One woman, Annabel, flies to Sydney from Melbourne fortnightly especially for the peer group sessions. “A few times I was in foetal position bawling and had drank too much wine,” she says. “So I was extremely grateful for the group.”
Roxanne McMurray has been running the support service for 19 years. Daily she hears “heartbreaking stories” like Megan’s.
She says women present with depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, high blood pressure, eating issues and fears their children will be bullied. “Some women contact the service before their husband is even aware they know he’s gay,” she says. “Some women found out because they were diagnosed with HIV or another STI. And yes, some women say the group saved their lives; they were suicidal when they contacted us.”
Megan says a service like this would have been a “lifesaver”. She suffered a nervous breakdown after discovering her husband’s secret. “If I didn’t have our daughter, Lucy, I can understand how you’d be suicidal after that level of deception,” she says.
Steven, Megan’s husband, had been a high-flying, jet-setting schmoozer who rose from a socially conservative family in Sydney’s western suburbs to be a financial director on a seven-figure salary.
He first met Megan, his second wife, when she was 22 and he was 26. After their first date, he sent four dozen roses to her work. “It was OTT but I was swept away,” Megan says. “I grew up with real Aussie blokes – this was something I’d never experienced.”
After their wedding, when the couple were living in Hong Kong for work, Steven pushed her to have a baby, even though she wasn’t entirely happy in the relationship. Never once did she suspect he was gay. “We had a pretty normal healthy sex life, it’s not like it was once a year. If I had a dollar for everyone who asked: are you sure you didn’t know?” she says, sighing.
Eight weeks after their daughter Lucy was born, the relationship nosedived. “I thought he was having an affair, and created a big fight to get it out of him,” she says. “Finally he said, ‘I’m not attracted to you, I have some feelings towards men. I’m not gay but really confused and I think I need you to move back to Australia so I can work myself out.’”
The book released by the Leichhardt Women’s Centre. Photograph: Leichhardt Women’s Centre
Through tears, Megan describes her world collapsing. “I was a woman deranged,” she says. “I was devastated, yet somehow also relieved the problem wasn’t me, as he’d often made me feel.”
On the plane home, she took stock. “In 24 hours I lost my husband, marriage, home, friends, support group, career. And I had an eight-week-old baby.”
She later discovered her husband was on a flight the next day to the Caribbean with his male lover. “He was a pathological liar,” Megan says. “I was so angry – I could understand how a woman could kill her husband.”
A year later, Megan realised she needed to let go of the anger when she collapsed with internal bleeding caused by a stress-related ulcer. “I decided to stop hating him,” she says.
Steven got a new boyfriend, who Megan adored. “He was a beautiful man, and wonderful to my daughter Lucy,” she says.
Both Steven and his partner died of Aids-related illnesses.
Clearly distraught, Megan stops the interview as she describes watching the men become paraplegic, then die. “Such a waste. Me and my daughter are so sad,” she says. Lucy, now 24, hid at school the fact her dad was gay. “Now she’d be the coolest kid in school,” Megan says. “They’d go shopping; they’d have a ball.”
But she admits to hoping for a deathbed confession. “I always dreamed I’d finally get the truth. Why marry me? I don’t believe in bisexuality, I think he was gay,” she says. “When you love someone and you know you’re gay, you don’t marry them. That’s wrong, to me.”
Megan’s experience chimes with many of the moving stories in the new book, which aims to increase the reach of the Women Partners of Bisexual Men service – it will be sent to counsellors, family relationship services and lawyers across Australia.
Common themes emerge from their 20 stories. More than once the phrase appears that “he stole my life”. One woman, Beth, describes the discovery as “17 years stolen from me”.
The physical impact of the sheer shock on these women is confronting. Lucy’s hair fell out, she had tremors and experienced dramatic weight loss. “Everyone was telling me how great I looked!” she writes. “I kept thinking: I’m dying. The only man who’d ever been attracted to me actually hadn’t been, so all those horrible thoughts I’d felt about myself were actually true.”
Some describe feeling like widows; the men they knew were apparitions. And many of the men, emboldened by the sense of freedom and fresh excitement afforded them by discovering the gay scene, completely transformed.
Amal describes the impact it had on her children. “My sons’ friends would come over and ask, is your dad gay? The way he walked, sat, smiled, dressed – all changed.” Many times the women are left questioning: who is he; did I ever really know him?
Those who were gaslighted describe relief that they weren’t, after all, going mad for suspecting. Others, convinced the problem was their own inadequacy, describe similar complex relief. But that relief is often accompanied by anger.
Several women, half-jokingly, discuss hiring hitmen. When Amal discovered her husband had been bringing his secret boyfriend of five years to the house – even to sit at family dinners under the guise of a friend – she “called him a disgusting creature”, she writes. “They’re manipulative because they’re ashamed of who they are, but the woman pays the price.”
