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February 27, 2012

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I don't think people can change their sexuality. From my personal experience I think that they come to terms with it.

Hang in their Anthony. You are not alone. I too wanted to just permanently go away - but I thought of my children who need their parents.

Wishing you peace.

Thank you so, so much for the response. Yes, this is heartwrenching to the point that I have considered ending my life. The person hit the nail on the head with the fact that it is even more desparate for me as I am unspeakably jealous on many levels and layers.
My wife has known about me for several years and was quite happy with it. I was enjoying being more "female" with her for a time and than got scared. After a lifetime of cover up and denial it was too easy to slip back into my familiar socialized role. So I'm left with only myself to blame and it is literally killing me. I think my wife is too caught up in the newness of her relationship to fully realize the extent of the damage she is causing me. I went away for a couple of days and sent an email trying to explain as she won't talk with me about the deeper issues. I got back a very curt "form" answer that only made everything worse. Further, her new partner came to visit this week and they are on a little "vacation." Imagine what's going through my mind. I can't get more than a few hours sleep a night. I am absolutely and totally destroyed. I literally don't know who this person is that I've shared a life with.
I do have friends for support, but cannot be completely honest with them. I do have a therapist and will be starting with a gender specialist shortly to try and sort things out. I feel diminished to nothing.

Anthony’s heart-wrenching dilemma brought up transgender issues with which I have little knowledge or experience. I wanted to reply in a helpful way, so I contacted two friends who have just finished editing a book on the subject. One of those editors, Cameron T. Whitley, wrote the following response to Anthony’s comments, quoted here with his permission.
~~~~~~~~~~
This is a really tough situation with many layers. From the post it sounds like the author of the post (Anthony) is beginning to reconcile issues with gender identity and the possibility that he/she is a transgender woman (an individual who was born male, but identifies as female). It also seems that the author's wife is involved with another woman. It is unclear from the post if Anthony's marriage is an open relationship (poly-amorous) or if this is a recent event, but I would guess the latter.

I have a number of thoughts. First, I want to applaud Anthony for the courage to consider these complex feelings and to reach out and share his story.

Second, there is no doubt that having a partner reveal that he or she is gay or lesbian, would be extremely difficult. However, I would imagine that having your partner become attracted to a person who is the gender you have always wanted to be, would be additionally devastating. I can only imagine how Anthony must feel in coming to terms with a transgender identity and the desire to be female, coinciding with the revelation of his wife that she is attracted to and involved with a woman.

A slightly positive side could be found in the idea that perhaps his wife may always have been attracted to women and at some level her attraction (even if she did not recognize it) to him may have been in part because of his internal female energy or self. What would be difficult to come to terms with is why she could not remain in the marriage.

Third, from the post it seems that Anthony is placing his wife's reveal (as gay or attracted to women) above his own desire and need to become his true self. I recognize that such a reveal may be difficult for a child, but should Anthony deny his true self, because his wife "came out" first? Also, their child is in his or her 20s, so he/she is an adult and there are many resources that are available.

Ultimately, I think Anthony is doing the right thing. No one deserves to be treated poorly. And, it sounds like his wife has already decided to leave their marriage. Sadly, most relationships do not continue after a partner reveals their transgender status, so even if Anthony's wife was not involved with another person, the relationship might not survive. What is comforting is that there are a number of support groups, books and resources to deal with the loss of the relationship coupled with the complexity of her sexual orientation and Anthony's gender identity. --Cameron T. Whitley

~~~~~~~~~
I hope this helps! If you are interested in these issues, watch for TRANS-KIN: A Guide for Family and Friends of Transgender People, edited by Eleanor A. Hubbard and Cameron T. Whitley. It is still in press, but I’ll announce on this blog when it is available.

