Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dialectics Between Splitting and Integrating in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men

As a married bisexual male I am not unique by any measure. However, as a married bisexual male who successfully split my homosexual life from my heterosexual married life for many years and then successfully integrated my homosexual life into my heterosexual life, I am a statistical anomaly.

Psychologists have long been interested in the dialectic choice heterosexually married gay and bisexual men must make between splitting their lives into two separate and unequal relationships or integrating their homosexual life into their heterosexual marriage.

As a young married man almost 50 years ago who was also bisexual, I had to come to a decision between these competing choices long before I knew about the process of dialectic choice in which competing paradigms struggle for supremacy.

Gay Husband - Straight Wife
As is the case in most marriages involving a homosexual or bisexual man, the struggle I endured to come to a resolution of the competing forces in my life was largely invisible. However, the number of men involved in such invisible struggles is significante. It is estimated that 42% of men who identify as homosexual or bisexual have at some point been in a heterosexual marriage.

The fact that so many homosexual and bisexual men marry is cause for a considerable amount of condemnation. Many straight people simply can't understand why such a man would marry. However, research has documented many reasons that make sense, at least in the context of various points in time. These documented reasons for marriage include:

  • internal homophobia
  • cultural and social expectations
  • social and familial pressure
  • a wish to or eliminate the sexual orientation
  • desire to have children
  • feelings of love towards the woman
  • dissatisfaction with the homosexual world
  • negative feelings towards the homosexual lifestyle
All of the motives are dynamic. They may change as time passes for the individual. In my own case, I ended up in a mixed orientation marriage because I married early in life at the age of 18. That was almost 50 years ago, long before the internet which has thrown open the homosexual and bisexual world to voluminous readily accessible information by both professionals and non-professionals on a subject that was difficult to discuss before the internet era.

At the time I married I knew I enjoyed sexual activity with men, but at the same time I knew I was not homosexual. I enjoyed heterosexual intercourse way to much to be a homosexual man. I knew I could not be happy in the homosexual culture. I simply did not know there was such a thing as a bisexual man, so I was confused and bewildered. It was true that male/male sex was a part of my life, but at the time I my craving for straight sex was much stronger. The best theory I could come up with at the time of my marriage was that male/male sex was just a substitute for regular sex. Men were more available in the early and mid 1960s than good girls and even bad girls and there was much less chance of unwanted consequences such as pregnancy which could destroy one's life plans. I assumed that with my beautiful and willing wife in my bed each night the desire for men would simply disappear. I was devastated when, in spite of frequent earth shaking sex with my wife, the desire for men did not go away.

Mixed-orientation marriage can take one of two forms. The wife is either aware or unaware of her husband's homosexuality or bisexuality. The unawareness is, of course, dynamic. At some point in the marriage the wife may become aware of her husband's sexuality.

Gay and bisexual men's marriages are usually seen as problematic whether or not the wife knows. Their marriages quickly become more problematic in most cases when the wife finds out about her husband's sexuality sometime after the marriage.

The reasons for the breakup of mixed-orientation marriages intrigued D.J. Higgins and spurred him to study the question. He came away from the study with the answer of cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when one's behavior is inconsistent with one's perception of the behavior. In a mixed orientation marriage, dissonance exists between a man's attraction to members of their own sex and his participation in a heterosexual marriage. The cognitive dissonance increases substantially when the man attempts to manage simultaneous relationships with his wife and with men, thus living two lives. I became aware early in my marriage that I had to lead two lives. It was the only way I could think to handle the situation at the time. Fortunately, I was good at it.

In most mixed-orientation marriages, the wife does not know. In spite of the large number of these marriages, little has been written about the phenomenon. However, research suggests that most marriages of this type are not successful. In my own work with these men, more often than not these marriages are tumultuous, bellicose and filled with anger in both spouses. The irony is that the man knows the reason for all that. The wife, more often than not has no idea why the marriage is not good. She knows something is wrong, but she often has no idea at all why. All to often, she decides the problem is hers. Perhaps she may feel she is not giving enough. Perhaps she may feel she is not pretty enough.

That said, there are men who report having satisfying and successful marriages. The concealment of the man's sexuality from his wife plays a vital role in the success of such marriages. In spite of the satisfying aspects of such marriage, the man often feels guilt because of the concealment and because of his inauthentic lifestyle. There is also anxiety because of the potential of discovery by his wife or others.

