Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category


June 23rd, 2014 by Carol Grever


“Why I Care” was the very first article on Straight Spouse Connection, posted on May 19, 2008.  It launched this blog with an outline of my own experience as a straight spouse.  The site’s purpose?  “To explore topics relevant to mixed orientation families and particularly to other straight spouses.” 

Through the ensuing six years, most regular readers have been heterosexual women whose mates were gay.  The articles and reader comments were from the straight female partner’s point of view.  Recently, that trend has shifted a bit.  More stories and questions are surfacing from straight men with lesbian wives.

One such reader, who identifies himself as “Brassyhub,” agreed to write a guest post to describe his efforts to keep his mixed-orientation marriage together.  Here is his story.


As good as it gets?

Perhaps this is as good as it gets. After all, what is a successful mixed- orientation marriage?  Next month we will come to the first anniversary of my wife’s coming out as a lesbian.  And we’re still together, still exclusive and faithful to each other, and intending to continue that way.

What a year of trauma it has been, mostly for me, but some for her too.  The “D” word has been spoken, divorce.  We’ve looked at all the other options:  an open marriage, one side or both.  Perhaps we’re going for the hardest option, or perhaps it’s the easiest, the one involving the least change.  We both felt too old to start new lives.  After all, there’s no guarantee of finding a better, more compatible partner even if we separate.  We’ve invested a lot, most of our lives, in THIS relationship.  And there’s a lot of good in it.  We like each other; we talk together; we do things together (and apart).  But we’ve never had much of a sex life, and now we have none.

We’ve agreed on a weekly cuddle, on a fixed time and day, and being the eternal optimist that I am, I can’t help hoping that this may become a little more.  But I think that for now, my wife simply isn’t able to give any more.  Her 30-year struggle against her lesbian nature and attractions left her asexual. So there’s very little intimacy that for me is such an important part of a marriage--the total giving and opening up, the vulnerability, the no hold-back, the closeness, the desire for the beloved other.  We’re both mourning this sexual component of a loving relationship that we’ve never known and will never know if we stay together as we plan. 

However, there’s a very deep connection all the same.  She trusted me, she shared with me her deepest struggle, her darkest secret.  We are friends and perhaps even lovers, but without the sex.  Can this be enough for me?  For her? We’ll see.  But it’s already a lot.  I have to learn to live in the present, with what I have, rather than dreaming of some future and improbable miraculous change.  This can be a good day, with lots of good things in it, even without sex.

Perhaps this is as good as it gets, and this is success, not the miracle that I have searched for on the web, trying to apply someone else’s experience to our situation, our relationship.  I wanted some magical way of arousing a lesbian who has no desire for me at all, but who has a lot of tenderness and affection all the same.  There are no secrets, and there is trust. That’s a pretty rare and precious gift too.

There are no guarantees for the future--but that’s true of every marriage.  Ours is just lived with a far greater realism about the fragility of all relationships.                                           Brassyhub


Brassyhub’s account raises several questions that each couple trying to remain together might ponder.  Among them:  What are their realistic options?  How strong is their mutual connection?  What are the felt needs of each partner?  Which of these needs are absolute, without which they must separate?   How much change can each tolerate?  What is each willing to give up in staying together?  Perhaps most important, do they still love and trust each other, even after their secrets are revealed?

Brassyhub’s clarity in assessing his unusual situation is laudable. As he realistically points out, there is no guarantee of permanence in any relationship.  His intention to stay in the present is good advice for us all. 

Comments are welcome, particularly from other men in similar situations. What is your experience as a male straight spouse?  How did you address your situation?  Do you have advice for Brassyhub?



October 25th, 2013 by Carol Grever

 A recent email from a male straight spouse was
critical of my approach to straight spouse recovery, calling it “one-sided” and
unnecessary.  He suggested that I let my
blog go and “get over it.”  It was a
suggestion worth considering.  It also challenged
me to evaluate this site that I launched in 2008 with a post titled “Why I

My stated purpose in that first
post was “to explore topics relevant to mixed orientation families and
particularly to other straight spouses.” 
For five years I have tried to stay true to that purpose.  But is this work no longer needed?  I pondered that for several days and honestly
thought about shutting the blog down.

