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The December Dilemma

Holidays are wonderful times for families to get together and renew relationships, celebrate traditions, and share the latest news.  For straight spouses undergoing the stresses of divorce, or the recent discovery that a spouse is gay, those same holidays can be awkward and painful.  It can hurt to see traditions discarded, or to be excluded from family gatherings, or be told that the spouse has to be excluded or included.

Holiday GlitterSome new dilemmas for straight spouses include basic things, like “whose house are we going to for dinner and who will be there” to “telling the kids mom is gay” before or after the holiday, to a lack of money to keep up all the traditions.  They can be as complicated as “will Daddy bring the boyfriend to Grandma’s this year” or taking the kids shopping to buy a present for Mom’s girlfriend.  A straight spouse might feel a rush of anger at seeing an expensive present that was lavished on a boyfriend or girlfriend, that was never considered for them, or seeing the gay couple take the trip of a lifetime that the spouse had thought would be a special second honeymoon.

Then there are always the friends and relatives who have their own opinions about things – and express them loudly.  That could mean saying negative things about the gay spouse in front of the children, or a tentative hint around the kitchen table that “you can still be married, just live together like brother and sister”.  It can be the brother in law who keeps asking “ya want me to ‘fix’ his car?” or the cousin who just CANNOT believe that this is true, and YOU must be mistaken.  Add to this family stew a gay spouse who is worried that nothing will be the same “because I’m gay and nobody accepts that”,  and your happy holidays turn into an occasion of dread.

How about those friends who are determined to be fair and friendly and invite you both to a party?  You venture out, and find your spouse there with a date – and the group of friends is affirming “coming out” but ignoring how devastating this is to you.  Isn’t it funny how the rules for divorcing heterosexual couples don’t apply to us?

The best advice we have for the holidays is to view them as an opportunity for new traditions affirming you and your values. Accept that things will be different.  The first year it is a discovery process, finding what works and what doesn’t.  After that, it does get easier.

Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with friends and relatives, and establish what is appropriate and what is not.  Tell the brother in law to fix YOUR car since you need help.  Tell the cousin that believe it or not, it’s true and you’re not discussing it right now. Tell the person who wants you to stay married that you can’t.  It really is not possible to ignore a gay spouse’s sexual activity, no matter how discreet.  It is different.  And if you are staying together, you are making your own rules.  Just don’t totally alienate people who truly love you.  Remember, they are struggling to understand what has happened, and want to know how to help you.

Holidays can be a bridge that we cross from an old life to a new one.  Sometimes it is a painful bridge, but we do get there!  The important thing is to keep going.


  1. Married to a gay man for 33 years. He will NOT admit he is gay to me or maybe to himself. I am 67 and in love with this man. Other than sleeping in separate bedrooms and no sex for 24 years and feeling like something was wrong with me, life is good with us. He is kind, considerate, helpful and all in all a nice guy. However, that feeling of sexual rejection looms over me all the time and no matter how hard i try, i cannot shake it off. I moved out for 6 months in a friendly manner and missed him terribly. I ask myself daily, at 67 how does one start again? I am not sure if i am being fair to min. He does not have the wherewithal to come out, not do i think he ever will. But i do think he feels trapped by his obligation of being married to me. I have spoken to several therapists and they all say leave, leave, leave. Growing old alone is no easy matter and maybe companionship is “good enough”. If anyone is out there who is walking my walk, please get in touch.

    • Hi. My name is Linda, too – and I’m 67 as well. I’d been married for 32 years when my now-x came out. The reason he finally came out was because he had someone to come out for; a 22 year old named Christopher he worked with.

      He obviously didn’t condsider how I would fare when he left. He only focused on finally being free. He’d been bottling it up all his life. He left me, cleaned out and closed our joint bank account, and filed for divorce when we’d agreed we wouldn’t do so. I couldn’t find a full time job, so I’ve survived on part-time work and had to take social security early.

      Bottom line is be prepared for anything just in case. Make sure you’ll be okay financially; that your accounts and assets are safe. If you end up alone, it will not be easy, but you’ll have security in you elder years.

      Sometimes I think about what it would have been like if my x had continuted to stay in the closet. Then I remember how unhappy I was. It’s a real toss-up. The hardest thing for you is that your husband can’t be honest. Until he can be, youcan live in limbo or choose to break free of his closet on your own. It’s such an unfair situation – such is the dilemma of all Straight Spouses. I hope you’ll be okay.

      If you want to talk to someone to just help you cope or find clarity, please go to our website’s home page and fill out the Support form and we’ll put you in touch with someone right away.

      Straight Spouse Network support group facilitator

  2. Missed my children for the first Christmas of their lives this year. They went to stay with my ex-wife. I guess it was my fault that I couldn’t handle the pain of her coming out after 12 years of marriage. Just being around her breaks my heart. I couldn’t imagine being together with our kids and her new partner. Do we ever get over this?

  3. Went to my sister in law’s for Chanukah yesterday after a gut wrenching week following the discovery of gay porn on my husband’s phone. He has been exploring his sexuality with a therapist for a number of years. But this is real. Hurting. He is hurting as well.

