Straight Spouse Connection was begun in 2008 to explore topics relevant to mixed-orientation families, particularly to the heterosexual partner in these relationships. Most articles were intended to connect straight spouses with each other in a meaningful, positive way, to inform and comfort them, and to encourage their recovery after discovery of their spouse’s sexual secrets. Given that core purpose, the complicated journeys of their gay mates were not emphasized—until now.
An exciting new book is just out that effectively addresses the question, “Why do gay and bisexual men marry women? The Marrying Kind? by Charles Neal, a prominent British psychotherapist, gives brilliant insight into the needs, motivations, ramifications, and outcomes of these men. Though it is aimed primarily at a gay male audience, it is an important contribution to the literature for therapists, counselors, trainers, and especially for affected family members—wives, children and parents of these married gay men.
Certified by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), Neal has forty years’ experience in counseling. Among other accomplishments, he is founder and chair of the UK Association for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Psychologies and has taught and written on related topics. His own story in the final chapter adds credibility, written in the same format as the preceding chapters. He is “a gay parent, a survivor of alcoholic parenting, abuse and bullying, and serious illness.” He first married a woman, fathering two sons, and has now been married for more than three decades to his gay husband.
The book relates experiences of ten gay and bi men, ending with the author’s own story. In excruciating detail, they reveal their internalized oppression, fearfulness, insecurity, and shame that informed their decisions. The need to belong and connect with community drove many. Family or career pressure factored in. Some hoped that marriage to a woman might change their homosexual desires, or at least “cover” them. Some simply sought a stable domestic life, or longed to father children.
Religious pressure was also a factor for many, especially those with fundamental Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Catholic beliefs. Feeling unsupported or even persecuted by their religious communities, they chose conventional marriage as an escape. With the authority of a counseling psychologist, the author adds his voice to other experts who discredit so-called “reparative therapy” to “convert” gays to straights. Rather, sexuality is presented in all its nuances, as a process and a continuum that includes bisexuality, androgyny, blurred gender and other variations. Simplistic solutions are neither applicable nor useful.
Interestingly, the subjects interviewed for this book all came out in their thirties to fifties, after their children neared adulthood. This pattern has been observed in the United States as well. At mid-life, authenticity becomes more important. Like their heartbroken wives, these men’s intimate personal stories reveal untold pain.
Learning more about the other side of the story can be beneficial for recovering straight spouses. The more we know, the better we can understand and move toward a favorable outcome and the final stage of recovery--empathy and forgiveness.
This is a book worth reading for any person whose family has been tested by a mixed-orientation marriage. It is well written and reveals real people's experience. The extensive bibliography and list of resources make the book even more useful. I highly recommend it.
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