mixed orientation marriage (MOM) is where one partner is heterosexual and the
other is same-sex-oriented (gay or lesbian) or bi-sexual.
situation we find ourselves in is not usually one of intentional deception. (In
some cultures, families and geographical areas this may be different however,
as it is a matter of survival). For most of us in a western culture, our
marriages were the result of us conforming to a society, who at that time, believed
homosexuality was a crime, a perversion and a mental illness. We married
thinking that it was the right thing to do and that it would help to change
what we perceived was faulty within us. I know this was the case for me. I
wanted to do the right thing. Having a wife and family was everyone’s ultimate goal
or expectation. There are also a number of people whose same sex orientation
did not become obvious or awakened till after they were married. You, I, and thousands
of others are the products of an uninformed society. We are at the fault line
and our generation is the one caught in the transition.
the current knowledge on sexual orientation been available to us growing up,
our choices would have been different. If we were born 40 years earlier we
wouldn’t have ever considered coming out. If we were in this current generation
we would have realized our sexual orientation is natural and normal and
wouldn’t have married to help fix it or felt it necessary to conform.
One Couple – Two Journeys
From my observation, the straight partner basically goes through
the same process gay and lesbian people go through to accept their sexuality. For
the straight partner though, it is accepting their husband’s/wife’s homosexuality
and the realities and consequences associated with that.
Once we come out to our partner they begin their journey. Indeed
we have forced them on that journey just as we have been forced to face the
reality of our sexual orientation.
Neither of us chose this journey. It
is important to remember that we never do this journey in sync together.
As an example there are some straight partners who have come to a place of
acceptance that the marriage possibly has no future even before the gay partner
has come to accept that. It’s rare but I have seen it happen. This would make
it easier for the gay partner to be open and honest about their journey. I have
also worked with straight partners who have come to a place of complete
celebration of the life they had with the previous partner and moved on, but
the gay/lesbian partner has only been able to achieve a level of reluctant
acceptance of his/her gayness.
I have identified eight
stages most of us go through to finally arrive at the place where we fully
accept and embrace our gay self. It is the disclosure of our homosexuality that
commences our partners’ journey; we are already along the journey; maybe even at
the end. Up until the point of coming out to our partner, it is most likely not
a part of their consciousness (although they may have had suspicions). There
was a time we were also not conscious of our gayness or didn’t have a name for
the feelings we had.
The way we respond to each other will either help or hinder the others progress. Being aware of these stages, the demands of the moment and
what we need to do in order to move on hastens progress but doesn’t guarantee
resolution as we are dealing with two individuals on separate journeys.
The amount of time it takes and the pace will always be different.
And even though the journeys are individual, at the same time they can be painfully
entwined. Sadly, some can get stuck in a stage for years; some even a lifetime.
My experience in this area has predominately been with gay men and
straight wives. My assumption is that straight men that are, or have been,
married to lesbians will face some different issues whilst others will be very
similar. The difference being that basically men and women have different brain
wiring, hormones and chemistry that impact the way they approach and perceive
sex, romance and relationships. Men are from Mars and women from Venus. These
differences impact the outcomes.
The Eight Stage Process to Complete Reconciliation
– (I don’t know I'm gay, straight or anything. I'm just a kid). The straight
partner is also initially in this state. It is not even on the radar. Courtship,
engagement, wedding and marriage are the things that fill the mind.
awakens – (I'm different to the guys or girls around me. I'm thinking about and
finding myself attracted to the same sex. Could I be gay?) Research shows that
the average age when people have this awareness is around 13-14 during puberty.
That makes sense because it is of course a sexual orientation we are talking
about. For some there is a period when they become aware but they don’t have a
word for it. Some have this awareness even younger – particularly in hindsight
they see how it was always the same gender that attracted them or got their
attention in movies or that they we fascinated with same gender bodies instead
of opposite etc. For the straight partner there may be thoughts, suspicions or
questions that arise about their partners sexual orientation.
of the gay self. Many of us have lived in that space for years. ‘I’m not gay’
we have said to ourselves and come up with a whole range of excuses to justify
that. I was drunk, I’m bisexual, I was just horny, I’m imagining things, I was
just experimenting or it’s just a phase. We try and put the reality of our
homosexuality out of our minds. We may have told our partners about our
homosexuality even before we were married and we both existed in the space of
denial for years believing that marriage would be the solution to this ‘thing’.
I have met many women who, after the husband has come out, are in total denial
about their husband’s homosexuality.
of the gay self is the next phase. This can be like denial but we actively try
and rid ourselves of this ‘terrible curse’ or ‘problem’. This can involve ‘ex-gay’
programs, counselling, therapy or all manner of mental tricks to kill the gay
self and its expression. We self-monitor our voice, gestures, what we wear, who
we mix with…anything that might vaguely identify us with the identity we are
the wife/husband is in this phase she/he will most likely suggest that you get
some help to change the part of you which is incompatible with your
heterosexual marriage or agree that we can both work this out together. Their
commitment to save the marriage increases.
of the gay self. When we realise that denying it or rejecting it hasn’t worked
we try to suppress our homosexuality. I can control it, monitor it, it’s my
secret, no one need know. The partner may
want to keep this a secret as well and encourage you to control it. They may
want you to limit or have no same sex activity or only if there is no emotional
attachment with the person.