The insensitivity of celebrating the man’s coming out is something many women grapple with. “I get angry because everyone’s said to him how fantastic, aren’t you courageous, what a hero,” writes Beth. “I wanted to beat the living shit out of him for what he did to our family. There were no repercussions for him. My anger was mind-blowing.”
Similarly, Patricia took issue with the blokes who took her husband out for a beer so they didn’t look homophobic. “If he’d shot me, would they take him out for a beer?” she asks. “That’s what it felt like.”
Other people’s positive reactions to the coming out can cause unintended pain, such as in Lucy’s case. Her husband’s parents responded by saying he would always be their son. “That hit me hard,” she admits. “I realised yes, he’d always be their son. But I wouldn’t be their daughter any more.”
Some reactions are more surprising. Service manager Roxanne says a post-disclosure honeymoon period can happen, and sex begins again because it brings back emotional intimacy. Such was the case for Madeleine. “Interestingly, after it came out, we had a brief spurt of sex together. The first time it happened, I cried. It had been eight years.”
Just like many gay men do, their wives can go through denial periods, Roxanne says, believing they can work things out. For some like Val, they make a conscious or practical decision to stay; her husband was 72 when she found out.
Steven and his daughter Lucy. ‘Now she’d be the coolest kid in school … they’d go shopping; they’d have a ball,’ Megan says. Photograph: Megan Holgate
Pam, whose main concern upon discovering was protecting her husband from losing his friends, also concedes she’ll probably stay with him. For her, it’s all about sacrificing one thing to get something else – in this case, a continuing family for her children. “I know my husband is gay, he can’t stop himself from being with men, it’s impossible. I’m realistic. We talk a lot.”
Elizabeth is reflective on how she ended up with her husband. “There’s a stereotype that closeted men seek out a certain type of woman because we have qualities of acceptance, tolerance, understanding, empathy – but even if it’s true, you don’t want to feel like you’re gullible,” she writes. She even picked him up from his first date with a man. Her anger wasn’t at him, but at his family and culture for not letting him be who he should have been in the first place: “It was like he didn’t know how to be gay.”
Roxanne remembers, as Australia’s marriage equality postal vote was happening, clients contacting the service asking: have you done it yet, have you voted? I ask her if any were no voters, given their experiences. “Absolutely not,” she says. “They were enthusiastic about creating a new world – so no other woman would go through what they did.”
Megan Holgate relates to that. She remembers being unable to go to Mardi Gras one year her colleagues invited her, as the sight of two men kissing was just too distressing. Today she cheers such affection: “I think, go for it. You’ve met someone you love; that’s what makes the world go round.”
Roxanne challenges me when I put it to her that this could soon be a social phenomenon of the past. “I think that’s a long way off,” she says. “People still go to beats . People still have private parts of themselves which don’t always coexist honestly with their public life.”
On that point, I recall the book’s most poignant line. It comes from Lucy, who – in her acute distress – did the most intrusive thing a person can do to invade another’s privacy: she found and read her husband’s teenage diary. She knew it wasn’t right, but was desperate for explanations.
“The way he described the boys: ‘he’s very handsome’, ‘he’s very muscular’. He probably didn’t know he was gay at the time,” she writes.
“It broke my heart to read the diary of a sweet young boy on the verge of making the wrong choice.
“And that choice was me.”
To contact The Women Partners of Bisexual Men Service, call 1800 787 887 or email [email protected]
From my Atlantic advice column, “What’s Your Problem?”:
Now that New York has approved it, gay marriage seems to be on the way. Critics argue that it will entice more people to come over to the gay side. My question is: Do you think gay marriage will cause some men and women who are straight to experiment with the gay life? How will I know if my husband is turning gay?
C.F., Hartford, Conn.
Here are some ways to determine whether your husband may be turning gay:
After you load the dishwasher, does he take out all the dishes and rearrange them to make them fit in a more orderly fashion?
Has he recently shown an interest in fabric? Specifically, has he expressed an interest in picking out new fabrics for the living-room couch?
Does he know the lyrics to all the songs in Pippin?
Has he expressed a desire to have sexual intercourse with Colin Farrell and then settle down with him on the sunny Spanish island of Ibiza?
You know, as I look over this list, I realize that I myself fulfill 75 percent of the requirements for incipient gay husbandry, though I’ll decline to reveal which ones.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to [email protected]
Jeffrey Goldberg is the editor in chief of The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. Connect Facebook Twitter
- “I discovered my husband was actually gay — here’s how”
- The first sign that something was up
- Another faint tinkle of alarm bells
- Finding him on a chat room wall…
- Why Couldn’t He Just Say It?
- ‘How I found out my partner was gay’
- Nigerian matchmaker lists ‘signs your boyfriend is secretly gay’
- Things You Only Know If Your Boyfriend Turns Out To Be Gay
- If he doesn’t want you to know, you won’t know
- It’s not you, it’s him
- He will be suffering more than you know
- It’s OK to not be OK
- You can totally be friends
- How to tell if your husband is gay
“I discovered my husband was actually gay — here’s how”
Richard* and I met at university and, even though we were registered for different degrees, we somehow became good friends. It wasn’t until after he’d broken off an engagement with his high school sweetheart and I’d returned from a stint overseas five years later that we became romantically involved.