Then I received another email that encouraged continuation of my work. Here is the text of that second message:

was five years ago that I contacted you after reading your books.  My husband of 40+ years told me he is gay and
had left me.  You encouraged me that,
yes, I could get through that terrible time. 
I had hoped because of our long history we could continue a semblance of
a relationship, but it was not to be. 

may not remember our conversation, but I do, distinctly.  You said that time would heal many of the
wounds that had been inflicted--and you were correct.  There were many sleepless nights, days filled
with tears, and friendships strained by my grief.  It was like someone died.  He was the love of my life and I couldn't
imagine or take it in that he was "dumping" me. 

5 years have gone by--hard for me to think about it.  And I was recently married to a man who also
lives in my home town.  We met 3 years
ago and despite all odds, we have found happiness together.  His wife died of cancer about 5 years
ago.  So we both came to the relationship
with some "baggage" that we have had to deal with.  Friends and family are happy for us and we
are happy for ourselves! 

just wanted to update you on my situation and THANK YOU for your wonderful
advice and for writing the books!  My mom
always said that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" and I'd
have to say she was right.  There were
times that I was at the brink of desperation, but now I have come out of the
darkness and am a stronger person. 

Colorado, USA

Still another message sealed my decision to keep
offering my “one-sided” conviction that people can overcome the sadness of a
spouse coming out and, with time and patience, can reconfigure a rewarding new
life.  Helen, a recovered straight
spouse, wrote

When I
was a counselor at an Episcopal summer camp, the bishop came to speak to the
campers about their direction in life.  He brought the term
"calling" or "vocation" into my awareness in a way
that I had never before considered.  He explained that we can find
our true "vocation" if we look for the point at which our
greatest talent and the world's greatest need intersect. 

I’m a writer and since I have first-hand knowledge of the journey of a straight
spouse, and since there is obvious ongoing need for information about meeting this challenge—I suppose that I am actually engaged in my true vocation by
Helen’s definition.  On my desk, a small
plaque helps me focus: 

Let your work be in keeping with
your purpose. -
–Leonardo da Vinci

After taking into account all the feedback I've received recently, it
is my intention to continue my work as long as there is clear need.  It is my fervent hope that changing attitudes
about gay marriage will reverse the tide of mixed-orientation marriages and
there will no longer be any need for this calling,
but I’ll continue as long as I am contacted for help by men and women who
discover that they are straight spouses. 

respectfully request your comments, negative or positive, on the value of this
blog.  Thank you!




June 22nd, 2013 by Carol Grever


    “Reparative Therapy,” the attempt to change a
person’s innate sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual, has made
the news again, though this time in a more positive way.  Exodus International, a Christian organization
that urged people to repress same-sex attraction, has shut down its ministry
after 37 years.  Its leader, Alan
Chambers, apologized to the gay community, admitting that “We’ve hurt people.” 

    In an interview with the Associated Press,
Chambers said “The church has waged the culture war, and it’s time to put the
weapons down.”  Exodus International previously
claimed that gays’ sexual orientation could be permanently changed or “cured,”
despite the opposition of professional psychologists and psychiatrists who
concluded long ago that efforts to convert sexual orientation are unsuccessful
and do great psychological harm. In closing his organization, Chambers expressed
regret for inflicting “years of undue suffering.”  He plans to launch a new initiative to
promote dialogue among those on opposite sides of this issue.

    Repressive methods to change innate sexual
orientation are doomed to failure and may inflict irreparable harm.  The fact that Alan Chambers is now publicly
acknowledging these facts is extremely encouraging.

    Two earlier posts on Straight Spouse Connection examined the topic of reparative therapy
with additional background and case studies. To review that information, click Archives on the tool bar, August, 2009: Reparative Therapy Debunked—Again, August 19, 2009, and Emotional Damage of Reparative Therapy: One
Man’s Story
, August 28, 2009.

