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Grace and Frankie Just Gets Better

Posted by on Feb 7, 2018 in Blog | 5 comments

Grace and FrankieGrace and Frankie, Netflix’s acclaimed comedy series starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin about two women whose husbands are gay is back for its fourth season.

This time, the series introduces situations many straight spouses know all too well.   Sol and Robert, the gay husbands who have married each other, believe that their new neighbor is gay and in denial, and struggle with the question of telling his fiancé their suspicions.  They ask their wives “what if someone told you before we were married that we were gay” and get some surprising answers. We don’t want to spoil anything, so we will just leave you to watch and find out what Grace and Frankie have to say about that – and what they do about it. It’s pretty realistic, and some of us may find it all too familiar.

The series also revolves around issues of aging, for the wives and for gay men.  The generation gap is very clearly emphasized this season, a difference in the experiences of the older gay couple in their 70s and younger gay men. Then there’s that question of “when should our children step in and tell us what to do?” This comes up several times with misadventures in grandparenting, and also the question of sending Grace and Frankie to a high end assisted living facility where they have little in common with the other residents.

If you remember Jane Fonda’s “feel the burn” exercise videos from the 80s, you’ll probably appreciate the irony of seeing Grace struggle with knee surgery, and the need to sometimes use a cane.

If you haven’t seen the series, it is well worth checking out.  In the first episode of season one, Grace and Frankie are at dinner with their husbands, expecting to be told that they are FINALLY going to retire from their law practice and begin a life of retirement, leisure, travel, etc with their wives. Instead, the husbands tell them that they are gay, they are in love, and they are going to be married, so they are divorcing the women.

The husbands, played by Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen, are divorce attorneys. And they’re somewhat taken aback that their wives do not share their enthusiasm for this “next chapter of our lives.”

Best line from the first episode:

Sol:  We want to get married.

Robert: Cuz we can do that now.

Frankie:  I KNOW! I HOSTED THAT FUNDRAISER!

Also, Grace tells her husband later “You don’t get to pretend that this is nothing!” While consoling Grace, her younger daughter Mallory tell her “We’re gonna get you through this Mom.  We’re gonna find you people to talk to. People who understand exactly what you’re going through.” Older sister Brianna responds “There’s a group for wives of husbands who’ve turned gay in their seventies?”

Well, yes, as a matter of fact…there is…here we are… the Straight Spouse Network…for every age….but Grace and Frankie does not depict support groups of any kind. We wish they would tell the world that there is indeed support for men and women who discover that their spouses are gay…

Throughout the series, the impact on the entire family is shown.  Not just the impact of the disclosure and divorce, but the impact on family life of the whole hidden relationship and deception of the wives.

The continue sexual vibrancy of women in their seventies is affirmed in this program.  Grace and Frankie go through some dating disasters, but wind up in relationships with some really interesting and attractive older straight guys.  And younger straight guys.  They make up, they break up, life goes forward.  They also enter a business partnership, creating and marketing vibrators that are designed for older women. The company they form is called “Vybrant” and their top selling model is the “Menage a Moi”.

There are straight spouses who have not yet watched this show because they feel they can’t. In our lives this experience is not funny. But, when you are ready, we encourage you to have a look.  There are many things about this show which mirror real life experiences, even though many straight wives are not as well off financially as Grace and Frankie, or in such great physical shape after 40 years of marriage.

We also appreciate that this is not a broad, laugh track comedy, but a well written and humorous treatment of a devastating, life shattering experience that is seldom discussed or acknowledged – and how two older women go forward with their lives.

You can watch Grace and Frankie on Netflix, or buy individual episodes on Amazon.

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Speaking Your Truth is the Most Powerful Tool We All Have

Posted by on Jan 16, 2018 in Blog | 5 comments

Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have

Last week, Oprah said what we straight spouses have known for a long time.

“Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

In a powerful speech at the Golden Globes ceremony, Oprah addressed the complete and utter disregard in the entertainment industry and in society in general for victims of sexual assault and sexual discrimination. What she said has resonated so deeply within so many people, that some are even talking about having her run for president!

Well, we don’t know about her future in politics.  But we do know that she and others who proclaim that the time has come for truth telling are on to something very powerful and necessary.

“Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

When we straight spouses and partners speak the truth of our relationships to our spouses and partners, to our families, to our trusted friends, to our counselors, clergy and advisors we often encounter some obstacles to going forward, to proclaiming or discovering the entire truth.

Many of us are immediately perceived through whatever view the other person has about  homosexuality. And the truth that we tell sometimes means the other person has to deal with some cognitive dissonance. Many times, we’ve been dealing with that cognitive dissonance for a long time, and coped by viewing our own lives through a distorted lens.

Wait.  Cognitive WHAT?

Cognitive dissonance is defined as “the mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information.” (Encyclopedia Brittanica) People seek to resolve that mental conflict through changing, justifying, or denying a behavior or a perception.

Oh.  So that’s why, when we tell our best friend, our parents, our pastor that we think our spouse is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, they have some reactions we don’t expect.  They thought they knew our spouse.  They have specific ideas about who is homosexual, bisexual, transgender- and maybe our spouse doesn’t fit that.  Or maybe they do – and told themselves that we must be ok with it. And here we are, telling them something that may be the total opposite of what they thought they knew.

That’s why we hit a wall with questions that tend to drive us into a closet that was made by someone else. “How do you know? How can you tell? Are you sure?  How come you didn’t see this before?” Sometimes we are asking ourselves those very same questions.

Sometimes our spouses counter with their alternate version of our reality.  Many straight wives have heard “just because I have sex with men doesn’t mean I’m gay. It has nothing to do with you.” It certainly DOES have something to do with you!

Sometimes we supply answers ourselves that keep us in a comfort zone. Until we can’t anymore.

Our spouse comes out to us, or we discover something that shows us definitely that despite denial, they are not completely heterosexual, or being honest with themselves or with us.

“Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

So how do we do that when the truth that we tell makes many people so very uncomfortable?

We speak truth in our own best interest.  We don’t speak it to shame, humiliate, or hurt someone else.  We speak it in proclamation of our own experience, our own reactions, our own lives.

Here at the Straight Spouse Network, we affirm one another, even if our experiences are vastly different, even if our paths diverge. We cannot tell one another what to do, but we can listen, support, and affirm those among us who speak their truth.

If you are a friend or a family member of a straight spouse, listening and affirmation are the best gifts you can offer.  We need people we trust to listen and share some understanding. We don’t need a grand inquisition, or an explanation of why somehow we’re wrong, or a dismissal because our spouse denies whatever we say. We need you to listen.

We wish we could distill it down to “10 signs your husband or wife is gay.”  We can’t. There are so many of us, with so many different experiences and relationships.  Sometimes our gay spouses are still figuring it out.

We know that the mainstream media is frequently more interested in those relationship lists, or in providing quick answers than they are in actually recounting our stories.  We know that “coming out” stories are extremely popular right now.  That doesn’t mean that you don’t get to keep speaking the truth about you.  We won’t stop.  Neither should you.

“Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

#Ustoo Oprah.  Thanks.

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Our Monthly Dashboard of Information

Posted by on Dec 28, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

You might not have noticed, but we’re making sure that you know what we are doing here at the Straight Spouse Network.  We have a monthly dashboard on our website, which tells you the latest information about our projects, fundraising, and the number of people our volunteers help each month.

Take a look at our statistics for what we call triage. That is our first response when a straight spouse contacts us for support. WE ARE ALL OVER THE WORLD. We are men and women, in every state, and in many different countries.

Did you think you were alone, when you found out that your husband or wife wanted to have sex with a partner of the same gender, or was transgender? Well, you are not.  The experience of being a straight spouse is a global phenomenon.