  4. Went home to deal with my mom, dying of cancer and my husband revealed himself over whatsapp that he wants to be a woman. All this happened in less than 50 days I’ve been gone. I don’t know how to deal with this situation. I’m here all alone with no friends or family to rely on.

    • Jo, if you have not done so already, please contact the Straight Spouse Network for support. Fill our our confidential contact form here and one of our volunteers will be in touch. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

  5. This is a tough one, because when the holidays are awkward or painful or raw for us, it’s hard to keep in mind that it’s everybody else’s holiday, too, not just ours. If I don’t feel I can be sociable and pleasant for a few hours at someone’s house, I don’t go. If it becomes uncomfortable, or feels like a mistake to be there, I quietly and discreetly thank my host and slip out (ex: “I have another engagement to attend.”) While we may want others to respect our pain or privacy, we also have to respect that these are their holidays too. It’s reasonable to want support and understanding from friends and family, but it’s not reasonable to attend someone’s festivities and dump your baggage on the guests.

    Unrelated to TGT, I once volunteered to help out at a Christmas party at a shelter for children whose parents were divorcing, or who were taken from the parents by court order. I remember the kids had prepared a concert of Christmas carols and a little pageant for the parents who would be attending. You’d think the parents could check themselves and make it be a nice event for the kids, but I was amazed at how many parental couples could NOT hold it together and behave themselves like adults for just one hour so the kids could give a little concert.

  6. 21 years. Now my husband wants to be a woman. I’m not gay. I’m tired of the lies, th cheating, the manipulation.

    • Yes, My former husband of 35 years, has been living as a woman for the last 2 years. The pain & confusion have not gone away, but it does get better

  7. Some history and a Christmas wish…..
    I remember our first anniversary after disclosure (our 26th) He said tentatively, “Do you want to go out to dinner or something?” and I answered sadly but honestly, “No, I don’t think I can be nice for that long.” Fast forward to a couple of years ago: I decided that I was never going to be able to look at him and feel positive. In fact, when he came home, no matter how happy I was, he brought in a dark rain cloud. Tonight our son, who is not bothered by TGT, cooked a lamb dinner for us. We planned to take it to GH’s workplace – the hospital. Then a friend invited him over so I took the lamb dinner myself and we ate dinner in the call room. I remember the time I cooked a complete Thanksgiving dinner for 18 and drove it to the hospital in the rather dangerous inner city. I was crazy blind in love with him then. I never will be crazy in love again–but I also didn’t feel negative.
    Last night we sang in the choir at the Episcopal church, which had a long and lovely service of lesson and carols. Before that we opened presents with our son. People say I am insane for staying with him, or just asking to be sick forever, but as my best friend once said of her marriage, “We have too much shared history to get divorced.”
    I am still angry, still unhappy but now it’s less than all of the time and there are good moments. If someone had told me seven years ago that such moments that would be possible, I would have been furious. Now I can acknowledge good moment. I take it a day at a time. We managed to have a pleasant if not happy holiday.
    Our story is unique and we are old. GH was with men before we married but not since. I am not implying in any way that anyone should “stick it out.” I am choosing to, but only one day at a time. Nor would I insist that divorce is the only solution, as many people do to me. Most, actually. What I do wish to share with everyone this Christmas is hope. There is always hope. I thought that was an empty saying until recently I came to believe it and now I wish it for you. We don’t ever know what the outcome will be, or even changes that will happen on the journey, but (and I say this with the wisdom of age): DON’T GIVE UP. Don’t assume anything. There is always hope, really.

    • Thank you for this post, Nancy. Like you, we felt that we were too old to re-start separate lives when my wife finally came out to herself and to me. Like you, we share so much. Just not sexual attraction or desire… But the story is not over until the very end. I’ve had so many disappointed unrealized ‘hopes’. I feel that I’m having to learn to live without hope, but in trust that there is still some purpose and meaning, even if I cannot see any now. If that makes any sense!? But yes, we are all different; no one-size-fits-all. Most divorce, surely it’s the right thing for them. But for some, it’s not…

  8. Peter and Paula, same for me.
    First Christmas with my gay husband after 25 years of marriage.
    We celebrate Christmas together with our sons.
    I have decide to enjoy the fact that we can be together as friends.
    But in my heart I’m sad.
    Merry Christmas to both of you!


    • Sounds like my story, Sarah.
      My name is also Sarah.
      This year was the second year we celebrated Christmas together.
      My husband also came out as gay last year after 25 years of marriage.
      We have two sons.
      Now my husband has a boyfriend and they live together.
      Me and my husband has now started our plans for a divors.
      What feels important is to spend Christmas with our sons and to be friends and in long term maybe bring new partners with us.
      I feel sad over how things turned out to be in my life but I’m glad if we still can be friends after our divors. After 1,5 year of separation I now start to feel that I want to be free and star up
      my new life.

      New year is coming and I look forward to a fresh start 2017.

      Happy New Year to you all!

  9. Tru dat. Thanks so much for this. 1st xmas w my soon to be ex gay wife of 17 yrs. So much sadness, anger, and confusion. This helps to hear.

    • Peter same here! Exactly. First year and it’s been so hard. Cried reading this. Happy holidays to you. May we both get through and move past this.

      Paula in CA

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