    Why is the news about Exodus International
important to straight spouses?  It is yet
another indication that public awareness and attitudes are slowly changing regarding
the realities of sexual orientation. 
When society accepts all of its members, gay or straight or variations
in between, individuals can live openly and honestly. If that day ever comes,
there will be no closet of shame, no ill-fated mixed-orientation marriages
based on secrecy, no more suffering of “straight spouses.”  If that day ever comes, this blogger can




May 2nd, 2013 by Carol Grever


When a gay spouse
comes out, the typical result is an angry, risky split that is quick and
traumatic.  The common estimate is that
85% of mixed-orientation couples separate in this way after disclosure.  (See “Letting Yourself Fall Apart” on this
site for one example.) But circumstances may dictate a different decision for
others.  The following guest post shows
one woman’s compelling reason to stay married to her gay husband and
demonstrates that solutions are never simple.  

don’t know what I was thinking.

that’s a lie. I do know. I was thinking that I was unlovable, and that no one
else would ever want to marry me. So I married my college boyfriend.

you know, thinking back on it now, I’m not sure he ever actually proposed. It
was just an unspoken thing. He would graduate from law school, and we would get
married. That’s how these things worked.

wasn’t particularly handsome. And the sex wasn’t particularly interesting. But
we were best friends and never fought, and that sounded like a good basis for a
marriage. I knew what I was thinking, but I didn’t know what he was thinking.

couple years into the marriage, I started to understand. A good friend from
college called to talk to my husband. I was in the room, and heard the
conversation from my husband’s end. Our friend was career Air Force, with a
high security clearance. He was going to be taking a polygraph, and was going
to be asked about a sexual relationship he had in college. A relationship with
another man in the 1970s was rarely talked about, and for a military man in the
Reagan years, it was likely career-ending. My husband told him to tell the
truth, and that was the end of the conversation.

few months later, the conversation with our friend came up. I said something
about having always assumed he was gay, and that it must be hard to deal with
in the Air Force. And then I listened to my husband backpedal in a spectacular
way. No, our friend wasn’t gay at all. The conversation had been about his
having known someone in his dorm who was gay. The Air Force was concerned that
he was a security risk because he had lived in the same building as a gay
student. Really? That’s not the conversation I heard.

know that phrase, “out of the blue”? That’s how it was. One moment I knew
everything that was true, and not true, and real, and the next, out of the
blue, I knew our friend had called to tell my husband that he was going to be
named during the polygraph test. Things that I had chosen to overlook suddenly
made sense. My husband was gay, and I was stupid, or naïve, or some other name
I chose to call myself.

did the only logical thing. I never said a word about it. We were best friends,
and loved to spend time together. I overlooked unexplained behavior and
spending. He worked hard and supported me when my business was slow. We loved
each other in our way, and I decided that would be good enough. No one else
would ever love me, and what we had was working, so why would I leave?

of course it wasn’t working. It just looked that way from the outside. And
after a weekend trip with a friend, I decided to ask for a divorce. Before I
could say anything, my husband was diagnosed with stage four esophageal cancer.
I was told that he would die within three or four months. As much as I wanted
to run away, get out of the marriage, not have to deal with cancer, I couldn’t.
He was my husband, and we loved each other the best way we could, and you don’t
walk out when someone is dying of cancer.

I never mentioned divorce. I stayed and cared for him night and day for four
months. He rarely slept, which meant I rarely slept. He couldn’t swallow, and
hated the smell of food, so I would often go days without eating. His body
wasted away to nothing, and his bodily functions didn’t always function as
expected. I took it all in stride, and just handled it. That’s what you do when
your husband is dying. You forgive the past and do your best in the present.
It’s the best way to have a future without regrets.

passed away at the age of forty-three, two weeks after our eighteenth
anniversary. His lover came to the funeral, and the look on his face broke my
heart. We were three good people who hadn’t been able to live the lives we
should have had, because of the way we saw ourselves, and what society expected
of us. But I know that all three of us loved the best way we knew how, and that
counts for a lot.
Karen Jackson


Karen’s story demonstrates the pain of
many straight spouses, whether they choose to stay in their relationship or
separate.  Low self-esteem is evident
in her self-talk:  I’m unlovable, No one else will want me. I was stupid, or naïve.  She settled for marriage based on friendship
and called it good enough.  She overlooked unexplained behavior and
unusual spending, and her outer life became a façade, an unspoken lie. All these
patterns are common in mixed-orientation relationships.

