic didn’t mention anything about gay men and women marrying straight partners under false pretenses.  He was more upset that I had dared to say I had disdain for “The Closet”.  He claimed since I was openly criticizing those who choose to live a secret life, I was adding yet another stigma for gay men and women.  It was difficult to wrap my brain around this logic.  For instance if a gay man is living as a straight man, he has to lie to pretty much everyone in his life to keep up the illusion.  I also not sure what kind of intimate relationships a closeted person could have, if they tell no one about their sexual orientation.

In my piece I never advocated for forcibly “outing” anyone.  I mainly stated repeatedly that it is a shame that anyone would have to live in that personal hell.   And by hiding their true nature, closeted homosexuals are hurting the gay rights movement at large, to quote the late gay rights advocate Harvey Milk

Gay brothers and sisters,… You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives… come out to your friends… if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors… to your fellow workers… to the people who work where you eat and shop… come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene. – source wikiquote

If every homosexual were out and proud, the harassment and discrimination would lessen, because nearly everyone would discover they have a close friend, co-worker, neighbor even family member who is gay.   If every homosexual were out and proud it would be obvious to everyone in the straight community that there are gays and lesbians in every facet of our lives, every occupation, every race, every religion and every socioeconomic level.

Many compare the civil rights movement to the current struggle for gay rights.  The obvious difference being that a black man or woman cannot pretend they are white.  They cannot for a moment hide their skin color.   They cannot simply marry a white person and try to pass as Caucasian.  They can’t live a sham life and then decide to live as black on the weekends, or go to black bars under an assumed name.   They can’t log onto a black website and to try to find other blacks to hang out with and secretly be black when it is convenient for them.  So although the struggles for racial equality and sexual orientation equality are similar that difference is pretty fundamental.  In fact, if gays had no option of hiding, would their movement be further along by now?  It is difficult to say as there are so many other factors that contribute to homophobia, but most other oppressed groups do not have the same form of “Closet” in which to hide.

Of course “The Closet” is subjective.  A gay person could tell their close friends but not their co-workers.  Or they could tell most of their family but maybe not announce it to their 92-year-old grandmother.   Of course not all aspects of a person’s personal life have to be so public, but any intimate partner should not be misled.

There are also examples of people who simply live their lives blatant and in the open but without ever really coming out and announcing their sexual orientation.  I can think of any number of celebrities that have lived with a same-sex partner, never declaring their orientation but never using a straight person as a cover.  It is as if they are in the closet but with the door open, everyone pretty much knows they are gay but they don’t make an issue out of it.  I know this frustrates some in the gay movement, as they want as many public figures as possible “out and proud”.  I understand their frustration, but for me as long as a gay person isn’t using someone to hide their orientation, I don’t see the problem.   In fact by living a quiet and tranquil life they are reinforcing the idea that being gay is simply another way of being human, and that gay relationships are sometimes just as boring and mundane as straight ones.

If you are gay, and you feel like there is no way to be honest with your family and friends, you truly have my sympathy.  But you might be surprised, as they may not react as negatively as you think.  Public attitudes towards homosexuality have gotten much more positive in recent years, and the trend is towards total acceptance for the entire GLTBQ community.  Hopefully with time, same-sex marriage will be legal in all 50 states, and anti-gay discrimination laws will be universal.   Regardless, if you are gay and feel the need to hide, please don’t fraudulently get another person wrapped up into your life.   Some mixed orientation marriages are happy and healthy, but almost always when they are based on honesty and open communication.

In an ideal world, anyone’s sexual orientation could remain private without controversy.  A child could openly talk about their two mommies at school and no one would think to call the principal in protest.  Two men could live in a quiet suburb and raise an adopted child without causing anyone concern.  A young gay teen could proudly take a same-sex partner to a dance without it making the local news.

I am not gay, but my life was nearly ruined by “The Closet”.  Damaged from my experience I will probably carry those scars for the rest of my life.   So anyone advocating for a life hidden safely inside a lie, I would say this.  A life in “The Closet” yeilds unintended consequences.  And if some gays remain in hiding, who is going to stand up to the bullying, the harassment, the discrimination and hate?  A life lived in fear and shame is no way to live.   If gay men and women want true equality, they can start by first burning that closet door down forever and never hiding again.  And doesn’t everyone want an intimate partner they can have a larger part of their family and social group?  Anyone living in “The Closet” can’t fully express their love for a same sex partner, in the same way that heterosexual could, and that’s tragic.

As a straight spouse I choose to not hide my past, in fact it is all over the internet.  Anyone can find my story and ridicule me for it, or maybe not ask me out on a second date because they just can’t handle it,or send me crazy angry emails.  By making my story so public,  I get some grief, but I would rather live my live in truth than try to hide my past in shame.

On being a Straight Spouse – Broken Memories

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I am normally a comedian, but anyone who knows comedians know we tend to be a little morose from time to time.  And for some reason it seems to help me get past some of these dark moods when I write them down and put them on my blog.  Don’t worry regular readers there are some things I wouldn’t never put on this blog, they are just too personal or might unintentionally hurt someone, so they stay on paper never to make it to cyberspace.

