Straight spouses are entitled to know if their husband or wife is being unfaithful to them with a same sex partner. It also is helpful for them to know if a gay husband or lesbian wife is unsure of their sexuality. Many straight spouses blame themselves for any sexual dysfunction in a marriage. It can be a relief to know that no matter how fat, thin, bald, attentive, or attractive they are, no matter what kind of surgery they have had or physical changes, no matter how many babies, no matter how perfect or imperfect – the reason that the the spark isn’t there is because their husband or wife prefers to have sex with someone of their same gender.
So how do you tell your husband or wife that you are gay, or at least not completely heterosexual? How do you tell them that you aren’t sure but you think so?
Honestly. And with kindness, compassion, and all the love you can.
This is not a conversation to have on Valentines Day, your wedding anniversary, someone’s birthday, a major holiday, or any day that gets commemorated annually or is a special celebration. Choosing to have this conversation on those days, because that is when you have time to be together, will ruin the celebration or commemoration of those days for your spouse for years to come. It will always coincide with the anniversary of when they learned the painful truth. But there are plenty of other days to have this conversation, and the sooner the better.
Some GLBT people think it is kinder to disclose their sexual realization in small doses. It really isn’t. Your husband or wife deserves to know the real truth about who you really are. This isn’t the time to list their many faults, or go over what they could have done differently to make the marriage better. This is about you telling them who you really are.
If you’re not sure, say so.
If you are a man who has had an affair or is seeing someone, or you have had anonymous sex in a park or public restroom, please say so. Even if you are being so careful so you just know that no one will get HIV from you. Your wife is entitled to know. Despite assurances of nothing to worry about because you were careful, a straight wife will likely get tested – for her own health, safety, and satisfaction about her own health and future. And she’ll probably be very angry that she is in a position of needing to be tested, particularly if she has been faithful to you.
A straight husband or wife is entitled to know that you are GLBT because they are a person in their own right who needs to make decisions about how they will live their lives in the light of the truth about their marriage to you. Some may tell you what they want to do right away, others may just be stunned and emotional, and totally blown away by the information. But they need to know. Honesty is the best, and healthiest, policy for you both. And kindness, courtesy, sympathy, listening, and understanding go a long way. Maybe not right away, but they do help to smooth later conflicts.
Coming out in a mixed orientation marriage is a bit different than coming out as an individual. There is a partnership, a family, and obligations. These don’t go away just because you realize that you are homosexual. Your coming out is a family affair when you are married – and your spouse may not be as ready to come out as you are. Your husband or wife may want to be more open about it, and not remain the keeper of someone else’s secret. Regardless of the outcome, straight spouses deserve to know. When you are honest, you can then work out through counseling what the ground rules are for you and the family being out of the closet, or remaining discreet depending on what is best for all of you.
Remember, even if you are realizing your true sexuality later in life, you have had your whole life to figure this out about yourself. Your spouse has had maybe only a few minutes, a few months, a few years. It will take time to sort it all out, process the grief, anger, and for some the shame and self doubt, before they come to an acceptance and are ready to move forward. For many people, it can take years to work through all of this. There are no easy answers, no quick fixes.
When you come out to your husband or wife, please tell them that there is support for them through the Straight Spouse Network. Tell your therapist about our resources for counselors of mixed orientation couples. And most important, tell the honest truth about yourself.