Let’s talk about the F word.
No, not THAT one.
Let’s talk about the F word that has been mentioned by many straight spouses and ex spouses of LGBT people since the Supreme Court decision affirming same sex marriage in June 2015.
Yes, in the midst of all this celebration, and affirmation of same sex marriages, some of us are realizing that we THOUGHT we had a real marriage, based on real love, real commitment. But many of us have come to realize that our marriages were a sham. A fraud. Legal fakery.
So, were our marriages based on fraud? Some were. Some were a reaction to living in a world that demanded that men and women marry and produce a family in order to be respectable. Some were less the result of the lies that were told to us, and more a result of the lies our LGBT spouses told themselves.
Think about it. As painful as it is, it’s kind of difficult to assign fraud to a spouse who married you because they were fond of you, so their parents, counselors, pastor, etc, told them to get over this same sex thing and marry that nice girl or good man, and make lots of babies and forget about all that gay lifestyle nonsense. Only they found after they married us that they couldn’t just forget it.
Some of our marriages were clearly based on a fraudulent assumption. Some of us were married to people who knew for a long time that they were attracted to the same sex, and had no intent of refraining from that activity. For some women, the answer to “well why did you marry me, then?” has been a brutally honest response that the husband was looking for a hostess, gatekeeper, or a possible nurse for the future. For some men, the answer has been that the wife wanted a baby, or financial security.
Often, there is no remorse expressed by the gay spouse in answer to that question. There is often no acknowledgement of the effect that the decision by an LGBT person to marry someone of the opposite sex has on their spouse. Many of our gay spouses have already dealt with stages of grief and emerging from their closet can be a relief, a cause of joy, of determination to move ahead. But the straight spouse is JUST STARTING to grieve loss and deal with change and a strong flood of emotions.
So our timetable for dealing with this is not the same – and not acknowledged by our spouses or many times by our families, friends, and counselors. Many of us never have an affirmation, or an admission, or an apology. We are relegated to the less than human status of “collateral damage”.
Collateral damage refers to the civilian casualties of war, such as when a bomb wipes out enemy supplies and fuel and kills civilians living in the region. Too bad, so sad. War is hell.
Who knew our marriages were a war? Most of us didn’t say “I do” to the promise of being a human shield against homophobia. Yet, when our husbands or wives disclose their true sexuality to us, or when we discover that they are having a same sex physical or emotional affair, we often are in the front lines of homophobia, and all the ridicule and hatred that comes with it.
By the same token, our pain and anger is unacknowledged or passed over by many LGBT people and straight allies – explained away, because it just isn’t relevant to the political struggle of LGBT people, whom we just HAVE to understand.
No one ever seems to feel they have to understand us.
Then there are those of us who continue to live in the aftermath of a fraud – divorcing a spouse who will never admit to having an LGBT relationship, affair, or sexual orientation. We will never have an admission, let alone an apology or acknowledgement that wrong was done to us. We may be forced to dance the eggshell two step for many years, while our spouses and the courts demand a waltz in three quarter time. All because when we speak the truth, we are asked for “proof” and belittled or demonized or even threatened when somehow our experiences and observations don’t meet the legal test.
So, should we go after our ex spouses for fraud? Be careful here.
The answer is best given to you by a lawyer who specializes in family law in your state or country. And even if you CAN, consider if you SHOULD. The key question is – what do you want to accomplish, and will it benefit you? What will be the outcome for your children, if you have any? How will it help you going forward? Is it worth the legal cost and effort?
Some people will move ahead, maybe become friends, or friendly at least. And some will need to pursue their ex spouses for damages, financial and otherwise. But many of us will get the legalities done, and then face the long haul of maintaining a relationship if we have children. Some of us have come to find out that the lies continue, in one way or another. Our recovery, our healing, our reclamation of our own lives can be a slow process, requiring distancing, putting ourselves first, and changes in our lives that WE choose. It’s difficult to take these necessary steps when we are still vulnerable to hurt, shame, blame, and deception post divorce.
Many straight spouses have supported same sex marriage, and consider themselves to be “straight allies”. Perhaps it is time for LGBTQ people to be our “gay allies” as well. We don’t need a banner, a flag, a parade or a celebration – just inclusion in the rainbow as we move ahead into new directions with honesty, understanding, respect, and compassion. Even if we are still hurting, still angry, still grieving – or moving ahead faster or slower than anyone expected, we are still inescapably part of the rainbow family.