I've been out to my own wife for just about six years. When I told her, it was a very big deal. There were tears, anger, surprise, dismay, fear, concern on her part for my well being and eventually acceptance and reconciliation. Now, six years later, it is no longer a big deal in our lives. On the scale of big deals in our lives, it has become quite small in comparison to other things such as my cancer which was diagnosed four years ago and which has slowly but steadily advanced to the life threatening stage, to the point where only cutting edge medicine is keeping it under control.
As for me, I have to admit I do think about my bisexuality and how it relates to our marriage and our relationship a great deal. It's not that I think about it because it is a problem in our lives. It isn't. I think about it and analyze our relationship because I have chosen to write this blog, and I feel compelled to gain as much insight into the things that have kept our mixed orientation marriage working as I possibly can so that I can possibly be of help to those who are just beginning that effort.
I wonder still, after all these years, if I did the right thing in telling her. In a very real way, it was an extremely selfish thing for me to do. To take something I had lived with for 58 years and throw it onto her shoulders without warning. How could such a thing be described as anything but cruel? Some would say it was the honest thing to do. Honesty is sometimes over rated I think. It certainly is not always the best policy; and even though we all say it is, none of us really believe it. There are all kinds of things we as individuals don't handle honestly. We just put more weight on honesty as far as this particular matter goes.
My wife and I are fine, our relationship, our marriage, the level of our intimacy with each other is great, just as it has always been. True, the cancer issue plays a part. We know that we are, no matter what may be, living the last best years of our lives together. There is no time for fussing and fighting or succumbing to petty ill will with each other. There is only time for enjoying these last years together however long God may see fit to stretch them out.
Things are truly good for us; but I often think, wouldn't they be even better if I had spared her the knowing? Spared her the burden? Spared her the hurt?
I don't know the answer to those questions. I truly don't. All that is left for me regarding such questions is to address them in this blog for the consideration of other guys who are coming along and will find they too have to, in their own turn and in their own lives, deal with the same issues.
But it's become obvious to me of late that it is not just guys who will be dealing with the issues. As my blog has gained more and more readers over the last couple of years, I have begun to receive more and more letters from women who are, for one reason or the other, dealing with the issues connected to being married to a bisexual or homosexual man. In some instances their husbands have confessed. In some they have either found out or suspect.
Which ever the case may have been as to how these women found out, the thing that has surprised me is that every woman I've heard from so far as asked for advise on how to save her marriage, not end it. Perhaps I only hear from the women who want to save their marriages and the ones who want to end their marriages contact their lawyers instead. I'm not sure. I just know I have been greatly surprised at the number of women who are ready and willing to go to great lengths and great personal sacrifice to save their marriages.
There once was a time, even in spite of my own success in telling my wife, that I would have urged any man considering confessing not to do it. I felt that for the huge majority of such men there was no chance whatsoever of success. Now, because of the women with whom I've come into contact, I'm not sure what the chances of success are, but it's not zero. On the other hand, though there obviously are women who want to make their mixed orientation marriage work, the statistics still present a grim picture. Most such marriages fail within two years of the husbands confession of his orientation.
I have learned a great deal from these women to add to what I learned from my own wife. Some of the lessons learned have been quite surprising. "Hell hath no furry as a woman scorned," goes the old saying; and pound for pound and inch for inch, there is no doubt an angry woman can be a force to reckon with. However, women can and do act with compassion, understanding and love, even in the face of their greatest fears. They can in fact be quite magnanimous in going more than half way to meet the needs of the man they love including a husband who is bisexual or homosexual. Many of the women I've heard from are even ready to share or consider sharing their husbands with a male friend if that is what they must do to save their own relationship with him.
|Honesty Is A Double Edged Knife|
For me, corresponding with these women has been an eye opening experience. I have always been sympathetic to the women who love those of us who are bisexual or homosexual men. Though there are exceptions, for the most part they didn't ask to play the role which they find themselves playing as the wife to a bisexual or homosexual man. Yet, the ones who write to me seem to genuinely being trying to make every attempt to make it work. Keep in mind though that just because they want it to work does not mean it always does. Sometimes what a woman wants in her mind and even in her heart is not something she can live with emotionally. Sometimes women try valiantly to tell themselves that there is nothing their love cannot overcome; but to their dismay they find that in spite of their will to work it out, they simply cannot reconcile everything within their emotional response.