In retrospect, I believe we mistook the connection we had as friends for something more. We got married after living together for nearly four years. That was eight years ago… But we didn’t make it to our eighth anniversary…
The first sign that something was up
We’d been dating for about two years when I first discovered the gay porn. I was doing a spring clean and found video tapes hidden in the cupboard. I went cold and felt as though I’d had the wind knocked out of me.
Eventually, I built up the courage to confront Richard about it, but he simply explained to me that a gay friend we’d spent the weekend with had asked him to pass on the tapes to a mutual friend. It was perfectly plausible – I knew both men, their history and connection.
READ MORE: 10 signs you’re in a toxic relationship
But although I’d been convinced otherwise, the seed had been planted. To be honest, I always had a nagging suspicion (or fear) that Richard might be otherwise inclined. There had been rumours that he’d broken off his previous engagement because he was gay, which didn’t surprise me at the time… Heaven alone knows why I didn’t think about that prior to walking down the aisle.
Another faint tinkle of alarm bells
After the porn incident, things were fine for a while. We moved into a flat and became distracted with work, social engagements and the daily grind. Then one day, Richard said a friend was feeling depressed and was coming over to talk. No prizes for guessing the details – this friend was gay, but before you shake your head at me, the friend (who’d been married previously) was also a familiar part of the crowd from his old neighbourhood.
READ MORE: “I cheated on my husband – and this is why I did it”
I heard the faint tinkle of alarm bells, but I told myself not to be ridiculous – Richard’s line of work made him sufficiently equipped to counsel a troubled friend, so it made perfect sense that this guy would be coming over for a chat. I made myself scarce and thought nothing more of it. When I think back now, I believe Richard was the one who needed to talk to his once married, now openly gay friend about his own dilemma.
READ MORE: The 5 love languages might completely transform your relationship – here’s how
Despite all the warning signs, two years later we got married and now have a child together. I continued to ignore my gut feeling, even when he became increasingly cold and even aggressive towards me. I just couldn’t believe what was happening and buried everything beneath a happy-go-lucky exterior.
I convinced myself that couples went through things like this, but the more I observed our married friends and how they related to each other, the more I realised I was fooling myself. The problem was that I just couldn’t get out.
Finding him on a chat room wall…
At one point I saw Richard’s contact details posted on a chat room wall expressing interest in hooking up with guys, who “must be discreet”. Determined to know, once and for all, I pretended to be a bisexual man and posted my fake details in return. I started receiving emails from my own husband, interested in connecting with “Paulo”. He told me/Paulo that he believed the Greeks had the right idea by being married to women while sleeping with men.
READ MORE: What 9 women wished they knew about anal sex – before they tried it
Later, when I revealed myself as Paulo in a joint therapy session, he brushed it off as if it had never happened and I started believing that maybe I was crazy. I don’t know why he had such a hold over me. Maybe it’s because I have such a deep need not to give up until I’ve tried absolutely everything to fix a situation. Maybe I really believed he was a tormented soul who needed me to be there and love him more than I needed to feel loved. Or maybe I couldn’t bear the thought of abandoning him the way he claimed his mother had done.
Why Couldn’t He Just Say It?
I think I needed him to actually say the words out loud, but he never did. Not to me anyway. He told a mutual friend whose married brother had also come out of the closet. Amid all the lies, all I wanted Richard to do was come out and say it.
READ MORE: 6 things that make your partner way more likely to cheat
I was willing to be there for him, to stand by him, but he would hear nothing of it. He actually threatened to kill himself if I left him. He was desperate, but not because he loved me or wanted me, but because a failed marriage would leave a hole in the armour; cracks in the façade for the truth to shine through. The sad irony is that most of the people he believes would judge him, don’t. There are many who always suspected he was gay and it wouldn’t shock them in the least.
READ MORE: These are the 5 main reasons happy couples stop having sex
Unfortunately, Richard is his own worst enemy. In the end I left him, not because he was gay, but because I’d allowed him to suck the life out of me. My story is not unique. There are many people who will read this and relate to that little voice they’ve silenced. If I’ve learned anything from this, it is to truly and honestly believe in the importance of nurturing myself, never to dismiss my instincts and to trust that my intuition will never fail me.
This is article was first published on Women’s Health SA.
Should I stay with him and think about a future, knowing full well that he could tell me one day that he’s actually gay and wants to be with a man, or that he wants to transition, and leave me with a bunch of baggage, such as getting a divorce (sharing custody of kids, finances), and time/energy/effort lost? How much should I invest in this relationship with those inconvenient truths that might very well be on the horizon?
