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When Your Spouse Says “That Doesn’t Mean I’m Gay”

You’ve made the discovery that your husband is having sex with other men, or your wife is in a sexual relationship with another woman. You found the phone and text messages, the emails, the Craigslist ads. The computer browser cache has not been cleared and you went in to clear the history and there were all these same sex porn sites, or websites about questioning sexual orientation. And you confront your spouse – you ask the question – “Are you gay?”

And they tell you no.

They don’t deny what you found, but they tell you “That doesn’t mean I’m gay.”

They tell you about sexual fluidity and the Kinsey Scale.

They tell you about experts who agree that no one is truly heterosexual.

They show you online articles and videos from experts proclaiming “just because your husband has sex with men doesn’t mean he’s gay” and expect you to be relieved and satisfied with the answer.

They show you articles and videos about female sexual fluidity and women’s relationships. About heterosexual women responding to erotic images of women.

You’re not convinced. After all, you’re not gay, and one spouse of the opposite sex is enough for you. In fact you’d never dream of having sex with someone of your own gender.

It is not ok with you that your spouse seeks sex outside your marriage, so you and your spouse go to counseling.

And the counselor says – why yes. Just because he has sex with men doesn’t mean he’s gay. Just because she has sex with women doesn’t mean she’s a lesbian. You get a kindly explanation to help you understand about your spouse’s journey of sexual discovery. You are told that when your husband denies being gay, he’s not lying. He really doesn’t think he is gay. You are told that your wife is doing something perfectly normal for her.

And you think…soooo…..why can’t they just tell me the truth? What is this?

Sometimes when it comes to your sexuality, and the impact of this discovery on you, there is seldom any acknowledgement or affirmation. You have to go to counseling for yourself. And you wonder – how did I miss this? The entire world is gay except me?

First of all, be assured that you are not alone and your feelings and questions are entirely normal. Being angry, hurt, having questions, wanting to know the truth – this is human, not homophobic. This is about you and your relationship with your spouse. Your feelings and perceptions matter. This is happening to you as well as your spouse.

So it’s no surprise to straight spouses that a reassuring article by an expert proclaiming “no ladies, just because your husband has sex with men doesn’t mean he’s gay” is hardly reassuring. Many women find images of gay men having sex to not be attractive at all – there’s nothing for women to relate to in those images. For some, the awareness that their husband has sex with men is a distinct turn off.

For many heterosexual men, even though the porn industry is full of glamorized depictions of women together, the idea of their wife having sex with another woman is not attractive. It’s excluding them from an important part of their wife’s life, a part that has nothing to do with them – but they often are called upon to understand.

For many straight spouses, marriage is about two people, not three or four. Some do have open relationships, but these take a great deal of communication and effort on both sides. Some mourn the loss of a sexual relationship that affirms the life a couple shares together. For them, it isn’t just about being sex starved or “horny.” It’s about sharing sexuality fully with a partner who can reciprocate and also enjoy a fulfilling, satisfying, and beautiful sexual relationship without going outside the marriage to someone else who is the same gender.

The perspectives and needs of straight spouses are often overlooked in counseling, and among family and friends who try to help. Grief and anger can last a long time, especially when a straight spouse is told that their true feelings are offensive or inappropriate. After all, “you ought to be happy for your husband/wife if you really love them.” And don’t forget “how difficult it is for gay people and how brave they are.” That’s all well and good, you think, but what about me?

The Straight Spouse Network staff and volunteers understand and affirm heterosexual spouses and partners of LGBTQ people in a variety of circumstances. Some remain married, most don’t. Some have spouses who come out to them in complete honesty; others have spouses who deny the truth, and twist the story so that it appears that the straight one is the problem for not accepting them. We are hear to listen. We are here to help you find the support you are looking for.

We’re not denying that straight spouses can contribute to problems in a marriage; but in the face of profound denial of the truth and sexual incompatibility, gaslighting, and often blame for so many problems (“this wouldn’t have been so bad if you were more understanding, flexible, didn’t overreact to everything, etc”) it is difficult to really own the faults that are necessary for us to recognize as we begin to heal.