Karen’s husband’s cancer diagnosis changed
her mind about separation and she showed selfless understanding and
compassion.  The key was this
recognition: We loved each other the best
we could.
 Karen demonstrated her own
basic goodness and willingness to look clearly at reality as she unflinchingly
cared for her husband until he died.  You forgive the past and do your best in the
present.  It’s the best way to have a
future without regrets.

Every gay-straight relationship has its
unique challenges, though most are less dramatic than Karen’s.  But her account is a lesson in mature
judgment and the ability to stay present in the moment, even under duress.  Her history of grief is a poignant
illustration of the vow “till death do us part."



March 31st, 2013 by Carol Grever

the initial confusion settles after a gay married person comes out, the
straight partner has a life-changing decision to make: Divorce or remain in the
marriage.  Many factors determine the
answer to that question—longevity of the partnership, children, finances,
emotional attachment among them.  It is
seldom an automatic decision.

mixed-orientation relationships are shadowed in secrecy, it is impossible to
say with certainty how many stay together after one partner comes out.  The common estimate is that 85% of
gay-straight couples split and 15% stay together, at least for a time.  According to one study by Amity Pierce Buxton
with the Straight Spouse Network, one-third of couples separate immediately
after the gay spouse comes out, another third attempt to remain together but
break up later, and another third remain committed to the marriage.  However, after three years, only half of
these couples are still together.

the large majority of straight spouses decide to divorce.  Separating is never easy, but it is
particularly challenging if the marriage is long-standing.  Divorce is complicated in itself, but the
myriad personal details surrounding the process make it nearly

new workbook can help.  Mandy Walker
writes about these matters on her blog, Since
My Divorce,  Her free self-help
workbook, Visioning Your Life After
is offered on that site.  Mandy
has also just published an e-book, available for Kindle on Untangling From Your Spouse: How to Prepare
for Divorce
offers practical information on the logistics of ending a
marriage.  It is forthright and clear, a
listing of steps necessary for self-protection legally, personally, and
financially. For example, the book gives practical advice regarding changing
passwords and mail arrangements, insurance matters, credit card protection, and
living arrangements.  The resource list
at the end suggests additional helpful online sites.

is motivated by integrity, not revenge. 
Her straightforward e-book and workbook can be valuable for straight
spouses who decide to launch a new life on their own. 


November 10th, 2012 by Carol Grever

    Support for legally recognized same-sex marriage
in the U.S. got a big boost in the November 6th national election. Voters
in Maine, Maryland, and Washington exercised citizen power to legalize gay
marriage in their states. With these three, there are now nine states with
marriage equality, including Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
Vermont, and New York, plus the District of Columbia. Passage of these ballot
referenda shows strengthening grass-roots support for legalized gay marriage,
in contrast to the past 20 years. Previously, 32 states put gay marriage to a vote and it was defeated
every single time.

    Minnesota showed another sign of positive change
in this election. It is the first state in which voters rejected a
constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, though such unions are still
illegal there. Previously, 30 other states have gone the other way and have constitutionalized
bans—a more challenging obstacle to equality. 

    As pointed out in my previous post, the shift of
public opinion demonstrated in this election is just one more baby-step toward
greater recognition and social acceptance of same-sex marriage and sexual
diversity generally.  Furthermore,
gay-bashing in political ads proved to be a failure. The momentum toward
tolerance shown in election results implies increasing acceptance of diverse
sexual identities.  U.S News and World
online (Nov. 8, 2012) asserted that “Half of Americans believe their states
should recognize marriages of same-sex couples.”  The weight of public opinion may even encourage
the Supreme Court to examine and rule on the constitutionality of the U.S.
federal ban on gay marriage, DOMA—the Defense of Marriage Act. 

    While social change is excruciatingly slow, it is
encouraging that more people can now openly, legally marry the person they
love, whether opposite sex or same sex.  As
straight spouses, why should we care?  Just
this: These changing attitudes suggest that in the future there may be fewer married
heterosexuals blindsided by the discovery that their spouses are secretly gay.

    Though trends in this election may not directly help those straight spouses struggling through their crises today, the next generation
should see fewer doomed mixed-orientation marriages based on deception and
lies. May it be so!







