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GAY HUSBAND RECOVERY
A topic of discussion I have with many women is about how do you work through Gay Husband Recovery, and why does it take so long? I hope my words below will explain this to you.
One problem that we all face is the pressure from family members and friends and their well meaning slogan to “get over it” when it comes to “recovery” from our marriages. Our loved ones, no matter how well meaning, can’t understand why we are having such trouble doing this. Their intentions are good. They want us to get past the nightmare and move on to a happier place. They see straight marriages ending in divorce all of the time, and those women seem to manage to start over again and find new relationships more easily than we do.
I do get upset when I hear these stories of additional pressure from my women who are trying their best to move through the stages of anger and hurt but not at the pace that others expect of them. The end of a marriage is like the death of a loved one, and we all have to pass through the various stages of grieving before we can come to the point of acceptance. And acceptance for us is twofold—accepting the marriage is over and accepting the homosexuality of our husbands which will now be part of OUR lives forever, especially when children are involved..
What other people don’t realize is that there are numerous issues that we have to deal with after a marriage to a gay husband ends. Some of these issues are unique and unlike those that women with straight husbands face. For instance, we have to figure out what to say to the children and when to tell them; we also have to decide what to tell family, friends, and co-workers. We live in a world where many people still don’t understand about a "gay husband" married to a woman and fear the ridicule we will face from this ignorance. Even in this day and age, people say, “What did you do to make him gay? After all, he wasn’t gay when he married you.” Yes, ignorance abounds.
We have to rebuild our own self-esteem, which has been sorely damaged through these marriages by not only feeling the failure of a marriage, but also wondering how much of a lie we were living. We have to rebuild our sense of trust within our own decision-making processes knowing that we walked blindly into a situation where we were so misled and blindsided.
Most of us have lost or never had the feeling of what real intimacy means in a relationship. We have difficulty trusting men again and trusting our own ability not to walk into this situation one more time. And this is a genuine fear that many women express—“It happened to me once. How do I know the next man I get involved with won’t be gay?” After all, why couldn’t we tell the first time around? This is confirmed by the ignorance of others who insist that we “must have known but married him anyway because we thought we could change him.”
There are other complications as well. There are those women who still feel some sense of responsibility for their husbands’ homosexuality. They are convinced that they played some part in their husbands turning to men. That’s because some gay husbands are cruel enough to say that to their wives rather than take the responsibility for the truth.
We have to deal with our own feelings of homophobia. Even if we were accepting of homosexuality in most cases, it took a whole new meaning when it entered our marriages and destroyed our futures with our husbands. We have to deal with our own feelings about our ex-husbands bringing lovers into the lives of our children and how that will affect our children emotionally. We have to fear how other people will treat our children if they find out their father is gay. And of course, we now have to consider the possibility that our children will be gay because this is a new reality.
Certainly straight marriages that end go through emotional upset and turmoil. We have to go through those same problems including single parenthood, financial problems, selling the home, going to work, and legal tangles. But in addition, we are forced to deal with all the additional issues stated above. This is a double whammy that just doesn’t end when a marriage ends.
What saddens me are the dozens of letters I receive each week from women who just can’t work their way through the maze of emotional complications that they are left with not only during the marriage, but also after the marriage. This is a process that takes time. But without going through a number of these steps, it will take much longer or just leave wounds that will not heal. I've adapted these ideas from other 12-step recovery groups, and I hope you will find them helpful.
THE TWELVE STEPS TO GAY HUSBAND RECOVERY (GHR)
1. You admit that your husband is gay, and you are powerless to change his homosexuality. You accept that you had no responsibility in “turning” your husband gay, and he has no choice in being gay. You also accept that your marriage has become unmanageable living with homosexuality.
a. The first step in working towards recovery is to admit those words that are so difficult and painful to say—“My husband is gay.” You have to accept this as the beginning premise and not look to find excuses or lull yourself into a false state of security by saying the word “Bisexual” because he has you for a wife.
b. Once you can accept that your husband is gay, you must understand that you are in no way responsible for this. Your husband was gay long before you met him even if he couldn’t understand this himself. You in no way brought this out in him or caused him to change into this. You had no influence one way or the other on when his need to act on his homosexuality would surface. There is nothing you could have done to stop this from occurring.
c. You realize that your marriage is in turmoil because your husband is gay, not because you failed as a wife. Even if there are numerous other problems in the marriage, they are all tied in to this basic fact.
