Saturday, February 5, 2011

Your spouse just came out as gay . Now what do you do?

Getting asked "I'm married and I'm gay.  What should I do?" or, "My husband is gay...What should I do?" are two of the hardest questions I am asked.  Sometimes it's a married and closeted gay man, and sometimes it's from a wife who is straight, newly learning her husband is gay.  I've met wonderful people on both sides of this question, and I'm not convinced there is only one right answer. 

Multiple books are devoted to how others have solved their questions. (see insert below)  Counselors address authentic living and self-acceptance.  Fundamentalists insist that there ARE "no homosexuals, only heterosexuals - with issues."  (my own punctuation for emphasis).  Bloggers share their viewpoints and offer free advice.  Needless to say, I cannot answer for anyone else besides myself, but I've tried to share my heartfelt emotions (on MY blog) as I've adjusted to the fact that I loved and married a gay man.   So far, I don't have a book to sell.  I only have my life and my opinions, and even those are subject to change.   

When I'm asked that desperate question of "...what should I DO?" - I wonder how my answer will affect people.  I've discovered that others will come to different conclusions than me.  I've talked to couples who recognize that one partner is gay and they want to work things out and stay together monogamously.  Others decide to open their marriage - and yes, some can do that and deal with the emotions that come with new definitions of marriage.  Still others divorce, whether it's with contempt of with ongoing friendship.  The choices are all new when a couple examines the value of staying together versus separating.

One thing that I believe is that once there is loss of trust in the relationship, re-establishing that trust is going to take time and effort.  It may be that being gay was hidden from an unknowing spouse.   It can extend to horrible unfaithfulness (and the lies that go with it) that break down the framework of married life.  No matter where it is lost, trusting one another again is critical to go forward.  And whether it's trusting a partner enough to honestly "come out" or proving trust is there enough to raise young children together - whatever the situation - deciding what to do is going to take all the "good emotions" that you might not know you had:  love, patience, trust, acceptance, honesty, generosity.  And that's just the short list, and it goes for both partners.

So far, I've been one of the lucky ones.  I've come through divorce with my own home, grown kids, and the ability to choose whether to go back to work.  Some women have young kids, or never have the chance to have kids.  Some wives lose their home, and others have to find ways to support themselves from the ground up.  Sure, there is a lot that I miss.  On the other hand, I don't have to cook or clean after anyone but myself.  I come and go as I please, and I never argue with myself over money!  (keep it positive!)  Yes, I've lost a lot, but I've discovered a lot of self-confidence.  My shaken faith is re-building.  I've learned to accept others without judging (on-going effort), and I have some true friends that I can't do without.  Through this all, I still have my best friend.

So, really, What to DO when one spouse is gay, remains something only you can answer.  My advice?  Be honest.  Live with authenticity.  Decide how you want to live, and what is most important.  Finally, let the good emotions prevail. 


Maggie said...

You were lucky. Ray didn't betray you like my ex did me. He cheated on me for 4 years before I found out he was gay, and once I confronted him, he continued. He was so careless he contracted HIV right before our divorce hearing. And it's all my fault, naturally. He has yet to accept any responsiblity for his promiscuous behavior and grumbles about my alimony and the marital assets he's had to split. He and his boyfriend (who's 10 years younger and blonde -- some things are the same if you're hetero or gay) live together now and are going to a resort for Valentine's Day. I let him keep the house because I couldn't afford it since I'd never worked in 35 years of marriage. So I'll be at home on Valentine's Day, watching Harry's Law on TV and wondering if I'll EVER be able to trust another man again.

God bless you for all you do to send out the true message about gay and lesbian individuals. My ex is so afraid his fundamental relatives are going to find out about him that he made me sign a gag order before he'd agree to the settlement. I figure the truth will come out eventually. Right now he's just hurting himself and sadly, our children. Our sons are so confused and angry and I resent that he's placed part of the blame on my shoulders where I can't refute it without fear of being held in contempt of court.

I pray for him every day -- pray that he'll accept himself as he really is, pray that he'll realize what a dangerous lifestyle he's chosen to live, pray that he will be honest with his sons. I'd like to get an apology from him for all the awful things he did and said to me. But I'm not holding my breath.

You're right -- there's not one answer, but given the vast number of men living on the downlow and the wives they're hurting, I hope SOME answer works for them.

Carol said...

Maggie - Yours is the kind of "horrible unfaithfulness (and the lies that go with it)" - the ultimate breach of trust that I mentioned. So wrong to be treated that way.

