Thirteen years into my marriage I learned my husband is gay. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would find out my spouse is gay. I was faced with the awful question, “Should I divorce my gay husband?”
Yes, I should divorce my gay husband.
My husband, Rainbow, and I discussed and explored many facets of our relationship. We really did (and still do) have a healthy, loving relationship; just not a relationship that belongs in a marriage.
The following three factors tipped the scales toward leaving my straight marriage with a gay husband.
1) My Definition of Marriage
Clearly defining and understanding what I want in a marriage relationship was a crucial turning point for me. Prior to finding out my husband is gay, I had not thought twice about what I expected of a marriage.
My lack of reflection on the topic of marriage does not strike me as odd or unexpected. I imagine most straight women (and men) don’t have deep thoughts about what marriage is.
Yet in today’s society, I have gained awareness there are many types of relationship structures. These relationship structures are a far cry from the more traditional marriage relationship I was raised with.
First, let me define the more traditional view of a marriage relationship my midwestern upbringing taught me.
(Sunshine note: All definitions in this article are my personal definitions based on my experiences and research.)
Marriage (n): A committed, religious union between a man and a woman that is monogamous in nature and recognized as a legal contract.
Prior to learning my husband is gay, I never questioned (or even desired to question) this view of marriage.
Yet, due to my unique, but not uncommon, situation of being a straight woman married to a gay husband, I am now exposed to the following non-traditional marriage relationships.
Types of Non-Traditional Marriage Relationships
Polyamorous Marriage: The practice of intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the knowledge of all partners involved (including partners that may be legally married). Polyamorous relationships believe sexual and relational exclusivity are not necessary for deep, committed, long-term loving relationships.
Open Marriage: A relationship in which both partners of a legally recognized marriage agree that each may engage in sexual activities outside of the marriage, without such actions being regarded as infidelity. Physical relationships outside of the marriage may or may not be committed in nature.
Mixed-Orientation Marriage: A legal marriage between partners of differing sexual orientations. Examples include hetero-homo, asexual-hetero, female homo-male homo, etc. Each partner may or may not seek emotional and/or physical relationships outside of marriage.
The only common theme these marriage relationship types have to the definition I was raised with is they each have some form of a committed or long-term nature between the two parties legally married.
The major differences being the two parties do not need to be a man and a woman. Further, monogamy is not only missing but actively eschewed. As for the legality portion of these marriages? The short answer is, it depends.
Types of Traditional Marriages/Relationships
Further, I discovered even within more traditional marriage relationships, variations of marriages emerge based on the goal(s) of the married couple.
I imagine many traditional marriages naturally adopt one of these types without conscious awareness. Through it is also likely most traditional marriages ebb and flow in and out of these various types over the course of the marriage.
Companionship Marriage: A legal, monogamous marriage between two partners who desire a friend more than a lover. As people age, I feel this is a natural course for mature, formerly romantic marriages or new marriages formed in the twilight years of life.
Parenting Marriage: A legal, monogamous marriage between two partners whose goal is to have and raise children together. I think of empty-nesters who discover they have nothing in common after the children are gone and so divorce.
Security Marriage: A legal, monogamous marriage between two partners with the purpose of financial, political, or other safety or security reasons. Romantic love, companionship, or even children are not the primary goal of the marriage. High profile political matches or arranged marriages may fall into this type of marriage.
Convenience Marriage: A legal, monogamous marriage between two partners formed out of a desire to conform or be a part of the traditional family social structure. Partners may or may not claim to be friends, yet remain married out of convenience for financial, social, or other reasons.
Romantic Marriage: A legal, monogamous marriage between two partners who experience the Eros form of love (among other types of love) with each other. This marriage type is propagated in fairytales and romance movies.
Since traditional types of marriages are really just descriptions of the relationship, these types could also be applied to non-traditional marriage relationships. According to a book by Susan Pease Gadoua and Vicki Larson, The New “I Do”: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists, and Rebels, some of these marriage types are considered non-traditional.
However, I lump them into the traditional marriage structure I was raised with and defined earlier. For me, the major themes that matter in these definitions is they are legal, but more importantly, monogamous.
What Type of Marriage Do I Want?
While most divorce decisions do not require a deep examination of marriage structures – mine did.
Both Rainbow and I considered a non-traditional marriage relationship to maintain the life we had. As I mentioned, we have a healthy relationship. We both enjoyed life and our marriage met many of our personal life goals.
With some deep personal reflection, I determined I want the traditional marriage defined during my childhood. I thought, regardless of the type of traditional marriage, I desire monogamy.