There has been much more formal study of marriages in which the wife is aware of her husband's homosexuality or bisexuality even though these marriages are much rarer. Some men come out to their future wives before the marriage and she chooses to live with the reality. In most situations, the man comes out at some point in the marriage. This may cause a real threat to the marriage. Even in situations where the wife chooses not to end the marriage, the husband's sexuality may be a continuing source of conflict and anxiety which hobbles the marriage. In marriages in which the wife commits to saving the marriage, the spouses move to integrate homosexuality or bisexuality of the husband into the marriage. In the successful marriages the couple survives the crisis by emphasizing that open communication, understanding and acceptance of both spouses helps to overcome the difficulties.

Successful spouses cope in mixed-orientation marriages in various ways including various social networking support and professional support. Couples also adopt rules or routines related specifically to the husband's homosexual behavior and practices. Rules may be that the husband always comes home at night. He takes precautions against infectious diseases and limits his sexual partners, his willingness not to make his wife aware of his social contacts is a common rule.

Success in dealing with shock and saving the marriage depends on several factors including love and affection between the spouses, their commitment to maintain a successful relationship, open communication and mutually satisfying physical contact, dealing with feelings of guilt and shame. Husbands should realize that the wife may feel guilt herself. She may feel guilt because she has lived with this man for years and never realized that he was dealing with this secret. Finally, success in saving the marriage may depend on the degree to which the wife has achieved a sense of self-realization outside the marriage. Interestingly enough, the husband's realization of his homosexuality often contributes to the quality and stability of the marital relationship. In the aftermath of coming out, the sexual relationship between husband and wife often becomes more satisfying and intense.

I was glad I discovered this scientific study. I came out to my wife 6 years ago when I was 59. At that point we had been married for 40 years. During that 40 years, our marriage had been completely successful. For two kids who married at a very young age, we had not only made a success of our marriage, we had achieved more than we ever thought possible. We had helped each other to get college educations. We had both built successful careers, we had built the home of our dreams, we became part of the top 10% financially, we had raised two kids who are successful and well adjusted.

I was happy to see how well my wife and I met the profile for a couple who successfully maintains a mixed orientation marriage.

I have already told you why I married. In addition to thinking my homosexual needs would go away, I felt all the pressures listed in the bullet list above. In reality, I'm glad I didn't understand fully at the time. If I had known I was a bisexual man, I would have had to make the decision of whether or not to tell my wife before our marriage. Since she has now been told I am bisexual, she has said herself that she is glad I kept her in the dark because if she had of been told at that time she would not have married me. However at the point in our marriage when I told her, she was able to understand it and she was glad she had married me. She realized she did not want to end a marriage that meant so much to the two of us.

The reality is that my wife's and my marriage has always been amazingly successful. Our sex life has been awesome. Our marriage has been peaceful and calm. We never faught over anything other than sex, the kids and money.
The fights over sex were always about the times I wanted it and she didn't. The truth was I was too demanding. I always wanted sex 3 or more times per week. She was always willing to enthusiastically give me 3. Sometimes she would balk at more. We faught over the kids because I wanted to be consistent with expectations. She was always too quick to accommodate their wishes. But the kids turned out to be exceptional and successful adults. Starting out as married teen agers money was tight. Sometimes we faught over how it should be allocated. For the last dozen years or so money has no longer been a problem. I managed to retire at age 56 and maintain an income that puts us in the top 10% of Americans. We always worked hard and we were blessed beyond measure.

In the early years of our marriage I did suffer from great guilt. However, I am not the type to just sit and suffer. I am a realist. I live in the real world. I began a personal education project to learn all I could about male sexuality. I read everything I could get my hands on. When the internet came along I found that I was not the only married man in the world that enjoyed both heterosexual sex and homosexual sex. I was able to form new paradigms which  bridged the gaps between my faith and my sexuality. It took my leaving the fundamental church in which I had been raised and joining a mainline church which has a more realistic view of faith and redemption. I was more than willing to do that. I am always ready for change. I hold nothing dear simply because it has always been. I realized that the church in which I was raised met the needs of my parents, but I felt no guilt in leaving it and finding a church which met my own needs.

The fact is, when I came out to my wife, she was not happy about the news. But she understood that she was not going to throw away a successful marriage in which nothing had changed except she now knew what had always been. Together we worked to integrate the reality of my sexuality into our marriage.

As a psychotherapist, my wife understood the reality of homosexuality. She knew I had made no choices. But she knew she needed help in dealing with the realities of applying my sexuality to herself. It's different to counsel others than to deal with real problems in your own life. She quickly began to see a psychologist to help her deal with the new realities of our lives.

