For almost 30 years, no one seemed to know the Straight Spouse Network existed. Now, thanks to the miracle of social media, we are known as an organization. We also are aware of what others say about us, from reports by straight spouses and from what we see in the media. So here’s a sampling of some of the misconceptions – and our responses.
1. “My wife/husband was perfectly accepting of me before joining THAT GROUP. THEY convinced him/her to divorce me. I blame THEM for our divorce”. Marriage is a process. At sometime in the process of a mixed orientation marriage, one or both partners may decide it isn’t working and they need to move on. “Accepting” doesn’t mean doing everything one person’s way, or substituting one lie for another. That holds for both partners.
When straight spouses meet and share their ideas, questions, and deep hurt, they often find that someone else in the group is giving voice to a feeling or idea that they had not previously dared to express. We encourage everyone to live in truth. That doesn’t mean shouting and outing, but it does mean honestly acknowledging our feelings and our desires for the future.
2. “SSN says there’s no such thing as bi”. False. Patently false. We have NEVER taken this position. If one of our leaders or contacts is saying this, please contact us, and we will be happy to set them “straight”.
It is entirely possible that within a group meeting or discussion you will find people who are of the opinion that bisexuality does not exist – because for so many of us, “bi now gay later” is a frequent experience. Many of our spouses do not come completely out of the closet to us, and instead tell us another lie – that they are bi when in fact they are gay, and in deep denial.
3. The forum on the SSN website is not moderated and full of people who don’t know what they are talking about. False. The forum on the SSN website IS moderated and full of people openly discussing various aspects of mixed orientation marriages. It is also a public forum; some LGBT people participate. All participants are expected to talk about their lives and perspectives, without defaming others. The forum is moderatedfor safety and standards of a civil online community.
We don’t tell people who express their ideas there what to think. The ideas expressed on the forum represent the beliefs of the participants, not our organization. There are also several private or secret Facebook groups or email lists where straight spouses find support. Some of these are affiliated with us, others are not, but often have members who have benefited from contact with SSN. Most of those are moderated in much the same way as the forum, with the exception that members have to be approved before joining and having access to what others share.
4. From time to time people mistakenly think well known author and counselor Bonnie Kaye represents our organization. While many women who contact us have found her to be helpful and recommend her to others, Bonnie is not affiliated with the Straight Spouse Network, and her views are her own. We offer support to both straight husbands as well as straight wives, while the bulk of Bonnie Kaye’s writings are targeted to straight wives only.
5. The Straight Spouse Network doesn’t support staying in a mixed orientation marriage. False. We support straight spouses no matter where they are on their journey. The decision to stay in a mixed orientation marriage (MOM) can be made for many reasons. It does happen and we support those who choose this path. Some mixed orientation marriages may break up down the road, as one or both partners desires something different, but some do last. A breakup is not inevitable, and it doesn’t mean that someone has failed – it is part of the ongoing process of the relationship. We refer many people who come to us wishing to remain in their marriage to specific online groups listed on our website or to individual contacts who have decided to stay married.
6. The Straight Spouse Network doesn’t allow gay people to participate, and is therefore exclusive and discriminatory. Yes and No – ONLY straight spouses can participate in many of our face to face groups and in some online groups, as they need a safe and confidential environment to be free to tell their full story and receive support. However, we do encourage public participation by everyone, including LGBT people, in our public forum, and we do refer couples to online or face to face groups where they may both participate. 30 years ago we started as a task force of PFLAG in California after a group of gay fathers asked Amity Buxton to help them understand their wives’ perspectives. Our purpose is to provide support for the straight spouse.
So, when a community center says we cannot use their facilities for meetings of straight spouses seeking safe, confidential support because we don’t allow gay people to participate in that particular meeting, that says to us that they really do not understand or want to understand our purpose.
We are a support group for current or former heterosexual spouses or partners of LGBT people. That means we support men and women. That means we support married or divorced or separated. That means we support people who are angry. That means we support people who are at peace and have forgiven their spouse. That means we have speakers available to address any group that wants to know more about the straight spouse experience. That means we reach out, and promote healing and building bridges. To know who we are and what we do, visit our website.
Contact us. Ask questions. Comment. Share. We look forward to all inquiries
A safe space. That’s what the Straight Spouse Network offers to the men and women who contact us. A safe space where we can vent, ask questions, make friends, get answers. The peer to peer support we offer on a daily basis is vital to those who have discovered that their husband or wife is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Its also unique.
Ours is an extremely diverse community. We are global. We are male and female. We are old and young. Most of us divorce, many don’t. Some of us have never been married to our significant others who emerge from the closet of denial. Some of us have children, some don’t. We listen to each other, learn from each other, and make new friends with each other.
In all of the places where straight spouses connect through SSN, there is one quality that makes us a safe and secure place to talk about our lives. That quality is confidentiality.
Yes its true. We meet for gatherings at fun places. We meet face to face in some locations, going out to dinner or for social activity. We meet online in affiliated listservs, and connect privately on the internet. But we do observe confidentiality.
What happens at an SSN group stays at an SSN group. When someone crosses the line usually by accident, they usually hear about it very quickly. Its pretty amazing that a large group of straight spouses recently shared a weekend gathering in Florida – over a hundred of us – and pictures abounded – but everyone is mindful of confidentiality. The pictures are shared privately – and recipients are reminded to not post them publicly or tag them. People come to gatherings and face to face meetings knowing that it is a safe place to meet with others in similar circumstances, and that they are free to be themselves without fear that anything they say or do could turn up on the internet or reach the ears of a separated spouse or family member. Many of us are in situations where we would lose family support and possibly expose ourselves to recriminations if our spouses or family members knew that those monthly “dinner parties” or the memorial day barbeque over an hour away or the vacation trip was really a chance to connect with other straight spouses.
Confidentiality includes respect of one another, and respect of our spouses and family privacy, no matter how angry we might be. Coming out is not just a process that affects gay people – it affects their families as well. Our purpose is to support the straight spouse in a safe and open way – and that includes respecting the privacy of their spouse and family as well.
Sharing our stories with each other often leads to making new friends, and moving forward in ways we had never anticipated. Some of us refer to those friendships as “familee”. We have family – and we have the “familee” of former strangers who know all too well about having an LGBT spouse or former spouse. We may not all be friendly with each other, in fact, we may not all like each other at times, just like in any family or group. What’s special about each of us is that we respect privacy while encouraging straight spouses to emerge safely from whatever closet they are shut up inside of. We don’t tell tales. We keep it in the familee!