Rainbow was willing to try a non-monogamous marriage, I was not. My decision to divorce my gay husband is rooted in my desire for monogamy in a marriage.
Reading about Janine Cole’s gay husband experience, (after I was divorced) I knew I made the right decision for me.
If you find yourself in an unexpected marriage situation like I did, ask yourself:
How do I define marriage? Does my current marriage fit that definition? Am I willing/able to re-define my definition of marriage and still meet my personal needs and wants?
2) Understanding Different Types of Love
Human beings all need love. It is rooted deep within us to desire love and create a connection with others. We cannot run from this natural instinct. Yet, love comes in all sorts of forms.
As a straight woman with a gay husband, I can say without a doubt that he loves me and I love him too. Our love for each other, plus a generally healthy relationship, is the reason we got married and stayed married for so long before he discovered he is gay.
After deciding to divorce my gay husband, I read about Jill Smokler’s gay husband experience and could relate. Jill’s story also gave me hope that I could maintain a friendship with my gay husband.
Throughout Rainbow’s journey finding out he is gay, he never stopped loving me. My gay husband would tell me repeatedly he loves me and wants a life with me.
However, just like the traditional marriage types above, I needed to gain a better grasp of types of love.
Types of Love
When sharing the news of the divorce with the kids, we used only three generic types of love.
Romantic Love: An attraction and love between two individuals involving deep passion and emotional connection including a desire for physical intimacy (sex). Affection, loyalty, connection, respect, and trust beyond friendship love.
Friendship Love: A love shared with multiple people consisting of a combination of affection, loyalty, respect, and trust. Typically initiated by shared life experiences, interests, or goals. Hugs and sometimes kisses are desired between friends but not deeper physical intimacy (sex).
Agape Love: More clearly defined than the two previous, agape love is an unconditional love for another individual with or without reciprocation. This love is based on goodwill, benevolence, and willful delight in the object of love without any physical contact. It involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will.
As an adult, I need to dig deeper than these three types. While I never doubted my gay husband loves me, I had to decide if the type(s) of love he was providing was enough.
Researching types of love I stumbled across seven readily acknowledged types.
1. Eros: Love of the body
2. Philia: Love of the mind
3. Ludus: Playful love
4. Pragma: Longstanding love
5. Agape: Love of the soul
6. Philautia: Love of the self (healthy self-love, not narcissism)
7. Storge: Love of the child
What Type of Love Do I Want in My Marriage?
Upon reflection, my gay husband does love me – with all but eros, philautia, and storge love. Through personal reflection, I believe marriage should include all but philautia and storge love.
Along with determining monogamy is a desired trait in my marriage, I now understand I want – no crave – eros love. Further, as a gay man, my husband would never be able to provide that type of love for me.
In hindsight, I have felt this lack of eros love almost from the beginning of the relationship. I just didn’t know what I was feeling.
When deciding if should I divorce my gay husband, this lack of eros love and acknowledgment that he could never provide it was devastating. I once told my mom, “I deserve to be loved because I’m a woman, not in spite of it.” This statement is driven by my desire for eros love.
If you are in a mixed-orientation marriage, intentionally or otherwise, personally reflect on the type of love(s) your partner is giving you. Then ask yourself:
Is this type of love(s) enough for my needs? Is this love what I want in my marriage?
3) Impact on Emotional Health
Evaluating and establishing what type of marriage I desire and how I need and want to be loved is empowering. However, as strange as it sounds, it wasn’t enough to push me over the edge in my decision to divorce my gay husband.
The final tipping point for me was feeling the impact of these desires on both my and my gay husband’s emotional health.
This recognition of emotional health was brought to light when Rainbow listened to a podcast interviewing a psychologist about impacts of straight marriages and gay spouses. Within the podcast, the bold statement was made that once a gay husband (or bisexual or transgendered) shares their feelings with the straight wife, to stay in the marriage is a form of psychological (emotional) abuse.
When I listened to the podcast I didn’t immediately recognize the unintentional emotional abuse occurring. However, I did recognize I could not continue to live the way I had been living for the past year.
Signs of Emotional Abuse
It was only after deciding to divorce my gay husband that I was able to reflect and identify intellectually the emotional abuse symptoms I was feeling.
According to Psychology Today, these are signs of emotional abuse I was experiencing.
1. The use of shaming and belittling language
Completely unintentional, my gay husband talking about his feelings for other men made me feel as though I wasn’t “enough” in the relationship. Further, my attempts at supporting Rainbow’s emerging sexual feelings pushed me farther into thinking something was wrong with me. My struggles to support his changing emotions at the expense of my own and him still talking about wanting relationships outside of ours was devastating.