We kept communication open. She came up with a set of rules that were really very simple and were, in fact, rules that I had always followed. She asked that I never give her details about my homosexual encounters. She asked that I take care to limit the possibilities of contracting a sexually transmittable disease. She asked that I limit my sexual encounters to as few men as possible. That has always been my desire and at the time I told her, I was just ending a ten year sexual relationship with a guy. During that ten years he had been my only male sexual contact. The fact was I never wanted casual promiscuous sex. I wanted a long term male buddy with whom I could have a multifaceted relationship, one of which was sex.

It helped us save our marriage since the level of love and affection in our relationship had always been high. It helped that we had always been careful to keep lines of communication open. We didn't have to figure out how to do that in the middle of a crisis. It helped that as a professional psychotherapist my wife had a source of self-realization that did not depend on our marriage. My wife was one of those wives who felt guilt in that I had suffered for much of our marriage over my bisexuality and she had never known it. She felt she should have picked up on my pain. I had the good sense to remind her that I had done everything I could to keep her from knowing. It helped also that we were one of the couples who found that sex for the two of us, which had always been awesome, had a renewal of excitement and fulfillment after my coming out. I think that was, in my case, based on the peace I felt no longer having to maintain a secret, and in her case that she felt she was now competing with someone else for my affection. That was not the case, but she felt it was and I think it had a positive affect on our love making.

I have been working intimately with other men for sixteen years to help them find the same success in managing their homosexuality or bisexuality within their marriage. In a few cases I have helped them see that their happiness depended upon their willingness to end their marriages and start a new life that embraced their homosexuality. I have found without fail that happiness and success depends upon a man's willingness to accept and embrace new paradigms of reality, change and faith and/or philosophy. Men who are unwilling to do this always fail, always fail, to find the happiness and peace they desperately crave.

Once one embraces new paradigms, dealing with his sexuality becomes rather simple. If happiness and peace and a lack of guilt have eluded you, I encourage you to think about and then embrace new paradigms.

Jack Scott

The formal abstract from which this post was taken follows:

