I received an email this week from a woman whose
story gave me chills.  It was a close
parallel of my own experience in discovering my husband’s homosexuality:  Thirty years of marriage, grown children, a
secret bank account to assure his separate financial ease, withdrawal from sex
and affection, mysterious absences, and on and on.  It was like reading again the first chapter
of My Husband Is Gay!  And it was an emotional reminder that the
straight spouse saga continues for millions of people even now. 

     Why does this keep happening?  One obvious reason is remaining societal
pressure to hide homosexual orientation—to pretend to be straight and to carry
that pretense into marriage with an unsuspecting partner.  Until gays no longer fear “being found out,”
until their careers are no longer threatened, until their families  and churches accept them for who they really
are, mixed-orientation relationships will continue to be consummated—usually
headed toward heartbreak and dissolution. 
I have heard it countless times from married gays:  “I played the role as long as I could, as
long as I could stand to live that lie.” 
When that breaking point is reached, the marriage contract is breached,
and everyone involved suffers.

    If same-sex marriage were legalized and socially
accepted, there would be no need for anyone to hide his or her sexual
orientation and a possible end to the straight spouse calamity.  That’s why the Straight Spouse Network and
other peer support organizations urge legalization.  In the upcoming U.S. election, this debate has
utterly polarized the population.  Half a
dozen states and the District of Columbia have already legalized gay marriage,
giving a hint of hope for broader acceptance and change.  The fact that the issue is in the national
conversation at all is a sign of progress.

    Presidential candidates are on opposite poles
here.  Barack Obama supports legal
recognition of same-sex marriage, as decided by states.  Mitt Romney says it should be banned completely
with an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 
In Maine, Maryland, and the state of Washington, voters will decide
whether to legalize gay marriage. Residents of four additional states will vote
this November on related questions.  But
strong resistance is still apparent: 
Minnesota voters will decide whether to ban gay marriage in their state constitution, as 30 other states
have already done.

    Growing acknowledgement that our sexual
orientation is not a “choice,” that it is inborn and irreversible, is a
positive sign.  But the ultimate goal of
tolerance and acceptance of all sexual identities is yet unattained; witness
the persistent advocacy of psychologically damaging “reparative” or “gay
conversion therapy.”  Overwhelming
societal prejudice continues to push gay people to marry heterosexual partners out
of fear and shame. 

    I believe that few gay people enter marriage with
the cynical intention of hurting their mates. 
In fact, I think that the opposite is true.  They may marry for love with a misguided wish
to change their orientation; they may want children of their own; they may be
supporting an ambitious career; they may have conservative religious prescriptions
or strong family pressures.  These and
other factors affect a gay person’s decision to marry a straight mate.  However, for all but a small fraction of
couples, none of these reasons will sustain the marriage over a lifetime.  Sooner or later, cracks appear in the
previously impervious intentions.  The
marriage fails.

    One phrase from last week’s email stays with
me:  “I feel like he died, the man that I
thought I married.”  This is the poignant
result of decades of lies.  While every
straight spouse message I receive is different in details, all are the same in
one respect.  These mixed relationships
are built upon a basic untruth, a denial of one partner’s sexual reality.  When that denial crumbles, the world falls apart
for the straight spouse. My response to that distraught woman was
familiar:  “This is not your fault and
you are not responsible for what he has done. 
You are also not alone!  We are
like millions of others whose trust has been broken by a gay mate.” 

    Though it’s hard to find a bright spot in the
midst of such crisis, experience proves that survival and a happier future are
possible.  Society is slowly progressing
toward more enlightened acceptance and straight spouses do have increased
resources for recovery through the Internet and a widening range of therapeutic
tools.  Even in the darkness of despair, one
can still see the stars.


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  1. Shock and adjustment for the straight spouse and any children are a given, but as the recent revelations of the Boy Scout child abuse cover-ups indicate, there are further ramifcations to society's unwillingness to let people live their lives. A chart in today's Denver Post ( indicates that something like one-third of all child abusers in the Scouts' now open files were married. I wonder how many of these incidents might not have occurred if the men had been "permitted" to have relationships with consenting adults rather with vulnerable youngsters who were persuaded by these adult predators in Scout uniforms.

  2. Carol Grever says:

    Thanks for taking time to read and comment on my post, Claire.  Your point is also well taken! 