2. Withholding affection
While Rainbow never actively withheld affection toward me, watching him freely give it to The Other woMan was awful. (I imagine this would be true of any extra-marital affair.) He would not reject my physical advances, but he never really welcomed them either after he started realizing his desire for other men.
3. Refusing to communicate at all
Again, Rainbow didn’t not communicate. He and I had many a conversation. However, because he was not ready to accept his homosexuality, he could not tell me he is gay. It was this lack of direct communication with me that caused the most damage to our relationship and the trust I had with him.
4. Isolation from supportive friends and family
This sign of emotional abuse was the largest for me. Again, it was not intentional on my gay husband’s part. However, to hold a secret of such magnitude and impact on my life caused me to withdraw from friends and family.
I was also able to see the pattern of abuse after some reflection.
1) When I first shared my upset with Rainbow after the visit from The Other woMan, he told me he never meant for me question our marriage. He told me he loves me. I accept this and carry on. Renewing efforts to live “normal”.
2) Then again, when I came home from my friend telling me Rainbow is gay, he claimed he was “mostly gay”. That indicates there is still a reason and hope to stay married. He willingly told our friends that he was committed to the marriage.
3) Even after the marriage counseling session when I realized I wanted monogamy, he still told me he wanted a life with me. That he loves me and couldn’t imagine sharing his life with anyone else.
Signs of Depression
In addition to feeling the effects of emotional abuse, I was able to recognize my gay husband (if forced to repress his homosexuality by staying married to me) would likely become severely depressed.
I was actually already seeing some depression symptoms in Rainbow.
1. Lack of interest in activities
Over the past year, Rainbow and I would do less and less on the weekends and in free time. Only when working on his personal blog would Rainbow perk up. Otherwise, I was always poking and prodding him to do things as a family.
Rainbow had slowly begun to express tiredness in a way I hadn’t noticed earlier in our marriage. The only other time he actively commented on his sleepiness was when our kids were babies.
3. Change in sleep patterns
His sleepiness may have been a result of his changing sleep patterns. For sure his waking up and journalling for hours in the middle of the night couldn’t be helping his exhausted state. But just the fact that his sleeping changed so drastically in such a short span of time was an indicator of poor emotional health.
He was showing three out of six signs of depression. That knowledge coupled with my own personal experience with depression and his current sexuality struggles indicated his emotional health was suffering too.
How Am I Going to Manage Emotional Health in My Current Marriage?
The combination of understanding my wants and needs in life and how my current marriage situation could not meet those wants and needs was creating serious emotional health issues. My gay husband repressing his own emerging sexuality feelings was causing him emotional distress as well.
Further, these emotional health issues needed to be acknowledged and addressed.
Prior to the decision to divorce my gay husband, I was not receiving individual therapy. Rainbow was receiving some individual therapy but likely not getting the quality he needed for such a significant life revelation. Our marriage counseling efforts did not help our situation either.
Overall, I would give us a big fat F for managing our emotional health. I’ve no doubt the lack of managing our emotional health is what caused me to finally snap. Deciding to divorce my gay husband so quickly after learning he is gay was a way to relieve the emotional distress I was feeling. It allowed me to speak to others and escape abuse I wasn’t even aware was occurring.
Maybe if we had received better quality emotional support and therapy during the journey of Rainbow discovering he is gay, our marriage may have lasted longer. But maybe not. I am sure the journey would not have been as traumatic, for both of us, had we fully recognized the impact on our emotional health and managed it well from the start.
If you are living with a gay husband, or any spouse questioning their sexuality or gender, do yourself a favor, actively manage your emotional health!
When considering if you should divorce a gay husband, ask yourself:
Am I willing to actively manage my emotional health for the rest of my life to maintain my marriage?
Because I am 100% positive it will take active, good quality emotional health management to succeed in a mixed-orientation marriage.
Even if you are willing to adjust your definition of marriage and accept having non-eros love in your marriage. I believe misery is found in expectations being different from reality. There is no question that your reality as a straight woman married to a gay husband is different than your expectation on your wedding day of being married to a straight husband. And life is too short to be miserable.
Should I Divorce My Gay Husband?
The answer to this question is a personal one. Unfortunately, only you can answer it.
These are the three key factors that had the greatest impact on my decision to divorce my gay husband. They may not be the only factors you need to determine your future course, but they will get you started.
Regardless of your decision, know you are not alone. Millions of other women (and men) have been faced with this decision too. If you want more personalized help, you can seek straight spouse support here.
Please leave a comment if you have other considerations to share for staying in a mixed-orientation marriage.