Straight Spouses: What to Do (And What Not To) If Your Spouse Is Gay

You've had your suspicions. Maybe your normal sexual appetite is considered by your mate to be excessive, or your spouse doesn't want to have anything to do with you sexually and acts repulsed by sexual activity. Maybe your partner becomes more and more secretive and moody and you notice him or her looking at people of the same sex in a different way.

Then you discover the truth: your spouse or partner is gay or bisexual.

As your world turns upside down, and as your partner comes out, you find yourself reeling. You feel alone, isolated and ashamed.

Statistics Concerning Mixed Orientation Couples

Mixed orientation couples are those in which one member in a relationship is either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.

According to the Straight Spouse Network, it is estimated that there are up to 2 million mixed orientation couples. When the gay, lesbian, or bisexual partner comes out, a third of the couples break up immediately; another third stay together for one to two years and then split; the remaining third try to make their marriages work. Of these, half split up, while the other half stay together for three or more years.

The Family Pride Coalition compiled the following statistics:

  • 20 percent of all gay men in America are in a heterosexual marriage
  • 50 percent of all gay men in America have fathered children
  • 40 percent of all lesbians in America are married to a male partner
  • 75 percent of all lesbians have children

Key Issues Facing a Straight Spouse

There's no question that learning your partner is gay or bisexual can be traumatic for the straight person in the relationship. Among the things you may be feeling are:

  • Sexual rejection
  • Damaged sexual self-esteem
  • Wondering things like "what did I do to cause this?" or "am I not masculine/feminine enough?"
  • Low self-image and a high level of self-doubt
  • Concern about the children. How will they handle the news? How will it influence them to have a gay parent?
  • Feeling like your beliefs have been shattered after living a lie
  • Confusion about the relationship or marriage and whether it is worth saving
  • Fear of having your family torn apart
  • Hurt over being violated and lied to
  • Rage, bitterness, fear, shock, despair, devastation, repulsion, hurt and anger
  • Anxiety about whether your partner or spouse has been unfaithful
  • Shame, secrecy, and a fear of lack of acceptance
  • Fear of having been exposed to or having contracted sexually transmitted diseases including HIV

Things to Do—and Not to Do

Do

  • Decide what you both can and cannot live with.

  • Accept that it takes two to make a marriage.

  • Get checked immediately for sexually transmitted diseases, whether or not your partner admits to any sexual infidelity.

  • Take care of yourself as you go through the grieving process. Your relationship has changed. Try to accept this reality and move forward.

  • Be careful how you tell your children. You may need professional guidance to deal with this. It's important for them to feel loved and secure and to know they're not to blame for the situation.

Don't

  • Isolate yourself. Seek out a support group or professional help.

  • Assume your marriage is over. Some straight/gay marriages are happy unions. However, studies show that out of 15 percent of couples who try to make it work, only about 7 percent make it over the long term.

  • Blame yourself for "turning" your partner gay. No one can turn someone else gay.

  • Let the years of deception and the sense of betrayal take away from the good times and the positive memories.


A Word From Verywell

Although the trauma of being a straight spouse or partner can be overwhelming, it is important to realize that the situation you find yourself in is not your fault.

The first year will probably be the toughest as you sort out complicated feelings and decide how to move forward. These decisions may mean the end of your marriage. Some couples stay married and some don't. Moving on and letting go will take time and a willingness to forgive.

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