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  • Carol Grever has been a successful businesswoman and English professor. From personal experience, she's authored two books and produced a documentary on straight spouse recovery. A recognized spokesperson on straight spouse issues, she's appeared on major network TV shows, including "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and "Good Morning America." You can read more about Carol here.

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« DISCOVERING JOY | Main | THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY »

June 23, 2014

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Steven asks me for an update, post Imago. Some new insights and understanding, but no fundamental change. Part of the course involved a long and eloquent hymn in praise of sexualité, and I could have screamed or wept. But my wife did say that she still loved me and that I make her happy most of the time. I still love her, but I can't say I'm happy. I'm still in therapy, and my therapist says he's never had a client who wants help to become asexual. ..

Thank you for your post and update! As I was reading the original post I kept wondering, how is it going now? Yes, I am in much the same situation. My wife and I have been together for nearly 17 years, married for 13. There is a little of an age difference, I am 15 years older than her, but that has never been an issue. We have 2 kids 12 and 8. So several years ago she had told me she was attracted to women. It was a very difficult choice for her to confide that in me she seemed very surprised and relieved that I handled without question. She was so afraid I would think her tainted goods. At the time, that was all it was, a simple statement, she would point out the occasional woman she felt was attractive, nothing ever came of it. Over the next couple years it was brought up again here and there, more in passing or play, nothing real serious.
Now our sex life has never really been what I would call frequent. Two or three times a month, more on occasion but very seldom. Many, if not most, occasions it seemed more like obligatory sex on her part. As she put it, it was how she was raised; that it was a wife’s “duty” to keep her man satisfied or he may stray. Over the course of the last year it has become a little less frequent and of late, non-existent. Frustrating, yes, but not an end all crisis. Intimacy, like most relationships, started out strong and waned over the years, but again, over the last 6 months or so has become near non-existent.
Last summer I heard the term bi-curious for the first time. We started having some challenges, distance opening between us, but again, nothing we were real concerned with. Then, just before the holidays, she had a bit of a breakdown, stresses of work, grad school, physical issues with her PMDD, and challenges with her identity. We had a real rough time of it for a bit and after counseling, therapy, and the mixed blessing of her being laid off from her job at the university, we were able to bring her emotions physical issues in line through a major diet change and supplements, along with the continued counseling. Things seemed to be improving a little. But still, no intimacy.
I has gotten to the point where just my touch makes her subconsciously tense up, hugs are a thing of the past, even the hello and goodbye kisses are so brief she is pulling away even before our lips touch. She says again “you know I am interested in women, right?” I have somehow become almost repulsive to her, though she swears she loves me.On the bright side, she says she is not interested in or attracted to any men, only some women.
It can be so irritating and frustrating as I personally have always thrived on touching and intimacy. We have discussed the sex issue, I told her I would never go looking elsewhere, just not that important to me. Her responses usually make me feel like she almost wishes I would so she wouldn’t feel so guilty.
I know she has not acted upon her impulses, primarily because she is not the kind of person to just go out and satisfy sexual urges. She would have to be emotionally involved. Another key point. I have wondered what I would do if she did have the experience. We talked about it, but it is that point of her having to be emotionally involved that is terrifying to me. That would feel like cheating to me. And of course the insecurity of thinking she could leave me for someone else.
I love my wife very much. I want to find a way to make it work. I keep asking myself what I can do to ease the situation, but I have no control. If it was my physical condition that was an issue, I could fix that, if it was emotional support, I thought I had that covered, our financial issues can be dealt with, but how do address not being the right sex?
You can probably tell I am still in the depressed/angry/trying to deal with it stage. I keep reading on here because it is one of the few places that has shown there is a glimmer of hope. If others can live like this, surely we can as well.

How did the Imago course for couples go? Would love to see an update!

I am also a straight male married to a gay female. First, I admire Brassyhub's courage and devotion to his wife and hers to him. That is very cool!

I have read many posts written by a straight spouse in a mixed orientation marriage who discovered the spouse was gay after saying "I do."

The question that continually comes to mind is why wasn't a spouse's gayness discussed before marriage?

I knew my wife-to-be was gay before we married. After three years of marriage, I can honestly say we are doing great.

My wife and I were (and still are) best friends before we married. We are friends first and spouses second. We talked (and still do) about her gayness.

It is not an uncomfortable subject for either of us, and that is because of the friendship at the heart of our marriage.

She and I are sexually monogamous and active. She is still gay; I'm the only man she's ever loved. (I'm white and she is black, to make matters even more complicated.)

