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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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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 janet@straightspouse.org.

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Straight Out Of the Closet

Posted by on Mar 11, 2016 in Blog | 14 comments

By Joanna Ravlin

I was terrified of coming out of the closet. It wasn’t even MY closet! It was this bizarre rabbit hole I fell down without even realizing I’d gone through the looking glass. Even now it’s difficult because the person whose closet I was stuck in still hasn’t come out. I doubt he ever will. After 12 years of marriage, I know him pretty well.closet

I am a STR8 SPOUSE.  My ex husband is gay. Not according to him though.  He’d prefer nobody knew. But I am the woman who endured years of his same sex affairs,  his abuse, (Which I’m sure was fueled by his shame and frustration) the weight of his secrets and for too long, the suffocating prison of his closet. My ex husband is also mentally ill.

To be honest, I do empathize with how difficult for him it must be to feel stigmatized by both mental illness and homosexuality. Neither is wrong.  Neither was his choice. They aren’t synonymous either.

Homosexuality isn’t a disorder, but several therapists he’s seen over the years have explained away the same sex affairs by accrediting the behavior to being bipolar. Instead of treating his Bipolar disorder and counseling my ex husband about his shame and denial, they led him to believe his sexual preference was a symptom of his abnormal psychology.  All it did was make him more ashamed and more secretive. He didn’t need his gay reasoned away. His sexuality isn’t abnormal.  He needed his sexuality and his mental illness to be seen as separate aspects of his being. Instead what he heard was his attraction to men is attributed to being sick. Closets are built out of shame and secrets.

Perhaps selfishly I’ll add that the lack of adequate counseling for him also contributed to my time in his closet. I wish that instead of all the effort put into explaining away the gay, someone had told him gay is normal but it’s not normal or okay to trap another person in an inauthentic marriage.

It’s hard to discuss being a STR8 SPOUSE of a closeted spouse or ex spouse. I can tell you that I am still confused by it, so I understand how confusing it must be for others hearing my story. There is no lexicon of half secrets. We’ve created celebratory rituals around coming out as gay, but how do we respond to the heterosexual  (ex)spouses? And what do we say to the heterosexual (ex)spouses who leave the closet when the gay spouse remains in it?

Coming out party

I so want a party! And a parade!!

I survived some crazy shit, I deserve it.

Okay,  no parade. Just believe me if I trust you enough to tell you my story. And don’t ask me how I didn’t know…because I didn’t.

I’m not telling people that my ex husband is gay out of spite, or anger,  or vengeance. For years I told no one because I feared him, because I pitied him and because I was ashamed. I questioned whether I even had the right to out him. But eventually I realized that I couldn’t ask for help or support without telling my story. All of it. I could keep his secrets or I could escape the oppression of his closet. But I couldn’t do both.

So I’m telling my story about my marriage because it helps me heal. Another STR8 SPOUSE  told me at the beginning of my journey, “It’s not your shame.” It’s true, it’s not my shame so I refuse to keep carrying it. Secrets are toxic and until we stop using them to build closets with there will continue to be people trapped inside them. I choose to use my truth to tear closets down.

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Drowning in the Rising River of Denial

Posted by on Jun 23, 2015 in Blog | 10 comments

There are few moments in a straight spouse’s life more devastating than when our husband or wife tells us that they are gay. Or they are not sure but having some kind of sexual encounter with someone of the same sex.

Maybe we suspected.  Maybe we didn’t have a clue. Maybe others tried to tell us and we brushed it off.  Because we just were not ready to hear something this unbelievable.

There are few things worse than hearing your spouse is gay, especially when we are told on a holiday or anniversary.  The day lives forever in  our memories, not as a celebration, but as the day our life was upended.

Not ever hearing those words from a gay spouse is one of those things that is worse.

Denial can come in many forms. Maybe we suspect something: find  gay pornography, strange text messages and emails, or find apps like Grindr on the phone.

Maybe we come across a Craigslist ad our spouse posted which comes up when the computer cache is not cleared. And we ask, sometimes in anger, grief, or concern “are you gay”?

