In this section:
Staying in their closet
You’ve discovered your husband is gay, or your wife is a lesbian. They are out of the closet to you, but don’t want anyone else to know. They ask you to keep their secret. Are you obligated to stay in the closet with your gay or lesbian spouse? You are the only person who can decide if, or for how long, you are willing to protect their same-sex preference or their down-low activities.
Some straight spouses do agree to keep their gay/lesbian spouse’s secret; even for a number of years. Their reasons for doing that are: concerns over finances, negative impact on their jobs or careers, public prejudice or ridicule, and impact on their children (especially in conservative, religious areas). If someone agrees to stay in their spouse’s closet, we feel it is important that they have at least a few understanding, trustworthy friends to confide in. Consider joining one of the email support lists, using a pseudonym if you wish. And finding a therapist (bound by confidentiality laws) to talk with can be beneficial, as well.
In reality, no one should feel obligated to keep a LGBT spouse’s secret. Their orientation disrupts your life, and you have the right to reach out to any person or resource that will help you. It’s their secret, not your’s.
When family and friends don’t understand
Friends and family are often unable to relate to your situation. This is an unfortunate reality that straight spouses have to deal with far too frequently. Some may take the gay/lesbian spouses side or simply refuse to believe what you’re saying. Reaction by the public to mainstream media coverage of gays having married straights, tends to be dismissive; “he or she cheated - divorce them and move on”. Some even ridicule straight spouses, saying, “they deserve it...they should have known”.
The truth is, there are many challenges unique to the straight spouse experience. We frequently have to rebuild our self-esteem and our trust in others when forming new relationships, reclaim our sexual confidence, free ourselves from feeling that somehow we might have been responsible for our spouses gayness, or for feeling foolish for not having known. And if we have children, we have to determine how best to integrate co-parenting into the mix.
For those who choose to stay together, there are the issues of how your redefined relationship plays out in public. If your choice is to have an open marriage, there is frequently little tolerance from the mainstream community
as well as friends and family. People tend to express support for the LGBT spouse being true to themselves, but they don’t recognize the impact on the straight spouse, or are not able to express their support of the straight spouse in a way that is helpful to us.
This is where face-to-face groups, email support lists and one-on-one contacts within the Straight Spouse Network can help the most. We’ve all been there, we get it, and are supportive in ways you need it the most.