Psychology, 2010, 1, 106-112 doi:10.4236/psych.2010.12014 Published Online June2010 ( Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH 
 Dialectics between Splitting and Integrating in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men 
Adital Ben-Ari, Adir Adler 
School of Social Work University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel. 
Email: {mselizur, mseba}, 
Received February 26th, 2010; revised April 16th, 2010; accepted April 18th, 2010. 
Mixed-orientation marriage is usually an invisible phenomenon, but its frequency is not insignificant. The present paper describes and examines the experiences of 13 heterosexually married gay men, seven of whose wives were aware and six who were unaware of their husbands’ homosexuality. We take the insiders’ perspective as a point of departure to develop a conceptual model that may contribute to our understanding of the constructed reality of this relatively unex-plored phenomenon. The findings show that life in a mixed-orientation marriage can be understood along a continuum running between two poles: splitting and integrating. This continuum corresponds to the fundamental question in the lives of heterosexually married gay men: Is integration between homosexuality and heterosexual marriage possible, and if so, how
Keywords: Qualitative Research, Mixed-Orientation Marriage, Disclosure, Gay Men, Integrating, Splitting 
1. Introduction 
The Mixed-orientation marriage is usually an invisible phenomenon, but its frequency is not insignificant. No accurate estimate of the prevalence of heterosexually married gay men is available in the literature [1]. Kinsey [2] estimated that 1.7-1.9% of heterosexually married men are homosexuals. A survey using a probability sam-ple of gay males found that 42% of the men who self- identified as homosexuals or bisexuals had previously been married to a woman [3]. Other studies show that 20% of homosexuals had been married to a woman at some point in their lives [4-6]. A more recent study [7] shows that an estimated two million homosexuals, lesbi-ans and bisexuals in the US had, at some time in their lives, been part of a mixed-orientation marriage. 
What brings a homosexual man to marry a woman? The literature suggests a number of explanations include- ing internal homophobia [8], cultural and social expecta- tions [3-5,9], social and familial pressure, a wish to hide or eliminate the sexual orientation, desire to have chil- dren, feelings of love towards the woman, dissatisfaction with the homosexual world and negative feelings towards the homosexual lifestyle [10-12]. This array of motives is dynamic in that it may change over time. For example, Matteson [13] has distinguished between positive and negative motives, corresponding to the periods prior to and following the Stonewall Riots in 1969. These violent riots took place between policemen and homosexuals, lesbians and transsexuals at Greenwich Village, New York. This event marks the establishment of the gay rights movement in the US and around the world. Matte- son found that the most common motive for gay man to marry a woman prior to this incident was the negative perceptions of homosexuality, and following the event, it was the desire for family life. 
In principal, mixed-orientation marriage can take one of two forms; the wife is either aware or unaware of her husband’s homosexuality [12-14]. Within this context, the present paper examined personal narratives of gay men who were married to women, some of who were aware and some who were unaware of their husbands’ homosexuality, to gain a deeper theoretical understanding of mixed-orientation marriages. It is important to note that the nature of unawareness is dynamic and it may evolve over time (i.e. a woman can become aware of the man’s sexual orientation in different stages of the mar- riage). 
Gay men’s heterosexual marriages are usually port- rayed as problematic [8,11,14-15]. In an attempt to pro- vide an answer to the question of why mixe-dorientation marriages break apart, Higgins [8] referred to cognitive consistency theory. According to this theory, a cognitive dissonance occurs when one’s behavior is inconsistent with one’s perception of it. In the case of mixedorienttion marriages, a dissonance exists between homosexual Dialectics between Splitting and Integrating in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men 107 
men’s attraction to members of their own sex, and their engagement in heterosexual marriages. The cognitive dissonance increases as the man manages two simultan- eous relationship systems with a woman and with men, thereby running a double life. In order to obtain consis- tency, these men make the decision to marry (i.e., invok-ing the belief that homosexuality is wrong, homosexual relationships are doomed to fail, etc.). To attain congru-ence in this situation, homosexual men may disclose their sexual orientation, identifying with and participating in the homosexual world [16]. 
As mentioned, researchers have been aware of the fundamental difference between the two situations in which women are aware or unaware of their husbands’ homosexuality [12-14]. Each of these two situations in- volves certain individual and dyadic processes, which will be examined below. 
1.1 Wives are Unaware of their Husbands’ Homosexuality 
Little has been written about this specific phenomenon. Berger [10] found that although successful marriages of this type are rare, several men reported having satisfying marital relationships. Their wives’ and children’s lack of awareness is a mediator variable that contributes to the perception of the marriage as successful. The gay men’s concealment appears to play an essential role. However, Binger [14] indicates that many of these men are likely to experience guilt and anxiety. Guilt stems from their un- authentic lifestyle and from the concealment itself. Anxi- ety is associated with the potential harmful ramifications of an unplanned discovery of their homosexuality. 