October 16th, 2012 by Carol Grever

    I received an email this week from a woman whose
story gave me chills.  It was a close
parallel of my own experience in discovering my husband’s homosexuality:  Thirty years of marriage, grown children, a
secret bank account to assure his separate financial ease, withdrawal from sex
and affection, mysterious absences, and on and on.  It was like reading again the first chapter
of My Husband Is Gay!  And it was an emotional reminder that the
straight spouse saga continues for millions of people even now. 

     Why does this keep happening?  One obvious reason is remaining societal
pressure to hide homosexual orientation—to pretend to be straight and to carry
that pretense into marriage with an unsuspecting partner.  Until gays no longer fear “being found out,”
until their careers are no longer threatened, until their families  and churches accept them for who they really
are, mixed-orientation relationships will continue to be consummated—usually
headed toward heartbreak and dissolution. 
I have heard it countless times from married gays:  “I played the role as long as I could, as
long as I could stand to live that lie.” 
When that breaking point is reached, the marriage contract is breached,
and everyone involved suffers.

    If same-sex marriage were legalized and socially
accepted, there would be no need for anyone to hide his or her sexual
orientation and a possible end to the straight spouse calamity.  That’s why the Straight Spouse Network and
other peer support organizations urge legalization.  In the upcoming U.S. election, this debate has
utterly polarized the population.  Half a
dozen states and the District of Columbia have already legalized gay marriage,
giving a hint of hope for broader acceptance and change.  The fact that the issue is in the national
conversation at all is a sign of progress.

    Presidential candidates are on opposite poles
here.  Barack Obama supports legal
recognition of same-sex marriage, as decided by states.  Mitt Romney says it should be banned completely
with an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 
In Maine, Maryland, and the state of Washington, voters will decide
whether to legalize gay marriage. Residents of four additional states will vote
this November on related questions.  But
strong resistance is still apparent: 
Minnesota voters will decide whether to ban gay marriage in their state constitution, as 30 other states
have already done.

    Growing acknowledgement that our sexual
orientation is not a “choice,” that it is inborn and irreversible, is a
positive sign.  But the ultimate goal of
tolerance and acceptance of all sexual identities is yet unattained; witness
the persistent advocacy of psychologically damaging “reparative” or “gay
conversion therapy.”  Overwhelming
societal prejudice continues to push gay people to marry heterosexual partners out
of fear and shame. 

    I believe that few gay people enter marriage with
the cynical intention of hurting their mates. 
In fact, I think that the opposite is true.  They may marry for love with a misguided wish
to change their orientation; they may want children of their own; they may be
supporting an ambitious career; they may have conservative religious prescriptions
or strong family pressures.  These and
other factors affect a gay person’s decision to marry a straight mate.  However, for all but a small fraction of
couples, none of these reasons will sustain the marriage over a lifetime.  Sooner or later, cracks appear in the
previously impervious intentions.  The
marriage fails.

    One phrase from last week’s email stays with
me:  “I feel like he died, the man that I
thought I married.”  This is the poignant
result of decades of lies.  While every
straight spouse message I receive is different in details, all are the same in
one respect.  These mixed relationships
are built upon a basic untruth, a denial of one partner’s sexual reality.  When that denial crumbles, the world falls apart
for the straight spouse. My response to that distraught woman was
familiar:  “This is not your fault and
you are not responsible for what he has done. 
You are also not alone!  We are
like millions of others whose trust has been broken by a gay mate.” 

    Though it’s hard to find a bright spot in the
midst of such crisis, experience proves that survival and a happier future are
possible.  Society is slowly progressing
toward more enlightened acceptance and straight spouses do have increased
resources for recovery through the Internet and a widening range of therapeutic
tools.  Even in the darkness of despair, one
can still see the stars.



December 20th, 2011 by Carol Grever

A few weeks ago, I took a hard fall on the ice, damaging my left shoulder.  The injury was worse than I first imagined and I have had to take an extended leave from a job I dearly love, teaching fitness to seniors at the YMCA.  I’ve led challenging fitness classes there for nearly 13 years, and now I’m unable to perform, much less teach, weight lifting, yoga, and other stretching and strength training exercises.  To say that I “can’t” is hard for me.  It’s a loss, at least for now. 

