“I was numb and reeling upon my discovery that my husband of 30 years is gay. I have three children with him . . .”
“My wife is in love with another woman . . .”
“I ‘outed’ my husband last month, after I discovered a string of emails he had written in response to several gay personal ads. . .”
Every week there are emails like this in my inbox, yesterday one from a woman in South Africa. Responding to each one, I understand that I’ve been on a mission for more than a decade, ever since my first book was published, to deliver a simple message: You are not alone and you can overcome this seeming disaster. Because the Internet provides opportunity to connect worldwide in personal ways, this work remains viable.
My own husband acknowledged that he had “homosexual tendencies” after we had been married for many years. As his story unfolded, I learned that he had acted on those “tendencies” during most of our marriage. He left no clues and I suspected nothing, though I had been at risk from his behavior for decades. I spent months feeling somehow responsible for my husband’s homosexuality. I felt deficient as a wife, as a woman, and my self-esteem plummeted. Moreover, I felt really stupid, not to have “gotten it” sooner. Hoping to salvage our marriage, I shared his closet of secrecy for much too long.
If I had known then what I know now, I would have realized that he had always been homosexual and that his sexual orientation had nothing to do with me at all. I wasn’t blind or stupid; I was deceived by his facile lies and hidden truth. If I had been more knowledgeable at the time, I wouldn’t have blamed myself, nor would I have tried to save my marriage. Instead, I would have put all that energy into building a new identity and future.
It was this personal history that launched my writing and informal counseling vocation. As I struggled through my own confusion, anger, depression, grief, and all the other stages of coping, I kept a journal of my feelings and experiences. The journal informed my first book, My Husband Is Gay. The singular purpose of all my books, documentary DVD, Website and blog is to help straight spouses reconfigure their lives in a positive, healthy way and to realize that this one life event need not destroy their future happiness.
Looking back, I honestly have no regrets. The entire experience supplied the healing lessons in my books and gave these subsequent years constructive direction and purpose. My former husband and I are both happier now, both remarried to wonderful men, and both free to be completely authentic. If my life had not taken this unexpected turn, I would probably not have pursued my life-long dream of being a writer.
If I have one message to shout to the world, it is this. Living a lie is hell. Hiding one’s true identity is a recipe for disaster for all involved, and the longer it takes for the truth to come out, the worse the outcome.
Sam, a gay man who appears in my documentary, One Gay, One Straight: Complicated Marriages, stressed the imperative for honesty. He had told his wife that he didn’t love her anymore because he couldn’t make himself say, “I’m gay.” This lie was more devastating to her than the facts. When he finally came out to his wife and their son, the fifteen-year-old replied, "It's OK, Dad, I still love you." Sam concluded that to be open and honest is better for everyone. I agree.
Every straight spouse feels unique, but there are millions of us in the world. Fortunately, there is help at hand on the Internet and in well-researched books and videos. Though it may feel as if you’re the only person who has ever suffered in this way, remember that others have survived the crisis to eventually thrive in unexpected ways. My mission to help straight spouses reclaim their self-esteem continues.