Several theoretical perspectives have been suggested to account for the implications of concealment by het-erosexually married gay men. Pennebaker [17,18] sug-gested that Inhibition Theory may provide a useful ex-planation, as it emphasizes conflict or inhibition over emotional expression (e.g. concealment), which may result in stress-related illnesses or reactions. According to this theory, emotional expression and sharing significant personal aspects with others via disclosure are important to maintaining good mental and physical health. Using a Minority Stress conceptual framework, Meyer [19] con-cluded that the combination of various stress-simulating processes, such as concealment of sexual orientation, can provoke mental health problems. In conclusion, con-cealment of sexual orientation can have destructive im-plications for homosexual men, both emotionally and physically. Interestingly, while the wife’s unawareness appears to be a contributing factor to the success of the marriage, the concealment of homosexuality is thought to be a disruptive factor. 
1.2 Wives are Aware of their Husbands’ Homosexuality 
Relatively more scholarly attention has been directed to couples who share the information about the husbands’ homosexuality, particularly in the 1980’s [11-13]. Disclo-sure of homosexuality to wives varies and may occur during different stages of the marital relationship: Some men come out prior to the marriage, while others do so during their married lives, which may pose a certain threat to the continuation of the marriage. Both spouses can find themselves in situations where they would initi-ate termination of their relationships. Even for those who decide to keep their marriage intact, homosexuality can be a source of tension and conflict, introducing continu-ous pessimism about the future of their marriage [11,12]. In spite of such complexities, some couples manage to sustain their marriage following the discovery of the husband’s homosexuality. In these cases, the spouses begin to integrate homosexuality into their heterosexual relationships [12]. Several studies have indicated that some couples indeed survived the crisis following dis-closure [13,20], emphasizing that open communication, understanding and acceptance of homosexuality by both spouses can help the couple overcome their difficulties [12]. 
Couples in mixed-orientation marriages cope with the complexity of the situation in various ways, including various networks of social support (homosexual, hetero-sexual and bisexual); professional help or paraprofes-sional support groups (self-help groups for other men and couples in a similar situation). At the dyadic level, couples develop various accepted rules or routines related spe-cifically to the husband’s homosexual behavior and prac-tices, e.g. the husband always comes home at night, takes precautions against infectious diseases, limits his sexual partners, etc. [12]. Successful adaptation to mixed-orie- ntation marriage has been attributed to several factors. One is love and affection between spouses, together with their commitment and desire to maintain a successful relationship. Another is open communication and physi-cal contact, as well as dealing with feelings of guilt and shame related to the husband’s sexual orientation. Al-lowing the wife’s sense of self-realization outside the marriage as well as agreeing upon practices related to the husband’s homosexual encounters may also contribute to successful adaptation. This can include the creation of a contract between the spouses on such issues; for example, establishing that the woman would not be informed about the husband’s sexual contacts, deciding to conduct an open relationship, etc. [11]. In addition, the husband’s realization of his homosexuality was found to contribute to the quality and stability of the marital relationships [21]. 
Most of the literature about mixed-orientation marriages was written during the 1980’s and referred to quantitative studies. The present study, however, utilizes qualitative methodology and examines constructed meanings and experiences of heterosexually married gay men [22], with wives who are aware and unaware of their homo- sexuality. We take the insiders’ perspective as a point of departure to develop a theoretical framework that may expand our understanding of the constructed reality of this relatively unexplored phenomenon [23]. Within this perspective, the main research question is as follows: Is integration between homosexuality and heterosexual marriage possible, and if so, how? Is there an alternative way in which a homosexual man can realize his sexual orientation and simultaneously live in a heterosexual marriage? 
2. Method 
2.1 Participants 
The participants were 13 heterosexually married men, who define themselves as “gay”. Seven of the wives were aware of their husband’s homosexuality and six were unaware. One man had disclosed his sexual orienta-tion to his wife before the marriage, while the other six had made the disclosure at different stages of the mar-riage. The men’s average age was 51 years (SD = 8.43), ranging from 35-64 years old. The average duration of marriage was 24 years (SD = 9), ranging from five to 37 years of marriage. All the married couples had children, and all participants were secular Jews with high school or academic education. 
The participants were recruited using criterion sam-pling, to ensure their compatibility with the phenomenon under study [22]. We interviewed gay men whose wives were aware of their homosexuality, as well as those whose wives were unaware, to increase variation within the studied phenomenon. In addition, we located partici-pants of different ages and at different stages of married life. This line of reasoning was based on the assumption that any common patterns emerging as a result of greater variation would be valuable in capturing the core ex-periences [24]. The sampling process ended when theo-retical saturation was reached, when new information from the participants fit existing themes, but did not add new categories of meaning [25]. 
2.2 Procedure 
Participants were recruited through a dating website for the homosexual community, according to the criteria specified above. Out of more than 125 men who were contacted, 99 did not respond, 20 responded but refused to be interviewed due to fear of exposure, and only six were willing to participate (four in the WN [wives un-aware] group and two in the WA [wives aware] group). The other seven participants were recruited through snowball procedures and by word of mouth. Initial phone calls were conducted with each participant, in which re-search description, interview processes, documentation methods and procedures to ensure confidentiality were presented, followed by participants’ consent to be inter-viewed. Then, a face-to-face interview was scheduled. Time and place were determined by participants’ prefer-ences. Each interview lasted between one and two hours. The interviews were digitally audiotaped. In addition to ensuring accuracy, this also enabled the researcher to be more attentive to the interviewee [24]. 