Our stories as we move forward into a new life we never expected are often stories of courage, strength, heroism, and inspiration. They are seldom told or recognized. Here at the Straight Spouse Network, we recognize and affirm each other, and strive to be the voice of the truth of our journeys, no matter how inconvenient.

28 Comments

  1. I am one of the men that you despise. If I could change the things I did and their consequences, I would. But I can’t. I already know I’m a despicable asshole, and I have been told so enough times by others as well as myself, so any responses to that effect will be redundant. My purpose for posting is to address the topic of the article.

    My wife discovered sordid online communications with men and confronted me. She did not see any evidence of actual contact with these men and I admitted nothing other than having written what she had seen. I know that not getting an admission enrages the spouse who discover these things, but my choosing that course was the best decision for a number of reasons. It turns out that she was in the process of embarking on an affair of her own, so there no forum for honest and confidential conversations between us, so the matter was not discussed in detail much beyond the few days after her discovery. We are since divorced and are reasonably amicable given that we have children.

    Of course, she accused me of being “gay”, which I denied and still deny based on my definition of gay. If the term “gay” includes everything to the left of “100% straight”, then ok. But, to me “gay” means exclusively homosexual and the fact that I predominantly prefer sex with women but find certain aspects of limited contact with guys arousing, means that I probably fit some form of “bisexuality”. The term “gay” no more fitting for me than is the term “straight” appropriate for “masculine” men who enjoy occasional sex with men yet continue to claim they are purely heterosexual.

    But some people are unable to comprehend anything other than a binary “black and white” model of sexuality and my wife was one of those. There was no point in explaining this to her. I wonder what she thinks when she see with my new wife, who is a very feminine and sexy woman and with whom I have confined my curiosities to an occasional fantasy that I will never…

  2. All my life I’ve been a boy stuck in a horrid female form. The greatest disappointment for me came when, at the age of seven years: I realised that my penis wouldn’t grow but worse still – I’d eventually grow breasts. I had to accept that. It broke my heart.
    Nowadays, there’s transitioning into another sex. I’m truly happy for all the people who are able to. It’s not for me because My Husband (MH) is the love of my life. Together we’ve had five beautiful children. MH is a magnificent person. He is the type of person who makes anything bearable. We can, and do, talk about anything & everything. We spend all day & night together – side by side. Literally, for specific reasons, we’re together 24/7. We’re never bored. We pine for each other when family needs have us parted. MH is my life, my world.
    MH knows what the trauma of my gender dysphoria is for me. I know that if I told MH that I’d thought about transitioning he’d be supportive. Yet, I know he’d be unhappy living with, being in a partnership with a man. He is straight. He’s not at all ‘curious’. So that makes the decision for me. I would not be able to do anything that made MH unhappy, uncomfortable.
    I think your organisation is wonderful. The help given to an increasingly marginalised, significant minority of people is invaluable. I just hope that straight partners are able to find Straight Spouse.

  3. I just finished reading “Loving Someone Gay” by Donald Clark. It’s for anyone who is in a relationship with a gay or lesbian person, and he does discuss MOMs. We often talk about our spouses as not empathetic, unable to feel what we are feeling, and we conclude that they are narcissistic or lying or worse. But now I think we misunderstand it. This author’s explanation makes the most sense of anything I’ve read.

    In childhood, a gay person learns very quickly that if he expresses his real feelings, he is punished; therefore, he can’t trust his own feelings because they get him in trouble. To survive, the child learns to mimic other people’s emotions – this way he avoids spankings, teasing and bullying from early childhood through elementary school and into adolescence. Bonnie Kaye once said that she wished all gay children could figure out by 5 years old that they were gay so that they wouldn’t have to struggle for so long with their identity – missing the point completely and blaming a 5 year old child for his own non self-acceptance.