You have a lot of questions about your boyfriend’s sexuality, and feeling uneasy with this kind of uncertainty is natural. In intimate relationships, most people value the safety that comes from knowing what to expect from the other person. That’s why changes in those expectations can be jarring and threaten an entire relationship, as when one person in a longtime monogamous couple wants an open relationship—or, in the scenario you’re concerned about, when one person in a heterosexual relationship realizes (or comes to acknowledge) that he wants a same-sex partner instead.
What strikes me most about your letter, though, is the amount of emotional energy you’re putting into guessing your boyfriend’s state of mind. The more you ruminate about his potential turmoil, the more turmoil you create for yourself. And even as you worry about whether he might be keeping his thoughts from you, you’re also keeping your thoughts from him.
In a strong relationship, the kind that goes the distance, people feel comfortable discussing delicate subjects. It’s true that a sexual incompatibility might end your relationship, but what can do so just as easily is avoidance. You want him to show up, but you have to show up too.
It sounds like the two of you haven’t really talked about sexuality together in any depth. For instance, when you asked him early on if he was with you to appease his parents and he replied “Kind of,” what did you two do with that answer? I have a feeling that both of you were afraid to explore what he meant. Is it that he knows his being with a woman makes his parents happy but he would choose a female partner anyway? Or is it that he can’t tolerate his parents’ disapproval and that he happens to find you attractive (i.e., he can see that you’re pretty, the way we all can see if someone of any gender is attractive) even though he’s not attracted to you the way he might be to a man? Similarly, have you two ever talked about what being bi means for him? Have you asked how he feels never having experienced male intimacy despite being attracted to men?
Now’s the time to have these discussions, and you can start by making sure that you broach the topic as a conversation and not as an accusation—here’s the evidence! The effeminate gestures! The flamboyant clothing! You might say something such as, “I’ve been thinking about this; I’m curious; I feel like we need to talk more about this.” You’ll also want to be mindful not to pressure him to take a stance, especially because he may not know how he feels, or he may not be ready to say. The point of these initial conversations will likely be less about getting answers and more about hearing each other: “It sounds like you’re feeling scared/confused/conflicted” or “It sounds like my questions about your sexuality are upsetting to you. Can you tell me why?” Hopefully he can respond in kind: not “Why are you having all these crazy thoughts?” but “Yeah, I’m starting to think about some of these things in therapy but I don’t have any answers yet” or “Actually, I’m not struggling with my sexual identity, but I’m glad you’re telling me about the worries you’ve been keeping to yourself.”
‘How I found out my partner was gay’
Image copyright Thinkstock
Many gay men and women end up marrying people of the opposite sex. But what is it like for the spouse who eventually finds their marriage breaking down?
Recently we told the stories of gay men who had married women. It prompted a strong response from readers who had experienced it from the other side – those whose wives and husbands had come out as gay.
“It feels almost homophobic to say anything about them. To me it’s not brave to spend 10 or 20 years with someone only to destroy and discard them,” says Emma. She found out her husband was gay a year ago.
“They may go on and have a wonderful new life while leaving a crushed wife behind. You just feel like your whole life is wasted and there’s no closure.”
One of the most difficult things for many spouses is watching their former partner being celebrated as brave for coming out, but knowing the damage they’ve left behind.
It is an experience to which Carol, 43, can relate. With her former husband now active in gay rights, she received a message calling him an inspiration and a role model.
“I was disgusted by this, that someone actually considered him to be both of these things when he had spent our entire relationship lying to both himself and myself.
“To me, there is nothing to be proud of – he destroyed our family through his failure to admit that he was in fact gay,” she explains.
They had married in 2003 and have two children – she says she was “very happy and in love”.
But there were signs something wasn’t right, including gay dating profiles on his computer, which he explained away. In 2009 he said he was bisexual but wanted to be with her.
Carol admits she was probably in denial but thought they would find a way through it as he was the man with whom she wanted to spend her life.
A year later it came to a head when he came home, said he was gay, and left.
“I thought my whole world had fallen apart but then he came back and said let’s stay together for the sake of the kids. I didn’t know what to do so we lived a lie for two years. To anyone else we looked like a normal happy couple,” she said.
But it didn’t work and they divorced.
Carol says the difficulty was the shock – he’d had time to get used to it but for her it happened so quickly. He’s now married to a man and she says they get on for the sake of their children.
“It took me a long time to get over it, for me it is a trust issue. How can I trust anyone again? I can’t compete with other men, I’m a woman, but he should have been truthful from the start.
“It would have been easier if it had been a woman – at least he would have loved me in the first place. He says he loved me but I don’t believe him.”
Kevin, 51, had been with his wife for seven years when she asked if he’d mind living in the spare room while she had a female partner. He’d had no idea she was gay.
“One day, she came to me and said: ‘Is it OK if I had a girlfriend?’
“If a partner has an affair with the opposite sex you can be angry but this is so much more complicated. She’d been feeling like this for two years but said nothing,” he says.
She wanted to remain married, but he couldn’t live a lie and they divorced. They haven’t spoken since and she now has a female partner.
Kevin’s life fell apart and he became suicidal.
