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

Posted by on Aug 30, 2017 in Blog | 45 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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Shhhh…Don’t Say That! Part 2

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in Blog | 45 comments

Shhhh…Don’t Say That! Why Can’t We Talk About Coping With Our Gay Spouses’ Mental Health Issues? Part 2

By Kristin Kalbli

In the absence of a therapeutic environment willing to acknowledge a complex interplay between our spouses’ recently acknowledged homosexuality and our spouses’ narcissism (or otherwise disordered psyches), straight spouses are often left to their own devices to make sense of their experiences. To be in recovery from one of these marriages often means becoming a self-taught amateur sleuth and psychiatrist.

We are undoubtedly unqualified to diagnose anyone, perhaps most of all our own ex-spouses, with whom we have been in a tangled psyche-web of co-dependence, projection and transference from which we are working to heal. But it is also unlikely that we will ever receive the validation of a confirmed diagnosis of our spouses (narcissists aren’t known for their affinity for therapy of self-reflection).

Yet the need to understand what we have just endured, the need to make sense of the nonsensical, the need to process the incomprehensible, can drive us down intense rabbit holes of research into narcissism, passive aggression, sociopathy, sadism and Cluster B. We may need to stare the monster in the face, and in coming to know it, demystify it.

Understanding dawns as we recognize behavior patterns in our spouses, and symptomology in ourselves. Sometimes we discover exact behaviors that are consistent among other straight spouses of narcissists experiences: the types of denials, the kinds of degradations, the ways of gas-lighting. Sometimes we discover exact feelings and emotions that are consistent among other straight spouses of narcissists in recovery: the brand of depression, the nature of the sexual damage, the disorientation and loss of self.

We can become consumed by it sometimes. My own bookshelf is a library of modern personality psychology. And each book or article tackled only one particular slice of my particular marriage puzzle: one book on passive aggressive men, a YouTube channel on cerebral narcissism, an article on the signs of a gay husband, a blog post on emotional sadism.

None have managed to unite and discuss all these factors in one place: one book, one resource. And none have been able to robustly or satisfactorily elucidate the complication interaction between our spouses’ latent homosexuality and their narcissism or other disorder.

I have found a few snippets in books and on the internet that resonated with my experience of my ex husband.  This quote from Dr. Roberta Cone begins to address the thick tangle of psycho-sexual energies and complexes we unwittingly fall prey to in our marriages:

“The narcissist is threatened by a partner’s sexual and emotional needs and believes they are out to trap them and suck them dry.  This is the narcissist’s classic projection of their true inner self.  Because of this projection he or she tortures and abuses…Most narcissists prefer pornography and masturbation to emotionally attached, mature, adult sex… Their sexuality is not a connected and balanced part of life.  Sometimes they are latent homosexuals or secretly bisexual…Punishment by emotional withdrawing and abstaining from sex is inflicted on loving partners to maintain control.  The narcissist sadistically frustrates for pleasure and can become celibate within a relationship. Sex then is only performed to keep their partner from leaving or for the demonstration of physical and psychological domination.  They are incapable of true emotional intimacy and dread the needs of a lover…The life force is sucked out of the partner leaving them hollow.”

This was the most succinct characterization of my own marriage I could find. But “latent homosexual” is dangerous terminology in this context, because there is an implied connection here, albeit a fuzzy one, between the pathology of the narcissist and the suppressed psyche of the closeted homosexual. In this paragraph, the condition of narcissism and the circumstance of closeted homosexuality form an interlaced and interdependent complex. And while there is so little research into this, I know I lived it.

In denialI often want to ask people, when they immediately shut down a conversation if the words ‘gay’ and ‘narcissist’ appear next to each other, if they really think it is impossible for an LGBT person to have the same mental illnesses we see in the heterosexual population. The past linkage of homosexuality and psychiatric disorders has made us unwilling to open that conversation and look at the very real and unique ways that being gay or gay-in-denial influences our narcissist spouses to act.

For instance, when our spouses are in denial and making a great effort to throw us off the trail, the very air in the home is made of a deception we breathe every day, a deception about who our spouse is on a fundamental level. A deception that comes at tremendous cost to our sense of reality and emotional stability. Being married to a closeted gay person colors the kinds of sexual neglect or sexual abuse we may suffer at the hands of our narcissist spouses, and this neglect and abuse varies from that inflicted by a heterosexual narcissist. If you put clams in spaghetti and marinara, it’s still spaghetti, but it’s also a completely different dish. If you add closeted homosexuality to a marriage with a narcissist, it’s still a destructive, abusive marriage to a narcissist, but it’s also a totally different marriage than a marriage to a heterosexual narcissist.

I get that this is tricky terrain to navigate, but we must.  Straight spouses are often deeply suffering from PTSD, or “post narcissistic abuse syndrome.” They struggle to find experts capable of guiding their  healing through the nuances of recovery from being married to a narcissist who is also gay-in-denial.