  3. Cmsvmom says:

    People like my ex would still marry women because they are scripting their stories and don't regard anyone else to be quite so important. But legal gay marriage would remove one of the "poor me societys victim" excuses. One less rock for the snakes to hide behind.
    Legal gay marriage also removes illusions that all relationship issues are society's fault. I know a lesbian couple who should have been married and divorced years ago. But they just kept busting up and getting back together ya know life is tough etc. So now they are married and they keep having drama and their friends are sick of it and tell them "ok the marriage was a mistake. So do what everyone else does. Get a divorce. "
    Because of DOMA things are still not equal for them tax wise. But I think the divorce could be interesting. It's not society, it's not the ex husband ( who is a great guy now remarried) it's not anyone but them and their relationship. How shocking.

  4. Louella Christy Komuves says:

    Thanks for the taking time to type your thoughts, Carol. As always, they are extremely well expressed and give cause to address several points of view. Being a straight spouse (as described in my You Tube 4 min. TV interview -- Healing from a Gay/Straight Broken Marriage)I clearly identify with the heartaches of other persons having a similar experience.
    I agree with the persons sharing comments above --- some couples (gay or straight) should not be married. And the sad scenerios regarding the Scouts is only beginning to unfold. In addition, one might even bring to mind the tragedies experienced by the hidden children moldested by Roman Catholic priests....
    "Where" does it end? I doubt just legalizing marriage is the answer. I believe "Education is the hope of the world." Perhaps educating (helping) boys and girls accept their homosexuality before they even think of marrying anyone can help lessen the emotional/financial anguish of everyone involved(gay persons/ straight spouses/children)?
    So little in life is actually "black and white." Issues are complex and with all the technological advancements experienced today, we know a whole lot (at least about one side or the other).
    How grateful I am for Straight Spouse Support (worldwide) -- websites, books, etc.... Thanks, Carol, for your years of continued service to this cause.

  5. Ermalou Roller says:

    This is an excellent blog, Carol. Thank you for your comments, which come from study, experience, common sense and interaction with many others who have dealt personally with this matter.
    Resistance to fair play about GLBTQs seems to be fueled by several factors: fear of the "other", inexperience and a lack of education about sexual orientation and its ramifications, a wish to be better/superior to others, etc.
    Although it's difficult to say this, I'm sure that resistance to fair play with anyone, regardless of its core cause, reveals a basic immaturity - spiritually, intellectually, morally and ethically.
    Hate just can never be a good reason to join people together.
    It's shocking that so many "religious people" join in what any main stream inspiring figure (be it Jesus, Mohammad or others) taught or lived.
    I'm grateful that one of our presidential candidates (Obama) has the maturity, courage and grace to practice his faith (which happens to be Christianity.)

  6. Ermalou Roller says:

    Correction: I meant to say that it is surprising that many "religious" people do not follow what their leaders taught and lived.

  7. KStromgren says:

    Thank you Carol for your comments and willingness to share your opinion regarding a political and potentially tender topic for many. I also appreciate the thoughts of those who have commented.
    Marriage and full and equal rights for the LGBTQ community is a major step in the right direction for our society and will over time certainly assist individuals to affirm their sexuality and ability to envision their futures without marginalization with the partner of their choices. This will increase throughout the generations as societal and familial stigmas dissolve. And as someone thoughtfully pointed out from her own experience, gay marriage is not a solution to all deception, but it will encourage more honesty and self-acceptance for sure.
    The incidents regarding abuse of boy scouts and incidents from the Catholic Church were mentioned. And I wanted to offer some information that may be helpful about this, I copied this text from a UC Davis journal article: "The distinction between a victim's gender and a perpetrator's sexual orientation is important because many child molesters don't really have an adult sexual orientation. They have never developed the capacity for mature sexual relationships with other adults, either men or women. Instead, their sexual attractions focus on children – boys, girls, or children of both sexes." Pedophiles typically are simply attracted to children regardless of gender and it's important to clarify that so that rights for gay marriage and gay adoption are not clouded with vague statistics and theories.
    So thank you again Carol. It's always a pleasure to read how you have compassion for all sides of experience.

  8. Marian Thier says:

    What a very important topic and what a thoughtful and caring way you deal with it.

  9. Gail Storey says:

    Carol, you make so many excellent points in this post, and the comments amplify them beautifully. I very much like the new look of your website and blog! Each provides a visual context for the wisdom of your words.

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