Early in October, articles about coming out of the closet, the process of accepting one’s sexuality and telling others, could be found across multiple media outlets. What was not covered as widely, if addressed at all, was how to admit to your wife that you are gay or bisexual. For homosexual men who feel they were driven into heterosexual marriage by their family’s expectations and social coercion, or through their guilt and shame-ridden denial, support can feel inaccessible. There are support groups for men struggling with their homosexuality, but men who are married to straight women may feel organized support from other men going through the same thing is lacking.
Gay Men Marrying Women is Nothing New
Gay men have been marrying women to pass as straight for ages. 14 Famous Gay Men Who Were Once Married to Women includes actors Rock Hudson and Alan Cumming, rockstars Little Richard and Elton John, pop star Ricky Martin, and writer Oscar Wilde. During periods in history when being homosexual was punishable by prison, or death (indeed in certain parts of the world it still is), it was literally a matter of survival. Marrying a woman didn’t save Oscar Wilde in the end, he died in prison for the crime of being a gay man.
A recent study that evaluated various metrics to estimate the number of American gay men in the closet suggests “ a large number of gay men are married to women.” Many men share the burden of a secret desire to love someone of the same sex while living in the pain of denial of who they are, as well as the anguish of deceiving the closest person in the world to them, their wife.
Living a lie in a straight marriage, you may find yourself trapped in a revolving door of guilt, shame, self-loathing and self-denial. Those times you are physically intimate with your wife, your mind is elsewhere. You dutifully go through the motions, but the more you awaken to your true desire for men the less comfortable you feel being sexually intimate with her. It is exhausting to have to come up with excuses for why you are, once again, not in the mood for sex. Maybe you are hiding an affair with a man and the stress of a leading a secret life is draining you mentally and emotionally, leaving you less energy to be a decent husband and father to a family that adores you. The situation is never going to get easier, and there will never be a good time to crash the world of the person in your life that has dedicated herself to loving you. The sooner you do it, the quicker she can come to terms with this new reality and be free to find someone that loves and desires her fully as a woman.
Why Coming Out to Her Is Important
She is probably your best friend, your partner in raising a family, and the one person you tell everything too…except this. Yes, she will likely be devastated. She may explode in anger, hurt, confusion and rejection. But she deserves to know. Once you tell her, she can begin to process it, and then to heal. And you can finally reintegrate the part of yourself you have been denying and be whole. TELL HER. Set yourself and your wife free from the chains of deception.
Results of Google searches suggest there are millions of married women who suspect their husbands are gay. Google searches in the United States that begin “Is my husband…,” most commonly follow with the word “gay.” “Gay” comes up 10 percent more often in these searches than the second-place word, “cheating.” It beats “an alcoholic” by eight times and “depressed” by ten times the frequency. Even if you believe she is completely in the dark, there is a decent chance she knows, or at least suspects, on some level.
Your wife may not be able to diagnose the exact problem plaguing your marriage, but she likely senses something is amiss. She may be blaming herself for the issue, wondering if she is not attractive or interesting enough for you to find alluring. Her self-esteem could be plummeting, never realizing that the problem is she is not a man. To leave her in this prison of self-doubt is torture.
How to Tell Her
You are courageous for facing your truth and for stepping up to come clean with your wife. Coming out to your wife is going to be agonizing for you both. Hopefully, you married a woman who loves you deeply as a friend, and while she may initially be angry and hurt, that friendship will survive (and possibly evolve into an even stronger bond).
- Give it to her “straight.”
Ask her to sit down. Look her in the eyes. Tell her you’re gay. Apologize for lying to her. Let her know you were also deceiving yourself, hoping that marrying a woman you deeply loved on a non-sexual level would quell your inner desires for men. Promise to never lie to her again. Keep that vow.
- Answer her questions.
She will have questions. They may be difficult and exhausting to answer. Answer them all. She will likely wonder if you knew all along or if you realized during the course of the marriage, if you were ever really attracted to her, if every time you said you loved her or made love to her it was a lie, if there was anything she could have done differently, if any of it was her fault, if you are homosexual or bisexual, if you have cheated on her with men. Be clear that you are gay and this not a phase or something you are “trying out.”
- Let her know you loved her when you walked down the aisle and took her as your wife, and you still do.
Let her know none of this is her fault. Help her understand this is about setting her free to find someone who can love her the way she deserves, as much as it is about you coming out about the part of you that you’ve hidden from her. Tell her all the wonderful things you love about her and about the deep connection you both share.
- Give her time to Process the information.
She will need to take it all in and come to terms with the new normal. Her life will never be the same, and a significant part of her past is now called into question. Be patient while she adjusts to the fact that the vision she had of the future of your family has changed.
- Offer resources.
It can help her to talk to other women who have been where she is now and have gone on to live happy, fulfilled lives. There is the Straight Spouse Network and PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Let her know you can tell the kids together when she is ready.
An Ending is a New Beginning
The wedding ring, the sound of saying, “my wife” and the comfort of having someone that chose you to spend her life with felt validating at a time when you were unsure, afraid, or in denial of facing your homosexuality. The hostility, rejection, and even hate or violence that coming out could bring was too overwhelming.
Now that you are ready to come out there is a life in alignment with who you are that awaits. Your wife may come to realize that there are people with whom you can share a deep, lifelong love with, even when it is not sexual or romantic. There are some women who would choose to marry a best friend who they could raise children with and spend their lives happily together, even if they knew sex would be minimal or off the table. Whatever you and your wife choose to do once she knows the truth, whatever works for the both of you, your relationship will be stronger coming from a place of mutual understanding and honesty..