Sometimes, we just get it all wrong.
I was there. Angry that my ex-wife was gay and left me. Early in the process it was tough to separate the reality that she was homosexual from the hurtful behaviors. It is easy to mix up – she’s gay, she’s pissing me off, therefore it must be the gay thing that’s the problem.
Except it’s not.
I now can see clearly that what hurt me was her behavior. The deception. The lack of communication. The unrealistic expectations. The pretzel logic. The rejection.
But we often focus on the homosexuality and blame that. We focus on their changed looks. We focus on their new partners. We focus on where they go and what they do. We exude vitriol at their gay lifestyles as if that is the reason for our personal agonies.
As a straight spouse, I see a lot of energetic, passionate, sometimes even eloquent communications about our gay partners – how they look, who they are with, where they go, what they do – oftentimes with strong tones of disapproval or outright obvious disgust.
That’s all wrong.
Because the fact that they are gay is not why we hurt. We hurt because somehow, somewhere in the process of their coming out, they hurt us. The pain is real and we want to blame something. Since the homosexuality is often central to our breakups, it is the obvious target.
Yet we know that many couples amicably break up after one spouse comes out. We see that many of the gay spouses remain good parents to their children. Some straight spouses even remain friends with their gay exes.
As straight spouses we need to be careful – careful to avoid gay bashing. Careful to not blame the homosexuality when the real cause of the pain is the other person treating us wrongly. Careful to not focus so much on what the gay spouse is doing that reflects them being gay.
Why? We can never recover from the hurt of learning they are gay when we focus on what gay thing the ex-spouse is doing now. We can never recover from the rejection when we reject them simply because they are gay. We can never communicate with them effectively when our language about them is filled with shame or hate.
So sometimes, we just get it all wrong. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s think about what we are saying, writing, and doing. Each of us has our imperfections, things others may not agree with, appearances others may not prefer. Healing, in my view, requires acceptance. Not agreement necessarily, but acceptance. Without acceptance we remain mired in the anger, unhappiness, dislocation, and regret.
How can we live this change? Stop focusing on the appearance of the gay spouse. Stop focusing on what parades they go to or bars they frequent. Think about what you say or write before spewing it out there – is it hurtful, shaming, blaming, or bashing? If so, think about how you might feel if your ex were to say such things about you.
Why not focus on making ourselves better by doing what we like, spending more time with the people we love, and embracing causes that matter to us? We’ll all be better off if we spend our limited energies wisely, towards positive change.
The Straight Spouse Network wants to thank Ron for sharing his perspective and experience.
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!
Fran Drescher has been making the rounds of the morning shows promoting her new comedy about life as a straight ex spouse, “Happily Divorced“. We like what we are seeing in the clips that are shown.
Drescher has drawn her experience on real life, and is amicably divorced from her husband of 20 years, who was a producer of her hit series “The Nanny”. Happily Divorced shows a couple who divorce but cannot separate until they sell the house – which many of us know can take a while. For many of us, the premise of the sitcom is more real than a reality show!
One promotional clip shows Fran’s character telling the gay ex husband that she is dating. He becomes very annoyed and jealous, telling her she can’t date. She tells him he cant be gay AND jealous. That certainly resonates with many women who contact the Straight Spouse network!
A second clip shows a tearful Fran telling her parents that her ex husband is gay. The parents tell her they always knew that. Incredulous, she exclaims “YOU KNEW AND YOU DIDNT TELL ME??? WHY???” The answer? “We thought you knew”.
How many of us have heard that one before????
“Why would I want to marry a gay man???” Fran continues. The parents just shrug their shoulders. We know that reaction too!
On our email lists and in our face to face meetings, many of us find that humor is often something that really helps our own healing. It can seem to be something elusive, especially if we do not have a “happy divorce” or are subjected to abuse and shunning. The Straight Spouse Network is here for all the millions of us who find that we are married or in a long term relationship with someone who we find out is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, or just not sure about that. We’re here for the people who are sure that their spouse or partner is gay, despite the denials. We’re here for the people who stay married, are happily or unhappily divorced, or never married. And we’ve been here for all of us for 25 years.
We appreciate Fran’s humor, and her perspective. Far from being a show that ridicules the straight spouse, or celebrates the gay one, “Happily Divorced” appears to be written with a very realistic perspective of all the crazy things we endure in mixed orientation marriages and divorces, happy or not. And for putting one of many experiences out there so brilliantly and so publicly, we are very happy!