I'm glad that on this comment forum you can at least release your anger and broadcast how caught you are by that gag order. (I'm not sure how that can even be legal.)

It has helped me TREMENDOUSLY to start new things, a new job, and make new friends. I still have troubles, but I have new things to think about other than what I DON'T have any more. It really helps. If you can, think about volunteer work - I know hospital auxiliaries can always use help. Find something you are interested in, and pursue it. This really can be made into an opportunity, rather than only a stumbling block.

I wish you the best, Maggie. Hang in there. Life CAN get better.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Carol--I just want to give you a big round of applause. This is such a wise and kind post! The next time I run into someone--on either side of the fence--who is facing this issue, I am going to send them the link to this post.


jvzdutch said...


You did a wonderful job of elucidating what you lost when yours and Ray's lives moved in a different direction. Somehow, you were able to convey your pain and loneliness in general terms, which allows others like me to to understand how you feel, but your generalities also allow us to discern our own emotions. Bravo! That's a difficult balance to strike.

Right now, I can identify with your loneliness, and perhaps some of your frustration, when on your worst days you look around and go, "Is this really my life?"

I never thought I'd be an unemployed pastor for this long. I knew it would be hard for the church to accept a disabled, single, woman as a leader, but I also believe that God is bigger than all of that. I guess I'm just waiting for the church to figure that out. One more area where the church needs to broaden its horizons...
-Jill V.Z.

Maggie said...

I've started participating in an online chat group of straight wives. I've even met with two of them in person and it was amazing to talk face to face with someone who completely understood. I started with this group before the gag order was in place, so I can keep talking there. I may challenge it one day on the grounds that it impedes my psychological recovery but for now, I just figure folks can pretty much figure out for themselves what's going on.

I also do some church work and help out with some elderly neighbors. I've been looking for a job but haven't had any luck yet. If I wanted to flip burgers or work at Walmart I could probably get employment, but I do not want to do that. Something will come along though.

Anonymous said...

Carol, I have seen little on your blog or on the Internet about bisexuality.
I am a male bisexual whose primary orientation is slanted more toward femals, which makes life simpler.
I chose to stay married and concentrate on my hetero side, while trying to stand up for gay rights as well.
I admire your grace and poise under pressure, and applaud you for your work with SoulForce, this blog, and any other avenues you choose. I still enjoy Ray's music, both the previous and the recent.
Please continue your good work. I enjoy your posts, your thoughts and only have one minor complaint: I wish you would post a little more often.
Mike (A nickname several people call me.)

hillsideslide said...

Hi there~ I'm sharing this one on facebook. I hope that it makes its way to someone (no one in particular) out there who will just feel better knowing they aren't the only one to go through this.

Thanks again for sharing your story with the rest of us. I'm sure it comes at a price, but you are reaching ppl with a message that needs to be shared.

Steve F. said...

Carol, I continue to be amazed by your grace-under-duress. I know it's been a while... but I also know that I was 15 years divorced before I came out, and the anger I received from my former spouse was as if we were still married. I am so glad you are willing to speak and share.

Perhaps an answer to "NOW what do I do?" is simply, "I can't tell you what to do. I can tell you what *I* was able to do, and how it worked out. But that may not be the same answer for others." Clearly, Maggie's experience and yours would require two entirely different responses.

Perhaps the only good answer to "What can I do?" is to simply rearrange the words to "Do what I can." Can I forgive him or her, yet? No? Then give it up to God and go on to the next thing that needs attention.

Maggie's situation makes me want to cry - the words "selfish, self centered, and self-seeking" leapt to mind. Her ex has the blond boy, but is living in fear of who might find out - and that fear helps create all kinds of destructive behaviors.

I'm sure, in some ways, you're "done like dinner" with these topics. Just don't delete this blog - I'm sure people will be referring to it for years to come.

Carol said...

Steve - I love the "Do what I can..." idea. Thanks for your kindness, and I hope your ex finds the healing she needs. hugs...

Anonymous said...

I have been with my husband for 25 years....almost half of my entire life and we have two sons 17 and 21. I recently quit my job, cleaned out our old all by myself came to my "new life" "my new home" to be told that he had met someone while I was away and they are in love. Please help me because it hurts so bad I feel like my heart was yanked right out of my chest. All of this has happened within the last 3 weeks. We live in OUR new home but everynight he leaves me to go to him! I don't what to do.....I hate feeling so sick inside and the only thing that has kept me semi-together is I know he will always love me and tells me that every minute of the day. I feel as if I am throwing myself at him and looking like a fool as he takes advantage that to keep him close I am willing to let him be with the other man. The problem is when he does leave, I fall to pieces and make myself ill with the what if's. This can't be healthy at all. We still share the bed and still are intimate which makes me believe he is pretty damn selfish, self centered and outright mean to me. As much as I love loving him it makes it hurt even more! Again.....Can someone please give me an idea whether I should just bolt the door or live this life. I love him with all my heart and would die for him but he doesn't realize that it is him killing me.
Yesterday, on my 49th birthday, I began the paperwork for a divorce while he was at dinner and a movie with his lover. What will happen next....?

