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Why She Stayed: Gayle Haggard

Posted by on Jan 29, 2010 in Blog | 0 comments

The Haggards are back, and Oprah’s got ’em!

Gayle Haggard is on a publicity tour for her new book “Why I Stayed“.   It’s an interesting perspective on remaining married after same sex infidelity and betrayal.  It is very clear that a major factor in this decision is that Gayle genuinely loves her husband, Ted Haggard – and he loves her right back!  That alone is a story that many straight spouses never get to live.  Those who remain in mixed orientation monogamous marriages know that love, trust, and communication are paramount in importance – and have to be mutual.

Gayle made an appearance on Oprah, with Ted, and carried herself very well with Oprah’s proclaimed “non judgemental”  interview.  Oprah appeared incredulous that Gayle still loves her husband!  This is not so incredible to those who remain in long term mixed orientation marriages.  Oprahs questions were probing, insightful, and brought out a lot of good points about the entire experience. It was a great interview.

However, Oprah lost us on one train of thought:

“Would this have been the same were the infidelities with women?  I wonder if yeah, I just wonder, if and I’ve interviewed other women who found out their husbands were in relationships with men, who found out their husbands were gay, for some women it’s easier if the other man is gay. ….if its another man, there’s nothing you can do about that…for some women it makes it easier because you think well no matter what I would have done, well, you know, I’m not gonna be a guy!”

In our experience, it’s unusual for a straight woman to find infidelity with a gay husband to be preferable to infidelity with another woman, or even “the same”.  The realization that “it’s not me” does not come quickly for everyone, especially when you may not be able to disclose the reason for divorce, or confide in friends and family members.  As Gayle says, “It’s different”. Women who have attended our face to face meetings across the world and right there in Oprah’s home town, Chicago, say the same thing.  In a private, confidential, peer to peer setting, they share the stories of deception, betrayal, and the unique shredding of their own sexual identity that often comes with marriage to a closeted gay husband. For many women, the rejection of their female body and passive aggressive denigration of everything about them by their closeted gay husband comes before any actual infidelity. After discovery or disclosure, there can be a sense of relief that “it’s not me”, but they are left to rebuild who “me” is after so much tearing apart.

Gayle is telling her story, and emphasizes that it is hers and no one elses.  We applaud her for that, as we all have different experiences with our spouses and families. Her story will share some common threads with many.

If Oprah were to interview other straight spouses, she would gain  an understanding for herself and to her audience of the many different experiences and perspective concerning the experience of straight spouses, from “honey I’m gay” to “no, I’m not gay, you are crazy” to “well, you just have to let me be me and tolerate my same sex relationships” to “Im not gay, I just like having sexual encounters with men”.

The Straight Spouse Network is the pre eminent peer to peer support group for the heterosexual husbands and wives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people.  There is an active face to face support group right there in Oprah’s back yard.  We encourage her to keep on interviewing women whose husbands are in relationships with men, and men whose wives are in relationships with women.

And Oprah, the next time you interview one of us, a straight spouse like Gayle or Dina, we’d appreciate it if you would let your large audience know that yes, there’s a support group for that – a big one, which spans the globe!

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