Monday, October 29, 2012

Open Marriage or Divorce: "It's better to be divorced."

Helen and I exchanged a few emails about our lives and circumstances.  She's the young woman I quoted in my last post, the one who wrote about her parents' open marriage.

At the time of our conversation I was thinking about coming out to my kids, so we talked about that.  We also talked about the reasons why many married men "on the down-low" have no desire to come out.  On that subject, Helen realized something new:
You made me realize that my mother and my father's family wanted him in the closet at least as badly as he wanted to be there too.  In fact, he might have felt he was doing the right thing by not living openly.  He probably felt like he was protecting them.  
This is a revelation to me, and I don't know why I didn't see it before.
 On the subject of hiding same-sex attractions from one's children, Helen had this to say:
I glanced at "[Another blog]," and couldn't help but compare the two of you.  
The author of that blog wrote something to the effect that he hopes his kids never find out that he's a liar and a cheat.  
He's kidding himself.  The thing these guys don't understand is that it's better to be divorced and to have an open, genuine relationship with your children than it is to be married but lie to your kids every day for the rest of your life.  
I'm not unsympathetic.  I know how it happens.  People have been brought up to believe that their marriage and family are their real relationships, while their relationships with their lovers are secret and disposable.  They're not real and therefore not important.  That's how you end up with men who believe that "women are for romance and men are for sex."  They've never seen a romantic relationship between two men really work.  But they can and do work, and every gay person today (in most parts of this country) can pursue a genuine, loving, and public relationship with the person they love, if they really want to.  

Also, I think that all parents are guilty of forgetting that they're meant to be raising functional, independent adults.  I only have a toddler, but even I have to remind myself that these days of high dependence won't last forever and that someday she'll be a grown woman.  If I want to have a close relationship with her then, it's important to be as honest and compassionate as I can be now. 
Helen has conflicted feelings about her father.  She loves him but she also feels betrayed by his lies and cheating.  Actually, when you think about it, she feels exactly the same way many straight spouses do, just less vehemently.

She makes the assumption that every kid will eventually learn the truth about his or her cheating parent.  Yet, ironically, no man on the down-low ever expects to be caught.

I suppose that's the nature of the beast.  If you expect to be caught, why bother hiding?

How many cheating spouses are eventually caught?  No one knows.  Many of them, certainly.  Especially these days when it's easy to get tripped up in your own digital handiwork.

I've seen a number of teenagers post stories about how they discovered their father's cheating because they found some form of electronic evidence.  Before the Internet, I remember when guys would talk about finding their dad's porn stash.  Now that porn stashes are kept on computers and phones, I wonder how many teenagers go looking for their dad's porn and are shocked by what they find.  I've never read a story about that happening, at least as far as I can remember, but I'm sure it happens.

Anyway, my point is that electronic secrets are not as secret as we think they are.  Those very popular Apple products, for example, keep track of the apps you download.  If someone in your family innocently syncs a new device to your existing Apple account....whoops, there's Grindr!

My advice to spouses with secrets is to expect that the truth will some day be revealed, and when it is, expect that your spouse won't be the only important person in your life who feels angry and betrayed.  Yes, some secrets do make it to the grave, but mostly, they don't.  For that reason, it's best to prepare for the worst.

What do you think?


  1. It is one of those situations where people in unhappy relationships for what ever reason stay together for 'the sake of the kids' and not taking time to think about the effect an unhappy marriage would have on their future relationships ideals.

  2. I'm a pretty computer literate guy, completely at home with technology. Despite the mastery I feel I have over my electronic devices, I too have been busted looking at gay porn online by my wife. Granted, this was before there was a 'porn mode' on all browsers, but I was pretty vigilant about deleting all the tripwires.

  3. After my wife found pics of naked guys on my laptop, we tried to make it work for about a year afterwards.... or rather, she tried to. I wanted out of the marriage. It was a year fraught with tension which which she spent 90% of her time out of the house to avoid the problem.

    When we did finally split. my three kids (19, 17, 15)quickly discovered that it ws better to live in two happier households (or at least mine was) rather than one full of anger and animosityh.

    And by the way, I had been out to them shortly after my wife's discovery. They were perfect okay with me being gay; in fact, I think we're closer than ever. I think that a Dad showing a lot of honesty and a bit of vulnerability is a good thing for the kids to see.

  4. I am 6 months into this and feel the stress and hope that it can work out. Luckily the kids are out of the house. My wife and fear that any breaking up of our marriage will have a cascading effect on our two kids, especially one of who tends towards more emotional vulnerability.

  5. There seems to be this overriding expectation that a gay oriented man cannot be happy if they are married to a woman. Why? I'm gay and married to a woman, and have been for nearly 18 years. But I didn't lie to her. I came out to her while we were dating. We just knew we had to always be working on our own relationship, even when we had kids. We made sure we always had "date nights" and walks, and tried to keep lines of communication open. I've never come out to my kids, but since I've never cheated on my wife I doubt they could claim that I've lied to her or to them. I dearly love my wife and children and would not give them up for anything, even though I only seem to find men attractive. I suspect all married men find themselves attracted to someone other than their spouse, despite whatever mixture of orientations in their marriage. Those who are committed to making it work usually can. However, if one spouse is not committed, that makes it hard and much less likely for long term success.

  6. Mr Anon at 12:28,
    I find your comment fascinating. I have a friend who is struggling with his sexuality. He's a married man with teen kids. I fear greatly for his ability to keep his marriage together. He doesn't WANT to be gay and the prevailing wisdom states that if he IS in fact gay, his marriage is all but over. He's not at a place where starting over would be practical and frankly, I don't see him happy being an out gay man. He would not just risk his family but his larger community as well...Not simply for being gay but for lies and cheating as well.
    How did YOU manage it? How do you achieve a measure of peace? Does the urge to BE with a man override all else? That seems to be the message he's received. I wouldn't know. I'm a str8 woman but I feel for him so and I feel for his wife, who has no idea about any of this....
    Was it your honesty that was key? How "comfortable" is your wife with the situation and do you feel your outcome would have been different had you waited to come out to your wife years into your marriage? How does she deal with the knowledge you're not attracted to her?
    Thank you for sharing your story. I think much of the pain for this man at least is the fear that he can't have the life he WANTS...and wants very, very much.
    Best wishes to you and your wife....