2. You believe that once you turn for help for yourself, you can restore yourself to sanity.
You cannot change your husband, and no matter what you do to improve your beauty, intellect, or personality. it will not make a difference. You must turn to others who can lend help and support to understand how and why this happens so you can start thinking clearly and rationally. You need to rebuild your self-esteem and sense of self-worth so that you can start thinking ahead to the real solutions that are necessary. You do not need to waste time or money going for family counseling to try to make this marriage work. When you are living with a gay man, the bottom line is he will always have the physical and/or emotional need to be with men. This is not something that can change if you both go for marriage counseling together. Instead, go for counseling yourself to work on regaining the emotional strength you need to cope with in the marriage until you are able to move out of it.
3. Make a decision to take back your own life, which has somehow been misplaced through your marriage.
Throughout your marriage, you have focused on your husband instead of yourself. This is for the most part because you have spent your time trying to please him because he doesn’t seem fulfilled. You personalize this as your failure and so you try that much harder to be a “better wife.” It is not surprising if you have lost sight of who you are or who you were before the marriage. You have somehow misplaced your own life and aspirations while trying to make yourself into someone whom your husband can love better. It is now time to start focusing on you and what your goals were prior to the time of the marriage. You did have a life before your husband as well as dreams and hopes. It’s time to revisit that period of your life.
If you married at a young age, you may have never had time to work on personal goals. View this as an opportunity to sit down and figure out the life you want. Mentally visualize yourself in a place where there is happiness based upon trust and truth rather than chaos, confusion, and lies.
4. Make a search of personal inventory to see what it is within yourself that has allowed you to lose sight of your own identity and who you were before your marriage.
It is common to get off track while trying desperately to make your marriage succeed. Now it is time to do some personal inventory to see why you have allowed yourself to regress to the low emotional state you are in. What is it within you that keeps you hanging on to this marriage long after it should be over? What insecurities and fears are you facing? Living with a gay husband brings about a number of common emotional problems such as lowering or loss of personal self-esteem, loss of sexual self-esteem, and feelings of hopelessness.
You need to focus on a major issue that will haunt you for the rest of your life unless you deal with it upfront—namely, TRUST. You have lost the ability to trust your own judgment. You must learn to trust your own instincts again and not allow a mistake beyond your control to jade your ability to make future decisions. You must first trust that you were a worthy woman prior to your marriage. You were able to think rationally before you met your husband. But after living in an “Alice in Wonderland” existence over a period of time, you start thinking with upside down thoughts, which develop through living a lie. Once the lie is exposed, it is time for you to start examining how that lie impacted on your important decisions or fear of making important decisions.
When going through the step of taking personal inventory, start making a list of all of the qualities you have. Start recognizing your wonderful strengths and traits that have somehow been minimized in the shadow of your husband’s problem. Start thinking about how those positives would have been accentuated if you had been married to someone who could have been a real husband to you by being encouraging and supportive rather than finding fault with you because he was frustrated living his lie.
5. Admit to yourself and to others what the real problem is in the marriage—your husband’s homosexuality—and not look to place the blame on yourself.
Until you can internally believe that your husband’s homosexuality is not your fault, it is impossible to move on. You need to understand and accept that you were not “stupid” walking into this marriage or even naïve. You were uninformed, inexperienced, and lacking the knowledge of understanding homosexuality. You thought that gay men were attracted to the same sex relationships, not relationships with straight women. Even if you knew about past gay encounters in your husband’s life or suspected there had been homosexual contact, you believed in all good faith that your husband had “chosen” to change and you accepted his explanation when he told you this. Remember, the overwhelming majority of women who marry gay men had no idea whatsoever about this prior to the marriage. Those who had any suspicion or knowledge didn’t understand that homosexuality was not just an adolescent encounter or fantasy. For the handful or women who went knowingly into the marriage with a gay husband, you believed in your heart that if your husband loved you enough, he would change. Stop punishing yourself by thinking that you didn’t see the “unobvious” signs.
