In this section:
- I feel absolutely devastated. How do I cope?
- Is it possible to survive this and move on?
- How do I learn to trust myself and others again?
- How do I create emotional distance?
- Why has my spouse or partner's behavior changed so much?
I feel absolutely devastated. How do I cope?
You need to understand that it is ok to feel whatever you are feeling at the moment. It may not be pleasant but these feelings are real and others have experienced them, too. It also may be quite fluid. What you feel about the situation may change as time goes on.
At our support group meetings you will frequently hear people suggesting "baby steps"; in other words, make one small decision at a time and let that settle in, before making further decisions. This allows you time to process your emotions.
The process straight spouses go through is often described as being similar to the grieving process after the death of a loved one. Many of the emotions you might go through are similar with the loss of a spouse.. However, in the case of a straight spouse, frequently the LGBT spouse is still around and involved in your life to some degree, and thus there is no clear point at which grieving ends.
Focus on your daily needs. Don't allow yourself to neglect things that bring you joy and health in your life, and allow yourself the time to make good decisions that are in your best interest.
Is it possible to survive this and move on?
Yes, in many different ways. You will frequently hear that there is no precise way for a straight spouse to handle their situation. Likewise, there are many different outcomes in surviving the experience.
Some straight spouses, for a wide variety of reasons, maintain their relationship with their LGBT spouse. Others separate and divorce right away. Still others attempt to remain together, but after a period of time discover that this is not the right path for them. Whatever path you choose, we are here to support you as you make decisions that are right for you, as go through the process.
At times, straight spouses may feel hopeless, and that they won't survive this process. We are here to tell you that you can, and will get through it. Reach out to other straight spouses if you feel this way, you will find that you are not alone, and you will survive.
How do I learn to trust myself and others again?
For those spouses who married without knowing about their LGBT partners same sex attractions, there is frequently a loss of trust in their own judgment.
That comes as a result of asking ourselves, "How could I not have known", or worse, having others ask us the same question.
A key thing to be aware of is that we can only know as much of what another person's feelings or thoughts as they are willing to share with us. For a closeted gay spouse to go for years appearing to the world to be straight is not at all unusual.
In these circumstances, we often lose trust in our own judgment. It takes time to learn that we made our decisions based upon what was ultimately false information. Our decisions and feelings were made based on the only information we had at the time.
It takes time to learn to trust our own judgment again. Frequently we become oversensitive to all things gay for a period of time; seeing all things through the filter of our experience. With time, this gradually fades, and we learn to trust ourselves again, which is the first step in being able to trust others again.
How do I create emotional distance?
The following 10 steps towards finding emotional distance have been used on one of our email support lists for years. They provide some simple steps to help you find some emotional distance so that you can make better choices and take care of yourself.
10 Steps Toward Distancing
Distancing is especially important in an emotional relationship gone wrong.
- Stop asking new personal things of your partner about him/herself.
- Don't divulge personal things about yourself to them.
- Don't bend over backward to celebrate any occasions that involve them.
- Don't go out of your way to help them more than is necessary.
- Don't help them if someone else can.
- Avoid discussions that involve their lives, re: old topics.
- Start to develop new activities that don't involve them.
- Try to make new friends, acquaintances, anything.
- Make small changes in your life: rearrange furniture, change decorations, try new soaps, ride your bike in a different route, eat at a different restaurant, eat different foods, cook them a different way, shop at different stores, rearrange the landscaping, change some of your habits, change the style of clothing you wear, etc.
- If they ask favors of you, tell them you want time to think about it.
(Original Author Unknown)
Why has my spouse or partner's behavior changed so much?
Frequently we will hear the behavior of a recently "outed" LGBT spouse described as "childish" or more appropriately "adolescent". This can be incredibly painful to the straight spouse who is left behind.
All we can do is attempt to explain some of why this occurs. While it will not necessarily lessen the pain we straight spouses feel, it can help us to understand that this behavior is not about us, and generally is not intended to hurt us.
A large number of the LGBT spouses who come out later in life have been processing their feelings for a very long time. They generally have been repressing those feelings for a very long time, as well. When they do eventually come out, they feel a huge sense of relief, and very much a period of time similar to being a "kid in a candy store" occurs for many of them. They are rejoicing in their new found sense of self and freedom, while those of us who are new to the circumstances are in shock, and just beginning to deal with how affected we are.
Behavior in someone who has just come out can seem intended to be hurtful to us, however, generally it has far less to do with us, and far more to do with their newfound sense of self.