Straight Spouse Connection was begun in 2008 to explore topics relevant to mixed-orientation families, particularly to the heterosexual partner in these relationships.  Most articles were intended to connect straight spouses with each other in a meaningful, positive way, to inform and comfort them, and to encourage their recovery after discovery of their spouse’s sexual secrets.  Given that core purpose, the complicated journeys of their gay mates were not emphasized—until now.

An exciting new book is just out that effectively addresses the question, “Why do gay and bisexual men marry women?  The Marrying Kind? by Charles Neal, a prominent British psychotherapist, gives brilliant insight into the needs, motivations, ramifications, and outcomes of these men.  Though it is aimed primarily at a gay male audience, it is an important contribution to the  literature for therapists, counselors, trainers, and especially for affected family members—wives, children and parents of these married gay men. 

Certified by the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP), Neal has forty years’ experience in counseling. Among other accomplishments, he is founder and chair of the UK Association for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Psychologies and has taught and written on related topics. His own story in the final chapter adds credibility, written in the same format as the preceding chapters.  He is “a gay parent, a survivor of alcoholic parenting, abuse and bullying, and serious illness.”  He first married a woman, fathering two sons, and has now been married for more than three decades to his gay husband. 

The book relates experiences of ten gay and bi men, ending with the author’s own story.  In excruciating detail, they reveal their internalized oppression, fearfulness, insecurity, and shame that informed their decisions.  The need to belong and connect with community drove many.  Family or career pressure factored in.  Some hoped that marriage to a woman might change their homosexual desires, or at least “cover” them.  Some simply sought a stable domestic life, or longed to father children. 

Religious pressure was also a factor for many, especially those with fundamental Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or Catholic beliefs.  Feeling unsupported or even persecuted by their religious communities, they chose conventional marriage as an escape.  With the authority of a counseling psychologist, the author adds his voice to other experts who discredit so-called “reparative therapy” to “convert” gays to straights.  Rather, sexuality is presented in all its nuances, as a process and a continuum that includes bisexuality, androgyny, blurred gender and other variations.  Simplistic solutions are neither applicable nor useful. 

Interestingly, the subjects interviewed for this book all came out in their thirties to fifties, after their children neared adulthood. This pattern has been observed in the United States as well. At mid-life, authenticity becomes more important.  Like their heartbroken wives, these men’s intimate personal stories reveal untold pain. 

Learning more about the other side of the story can be beneficial for recovering straight spouses.  The more we know, the better we can understand and move toward a favorable outcome and the final stage of recovery--empathy and forgiveness.

This is a book worth reading for any person whose family has been tested by a mixed-orientation marriage.  It is well written and reveals real people's experience.  The extensive bibliography and list of resources make the book even more useful.  I highly recommend it.         


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  1. Louella C. Komuves says:

    As with all of your insightful written posts here, Carol, my thanks to you are sincere and very heartfelt.
    Hearing of this book, The Marrying Kind, is wonderful. I look forward to securing a copy. Although it has been exactly 20 years now since my first husband and I separated/
    divorced and I have picked up the pieces of my life (was single for nine years and married again 11 years ago), it still periodically crosses my mind as to "why" men marry if they sense they are gay/bisexual. The most obvious question to me is "how" could someone (either male or female) possibly love a spouse and their children only to "tear the family apart" at a later time (even when their children are grown)?
    I believe it will be all the more informative to read a book with the male's perspective. So thank you for letting us know of such, Carol, and thank you to Charles Neal for taking time to write a book on this subject.
    I believe the more we can know about each other as persons and not as "labels" -- then the more we all find further growth and discovery about ourselves as well. Being open and honest plays a major part in relating to each other with kind and caring ways -- thus bringing about peace, comfort, contentment, purpose, empathy,and even forgiveness.
    Thankfully, with the assistance of Straight Spouse Network and persons who share therein, we no longer feel "alone" in our journeys.

  2. Jackie says:

    Thanks for sharing this title. My gay ex-husband and I were very Baptist at the time we were married, so I can definitely relate to your comments about religious pressure. I feel torn. On the one hand, I think it's good for men like Neal to share their experiences and for straight spouses to understand what their gay spouses were thinking. On the other hand, cultural pressures don't excuse the awful costs of these divorces. I'm sorry that my ex-husband was afraid to come out. I'm even sorrier that I've had to move my children out of their current school district because I can't afford to keep my home. I'm also sorry that I lost my health insurance because he didn't have the courage to stand in his truth.
    I have a cousin who is gay and grew up in the same religious culture that I did. When a heterosexual woman proposed to him, he told her that he knew he was gay and didn't think it would be right to marry her because he couldn't be the partner she needed. Would that my ex-husband had demonstrated the same kind of integrity! My ex-husband's experience should be honored by books like this, but so should the price that we straight spouses pay.

  3. Carol Grever says:

    Jackie, thanks so much for this detailed comment. I certainly agree that there is enough pain to go around on all sides of these situations. You state the straight spouse's challenges so well here. The fact is that when a married gay comes out, EVERYTHING​ changes and EVERYONE suffers. That's why I think it's important to try to understand the view and dilemma that each spouse carries. I empathize completely with your losses, which are all too familiar. I hope things are getting better for you!
    Best wishes,
    Carol Grever

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