6. You are ready to develop a mental plan for a positive future and believe that life can become rewarding and fulfilling after your marriage.
In order to regain hope, you must believe that there can be life after your marriage. Some women don’t believe that this is possible and view their marriages as a life sentence. This is not the case. Even if you can’t leave your marriage at this moment, you can start to plan for a positive future regardless of your age. Stop putting up negative roadblocks such as, “I can’t financially support myself,” or “I’m out of shape,” or “I’m too old to start over.” These are self-defeating messages which allow you to stay “stuck” where you are. All of the money in the world can’t buy your happiness. It doesn’t make sense to stay emotionally dead just to keep a roof over your head. You can put your life back together in time as long as you start believing in yourself. It may take you a year or five years, but the bottom line is that if you want it, it will happen.
Part of developing a mental plan is realizing that you may be taking anti-depressants because you are depressed living in your marriage. So many women are coping in their marriages or after their marriages this way. If your depression is due to the marriage, antidepressants will numb the pain as well as other feelings. However, medication can also stop you from dealing with your feelings which is essential if you expect to move ahead to a produce and happier life. If you are taking medication as a result of your depression from your marriage, realize that you need to put limits on how long you can suppress your emotions. Medication doesn’t change the situation that your husband is gay, nor will it make you any happier living in a marriage with a gay man.
7. You are willing to accept you have your own insecurities and low self-esteem issues and need to start working to change them.
Women in these marriages are often plagued with insecurities and low self-esteem. This is because marriage to a gay man is an unnatural state of marriage to live in. Staying in a marriage void of passion and intimacy is also an unnatural state of marriage no matter how nice a partner is. If you wanted only friendship, you didn’t need to get married. You wanted a husband and a complete marriage that includes physical intimacy. Too many women end up “redefining” marriage justifying that there’s all different kinds of relationships. This thinking may make you feel better temporarily, but certainly not in the long run.
Living daily knowing that your husband desires a man over you strips away your sense of self-esteem one layer at a time. It is a slow process that erodes your mental state over time, not all at once. When you don’t know that the problem is homosexuality, the feelings of personal rejection are even worse because you believe that you are doing something wrong in the marriage. Gay husbands who won’t be honest will often say that “you” have the problem, not them. They claim they are happy because they can’t come to terms with their truth and would rather continue living their lie. They make you start believing that you are the cause of your own unhappiness because they claim to be “happy.” This is why so many women invest so much time and money going for therapy to help a problem that they don’t even know exists.
I know women who have gone to such extremes as developing eating disorders, investing in surgery including breasts implants and liposuction, and even going to sex therapists in hopes of getting their gay husbands to desire them more. They don’t understand how their husbands loved them enough to marry them but now won’t continue to desire them in the bedroom. They don’t understand that no matter what they do, they can’t make themselves attractive or more desirable to their gay husbands because they are not men.
8. Make a list of all aspects of your life that have been altered through the marriage and look for ways to mend them.
I know that having a gay husband alters the lives of most women. When you live in a state of constantly trying to please your husband, you lose sight of what you can achieve for yourself. Some women have never received the emotional support or encouragement from their husbands and have given up on their own aspirations. In our desperation to keep the “status quo,” we have put a freeze on the idea of education, employment, and social contacts.
It is important to start focusing on goals that will help you build or rebuild yourself. It is time to start mapping out a game plan on how you can achieve these goals whether you are with your husband or no longer with him. When I lived with my gay husband, I became a prisoner of my own insecurities like many of you have. We are afraid to walk away from the house for fear of what will be going on in our absence. This leaves us in a state of paralyzation--afraid to make a move in any direction--including a positive direction. We stop socializing with friends and family; we put any plans of improving ourselves through education or employment on hold; we literally become locked up in our own fears of what will happen if we walk out the door.