“I wanted to make a go of my marriage, I had everything invested in it, I didn’t want to be a failure. I felt a failure as a man and a husband. It was bad, very, very, bad.”
There are all kinds of reasons why people commit to straight relationships when they are gay – they may not have fully realised their feelings, hope they will go away or fear they will suffer prejudice. Some may have been together for years after marrying at a time when society was less accepting of gay people.
Former Welsh rugby player Gareth Thomas has talked about how he doesn’t believe he would have reached the top in the sport if he had been openly gay. When he came out in 2009 he said he had been in denial about his true feelings and had genuinely been in love with his wife.
Both Carol and Kevin have a clear message for those who are in straight marriages but think they may be gay.
“You have to be honest with yourself and your partner, especially when kids are involved. Not knowing your own sexuality and taking time to decide hurts everyone involved. Be true to who you are,” says Carol.
Kevin adds: “The sooner you come out the better for everyone concerned. It might be difficult, it might end a marriage, but the fact is you can’t start to repair while they’re in the closet but you’re nailed to the outside and don’t even know it.”
Six years on, he describes his life as “brilliant” and now supports people going through the same experience. He says people in his position should contact the support group Straight Partners Anonymous.
“It will get better. It’s been difficult, my life has now taken a completely different path, but is better than I could have ever hoped,” he says.
Some names have been changed. Straight Partners Anonymous can be contacted at [email protected]
The Victoria Derbyshire programme is broadcast on weekdays between 09:15-11:00 BST on BBC Two and BBC News Channel.
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Nigerian matchmaker lists ‘signs your boyfriend is secretly gay’
A Nigerian matchmaker has listed 14 signs that your male partner might be secretly gay.
Good Eresh, who describes himself as “Africa’s first certified matchmaker,” revealed the ridiculous checklist through his social media accounts.
The list, which includes having “more male friends on social media than women,” is reminiscent of when Malaysian newspaper Sinar Harian published guidance on “how to spot a gay” in February.
Eresh calls himself “Africa’s first certified matchmaker” (good eresh/facebook)
The paper warned that a love of beards, branded clothing and the gym were giveaways, but Eresh has gone down a different road.
The matchmaker, whose Facebook page labels him “a young entrepreneur and a former fashion designer,” runs through a bizarre group of signs, including enjoying penetration or hugs with men and being “too damn faithful.”
Under the heading “SIGNS YOUR BOYFRIEND IS SECRETLY GAY,” he warns that your partner might be gay if he “constantly stares at guys.”
The matchmaker stresses that “if he doesn’t check other women out he is completely gay” (gooderesh/instagram)
From there, the list gets more and more bizarre. “He could be gay if he criticises gay people too much,” Eresh writes.
“He could be gay if he appears to be too damn faithful. He could be swinging if you have no issues with him concerning other women.”
Skipping straight from reason four to six, Eresh says a woman needs to keep a look-out in case their partner “keeps more male friends on social media than women.”
Again, he stresses that “if he doesn’t check other women out he is completely gay.”
The matchmaker also emphasises – twice – that if your male partner doesn’t want to have sex with you, “he could be seeing guys.”
On the other hand, Eresh warns his more than 13,000 followers on Instagram that you should also suspect your partner of being gay if he exhibits certain sexual preferences.
“When he suggests you both invite a guy to bed so the both of them can satisfy you, sister run,” he says, adding that if “he wants you to insert your finger down there,” that’s another sign.
For the record, enjoying anal penetration is not limited to gay men.
Eresh has more than 13,000 followers on Instagram (gooderesh/instagram)
Eresh dips into stereotypes, writing to watch out if “he cares too much about how he looks, like female friends you have. There is something about it when he starts to care about his physical appearance.”
He continues: “If he praises a particular male friend of his than you the one that claims to hold his heart, trust me that guy could be his gay partner.”
Does your boyfriend enjoy hugging other men? He could be gay, according to Eresh.
And does he like think that other people’s sexualities are “an interesting topic”? The matchmaker definitely thinks that makes someone gay.
Apparently you should worry if he cares about his appearance (Pexels)
None of Eresh’s signs, of course, acknowledge that your partner could identify as anything other than straight or gay, or that he could be both sexually attracted to men and happy in a heterosexual relationship.
In Nigeria, people convicted of having gay sex can spend up to 14 years in prison – apart from in 12 northern states which have Sharia law, where they are stoned to death.
Earlier this week, six men in the south of the country were arrested and paraded in public because police suspected them of being gay.
Last year, 42 men were arrested at a hotel in Lagos state and charged with performing “homosexual acts.”
Things You Only Know If Your Boyfriend Turns Out To Be Gay
If you open a new tab on your computer and type the words ‘is my boyfriend’ into Google, the next word that appears in that sentence will be ‘gay’. Most of the time, this search term ranks above ‘is my boyfriend cheating on me’, which was oddly comforting when my relationship with my gay ex-boyfriend ended. I wasn’t the only one.
