If you accept yourself as bisexual (or gay) and you're committed to a woman, how do you handle your attraction to men and the commitment to your woman?
Believe it or not, you only have four choices.
I will be writing about each of these choices in the next few posts.
Curiously, I have had years of personal experience with three of the four options and I am currently contemplating acting on the fourth.
I continue with: Option Two - Be Honest with Your Woman.
Two explanations. First, whenever I refer to 'married men' I also mean men who are in long-term relationships with women. It's less awkward to read the post if I use 'married' all the time instead of 'married/committed' or whatever. Second, this post is primarily directed to married men who wish to continue their marriages. Being honest with your wife with the intention of ending your marriage is a different option which I write about in the future.
The purpose of getting married is to spend the rest of your life with ONE person. And although nearly 50% of all marriages end in divorce it seems to me that anyone who gets married expecting to have less than a life-time partnership, well, their low expectations will probably be met. Maybe I'm too idealistic but I'd like to think that when most people get married they honestly expect to stay with their partner, and only their partner, until death.
Almost everyone who has been married for a few years can tell you that sharing your life with a forever-partner is "Fantastic!...except..." In other words, it's human nature to focus on what's not working in our relationships. Many of us aren't so good at appreciating the 'every day' good things. Especially after the initial honeymoon phase ends, I think both partners tend to take each other for granted.
When big life events happen, however, the first person we want to tell is our partner. They know us best. They love us most. We have committed to live together, as one, for the rest of our lives.
Because we always share the big life events with each other, isn't it logical and reasonable to expect that the first person we would share our same-sex attraction secret with would be our wives?
In theory, I would hope that we could all agree that this is true.
In practice, coming out to your wife as "curious" much less bisexual or (oh wow) gay, can be a life-altering nightmare. Or at least, that's what many men fear.
Let's think through the reasons why you should, or should not, be completely honest with your only life partner.
REASONS TO TELL
1. Honesty is a must. Honesty is the fundamental cornerstone of marriage, as is sexuality. Therefore, you have an obligation to your wife to be honest about your sexuality. It's a core principle, a matter of right and wrong, and there is no gray area. A married man who fantasizes about or has sex with other men must share this crucial information with his wife.
2. It's the right thing to do. Being committed to one person, in essence, is about being both literally and figuratively naked with your partner. If your curiosity, bisexuality or homosexuality is a big deal to you then it's something you should want to share with your spouse.
You are partners in life, there to support each other through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. Out of love and respect for your wife, you know that the right thing to do is to share your darkest secrets with her.
REASONS NOT TO TELL
1. Your attractions to men are ambiguous. Seriously, how can you start such an awkward conversation with your wife when you know she is going to ask 10,000 questions that you cannot answer??? It's a pointless conversation that will ONLY make both of you miserable. The most respectful thing you can do for your wife is to take the time to figure out who you are and what you want. Once you know the answers to all of her potential questions, THEN you can decide what, if anything, you will say to her.
2. Telling your wife the truth will kill her. You love your wife. And you know your wife. Without question, you know that if you say anything at all about being attracted to men, both of your lives will crumble. Because you have no intention of leaving her and because she will take the news very badly, there is absolutely nothing good that will come from being honest with her. There are some situations that are lose-lose no matter what and this is one of them.
3. You don't know what will happen. Your wife could be accepting or she could demand a divorce. Because you don't know what's going to happen, your only option is to stay silent. You can't risk your life together when you're not sure how she'll react.
4. Your desire for men has no bearing on your wife or your marriage. You love your wife, there's no question about that. But the desire for men is so completely different from the love of your wife that there's no comparison. It's an apple and orange thing. The two are completely different and there is no need for the two worlds to mix. In fact, they shouldn't mix. Your thoughts or activities with men in no way change or affect your wife or your relationship with her. Therefore, there is no reason to discuss your ambiguous sexuality with her.
5. There are already enough problems between you. Your sex life is essentially non-existent. Being with men is your escape from her sexual indifference. Your marriage is already broken but you have some very practical reasons for staying together. Basically, you no longer have the kind of relationship where honesty or fidelity make any difference.
6. She already knows. When you desire men, or are having sex with men, there are many small secrets to hide and lies to tell. A clever wife or a careless you can easily result in a slip-up that gives your wife a clue. And if not that, then there's her Woman's Intuition. If you're fairly certain that your wife already knows and she has decided not to discuss the matter with you, what more is there to say? If she wanted to talk to you about it, she would.