    The child is not lying, he is adapting to survive the environment by doing what everyone else does. We reinforce that when we reward him for acting straight. By early adulthood, he has distrusted his emotions for so long, and had the false emotions reinforced so strongly, that he doesn’t know his true feelings anymore, society has brain-washed him to substitute his real emotions with socially-approved ones. But that doesn’t work for his sexuality, because it’s biological, not emotional. He can’t understand what’s been done to him; he’s still brain-washed.

    We experience it as not empathetic or narcissism when he doesn’t see what we are feeling. How can he, when he’s been trained not to trust his own feelings? This isn’t narcissism, he’s been brain-washed and neither he nor we have figured that part out yet.

    The book is an easy read; I recommend it to anybody.

    • I’ve read it too, and I agree, it’s good. He really does put you inside the person’s head while he or she is growing up. One thing that struck me was how he described what coming out looks like from the gay person’s point of view, where he says “it is a moment unlike any other.” The person who comes out is still exactly the same person he or she was before coming out. It’s our perception of him that changes.

      On one hand that seems obvious, but that change in our perception is so intense that it can seem like he really changed into someone else. I was trying to think of a similar moment for straight people and I couldn’t come up with one at first. But it’s the same as that moment when we first tell someone our spouse is gay, and then their perception about us changes, even though we’re still exactly who we were before. We don’t change, but the way people think about us often does.

      And I think when we say he gets treated like a hero, that is also our perception, but not real. I think he gets acknowledged – not for being a hero, but for finally shedding the brainwashing – while we are forgotten in the moment. I don’t think straight people forget about us because they think he’s a hero, straight people forget about us because we are straight, just like they are, and they don’t see that we were brainwashed just as much as our spouses were. That’s why they ask us “How could you not know?” They ask us that because they are still brainwashed too: they still believe in all the same stereotypes that we believed. “How could you not know?” is their way of saying “I couldn’t tell either,” rather than look at how the stereotypes are wrong.

  4. I am being talked out of it right now in my relationship….I had messages this older man left him..quite filthy. I’m still in shock…ive been with this man for four years, we live together and are planning on buying a home together..now this!!! any advise…he says he was curious..what????im shocked

    • There’s nothing to be confused about. Clearly he has bisexual proclivities which is not uncommon. It’s no longer about him, this is now about you. If you’re married, it’s a tougher set of decisions to make but the choices are yours.

      1) Do you expect fidelity?

      2) Do you believe he/she is committed to the relationship/fidelity?

      3) Whatever you decide, like any relationship, it’s a gamble. If you believe he can be faithful & decide to continue, you may someday be disappointed, or not. If your trust has been violated & don’t want to risk it again and end it, you may get peace of mind or may someday regret having ended it..ike all relationships.

      In the end, these situations are about character. Most of our spouses are good people, well intended, and are struggling to figure out what that part of their identity means for them. Unfortunately that process sometimes occurs after we’ve entered a relationship.

      Be open, compassionate, try to communicate about this openly/honestly. Every response is information upon which to make your decisions. If you feel comfortable, confident, secure in yourself… whatever info comes your way help you to make decisions what to do next. Expect it to be uncomfortable/difficult, all relationship decisions are. But at least now you know that you’re in control of your choices, making decisions with your eyes wide open.

      If you choose to get caught up in the silliness of “is he” or “isn’t he” just recognize this too is a choice you’re in control of. Clearly he’s at least bisexual, that’s all the info you need to ask the right questions and decide what to do based on his/her responses.

      If you’re confused, scared, excited.. whatever emotions you’re feeling will roller coaster/shift..if you choose to stay/continue.. own that decision.. if you choose to end it/separate/divorce.. own that decision. You’re in control of your life here, not him/her. Help from a licensed therapist for either of u is always a good idea.

    • Ask a truly str8 man if they are “curious” about sex with other men. They are not. He’s manipulating you.

