The holidays are upon us. What was once a joyful time for families is now a whole new experience in light of the discovery or disclosure that a spouse is LGBT.
Some of us are newly divorced, others are in the process. Still others are remaining in the marriage for now. No matter the state of the marriage or divorce, holidays bring up a lot of questions for families like ours.
Who’s out? Who is not? Who do we tell? Who do we not tell?
Sometimes when we agree for very good reasons to not divulge to other family members that our spouse is LGBT, we find that we are left without support. We are blamed for ending the marriage. We are blamed for not trying hard enough.
Or we are suddenly not welcome. Out of the family, who embraces the new lover or same sex spouse, in a coming out party. Or abandoned for telling the truth and refusing to take the blame for ending the marriage.
As with any family undergoing separation and divorce, there’s the question of all those traditions. We can’t do it the way we’ve always done it before.
So how do we survive?
First, the hard part. Take care of yourself. That means food, sleep, health, and establishing safe and sane boundaries.
Instead of struggling to meet the impossible expectations of the past, strive for new traditions. Maybe Thanksgiving meal with the kids won’t happen the way it always did on Thursday. But it can happen for you any time that weekend, or maybe the day before. It’s the same with Hannukkah and Christmas celebrations. You may not have the magic Christmas morning but you may be able to establish Christmas eve traditions instead. And Hannukkah lasts for 8 nights.
Or maybe you will do something you never did before. You’ll go to the football game instead of watching it on TV. Maybe you will go on a real Christmas vacation. Or you might visit others who are helpful and supportive of you.
Dont try to meet the expectations of others at this point. Meet your expectations.
Holidays are a time when amidst the celebration we can be painfully reminded of our losses. This is true whether it is the loss of a marriage, a relationship, or a death in the family. But they are also a time for finding our new connections, renewing old ties, and taking time for ourselves.
It’s important in a divorce to have clear expectations of what the holiday schedule will be, either according to the terms of a court order, or developed in advance with your ex. If communication is not possible, or not responded to until the last minute, make the best plans you possibly can for your family celebration and know that they may be interrupted or changed. If it is possible to accommodate a last minute request and its in a good interest for your children, by all means be flexible. All too often, our exes make their own plans for the kids and don’t bother to tell us – and then we are seen as the spoilsports of the fun time. If that happens, communicate in writing that you had gone ahead and made plans instead of waiting until the last minute. Be sure you have communicated those plans with your ex. Texts and Emails are great records for these conversations. Above all honor what is truly in the best interest of your children, no matter how the in laws, family friends, or neighbors view you.
Gift giving is sometimes an area where divorcing families conflict. When a child is given a gift that was previously disallowed (for example a particular video game) it can be a way of discrediting the other parent. Or, sometimes children are given expensive gifts, but with conditions. For example the iPad which can be used for homework is never to go to the other parents house – so the child only gets to use it for SOME of the homework.
Holidays can be full of these games. It’s important to reinforce for your children that you love them and be honest and open about how they will use the gifts. And of course communicate with your ex on an ongoing basis about the reality of what their generosity has meant.
Above all, give gifts to yourself – gifts of special new celebrations with family, gifts of down time, gifts of independence, and gifts of celebration. YOU are worth celebrating!
By Adrienne Doyle
Editors note: The story of the straight wife married to a gay man is not always about recovering after he comes out. Some women deal with gay spouses who are closeted and abusive. This is a declaration of independence and healing from one of those women.
Ok, this is how it is.
I’m done with all that.
Yes, I know I have been done with the marriage for a while. Yes I have heard that I ruined our family and didn’t work hard enough on the marriage because I am so selfish and other straight wives don’t think this is such a big deal.
Yes I hear that you don’t want to be labeled. I’ve heard of this fluid sexuality you speak of, this temptation, this sex addiction you have to recover from if only I will stay married to you. You want to have sex with other men, but somehow, you are not gay.
I know about that. And I am done with it.
I’m also done with trying to figure out if you are gay or bi. I’m done with trying to convince our relatives, our children, our pastor, my mother that you’re gay. Because you say you are not. And I know you are.
You cheated on me. And you lied. And you continue to lie.