For those of us who discover that we are married to a gay husband or lesbian wife, the different decisions we make going forward are influenced by one common factor.
We must live in the truth. We may not like it, we may rebel against it, but we must live in it.
We cannot go forward living someone else’s lie, someone else’s story of how it SHOULD be.
Your gay husband may say he’s not really gay, he’s just curious. He was molested. All guys do this. Well, maybe he’s a LITTLE gay, he’s trying to figure out if he’s bi. Or he might declare himself cured of all things gay and now it is YOUR FAULT if the marriage does not work.
None of those things account for your experience, so they do not open the path to living in truth.
Your lesbian wife might say she’s exploring her sexuality, she was raped, all the girls do it now, and what’s the matter with you anyway, real men think this is hot, you must be inadequate. But no one is considering what her involvement with or sexual attraction to other women is doing to you.
That too is not living in truth.
Those of us who have heard our spouses say “honey I think I’m gay” are actually in a better position to recover from the shock, because we go forward with the truth. We get therapy, set boundaries, take the time to really figure out what we want from the relationship, whether or not the marriage continues.
But there are those of us who never hear those words. Instead we hear that we are making it up, we are crazy, we are lying. Or we are told to NEVER TELL ANOTHER PERSON WHAT WE KNOW. Those of us who make and keep those promises for years and years pay a heavy price in addictions, weight gain, stress related illnesses, depression, internalized anger. When we inevitably tell a friend, family member, or counselor, we endure heaps of recrimination from ourselves and our spouses, because YOU SEE!!!! YOU BROKE YOUR PROMISE!!!!!
Imagine your husband or wife cheating on you with a member of the opposite sex, and being told that you have to promise to keep quiet about it.
To LIVE the truth, we must also TELL the truth. That doesn’t mean shouting it from the top of tall buildings, but it can mean telling our trusted friends and family members. It doesn’t mean telling everyone. But it does need some telling, and speaking out loud.
There is no reluctance on the part of our spouses or many of the people who surround us to tell the truths about us. We’re fat. We’re messy. We’re ugly. We let ourselves go.
Then there’s the perceptions of us that pass as truth. We’re depressed. We’re too wrapped up in work. We’re unresponsive. Those may be true, but they are usually not the WHOLE truth. Telling the whole truth, even among just a few people, even between the couple and their advisors, is really necessary.
Unfortunately, there are those of us who continue to be caught and imprisoned in a spouse’s closet. We cannot emerge due to financial threats, actions to take away our children, actions to scare off any new love interest we may have, even after divorce. The need to control the “story” translates into custody litigation, prolonged divorce trials. The world must not know the secret, and the straight spouse must be discredited so that no one will ever believe them. The “story” can be that the gay spouse is cured, or never acted on their impulses, or that it just never happened and the experience of the straight spouse is all a lie. Or the story is that the straight spouse is PERFECTLY OK WITH EVERYTHING – and life is compartmentalized to the hilt so that truth and real life never meet. The effects of such isolation, pressure, and social shunning of the straight spouse are profoundly destructive.
Even when the gay spouse is out, there sometimes is a need to villify the straight one for every aspect of life together. Somehow, the idea that a gay person did something horrible by lying to a straight spouse is diminished if they can prove that the straight spouse is a horrible person anyway. The straight wife is a terrible mother, a slovenly housekeeper. The straight husband is insensitive, works too hard, is inattentive, or is hostile. Sometimes any expression of the normal anger we feel is portrayed as abuse, and we wind up defending ourselves for being human. Some of us who have been “single married moms” find we are struggling to maintain custody of our children, buried under an avalanche of legal bills, investigations, constant motions, and legal abuse. This type of harassment is certainly not confined to mixed orientation couples, but when the intent is to perpetuate the myth of the “not so bad after all” parent, or to cover up homosexual activity, the effect on a family is devastating for years and years.
The Straight Spouse Network is here to support all heterosexual people who have a gay or lesbian husband or wife, or who are divorcing one. We are peer to peer support. We’ve felt the anger, we’ve survived the divorce process. Some of us have stayed married, and can share some wisdom about that. There is no “right” way to feel, and we come from all walks of life, all backgrounds, all perspectives. We help one another to heal and move forward – in truth.