STRAIGHT WIVES TALK SHOW's 7th SEASON!!
The Straight Wives Talk Show is starting its new season as of October. Some of our best experts will be returning, and we will be having some new guests including straight wives who will share their stories with you. Stay tuned for some amazing programming! You can always catch a broadcast anytime after it is aired at this link:
THE SHAME AND THE BLAME
This month I wanted to focus on twp important issues--shame and blame that we all go through after the marriage to our gay husbands on one level or another. Because this topic is so important, I asked my literary hero, Kristin Kalbli, to share her powerful thoughts on the topic of BLAME. After her profound words, I will share my thoughts on the issue of SHAME.
Transmuting Blame After the Trauma of the Gay Thing
By Kristin Kalbli
I want to talk about blame, and responsibility, and power. Blame and responsibility are often confused, but they are not the same. One is destructive, the other constructive. But we run from responsibility when we mistake it for blame. Responsibility is needed to reclaim personal power after a trauma, and to reject blame. As straight wives, it is immensely helpful to understand the role each plays in the trauma of discovering our husbands are gay in order to recover and move forward.
First: blame. We straight wives know all about blame. When problems cropped up in our marriages to closeted or in-denial gay men, we were often blamed for those problems by our husbands. Personally, I regularly tried to address the lack of sexual intimacy in my own marriage with my husband. He became deeply uncomfortable and would completely shut down, refusing to communicate at all. He would then become angry and resentful and blame me for confronting him, for putting pressure on him, which made him feel “even less like having sex” with me than the barely-once-a-month we already had sex. His behavior never changed; I never got answers, but I did get blamed for seeking them. We were in a maddening feedback loop of my hurt and frustration at the constant, inexplicable rejection, and his anger and blame at being asked to address it. Many of us straight wives were told our bodies were to blame for our husband’s lack of attraction to us. We were too fat, or ugly, or our genitals were repulsive or smelled bad. Our bodies were deeply shamed and blamed for a problem that never originated with us. Of course our husbands weren’t attracted to us, because they were gay, not because there was anything at all wrong with our beautifully human bodies. But we swallowed that blame, and many of us tried to make ourselves into better, prettier, more desirable versions of ourselves…to no avail. Our husbands used blame strategically. As long as they blamed us, they deflected suspicion away from themselves. '
When we finally learned our husbands were not straight, often it was because we stumbled upon evidence we weren’t supposed to find. Whether we went looking for that evidence or were taken by surprise when it surfaced, a few of our husbands came clean then. But those who were still deeply closeted may have flown into blind, panicked rages and blamed us for questioning them, doubting them. They blamed us for our suspicions, they blamed us for needing answers, they blamed us for snooping, they blamed us for finding out their secrets, their shame, and they blamed us for having the audacity to confront them about it. If the evidence was too blatant to deny they blamed us for shining a light on their dishonesty, their selfishness, their hypocrisy. They blamed us for unmasking them, to themselves and to the world. They blamed us for forcing them to confront themselves in the mirror, a responsibility they abdicated in favor of blaming us. They blamed us for tearing our marriages apart for no reason, because they weren’t gay! They blamed us for splitting up our families when we couldn’t tolerate any more lies, any more gaslighting, any more illicit encounters with strange men in motels or clubs or our own beds.
When our marriages disintegrated in front of our families and friends, they may have blamed us. They may have blamed us for tarnishing our husband’s or our families’ reputations. They may have blamed us for not trying to make it work and keep our families together. Ludicrous as it is, we may even have been blamed for making our husbands gay.