On this dashboard section of the website, you will also find our profit and loss statement.  In the future you will find a budget, and updates on our projects and fundraisers.

We are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of people who contact us for help, usually shortly after they discover their spouse is LGBTQ. It’s time for folks to see how big a need there is, and that we are not alone.

We welcome your suggestions for projects, your input, and your ideas and questions. Please send your feedback to Stephanie Skylar, Executive Director.

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December’s Dilemmas

Posted by on Dec 24, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Holidays are wonderful times for families to get together and renew relationships, celebrate traditions, and share the latest news.  For straight spouses undergoing the stresses of divorce, or the recent discovery that a spouse is gay, those same holidays can be awkward and painful.  It can hurt to see traditions discarded, or to be excluded from family gatherings, or be told that the spouse has to be excluded or included.

Holiday GlitterSome new dilemmas for straight spouses include basic things, like “whose house are we going to for dinner and who will be there” to “telling the kids mom is gay” before or after the holiday, to a lack of money to keep up all the traditions.  They can be as complicated as “will Daddy bring the boyfriend to Grandma’s this year” or taking the kids shopping to buy a present for Mom’s girlfriend.  A straight spouse might feel a rush of anger at seeing an expensive present that was lavished on a boyfriend or girlfriend, that was never considered for them, or seeing the gay couple take the trip of a lifetime that the spouse had thought would be a special second honeymoon.

Then there are always the friends and relatives who have their own opinions about things – and express them loudly.  That could mean saying negative things about the gay spouse in front of the children, or a tentative hint around the kitchen table that “you can still be married, just live together like brother and sister”.  It can be the brother in law who keeps asking “ya want me to ‘fix’ his car?” or the cousin who just CANNOT believe that this is true, and YOU must be mistaken.  Add to this family stew a gay spouse who is worried that nothing will be the same “because I’m gay and nobody accepts that”,  and your happy holidays turn into an occasion of dread.

How about those friends who are determined to be fair and friendly and invite you both to a party?  You venture out, and find your spouse there with a date – and the group of friends is affirming “coming out” but ignoring how devastating this is to you.  Isn’t it funny how the rules for divorcing heterosexual couples don’t apply to us?

The best advice we have for the holidays is to view them as an opportunity for new traditions affirming you and your values. Accept that things will be different.  The first year it is a discovery process, finding what works and what doesn’t.  After that, it does get easier.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with friends and relatives, and establish what is appropriate and what is not.  Tell the brother in law to fix YOUR car since you need help.  Tell the cousin that believe it or not, it’s true and you’re not discussing it right now. Tell the person who wants you to stay married that you can’t.  It really is not possible to ignore a gay spouse’s sexual activity, no matter how discreet.  It is different.  And if you are staying together, you are making your own rules.  Just don’t totally alienate people who truly love you.  Remember, they are struggling to understand what has happened, and want to know how to help you.

Holidays can be a bridge that we cross from an old life to a new one.  Sometimes it is a painful bridge, but we do get there!  The important thing is to keep going.

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Giving Thanks

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

Holidays can be a difficult time for straight spouses. Regardless of whether you recently discovered that your spouse is LGBTQ or have known for years, changes in traditions and family relationships can be unsettling. Sometimes they are isolating.

And sometimes, they are liberating.

For many of us, life has changed in completely unexpected ways. We didn’t expect to divorce. We didn’t expect to be sharing holiday celebrations with our ex husband’s husband/boyfriend or our ex wife’s wife/girlfriend. We didn’t expect to have our families, our friends, our adult children, be uncomfortable about making choices in how traditions are honored.

Family dynamics change. People marry, they divorce, they have children. They have stepchildren. They die. They age and have different needs. They have disagreements.

