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A Friendly Divorce from a Gay Spouse

If the news of a divorce from a gay spouse is ever good, this would probably qualify as one of the best case scenarios we’ve ever seen.

security blanketPopular parenting blogger, Jill Smokler, of Scary Mommy announced her upcoming divorce from her husband on her website after careful consideration.  Then, her husband submitted a guest article on his perspective.

“Once I came to terms with the fact that I was gay, I figured I had two options,” Jeff Smokler wrote. “I could die — either from my intentional neglect of my health and well-being, or perhaps from something even more tragic — leaving my children fatherless, or I could come out and hope that I remained surrounded by the love of my friends, family, wife and children.”

“For many years, I chose option one; letting myself slip into unhealthy habits and depression,” he continued. “So how then do Jill and I now find ourselves in this moment? What changed? The truth is, nothing changed. We were simply ready.”

The couple is committed to being honest, and to continuing to create a stable family for their children, and be supportive of their children.

The struggles of coming out, and of coping with the devastating realization for the straight spouse, are not easy.  The Smoklers acknowledged that they experienced many years of tremendous stress and difficulty before arriving at the resolution: a divorce that is done as openly as possible.

Jill Smokler is among the luckiest group of straight wives. Her husband struggled with honesty and included her in his discovery and disclosure.  They mutually share a partnership of family and personal connection.  Letting go of the secret is freeing for both spouses when it is done together.  For many of us, that is not an option.  We are consigned to closets, experiencing ongoing denial, or threats or shaming by the gay spouse.  We’re put off on the question of telling the kids, or we’re cast aside – as if the disclosure only belongs to the gay spouse.

The Smoklers have shown that coming out isn’t just a matter for the LGBTQ spouse.  Coming out is a family matter which includes the straight spouse.  Not everything is going to be easy, or smooth, or go according to one person’s desires and plans.

They aspire to show that divorce can come from a place of love – and there is no shortage of love in their relationship. We are all uplifted by this affirmation!  Yet, a number of straight spouses are experiencing pain along with that sense of “Oh, OK, so it doesn’t always have to be terrible and terrifying for everyone.” It’s a relief that not ALL mixed orientations marriages that end in divorce end with abuse, gaslighting, deception, and shaming. It’s a relief to know that not all straight spouses go through the process of being discarded, or living down the writing of an untrue script.

What are some examples of untrue scripts?
1.   This is no big deal. Other couples stay married.  Other straight wives are SUPPORTIVE! (after all, look at Scary Mommy!)

It is a big deal, and the Smoklers have said so.  And their support is for each other – and has developed throughout the 15 years of marriage. Many times, the feelings of the straight spouse are discarded, denied, ignored, or just plain unacknowledged. We discover that we don’t matter.  The Smoklers matter to each other.

2.   My wife chooses to be angry. She’s very bitter and hateful. No one can make you angry (unhappy, sad, distraught). Only YOU can make you angry.

Anger is a normal response, and it is a consequence of being hurt and deceived. It can take a while to work it through. And, it takes professional support, patience, and respect of boundaries and personhood. Also, wanting to have equitable distribution of marital assets, and adequate financial support or a fair decision on child custody and support is not about anger.  It is about survival. It is about going forward as a family, in the best interests of everyone in that family, and it may not always be clear and easy to determine.

3.  Everyone is gay. You are just repressed (judgmental, crazy, narrow-minded, etc)

No.  There is a spectrum of sexual orientation, and many people are just plain heterosexual. They marry with the expectation that their spouse is heterosexual, or is willing to commit to a marriage.

4.  My kids don’t accept me because my husband/wife’s family is religious.

While religion might inform some children’s beliefs, problems in relationship often have a lot to do with the relationships that have been formed throughout their lives.

We’re really encouraged by the honesty shown by Jeff and Jill ending a mixed orientation marriage with divorce in an honest, deliberate, and considerate way that affirms the entire family. For those of us who have not shared this kind of connection in our marriages, it is also affirming to know that it can be done, if the gay spouse is honest and loving, and the blame games are set aside.

The Straight Spouse Network is here to support all straight spouses, male and female, of LGBTQ people.  Whether or not your spouse has come out to you or is in denial, whether you found out by discovery or disclosure, we are a peer to peer network that can affirm your experience, offer connection, support, and confidentiality.  Your experience may or may not be as ideal as Jill and Jeff, but we are here for you, around the world.

5 Comments

  1. I realized my husband was bisexual when I found all his Craigslist activity. He has denied being bisexual. We have done counseling to save our marriage. After almost a year of work I basically forced him to have a sexual encounter with another man. He lived it, but still won’t admit to being bisexual. How do I support him enough to be comfortable coming out?

  2. I could only hope that my relationship could be this way. It has been years of shaming, gaslighting, emotional abuse and manipulation. All because he is ashamed of himself and his orientation. My children have suffered the most. He uses religion as his go to now. As he has not only let himself down but is family as well. I am happy thst their can be happy endings.

  3. Jill and Jeff (and Wendy and Bryon, you too) are proof of these quotes from Rev. Charles R. Swindoll, former president of the Dallas Theological Seminary:

    “We are often presented with a series of wonderful opportunities cleverly disguised as impossible situations. Words cannot adequately convey the impact that our attitude has on our lives. The longer I live, the more convinced I become that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it. We have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.”

  4. I could relate quite a bit to Jill’s story, in fact I reached out to her directly. Every note helps. I know it did for me. Her story was my story, especially how my ex and I approached the situation, telling our kids, and moving forward in the “new normal”. By no means was it easy, at times it was hell, but for me, I had to stay focused on helping my kids through the journey, who then helped me through it with how they adjusted and now flourish. My goal was for them to feel safe, loved, and reach peace. I got to the point that anger helped no one, instead was counterproductive, waste of energy, and in the end hurt me the most. I was tired of that feeling and needed to forgive to move on. I realize easier said than done. I have bad days, and cried more than anyone should have to.

    I now look at how far we have come, my kids are happy, confident, and loved by more people than before, they know they can be who they are, love is love, and family looks different but means the same. I remind myself of that everyday. No we didn’t choose this, but it is how we react and build ourselves up – that is what I want my kids to remember and see from both me and their dad. That is what keeps me going and how I have moved on.

  5. I’d like to hear more from Jill and learn something about how she was able to accept Jeff’s reality. It’s not all about the gay spouse, as we keep saying, the straight spouse plays a role, too. What is her personality like, what was her upbringing like, what was her awareness of LGBT people before and after her husband came out, what were her preconceived ideas, and how is she able to accept this so calmly, with dignity and respect for herself and her husband?

    If I look at Jeff as the role model for how to come out honestly and openly, I’d like to see Jill as the role model for how to adjust to a new reality. In other words, what’s she got that I don’t got? (and how do I get it?)

    In the same vein, I thought of a few other untrue scripts, based on my own experiences:

    1) You knew you were gay before you married me, but you did it anyway. (no, I don’t think it’s fair to say she “knew.” If she did know, she didn’t accept it, and battled it, and that’s different.)

    2) I know I’m not homophobic, because I’m the best judge of my own character, and if I say I’m not homophobic, then I’m not. At least, not the way I define it.

    3) It’s impossible to have same sex activities and not realize that means you’re gay.

    4) You did this to me on purpose to hurt me. (Untrue, because only the perpetrator knows what his motivations were.)

    5) Nobody is in denial about their sexual activities if they’re doing it, they’re just lying about it. (Untrue because lying and denial are not the same.)

    6) You chose to be gay / You were born gay. (Untrue script because the truth is, nobody knows. There are theories but no proof.)

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