Instead of the truth, we hear “how could you think that?” “you’re crazy, what will you be accusing me of next”.  Or we hear a derisive snort, and are subjected to a stream of ridicule – as if we are to blame for everything that is wrong in the marriage.

Or we hear “I will NOT dignify THAT with a response”.  Men might hear “YEAH YOU WISH”.

Sometimes we hear the truth.  Sometimes our spouses tell us the truth AFTER we discover whatever prompts us to ask the question.

flood reliefDenial is a river that swells and crests.  We know the truth and it must be denied.  Family members  distance themselves from us.  Family friends  explain to us why we are wrong to think such a thing.  When confronted with truth, they sometimes become former friends. Our children face the truth and don’t have the same perspective that we do – sometimes they are more concerned with separation and divorce than having a gay parent.

And then, there are those who admit they have a same sex attraction that is like an addiction and they go to church based counseling and are saved.  Everyone welcomes the newly redeemed.  They do not welcome the straight spouse who knows the truth that is denied.  Some of us are shunned out of the churches that we were raised in if we refuse to live a lie and proceed with divorce.

Time has a way of dealing with truth.

After a while, some of our closeted spouses DO begin to live more openly in same sex partnerships.  They stop hiding the fact that they socialize in gay clubs, or visit gay bars.  They stop pretending that their lover is just a roommate, even if it is only to a few people.  They are heroes. They are brave.  Yet….

We still never hear the words from their lips. “Yes, I am gay.”

Some of our mutual friends hear it from our former spouses, and tell us, or hint to us.  Some of our family members hear it.  Maybe our kids hear it.  But it is not to be discussed with us. Especially if we have been sworn to secrecy for a number of years. Because, you know, it would just KILL my parents.  I’ll lose my job. They’ll kick me off the church council.  I cant be a boy scout leader.  And it will all be your fault if YOU TELL.

So we are left to wonder – did he ever tell the children’s grandparents?  The sister in law who is suddenly cordial again, does she know?  Does she know I know?

This is childish nonsense, and it is oppressive, manipulative, and abusive.  Many straight ex spouses continue to live their lives in the closet of fear and isolation they were confined to in marriage.

Of course, it could be worse.  We could go on with our lives, not really clear on why the relationship broke apart, and suddenly our exes come out in a very public way.  Think back to the experience of Carolyn Moos, the WNBA basketball star who was engaged to Jason Collins.  When Collins came out after their breakup via announcements on television and in Sports Illustrated, it was news to many people.  It was also news to Carolyn, who handled the media attention and intrusiveness with grace and maturity.

“I had no idea why. We had planned to have children, build a family. Nearly four years later, I got my answer. My former fiancé, Jason Collins. . . announced last spring in Sports Illustrated that he is gay.’

Carolyn Moos, Cosmopolitan

Straight spouses and fiances are often the very people who were part of the story that the other person was building – and when that story is ended or scrapped, some of us are discarded or erased.  We are out of the life script.

Only it doesn’t really work that way.  Often we remain connected, especially if we have children and share custody.  We are worthy of disclosure, no matter how unpleasant the LGBT spouse finds the uncontrollable or unpredictable outcome.

Telling us the truth with consideration, compassion, and concern is an affirmative act – even if we are not ready to hear it.  Even if we deny it. Even if we react angrily to it. Even if we fall on the floor in uncontrollable sobs.  Even if we tell you to pack your bags and get out of the house.  Our primary need is to be affirmed for who we are – heterosexual people who have discovered the truth about our spouse’s sexuality.

It is becoming widely recognized that living an authentic life is good for LGBT people. That goes for us, too.

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Because You Lied

Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Blog | 60 comments

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.

In denialYes 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.

I’m done

You lied.

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.

You lied. And you continue to lie. You are gay and I know it, and you know I know it.  But you deny it.  And you hurt me and our family with your lies.

I’m done.

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.

You Can't Handle the Truth

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