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Giving Thanks

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 in Blog | 0 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. 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.




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Reaching Out of the Darkness

Posted by on Oct 8, 2017 in Blog | 7 comments

We reach out.

That’s what we do at the Straight Spouse Network.  It’s our mission. We reach out.  We build bridges. Where are we reaching, and where are those bridges going?

We reach out to straight spouses.  It’s our priority since we are not aware of any other group that offers help at the point when a spouse is just becoming aware there is an issue. We are there for ALL straights, whether they are living with a significant other, married or separated/divorced. We are there for ALL straights who have significant others who are discovering they are transgender. We are there for ALL straights – men and women struggling with the chaos resulting from having a significant other come out as LGBTQ.

On average, 200 people EACH month contact the Straight Spouse Network – looking for help with no where else to turn.

Straight spouses don’t live in a perfect world. We’re frequently misunderstood, and our experiences and needs are disregarded or ridiculed.  In fact, we are often subjected to the same social harassment and ridicule as gay people.

We started over 30 years ago as a task force of PFLAG in California, and we have had members over the years speak with LGBTQ groups about the straight spouse experience and perspective.  Some volunteers have also represented us at local Pride festivals.  It’s a way for us to say “hi, please tell your wife/husband about us.” Many LGBTQ people struggle with family connections when there is support and recognition for them, but nothing for their straight spouse. Some of our strongest supporters are LGBTQ people who have reached across those bridges.

We’ve participated in events such as the Small Change conference, the Just Love conference, and shared information about the Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Day.  We represent straight spouses, and build bridges with groups that promote the healthy well-being of LGBTQ people in families.  Our idea is that if society is more open and accepting, perhaps there won’t be quite so many straight spouses in the future!

We are not a political organization.  Our purpose as a nonprofit organization is peer to peer support.  We have adopted positions favoring the legality of same sex marriage and opposing reparative “conversion” therapies.  We adopted those positions because of the effect of those questions on straight spouses. But, since our focus is on helping straight spouses, it’s not important to us if the people in our groups agree with those points of view.  We do strive to create a respectful and affirmative climate for listening to each other.

Reaching out, healing, building bridges – this was the purpose defined by our founder, Amity Pierce Buxton.  We remain true to these ideals today.Straight Spouse Network


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How Does the Straight Spouse Network Help You?

Posted by on Oct 3, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

When you need help – you’ve just discovered that your husband or wife is having a relationship or sexual activity with people of the same gender – how does the Straight Spouse Network help you?

Once you’ve entered “Is my husband gay?” or “my wife left me for a woman” – you pretty much discover that you are not alone.  You find us, and you find our articles, forum, newsletters.  You also find a place to connect.

You contact us.  We respond via email or phone, telling you who is a contact in your area, or who can contact you with help about your specific situation.  If you are staying married, if your spouse is transgender, you might want to connect with others who are going through something similar.  We help you connect.  Sometimes you can connect face to face with groups in your area, or on the phone with another spouse.  Sometimes you join our confidential online discussion groups after speaking with someone.

You are not alone.

But wait, there’s more.

We educate.  We advocate.  We build bridges. It’s not just a lonely hearts club!

Through our Speakers’ Bureau, our representatives are available on request – for free – to speak to community groups about the straight spouse experience. Through our website, counseling professionals can find information, books, and connections for more information. We respond to media requests for information for news articles, features, and we offer information for those who are just finding out about straight spouses. We share information through social media, offering it to our confidential online groups for discussion and questions and reactions. There’s a quarterly newsletter that focuses on topics that concern straight spouses – topics unique to our situation.

But most of all, we support.  We affirm the straight spouse. We offer ways for the LGBTQ spouse to find perspectives on coming out experiences for spouses and families. And we offer one another friendship.  Deep friendships often develop among groups of straight spouses, often lasting for years. We move forward in our new lives that we never expected to have, with new friends who understand the journey.

We’re not professional counselors.  This is peer to peer support and affirmation. You are not crazy. You are not alone.

Here’s what we DON’T do:

We don’t judge.  You are entitled to support as a straight spouse no matter where you are on this journey. Separated, married, divorced, angry, grieving in love, reconciled, depressed, not sure if your spouse really is gay or bi- we get it.