2.2.1 Data Collection and Analysis 
Data was collected using in-depth semi-structured inter-views focusing on the subjective experiences and per-spectives of the heterosexually married gay men. The interview followed an interview guide containing a list of issues relevant to understanding the phenomenon [24]. Two versions of interview guide were developed, to meet the special issues characterizing each of the two situa-tions of the studied phenomenon (i.e. WA and WN). The main questions in the first version dealt with issues in-cluding married life, relationships between the spouses, coping strategies, realization of husband’s homosexuality and disclosure of homosexuality to the wife with regard to two time periods: prior to and following disclosure. The second version contained questions that related to the same issues as in the first version, but with no refer-ence to the two time periods. Demographic data were collected uniformly in both versions (e.g. age, religiosity, education, etc.). 
Data analysis was performed in several stages. First, all recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and read as text to gain familiarity, bracketing prior percep-tions and knowledge [24,26]. Second, a separate case analysis of each interview was performed to identify units of meaning related to the studied phenomenon, which were organized in meaningful clusters. Third, cross-case analysis was conducted, using an imaginative variation to find possible meanings and to approach the phenomena from several perspectives [26]. Fourth, structural synthe-sis was established, to reveal the essence of the phenom-ena and to develop a theoretical framework for more in-depth understanding [24]. 
2.2.2 Trustworthiness and Credibility 
Unlike the positivist researcher who seeks for internal and external validity, the qualitative researcher is geared towards trustworthiness of findings and analysis [25]. Accepting that there is no single objective reality, the researcher is concerned with credibility, transferability, dependability and conformability [23]. In the present study, we employed the following procedures to establish trustworthiness. We used information-rich quotations to provide thick descriptions of various aspects of the stud-ied phenomenon. An experienced researcher was closely involved in the analysis and interpretation of findings, which were then shared with some participants to receive their perception of the findings, including suggested meanings and interpretations [25]. 
2.3 Results 
The interview data shows that life in a mixedorientation marriage can be understood along a continuum running between two poles: splitting and integrating. This con-tinuum corresponds to the fundamental question in the lives of heterosexually married gay men: Is integration between homosexuality and heterosexual marriage pos-sible, and if so, how? When telling their stories as ho-mosexual married men, participants used contradictory terms to describe their experiences, which indicated mechanisms of splitting and integrating. In particular, they were attempting to create a separation between their homosexual life and their family life, while apparently integrating or wishing to integrate the two worlds simul-taneously. 
2.3.1 Splitting in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men 
When splitting appears as the dominant theme in their stories, interviewees refer to their double lives in a di-chotomous manner, using contradictory language. Such structural aspects may reflect their initial stance: that the two worlds cannot coexist in harmony. This means that only a total split between them would enable them to continue living in both worlds. Thus, splitting appears to be an essential mechanism contributing to the continuation of the heterosexual relationship. Within this context, splitting can be experienced at three related, often over-lapping levels: emotional, cognitive and behavioral. 
Emotional splitting: All participants perceived their relationships with their wives as essentially different from their relationships with men. Emotional splitting occurs when one relationship system, mostly with the woman, is characterized as emotional, while the other, mostly with the men, is not. Michael, who had been mar-ried for 25 years to a wife who was aware of his sexual orientation, used different words to characterize the two relationship systems. Excitement referred to relationships with men, while emotions defined the essence of his rela-tionship with his wife: 
Relationships with men mean excitement. After you have your orgasm, you put on your clothes and that’s it, “back to reality.” Reality is home, family, kids. Relation-ships with men are nothing but fantasy fulfillment. I’m very satisfied with my relationships with men. I mean the sex part, the sexual attraction and that’s it. Sweating, preying, like an animal. Animals are like that. My rela-tionship with my wife includes lots of emotion; love and appreciation
By creating a contradiction between relationships with his wife and with men, between reality and fantasy, Mi-chael used splitting as an enabling mechanism. By de-fining his homosexual relationships as fantasy, he was separating them from reality. After the fantasy was ful-filled, he returned to reality—his routine family life. He used metaphors from the animal world (e.g., sweating, preying) to describe his sexual encounters with men, which may also intensify the split between his homosex-ual life and his family life, as “preying” belongs to the fantasy. Thus, splitting allows for the movement between the two worlds, which helps to keep both intact. It would appear that only one relationship system is generally de-fined as emotional, meaning that love and affection tend to be directed toward only one intimate partner in one relationship system. This can be either a man or a woman, but not both. 