I wasted so much valuable time not doing for me because I was afraid of what he would be doing for him if I left the home. You must accept the fact that you cannot be a 24-hour guard against his homosexuality. You cannot stop him from acting on his needs just by surrounding him every moment. He will find ways to do what he needs to do regardless of how hard you try to stop in. And in doing so, you are only stopping yourself from moving ahead. Start focusing on you because otherwise you will be wasting years of your life that could be fulfilling and productive.
9. Make contact with other people however you have to in order to feel connected rather than isolated and alone. You must not be afraid to seek out help wherever you can even it is against the wishes of your gay husband.
You cannot put your husband’s need for privacy and discretion ahead of your need for support and help. You must understand why you keep putting his need for secrecy before your need for sanity.
It is amazing how ashamed so many women feel when it comes to discussing this subject with family members, friends, co-workers, or medical professionals. This is a subject that has been kept quiet for so long because we are afraid of how others will judge us. Our greatest fear is that people will believe that we are the cause of our husband’s homosexuality. On some level we still internalize that this is our fault and haven’t accepted that our husbands were gay when we married them. Some women who finally come to terms with this fact continue to blame themselves and feel that these were suppressed feelings in their husbands that they have somehow triggered by not being good enough wives.
When we seal ourselves off from others and deal with these thoughts alone, we feel an even greater sense of isolation and failure. In order to recover, you must be willing to share this news with others and seek support. Once you can say the words, “my husband is gay” to someone, it is a major step forward in finding personal independence.
10. You are willing to confront your gay husband on any issues and not be afraid that you are going to do more damage than has already been done.
When you suspect that your husband is gay, or in some cases, have proof that your husband is involved with gay activities such as porno, websites, emails, etc., it is important for you to confront him with your suspicions and findings. This is not an easy thing to do, but carrying this burden yourself is self-defeating. You need to let him know as soon as possible why you suspect there is a problem. If he denies this, or tells you that you are crazy, don’t give up. In some cases he will be very defensive and angry, but that should not be the basis of your shutting down. In some cases he may be in denial, but you must continue to tell him about your feelings in hopes that he will do the right thing.
You need to accept that this is a problem that will not go away no matter how hard both of you wish it away. In many cases, your husband fears telling you the truth because he is scared that you will have the confirmation you need to walk away or use it as ammunition against him. His fears will often keep him from admitting the truth to you. Don’t “give up,” “shut-up,” or “shut-down.”
11. Seek answers through support and professional help so that you can ease your knowledge that will give you the courage to change your life. You will explore all avenues that will result in your personal independence.
Finding out that your husband is gay is one of the worst experiences a woman can have. There is no way that you can expect to recover from this problem alone. You need help and support to help guide you through the difficult days ahead. There is no shame in going for help. In fact, now that you know that there is help and support, the shame is in not going for it. Find help that works for you in a meaningful way. Just like all therapists are not for you, not all groups claiming to be “support” groups are the right ones for you. If you are not comfortable with the support being given by various organizations, keep searching until you find the right one. In time, you will find help that is of the comfort level you need. If you need a good therapist who understands this situation, contact me for help to direct you.
12. Having a new insight and education as a result of these steps, you try to carry this message to others who need to understand what your situation is about. You also try to extend yourself to others crying out for help who are lost and confused.
An excellent way to work through the healing process is to support others who are going through the same problem that you are. First, it gives comfort to others who are just starting on this path. Next, it helps you to know that there are others out there in the same situation so you don’t feel isolated or alone. This will help you in your personal journey to Gay Spouse Recovery. As a number of you tell me, "PAY FORWARD!"
The important thing is to keep moving ahead. Realize that this is a process that takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. In time and with help, you will reach your goal of rebuilding your self-esteem and self-worth. Then it is time to step away from this period of your life and move on to a new part where positive self-discovery will bring you the happiness you seek and deserve.
Remember, as with any recovery program, you have to work these steps daily. You have to make them part of your internal belief system and look at them regularly to reassure yourself that you are on track. Any time you feel yourself slipping back instead of forward, read them over again. You can and will recover!
Love, Bonnie ♥