  5. I am a straight male married to a bisexual woman; she told me she was bisexual before we got married 15 years ago, but said fidelity to me would be no bigger problem than fidelity is for a straight person. We have two teenage boys. Three weeks ago, she told me she wanted to have an affair(s) with a woman (exactly who is yet undetermined, but I wouldn’t be told her identity anyway). She said she started to feel this need about 2 years ago, and that our relationship just isn’t working for her anymore. However, she wants to stay married to me and continue our “life”, save for one or more nights a week out. That’s now, but it feels like things will change. There is nothing I can do to “fix” it, and it feels like a huge loss. For now, we aren’t sleeping in the same bed, and not having sex. I understand her needs, somewhat, but it’s difficult to really get a grip.

  6. Last night I said to Him “Ok…you want me to be okay with you going out and “being intimate with men”. But I NEVER WILL BE, so how about you just do it anyway and force my hand so to speak, and let the cards fall where they fall,
    and make me leave you!”
    He replied “Because I know you don’t mean it….I’d never believe you were genuine. I want you to *really, genuinely be okay with it”

    So it’s like we are both seeing this from our own sides of the fence, and neither of us is willing to take that first step to climb over. Because each of us is certain the grass is greener on OUR side, not the other’

    • I don’t understand, why are you encouraging him to go out and have sex with men, so that you’ll have grounds to divorce him? Half the marriages in the USA end in divorce and it has nothing to do with being gay or lesbian. He doesn’t have to be gay for you to get a divorce. The way it reads, it sounds like you’re pushing him to go ahead and cheat so that you can blame him in court for the divorce.

      • Amy…..I’m not “pushing him out”, nor am I encouraging him to do anything. Rather we seem to have a stalemate, neither of us wants to make the definitive move. Him to actually ‘do’ something with another man *with my knowledge & blessing* (because he knows I’d hate it & would never genuinely give it) and me to say “it’s a choice.. exploring your bisexuality & losing me, or choosing to never explore it and being content with ‘us’ (because I dread that he’ll choose exploration over me).
        We’re not married but have been together over 30yrs Divorce hasn’t entered my mind once

        • Lynne, Thank you for explaining, and my apologies for filling in the gaps. It makes sense to me now with the added information. As for the stalemate… I understand your dread that he might choose to explore. But even if he doesn’t do that, are you still happy being with him? There is that saying about “when the pain is greater than the fear” that’s when people become unstuck and are able to make a move. Some of us have very high tolerance for pain, but that means our fear is even greater – and that can apply to our spouses as much as us.

  7. “Being angry, hurt, having questions, wanting to know the truth – this is human, not homophobic.”

    Certainly, of course, the emotions and questions are not homophobic by themselves. It’s how they are expressed, the tone of voice, the words that are used, the facial expressions, the body language, the assumptions behind the questions. That’s where the homophobic attitude comes out, so to speak. 🙂

    I know, I lived it and came face to face with it in myself. It was a humbling experience, but it was also a turning point for me.

    We can’t see how we come across to other people, we have to rely on someone to tell us, and we have to be willing to hear it and at least consider it. But that doesn’t mean I let generalities pass without proof, either, I want them to give me specifics. How else am I supposed to see what they see if they don’t spell it out for me? My response is like this: “show me what you saw me say or do that makes you think I’m homophobic.” That forces us to have a conversation instead of tossing platitudes and denials back and forth.

    • There is a certain irony, isn’t there, in a post titled “That Doesn’t Mean I’m Gay” that in essence isn’t taking seriously our spouse’s internal conflict and seeing that it is a deep conflict for him, while asserting “That Doesn’t Mean I’m Homophobic.”

      It’s not okay for us to say “Just admit it, you’re gay, what’s the big deal?” and pretend that his being gay is not a big deal, when it really is a very big deal. The strength of his denial should tell us it is a very big deal – for him. Calling him a coward just makes it an even bigger one.