Cognitive splitting manifests itself in various ways, including in the minimization of homosexuality and its significance; viewing homosexuality as a temporary phase, as a transient episode; or objectification of the sexual orientation. Daniel, who had been married to his wife for 20 years and discovered his homosexuality five years prior to the interview, used all of these in his narrative: 
I hope it will end at some point. I want to continue with my normal life, because that is the most important thing in my life. As long as I have control over it and can maybe even stop it, I think it will go away. I feel good at the moment. Stop now? No, no, no! I’m enjoying my new toy very much. It’s as though I’ve found a new toy. I play with it. I think that someday, I will have had enough of it—I really hope and believe so. I know my-self. Throughout the whole of my life, I have had this tendency to get fed up of things and move on to some-thing else. A few years ago, I suddenly had a passion for learning to play the organ. I bought an expensive organ and contacted a teacher. After only one lesson, I felt that it was enough and I stopped.…I know that someday, my thing with men will also become a statue. 
By objectifying his sexual orientation (i.e., a toy/org- an/statue) and defining it as a temporary episode, Daniel actually distinguished between “doing” and “being” with-out creating a contingency between the two. Contrasting normalcy with playing served to gain a sense of control, allowing him to decide whether or not it was a part of him. This cognitive split served to normalize his life situation and to generate a feeling of stability and secu-rity. The two lives were not symmetrical: the heterosexual life was considered as “normal” and received the highest priority. His “thing with men” was just a passing hobby, implying that homosexuality is temporal, insignificant; an object whose excitement will eventually diminish. 
Behavioral splitting: Several indications of behavioral splitting were identified in the interviews: limiting the homosexual encounter to an alienated meeting place and treating it as such; defining the encounter as a merely sexual act; washing the body carefully after the sexual encounter and before returning to the normalcy of the heterosexual relationship. All these contribute to the per-ception of the homosexual encounter as detached from anything in the familiar world. David, whose wife was unaware of his homosexual orientation, described such encounters as follows: 
At that moment, I go down the stairs (after a sexual encounter with another man. If our paths cross, I will ignore him. I am not there any more. It is important for me to make a cut. I must separate and I know how to do that, because otherwise, you might get divorced. I will come home, take a good shower and wash everything away…I am clean again. 
David had developed certain behavioral rituals to es-tablish his much needed total separation in order to con-tinue with his heterosexual life. At the end of the meeting, the man would leave the place and would totally ignore his male partner, expressing a conscious decision to re-nounce familiarity with the other man to prevent any continuation of the encounter. Thus, homosexuality was constructed as a merely sexual act, confined to a specific rendezvous, and not as an intimate relationship. This lim-ited construction portrays homosexuality as insignificant, thereby protecting the heterosexual relationship. Indeed, some participants mentioned customarily washing their bodies after homosexual encounters. The apparently physical-behavioral act of washing signified a transition between the two worlds, which simultaneously intensi-fied the split between homosexuality and the routine het-erosexual life. Thus, the parallel emotional, cognitive and behavioral splitting enabled participants to lead a double life, and to continue living in both worlds while keeping each world intact. 
2.3.2 Integration in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men 
Although splitting was a more prevalent theme in the stories recounted by heterosexually married gay men, few participants spoke of integration between the two worlds. Integration is perceived as a desired ideal, a situation in which one does not have to relinquish either world. Such a perception challenges the dichotomous normative notion that homosexuals cannot be heterosexu-ally married. Arik, who had been married for 25 years, described a period in which he felt good, because of the balance between the homosexual and the heterosexual aspects of his life: 
Back in those days, I experienced a “modus Vivendi” in my life. I had my family, my wife, the good life I had with her in our home… and I was a very happy person. During those years, when I had Gil (a male partner), there was some kind of a balance, a feeling of serenity. 
Running two parallel, long-term, stable relationship systems—one with the wife and one with another man —was perceived as an ideal, and therefore as a rewarding experience, as the ideal was realized as a possible alter-native. Despite their satisfactory relationships with their wives and their love towards them, some interviewees reported the need for a simultaneous, committed, long- term, stable relationship with a man. Some participants expressed the potential for harmony and coexistence be-tween the two worlds. Realization of one relationship system did not necessarily preclude the continuation of the other. If integration is possible, then splitting is no longer needed, and integration then replaces it. 
Our relationship has been best since we got married, but I am still looking for a male partner, one who will accept the fact that I have a very good relationship with my wife that I do not want to break. We (he and his wife) had 25 good years, with ups and downs and we have a very long joint history, which isn’t easy to give up. At the same time, I also need a relationship with a man, and I am not talking about casual sex, it’s not enough. I need more (Daniel). 
Daniel represents a desire voiced by several participants, to conduct two simultaneous, committed, stable relation-ship systems with a man and with his wife, which are viewed as complementary, creating balanced integration between the two worlds. Unlike the situations of splitting, where participants talked about integration, the homo-sexual and heterosexual relationship systems were not constructed as essentially different and contradictory, but as complementary. Within this context, it is noteworthy that participants described both the heterosexual rela-tionship and their homosexual sexual encounters as rela-tionship systems, suggesting a perceived implicit similar-ity between the two. 
