Friday, May 11, 2012

A "Dirty Trick" Marriage - Part Two

In my last post I shared a straight wife's frustrations with her probably-gay husband and their crumbling marriage. 

Unfortunately, I didn't know any background information about her or her husband so it was difficult to put what she said in context.  The lack of context, I think, was vexing for a number of readers too, at least judging by their comments.  Since many of us seemed to be grasping at straws I decided to contact the woman and ask her more about her situation.

Here's what she originally said:
Seven years ago, and three months after the birth of my third child, my husband told me he cheated on me with a man. Four years before that he had done the same thing, "but not all the way."  Both times, after much crying and begging on his part, I took him back.  After the second time we talked about his attraction to men and how it had been there for years.  We also saw a marriage counselor.  Within two years our sex life dwindled to nothing. By then he had quit therapy, and no matter what I did, our relationship just got worse.

Last Spring my hours at work got cut so I was making a lot less money.   Pretty soon we fell behind on our bills. In the Fall, when he realized how bad our finances were, he said he wanted a divorce. What a slap in the face! After all I had forgiven NOW he was done?!?

His mother was sure he was cheating on me. I asked him if that was true, over and over again, but he kept telling me, no, and I was over-reacting.  He still lives at home but he spends almost no time there, unless he has to watch the kids because I'm working.  Well, last Friday I found a Valentine's Day card from his "lover" along with gay porn and a bunch of condoms. I feel like the last 10 years was a dirty trick. I immediately called him on it but first I made copies of the love letter.

One thing that makes me so mad is that I have defended him to both of our families.  He says that I'm the problem because I'm bad with money.   The reality is that, if I had known what a liar and a cheat he was, we wouldn't have been married last summer anyway.  After I showed him the Valentine's card he finally admitted that he was having an affair and that it started more than 11 months ago.  He also told me that he has gone on vacation with this man and he has had sex with him in our home with our children asleep. I am so angry, I can't sleep. I am sad for my kids because they think we have a great family. The poor things don't even know about the divorce yet.  After all that he has done to me I don't even want to look at him.

C (41 yr old mother of three kids, ages 12, 9 and 8.)
Here's what "C" said in response to my questions.  As with her first post, I've done some minor editing to try to make her stream-of-conscious writing style easier to follow.
I fell in love at 20 and stayed there. He didn't want sex. That was very painful, but before he started having the high blood pressure and medication to excuse no sex, we had it. Until 6 years ago it was 2-3 times a week. I didn't bitch about that!

The first time there was a man issue, he was on a bike ride, came back and said he got a blow job in the park from a total stranger...after a great deal of talk/therapy/advise from clergy we moved on. This was about 8 yrs into our marriage, with no kids at the time. Then the next time he did anything (according to my info) was not for another 6 years.  At that time, we were open and talking about it. I believe there are people who are attracted to both sexes and I was under the impression he was one of them. After the adultery confession 6 years ago, he did probably did manipulate me a little, however, what I worried about were the three very young children we had.  The oldest was only four at the time.

I can remember thinking, "I've got to keep this together until our oldest at least is in school...for my sake as well as our kids."  Now our youngest is in 2nd grade so I guess I met that goal.

I stayed for the kids and for religious reasons.  I believe that we made a forever commitment.  However, I thought he was being more honest with me than he was.  Six years ago I thought he fell off the wagon, so to speak.  I thought it would be another one-time fling and we'd deal with it, just like the first time.  Another thing he said was the reason we didn't have sex was impotence, not because he was gay.

I will say this, I honestly think that he hates himself. I think he down deep is decent and good. In the last three years, however, I have seen changes in him.  I think something had to have happened.  I don't know what it was or think it matters at this point.  I do know that I wouldn't have been attracted to him if this was how he was when we met.

Another thing about me is that I don't make commitments lightly. I never have. I have always been loyal to a fault.  This is one doozy of an example!

Over the first 15 yrs of our marriage, he was my best friend. I would have said it until 2 yrs ago. He would say that I was his best friend until 4 yrs ago. He is the one who walked away from me.  First emotionally, then with his whole person.

