When a mixed-orientation pair decides to separate, the usual aftermath is a period of confusion and ambivalence.  It is hard enough to make the decision to split, but just as hard to adjust to new realities.  Once separated, how can the straight husband or wife create enough distance to allow letting go altogether?  If the couple’s separation is abrupt and hostile, this question might not arise.  But if there is still love between the two, especially if they have children to consider and protect, distancing becomes a dilemma.   

Two conversations with straight spouses in the past weeks reiterated the problem.  One mature gay man left his straight wife over a year ago, but they still reside in the same small town, she still lives in their old home, they see each other on the street, and her pool of grief is constantly replenished.  She says she just can’t let go.  In the other case, the couple’s separation happened just last month, and the two are co-parenting a son while living in adjacent apartments, desperately trying to keep their equilibrium.  They still care about each other a great deal, but they both realize that their marriage must end because the husband has fallen in love with his male soul mate.  The players in both of these poignant dramas are painfully confused by their conflicting emotions.

How can you let go of an intimate partner without blame or hatred?  How can a friendship be salvaged from a broken marriage?  It isn’t always possible, but it has been done by many who were willing to expend the necessary effort.  The Straight Spouse Network released the following description of the process.  It can be used as a guide to nurture a healthy relationship with a gay ex after divorce.  This is how it looks to let go in a constructive way.

  • To let go doesn't mean to stop caring.  It means I can't do it for someone else.
  • To let go is not to cut myself off.  It's the realization that I don't control another.
  • To let go is not to enable, but to allow learning from natural consequences.
  • To let go is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.
  • To let go is not to try to change or blame another.  I can only change myself.
  • To let go is not to care for, but to care about.
  • To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.
  • To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
  • To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to effect their own outcomes.
  • To let go is not to be protective.  It is to permit another to face reality.
  • To let go is not to deny, but to accept.
  • To let go is not to nag, scold or argue, but to search out my own shortcomings and to correct them.
  • To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and to cherish the moment. 
  • To let go is not to criticize and regulate anyone, but to try to become what I dream I can be.  
  • To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.
  • To let go is to fear less and love more.

Adjusting to a new life after an emotional relationship ends is a process that takes time.  There is a period of grief, as if after a death.  The process must take its full course or it will reappear again later.  Reconfiguring your future involves reaching out to new friends, developing new activities, and making many small changes in daily life.  Change your makeup or haircut, rearrange the furniture, try new foods, experiment with different styles of clothing, develop a new interest or hobby.  Such small adjustments may improve your mood and overall attitude toward the situation.  But the tincture of time is the ultimate healer.  Your sense of disruption will eventually fade as the new you emerges. 

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4 Responses to “THERE GOES THE BRIDE: How to Let Go”

  1. Jerrie Hurd says:

    Great for everyone who's trying to let go in any sense. Letting go of youth, comes to my mind for some strange reason.
    Very nice post.

  2. I was going to post a comment that this advice is sensible for many splits -- sexual orientation notwithstanding. But Jerrie beat me to it. 🙂

  3. Amanda says:

    Hi, I'm Amanda.
    I am just so glad I have found this site. It has really been so therapeutic to read everyone's stories and feelings, because I feel so many of the same things! I just read and nod and cry, and I think heal a little. My husband just came out to me two weeks ago, a month after our five-year wedding anniversary; I'd like to share my story as well.
    I have been feeling unhappy for a while with our relationship because my husband was always so angry and just unable to be happy about anything no matter how hard I tried to make the conditions perfect. We would get a sitter for the night, go out for an hour, and he would pick a fight with me and say he wanted to go home. I would feign illness with the sitter because I felt very embarrassed we couldn't even make it through one night together. After an argument about his anger issues, I told him I was considering whether we'd be able to get through this without some outside counseling. A few weeks later, per my suggestion, he went home for a few weeks to kind of give us a little break, though it seemed as though we were really starting to get along better, and I felt some of those feelings of young love again.
    He came back, and after the initial happiness of being reunited, I could tell something was still seriously wrong. After asking what was bothering him, he told me he had come to the realization that he was gay. I was in shock, but initially very supportive. I can't even imagine how it must feel to keep such a secret; I never doubted that he loved me but I do believe you do not have a choice in your sexuality. But since the shock has worn off, it has just been a roller coaster of emotions! I have been financially supporting my husband and family (we have a 3-year old) for the past year while he went to school. With this revelation of being gay, he has quit school and feels that he will not be able to find a job. It took me years to even think I could trust someone enough to take care of them in that way and not get screwed...the plan was for him to get his degree and start working, me to get out (I'm in the military) and for us to live happily ever after. The pain from realizing my future I had so carefully crafted in my mind is completely shattered still hits me like a brick every day. I actually considered trying to stay married, but I can see I would fall into the same hurt if that were to happen as a lot of the other stories I have seen on here and other sites. My love for my husband is so complete that there really is no option for us to remain in the same home or for me to remain "technically married" to him, it would just continue to break my heart. I just want to be able to support him emotionally while I figure out how to support myself and my daughter emotionally, while building a new plan of success for my future. For now, I let him know when I am angry or sad, and when I feel at peace. I tell him how I am finding solace through some close friends and through these posts. I tell him what I am looking for from him in terms of the next steps for moving on while trying to create a good, lasting non-romantic relationship so that our daughter will hopefully not have to see us hate each other, I really don't want that. I have said from the beginning, "I don't want to be angry," and I don't, but I know there are times when I will be. This, along with some of my friends, are how I can let the anger go so I spend more of my days feeling like a normal person. Thanks for reading and writing everyone.

  4. Carol Grever says:

    Amanda's comment shows tremendous courage, insight, and maturity, in my opinion. She recognizes both the potential for eventual equanimity with her husband, as well as the inevitability of the familiar "roller coaster emotions" that we all experience. When dreams of an idyllic future are shattered, there are many pieces to pick up. Amanda sees clearly the challenges, though her ability to articulate her feelings along the way and her determination to reach solid ground emotionally will surely take her to a successful outcome. It is heartening to read such responses, filled with pain, but also with hope. Best wishes in your journey, Amanda!
    Carol Grever

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