And when society at large finds out we were once married to closeted gay men, we are subjected to a litany of humiliating and stigmatizing accusations. We are sneered at and blamed for not knowing our exes were gay (“Didn’t you know? Weren’t there signs?”). We are blamed for being unsupportive of our gay husbands who are seen as having overwhelming courage for coming out of the closet when the incentives for coming out finally outweighed the incentives for staying in. (How many of us have heard this accusatory query: “aren’t you glad he can finally be his true self?”). When we dared show our justifiable anger at the lies and betrayal, we were blamed for unjustified homophobia. People don’t believe us when we insist we are not angry that our husbands turned out to be gay, but because our husbands lied to us about being gay. When we insist our marriages and divorces were crazy-making and profoundly disorienting because of our husband’s hidden sexuality, we are asked, “Aren’t you relieved he didn’t leave you for another woman?” When we were enraged at the years stolen from us, enraged at being used as our husband’s closet, enraged at being used as brood mares so they could have children, we are blamed for being bitter, lonely, and pathetic ex wives. When we feel our lives were commandeered and our marriages were fraudulent, when we feel robbed of an authentic partnership with romantic love and mutual sexual pleasure and intimacy, when we feel violated because we did not consent to being in a mixed orientation marriage, when we question our entire realities, we are blamed for being crazy, for overreacting, for being angry (something women are not supposed to be in our society). In short, we are blamed for blaming our husbands. When we dare insist that our lives were not for sale, and that our husbands be held responsible for their lies of omission, we are blamed for not giving our closeted husbands a pass for lying because of societal homophobia: “How can you blame him for hiding in a marriage when society is so dangerous for gay people?” As if we should have happily volunteered to sacrifice our lives. While cultural homophobia is real and insidious, it does not entitle a persecuted human being to use another human being as a human shield. And when, years down the road, we still struggle with depression, anxiety and PTSD, when we are still in therapy or still struggling to trust men again, we are blamed for not moving on, for not getting over it, for not forgiving our exes soon enough.
Yes, we straight wives know all about being blamed.
But blame is not the same as responsibility. And in responsibility, lies power. Let me explain. In my own recovery, I had to work long and hard to parse through the tangled psychological web of my ruined marriage and decide what I was and was not responsible for. In therapy, I realized I was responsible for choosing my ex husband. He fit into a pattern of abusive men that was part of my own karma, a pattern that commenced with my father and that I continued for a time with heterosexual men after I was divorced. I was also responsible for waking up to that pattern, and I am now responsible for choosing better men in my life. And I was responsible for not knowing myself well enough to realize that my ex, gay or straight, was not a good match for me compatibility wise. I mistook our common interests (antiques, gardening, cooking) for compatibility. In truth, I needed to pay attention to what kind of man he was, and if his words matched his behavior, and if who he was (a conservative, risk-averse homebody) fit with who I was (an adventurous, passionate wild-child). I also had to learn to have compassion for my 21-year-old self, who didn’t know herself, who couldn’t spot his subtle misogyny and abuse, who didn’t recognize the gay red flags, and who didn’t know how to honor her instincts about him. I was also responsible for the ways in which I wasn’t a good wife, but those lapses were more the product of my youth, immaturity and superficiality, and they were minor in comparison to the “abject abuse, emasculation and neglect” my ex husband invented and blamed me for. I didn’t recognize the person he accused me of being. I knew I was no angel, but I couldn’t figure out why he thought I was such a demon by the time we divorced.
That’s why it was equally critical for me to decide what I was not responsible for. I was not responsible for my ex husband’s sexuality. I was not responsible for his self-loathing and internalized homophobia. I never put him in the closet and I never kept him there, despite his attempts to blame me for it (when he finally came out to his second wife, he told her that he had tried to tell me that he was gay – which is a lie – but that my reaction was so rage-filled and abusive that it sent him right back into the closet and into a marriage to yet another unsuspecting woman). Those were his choices, those were his actions, those were the consequences of his decisions. Not mine.
And not ours.
As straight wives, it helps to get really clear about what we are and are not responsible for, and therein lies the key to taking back our own power, regardless of whether or not our ex husbands, or families, or friends, or society continue to blame us for being straight wives, and regardless of whether or not our ex husbands ever take responsibility for their own choices and lives, or for the damage they have done to ours. Responsibility is empowering, even when we do the unpleasant work of taking responsibility for our own less than perfect decisions and actions. When we own and accept those parts of our lives with compassion for ourselves, we can reject blame confidently and powerfully. When we have done our internal psychological work, and determined our core truth of what we must own, and what we simply cannot own, we have a stable piece of physiological ground to stand on. From that ground, we can better withstand the blame hurled in our direction from all directions; we can better draw our new, healthy boundaries with our exes, our families, and our friends. We can respond thoughtfully and commandingly in social situations where someone’s ignorance and prejudice lead them to misunderstand or misrepresent a straight wife’s inner experience. We can own our lives again, and we can own ourselves again.