Changing family dynamics for us can include how we handle a spouse’s coming out, or how our families handle it. Or, do we all remain closeted, thus keeping the peace? If we’re divorced or separated, our family members may find the real reason to be too much to handle. They may want to rewrite the story. Sometimes that leads to us being excluded. Sometimes our exes are excluded, and we walk the fine line between family members who wish to be supportive and sympathetic, and those who think it’s time to let loose with homophobic remarks, or worse, the snarky jokes about your sex life.

Family dynamics change, and ours have undergone powerful changes. So how do we straight spouses survive the holidays, and actually enjoy them?

First of all, let’s own the experience. We acknowledge that things are different. The perfect Hallmark holiday setting does not exist, and it’s pretty clear that it won’t. And as you think about gathering with family for a Thanksgiving meal, a Hanukkah party, or Christmas tradition, name your feelings to yourself. Usually, straight spouses are pretty angry at the beginning, and sometimes that continues. Name your anger, your sadness and why you believe you feel that way.

Know that your feelings are valid. Expect that others who are adjusting to changing family dynamics may not be able or willing to validate them for you.

It’s not easy when children are involved, but that’s why it is important for you to exercise grace and keep communication open as safely as possible. Sometimes in families where we have been cast aside, it can be difficult because they want to include the children but not you, and don’t really want to communicate much. Make certain you know the basics – where and when – and plan your own joy.

Yes. Plan your own joy. Maybe that joy will be shared with family, with children, maybe not. Take the opportunity to establish new traditions, new experiences, ones that give you joy and peace. It may seem to be easier said than done, but once you start focusing on what is meaningful to you the holidays can take on a whole new experience. You might even begin new traditions – and that can be very satisfying.

Don’t forget to do something for you!

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Today Is National Coming Out Day

Posted by on Oct 11, 2017 in Blog | 33 comments

Today is National Coming Out Day.  It is a day that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has designated as a day to celebrate and support those who live openly as LGBTQ people or as their allies.

National Coming Out Day 2016This year, the HRC honors all who have come out as LGBTQ or as  straight allies for equality. They recognize that this takes bravery.

The Straight Spouse Network is an LGBTQ ally organization that serves straight spouses who may or may not be what the HRC considers allies.  We serve the people who have it together.  We serve the people who are falling apart.  We serve the angry, the devastated, the isolated. We serve the recovering, the wounded, the people who have healed and are moving forward.

National Coming Out Day is a very difficult day for us.  Here is why:

  1. Every year, the Straight Spouse Network sees an increase in the number of people who need us. National Coming Out Day triggers just that – an increase in the number of people who come out. And we, their straight spouses, are among the people they come out to.
  1. http://www.jennamcwilliams.com/2012/10/12/national-coming-out-day-smash-all-the-closets/Coming Out Day reinforces the pain of those of us who are still forced into a closet by our LGBTQ spouses and ex-spouses. Many would like to come out as a straight spouse or as an LGBTQ straight ally, but cannot do so because it might endanger their lives or their livelihood. The threats are not always posed by the general culture. Sometimes the LGBTQ spouse threatens retribution or legal action if the straight spouse speaks openly.
  1. Some of us do take the opportunity and support provided by National Coming Out Day, to come out of our straight spouse closets. We may or may not be LGBTQ straight allies, but we make the decision to live in truth and stop hiding what happened from others who matter to us. Sometimes our coming out is welcomed, sometimes it is a cause for more ridicule, abuse, and attempts at gaslighting and isolation. Our coming out is seldom seen as a cause for celebration or an example of personal bravery. Yet it is a milestone in our lives which requires courage and strength.

National Coming Out Day LogoWe encourage all straight spouses to live honest, authentic lives in accordance with what is best for you and your family. Coming out for a straight spouse is not a matter of revenge, or getting even.  It is a matter of refusing to live in someone else’s dark closet.

On National Coming Out Day, coming out is for straight spouses as well. When you are ready to tell your story – your own story, not the one other people think you should tell – we are here to support you taking a brave step forward.  And we are here to support you as you struggle to find your way out of a closet that is not yours.

ally

 

 

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