Following last week’s blog and the response it generated, I felt it important to continue our discussion on mixed-orientation marriages, and in the interests of fairness, this time from the flip-side.
When a wife reveals she is a lesbian the dynamics are very different compared to when a husband discloses he is a homosexual, according to Psychologist Paul Martin from Brisbane's Centre for Human Potential.
“Due to the socialisation of women and socio-biological influences there are many differences,” Mr Martin said.
“Women are more emotionally attached to what is right for the family and the husband. They are often connected to other people’s needs more than their own.”
Mr Martin said women remained married, despite knowing they were gay, because they felt a sense of duty as a mother and a wife above any duty to themselves.
“Who they are is irrelevant. Cultural influences tell women they should not be as connected to their sexuality. Mothers are nurturing and submissive. They are not as assertive about their sexuality.
“Some women are very prepared to put up with things until the children get older. Men find out they are gay when they have sex. Women won’t go to toilet blocks on the way home. They form intimate relationships with other women.
“Traditionally in our society this is considered normal. So it is not until they touch another woman and are aroused by it that they relate it to being gay.”
Lucy* got married young. She has three children and three years ago, she told her husband she was gay.
They continued living together for the sake of the children while they both came to terms with what her revelation meant for the family.
“My ex-husband is a fantastic guy. He said ‘it isn’t right for us to be married’. Getting divorced was the hardest decision of my life because I was so caught up in being a house wife and I took my marriage vows very seriously.
“I wanted to find a way to make it work, but you just can’t make it work when someone is gay.
“I realised it’s not about the marriage, it’s about the relationship. It’s a tragedy for everyone involved.
“For me I felt like the bottom had fallen out from underneath me. I had never given any indication to my family that I was gay.
“I believe I did fall in love with my husband emotionally but not physically. It was like we were brother and sister.
“When I told him I was gay he felt completely rejected. It was devastating for me to hear how I had made him feel and that I was responsible for his pain.”
Mr Martin said husbands who learn of their wife’s homosexuality feel emasculated.
“It strikes at the very core of their being. They feel they weren’t good enough and didn’t perform well sexually. They feel defective," he said.
“Socially men are considered to have a curious fantasy about two women being together and being a lesbian has this social stigma at times of being ‘cool’. For some men this has made it easier to deal with.
“In our society it makes sense for women to be intimate with each other. Men being intimate activates a sense of disgust. Lesbians are often quite invisible, as is a women’s sexuality.”
Christine* has been in a lesbian relationship for 28 years, she has four children from an earlier marriage.
“My new partner has never tried to be a second mum. The children already had a mum and a dad and we worked very hard with the children to build a family,” she said.
“It’s very important to be true to yourself. Living a lie has a flow on effect to the whole family.
“I took vows ‘till death do us part’ and I was in a dead relationship and carrying the corpse around with me. That is a very heavy weight to carry.
“It was freeing to finally be in a mutually loving and encouraging relationship.”
Mr Martin said wives who stayed married and ignored their sexuality often became resentful towards their husbands, which in turn lead to anger and then depression.
“If you’re always thinking of the other person, you are training that person to take advantage of you. Women are also trained not to show anger. This leads to resentment and depression which results in a sense of hopelessness," he said.
“Women do an incredible job reading, researching and learning how to deal with the children. They endure irrational levels of guilt.”
For support visit Straight Spouse Network.
For further information on mixed-orientation marriages visit Ambassadors and Bridge Builders International.
The Gay Christian Network offers support for gay Christian couples and their families.
You can follow Paul Martin on Twitter @PaulmartinPsych
*Not their real names.