Oprah’s interview this week with author <a title=”Terry McMillan” href=”http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Author-Terry-McMillan-and-Her-Ex-Jonathan-Plummer” target=”_blank”><strong>Terry McMillan</strong></a> was extremely valuable for straight spouses. Five years after the explosive interview that Oprah conducted with Terry and her ex husband Jonathan Plummer, the perspective of having the immediacy of the marriage, breakup, and litigation behind them served as an example of one possible destination on the road map of long term recovery and restoration for the straight spouse.
Terry makes no secret that the anger was powerful, but the anger is not as consuming as it was, and she is moving forward with her life. She says she can trust men, and that after the interview five years ago, she was hurt by the allegations that she was homophobic. “When I was ready to run him over, it wasn’t because he was gay”, she said. “I never hated his guts because he was gay. … And that was one reason why I sued, because I hated the idea of being known as a homophobe. Jonathan deep down inside knew I wasn’t homophobic. I have too many gay and lesbian friends. Too many.“
Many of us have the same experience. We don’t hate gay people. Our spouse’s lie has an effect on the core of our marriage and our being. Terry was able to win a lawsuit that she will never collect on, and have it dismissed. That is the victory that is craved by many who have been victims of this particular type of marriage fraud.
Not all <a title=”mixed orientation marriages” href=”http://www.straightspouse.org/blog/?tag=mixed-orientation-marriage” target=”_blank”><strong>mixed orientation marriages</strong></a> are based on fraud, as many gay people have late in life realizations about their true nature. But the continuation of the deception, or the expectation that the straight spouse will somehow just disappear from view or become a cheerleader for the coming out process is an additional devastating blow that many of us continue to bear.
This “You don’t hate him for being gay, you hate the deception” mantra opens us up to another misconception – that the deceit is “just like any other marriage that break up”. We hear that so often. For us, the situation is unique. Many of us endure social shunning and avoidance, humiliation, sneering. Terry endured this too with her public divorce. Seems everyone knew that Jonathan was as Oprah put it “Not just on the down low but on the high low”. Everyone but Terry. We know. We’ve been there. We’re either faulted for not having accurate “gaydar” or faulted if we conclude someone is gay because we’re stereotyping. Everyone’s a critic!
What is unique to our experience is that the deception is twofold – not only is the gay spouse lying by cheating on us, but they lied about the fundamental core of the marriage, and about who they are. They may have lied to themselves, and thus been utterly convincing. Or they may have deliberately set the gay side of their lives into one compartment, and spouse and children into another. This deception rots the core of the marriage from the start, and in some cases, rots the straight spouse’s sexuality as well.
This duality of deception and betrayal is often the part of the experience that is glossed over when the straight spouse looks for support from family, friends, clergy, and counselors. Likening it to any other experience feels as though we are being again diminished, faulted for our natural anger, shamed for not just getting over it.
Terry’s got a new book, a sequel to “Waiting to Exhale” called “<a title=”Getting to Happy” href=”http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Happy-Terry-McMillan/dp/0670022047/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1286060654&sr=8-1″ target=”_blank”><strong>Getting to Happy</strong></a>”. The four characters are now in their fifties, and going forward in their lives and marriages. We know how Oprah loves to promote books!
We find it interesting that Oprah keeps going back to the topic of mixed orientation marriages – her interviews with Terry and with Dina McGreevey, with lesbian wives, and older broadcasts – but never mentions the Straight Spouse Network as a resource for healing. Perhaps our experiences are too diverse, too broad, and too unpredictable. No one in broadcast media seems interested in our actual stories, which are varied, deep, and complex. They’re also quite inspiring.
Instead, when our stories are told, they are buried in features about coming out, gay marriage and other issues that affect gays. It confirms an experience many of us have had – we cease to be perceived as people in our own right, but only in the light of how others perceive gay people and their issues.
The Straight Spouse Network is a small grassroots organization that has worldwide impact. We’ve got face to face chapters in the United States, Australia, and Europe. We are the preeminent source of support for both women and men who have a gay spouse, or who think they might have a gay spouse. Yet millions who need us, who remain buried and isolated, have never heard of us. We may not have books to sell, or be the most outrageous hype that supports the bottom line, but we are at least interesting and informative. We have helped over 20,000 people since our inception.
Would it hurt to include us in a list of resources the next time there’s a show about how straight spouses cope, heal, recover? We think it would only help.
Hey Oprah! Why not have your people call our people?