This blog and most of the blogs I have listed on the right are written by gay or bi men who are, or were, married.
For the most part these men represent my social circle. We're a somewhat geographically diverse group but other than that, we're pretty homo(geneous).
A few months ago I wanted some opinions about my situation that came from a different perspective - straight wives. I found an open, anonymous on-line forum mostly populated by such, so I posted about my situation and asked for opinions. Boy did I get some!
Ever since reading those replies I have been fascinated by the straight wife's perspective. Because my wife preferred to pretend I was not gay when I came out to her, she and I never really talked about how she felt. And it's not like there are a lot of blogs written from the straight wife's perspective. Although I am very familiar with the man's point of view, getting an insight into what women really think has been extremely fascinating and very educational.
People and situations are different so I have to be careful here not to over-generalize. I'm sure that the reactions of straight wives to their husbands' coming out run the whole gamut from violent outrage to genuine joy. With that said, here are some common feelings expressed by straight wives I've come to know:
1. One of the biggest reasons married men hesitate to come out to their wives is because they fear being rejected because of their sexuality. I have learned that most intelligent, educated women (i.e., those that take the time to participate in a certain on-line forum) are not nearly so upset about their husband's declaration as they are about the lies that may have proceeded it. Lies are the BIG SIN not being gay or bi.
2. Timing is extremely important, but not necessarily in the way that first comes to mind. When you're in the closet and thinking about coming out, the tendency is to obsess about the exact circumstances as to when you're going to drop the bomb. Yes, exact timing matters. But what's most important to the straight wife is to be told AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. The longer the delay, the longer you've lied and the more upset she is likely to be.
3. Closeted husbands tend to obsess about whether they will be rejected and sent packing just hours after coming out. Yes, that does happen, but far more often the straight spouse wants to preserve the marriage. In fact, more often that not, the wife will engage in a whole range of selfless behaviors in an effort to "save" the marriage. How the wife's efforts are received by the husband can have major implications for their future relationship, regardless of whether they stay married or not. Insensitive and selfish behavior on the husband's part soon after coming out is the best way to turn a cordial relationship into a multi-year nightmare.
4. The bi or gay husband's desire to be "understood" is often the most painful part of the coming out conversation for his wife. After keeping his feelings pent up for years, the natural desire is to engage in a few rounds of verbal diarrhea about the misery of being isolated and depressed while in the closet. It's easy to confuse "being honest" with "too much information." Although wives DO want to know where your penis has been, they're only interested in a heavily abridged Reader's Digest version of your suffering. The part of the story they are most interested in is...what does this mean to me????
5. After the initial shock of the news wears off and the wife is left to figure out what she is supposed to do with her life, the very biggest issues for her come down to the husband taking responsibility for his behavior. Stopping the lies is a key part of that but it is only the beginning. Taking responsibility means not blaming others (especially the wife; straight wives don't change our sexuality, they cannot be held responsible for the way we were born), to be man enough to wade through the inevitable shit that happens when the kids, family and friends find out, and to show some genuine compassion for the financial situation in which you leave your wife.
I don't know if others find the straight wife's perspective as interesting as I do. I hope some of you do because I have a few more posts in mind about them and also about remaining married after disclosure.