Like most twentysomethings, we met through friends at university and bonded over a mutual love of all the usual things: good TV shows, sad songs, and dancing into the early hours. After bumping into each other and occasionally flirting for the best part of a year, we started working at the same pub and consequently spent a lot of time together.
One thing led to another. Christmas break led to a New Year’s Eve party, where we had our first kiss. We spent the first few months hanging out, swapping stories and getting to know each other like any other couple, regardless of gender or sexual preference.
We shared a bed most nights but didn’t sleep together for a long time, and not through a lack of me trying. ‘Perhaps he wants to take it slow,’ I told myself; after all, we had both had our fair share of heartache.
The break up was eventful. Rumours were flying around that he’d been sleeping with someone else – a guy – just before we started dating, and that he was still in love with him. I asked him about it on several occasions, but he brushed it off and insisted it was just malicious gossip.
I tried to forget about the whole thing, but a few weeks later the rumours reared up again while we were at a party and we stumbled out into the street screaming at each other. We put the entire cast of EastEnders to shame. I didn’t want to yell at him, but it was all falling out of my mouth faster than I could stop it. I didn’t know that he was struggling with his sexual identity.
Fast forward to today. We’re friends, we’re happy and we still like the same dumb things. The only difference is that I’m straight and he’s gay.
If he doesn’t want you to know, you won’t know
I want to clear this one up first, because it’s often the first thing people ask me when I tell them that I have a gay ex-boyfriend. It’s also a narrow-minded observation because unfortunately stereotypes run deep in our society. He didn’t walk around swaddled in a rainbow flag. I never walked in on him with another man. He didn’t have a penchant for gay bars. Even if all of the above applied to our relationship, I still wouldn’t assume he was gay unless he told me otherwise.
I knew he’d had previous relationships – to my knowledge all of those relationships had been with women, and that was that, no questions asked. To the outside world we had a ‘normal’ relationship; we listened to Dylan in the kitchen, watched Frasier in bed, developed in-jokes (option 3 wink), texted each other when we were apart and all the other little things that couples do.
It’s not you, it’s him
It’s an age-old excuse but, in this scenario, no truer words apply. If you’re reading this and suspect your partner might be gay, the last thing you should be doing is blaming yourself, but unfortunately it’s a natural reaction. Years down the line, you might laugh about it as we do now (‘OF COURSE you didn’t want to sleep with me!’), but at the time, the confusion will hurt both of you.
I doubted myself during and after the relationship because my ex didn’t come out until much later. I spent a long time blaming myself because it wasn’t a clean cut ‘OK, he’s gay and I can’t change that’ scenario – it was complicated and I thought it was my fault, which of course, it wasn’t. You obviously can’t ‘turn’ somebody’s sexual preference any more than you can willingly change your own, it just is what it is.
He will be suffering more than you know
Insecurities, religion, family, circumstance, prejudice at work… there are so many reasons why people don’t come out of the closet, and why people deny to themselves that they’re gay. Some people know who they are from birth; others need a little more time to figure it out.
At the time, he was going through something huge. He didn’t know who he was, and when he did, he wasn’t ready for everyone else to know. I tried to be as understanding as possible, but in the process, I was being pulled along through the pain of it, too.
He’d be the first to admit that he should have called time on our relationship before the rumours surfaced, but once they emerged, I think he felt relief – it was an easier way to end it without having to come out when he wasn’t ready.
It’s OK to not be OK
I wasn’t angry when we broke up because, even though he didn’t come out immediately, I knew. That doesn’t mean I skipped away unharmed; I was never going to hold his sexual identity against him, but the lies combined with feeling de-sexualised took time to get over.
Ego bruised, I actively sought out someone who’d expressed an interest in some late night fooling around because I needed to firmly re-establish my own sexuality. Probably not the best idea I’ve ever had, but certainly not the worst either.
You can totally be friends
It took months to build back the trust to a point that we could be friends again, but I’ve always believed that if you think you can salvage a friendship, you should at least give it a chance. Looking back on our relationship now, I can’t believe we were ever anything other than friends.
My ex gets on like a house on fire with my boyfriend, we talk about our aspirations over drinks, and although we don’t dance into the early hours as often as we used to, we still like the same sad songs. Without feeling sexually attracted to someone, that connection is what friendships are built on.
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Follow Amy on Twitter: @amyandelizabeth
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.
April 24, 2007 — It sounds like the typical American family.
George, a 49-year-old market researcher, has been married for 28 years. He and his wife are proud of their two daughters.
But his wife doesn’t know that he’s gay.
Although he told his wife before their marriage that he was sometimes attracted to men, he never acted on those feelings until five years ago. And though he’s had occasional flings since then, he has no plans to tell his wife about his secret life or to end his marriage.
“I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t do that to her,” said George, who didn’t want his real name used, in an interview with ABCNEWS.com about his predicament and his marriage. “I was trying to lead this double life and unfortunately, I’m pretty successful at it. I don’t think my wife or kids suspected it.”
So far, George has done a better job at hiding his sexuality than former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey.