Carol said...

Dear Anonymous (of 8/24) - I have read your heart wrenching account, and must leave for work without posting something. This is short, but please know that there are others of us who are aching for you. So sad,

Wormwood's Doxy said...

What will happen next....?

Well, it's different for everyone, but...if you are anything like I was, you will yo-yo a lot for a few months. I veered between desperation and dark-purple rage for a while--especially when my ex did the same thing yours is doing (going out with his lover while I was home alone).

My ex DID love me, and still does--but that did not keep him from hurting me badly. What I see now, with the distance of time, is that he was hurting too--hurting at having to hide who he was and having to deny what was/is an integral part of himself.

What he really wanted was for the three of us to take a house by the sea. I drew the line there and knew it was time to make the break.

You may decide differently, but I would STRONGLY encourage you to find a good therapist and a support group (in-person or online). Those were not available to me when I was going through my "dark night of the soul," but they have been lifesavers for many people I know.

I would also encourage you to insist on your husband using condoms if you are still intimate, and for both of you to get tested for HIV. I continued to have unprotected sex with my ex for months after I found out about his affairs because I was so depressed. Later, that caused me no end of worry. (Both my ex and I are HIV-negative, but neither of us knew that then...)

Like Carol, I have been able to build a new relationship with my ex. I'm sorry that you are in such pain now, and there is really no way out of that except through it. But from where I sit, on the other side of the pain, I can tell you that there *can be* light and healing at the end of the tunnel. I will pray for you that you come to find that...

Peace and blessings,

jvzdutch said...

Oh, Anonymous, my heart aches for you. I can't even imagine the betrayal.

But yes, I'm going to refer back to what Steve said, "Do what you can." I also might add that some people are toxic, and will always be toxic. It sounds to me like your ex has become toxic to you (big surprise!), and if that is the case, you need to GET OUT (of at least the house, for now). The marriage can be decided later.

But you need to think of yourself right now and what you can handle. You may think, "Well, what about his feelings?" I'm sorry, but he lost the right to any consideration from you when he wasn't straightforward with you. Yes, I understand he had to leave, but he should have left before he cheated on you.

Anonymous said...

My husband of 5 years came out of the closet to me in September of last year.. rage boiled in me at being betrayed and cheated.. compassion rose knowing how he had been fighting his self in trying to keep up appearances..
And desperation crawled in knowing that my 2 year old is going to be product of a broken home...this rose above all else and we decided to have another go at life together.. I recently found out that he watches gay porn on websites and even after confrontation has not stopped.. he said he will give it a try.. I don't know what to do...whenever I think of my child I am racked with guilt about her growing up like this..when I think about my husband,i am guilty of holding him onto something that will not make him happy..I come from a very conservative Asian family and cannot discuss this matter with anyone...

Alone and needing advice
A closeted straight wife

Anonymous said...

I came across this site when I was desperate to find answers for my daughter, she found out her husband was gay 4 years ago, they have an 8 year old boy and she is still with him, he brings his " friends" home for dinners and bbq's . She is so desperately unhappy but dosnt have the strength to do anything, she still loves him but hates him at the same time, he has always put her down even before this happened, her self astern is so low it's breaking my heart to see her like this, she has no friends of her own they are all his friends, she is becoming a recluse, she thinks her only option is to leave a go overseas so it's not possible to have contact even if she wanted to. I can't bear the thought of her leaving the country with my grandson but feel so selfish stopping her, how can I help her

Anonymous said...

I found out two days ago that my husband is gay and he has been meeting men off of craigs list. We just moved to California and purchased our first home. I don't work and am in a state where I have no friends or family.
How do I tell him that I know? How can I figure out what I am going to do with all of this?

Tas said...

My husband won't come out of the closet, but his phone and any computer he goes near are full of gay porn. He'll only admit to one gay sexual encounter years and years ago. He's a sad closet case who is ashamed of who he is - but what about me?! We have an 11 month old son. I want my life, but I can only have it if I live a lie. I can never trust him. Never. Sorry, you have no answers for me but no one knows about this - and no one I know would understand if I told them. :'(

Anonymous said...