Kubler Ross, in her well known stages of grief, talks about the third step
being a bargaining stage. The third stage of grieving involves the hope that
the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Sometimes, the negotiation
for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed
lifestyle. Psychologically, the individual is saying, "I understand I will
die, but if I could just have more time...” Can you see how these relate to
your marriage and homosexuality? It is in this stage that the wife/husband will
try and find ways to change the situation and bargain with you, themselves or
God. They may also, during this phase, look inwardly and blame themselves or
think they’re not woman or woman enough
or haven’t been a good spouse and
therefore have contributed to the ‘problem’. During this stage the straight
partner may try various bargaining techniques to revive the marriage,
relationship or sex life. The pressure this creates can be enormous because the
homosexual partner knows he/she can never fully give what the other is wired to
receive from a heterosexual spouse. For the straight partner it creates a sense
of desperation and for the gay/leasbian it only increases the sense of guilt.
the wife or husband has been prone to being a rescuer then it is in this stage
that they will exhibit the co-dependent behaviours of being a rescuer. All
rescuers end up becoming victims. In their efforts to try and ‘fix’ the
situation or person they give and give but are unable to receive back what they
want from the other person. They will make excuses for the other person, give
away their power and allow themselves to be disrespected……and hence the subtle
change from being the rescuer/helper to becoming the victim. The third corner
in the co-dependent triangle is persecutor. Both husband and wife can end up in
this corner. After trying everything to be the rescuer and then finding herself
becoming a victim the wife can then turn on the husband and become the
persecutor which means she may have moved on to stage four.
of the gay self .This thing is too strong for me, I hate my gayness, and
therefore I hate myself. This phase can be a dark phase which can include
depression or thoughts of suicide or the development of other mental health
issues. The hatred of self can be intense.
the straight partner is in this stage the resentments build till there is hatred towards the gay partner. She/he is angry.
Angry at you for being gay. Angry at life (it’s not fair) or God for not
answering prayers. Sometimes when I have
worked with both partners in this situation the gay/lesbian has moved on from
this stage but the spouse is still in denial or bargaining. As soon as I see
the anger emerge I know they are making progress. It’s not a pleasant stage to
be in. Some straight spouses remain in
this stage and live a life of bitterness and resentment towards their partner, not
even allowing them any contact with the children. They may create a toxic
environment and poison the children against the husband/wife. ‘I will make him/her
pay‘ ,they think to themselves, ‘for all the pain and heartache he/she has
caused me.’ This is a phase we must both work through and our response will
either help or hinder the other from moving on. Ultimately though it is their
journey and they will be responsible for the choices they make…….as we all do
© Anthony Venn-Brown is the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b, Australia’s largest network of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people from Christian backgrounds. He is also an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ‘ex-gay’ myth. Anthony’s autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning', details his journey from married, high profile preacher in Australia’s mega-churches to living as an openly gay man. Anthony has been twice voted ‘One of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’ (2007 & 2009) and was one of four finalists for the 2011 ACON Community Hero Award. He is also the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International.
of gay self. This can be both healthy and unhealthy though. It is wonderful to
come out and accept our homosexuality. But there are also some people, like I
was for years, who have accepted their sexuality but it is only a reluctant
acceptance. I had accepted the fact that I was gay but because my ‘straight’
life had been so wonderful and initially my gay life quite traumatic, deep down
inside I would have preferred to be ‘straight’. In essence though this is
tolerance, not complete acceptance; we tolerate the gay self because we know
there is no other option. People who prefer to be heterosexual can never fully
embrace their true selves and enjoy the sense of freedom that brings. They
exist with a subconscious belief that life is unfair; they still live with a
sense of shame and some even believe they will inevitably go to hell because
they ‘gave in to their homosexuality’.
straight spouse that has moved on from the hatred stage may only be tolerating
and not completely accepting. This will be evidenced by occasional digs and
reminders of what homosexuality has done to them, and the marriage. I have
spoken with many men who tell me their wives have accepted the fact that they
are gay but from other things they have said it is obvious they have not fully
accepted it. This can go on for years, never allowing each individual to move
on and truly be themselves. It is a life of restriction not freedom. Sometimes
this surfaces when the man finally falls in love with another man. Jealousy rises
to the surface in the wife who up to now has professed acceptance.
8. Celebration of the gay self means I
actually love being gay; all negative connotations of guilt and shame have been
removed. Not every gay man or lesbian has moved to this stage but it is the
beginning of living a life of authenticity and congruence. The person who
celebrates and embraces their sexuality lives a powerful life that transforms
those around them because no one can deny what they have………a wholesome and
profound love of self.
know when your straight partner has moved on to this stage as they will speak
positively about the life you had and be grateful for the children and the
years of marriage together. You are invited into the home as a lifelong friend.
They have no problem meeting your new gay friends and rejoice with you if you
find a partner. All bitterness and resentment is gone, replaced by
unconditional love and forgiveness. This is, as I’m sure you realise, healthy
for her/him, you, the children and those who are dear in your life. This is the
same for heterosexual couples who are divorced. Not everyone gets to this stage
it takes complete honesty with yourself and others, courage and respect for the
stages we must both journey through to find complete healing and wholeness.
Labels: married and gay