Thank you, Kristin, for your beautiful words that will help so many of our women. Kristin will be a guest on my radio show at the end of this month. Stay tuned!!
THE ISSUE OF SHAME
Since working with women for 35 years who are going through the gay husband trauma, I have learned that one common feeling we all go through is that of SHAME.
This emotion comes about due to several different reasons that I will discuss. First, I'd like to share my own words on blame--which will lead to the shame. This is one of my first articles written in 2001. I think it is just as relevant today as ever.
GAMES PEOPLE PLAY –THE “IF ONLY” AND THE “BLAME” GAMES
I have worked with too many women who at first assume that the reason for their husbands’ homosexuality is due to something they did wrong. For those of us who have had time to work through this problem over a longer period, it is easy for us to react by saying that this thinking is ridiculous. But try to remember when you first suspected or discovered your husband’s interest in men. Then it doesn’t seem quite as ridiculous.
When I reflect on my own inner feelings of shame during those early years, I remember feeling a great sense of responsibility. I used to play a game that most of us fall prey to. I call it the “If Only Game.” It goes like this. “If only I could be a better wife….if only I was more attractive…if only I was better as a lover…if only I was a better housekeeper, if only I wasn’t so demanding…if only I could lose more weight….if only I was smarter…if only, if only, if only…then maybe he could love me enough not to think about men.
My ex-husband was excellent at playing the other mind-twister game, which I call the “Blame Game.” After I questioned him for the first time about his sexuality two years into our marriage, he used this as an opening to play this game as his new weapon of mental torture. This is where he would come closest to revealing the truth by throwing in my face, “If I were gay, who could blame me? After all, you are always making too many sexual demands…complaining about something…gaining weight…acting jealous…being possessive …much too demanding….all consuming…and the list went on. Then he would end the conversation with the words I desperately wanted and needed to hear—“It’s a wonder that I’m not gay.” Whew, what a relief. I was a failure as a wife, but at least not failure enough to make him gay.
A young woman who was part of my support group recently told us that on an intellectual level she knows she didn’t make her husband gay, but emotionally she still feels that she is responsible. I often hear this in the beginning of a marriage separation. During the early stages of disclosure, it is easy to believe that we are somehow at fault for our husband’s decision to enter the gay world. Even when we can accept the news, we still can’t grasp all of the implications. We can’t figure out how our husbands were “straight enough” to marry us, make love to us (even if it wasn’t frequently or passionately), have children with us, have married lives with us but chuck it all for sex with a man. When we pass through the denial stage and accept that our husbands are gay, we still have a difficult time believing that it wasn’t something we did that drove them over the borderline and into the twilight zone of homosexuality.
What takes time for us to fully comprehend is that we had no part whatsoever in our husbands’ homosexuality. This was who they were long before we ever knew them. Some of them knew it and fought it hoping that marriage to a woman would miraculously make them straight. It can’t…and it didn’t. Others claim they honestly didn’t know it because it didn’t surface until years later. But even the late bloomers almost always felt that something was not quite right—they just didn’t think it was a sexual thing.
Playing the “If Only Game” is a very natural part of self-questioning that all of us initially go through. The problem is that some of us keep playing, sometimes for months and even for years. This is a dangerous game if played for too long because it indicates that you have not been able to put things into perspective. It also stops you from moving ahead and trying to rebuild your life. Prolonged questioning of your failures in the marriage serve no purpose at all. If you failed at the marriage, it’s because you were in a no-win situation. You were set up for failure, not for success. Success was not an option.
If you had been in a marriage with an emotionally healthy straight man, all of your efforts of being a supportive and loving wife would have been appreciated and in fact, cherished. So don’t use your marriage with a gay husband as a map for your future relationships. If you try again with a straight man, you’ll see how different and better it can be.
