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I have been married for 15 years to my high school sweetheart. We have a wonderful home, three children and a great marriage. He just confessed to me that he is gay. I’m heartbroken. None of the stereotypical things I have read or heard in these situations apply to us – we aren’t religious, we have friends of all sexual orientations, races, and cultures. My husband is very masculine, a real stereotypical ‘man’s man’ and I have never had an inkling of suspicion that he may be homosexual, or I wouldn’t have married him. I would have wanted the best life for us both, and I wish he had had faith in our foundation as friends to be honest before our marriage. He has been living a double life, and I found intimate text messages from another man on his cell phone that led to his confession. I’m so torn, I don’t just love him, I’m IN love with him. He says he loves me more than anything in the world and doesn’t want to lose our family. I don’t know what to do; my whole life feels like a lie.
These events sound very new, and my heart goes out to all of you. Your last comment is the one that is the toughest. Your whole life feels like a lie. It’s not that your husband is gay, it’s the fact that a man with whom you have grown up with, feel like you know better than anyone, built a life with, is not who he said he was. Broken trust is shattering to the core, and I empathize with how upset you are right now. Our sexual identity with our partner is a large part of who we believe ourselves to be, part of an intimate unit. You may feel betrayed and flat out pissed off. And a common feeling for wives that learn this information is guilt at the fact that they are really, really pissed off. The spouse is still a great person, good father, loving husband and friend … still the person you adore with the exception of sexual orientation. You can love that person. It’s okay! You can also be very angry at the years of deception. Regardless of the circumstance, you were cheated on. It hurts the same, and there is a valid place for each emotion.
Gay men often marry because there are also many pressures to do so; religion, family, finances, desire for children and just basic fear of the unknown. Your husband may not have come to grips with his sexual orientation until fairly recently. He may have told himself he was bisexual, and your relationship was primary. His love for you, I do not doubt. These cases are fairly common, and you are not alone. One of the earliest stereotypes of being gay is the solo gay man, the “eternally single uncle” that never finds happiness. To end any marriage, especially one of significant length, takes a lot of courage and a willingness to embrace the unknown. Also it means dealing with any negative internalized images of what it means to be gay and facing the negative images others may have of him.
A woman in a marriage, just as a man, deserves to be loved, wanted and desired by her spouse. It is not fair to her to stay in a marriage of convenience, unless both agree to that. It is very painful to be in an empty relationship, even if acknowledged or addressed. Just as your husband’s needs for intimacy can no longer be met by you, your needs cannot be met by him. You deserve a fulfilling relationship both emotionally and sexually.
Understand this: No matter the current situation, your whole life has not been a lie. His love for you, while different, is true. His care of you, his devotion to his children, your happy memories of vacations and holidays are all very real. Do not allow these to be diminished, but hold on to them and cherish them. They are part of your life story.
The actress Fran Drescher’s husband, Peter Jacobsen, came out to her after 21 years of marriage. She says it was the hardest thing they have ever been through, but because of their lifelong devotion and shared history, the two are now best friends. Divorced best friends.
As for staying married, that will be a personal decision, and I urge you to seek counseling, both alone and together. The logistics of how you two will live your life warrants guidance. The way you describe yourself sounds wonderful, you are an open, loving woman with no prejudice. This will serve you and your children well as you navigate your new life. Either way, this is your new normal. Do your best to embrace it.
Note: The columns and other materials included in “Yo, Sassy” are presented for informational purposes only in the areas of relationships, social commentary and humor. The content is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, personal therapy or other treatment. If you have any questions regarding the content posted in this column, you are advised to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified mental health provider.
*Sassy is a therapist, just not your therapist. Don’t get attached. Clingy people make her claustrophobic.