McGreevey’s wife, Dina, knew about her husband’s preference for men even before they tied the knot in 2000, he says.
” knew of my sexual orientation before our marriage chose either to ignore it or block it out of her mind, even when questioned by friends,” according to legal papers filed by his lawyers.
Years before McGreevey’s infamous “I am a gay American speech” in 2004, in which he publicly announced his homosexuality, Dina knew about his orientation, he says.
In the summer of 2002, when she caught him on the phone talking to his aide Golan Cipel, she asked him, “Are you gay?” according to McGreevey’s memoir, “The Confession.”
McGreevey’s divorce has gotten increasingly bitter. Monday, he shot back at Dina over her allegation that he and his gay partner were exposing Jacqueline, the ex-couple’s 5-year-old daughter, to erotic art. “She may not disdain all gay men, but she disdains this one,” he said.
Gays married to straight spouses — such as George and McGreevey — are not an isolated phenomena.
Along with other high-profile examples such as evangelist leader Ted Haggard and former Congressman Mike Huffington, there are an estimated 2 million to 4 million gay people who are or have been married to straight spouses.
“It’s a larger number than people suspect,” said Bonnie Kaye, the author of “Is He Gay? A Checklist of Women Who Wonder.”
Kaye says that she has counseled more than 30,000 women who’ve been married to gay men. “It’s been this way forever. The numbers have stayed the same even as the country’s attitudes about homosexuality have changed.”
And why do so many gay men and women get married? “Because people don’t want to be gay,” Kaye said. “It’s a very hard way to live. Guys who get married are hoping that if they love their wife enough, that love will change their sexuality.”
Like George, about half of married gay men will never tell the truth and will stay in the marriage, according to Kaye. Those who will never admit to themselves that they’re gay are termed “straight gay men.” Before McGreevey’s public confession, that description applied to him.
“Even if McGreevey didn’t want to identify as a gay man , look at how much sex he was having outside of his marriage?” Kaye said.
In his memoir, McGreevey describes in detail his sexual relationship with Cipel, whom he first met in 2000, while married to Dina.
The obvious question: Can’t you tell that your spouse is gay?
It’s not always that easy and there is plenty of denial involved, says Amity Pierce Buxton, the founder of the support group Straight Spouse Network.
She started the group after she learned that her husband, from whom she had recently separated, was gay. “I thought he was a latent homosexual,” she said. “He just repressed it and didn’t tell me about incidents earlier in his life. We separated and then he came out.”
When Buxton started talking about her experience, she found out how many women and men had been through the same experience.
“The first reaction is shock and disbelief and some relief, because it explains some unspoken problems that seem to be lurking there,” she said. “The biggest shock is not the revelation but the fact that they’ve been betrayed and deceived for so many years.”
Gay men are more likely than gay women to come out the closet, says Buxton. Therefore, it’s more common to get calls from wives who find out that their husband is gay than the opposite. That ratio is slowly changing. Five years ago, one out of every five calls to her group came from a husband whose wife had come out as a lesbian. Now, it’s closer to three out of every 10 calls, says Buxton.
Many women who may know or suspect that their husbands are gay are in denial, says Kaye.
“Women are very uneducated about homosexuality,” she said. “They feel that even if men have done something in their past, if they can perform sexually, then they really have a straight orientation. But they’ll always be living in the shadow of homosexuality in their marriage.”
In her book, Kaye included “The Gay Husband Checklist,” which lists ways for women to detect whether or not their husband is gay:
If your husband thinks you are a nymphomaniac or “pushy and aggressive” because you want sex twice a week.
If sexual activity steeply declines within the first few years of marriage.
You’re always more sexually aggressive than your husband.
If your husband is turned off by the thought of touching your vaginal area or performing oral sex on you.
If his best friend is gay.
If he hangs out in gay bars.
If he enjoys watching gay porn movies and surfing gay porn Web sites.
If he is excessively homophobic, mocking and imitating other gay men.
If he brags about gay men complimenting him on his looks.
Buxton is skeptical that there are clear signs of gayness. “Straight men like to cook and decorate and there are gay men who like to do construction work so it’s hard to generalize like that.”
For the last few months, George, the closeted husband and recovering alcoholic, has stopped having gay flings.
“I would rather stop this behavior than go through a divorce,” he said. “I don’t want to ask my wife to be in a marriage with me where she’s sanctioning me to go out and screw other guys.”
Over a year ago, George started a blog to describe his experience and he soon connected with plenty of other men in similar situations, which he likened to group therapy.
He was on the verge of coming out to his wife when an online friend told him about his own experience with having a gay father. When the friend was 7, his father divorced his mother because he was gay. It devastated the family.
“I need to look at my responsibility and the impact on my children,” George said. “Do I really want my daughters to see me throw their mother in the trash can? I can see myself married to my wife for the next 20, 30, 40 years. … And I want her to be my wife.”
How to tell if your husband is gay
Politics and scandal go together like Britney Spears and revealing tops. (See “Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla.” and “e-mails.”)