But this example is minor, compared with life’s really big endings—loss of a loved one, divorce, financial ruin, termination of a job, foreclosure on a home, alienation of a child, eventually one’s own death.  The loss that you faced when your spouse came out is certainly one of these major, destabilizing changes.  However, the ensuing chaos can be the beginning of an even better way of life.

When my father died in 1991 after years of fighting leukemia, the whole family expected my mother to fold.  For more than 50 years she and my dad had enjoyed real marital bliss—they were closer and more loving than any couple I’ve ever known.  We thought mother could not survive alone.  To eveyone’s surprise, she did.  In fact, she recovered her balance and started over.  Apparently, during the years she’d nursed my dad, she was preparing herself for survival.  She made a plan.  Within weeks after the funeral, she began to explore opportunities in their little town that had gone unnoticed before.  She read voraciously—a hundred books in the following year.  She attended library lectures and joined two card groups, volunteered, and made day trips with new friends she met at the senior center.  In short, she reconfigured her life to be as rewarding as possible—despite her grief and loss.  A little stained glass saying hangs in her window:  “Every ending a new beginning.”  She modeled that for me.

As this New Year unfolds, we will experience painful endings.  What once served us may no longer fit.  Change will happen in inner and outer circumstances.  We will have to adjust to losses.  We may have to start over in a whole new direction, as my mother did.  This is not a bad thing.  It is a growing experience.  In the words of Eckhart Tolle, famed author of The Power of Now, “If you can learn to accept and even welcome the endings in your life, you may find that the feeling of emptiness that initially felt uncomfortable turns into a sense of inner spaciousness that is deeply peaceful.” 

I wish you this peace!


July 8th, 2011 by Carol Grever

The summer premier of a new television situation comedy, “Happily Divorced,” arouses mixed emotions, particularly for straight spouses.  Fran Drescher, formerly of “The Nanny,” stars as a florist married 18 years to her real estate agent husband, Peter, who “thinks he might be gay.”  After he comes out in the first episode, their story will unfold as they remain in the same household, each pursuing social and sexual happiness with others. 

Rooted in Drescher’s actual experience with her high school sweetheart and former husband, Peter Marc Jacobson, the series could possibly offer genuine insight into the dilemma faced by mixed-orientation couples.  But the sit-com format makes that possibility remote--even though the two main characters are named Fran and Peter and the series concept is drawn from their history together.  What the series cannot express adequately is the pain of years of loss, grief, therapy, and healing that such couples endure in real life. 

Even with the limitations of TV comedy, it is interesting that these former spouses have reached an understanding which allows them to continue to work together as creative partners, though they are now divorced and living separate lives—she as a single woman and he as a gay man. 

It is impossible to depict in any comedy the searing drama of a partner’s coming out within a marriage.  That just isn’t funny!  Even with an amicable divorce or some alternative agreement that keeps the spouses uneasily together, the reality is not the material of jollity.  The best outcome after healing (often years later) is continuing friendship and an occasional wry smile about some of the ironic details.  Raucous laughter about it is rare indeed.

Reading the Los Angeles Times’ review of the sit-com’s pilot gives faint hope that the new series will delve beyond the superficial:  “Peter’s gayness is composed of gags about shaving chest hair, wanting to move to West Hollywood … and how Fran and he both like men.”  As anyone who has lived through the pain of a coming-out event, there is a lot more to talk about—like reconstructing a meaningful future for both partners. 

Surprisingly, there is an element of hope and good news here.  That is the fact that mainstream culture is becoming more aware of mixed-orientation marriages.  Shows like these offer the public a small glimpse at their aftermath.  Perhaps it is a sign of societal advancement that coming out within marriage may be material for affectionate comedy instead of grim tragedy.  However, those of us who have lived through the entire experience—from the shock of discovery through many hard-won stages of recovery and rebuilding--know that this is just not funny. 


November 16th, 2010 by Carol Grever

I thought all the issues surrounding my marriage and divorce from a gay man 20 years ago had finally disappeared or settled down, but now I seem to be smack in the middle of it all over again.

A common dilemma facing mixed-orientation families is deciding who should know and who should be “protected” from the knowledge that one family member is gay.  Particularly around holidays, emotional family issues surface.  This is An especially precarious time for mixed-orientation families who have not been completely open with each other.  Some relatives know the whole story; others don’t.  Everyone who is aware of the truth is imprisoned by the secret they carry.

