What advice do you have for other couples who are either considering entering into a mixed orientation marriage or have recently learned that they are in one?
I think in most cases, I would strongly discourage anyone from getting into this kind of marriage, if they aren't already in one. There are so many contributing factors for how folks end up here and, in my experience, it's usually because the gay spouse believes their homosexuality to be wrong and something they are either ashamed of and hide altogether or something they believe will change or go away. There is no reason at all, that I can think of, for a healthy whole gay person to enter in to a marriage with someone of the opposite sex.
It's a bit harder to offer advice to folks who have just discovered they are in a mixed orientation marriage, or are coming to terms with being in one, because the circumstances are always so different. What I have found is that each couple in this situation really has to do what is best for them...whatever that might be. I know some couples who continue to live together but sleep separately. Some have "open marriages," while others truly have no better option, given their circumstances, than to divorce. Basically, do the best you can with what you have. I happen to have an amazing wife, a beautiful family, and the best I can do is remain here with them and do my best to love them better and better each day.
"Doxy" - Divorced (& Remarried)
"Doxy" is a longtime reader of the blog.
Share with us a little of your story. When did you find out that your husband was attracted to men, and what happened after that?
Some background may be helpful. My ex (I’ll call him “Paul”) and I attended the same fundamentalist Christian school and church, although we only began dating toward the end of college. (We both went to a large, urban public university in the southern city in which we grew up.)
I want to say up-front that Paul was my soul mate. We shared so many loves—ideas, music, politics. He always treated me as if he thought I was the smartest, most amazing person on the planet. He was firmly convinced that I could hang the moon if I wanted to—and because he believed so strongly in me, I slowly learned to believe in myself. This was a great gift, especially given what I would term the “anti-woman environment” in which we had grown up.
When we were dating, Paul confessed that he had had some sexual experiences with an older, male relative. He framed these experiences as “just playing around,” and the only reason he even confessed them was because this relative had become bitterly jealous of our relationship and was engaging in stalker-like behavior.
As part of my studies in college, I had read the Kinsey studies about how common homosexual experiences were among straight men—and I fancied myself something of a sophisticate at the ripe old age of 21. I figured Paul’s experiences were just a blip on the radar screen, and he did nothing to discourage that perception. We talked about fidelity and monogamy, and we seemed perfectly in sync on the need for both in marriage.
We were married in our home church in front of 400 people we had known for most of our lives. Then we promptly moved away so that he could attend law school and I could begin graduate school.
Over the course of the next three years, he became more open about the fact that he was attracted to men. He admitted that people in the church with whom he had discussed his same-sex attractions had urged him to get married and to avoid both gay people and pornography. They were sure that he would be “cured” if only he would commit himself to heterosexuality and ask for God’s guidance—but it wasn’t working.
At the same time, Paul was also very clear that he loved me and was happy in our marriage. But I began to feel more and more worried about our relationship—especially the sexual aspect of it. Our sex life had always been good, but I was increasingly troubled by the notion that maybe he was fantasizing about men when he was with me, that maybe he HAD to fantasize about men in order to be with me...
And then, as law school graduation loomed and we were planning our post-school life, the inevitable happened.
Paul fell in love with another man.
I started hearing a certain name more and more in his conversation. He got that glow you only have when you are newly enraptured with another human being. It seemed as if his feet hardly touched the ground, and he was distracted and giddy.
I had never asked Paul point-blank if he had been faithful to me during our marriage. I had gotten a law school education by osmosis, and one of the first things law students learn is “Never ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer.” The truth is that I hadn’t wanted to know—but I knew I couldn’t remain in a state of willful ignorance any longer.
So I screwed my courage to the sticking place and said: “How have you managed to remain faithful? Or have you?”
The answer hurt worse than I believed possible. Not only was he having an affair with the object of his affections, but it turned out that Paul had been having sex with other men the entire time we had been dating and throughout our marriage.
This was in the late 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic was decimating the gay community. An AIDS diagnosis was still considered a death sentence then, because there was only one treatment at that time (AZT) and it was more of a stop-gap measure than anything else. I had been having unprotected sex with my husband all the while. (For the record, both of us were—and continue to be—HIV-negative.)
I was devastated. I had honestly never suspected him of anything until he fell in love and couldn’t hide it anymore. The fear of getting AIDS paled next to the realization that I had been betrayed by the man I loved most in the world.
For the next few months, I teetered back and forth between the belief that we could somehow repair the damage and make our relationship work and the urge to bolt out the door and never look back. One minute I was tearfully begging him to stay with me. The next, I was feeling anger for which the word “rage” was a very pale description.
Paul actually didn’t need to be begged. He wanted to stay married—but he also wanted to have his boyfriend too. He had always been something of a sunny optimist, and he truly believed that the three of us could take a house by the sea and be happy together.
As much as I loved him, I could not be that person. I took a job in another city on the other side of the country, and our marriage was over.
