There are thousands of songs and stories in popular culture about women whose husbands leave them for other women, and men whose wives leave them for other men. There aren’t that many about straight spouses and our experiences.
Consider a woman who has suspicions about her husband. Yes, about a third of the people who contact the Straight Spouse Network are men with lesbian wives, but for this example, we’ll consider a woman. Sure, she knew before they were married that he was a ladies man, but that was THEN. So she confronts him, and he admits, yes, he’s spending a lot of time looking at porn. But he says he’s never acted on it. He loves her. He wants their marriage to work.
She knows about the porn. She wishes he spent the time he spends on that actually making love to her. They go to counseling. She works on losing weight, being more attractive, being a better wife. She then discovers that he is actually “acting on it”.
Now here is where the story changes. If he’s “acting on it” with another woman, everyone understands the rage, the hurt, the rejection, the deception. Counselors, clergy, and therapists might actually have a clue on counseling women in this position. Maybe a family member went through this in their marriage and has some advice on healing. Maybe she does need to work on herself.
But if he’s “acting on it” with a man, the wife hears that if she really loved him she would understand that he needs this. If she knew that he was bisexual before they married, she may hear that well, what do you expect, he needs this and YOU KNEW. Counselors will not have a clue as to her feelings about having her life torn from her, those years of thinking it was her fault, her appearance, her shortcomings. Many of them will tell her she needs to understand why she married a gay guy. Worse, they may tell her that everyone is a little gay, come on, what’s wrong with you.
When a marriage breaks up where the husband is a known womanizer, most wives may hear “Well I am not surprised. Wondered if he could stay true.” Most of them don’t hear “well what do you expect? AND YOU KNEW.”
She may hear from her spouse and others that if the marriage weren’t such a train wreck in the first place, he wouldn’t have had to de-stress by having sex with men, by fantasizing about them with porn, by checking out gay fetish websites.
When they are divorcing, a husband who leaves his wife for another woman is told to not introduce the kids until the divorce is final, and then not until he knows the relationship is stable. Husbands who leave their wives for men often don’t get this lecture. Some are in such a hurry to resolve their life conflicts that they will force the inclusion of a lover into family gatherings, into contact with wife and children, even before the divorce is final. Often, the wife is told to get over her anger and accept the gay lover as a step parent for the children. How many women are expected to accept the female lover of their straight husband in a step parent role before a divorce is final? Many women do have good relationships with their ex husband’s new boyfriend or gay husband, but these relationships take time to build.
When a heterosexual man says he’s sorry and begs to come back to the marriage, the wife can decide does she really trust him not to stray again, and can also bring to the marriage some changes in herself. When a bi-gay man says he’s sorry, he doesn’t want to lose the marriage, the wife does not have the same choice – she wonders if she is being set up again, she wonders if this is going to continue on some other level because this isn’t just about a relationship, it’s about his nature.
And of course, we encounter much of the same homophobia that openly gay people encounter. We are shunned, we are stupid, we are the punch line of a joke. Our kids sometimes endure bullying because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Or, our kids become bullies because they have anger at the gay parent and no one wants to hear about it.
At the end of the marriage to an LGBT spouse, we are left to wonder if the marriage was real, if they ever really loved us, ever really were attracted to us, because the core of our sexuality is not what they are attracted to, or what they need. We go forward healing in a world with very little affirmation. After all, “it’s all the same, get over it already”.
Many of us join divorce support and recovery groups, and find that no one else there can relate. That is why the Straight Spouse Network exists – so that no one need ask these difficult questions or go through this experience alone.