The point I from this past article is that so many of us suffer with the emotion of SHAME. When you have been told year in and year out that the failures in your marriage are your failures--you feel SHAME. When you given a laundry list of reasons why your husband doesn't want to touch you--including you're "too fat," "too thin," "you're too boring in bed," and other degrading reasons too numerous to mention including the MOST degrading comment of all--"your body has a bad odor which is why I can't make love to you," you feel SHAME. When he lashes out at you that you are too needy because "all you think about is sex all of the time," you feel SHAME. When your husband keeps telling you that you are a failure not only as a wife but also as a mother, you feel SHAME. When you are constantly reminded about all of the qualities you lack by the man who married you because he loved you, you feel ASHAMED. And in the overwhelming number of women I have worked with for 35 years, this is the overriding emotion in these marriages--SHAME.
SHAME often turns into guilt. When you are blamed enough for the problems in your marriage, you move to the next emotional stage of shame, which produces the next negative emotion you face--namely GUILT. We buy into this emotional battering and start to feel guilty about a list of lies our husbands perceive about us to deflect the truth about themselves. It is so much easier for them to find fault with us--fault that doesn't exist--rather than to take responsibility for the real issue--their homosexuality.
I am stating for the record that the longer you stay in marriage to a gay man, the longer your recovering time will take. "Rewiring" your emotional state after years of being beaten down takes time. "Unwinding" the facts from the fiction of your marriage also takes time. This is why Gay Husband Recovery is unlike divorce recovery for straight couples. In those divorces, people find fault with characteristics and traits of each other. In our marriages, the fault is that we are women. There is no therapy in the world that can ever change that fact.
It truly saddens me when I hear straight wives swear that they will never look for another relationship after their marriage to a gay man. And please understand that I love the fact that some women can find happiness on their own and lead fulfilling lives. I have single friends outside my straight wives circle who live very happily alone. But my sadness comes in when I know that choice is because of the fear of rejection from being damaged so badly from their gay husbands who put the fear of blame, shame, and guilt inside their heads no matter how much they learn to understand how they were "conditioned" this way. It means that the only love a woman will know in her lifetime is the love of a gay man--which is not the love she was intended for. She will never know the feeling of true emotional intimacy. She will never know the pleasure of sexual enjoyment or understand how "making love" is different than sex for the sake of throwing her a crumb to deflect the real truth. She will never know the appreciation or her worth as a loving partner in a relationship and how all of the loving gestures she made to her gay husband--which were rejected--would be loved and appreciated by a straight husband.
This is not to say that a marriage to a straight man would be perfect--but the problems would be problems of personalities rather than sexuality. Too many of our women end up what I call "sexually mutated" from the many years of sexual rejection and verbal sexual abuse. It's so sad knowing that something so beautiful can be turned into something so ugly when SHAME is the cause of it.
Ladies, unwinding the damage takes time. Good therapy and/or coaching is often the key to a healthy restart. If you need a good therapist or coach, I have some wonderful ones that are part of this network. You never even have to leave home. Go to my website at www.Gayhusbands.com and look for the "links" tab on my website. Or feel free to write to me and I'll provide you with information. I'm there for you--and always will be! We can get through this maze together!
BONNIE KAYE'S STRAIGHT WIVES TALK RADIO SHOW SHOW
After taking a short break during the summer from the radio broadcast, my newest season (season 7) started off with some dynamite guests. I am sending you the links for the shows that aired this month. You can listen at any time on your computer. Next Sunday my guest will be health coach Pamela Adams Gifford. You can listen live or anytime after the show is broadcast by going to this link:
Last week. Dr. Hooper was my guest. Here's the link:
Donna Andersen, founder of Lovefraud, was my guest to talk about Narcissism and Sociopathy. Here's a link to her show.
If you are wondering how to find evidence for your divorce case or for peace of mind, listen to Mike Garrotutte, a private investigator with wonderful tips.
I will be posting upcoming shows on my blog at www.gayhusbands.com. Feel free to check there for programming.
Have a wonderful month, and I will be announcing our next Healing Weekend shortly. Let me know in advance in you are interested in attending this spring.
Love, Bonnie ♥