Carol Grever

I'm devastated. My wife and I have been together for thirty years. My love for her is like nothing I've ever known in my life. We always called ourselves soulmates. A counselor once told us we were like twins separated at birth. She has always been open about certain aspects of her sexuality but we had a very decent sexual life for many years. Although she doesn't admit it, she has gotten a tad chilly the last few years and I wound up having trouble being sexual with her.
I spent most of my life with an addiction to pot. A few years ago she was going to divorce me and I stopped smoking on the spot. But the experience was very traumatic for me and I started spending too much time at our vacation house which is quite far away. Without the numbing effect of the pot, I had to face issues regarding my own sexuality. I'm coming to realize that I am trangendered. As it stands now this is not something I can act on as we have a twenty-something son who was just told that his mom is gay and has fallen in love with a woman.
I have tried to be as supportive of her that I can, but the hurt is absolutely devastating. I have become very depressed and have considered the ultimate although I realize I don't have the courage for that. My wife says she still loves me (I have been very open with her regarding my own issues) but she has been what I can only describe as cruel these past weeks. The other morning she pointed out that she took off her wedding ring. And she has been talking constantly on the phone with her partner who is in a different state. The other night I could hear them through the wall and it nearly killed me. I tried to point that out to her in the morning and she accused me of attacking her and if I continued it would destroy what we have left. How am I supposed to live through this? I desperately want my marriage to continue in whatever form possible, but this is not about to happen. Like the OP I am clinging to a false hope that she will change her mind and we can live happily ever after. Her partner is coming to visit this week and I don't think I would survive so I am leaving for the week and then moving permanently at the end of the month. I am seeing a therapist here and have one lined up in my new state, but I still have to live day by day and don't really know if it is possible.

Annie, given the circumstances you've described, I strongly suggest that you and your husband seek immediate counseling with a professional experienced in mixed-orientation relationships. There are many red flags here, including your husband's repeated forays into internet porn, gay sites, and Craigslist ads, his emotional distance, and his denial and secrecy around his actions. Seek out an objective third person who can help you make your best decision. Now is the time to examine your options, before you do have a child that would further complicate any future action. Think of your own long-term happiness and take action toward it.
Best wishes!
Carol Grever

Thank you Carol for your blog, and to everyone for your comments and insights here. I have the very same question in my life, and while I may not have extremely relevant insights, I am glad this topic has been brought up for discussion. The difficulty here is the conflict between heart and intellect. I fully know, intellectually, that there is a spectrum and evolution of sexual identity, although I was not prepared to have to accommodate for it in my marriage, nor in my emotional/spiritual/physical world.

A little about me - since I am new to this site. I married my high school sweetheart just under 10 years ago. About ~4 years ago, I discovered that my husband was looking at gay/transgender porn online. At that time, he insisted that it was a fetish-thing and an addiction that he was working on, and that he would not let it harm our relationship. For the following years, I naively took him for his word, and dismissed the content of his porn use, and focused on trying to figure out how I could amend my own insecurities and bridge the apparent gap in our chemistry connection.

Then, over the past 9 months or so, as I felt my husband emotionally and physically withdrawing from our marriage, my intuition directed me to revisit whether he was still engaging in the same behaviors. To my surprise, not only was he still viewing the same porn content multiple times daily, but he was also frequenting craigslist and even had a profile on a gay personals website. It took me weeks to get up the nerve to ask him about it, and when I confronted him, he admitted that he had “experimented with boys just 2 times” BEFORE we got married (while we were engaged), but that he didn’t really think it mattered to “us”, since he has chosen me to be his wife. He denies ever having acted on the dozens of craigslist posts, and that he has simply been feeling lonely and depressed, and he firmly distracts away from the issue of defining his sexual preferences, and focuses more on how we need to “re-connect as a couple.”

I realize that he very likely hadn't ever told me about his gay/bi- interests before because he is afraid of losing the comfort of our current relationship and the implications/shame/guilt of facing his family (catholic upbringing). I suspect he is still in denial about his sexual orientation and what it means to him, but I am so torn about what to do next. I know in my own heart of hearts, that even if he genuinely wants me and only me, that the longstanding chemistry issues were just a clue to the underlying conflicts, and there is not necessarily anything either of us can do to "repair" this and move forward with a healthy partnership. We don't have children (although I do want them), and we are both entering a transition in our careers. It seems like the time could be right to make a break, yet I cannot reconcile for myself whether or not that would be the "right thing" in context of our vows. In light of the above discussion, should I consider giving him the time to evolve and resolve within the space of our relationship, or should I make the break now, while we are both young and have time to heal and move on?