The way I see it, everything should be an open topic for a couple planning marriage, whether the couple is gay, straight, bisexual or in between.

No topic should be a surprise after marriage. If there is, a communication issue, not sexual orientation, is at the root.

Update: My wife's just back from a weekend in the UK for a training with a group of women, including a number of friends and colleagues. Each had to share about their lives, where they were at. And she talked about TGT, she came out to them, after asking me whether I was OK with that. I was - but I didn't think she'd find the courage to do it. Lots of tears and hugs. I'm not quite sure what this means, but it's an earthquake, and I think a good, healthy one. My wife seemed to think that it was enough to come out to me and a tiny handful of very close friends.

I wanted some sense of movement... and now I’m getting it. I'm proud of her; it took a lot of courage to come out to a group that included some old friends and some women she was meeting for the first time. She had a sense that it was important for her to do it, and I'm sure that she was right. One young woman, in tears, told her, 'I'm so moved that you show me so much trust as to share this deep and painful thing.' Three of the group are good friends of mine too, so I was/am nervous, but glad that others know about our fragility.

In two weeks, we have the first of three weekends together on an 'Imago course for couples'. I'm not too sure what it will bring, but doubtless more of that movement. I think one of the things they go in for is thinking out what were the things that led us to our partner. My wife could not be more different from my mother!??? So feeling fragile but hopeful.

Our gay or lesbian partners: their gayness or lesbian-ness are constitutional foundations of who they are. It's not just a matter of attractions.

My heart goes out to Chari, the lesbian wife "on the other side" of Brassyhub's dilemma. A major purpose of this blog is to help people see reality clearly to gain better understanding of their life situation. Reading Brassyhub's story together with Chari's helps us recognize the pain of both sides. I have personally lived it, only years later appreciating my gay husband's compelling motivation to marry me in the first place. The best hope to prevent these hidden heartaches is progress toward societal acceptance of the whole range of sexual orientations. Let each of us be who we really are, without conflict or judgment! In the meantime,many LGBTQ people are forced to lead inauthentic lives filled with unseen scars.
Carol Grever

Brassyhub I am in the other side... I am the wife that is a lesbian but my situation is a little different. I have know my whole life that I am a lesbian I have been in love with the same woman for twenty years and never had the opportunity to actually love her. I grew up in a very close minded environment my parents and grandparents frowned upon homosexual relationships and made it very known that it was not acceptable. So what else was I to do? I didn't want to disappoint anybody I didn't want anybody to love me any less so I married a man and had children. I love him and my kids are my life but my heart aches knowing that I am living a life that isn't my own. I have never told him nor anybody else. So be grateful that you know that your wife was close enough to you to trust you with her feelings. The woman that I have lived for so many years is with someone and loves her but we both have expressed our feelings to each other. Neither one of us would ever be unfaithful as not to hurt our partners. But it is a horrible life to live.

In response to Kirk's comment and request for advice: The questions you ask point to life-changing decisions--to go or stay; to try to make the marriage work through various compromises by both husband and wife; to discover the wife's level of motivation to keep the marriage intact. Answers to these "big questions" are unique in each situation. There are no neat formulas to follow. For that reason, it is important, maybe imperative, to engage in joint and individual counseling with informed professionals. You will find your own best answers, Kirk, but you probably can't do it in a vacuum. Find help as you work out your best possible future. Wishing you the very best!
Carol Grever

Your story is a scary...down right frightening as hell picture of my future. My wife of 4 years has stated to see other women and our sex life immediately stopped. Can you or anyone please post some comments about what your solutions have been??

I don't want to leave, but i feel like i am holding her back, weighing her down, and will eventually do more harm than good by being"supportive".

Am i acting in her best interest to stay?
Or am i just making her feel guilty for my own righteousness?

Can i win her back? Or am i selfish to even try...

Wow Brassyhub, you just told my story! I approached mine with the open marriage concept but was immediately rejected and told that I better not stray!

Unfortunately in my case, she is also a narcissist/control freak. She wants to stay married and work on her issues but knowing her, if the right one comes along she will bolt. She is involved with at least 3 right now and the years of lying is hard to overcome in the trust department.

I pray quite a bit for peace and guidance for me so that I can/will do the right thing. But even more so, I pray fervently for her as the anguish that is in her face is revealing what is in her heart.

In the meantime, I seem to be getting attention from str8 women, am being asked to go to various events because people felt uncomfortable inviting her (she treated me horribly in public), and am starting to be more accepting of my situation. This is progress and I feel that my prayers are being answered.