I hope my husband pulls his head out of his ass.

Do you know people who don't live up to their potential? That's him. He will run out and help someone with a broken down car anytime, anywhere. I can't tell you how many times we've stopped and he's fixed someone else's flat tire. I'm the oldest of four siblings and each of them have lived with us for more than a year, at different times, to help get them on their feet. He shovels driveways for old ladies. This is why it's been easy to stay. We don't fight. We enjoy the same tv shows and we have kids in common. It has been easy to stay. It will be hard to end this marriage. Our lives have been tied together since we've been kids. I'm scared of the changes. BUT I am also excited. I wonder what kind of a person I will be able to become without the stress and the feelings of failure that have been with me for the last 14+ years.

I am a zombie mom right now...but I see there will be a better me in the future.
"C" originally caught my attention because she said her marriage was a 10 year "dirty trick."  But she also seemed to contradict herself by saying that she'd been aware of her husband's attraction to men for many years.  So which was it? Was her husband a lying, cheating scumbag?  Or, did she really the play trick on herself by making excuses for behavior that her husband was honest about?

Now that I know more about their situation, I'm convinced that this is a typical, messy mixed orientation marriage.  Both spouses know what's going on, but for a variety of reasons (like love, religious beliefs and concern for their children) they choose to ignore their underlying problems.  The marriage works (well enough) until it doesn't work any more.  Marriages like this usually end when the husband gets caught cheating or when he falls in love with another guy.

These situations are a sad, no-win mess for straight wives.  In this case, as in many others, love IS blind, but love does not conquer all.  She takes care of the kids, loves her husband with all her heart, and cherishes her family.  But the fact is, it doesn't matter what she does.  Once he emotionally withdraws from her, the marriage enters the realm of the living dead.

Those are some of my thoughts.  What are yours?  Specifically I'd like to know what closeted gay and bi men, as well as their straight wives, can learn from this situation.


  1. Self denial can be a reality distortion field -- we see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear despite the obvious facts before us. Some times it is a coping mechanism, other times it's just safer to be willfully ignorant.

  2. To me, it's important to pay attention to mental health as well as, and somewhat distinctly from, emotional connections.

    The thing that prompted me to come out to my wife was recognizing that I was not well, and it was getting worse. I was depressed and anxious; carrying my secret and my worries about what it might mean was no small thing; my life appeared to be going great to friends and family. I had looked forward to these being busy, but good and contented years, but instead I was finding myself withdrawing too much and struggling to feel connected with my life.

    Good mental health care after I started talking about what was going on, and understanding the basics of sexual orientation more clearly (this was 1993), turned my inner life around tremendously within 3 months. I still had a complicated life to work out, but I was no longer worried that sexual urges were going to spike out of control, I was able to talk through things openly, and I had peers who supported me as a gay and married man.

    With the personal foundation shored up, my wife and I tried to build a new foundation for the relationship. That didn't go as well; she was OK with an ex-gay husband who had turned away from his "dark" side, but not a gay/bi and monogamous one.

    So for me, it's worth noting that mixed orientation marriages can end up impacting mental health of both people, regardless how strong the intentions and mutual commitment.

    I lost a partner to suicide in 2000 after we'd been together a year. In his mid 40s, he'd been treated for clinical depression most of his adult life. His 22-year marriage had just ended when we met. He had adored his wife, loved their life together, and kept his orientation a secret for the first 19 years.

    While his depression was clearly a physical/chemical thing first and foremost, it seems to me it was exacerbated by a couple decades of fear and shaming himself for not being "good" (i.e., straight) enough. I can't help thinking that his chances of surviving would have been better if he had started opening up after 2, 5 or 10 years of marriage.

    I trust that folks in mixed orientation marriages today aren't as burdened by secrecy and shame. And yet, while mixed marriage dynamics can work beautifully for some (I've known a few), it's OK to admit that some individuals end up mentally worse off, even with the best of intentions.

    Nothing is easy in this mess; it can be especially hard to get to a win-win. When kids are in the mix, ideally the focus stays on keeping two functional, healthy parents in the mix, working for the common good in whatever form that takes.