What do you most want us to know about you, your marriage, and your ex?
My marriage was a real marriage, and it was a very good relationship in many ways. My husband loved me. We had a good sex life. We were good for each other. Paul believed in me so much that he made me believe in myself, and I tried to return the favor. He was—and is—a sweet, kind, and generous man who is beloved by many.
But none of that was enough. Because no matter how much we wanted to make it work, the very core of his heart could never belong to me. He could not love me the way I needed and deserved to be loved by a husband. And I could not give him what his heart, soul, and body cried out for.
I was—and remain—angry at religious leaders who tell same-sex-attracted people that they can, and should, “choose” heterosexuality and marry an opposite-sex partner. I have no idea how my life would have been different if Paul had not been steered to marry me as a means of “becoming normal”—but I suspect that the heartbreak of another failed marriage 15 years later might have been avoided. In trying not to repeat the mistakes I made with Paul, I went too far in the opposite direction and found myself in a relationship that nearly drove me to suicide before God stepped in and helped me find my way out.
The price we both paid for our mixed-orientation marriage was high—and so much of the damage was caused by the church and by people claiming to speak for God. In all things, however, God was gracious—turning our personal tragedy into something redemptive and healing.
I came to recognize that being gay was not a choice, so I delved deeply into biblical scholarship and theology to find what the Bible had to say about homosexuality. The answer was: very little. Certainly nothing like the extent to which it talked about loving your neighbors and recognizing those who love God by the way they live their lives. Since I saw LGBT Christians being faithful to God, and I saw their relationships bearing such good and holy fruit, I could no longer sit by and let the whole world believe that all Christians think being LGBT is sinful. So I became an ardent LGBT ally and advocate. I hoped that social acceptance of LGBTs would lead to an acceptance of their relationships—and prevent anyone from ever again being coerced into a marriage to appear “normal.”
I may have lost a husband, but I did not lose my friend. Over time, Paul and I managed to build a very strong friendship on the wreckage of our marriage. We are still in regular touch with one another. We call, e-mail, and visit, and my children call him and his partner of 20 years “Uncle Paul and Uncle Steve.” We still joke—as we always have—that we will end up in the nursing home together, racing our wheelchairs down the hallways.
I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we did.
What advice do you have for other women (or men) who are either considering entering into a mixed orientation marriage or have recently learned that they are in one?
If you are a same-sex-attracted person who is considering entering a mixed-orientation marriage, I would say “Please don’t!” Being married will not make you straight. If you are primarily attracted to people of your own sex, you will be denying yourself the possibility of being TRULY known and loved, for all that you are.
And you will be denying your opposite-sex spouse the same thing. No matter how much you love each other, there will always be something missing for you both. Marriage is hard enough—entering into it when you cannot honestly commit to it mind, heart, soul, and body is a recipe for heartbreak for the two of you, your families, friends, and any children you may have.
(I am well-aware that there are bisexual people who can and do commit to an opposite-sex partner and remain faithful in marriage. My advice is directed to people who are primarily attracted to members of their own sex.)
If you are a straight person who is considering knowingly entering a mixed-orientation marriage, I would caution you to reconsider. You may not have experienced the terrible feelings of insecurity you can have when your spouse is out with other people of the same sex, while you sit at home and stare at the clock. You might not know how it can feel to be in an intimate moment with your spouse and to suddenly wonder if you are truly desirable. Both of those things were soul-crushing for me, and for other straight spouses I’ve talked to since then.
But mostly, I caution against it because you will be denying yourself the possibility of knowing the kind of all-out, no-holds-barred love I believe that God wants us to experience in marriage. You deserve that. We all do.
Finally, if you have recently discovered that you and your spouse have different orientations, my advice is: “Take your time before making any big decisions, and try to be kind to one another.”
Recently, I told a friend that, if Paul and I had been married for over two decades before I found out that he was gay, the decisions I would make might well be different. It was (relatively) easy to walk out at age 27 without any children. Would I do that now, at age 49 with two kids, two dogs, and a mortgage? I honestly don’t know.
I would ask: Do you both want to remain in the relationship? What matters most to both of you about your marriage? What will you do if your spouse says that having sexual relations outside the marriage is a part of the bargain? What can you live with? What is completely off the table?
These are not easy questions to answer. You will need a lot of support, whether you choose to stay together or not. There was no Internet when I learned my husband was gay, and I had to walk through the dissolution of my life by myself—now you can find thousands of others who are in your shoes and who are also looking for help and understanding. I would say the most important thing at first is don’t rush into anything. You need time to think, to weather those first storms of emotion, and to seek help.
Josh and Lolly Weed – Married
In addition, you may be familiar with Josh and Lolly Weed, a Mormon couple that has been open with the press about their mixed orientation marriage. They recently participated in an extended interview with the Mormon Stories podcast, which you can watch here.