We don’t trash LGBTQ people as a group.  Some of us are raising LGBTQ children, or have adult LGBTQ children or relatives. Homosexuality is not a choice.  Honesty is.

We don’t support reparative or ex gay therapies.  In fact, you may want us to support you in surviving your spouses “cure” – and your loss of family and community relationships as a result of refusing to continue to live what you know is a lie. We DO support you getting counseling for yourself and your family. (but we do not provide referrals to counselors or legal advice)

We don’t subject you to the how did you find out, what do you know, when did you know it, are you sure inquisition.  WE BELIEVE YOU. We want you to believe you too.

Many of us find that after a while, the friendships we form and connections we make with each other feel like family – but of course, we’re not your real family.  But sometimes we become what we call “familee” for each other.

Most of all we are here for you, the heterosexual spouse or partner of someone who is LGBTQ. You are not alone.

For help, please contact us here:

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When Your Spouse Says “That Doesn’t Mean I’m Gay”

Posted by on Aug 30, 2017 in Blog | 28 comments

You’ve made the discovery that your husband is having sex with other men, or your wife is in a sexual relationship with another woman. You found the phone and text messages, the emails, the Craigslist ads. The computer browser cache has not been cleared and you went in to clear the history and there were all these same sex porn sites, or websites about questioning sexual orientation. And you confront your spouse – you ask the question – “Are you gay?”

And they tell you no.

They don’t deny what you found, but they tell you “That doesn’t mean I’m gay.”

They tell you about sexual fluidity and the Kinsey Scale.

They tell you about experts who agree that no one is truly heterosexual.

They show you online articles and videos from experts proclaiming “just because your husband has sex with men doesn’t mean he’s gay” and expect you to be relieved and satisfied with the answer.

They show you articles and videos about female sexual fluidity and women’s relationships. About heterosexual women responding to erotic images of women.

You’re not convinced. After all, you’re not gay, and one spouse of the opposite sex is enough for you. In fact you’d never dream of having sex with someone of your own gender.

It is not ok with you that your spouse seeks sex outside your marriage, so you and your spouse go to counseling.

And the counselor says – why yes. Just because he has sex with men doesn’t mean he’s gay. Just because she has sex with women doesn’t mean she’s a lesbian. You get a kindly explanation to help you understand about your spouse’s journey of sexual discovery. You are told that when your husband denies being gay, he’s not lying. He really doesn’t think he is gay. You are told that your wife is doing something perfectly normal for her.

And you think…soooo…..why can’t they just tell me the truth? What is this?

Sometimes when it comes to your sexuality, and the impact of this discovery on you, there is seldom any acknowledgement or affirmation. You have to go to counseling for yourself. And you wonder – how did I miss this? The entire world is gay except me?

First of all, be assured that you are not alone and your feelings and questions are entirely normal. Being angry, hurt, having questions, wanting to know the truth – this is human, not homophobic. This is about you and your relationship with your spouse. Your feelings and perceptions matter. This is happening to you as well as your spouse.

So it’s no surprise to straight spouses that a reassuring article by an expert proclaiming “no ladies, just because your husband has sex with men doesn’t mean he’s gay” is hardly reassuring. Many women find images of gay men having sex to not be attractive at all – there’s nothing for women to relate to in those images. For some, the awareness that their husband has sex with men is a distinct turn off.

For many heterosexual men, even though the porn industry is full of glamorized depictions of women together, the idea of their wife having sex with another woman is not attractive. It’s excluding them from an important part of their wife’s life, a part that has nothing to do with them – but they often are called upon to understand.

For many straight spouses, marriage is about two people, not three or four. Some do have open relationships, but these take a great deal of communication and effort on both sides. Some mourn the loss of a sexual relationship that affirms the life a couple shares together. For them, it isn’t just about being sex starved or “horny.” It’s about sharing sexuality fully with a partner who can reciprocate and also enjoy a fulfilling, satisfying, and beautiful sexual relationship without going outside the marriage to someone else who is the same gender.

The perspectives and needs of straight spouses are often overlooked in counseling, and among family and friends who try to help. Grief and anger can last a long time, especially when a straight spouse is told that their true feelings are offensive or inappropriate. After all, “you ought to be happy for your husband/wife if you really love them.” And don’t forget “how difficult it is for gay people and how brave they are.” That’s all well and good, you think, but what about me?

