“Why are nearly all comments posted on Straight Spouse Connection posted by heterosexual women whose gay husbands have come out?”
This was an interesting question prompted by my blog article about Dr. Vivienne Cass’s 1979 study of homosexual identity formation. Her theoretical model examined the long period of internal conflict preceding gay persons’ self-recognition and sexual identity. This reader wanted to know how other men responded. He wanted to see more comments from male straight spouses. He wrote, “I would be very interested in finding a few scenarios where the wife was the gay partner. I am wondering if the husband in these cases would be as quick to separate or divorce.”
This is a good question, but there is no definitive answer. In fact, most of the final outcomes in these coming-out stories remain unknown. There are at least three major reasons why we are unable to reach absolute conclusions.
- Any mixed-orientation partnership is secretive, therefore many gay-straight marriages are never publicly recognized. No one knows how many of these marriages actually exist.
- Because there is no stated cause for many divorces, we can’t determine how many of these separations occur because the partners have different sexual orientation.
- Females are generally more willing than males to talk about personal problems and to seek therapeutic help. Their stories are therefore more accessible for research.
My interviews also suggested another difference in the way men and women respond after one partner comes out. Among those mixed-orientation couples who did separate and divorce, the male straight spouses I interviewed seemed more able to move on and start over. There are several possible reasons for this: Women are more likely to remain in the family home, surrounded by familiar emotional reminders, and they are more likely to have custody of any children. Financial inequity is sometimes a factor also. The result is that women seem to have more emotional baggage to sort out and resolve, whereas men seem more able to make a clean break.
Admittedly, none of these impressions can be measured in any absolute way, but more than twenty years of correspondence and interviews with straight spouses of both genders underlie these assumptions. Comments from both male and female straight spouses are invited, along with thoughts from professional counselors who deal with these issues.
In the meantime, I could recommend one resource that might be useful to the gentleman who asked the question that prompted this reply. It is the documentary “One Gay, One Straight: Complicated Marriages.” In it, two male straight spouses relate their experience, each with very different outcomes. The DVD is available here. Just click the Books tab at the top of this page.