Good luck with your situation Brassyhub. The only advice I have for you is to listen to your inner voice and be guided by it and prayer. :)

This situation continues to unfold. It seems that both husband and wife are, as he says, "stuck." At some point, one will make a new decision and change will happen. I think that limbo may be the most painful stage of all, which is why most people don't remain there.
Carol Grever

My wife's going away for a few days to visit friends. I'm giving her a card to read and reflect on while she's away.
It reads: 'I love you. I still love you. And I want to grow old with you. But am I at peace? No. Peace and fulfilment elude me. If I knew what to do, I’d do it. Including chemical castration. For me, this started last year when I thought I really don’t want to go on like this, in a low sex marriage, for another 20 years or so. And when I look objectively at what has changed, I see two things. Firstly, we’ve gone from a low-sex marriage to a no-sex one, and secondly, at least I understand why. But I feel stuck, and I feel that we are stuck in the same place. I need some sense of movement, of change.

'I wholly understand and accept that you are lesbian and not bi-sexual, and so you can have no real desire for me. Affection, tenderness, love of a kind, but not desire. What I fail to understand is why you seem to show so little interest in understanding your sexuality (or lack of it). Why are you asexual? You weren’t always. At the start of our relationship, I recall real passion. Should I now put that down to a rather desperate hope that straight sex would take away your lesbian desires?

'I don’t believe that you’re really happy. You have used the word ‘resignation’ and talked of being a prisoner to past choices – a prisoner in this marriage. The only way I can understand it is that you’re unconsciously terrified of letting the dragon of your sexuality out of the cave where you’ve locked it away because it could destroy our marriage, take you away from me into the arms of another woman. And you don’t want that. So perhaps you’ve shut down to save our marriage. And for me, it’s that shut-down that threatens our marriage. Heads I lose and tails I lose. But I’d rather take the risk, and stop this ‘living and partly living’. I long for us both to really come alive. Even if that means radical change. Can’t we seek for more, together?'

Thanks for your comments. No children, a great sense of loss for me, less for her. And having more or less come to terms with that, now we have to mourn the grandchildren we'll never have. Not easy.
Louella asks how long we've been married: 34 years. That's part of what makes it so hard to think of starting over again, when we have so much good together in our relationship, but not desire and sex...
I honestly wonder how many others there are out there. As far as I can see, that VAST majority of lesbian/straight marriages end in divorce, quickly, usually with the lesbian partner already in a relationship with another woman when she comes out.

I especially appreciate that a heterosexual husband, Brassyhub, has taken time to write about his relationship with his lesbian wife. I feel sure there are "countless" (??) other husbands who have been or are currently wrestling with the same thoughts or similar situations but for whatever reason have not been forthright in expressing their thoughts. Brassyhub has written with such care and openness. Thank you for trusting us to read of your heartbreak and also of your questions pondered as you wonder if “this is as good as it gets.”
First of all, you and your wife have to decide if “this” relationship really is enough for BOTH of you. No one can decide that but each of you. I remember 20 years ago when my gay husband and I separated and then divorced, I was “defending” him to a gay friend of ours and that friend kindly shared, “You need to take care of yourself.” I didn’t really know what he meant by that at first, but finally got it! Taking care of myself was a pretty new thought for me (financially, emotionally, socially, spiritually) and my generation of women did “get” to that point, but it did not happen consistently or easily. So, my hope for you is that you will continue to decide what YOU need.
True, relationships are fragile; but they can also be very satisfying, comforting, encouraging, engaging, and filled with love (with or without sex) in one’s day-to-day living. This does not happen without trust and effort, time and commitment, and the desire for both to want to either remain faithful and married, have an open marriage, or find a new life with or without another partner.
Brassyhub did not mention whether or not they have children and he spoke of his wife’s 30 years of struggle against her lesbian nature and attractions. How many years have they been married? How long ago did she reveal her deepest secret? Have they been to counseling?
I firmly believe that he/they have to be the one/s to decide what works best for each of them……… and the exciting thing in today’s digital age is that no matter “what” they decide, there are now others with whom we can connect and no longer feel alone in our journey of life.
The best to both of you, Brassyhub.

Brassyhub, thanks for your openness and honesty. You have the right to design the life that works for you, and if that's staying together, then do it. Perhaps you both could be given some liberty outside of the marriage to have your sexual needs met? I suspect your hopes that your marriage will include sex--since it hasn't all these years--are not realistic. There are plenty of people in mixed-orientation marriages who love each other deeply and have a dedicated partnership but turn elsewhere for the sexual spark they just don't share. Society doesn't have to approve as long as you're honest with one another and give one another your blessings. I wish you happiness in whatever form you find it.

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