The Straight Spouse Network staff and volunteers understand and affirm heterosexual spouses and partners of LGBTQ people in a variety of circumstances. Some remain married, most don’t. Some have spouses who come out to them in complete honesty; others have spouses who deny the truth, and twist the story so that it appears that the straight one is the problem for not accepting them. We are hear to listen. We are here to help you find the support you are looking for.

We’re not denying that straight spouses can contribute to problems in a marriage; but in the face of profound denial of the truth and sexual incompatibility, gaslighting, and often blame for so many problems (“this wouldn’t have been so bad if you were more understanding, flexible, didn’t overreact to everything, etc”) it is difficult to really own the faults that are necessary for us to recognize as we begin to heal.

Our stories as we move forward into a new life we never expected are often stories of courage, strength, heroism, and inspiration. They are seldom told or recognized. Here at the Straight Spouse Network, we recognize and affirm each other, and strive to be the voice of the truth of our journeys, no matter how inconvenient.

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Two Realities

Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in Blog | 18 comments

Two Realities

By Ron Exler

Nine years ago, after my then-wife told me she was in love with someone else, I didn’t want to be in that place. That place of confusion, anger, sadness, questioning, regret, hunger, and darkness. I wanted that place to disappear. Maybe if I acted as if nothing changed, it would become so. Maybe if I denied the truth, something else would become the truth. Maybe if I closed my eyes, I would open them up seeing something different. Maybe if I just tried harder, prayed more, waited longer – she would change her mind. Maybe we could live our outward-facing pre-disclosure lives to protect the children and ourselves from the disruptions and pains of change.

So, I lived two realities – as many of us do at the beginning. There is the outward reality – the one others see – which many of us paint on social media. All the good stuff. The celebrations. The travels. The additions. We sprinkle in some politics, humor, and maybe share some memes. Perhaps we tout a cause or two. We stay where we are. Because what’s familiar is supposed to be comfortable. At first, I didn’t change how things looked to others and told only a few family members and friends. I stayed living with her for 19 months after disclosure. I did nothing that could repaint the picture for those seeing my everyday interactions.

Yet there was a different inner reality. Where the feelings lived. The place of tears, of questions, of fear. I could see where I was but could not see where to go. I could cry but I couldn’t imagine when the sadness would end. I could not figure out what exactly was happening, let alone what to do about it. I knew that change was inevitable, but remained steadfast in not altering my ways. I struggled every day. That guttural pain would not subside. I was trapped in this thing – this awful unfair crazy place.

Two realities. It’s how many of us protect ourselves at the start, and the path I chose. It was all I could do to keep functioning in my job and personal life. It became almost normal after months of living that way. And it was difficult, exhausting, and only made me sadder.

Now, more than nine years since disclosure and I almost forgot about my two realities. When I saw them in someone else the other day, I flinched. Wait a second – they just told me their spouse disclosed. Why are they doing that? And my dear wife, also a straight spouse, reminded me that I did the same types of things. Her comment ripped through me like a sharp knife. Why are you saying that? That hurt my feelings! She apologized profusely. The next morning it struck me that she’s right. That was me. I was in the two realities.

How did I get out of the two realities? The first step was finding the Straight Spouse Network. I went to a meeting and was surprised I was not alone. I got online and communicated with other straight spouses. I learned the stories of those further along in their journeys. I increased the frequency of my counseling visits, from which I learned I could not blame her for the two realities. They were of my own making, and to create one I needed to act. Slowly, I took small steps to change the two realities into one. A painful journey but also one of growth. Then, I was in trouble. Today, I am fine, in one reality.

If you live the two realities, know that the people in the Straight Spouse Network understand. It’s part of your process. We can help. If my story reminds you of the way you handled this, then please remember how you moved forward. Pat yourself on the back for your progress. And chip in with your time or money to help the Straight Spouse Network help others as it helped you.

Ron Exler
Board Member

Ron Exler is the Vice-President of the Straight Spouse Network Board of Directors.  He co-facilitates a face-to-face support group.  We thank Ron for sharing his personal perspective.

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