After the initial shock of discovering that we are married to a lesbian or homosexual man, we straight spouses find ways to process what we now know, and what it means in our lives. We talk. we cry. We shout. We listen. We shut down. And eventually, we open up to friends, counselors, clergy.
What happens then often shocks us. The gay spouse gets what we crave – affirmation, confirmation. Its good they came out. They are so brave. This is so hard. You cannot blame them for being closeted. It’s so difficult. Society is so terrible. Are you sure? How do you know? Well, why do you think THAT means your spouse is gay?
Very few people ask how we are doing and what we need. Those who do will often not keep asking. We are supposed to just get over it, because other people are very uncomfortable with the reality of our lives. Often counselors focus on helping the gay spouse or helping us understand the gay spouse.
We need help. We need understanding. We need affirmation.
Some of us DO find solace in understanding the experience of our gay spouses. Some of us need to create healthy distance, privacy, renew our acquaintance with ourselves. Some of us have been told that our marriages would have ended anyway, because we’re at fault for something. Whether it is appearance, sexual prowess, sensitivity, housekeeping, we are told “it takes two” when a marriage breaks up. We seldom hear that we could be perfect – and our spouses would still be unhappy because we are the opposite sex.
Some of us need to hear that no matter how good we are, we could not change the outcome of our marriages. Some of us need to hear that we ARE good. Some of us need to hear that no matter what our failings, our spouses are gay and this is a huge challenge for any marriage. Acknowledging this difficulty does not make us “haters” or “delusional” or “uncooperative”.
Sometimes we are surrounded by people who tell us how we ought to feel, what ought to happen. We ought to stay married. We ought to divorce. We ought to go to this particular counselor or program that will save our marriage. We ought to attend the gay pride parade. We ought to tell our children. We ought to NEVER tell our children because that’s up to the gay spouse alone.
What we really ought to do is be honest. Some of us will need to tell our children, in an age appropriate way, about why our homes are changing, even if the gay spouse does not approve. Some of us will tell children together with the gay spouse. Some of us will want to tell the children together, and find the gay spouse does it alone – and when we feel left out, marginalized, overlooked, many counselors and well meaning friends will tell us that we should never have done that anyway, it doesnt matter. We know it does matter.
Some of us will stay married. Some will separate right away. Its a process, and for many couples it is not a quick one. Perhaps the least helpful thing is for a straight spouse to hear that they should just divorce now because that is what will happen anyway. It doesn’t always happen. People have to work these questions out in their own way, in their own time.
The Straight Spouse Network provides a safe place for the straight spouse to sort out their reactions, needs, wants, desires. We won’t tell you to save your marriage. We won’t tell you that you should just save yourself a lot of trouble and file for divorce. The Straight Spouse Network will support and affirm you as you find what it is that you want and need – whatever that is today. Because we are a peer group, many of us will also have similar experiences to share with you.
You are not alone. Your perspective, perceptions, experiences, and questions matter.