Although most disappear as quickly as celebrities’ post-pregnancy baby fat, every once in a while there’s a screamer that shows staying power.
This one goes by the name of New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey.
McGreevey made headlines in 2004 when he admitted he cheated on his wife with one of his male employees. Audiences were still tuning in when McGreevey did a tell-all on Oprah last month to garner publicity for his new book, “The Confession.” It has reached No. 12 on USA Today’s Top 150 list of best-selling books.
There’s something compelling about a married man having an affair with another man, says infidelity expert Ruth Houston and author of “Is He Cheating on You: 829 Telltale Signs.”
Houston has put together a tip sheet on how to tell if that third wheel is a woman — or a man:
Question: Is it common to be afraid your husband might be cheating on you with a man?
Answer: The same-sex infidelity tip sheet was put together about a year ago because I started getting questions about it on my Web site ( www.infidelityexpert.com ). And when “Brokeback Mountain” made its debut, those questions almost quadrupled.
Women are starting to ask themselves, “Is this happening to meâ¢ What should I look forâ¢ How could I tell?” Certainty, if you’re not suspecting it, these men get away with it.
The Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention), CDC, estimates that 4 million women have been involved in relationships with men that have had sex with other men. That’s a big number, a very big number.
According to the Family Pride Coalition, 20 percent of all gay men in America are in heterosexual marriages, and 50 percent of all gay men in America have fathered children.
Q: So, how do you tell if your husband is gay?
A: It’s a three-step procedure.
Step 1, you need to find out if they’re cheating.
Step 2, who is that person cheating with: is it a woman or with another manâ¢ Some of the things to look for are: a strong preference for anal sex, buying or receiving expensive or overly intimate gifts for his male friends, extreme homophobic behavior and an abundance of male friends with whom he seems to be a little too close or too familiar with.
He’ll be frequenting porn sights that have to do with same-sex activities. He may be receiving lots of phone calls from other men.
You can’t take these signs in isolation. If you haven’t proven that he’s cheating, you’re likely to make a mistake. Gay or bisexual men aren’t necessarily effeminate, so people who are trying to use that as a factor could be falsely accusing a man. You can’t base it on the way he looks or dresses.
Step 3 is identifying who that partner is.
Q: Why do you need to know who it’s with?
A: The fact that he’s cheating with another man doesn’t necessarily mean the end of a marriage. Some people can sustain those marriages, but you need to find out if he’s having sex with one or two people or picking up strangers that he’s having sex with in a park.
Get at the real issues, like how long has this been going on, have you been having safe sexâ¢ You need to find out how deeply entrenched he is in this lifestyle.
Once you have that information, then you can make an intelligent decision on how to deal with the situation: should you stay with him, should you go to counselingâ¢
Q: How did you get to be an expert on infidelity?
A: Well, I’ve been researching infidelity for the past 13 years. I’ve interviewed cheaters, both male and female, victims of cheating, both male and female, marriage counselors, private investigators, divorce attorneys, anyone even remotely associated with cheating.
It started 13 years ago when I myself became a victim of infidelity and couldn’t find the answers I needed. What started out as a fact-finding mission has become a way of life. That’s all I do now.
Signs of same-sex infidelity
- Suspicious non-verbal communication with other men — a look, a touch or hug that lasts a little too long or has undertones of intimacy
- Possession of pornography depicting men engaged in sex acts with other men (videos, magazines, photos stored on his computer)
- Frequenting gay or bisexual Web sites — check the history in your Internet browser
- No longer sexually aroused by you or can’t maintain his erection
- A strong preference for anal sex
- An abundance of male friends with whom he seems to be too close or too familiar
- Lots of phone calls from other men
- Buying or receiving expensive, intimate, or overly personal gifts from other men
- Overreacts to anything concerning gay men — extreme homophobic behavior
- Unusually high percentage of male friends who are gay
- Spends more time with his male friends than with you
- Male friends who are overly friendly
- Watching gay porn on the Internet
- Answering personal ads on gay Web sites
- Cell phone bills traced to gay escort services or gay personal dating services
- Matchbook covers, cocktail napkins or business cards from gay bars with phone numbers written inside.
A WORD OF WARNING: Be very cautious about accusing your husband or boyfriend of being sexually involved with other men unless you have solid proof.
Source: Ruth Houston, author of “Is He Cheating on You: 829 Telltale Signs”
Jake Gyllenhaal melted women’s hearts when he spoke the lines, ‘I wish I knew how to quit you,’ in ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ But even as women — and men — sympathized with the predicament of loving a man you can’t ever completely be with, for many, it awoke fears and concerns.
As Jack and Ennis pretended to lead normal heterosexual lives with their wives, their weekend ‘fishing’ trips were merely a facade to cover up their homosexual love affair. It’s not a new concept for the big screen — 2002’s ‘Far From Heaven’ featured Dennis Quaid playing a married man desperately trying to repress his own sexual identity. Additional Information:
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