Even so, the willingness of the number of women I have come to know personally to try to deal with their husbands bisexuality inside their marriage has, frankly, been surprising to me. At the time I told my own wife about my bisexuality I thought of her as the exception to the norm, the woman who could be told without our marriage falling apart. I still think she is an exception to the norm but my recent experiences in the last couple of years has certainly pointed out that there are more exceptional women than I expected there to be when considering this matter.
I think it is a good thing because I honestly believe that bisexuality is the biological norm for men. And I believe we are entering an era in which it will see more and more expression among men. Thus more and more women will have to deal with it in one way or the other.
Through this blog and through the group I moderate on line, I have had contacts with hundreds and hundreds of guys. I am confident I know pretty well what makes men tick. I also know what inhibits them from ticking as they should. Through living my own life and talking with so many other men about their lives, I feel that I have garnered a great deal of expertise concerning the married bisexual and the married homosexual male. Unfortunately, though I am hearing from more and more women, I have not heard from enough of them yet to feel comfortable that I know them and their reactions to bisexuality or homosexuality as well as I know the reactions of men. I hope by writing this particular blog piece, I will encourage more women to contact me about their situations.
One of the important things I have learned in talking to women is that the individual stories of a couples struggle with bisexuality or homosexuality of the husband, more often than not, do not quite match up. I have been able to observe this by talking individually to both partners in the marriage. When I talk to both partners, I never discuss what one partner tells me with the other partner. I tell them up front that anything they want their partner to know they will have to tell them because I won't. It is not my intention to serve as a messenger and one can not be expected to talk openly unless they know they are speaking to someone who will respect their confidentiality.
In general terms, what I most often find is that women who want to work out their relationships with their husband and save their marriages have the greatest trouble with two aspects of the situation. First, they are usually curious and want to be informed about too many details. Second, they come quickly to resent the time their husbands spend with his male friend, or the time they think he is spending with his male friend. In my own case I found that my wife grossly over estimated the time I spent with my buddy. After I told her about my bisexuality and that I had a buddy, the time I actually spent with that buddy did not change. Neither did the amount of time my wife and I spent apart change. However in her perception any time we spent apart became time I was spending with him in her mind. It finally got to the point that this perception on her part had to be addressed directly with some candid discussion between us. To my wife's credit, she quickly got better at not assuming things which she did not know to be factual.
Also to my wife's credit, from the very first, she told me that she never wanted to know details. In fact she made me promise never to share details with her even if she asked. It wasn't that she wasn't curious, she was. She just was wise enough to know that the details were not something she needed to know or to deal with. We handled the details she needed to be assured of in my promise to her not to be promiscuous and to limit my relationships to long term relationships with men who did the same. On several occasions, my wife has asked for details. I have simply reminded her of the promise she required of me, and she has dropped the questions.
The first question I'm usually asked when a wife who wants to save her marriage contacts me is, "Can I make my marriage work?" There is no easy answer to that fundamental question. It depends on her, on him and on them as a couple. I've already mentioned above that, for her, there is sometimes a disconnect between what she wants and what she can handle emotionally. When such a disconnect occurs, her emotional state will always eventually win and the marriage will fail. For the two as a couple, whether or not the marriage can survive depends on whether or not they can continue to each see the marriage as valuable, stable and satisfying. The important word in the preceding sentence is "continue." If the marriage was not valuable, stable and satisfying to both partners before, it will quickly fail under the weight of the new burden. Their are, of course, exceptions.
One of the most common exceptions centers around status and finances. The fact is that normally a woman will not willingly leave her marriage until and unless she has something better to go to and something to go to that is financially secure. For the wives of men who are financially well off, this is not a problem. Even after dividing assets, there is enough for each to live comfortably without adversely affecting either's customary life style. For middle class families or lower income families, this is not often the case. A division of assets will leave both the husband and the wife financially strapped and with a decidedly lower standard of living. In such cases, the wife will often choose to stay in the marriage but live a separate life from her husband. I have seen this happen many times. Sometimes both the husband and the wife can actually be truly happy with this arrangement. She has her own interests and he has his. The two of them essentially agree to remain publicly committed to each other but privately live and enjoy their own individual lives under the same roof.