I just fou d out tonight. Devastated doesn't begin to cover it.

Carol said...

Dear Anonymous of July 17, 3:39a.m. - I am so sorry. I know how you feel. I'm available on my personal e-mail if you wish to write further.
Carol - with love.

Anonymous said...

Agnes said

I just went through my husband's phone! His work called home looking for him while he told me he is was working.
He had there pictures of a naked man that I don't know and conversation with him that I can't repeat in public!!. I just realized he is a gay!!.
We have beeen married for 19years and we have 2 kids. I am lost. I want to confront him but I am affraid my kids especially my son (17) wont take this easy. What should I do? I am in nursing school right noe and I can't afford to divorce this man now!!!

Carol said...

Dear Agnes,

Wow, you have a lot to consider, and I'm sure you are a wreck. I can't say enough to you as to what to do, but you certainly should weigh your options before you do anything rash.

While I can't say what is the right thing to do, I'm sure you are about to either explode or implode. Try to think before you decide. I'm not a counselor, and you truly need one. I'm so sorry this has happened to you.

Anonymous said...

This blog has helped immensely... Have been forced out of the marital home (he owns it) and only see my four year-old one week in two (co-parenting is the law in the country I moved abroad to to be with him...). Luckily I have a job and friends... but I am struggling to find the positive side of things...

Anonymous said...

Love: Hi, I want to share my story. I am depressed I spend all my day crying or sleeping in bed. I got married after 6 years love story. I loved him from the bottom of my heart. we got married but he didn't touch me or come near me. he was disgusted of me. he treated me badly for 3 months, then he divorced me and went on vacation. I miss him badly and I love him and i don't know what happened...why he hated me out of a sudden, why he didn't touch me or hug me or kiss me, why he treated me that way...I don't know..

Anonymous said...

I found out for sure 5 months ago and it still hurts everyday. I'm thankful I am 32 and not 62 finding out but it doesn't really matter I think I'm so emotionally messed up I'll never have a life again. 8 years and two little children with the love of my life spent wondering why am I not good enough? Being blamed for everything, constantly trying to be better, wondering why he left me every couple of months without a care in the world while I was devastated. Now since I found out and left him for good he has his and my family believing I'm crazy and Dillusional! My own mother spent believe me, no support at all. They support him! He's been emotionally and physically abusive in the relationship I'm so screwed up he's ruined my life. He's turned my family against me and now is taking me to court to fight over the kids. How does someone do this to a person who has loved them more than anything!!!!!!! ????? I can't find any other women to talk to in person here in San bernardino county California and I'm a wreck taking Care of my two kids, one with special needs. In the court papers he served me its lie after lie after lie! How do they do this ? :( I'm barely hanging on

Carol said...

to this morning's Anonymous: You are not alone!

When I hear the painful stories, it all resonates with how awful it feels to have loved someone so very, very much. Receiving the shock of it, trying to sort it, it all just comes in waves and waves and waves, and I know it feels like you can't stand up.

I'm here to tell you that you CAN get up and face each day, you CAN find a way to keep living. YOU have done nothing wrong to cause him to be gay, nor to cause him to cheat. No matter what your family, or his family, or ANYONE ELSE says, YOU get a pass on this one! It may sound like I'm presenting a formula response, but I mean it! You are going to survive this!

I'm so sorry this is happening to you. Be encouraged. Go forward one little step at a time. It will get better even if it seems like it's getting worse. You will come though this a better, stronger, wiser person, and I hope against hope that you will have that love to give again.

I'm sending along big hugs, some tears, and love,

Anonymous said...

I have only just found out my husband is gay my head is so messed up but so is his I know he has not done anything about it out of respect for me and I know he still loves me but I know he also needs to find himself which scares me so much the worst thing is when your still so much in love and can't shut off that feeling neither of us wants a divorce right now and the weird thing is we get on better now I know it's hard because our marriage has never been about sex it's only when the cuddles and talking stopped I confronted him with what was wrong never expected the answer I gt

Anonymous said...

I found out that my husband chats with gays and watches gay porn. He always thinks about himself. I have 4 years old daughter and no family in US. Our marriage was arranged and we are marred 7 years. I confessed him and he was so angry and i am afraid he can abuse me. He hides from culture and family. My immigration case still pending and i feel so scared,lost and he controls every my steps,no respect and he hates me. I am from muslim family but i became Christian and nobody in my family knows. I don't know what to scared,lost...