How to Cope When Your Spouse Is Gay

Wondering if it's even worth it to try anymore
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You've had your suspicions. Maybe you've noticed your partner looking at people of the same gender in a different way. Then you discover the truth: your spouse or partner is gay. You might be left feeling like your relationship has been turned upside down, and as your partner comes out, you find yourself reeling. You may be left feeling alone, isolated, and unsure of what it means for your future.

Statistics Concerning Mixed Orientation Couples

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

According to one study, there are up to two 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.

Key Issues Facing a Straight Spouse

There's no question that learning your partner is gay can be difficult 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 affect them to have a gay parent?
  • Feeling like your life has 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 feeling that you have been lied to
  • Bitterness, fear, shock, despair, devastation, 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 or infections (Talk to your partner and get tested, regardless of the gender of the person they might have slept with.)

Things to Do and Not to Do

  • Decide what you both can and cannot live with.

  • Accept that it takes two to make a marriage.

  • Just as in any situation where there is possible infidelity, 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 about 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 responsible for the situation.

  • 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% of couples who try to make it work, only about 7% 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 this experience can be overwhelming, it is important to realize that the situation you find yourself in is nobody's fault. It is normal to feel distressed and angry. It is important to also recognize that your partner is also in emotional distress. People do not choose the gender(s) they are attracted to, so make sure to not direct homophobic backlash towards your partner. Despite this, focusing on your own needs during this time can help you regain a sense of self and heal if you do decide to let go of the relationship.

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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  1. Yarhouse, Mark A., et al. Characteristics of Mixed Orientation Couples: An Empirical Study. The Transdisciplinary Journal of Christian Psychology.