But the women who contact me most often seem truly to love their husbands and truly want to come to a working arrangement that will make both of them happy. In these cases, more often than not, it will depend on him as much as on her as to whether or not it works. And essentially what it depends on regarding him is whether or not he is truly a bisexual guy or whether he is in fact a homosexual guy.
Though many people do not yet realize it, neither homosexuality nor bisexuality is a point on a well defined line. Instead both homosexuality and bisexuality are a range of behaviors and desires along a rather ill defined but lengthy line between absolute heterosexuality and absolute homosexuality and no one is actually at either absolute end of the line. Everyone falls in somewhere in the wide middle. The guys who are closest to absolute homosexual are homosexual men. They identify as homosexual men, at least to themselves, and they function sexually only with other men. The men who are closest to the absolute heterosexual end of the continuum are heterosexual men. They identify to themselves and to the world as heterosexual men and they function sexually primarily with women. The men who are closest to the middle of the continuum are the bisexual men. These men are harder to pin down. They may self identify as straight, gay or bisexual depending on how much real thought they have given to understanding their own sexuality. They may present to the world as straight, gay or bisexual though by far the greatest number of them present to the world as heterosexual men.
Men who are very close to the absolute homosexual end of the continuum simply cannot physically carry out the sexual role of a heterosexual man. These men seldom marry. They are men who know from a young age that they are homosexual and they function as homosexual men.
The men who marry are men who are much closer to homosexuality on the continuum but who are close enough to either side of the middle of the continuum that they can physically fill the roll of a heterosexual man. The problem for such men, and their wives, is that the men who are between the middle of the continuum and the absolute homosexual end of it become increasingly unable to fill the roll of a heterosexual man when it comes to emotionally bonding with their wives as a heterosexual man does as they get closer to the homosexual side of the continuum. To compound the problem, as they get older, fulfilling the physical role of a heterosexual man becomes harder and harder to do. Try as hard as she might, the wife of a homosexual man, can rarely elicit the emotional and sexual response she needs from her husband. He simply does not have it to give to her or any other female.
The really sad part of all of this is that often the man does not recognize his fault in this failure. Often the man who has failed, in his need to deny his homosexuality or even his bisexuality, will blame his wife for becoming cold and no longer desiring sex. In such cases, often is not that the woman is cold. Instead she is simply frustrated to no end. It's not that she doesn't desire sex, it's just that he has never been able to provide her with good sex, and so she has given up. Marriages between such people are always on rocky ground. Almost anything can be the straw which breaks the camel's back and ends the marriage.
Humans are complicated beings, and sometimes the thing we fear most is the very thing which redeems us. I have four very good personal friends who were in long term unhappy marriages. All four men are homosexual men. The respective wives of these men never knew of their husband's homosexuality until he chose to tell them. All the wives, however, did know they were in marriages that were badly broken. They just didn't know why. In each case, the husband finally chose to obtain a divorce. In all four cases, the husbands found happy lives with same sex partners. In two cases the wives accepted the divorce and moved on with her own life and found her own sense of happiness. In the other two cases, the wives resisted even after the divorces and have essentially chosen to let their lives be destroyed rather than face the reality of their situations as the other two wives did and choose to find a measure of happiness for themselves.
True enough, none of these four women signed on for the marriage they actually had. They didn't knowingly marry homosexual men. But in the end nothing is certain in life, and in the end while we are not always responsible for what happens to us we are always responsible for how we handle it. Two wives handled it well. Two did not. It seems clear to me which two made the wiser choice.
I have not, in my personal experience, talked with or known a bisexual man whose marriage has failed against his wishes due to his sexuality. I think this is due to the fact that most bisexual men are able to present themselves to their wives and to the world as heterosexual men. I know this was true in my own marriage for the first three decades of it, and it is still true in the way I present myself to the world. There simply is rarely a compelling reason for a bisexual man to come out to the world other than his simple choice to do so. It is a choice for which I, and I think most bisexual men, feel no compelling urge.
With all this in mind, there is one other thing for the wife who has found that her husband is bisexual or homosexual to consider, and that is: I have never talked to or known even one man who feels he has made a choice about his sexuality. Most men I have talked to, given such a choice, would have chosen to be normal. This apparently assigned preference has not been a welcome thing for the men I have personally talked with. All of them have resisted it, denied it and otherwise tried to live as if they were normal heterosexual men. Unfortunately, for most men living a seemingly normal life is impossible; and even if they can do it for a few years, it becomes increasingly difficult with each passing year. It is important for women to recognize this fact. Their husbands homosexuality or his bisexuality is not some kind of trick he has played off on them. If anything his denial is a trick he has tried to pull off on himself. It almost always fails.
