In a healthy relationship, trust means everything: the ability to share your true thoughts and feelings and to communicate your needs and wants. Secrets in a relationship are a betrayal of that belief and trust you have in your spouse. But what if you discover the secret your partner has been hiding is the fact that they are gay?
This phenomenon is actually more common than many people think. Statistics indicate that nearly 4 million women in the United States are or have been married to a gay man. In almost all cases, the women were unaware that their husbands were gay at the time of the marriage. Nevertheless, when it happens to you, you may feel like your whole world has been turned upside down. You may feel hurt, shame, devastation, guilt and even repulsion. You may feel that your whole relationship was built on a set of lies.
Finding out your partner is gay makes you question everything about your relationship; was your partner ever attracted to you? Did they ever really love you and want the same things in life that you did? In fact, many partners who are coming to terms with their homosexuality are asking themselves the same questions. The answers, of course, depend on whether the partner knew they were homosexual and tried to repress the feelings and attractions or whether they didn’t know they were gay at the time of the marriage.
Coming to terms with your own sexuality is always a very personal process. It’s more than just an awareness of attraction to the opposite sex. It often involves confusion, some denial and repression, anxiety, grief and eventually acknowledgement and self-acceptance. This process can take a little time or a lot of time depending on one’s family, religious beliefs and support system. It may happen early in life or later on, after marriage and children. People who come out late, often have a steeper hill to climb in creating a new life and gaining acceptance among family and friends.
There are many key issues facing a straight spouse:
- Damaged self-esteem
- Feelings of sexual rejection
- Hurt at the betrayal
- Anger at your partner
- Dealing with feelings of shame and guilt and fear
- Fear of having your family torn apart
- Fear of telling your children
- Fear of the marriage dissolving
Despite the initial instinct to isolate yourself, it’s imperative that you don’t. Your family is in crisis and it may be best to seek support of family and friends and even professional help. As difficult as it may be, it may also be helpful to begin counseling with your spouse in order to both come through this process in as healthy a position as possible, whether it’s as friends, partners or simply co-parents.
Remembering to take care of yourself is critical as well. Accept that you are going through a grieving process. Even if you decide to stay in your marriage, it will not be the same marriage as it was before the discovery. While the trauma can seem overwhelming at first always keep in mind that this was not your fault. No one can “turn” someone gay. It takes two to make a marriage and one spouse cannot save it alone. Some couples stay married, some don’t. The healthiest steps to take, however, include moving forward, letting go of the anger and a willingness to forgive.