The other day a relatively new person in my life wanted to know the specifics of my ex-husband‘s realization he was gay.  Most people assume at some point in our marriage, my ex simply found the courage to finally be honest with himself and with me.  I wish that were the case, but I was not given that consideration.  Like many straight spouses, instead of the truth being revealed to me,  I had years of lies, excuses and finally betrayal.  It wasn’t until I found hard evidence of his true sexual orientation that I could finally move on.  Even with this proof right in front of his face, all pretense removed he still tried to deny reality.  In the weeks that passed he finally admitted his inner-deception.  I was then faced with the harsh realization that on some level my entire marriage was a fraud.   The depths of deep sorrow are hard to describe really, and the confusion of others towards me never really ends.  Many cannot contemplate how insidious the wound of being a straight spouse, cuts right through a person.  Meaning well they will flippantly try to reassure me with lines such as…

Well at least he didn’t cheat on you with a woman
 

All I can think is, well if he cheated on me with a woman at least I could understand that.  Infidelity is common in many marriages and some even survive the trauma.  If he had cheated on me with a woman we might still be together.   Depending on the specific circumstances I might have been able to forgive him and move on.   Marriage is a lifetime commitment and a lifetime leaves plenty of chances to make some fairly big mistakes.   As it stands I have to live with the knowledge that he never really wanted me.  That realization is horrifically painful.

You know he really loved you he couldn’t help he was gay

I guess but, if he really loved me he wouldn’t have used me in this way.  He knew what he was doing to me, he knew his was keeping secrets, he knew he was lying.  I don’t quite understand the concept of “The Closet” as he has admitted he has known since he was a child, and then in the same breath tried to reconcile his relationship with me.  So which was it?  I can’t help but think he was just suppressing what he knew was there all along and I was his collateral damage.  And what damage, nine years of a life, years of sacrifice and compromise, and romance that wasn’t real.

The suicide rate for straight spouses is three times higher than those in a traditional divorce.  A straight spouse has to deal with a lot: damaged sexuality, loss of trust, social stigma, and wounded self-esteem.  To make matters worse, a straight spouse cannot even look back to happier memories, as even they become tainted.  My happy memories, broken like crumpled photographs that cannot be flattened properly no matter what method I try.   As if the photographic images have scratches ground into them permanently across smiling faces.  The first time I met my ex, our first kiss, and of course my entire nine years of sex with a man who didn’t really want to be there.  Our first apartment, our first Christmas, every memory is now clouded and defamed.   And I wonder what are these memories like to him?  I can’t imagine and I don’t really care.  My feelings for him have changed so much, he was once so important so central to my being and now he is just someone who knows me so well but I really never knew at all.

My entire wedding haunts me now, as one big farce.  I had an absolutely beautiful ceremony, perfect weather, supportive families, and a wonderful, gorgeous celebration.  I look back at it now and want to erase it from my brain.  I am not angry anymore as I gave up on the anger a while ago.  The rage was doing no more than grinding me down, so I released it.  But I still feel a deep sadness that will flare up from time to time at times completely unexpectedly.  I will find myself staring off thinking about one aspect of it, and others around me will comment that I look sad or lost.  I don’t realize I am doing this, it is as if my mind just takes over for a few minutes and I sink back into the sorrow if only for a moment.  And the trust issues are tantamount, I can’t fathom being married again, it is just so foreign a concept after what I went through.

I could have chosen to keep it hidden, continued the secret to protect him and protect myself from judgment and labels but since “The Closet” nearly destroyed me I would rather leave its door in charred splinters and not continue the pretense one more day.

And now I live with the shame and the invasive questions along the lines of…

How did you not know?

As if there is something wrong with me, as if I somehow brought this upon myself with some type of shortcoming or character flaw.  Not that I was just prey for a self-serving person who needed, a partner to hide his secret life.  I know there are some that laugh at me and mock my situation.  They aren’t surprised that this happened to me, as if it is a joke, or I am not worthy of a normal relationship.  Or that my fiercely feminist bent lead me to a gay emasculated husband.  Even though my ex is an extremely strong personality that dominated our relationship and marriage.  He was hardly a push-over or hen-pecked wimp.  He didn’t mince about or act effeminate, he didn’t lisp or act in a flamboyant manner.  He was just a man who acted if anything somewhat asexual rather than overtly gay.  We had a sex life that was normal, but it slowly become dysfunctional.  And a decreased sex life is not unheard of in traditional marriages.  I begged my husband to seek treatment for what he claimed was erectile dysfunction, and the more I pushed the worse things got.

So I look for solace, calm, and peace and I am beginning to find it.  But in order to move on I have to wipe out whole sections of my past.  Every memory is now clouded and opaque.  I have to instead focus on how much stronger I have become after nearly being destroyed.  How I have gained compassion and empathy towards others and courage I didn’t know I had in me.  And learn to forgive myself for all the damage that I wrought in the aftermath of the fall.   If anything this personal hell has taught me that no one has it easy in life, even those who seem to have everything they want.  Their loved ones die for no real reason, they suffer loss, disappointment and tragedy.  We can choose to wallow in the muck or pull ourselves up out of it.  I strive every day now, to move forward.   As painful as it is for me to write some of these blog posts, I know it is helping other people.  For whatever reason when I throw these demons into cyberspace they grow quieter in my head.

One thing that has helped me in my recovery are the many straight spouses that read this blog and have shared their stories with me.  No one really understands this torture except someone who has gone through it.  And we will survive it, it just takes time, patience and a world of strength.  Solidarity to anyone who found this blog who is going through the same thing.  It will get better.  🙂

For more help a wonderful resource – Straight Spouse Network – Chat rooms, discussions, stories and you can even find local support groups in your area.  I am a semi-regular member of the NY city chapter.  You will rarely find people that truly understand our unique situation.  I can’t say enough good things about this organization.

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