The truth is, while we are not claiming that our husbands and wives were narcissists because they were gay, we are claiming, unequivocally, that when our spouses are both gay and mentally ill, the mental illness interacts with the homosexuality in a way that leaves us particularly wounded. We need support and resources from professionals who  are capable of taking into account that our spouses are both gay and mentally ill, without silencing or shutting us down as we reveal our own stories and tell the truth of our own lives.

The Straight Spouse Network thanks Kristen for her perspective.  We invite straight spouses to share their stories, experiences, and thoughts with us in this space. To find out more, please email the editor at

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Whose Fault is It Anyway?

Posted by on Apr 14, 2017 in Blog | 58 comments

Whose Fault is It Anyway?

Following just about any divorce or marital split, you’ll hear the common advice “It takes two.”  Yes.  It takes two to make a marriage, and often it takes two people to contribute to the breakup of a marriage or long term relationship.

But then there’s people like us – straight spouses who either are told by our mates that they are LGBTQ, or we discover it in other ways.

Maybe we knew already, but thought that the time of “exploration” was past.  Maybe we thought the marriage could be open, without really understanding what that means.

Most people who contact the Straight Spouse Network for support did not know or understand beforehand that their spouse was not heterosexual.  Some thought the marriage was just fine.  Others thought that the difficulties could be addressed with marriage counseling, therapy, changing their appearance, changing their occupation, staying home with kids, going back to work, getting a different job, not working so much, cleaning more, not being such a clean freak.

But the core problem is that most of our spouses are not attracted to us in a way that allows them to be truly invested in a marriage for anything other than appearances.

Of course there are other problems.  Some of us have addictions.  Some of us have anger management issues.  Some of us have problems with depression, personality disorders, health conditions. And all of those can really kill a marital relationship.

We have no way of knowing how much of what we have brought to a mixed orientation marriage could contribute to the breakup of that marriage – because at the core, many of our spouses are not capable of giving us the same level of intimacy as a same sex partner. Nothing we can do or be can change that.

Some of our spouses move forward, and marry their same sex partner. Moving forward for us is not so easy. This is for several reasons:

1. By the time our LGBTQ spouse discloses their sexual orientation to us, or we discover that they are attracted to same sex partners, they have had a lifetime to deal with acknowledging their orientation.  We’ve had a much shorter time to deal with the reality.

2.  We often are asked “How could you not know?  How could you miss this?” We wonder if there is something wrong with us.  We have difficulty trusting other people, and our perceptions of them.  It takes a while for this to heal, to get our confidence back, to place our trust in others with whom we want to date or share sexual intimacy.

3.  Our initial reactions are intense, and may remain unresolved. The deep anger that many straight spouses experience upon discovery or disclosure and the profound sense of betrayal is not pleasant to experience or to witness. We are often told by friends and family to deal with our anger, stop “dwelling on it” and “be happy he/she has discovered their true self.”  The inability to express our feelings because they make others uncomfortable or because they will prompt a lecture  delays our ability move forward. These feelings fester, along with a sense of isolation.

Our anger and isolation is compounded when our LGBTQ spouses are lauded as heroes for being their true, out of the closet selves (which they should be) but we are never affirmed. Our experiences are minimized, and sometimes even denied.

Somehow, some folks near and dear to us believe it is all our fault that we choose to be hurt. Or that we chose to marry an LGBTQ person in the first place. Or that we choose to be angry.

Trust-Infidelity-e1350931442274Because, you see, we have issues.

Why yes.  We do have issues.

We have issues with betrayal – and not having our experiences, emotions, and reactions affirmed, validated, and acknowledged in a supportive way.

We have issues with society – and being forced into a closet of someone else’s construction once they emerge, or remaining closeted with them out of fear or loyalty.

We have issues with anger – and the consistent triggering of that anger over many years as we move forward into family adjustments that belittle our experiences or devalue us, or are made on false assumptions about us.

We have issues with being misrepresented to former in laws, friends, our own children, or people in our community as characters in a new script we have not written or seen.

We have issues with being angry, discarded, rejected, feeling that many years of our lives have been thrown away – and being ignored. We have issues with being told that we should just deal with it, because gay is ok, and we just have to deal with that. Anything else is intolerant.

We have issues with gaslighting.  Big time. (Here’s a clip from the movie “Gaslight” which is the source of the term.)

We have issues with rejection from our families and friends when we are supportive of our LGBTQ spouses, maintaining our marriages or cordial relationships.

We have issues with our own lack of visibility. Straight spouses are a diverse group.  No two experiences, marriages, or reactions are alike.  There’s no convenient social box where all of us fit.

One of the primary needs of any straight spouse is affirmation. The affirmation from family and friends that says “What do you need? I’m here to listen” is extremely valuable.

Confirmation of our LGBTQ spouse’s sexuality is not always a given.  Many of us never have the “Honey, I’m gay” moment, and may face recriminations when we discover our husband or wife’s true sexuality.  Without that honest admission, upon discovery we face questioning, doubt, argument, and sometimes derision or false accusations of being delusional. Without disclosure and confirmation, our path to healing can take longer, and remain riddled with unresolved questions, feelings, and gutted family relationships.False apologies

We’re not perfect people – life gets complicated enough without living it in the shadow of someone else’s denial and deceit.