Often women faced with new knowledge of their husband's homosexuality or bisexuality ask, "Why did he marry me?" The reason is illustrated in the paragraph just above. He did not choose to be homosexual or bisexual and he honestly thought he could resist and deny the assignment. He did not set out to hurt her or to hurt himself. He set out just like any other person entering a marriage, to build a good and happy life together with the woman he loved. He had no idea, if he was a homosexual man still in denial, that he simply did not have the ability to carry out the responsibilities a man has to shoulder in a truly happy marriage.
As a practicing psychotherapist who does primarily marriage counseling, my wife is in a position to see the strains on most marriages. We live in trying times and all marriages exist under extreme pressures. We tend to think of marriages that do not fail over the years as happy ones. That, unfortunately, is not always the case. Many are most unhappy. They continue to exist because although the marriage is broken there are multiple ties that remain unbroken. These can be religious ties, family expectations, financial ties or any of hundreds of other ties that bind even severely broken marriages together.
In mixed orientation marriages, the sexual orientation of the bisexual partner adds strain to the marriage whether or not the straight partner knows. The strain is increased exponentially when the straight partner finds out.
Women deserve to live fulfilling and productive lives just as much as do their bisexual husbands. Ultimately, each husband must find the path that will assure him as much happiness and fulfillment as possible. Each wife, must do the same. I guess the most objective advice I can give to a woman who has found that she is married to a bisexual man is to not give in to an emotional knee jerk reaction. Sure it is going to hurt. It is going to tear at your heart and your soul. But give it time. And for god's sake do not run out and tell everyone you can find about your new found predicament. This is a personal matter and should be treated as one. Spreading the word about it will only hurt you more and complicate the matter further.
The most objective advice I can give to a man is to know yourself. You cannot be bisexual simply because you are married and have sexual urges towards other men. To actually be bisexual you must have real sexual desires for both men and women and be capable of performing and enjoying each.
My father spent my youth pounding into me that the world is not fair. He took it as a given and did his best to beat into me the realization that the world would never give me a fair chance, that anything I achieved would have to be achieved in spite of the unfairness of the world. As a young man who saw the world through rose colored glasses as young people tend to do, I thought my father was beyond cynical. I came to realize how accurate his view of the world was. The world is indeed not fair.
But in spite of all the world has thrown at me and continues to throw at me, I am a happy man. After almost 50 years of marriage, I wouldn't dare try to speak for my wife in all things but I can speak with firm conviction that she too is happy. Our lives together have not been perfect, but they've been damn close. We've always chosen to fight the battles together rather than separately. We've made sure that our friendship never ended. Love as we defined it at age 16 or age 18 when we married never lasts for long. It always passes away rather quickly under the strain of marriage, the burdens of life and the realities of faults. But with a little effort and a little luck, a different definition of love slips in and takes over. It is not a love that make one feel giddy as does young love, but it is a love that is strong and abiding, resistant to the strains of time and the realities of personal faults.
My wife and I, thank god, do not love each other as we did at 16 years of age or 18 years of age. If that love had been all we had, we would have long since gone our separate ways. No, we love each other in a wiser way, a more thankful way, a more objective way; and certainly, a more abiding way. It's not as romantic as young love for sure, but its much more resilient.
If you are a woman in love with a bisexual man, you have a hard task in front of you to make it work, but you can make it work if the two of you are willing to do it. Many couples like my wife and I have made it work before you.
If you are a woman in love with a homosexual man, you have even a harder task in front of you to make it work. Frankly, the odds are against you. You will have to find something in your marriage that means enough to you to stay other than an emotional commitment from him. Can there be real happiness in such a marriage? I think it possible no matter how unlikely. Just don't settle for the devil you know in fear of the devil you don't know. Make sure if you settle, you settle on some kind of arrangement with which you are truly happy.
Best wishes to all of you who struggle with mixed orientation marriages. You are not alone. There is a real hope for happiness for each of you. Remember though that happiness may be on the other side of some very difficult decisions.