      I too tried to force a confession out of my ex, and it never worked, and I wrote him off as a coward. It never occurred to me that from his point of view, I was being a bully – the side to the coin. He was trying to get his needs met, I was trying to get my needs met, but neither of us was working on getting “our” needs met. Our sexual needs were diametrically opposed. We have managed to remain friends, actually, but it was hard, hard work for both of us, with a lot of residue to work through and figure out and then own our pieces of it. My ex is a decent person – I did marry him after all – and it’s been worth the effort. Not what I originally wanted but there’s plenty that’s still good.

  8. “… it is difficult to really own the faults that are necessary for us to recognize as we begin to heal.”

    And yet we must if we want to heal. This is where a therapist helps – we don’t see the impact of our behaviors anymore than our spouses see theirs. We need an objective set of eyes and ears to help us see how others see us. I think one useful forum would be where those of us willing to be vulnerable could share what we’ve learned *about ourselves* after going through this. I can offer one example of my own, based on this article, and I too failed miserably. Now I understand why I failed, but at the time, I didn’t know any better.

    “And you confront your spouse – you ask the question – ‘Are you gay?'”

    That’s exactly what I did – confronted him. I didn’t create an atmosphere where he could open up; I backed him into a corner, with evidence in hand, and picked a fight. I wasn’t attempting to understand him, I was trying to wring a confession out of him. Yes, I thought he was a coward, and I scorned him for it. But I hadn’t asked myself this question: if he’s a coward, then what is the fear, and how can I help him get past that fear? Instead, I proved to him that indeed, there was something to be afraid of – me.

    If I had known then what I know now, and if I could do it over, I would not have “confronted” him. I had the evidence in hand, so there was no reason to ask him “Are you…?” or to force a confession. Instead I would have said, “I already know the truth, so don’t deny it anymore. We need to talk about this, but if you want me to stay calm and listen, then I need you to respect me and be honest. I know this is scary for you, but it’s hurting me. Let’s be adults now so we can work this out.”

    Easier said than done, I know, but I wish I had this advice at the time; I would feel proud of myself today instead of ashamed for putting all the blame on him. That’s my confession.

    • Thanks! I was looking for the right words to confront. That’s perfect.

      • Jen, I hope you mean it if you found my suggestion worth trying. I’d give anything to go back and have a do-over.

        But if you are going into it thinking these are just nicer words that you can use to “confront” him, you will sabotage yourself, and probably get another denial. If your real intent is to have a confrontation, don’t blame him when you succeed.

        The point of saying “I already know” instead of asking “Are you?” is to set the terms and the tone of the conversation. If you ask “Are you?” you are giving him permission to say “No” – so don’t blame him if you already know the answer, but you ask it anyway, and get that response. Of course he’s going to say No; and if you’ve tried before, then you already know that’s how he’s going to answer.

        If you say “I already know” and hold firm to that, then you are setting the starting point for a conversation. Acknowledge that it’s going to be tough on both of you, scary for him, painful for you, but this talk has to happen,
        for both of you.

        Mind you, this is what I wish I had done, not what I actually did. But I have learned that his fear is the real roadblock, not his sexuality, and nothing is going to change until that fear is acknowledged and dealt with.

        • so what next???? I am so confused and scared of this truth..that I found out and he wants this to work between us?? that he said it made him sick every time he had a gay encounter ..yet what I have in my hand is that it was private and special to him….

          • I offer the same advice that offered “R” above.

          • RD, if “what’s next” was addressed to me, all I can say is I don’t know you or your husband. I was speaking for myself above, and reflecting on what I wish I had done at the time.

            What’s next for you is up to you, but you have information now that you didn’t have before, so it’s your move now. Is this what you signed up for? If your daughter were in your situation, what you advise her to do?

  9. In the sixth graf, the word “experts” should be in quotation marks, as the word cannot be used in sincere context when describing such charlatans and con artists. Claims of expertise ring hollow when used to affirm fraud or perpetrate ignorant positions readily contradicted.

    Same in the twelfth graf.