The Straight Spouse Network is here for all straight spouses, male or female, married or separated, whether they are absolutely sure about their spouse’s sexual orientation or are still figuring it out. Your experiences matter. Your healing matters.  And the unacknowledged obstacles to your healing are shared by many of us.

We don’t know whose fault it is, but we do know these things – you are not to blame for your spouse’s sexual orientation.  They are not to blame for your addictions or mental health issues.  But, living without acknowledgement, affirmation, and honesty does not aid in recovery.

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Time Flies – Minimizing Drama at Family Celebrations

Posted by on Apr 9, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Springtime brings a lot of family holidays and celebrations with the beautiful blooms and warm weather.  For straight spouses, these can be occasions of joy, but they can also be occasions for conflict.  Even when we have moved on for a number of years, the joy of a wedding, a graduation, or the birth of a new grandchild can also come with a mixed feeling of dread at having to once again deal with our ex-spouse.

Who needs soap operasUnresolved issues often are at the heart of our anxiety at this events.  Some awkward scenarios might include the following:

  • Is the closet door open all the way? Who in the family or group of friends knows your spouse is LGBT?  If we are out of the closet, we may not know what they have told their family and friends.  Or, we may be sworn to secrecy only to find out that everyone else has known for a long time and accepts our spouse’s new life.
  • Party Time!  The in-laws that you were previously close to are hosting a big party for your child’s graduation, engagement, baby shower.  And they have to invite you.  You can come.  Sure.  You wonder if you should go, and probably be uncomfortable, or not go, and be perceived as being difficult.
  • Maybe you are hosting the party. Your child makes the list and your ex in-laws are at the top of that list. So you invite them, but aren’t really sure about how they will receive the communication. You’re also not sure if the messages they pass to you through your son or daughter are actual responses.
  • Or you WERE going to host a party, and only then did you find out that your ex-spouse or in-laws were planning a big bash which your son or daughter had no idea you hadn’t been invited to.
  • Or maybe there’s a party, and everyone knows except you. Your child wonders why you aren’t coming.
  • Other people’s unresolved issues.  You and your ex are getting along pretty well now. But your parents, cousins, siblings have just never gotten over what your ex did to you.  They make it clear that they WILL NOT speak to him/her. Or they are uncomfortable with the reality that your ex will bring their new partner/LGBT spouse.

There are dozens of scenarios that make family celebrations involving our adult or near adult children tough, even years after our separation or divorce. How do you approach these occasions, and make them memorable for the right reasons?

First, tune out the unimportant people and focus on the reason for the event itself.  Your son or daughter is getting married, graduating from high school or college, having a baby, starting a new job.  If they want you to be a part of the celebration, it has meaning for you. It means something to them that you will be there.  You might turn down an invite to a party, but you should never exclude yourself from their wedding, graduation, ceremonies honoring them, or a major religious event such as a christening, a bris, or a naming ceremony for a grandchild.

Sometimes we think we just can’t go if our ex is there.  But we must, if our children want us there.

So many of us have dealt with situations in the past that were beyond our control or our anticipation. Its normal to worry that something will go wrong.  If you have experienced abuse or gaslighting in the past, it’s perfectly normal to wonder if your ex will attempt it publicly.

It’s important to recognize that the event is not about you – it’s about your child.  It’s about your teen graduating high school, your son or daughter getting married and starting a new life, and the celebration of their happiness. If you can work things out with your spouse, great.  If not, you still can go and make the day one of happiness for yourself and your family.My Wedding and Family Drama

Some straight spouses who are still pretty emotional about contact with the ex at family celebrations have found that it is helpful to have a plan for avoiding drama. Find a private area, such as a rest room, to escape to if necessary. It helps to know who your friends are, and stay close to them if you don’t bring a date or have not remarried. If your ex has a problem with how your participation in an event, refer it to your adult son or daughter.  For a teenager you may want to enlist the advice of a school counselor or teacher if possible. They can give you an idea of what is expected – and what is not.  Remember, the day is about your child, not about you, and not about your ex either.

Stay sober.  You cannot control yourself or the events around you if you have too much to drink. After all, you want a wedding or family celebration to be remembered as a wedding – not as the time you got plastered.

Give yourself permission to be emotional.  Weddings are always emotional events for parents.  Graduations are times that we remember the whole journey of raising a child, and birthday parties often take parents back to the day the child was born.  Have some sense of how you will show your emotions.  Its ok to show them.  OK, don’t break down and collapse and turn on the flood of tears.  But show your emotions.  It really is ok.

Have an exit plan. Know when you plan to leave (for example, after the bride and groom leave, or when your friends start to leave.)  While you are there, carry on with your head high.  Look your best, and feel good.

Focus on the reason for the celebration – your child – and save the rest for later.  It’s a day in your life, and then it is over. But the memory for your son or daughter and other family members will last.

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