Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states
I repeatedly receive questions from agitated wives who feel traumatized when they learn that their husband is homosexual. The length of their marriages range from a few years to 20 and 30 years together. Many have children, of differing ages, with their husbands. They either accidentally find out about their spouse or the husband steps “out of the closet” to reveal his sexual orientation. Always, this is met with shock, despair and betrayal. In a very few cases, partners knew about this even before marriage. In these types of cases, conscious and mutual decisions were made about marriage, monogamy, and children.
Here is one sample E. Mail I received:
“We have been married for five years now and we have a daughter. My husband came out to me and his family a while ago about his being gay. He told me he didn’t love me anymore. He doesn’t seem to respect me anymore. He is inconsiderate towards me and my emotions and feelings. He is constantly angry at me and seems to hold a grudge against me for keeping him attached to this relationship. Are we wrong in trying to make this work? I’m trying to trust him and trying to do the right things to make this work but I feel betrayed, and am having difficulty trusting him. Is there any hope for us?”
Many complex issues arise when a husband and parent comes out of the closet.
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1. Sexually Transmitted Diseases:
In my mind, it is not the issue of homosexuality that’s important, except to the wife, of course. Rather, its whether or not he is having extramarital affairs. Given the presence of sexually transmitted diseases today, extramarital affairs of any kind put the wife at risk.
2. Extramarital Affairs:
Unless otherwise agreed to the average person expects marriage to be monogamous. Certainly, the traditional vows that are taken express the fact that they will always be together. Cheating almost always comes as a shock to the husband or wife. The sense of hurt and betrayal is enormous, often leading to divorce.
3. Psychological Impact On The Straight Spouse:
I have often wondered how it impacts on the psyche of the straight partner when they learn their spouse loves people of the same sex. It is difficult to process the fact that “my husband or wife loves another heterosexual person.” But, when a husband loves a man or when a wife loves a woman? I have seen cases where the heterosexual spouse fears that they drove their partner into homosexuality. Its a silly and incorrect notion but, not for that individual.
There are a serious concerns with regard to children. When there is a threat to the stability to a marriage it is felt strongly by the children. Children do not want to lose either parent or their home but is experienced as loss. Children may later adapt if both parents remain friends and share custody.
However, it is psychologically dislocating for a child to learn that their parent is in love with a person of the same sex. For example, it is one thing to know that father loves another woman. But, when father loves another man? This is not to be confused with homosexual couples who adopt and raise a family. Those kids seem to do very well. It is being raised in a heterosexual family that is now broken by a parent who now loves and lives with a same sex partner that has impact on kids. It seems to me that this requires a major psychological adjustment even more so that a regular divorce.
It always baffles me when a married person chooses to stay in a marriage regardless of how they are being abused. The abuse is not learning that your partner is gay. Rather, its what the wife in the above sample E. Mail describes. Her husband verbally attacks and abuses her and, yet, she wants to find ways to salvage the marriage…even with the added fact of his being gay and having lied to her all those years.
One gay young man posed the following question:
Should I, a gay man, marry a woman?
The reason he gave for the question is that he would like to have his own children and raise them as though he was heterosexual. He stated that he would pretend to be heterosexual for the sake of his wife and child.
First, secrets are disastrous for all relationships. Harboring a secret of such magnitude must lead to devastating results. Second, can anyone really pretend about anything for a protracted period of time? I think not. Third, I have known of several couples who entered marriage with the understanding that one of them was gay. There were no secrets and no assumptions. It was understood that they would both remain monogamous until the children were grown and out of the house, after which, they would part ways.
Incredibly, several of these relationships succeeded and, when the time came, they separated or divorced with each pursuing their own interests. It was the fact that there was complete openness, honesty and trust that made these relationships successful. Hmmm, the same factors that are needed to make all relationships successful.
Oh, yes, these couples were able to have sex with one another even though it was not the favorite type of sex for one of them.
What are your thoughts and comments about this complex issue?
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD
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