And everyone thinks you’re a hero. A brave man who is struggling with coming out. Or a brave straight guy whose evil wife wants revenge and says he’s gay.
Or they think you’re a victim. Society oppressed you. Or you’re “struggling” with “Same Sex Attraction” and I am supposed to remain in a celibate marriage with you.
But poor woebegone you. You married me, the angry woman. And no, I cant just get over it. I had this funny idea that marriage was two people in love going the distance.
That woman doesn’t exist any more. Your lies suffocated her. Also your nasty publicly “constructive” and privately abusive comments about her appearance, cooking, housekeeping, mothering.
And her femaleness. As if being female were a fault.
Back in those days, when I heard you say “I’m not gay, I just fantasize about having sex with men” I asked you – Why did you marry ME?
You said, quite incredulously, with raised eyebrows and indignant tone that you wanted a wife and you wanted children. You wanted to be married. And you thought I wanted that too. Your voice trails off and the fake sobs and crocodile tears run down your cheeks – just a little, just enough for the drama.
Well I did want those things. But here’s the kicker: I loved you. I believe that having marriage and children means you love one another. It means loving the person, loving the woman without fantasizing she’s a man, caring and showing it in so many little ways.
You never loved me. I know that now. But you lied and said you did. You had no idea what love was. That’s why you belittled all the signs of affection I gave you. That’s why you sneered at me for envying happily married couples who make time for each other and share a life together, and suggesting that maybe we might want to do some fun stuff together like that. Oh my, what was I thinking?
Then you met another guy. And all the things you said weren’t important in a relationship suddenly were.
Yet you still wanted to stay married. And I was supposed to be ok with that. I was supposed to watch you go out. I was supposed to keep tripping over your Craigslist profile. I was supposed to never ask who you were talking to 18 times a day on the cell phone. I was supposed to never ask about those expensive gifts and trips that showed up on the credit cards. OUR credit cards paid with OUR money.
And I was supposed to keep your secret.
And I am so not ok with that.
So that means to you that the breakup of the marriage is my fault.
You continue to lie. To yourself. To me. To others.
So I’m done. Done with you mattering to me. Done with your attempts to control me through money and children, and pressure me into silence or keep anyone around from believing me or befriending me. That’s your choice if you want to keep trying to oppress me that way, but I will resist and live my life in truth and not be controlled by you. If you harm our children by continuing to shame and degrade me, I understand I cannot control you and there are many who believe you have that right. But my compromises and getting along with you for the sake of the children will not help our children. It will just encourage you to hurt them more, because you will continue to hurt me through them.
Gay, bi, trans, cross dressing and straight, on the down low, I don’t care. That’s about you. Whatever you are, whoever you are, you lie.
I am a heterosexual woman. I will live my life in truth, accept who I am, and not concern myself anymore with you figuring out who you are. You don’t get to tear me down anymore to build yourself up. You don’t get to abuse me into going along with your lies. I am living in the truth. And I am not silent, no matter what price you demand as punishment for my truthfulness.
Yes. Truth. Going forward. Having a life. That doesn’t center around you.
And I’m worthy of being loved by a man, and loving myself.
Deal with it.
We thought it was forever. Marriage, that is. Oh sure, there were ups and downs, bumps in the road, challenges. Every marriage has those.
We thought it was forever.
We also thought our spouses were heterosexual, or at least interested enough in the opposite sex to commit to a marriage with us.
And we know how that turned out.
Several long time volunteers with the Straight Spouse Network are appearing in a new documentary and telling the stories of how the discovery that their husband or wife was gay or lesbian impacted them, and for some, their whole family. I Thought It Was Forever will be released in the near future The candor expressed in the film is remarkable. Many of us do not feel safe discussing our marriages openly. Some of us are still in our spouse or partner’s closet.
This film will tell how some of us told the children; How some of us moved on; How some of us have found new purpose in helping others who make the same discovery about that spouse or partner they thought was going to be with them forever.
Take a look at the preview for this film. All of these comments are so familiar to so many of us.
The holidays are here.
What used to be a time of celebrating family and friends with time honored tradition is now a physical and emotional obstacle course. Whose house? Who will be there? What about the children, especially when the court says one thing and the family says another?