I honestly think that a continuum does exist for all people in terms of sexuality, some leaning stronger toward same-sex attractions, some leaning stronger toward opposite-sex attractions. I also believe that such leanings can change throughout our lives. This explanation of sexuality seems more aligned with my notions that there isn't much black and white in the world, but mostly gray.

That being said, I think it is actually quite likely that the wife in this scenario is just 'hoping' she can have sexual feelings for her husband again, and of course, he hopes so, too. They are in that place of not exactly denial, but not acceptance either. It is a place I, unfortunately, continue to live in myself. It is so very hard to let go of that relationship that has been so filled with love and care. It is so hard to rebuild a new relationship that is unlike anything you ever planned for yourselves.

It might be possible that she can come around to him again. Cynthia Nixon, star of Sex in the City, has recently been quoted as saying that 'orientation for her is a choice.' She was once married to a man, but is now involved with a woman. She did admit later to being a bisexual, who is now choosing to be lesbian, and she agreed that those that aren't bi can't make such a choice.

But in the end, what we DO have choice about is our life decisions and how they affect others. And those choices must be made with health and wholeness in mind, otherwise we live in limbo indefinitely. Unfortunately, again, another place I find myself now, after being separated from my gay husband for over a year and still very much involved with him on a day-to-day basis.

I wish this couple peace and joy and health and wholeness in whatever decisions they make for themselves.

I'm glad people are becoming more aware of fluidity and culturally specific preferences. An orthodoxy on sexual orientation (that it's either completely fixed or totally fluid for everybody everywhere) does not serve real people, who may find themselves being attracted to someone they didn't expect to love. Bodies change over time, and it only makes sense that feelings might change also. And being the complex people we are, our bodies and emotions are coupled, as it were, in the most complex of ways. It takes a lot of discernment to figure out if being attracted to someone other than one's partner is a signal to explore new sexual terrain or to pay more attention to what may be needed at home. The people involved need to make that choice for themselves each time it appears.

Brian, your comment is especially helpful because you have experienced the same dilemma pointed out in this post. Congratulations on your balanced approach to your own solution. Aggression only exacerbates problems. Listening to each other is essential for a real solution.
Carol Grever

I was in a similar situation, though I knew while dating that my wife was Bi. But it was more than that; she was gay and trying to fit in to “society standards”. since our marriage in 98 she has had 14 different Girl friends, most were on again off again, there were 4 that lasted more than 1 year. What you need to understand is that a woman needs to be emotionally involved (with a man) in order to have meaningful intimate relations (with the man)Check out the Yahoo group MMTL (Men married to Lesbians) it is a good group many have shared their stories and will give good advice, some leave their wife, others stay with them in an open relationship. In 2009 my wife and I separated because I was not getting what I needed out of the relationship, and I'm not talking about sex but affection. Do we both love each other deeply Yes, But we both felt that it would be unfair to me to stay together. I wish you the best but I would also give you caution that man y times they don't go back, so take the appropriate steps to protect yourself (finance, retierment, child custody, pets, property), Just don’t be vindictive. The last year and a half, my wife and I had squabbled a few times, once I had told her that we needed to talk later because our son was awake and in the same room and she had her girlfriend over, she thought I was going to verbally insult/attack her girlfriend, Which I wasn’t going to do. I was however going to ask my wife out of respect to me to tell her girlfriend that our son’s punishment is to be between my wife and I. Before we were able to be alone to talk she decided to try and have me tell her what I wanted to talk to her about which I told her “later now is not the time to talk” so she kept up and started to yell and to attack me which backfired on her because our son witnessed it all and I stayed calm and I did not say a thing other than telling her later. So Later we talked, and I told her what I was going to say and that was “It’s not her job to tell me when to ground or un-ground our son, that is up to you and me and should only be between you and me, if you want to talk to her about it that is between you two. I did not ask for nor need her help to decide the punishment. Now if you want to talk to me about it we can, but if you insist on having a yelling match then you can go do it elsewhere because it will not be productive.” She appoligized to me I told her "There is no need to I can take it, but our son should never have to see it." Her responce to it was "Dam you, I feel like an a$$ Here you are so calm and loving, it would make it easier to leave you if you were abusive, a drunk, or an asshole, but your not, your just anoying at times. I have treated you so bad and yet you have always been there for me. I don't blame you for wanting/needing to leave. And I'm so so sorry that this is happening to you I Never w anted to hurt you, But I now realize that I have all these years." I told her "You do realizes you are the ultimate "one that got away" Right!" We are still good friends, and talk all the time, Do I still love her, yes, would I get back together with her I don't know. I hope it helps and Good luck to You and Her I hope things get worked out and If it comes to seperating that it can be as friends.