    • There seems to be a Freudian slip – unintentionally funny in context – “Sometimes when it comes to your sexuality, and the impact of this discovery…” Was it supposed to say that, or probably this: “Sometimes when it comes to your spouse’s sexuality, and the impact of this discovery…”

      Anyway, it would have had more impact for me if the author had written it in first person, not second person. Some of it applies to me certainly, but at other parts I found myself saying “That’s not how it went in my case…” Written in 2nd person, there’s an assumption that we all experience things the same, and I find that a little bit off-putting. I don’t have that reaction when it’s written in the 1st person.

      “Our stories as we move forward into a new life we never expected are often stories of courage, strength, heroism, and inspiration. They are seldom told or recognized.”

      That’s very true, but how can they be recognized if we don’t tell them to begin with? I’d like to hear more stories of courage, strength, heroism and inspiration, how to pick yourself up and go on living. Stories of what others have done in order to let go and move on. We know those stories are out there too.

      What would really be inspirational would be for the board members to share their stories in more depth, and how they came to be members of the board, and why. And to invite stories from willing ex-spouses to hear about their experience of this process, all of this fosters more courageous communication and growth.

  10. By the time we reach the point of finding the unspeakable on the computer we are often not asking if but searching for confirmation of the truth. I remember vividly in 2002 calmly having a conversation with my closet gay husband. I had to ask a question that I didn’t want to ask. “Are you gay?” His response was one of insult. I believe he first responded with I beg your pardon followed by pointing out how crazy I was to think such a thing. He was furious!! I had printed out a sampling of the pictures that were on the computer and taken them to a psychiatrist. He described the images as “gay erotica.” I had my answer but wanted the truth from my spouse. Finding out was a near death experience for me as I couldn’t come to terms with my marriage being a lie. In the end, my spouse determined that I had made him gay. I was married to a gay sex addict which doesn’t bode well for all parties. My children suffered, and they were damaged. Yes, we found strength and courage to move forward but why should four people suffer because one gay man takes the cowards way out and hides behind a wife and children creating a hostile dependency that is toxic for all? The betrayal leaves behind ignored casualties. Very unfortunate for the straight spouse…..

    • I too am going through a divorce at the moment. My husband attacked me and as a result has a 16 month restraining order. He had an affair with a man 5 years ago and that man terrorized our family. When he was arrested we found porn downloads, a number of dating websites claiming he was a top versatile guy and we found he had several meetings with men. He continues to deny his sexuality. The lies are unbelievable!He claims he was drugged, raped and blackmailed by this guy 5 years ago and so was using the websites to try and find him….. He is such a coward and has been having gay relationships for 30 years we now discover, Such a coward.How can someone use their family for a cover up? My children are adults but why should they have to suffer because of his denial. After the divorce he will be outed by them. I am sure,

      • WHY??? Why indeed!!!

        • Because they can. It’s a choice. Not all gay married men behave badly. The orientation isn’t a choice. The behavior is. Protect yourself.

    • Renee, I did something similar, and more than once. One time I found stuff in the computer cache, and printed it out as proof. (I didn’t need a psychiatrist to tell me what it was, though; that was perfectly obvious.) Well, of course, he was furious, of course, I mean, how did I expect him to react? but I hadn’t thought that far ahead, and so it was easy for him to talk me out of it that time. I think I had a Hollywood fantasy that he would drop to his knees and confess and pledge to come back to me, but of course that didn’t happen. I really don’t know what I was expecting, I just had to have that proof so I could stop feeling crazy. Why do some of us allow ourselves to be talked out of it, why do some of us believe the excuses instead of what we can see with our own eyes? That part isn’t about him, it’s about me, and I want to understood why I do it so I stop.

      • Bev I feel the same way. I don’t know why I have believed all the excuses. I am still trying to comprehend it all and that my life has been nothing but a lie. This all just happened 4 days ago and I am left confused and feeling guilty because he said I made reality out of his emails and that that isn’t reality. He believes his own lies. I took pictures and have proof but I am still unable to digest and believe it. Sickly, I miss him. How twisted is that?

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