Maybe you plan on spending holiday time with your gay ex, but the rest of the family doesn’t approve now that they know the secret. Maybe you wanted to accept your former in laws’ invitation but then you find out they invited the new boyfriend you haven’t met yet – and you better make nice for the sake of the children. Besides, grandma will be so disappointed if you don’t come. Maybe your lesbian ex has planned the perfect holiday trip with your children, without even consulting you, effectively cancelling the simple but important celebrations you planned to share with them. And you realize – your role is no longer that of a family member but of a spoiler. The truth of your life is an unwelcome part of the script, so it becomes necessary to rewrite the family story, casting you as the one who ruins all the fun.
In the middle of all the drama, you are angry at missing out on all the celebration and festivity going on around you. So many straight spouses feel as if we have been cast aside, thrown away, discarded – and the holidays remind us of this because we no longer fit the celebrations or expectations of our families and friends. Or you might be included but the expectations are clear – don’t make anyone else uncomfortable.
The best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones in a holiday season that follows disclosure, discovery, or divorce is to go forward. Recognize that this is a transition. Spend the time with people who support you. And you’ll find that being open to new traditions is a great pathway to healing for yourself and your family.
Don’t be afraid to be clear about what you need and want. And don’t be shy about setting boundaries concerning topics or behaviors that are insensitive to you.
If you are separated or divorced and the holiday coincides with your time with the children, it’s ok to set limits about joining traditional gatherings that now make you uncomfortable. Make your own plans as benefits you and your children. All the wonderful presents from the in laws who now despise you and show it will still be there, or they can be presented in advance or later. Its still special to the kids. And if you don’t have the kids this holiday and find yourself alone – again make new traditions. Find new people. Do something for you that you have always wanted to do. And be sure to set aside a time to have a special celebration with your children before or after they are to be with the other parent.
It’s still a holiday, it’s still special, and it can still be wonderful. Set realistic expectations, acknowledge how you feel, and plan some enjoyment and down time for yourself. YOU are worth celebrating!
What About the Kids?
Lately, in the USA it‘s news that gay people can create children. Its news that they can parent children. And it is beyond the stretch of many people to realize that they can have children without marrying a straight spouse.
The children of straight spouses have a gay parent. They may also have a gay step parent, and a straight step parent. Some of our children live with us, the heterosexual parent. Some of our children live with the gay/lesbian parent. Some of these children may themselves be LGBT. Our children face many of the same issues in their lives as children of any other divorce. But they also face something unique.
At least one of their parents is gay. And for some, that affects how other people view them. Peers, teachers, neighbors, parents of peers. Sometimes its a pretty easy transition. Many times it is not.
Even if children of mixed orientation families are not bullied by their peers, it can take some adjustment for the families of those peers to accept their gay parents. Sometimes children of gay people are bullied by their peers and we straight parents must cope with school personnel who do nothing or who blame the victim – or blame us and our gay spouses. Sometimes children of gay parents see their parents being treated hatefully by others for loving a partner. Sometimes they arent bullied directly but hear constant “thats so gay” insults among their peers and wonder if they will be targeted because they have a gay parent. They live in a hostile and indifferent world that often denies their existence or the more positive realities of their familiy life. Sometimes, our children are gay themselves.
And sometimes, our children from our mixed orientation marriages are living with the gay parent, being raised by a gay couple in joint custody with us. Many resources have evolved to support gay parents, and to lift up the public perception that they are truly capable of having and raising children. There still remains scant awareness of the straight parent, or the parenting and step parenting conflicts that can commonly result and be resolved.
When we straight parents are the primary custodians of the children, we face dilemmas such as telling the children about the other parent’s homosexuality in an age appropriate way, communicating with the other parent and new same sex partner or spouse in a constructive way, and supporting our child with the social adjustment. We also face frustrations. We may delay getting involved with a new relationship but find that the gay spouse has moved on very quickly. Sometimes our children will notice multiple new friends, and ask us the questions they dont want to ask the gay parent.
The Straight Spouse Network is here to support us through these transitions, build bridges, help us find solutions. Our families matter.