Carol, thanks for addressing this fascinating subject. The answers are as variable as the people involved, which your post and the sensitive comments show. I hope it's okay that I eavesdrop on this discussion since I have a novel (that I haven't tried to publish yet) that riffs up and down the spectrum of female sexuality, from heterosexuality, bisexuality, and lesbianism, with a couple of lovable drag queens in there! My sense is that the main thing is care and consideration for everyone involved.

I am a psychotherapist and work with individuals of all different sexual preferences and gender identities. There was a true longitudinal study published a few years ago that did confirm bisexuality as a third orientation in women; however, the study only followed women who at some point identified as bisexual or lesbian (never totally heterosexual), therefore this research doesn't confirm or deny any curiosity about sexual fluidity in "straight" women. An interesting discovery was that the women who participated labeled themselves differently based on their most recent romantic relationship (bisexual if they have been with a man within 2 years and lesbian if they hadn't been with men in over 2 years.) This suggested a fluidity in women's sexual identity for sure.

The post by LK Norris raises some appropriate concerns this couple should examine before solely attributing the dissolution of their marriage to sexual orientation. However, with that said if the marriage was fantastic until this infidelity then I hope the wife in question does seek some individual support for this matter to explore what this menas for her.

Some "lesbian" women do not come out in later years because life didn't present the opportunity for them to realize it until now. Because women's sexuality manifests far more experientially than men (who tend to be stimulated more visually) sometimes they do not understand they're gay until they truly feel another woman's body through sexual intimacy. So some women have described the experience as a lightbulb going off and thinking "Oh, so this is what making love is supposed to feel like!" Also gay men and women alike oftentimes do not come out until they feel safe enough internally to name what is happening to them. For example I have worked with women who avoided female friendships out of fear they might feel attracted to them, but didn't identify as lesbian until they were ready to understand the meaning of their desires and fears.

An important thing to remember is that whatever research shows or doesn't show, anything is possible. The couple would benefit from pursuing a healthy solution even if it means separating. Situations such as this become complicated because both partners can love eachother even if sexuality inhibits a deeper, mutual bond. This can make separating more painful, but also more hopeful that a friendship can be reached eventually.