7. Being honest is not going to get you what you want. Even if you thought your liberal and understanding wife would accept your attraction to men, you know she will not permit you to act on those attractions. Fantasies are not enough for you, you need to have sex with men. Given the choice between being honest and having no sex, or, lying and having sex, you must choose the latter.
I hope the above list is complete. As I imagined other situations I realized that they were often variations of the same themes. Many were simply excuses to stay silent. Often, excuses are ways of rationalizing fears and the biggest fear is that we'll come to regret our honesty. Perhaps severely.
Hopefully when you examine these two lists you will see that kernels of truth and logical arguments are both inherent in each argument. To me that means there is no single "right" answer. The Ideal of Perfect Honesty in our marriages is certainly something for which we should all strive. However, I recognize that Reality has a nasty way of stomping all over The Ideal.
The bottom line is that there are a multitude of pros, cons, noble reasons and lame excuses that can lead each of us in the direction of being honest with our wives, or not. We can spend days, months and years debating the question in our heads, trying to find a place of peace as we reconcile our straight marriages with our not-exactly-straight sexual attractions.
Being honest with your wife is a permanent decision. Once you utter the crucial words, you can lie and backtrack later all you like, but you're a fool if you think she'll ever forget what you've said.
Before making the decision to permanently change your wife's understanding of you, you might find it useful to examine the experiences of others. From the stories I have been told, the consequences of being honest with your wife appear to be decidedly mixed.
I can think of two fine examples of marriages that have strengthened or remained strong even after the man confessed his bisexuality. One is Rob of The Bi Married Mafia. Undoubtedly, his wife is a real gem because she has given him permission to have both sexual and emotional relationships with men. She is an inclusive, loving person and she's done exceptionally well, I think, at supporting her bisexual husband.
Through his story "Cross Currents" on Nifty.org, I know that the brilliant but hot tempered Adam Phillips has never hidden his bisexuality from others, including his wife. In addition to being a professor he spends a lot of time writing about issues related to ambiguous male sexuality. You can check out his blog here.
On the negative side of things, the only blogger I can think of who has written about a marriage that fell apart because he confessed his same-sex attractions is Joe Conflict of My Complicated Life in Provo. I don't know him personally so I can't say for certain, but from reading his blog my guess is that he now views his wife's departure as a good thing.
Although I cannot provide names, details or even links, I am certain there are many men out there who thought they were doing the right thing when they told their wives that they thought some men were sexy, only to have their wives completely reject them.
There's no one who keeps statistics about what happens when bi men come out to their wives. My guess is that most marriages survive, at least in the short run. The long-term impact of being honest, however, is difficult to gauge.
Tom of Cleveland does not have a blog but through his comments on other blogs, I am aware that when he told his wife of many years about his sexuality, he expected her to be understanding. Instead, his confession has put a deep freeze on their relationship. He's working hard to win back her confidence but I think it's safe to say that her feelings for him have permanently changed. That does not mean she no longer loves him, however, I believe Tom now regrets being honest.
In my situation, I told my wife I was gay two years after we were married; I thought our marriage was over. When we got back together a few weeks later, I assumed that I could be open with her about my feelings. It turned out, even though she wanted me back, she was not happy to hear me talk about men. I soon learned to keep my mouth shut. Her attitude was pretty surprising because she had always been something of a fag hag; she had (and has) many gay and lesbian friends. Because she is gay-friendly and because I don't talk about my sexuality, you might think that my confession from 18 years ago would be a non-event. Wrong! It turns out that my sexuality continues to be a very big deal to her; she's brought it up in every heated fight we've ever had.
As pissed off or hurt as she may be, her underlying insecurity has proven to be the 800 gorilla in the room. Her fear that I will leave her for a man some day has permanently undercut our marriage. It's a fear she cannot shake, no matter how many times I have sincerely denied it. I believe that my confession eats at the heart of what's wrong with our marriage. She will never, ever trust me and because she cannot trust me she is unable to commit to me. I am powerless to change that dynamic. No amount of time, good behavior or ridiculous loyalty has quelled her fears. So, although our marriage did not end when I came out to her, it has never been the same since.
For various reasons, I personally have no problem with married men who decide not to share their complete sexuality with their wives. I wish I could encourage respectful honesty but it's a crap shoot. There is no easy answer; there is no right answer; what's best all depends.
If I had to give one consistent piece of advice it would be to use caution, because once you speak the words you can never take them back.
Want to share your story or offer your perspective? Then please comment!