 Mae is one such straight spouse.  Caught in this situation, she shared her story. It is a case study of the destructive force of secrecy in a family.

We had been married about 2-3 months, when finally, because of my constant questioning about why he didn't seem to want to have anything to do with our sex life, he told me that he had fallen in love with a man and had an affair just before he met me. 

When we were married I was a single mom with three children.  After 10 years of marriage, and one child (a son) of our own, I finally reached the stage of accepting the fact that nothing was going to change.  By that time, I was near to my own breakdown, because the worst of the whole situation was the secrecy.  I had spent 10 years unable to tell anyone why I was miserable, because he refused to come out.  When I asked if we could just agree to be celibate (we hadn't had sex in 5 years!), he refused to agree.  He refused to go to counseling.  I never felt I had the right to tell anyone what was wrong with our marriage--I thought it wasn't my place to 'out' him.  Living the lie was killing me, and that isn't just a convenient phrase.  My depression was affecting my health.

 My three daughters saw something was wrong, but I couldn't tell them.  They loved their stepfather.  I had no reason to tell anyone I wanted a divorce, but I desperately wanted out of the box I was living in.

After years of bare survival, this woman left her husband and remarried.  Her three daughters went with their mother, and the son stayed with his father.  At the time, none of the children knew the real cause of the divorce.  Mae continued her account:

This all happened 20 years ago.  Just recently my ex-husband finally came out to my son, who loves his father and has never suspected anything.  My son was shocked, and has been going through the stages [of coping] you have listed.  He finally truly understood why we were divorced, but I could sense his confusion at my silence all these years. My daughters still don’t know the truth.

All this, however, is not why I am writing here.  One of the things I warned my son about when he called and told me about his dad's confession, was to be careful not to get caught in the game of secrecy. 

Then, just a few days ago, my son called and asked if his dad could come to our Thanksgiving celebration (we've always kept our celebrations separate since the divorce).  My husband doesn't like my ex, but he would tolerate the situation if he had to.  But I told my son that unless his dad also told [the rest of the family] I was not willing to invite him over.  I think it would be horribly unfair, and unhealthy, to have this celebration with this hanging in the air.

Mostly, I cannot bear the idea of being put in the position of keeping this lie alive around my daughters when he has already told my son.  I just can't bring myself to have this charade in my house, with my participation.  Everything in me wants my daughters included and wants this life of lies that affected our family so devastatingly to be over once and for all.

My son is now furious with me, telling me it should make no difference who his dad has told and who he hasn't. This is breaking my heart, and once again I can't tell my daughters what is hurting (I told my current husband years ago).  My ex is somehow still controlling my life and separating me from the rest of my family, which is one of the consequences of keeping a secret like this.

Mae’s last sentence is the very heart of her dilemma.  Her ex-husband is still in control.  Mae feels bound to “live the lie” even twenty years after her divorce.  She still lives in his closet, trapped in the past.  She wonders if she is wrong to insist that her ex-husband must come out to all family members.  She asks, “Should it matter?”  She is questioning her own perspective and feels completely confused. 

In answer to her request for advice, several observations may be instructive.  First, there is still considerable emotional connection left in this divided family, otherwise there would be no question about coming together on the holiday.  There is thus some ground on which to build a more comfortable future association because Mae’s gay ex-husband apparently wants to be included. 

What would happen if, Instead of asking her son to be the messenger, Mae talked directly to her ex-husband and took charge of the matter:  “You are welcome in my home on the condition that you come out to my daughters.  Then everyone in the family will stand on equal ground.  If you don’t tell the girls, I will do so myself and we will all be freed of the burden of lies.” 

Mae has no obligation to lie any longer.  This is not her secret to keep.  She is not required to hide the truth from her daughters any longer, particularly since her ex-husband came out to their son.  Though taking a stand may stir initial anger or hurt feelings, clinging to the lie will most certainly harm Mae’s future relationship with her daughters and could damage her own mental and emotional health.

Truth frees.  Secrecy imprisons.  Mae can choose to walk out of her own closet of secrecy and breathe the fresh air of truth. 

Sincere wishes for the best outcome for all.