Susan and I met in 1990 and were married in 1994. She first told me about four or five years into our marriage that she had an attraction to other women (i.e., same-sex attraction). I was okay with that and didn’t ask any further questions of her.
Several years later (around 2002), we started becoming good friends with a lesbian couple, one of which I happened to work with. I’ll call her “Tammy”. Susan and I did a bunch of stuff with Tammy and her partner including camping, parties, etc. I knew about my wife’s same-sex attraction but didn’t really think about it. I eventually learned more and more about her same-sex attraction. She told me she had never experienced a same-sex relationship but had been in love with a woman before me. The woman she was in love with never knew it. At one point she told me that if we ever split up she would never be with another man. I didn’t ask any questions. I call this lack of inquiring further on my part as “wearing my blinders.” Eventually, Tammy and her partner broke up.
Susan and Tammy remained great friends. I never had any trust issues with Susan. That was just the relationship we had. We were always honest with each other…about most things. After awhile, our relationship started getting a bit awkward. We spent time in gay bars and restaurants, etc. We even had a discussion once about what it meant to be gay or lesbian. Again, me with my blinders on, I told Susan that she couldn’t be gay because she married me and we had sex (although not wonderful fulfilling sex for me and ultimately not for her). I told her that she was probably just bi-curious and I was okay with that.
In 2004, we took a three week trip to Europe for our 10-year anniversary. A week or so after returning I communicated her lack of attention toward me and excessive attention toward Tammy. I asked her what was going on. She wrote me a letter and left it on my pillow. She didn’t say she was gay, but she apologized for putting me through 14 years of hell. My perception was that I was married to my best friend and our marriage was one of the better ones. It was at this point I started asking the proper questions. I asked if she was gay or bi-sexual. I asked if she was attracted to me: sexually, physically, emotionally. Her answer to all the questions was “I don’t know.” Up to this point, she still hadn’t experienced an intimate relationship with another woman, and I believe and trust her.
I insisted on marriage counseling. We first went to a therapist we had seen before for other marriage issues. In our opinion, that therapist couldn’t handle this situation so we found another therapist through the local Straight Spouse Network (SSN) group. The second therapist was excellent and worth every penny, and then some.
Susan eventually was able to answer those questions. She was a lesbian and had been for as long as she could remember. Specifically, she remembers having childhood crushes on other girls as early as six years old.
I had a tendency to be co-dependent and sacrifice my wants and needs to keep Susan happy. At this point, it was time to start taking care of me first. We continued on with counseling for nearly a year, going every week, and I eventually decided that I wanted a divorce. Not because of dishonesty, lying or cheating, because there wasn’t any of that, but because there were things in life I wanted and needed that Susan couldn’t provide. Our divorce was very amicable, and we agreed to everything. We have remained good friends, although it has been difficult emotionally for both of us.
Now, with that said, I believe my situation is almost a “best case” scenario when it comes to a spouse “coming out” as gay. There was no infidelity, no gross dishonesty, etc. (except for not telling me she was gay).
Here is my advice for anyone in this situation. Number one, you have to take care of yourself. What do you want, what do you need, now and in the future? I recommend communicating your wants, needs and feelings. I kept a journal of my feelings and my thoughts, and it really helped to identify what I was feeling and work through the less rational thoughts. Once you know what you are feeling, communicate that to your spouse or significant other (“S.O.”). Also, ask the questions you want answered and ask for 100% honesty.
Now, just because you ask for honesty doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it. There is no lie detector test. Know that a spouse and/or S.O. “coming out” isn’t about you. It is all about them and possibly feelings they have had for a long time. Your spouse/S.O. may be considerate of your feelings in their “coming out” process, or they may not. But you don’t have a chance to know this stuff unless you communicate.
I believe sexuality (i.e., homosexuality and heterosexuality) is not a choice; it is something a person is born with. We have no control over our spouses/S.O.’s actions or reactions. All we have control over is us, our actions/reactions and how we communicate. When you do talk to your spouse/S.O., remember to listen to what they have to say. It helped me in my communications to repeat back to Susan what I understood her to be saying. That eliminated many misunderstandings and assumptions.
Lastly, in taking care of myself I sought support. I received support from this group (i.e., the Straight Spouse Network), the online email/chat lists, reading, journaling, therapy, family, and select friends. Remember that there are as many solutions to situations as there are people. No one solution is best for everyone. No situation is the same as the next, they are all very dynamic. What works for me may or may not work for you.