I was in a similar situation, though I knew while dating that my wife was Bi. But it was more than that; she was gay and trying to fit in to “society standards”. since our marriage in 98 she has had 14 different Girl friends, most were on again off again, there were 4 that lasted more than 1 year. What you need to understand is that a woman needs to be emotionally involved (with a man) in order to have meaningful intimate relations (with the man)Check out the Yahoo group MMTL (Men married to Lesbians) it is a good group many have shared their stories and will give good advice, some leave their wife, others stay with them in an open relationship. In 2009 my wife and I separated because I was not getting what I needed out of the relationship, and I'm not talking about sex but affection. Do we both love each other deeply Yes, But we both felt that it would be unfair to me to stay together. I wish you the best but I would also give you caution that many times they don't go back, so take the appropriate steps to protect yourself (finance, retierment, child custody, pets, property), Just don’t be vindictive. The last year and a half, my wife and I had squabbled a few times, once I had told her that we needed to talk later because our son was awake and in the same room and she had her girlfriend over, she thought I was going to verbally insult/attack her girlfriend, Which I wasn’t going to do. I was however going to ask my wife out of respect to me to tell her girlfriend that our son’s punishment is to be between my wife and I. Before we were able to be alone to talk she decided to try and have me tell her what I wanted to talk to her about which I told her “later now is not the time to talk” so she kept up and started to yell and to attack me which backfired on her because our son witnessed it all and I stayed calm and I did not say a thing other than telling her later. So Later we talked, and I told her what I was going to say and that was “It’s not her job to tell me when to ground or un-ground our son, that is up to you and me and should only be between you and me, if you want to talk to her about it that is between you two. I did not ask for nor need her help to decide the punishment. Now if you want to talk to me about it we can, but if you insist on having a yelling match then you can go do it elsewhere because it will not be productive.” She appoligized to me I told her "There is no need to I can take it, but our son should never have to see it." Her responce to it was "Dam you, I feel like an a$$ Here you are so calm and loving, it would make it easier to leave you if you were abusive, a drunk, or an asshole, but your not, your just anoying at times. I have treated you so bad and yet you have always been there for me. I don't blame you for wanting/needing to leave. And I'm so so sorry that this is happening to you I Never wanted to hurt you, But I now realize that I have all these years." I told her "You do realizes you are the ultimate "one that got away" Right!" We are still good friends, and talk all the time, Do I still love her, yes, would I get back together with her I don't know. I hope it helps and Good luck to You and Her I hope things get worked out and If it comes to seperating that it can be as friends.

I have two trains of thought on this. First, that the his wife's sexuality may not be the real problem in the marriage. Yes, the fact that her relationship with a woman was outside of his expectations for his wife does complicate the issue, but they should not let that become a distraction because it is likely not the root of the problem. Surely her having an affair with a man would have been a surprise as well? But the reaction would have been different? If this man has been doing his reading as he says (which I assume includes Lisa Diamond, the work of Meredith Chivers, and maybe even Dan Savage), he'll be familiar with the thinking that it's not an evolution of orientation so much as situation. At the risk of sounding a bit severe: I wouldn't sit around hoping that it will swing back around in your favor -- that's not really how it works. If she's not attracted to you now, it's about how she feels about you, not how she might feel about another man or woman. And I would caution you against viewing open marriage as a possible way to stay married. Here's the thing about open marriages -- they seem to be more often successful when the extra-marital sex is *in addition to* sex with your spouse, not a *substitution for* a sexual relationship with your spouse. An open marriage is not a sham marriage. But pretending you have normal marital relations when you don't kind of is. If it will make you feel like you are living a lie, if you would be embarrassed if people knew, or if it will create resentment between the spouses, it's not a good route to take -- it won't make you happy. It may be time to salvage your friendship the love you and your wife do still share and move forward by ending the marriage on good terms. It's pretty scary, but sometimes the scary unknown is better than holding on to the known that isn't working. You may be able to keep this person that is so important to you and special to you in your life. It's easier to move forward through marriage and finding new relationships if you haven't also lost your best friend. There's a whole bunch of wonderful people out there. Take what is good and move forward. If you and your spouse treat each other kindly and with respect, this may be the best solution for you and you may be able to stay close but find fulfilling relationships elsewhere. If you are lucky, you won't have to lose each other to find new partners.

My limited experience confirms the more recent research about women and their sexual attraction - that it is more fluid, often in later years. The scenario is often that a woman may have been with a man for many years. When that relationship ends (or sometimes before it ends) she falls in love with a woman. Unlike Lesbians who have been in the closet and greatly relieved to find their true identity, they are often very surprised for they have been happy heterosexuals.

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