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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

I Found Out My Husband Is Gay

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 17th 2011

I Found Out My Husband Is GayI 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.

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.

4. Children:

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.

5. 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.

6. Secrecy:

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

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    My ex husband was gay - - Feb 23rd 2015

    we were married for 17 years. There was something emotional missing in our lives. I was always blamed. Was never good enough. So I become super woman Around the house and career and with our children. He did nothing. Showed no interest in the kids in their education in their future in their discipline. A whole host of reasons were given to me by his family. there were several unexplained incidents that happened with the police, hospitalisation where I wasn't allowed to visit disappearances on Sunday evenings where he would manipulate the evening so I couldn't accompany him disappear for hours but not long enough for me to notice. So the lies and deceit continued.he would lavish me with gifts bilingual jewellery brash clothes bright colours and ott clothes. Even wigS eyelashes earrings for nonpiecered ears- get the gist. I was ungrateful if I didn't like something etc etc. eventually I found out. I found a whole secret life and all of a sudden things fell into place.  Things got worse.for him better because he knew the stigma would damage our children and for them I would do anything so he manipulated and emotionally abused me further by now coming out openly infront of me. I have been scarred for life. I spiralled into depression and he told people I had gone crazy and this sadly was now our life and poor him as he is now having to care for his depressed wife who went from house proud to couldn't care less and eating off the floor. I was so ill and he would shut the door on me. I started to hallunicate. The whole thing. He even though he was in the medical profession did nothing. I have every sympathy and understand gay people but this man couldn't care less about the effect on me or his children  so long as he could cover up outside. Have I got over it ?  No. I have difficukties in my relationships with men. I still have episodes if I see or hear of him. 

    Veteran of this war - Laura - Jan 17th 2014

    I'm an ex-wife. We separated 26 years ago yesterday.  The emotional and psychological abuse is astonishing.  Everything was - and is - my fault.  I was too stupid, too unattractive, to ... everything wrong to be worthy of attention, conversation, nonsexual affection. Being used to test the waters or to fix the problem, with no recognition of my autonomy, feelings, expectations, needs, desires... all very legitimate, is objectification of another human being in the worst possible way. And then blaming that other person (me), punishing her, when the problem isn't fixed is brutal.  

    There's not enough attention given to us, to our problems, to the wounds we sustain.  It's PC to support gay marriage, but no one considers how contemptuous that political position is toward women. There's no real support for us. We might as well be invisible --- 

    And we exacerbate the problem by still trying to "protect" our gay former spouse.  I cannot tell you how many times I've mentioned my experience in a group, and someone else came to me afterwards to say, "Me, too," or "My sister," "My cousin," "My friend..."   Everyone wants assurance that their experience isn't weird, singular...  assurance that they're really normal, after all.  And nearly every single one is still operating under the idea that they can't TELL anyone because they have to protect the former spouse who treated them like trash.  

    At at a loss for words - Joseline Sykes - May 26th 2013

    I have been walking in these shoes for the last 2 yrs.  Wow

    Gay mans opinion - - Nov 12th 2012

    It is my belief that this is a very complex subject with no one answer.  For me, i was confused.  I dated many women in college and while in the army.  I had sex with them and would move on to the next woman, I was engaged four times including my high school sweetheard but I always broke the engagement.   There was something missing, I always had a warm feeling being around men, but coming from a small religious town in the south, I ignored this warm feeling as maybe being one of want or need to have a man close to me.  I moved to Los Angeles and was setting on the steps of my apartment building when a very handsome man stopped to ask for a smoke, I went into my apartment to get him one when he followed me in and pushed me to the wall and kissed me, I allowed and I knew then.  I believe that if I had stayed in the small town that I was raised in, I would have married but would eventually realize what was missing and either cheated on my wife or left her.  I really feel for the man in those cituations as much as i feel for the women.  Someimes society or the circle in which your life is surrounded in keeps you in the closet and at that point any hetrosexual partner will be cheated out of the life that want with that person.  I also found that Bath Houses are the perfect cover for gay/bi men in hetrosexual relations, they can go there and have sex with a man and go home without having to risk getting caught, however, they are the breathing grounds for sexual transmitted diseases, especially AIDS. I know women who says that they know their husband/man, unless you are with the 24 hours a day, you do not and do not fool yourselves, I say to men who are bi/gay; do not get married it is not fair to your spouse.  

    What If... - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Apr 27th 2011

    Dana,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and sensitive response. I would like to hear from others how they cope with the situation based on your posting.

    Dr. Schwartz

    What if...? - - Apr 25th 2011

    What if a lesbian marries a gay man?

    No winner in that situation - Dana - Mar 21st 2011

    I am gay, female and have been divorced from a man for a few years now.  I think the pressure you feel from society in general to 'blend in' and do what is expected and 'normal' is so great you fool yourself into thinking you can make it work.  While it's not fair, I admit, to the person you marry, it's not done with malice or with the intent of causing pain.  I'm not sure how the couples mentioned in the blog made it work because I know, speaking of course just for myself, being part of a heterosexual relationship was miserable to the point of clinical depression.  So, in other words, it is both partners who suffer in the end.  I realize now I would much rather endure the stigma of being gay than go through that again...but, live and learn.

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