Although the two mechanismssplitting and integrat-ing-were presented in a dichotomous manner for heuris-tic purposes, they are, in fact, dynamic and tend to oper-ate together, often in parallel. For example, a participant might describe in one interview how he detached himself emotionally from relationships with men and then ex-press his yearning to manage two intimate relationships simultaneously, with his wife and with another man. 
3. Discussion 
Splitting and integrating are interwoven in participants’ narratives. Some made a total split between their homo-sexual and heterosexual relationships; others integrated or wished to integrate the two worlds, and several men spoke in terms of both splitting and integrating. As such, the findings of the present study address the main re-search question: Can heterosexual and homosexual rela-tionship systems coexist? Is there an alternative way in which homosexual men can fulfill their homosexuality and simultaneously engage in heterosexual marriages? 
Leading two fully committed relationship systems with a man and a woman simultaneously, which are charac-terized as both emotional and sexual, contradicts main-stream Western cultures regarding the nature of intimate relationships [27]. This challenges the ideal of monoga-mist relationships and the binary structures of man/ woman and homosexual/heterosexual [28]. 
Although most of the literature is pessimistic about the 
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH Dialectics between Splitting and Integrating in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men 111 
success of mixed-orientation marriage [8,11,14,15], the findings of this study corroborate findings from several previous studies [12,13], suggesting that such relationship systems are not doomed to failure. In line with this, the concept of polyamory [29,30] may be useful in providing ways to examine dominant mainstream relationship structures, as it undermines the monogamist relationship ideal and the concept that a relationship should exist be-tween two people only. According to this approach, one can co- nduct sexual and/or emotional relationships with a number of people of the same or opposite gender. Al-though the literature about polyamory relates mainly to bisexual [31] and homosexual [32] couples, we argue that it may also be appropriate for mixed-orientation couples. As we accept the possibility of creating such a relationship system, and as our findings indicate that some participants wished to integrate the two worlds, we suggest an alternative conceptual model for their integra-tion. Based on quantitative methodology, a previous theoretical model [13] suggested developmental stages in mixed-orientation marriages. In contrast to this, our model developed from the subjective experiences of het-erosexually married gay men, together with their con-structed meanings. Whenever relevant, it integrates ac-cumulated knowledge pertaining to the studied phe-nomenon, to map the essential components that may contribute to the 
3.1 Integrating Homosexuality within Heterosexual Marriage: A Conceptual Model 
1) Honesty and openness between the couple—When a couple decides to lead a one-sided or two-sided open relationship, honesty is an essential component [33]. The wife’s awareness of her husband’s homosexuality is an important part of such integration. The findings of the present study and the literature show that context [34] and timing [13] of disclosure of homosexual orientation can contribute significantly to relationship quality. There-fore, early disclosure of the sexual orientation within a positive context (e.g. to be open and increase intimacy in the relationship) can help both partners to adjust more successfully to the new situation. 
2) Formation of a contract—Open communication may serve as the basis for an agreed upon contract re-lated to the husband’s homosexual practice outside the marriage [11,20]. The contract needs to be clear and dy-namic to suit both partners’ preferences. Issues that need negotiation include, for example, timing and location of homosexual encounters; what kind of information is dis-closed vis-à-vis the homosexual encounters; the nature of the homosexual relations—emotional, physical, or both, long-term vs. temporal relationships, etc. 
3) Acceptance of the sexual orientation—Acceptance of homosexuality by both partners is necessary for inte-gration of the sexual orientation into the marriage [7,11]. 
4) Fulfillment of the sexual orientation—Another im-portant element in the integration process is the hus-band’s fulfillment of his sexual orientation. The findings of our study show that sense of fulfillment can also pro-ject positively on the relationship with the wife. Some of the men returned home after homosexual encounters and felt they had more to give to their wives, both emotion-ally and physically. Previous research has also suggested that gratification from homosexual relations and a sense of fulfillment contributes to marital satisfaction [21]. 
5) Solid basis of the heterosexual relationship—After years of married life, participants who emphasized that love for their wives had been their main motive for mar-riage felt that they had established a solid relationship, which served as a good basis for the integration. 
6) Perception of the mixed-orientation marriage as a unique alternative—Some of the participants in our study perceived heterosexual relationships as normative—“like any other normal heterosexual relationship.” As this per-ception ignores the idiosyncratic components of mixed- orientation marriage, it may cause difficulty in integrat-ing the sexual orientation into the heterosexual marriage. Recognizing that this relationship creates a unique alter-native and the understanding that it contains specific is-sues that are outside of mainstream conventional marriage is an empowering experience, which contributes signifi-cantly to successful integration. 
We claim that the proposed model offers an alternative for those who decide to keep their marriage intact. We recognize that the model entails some challenging tasks facing the spouses on the personal and dyadic levels, in-cluding acceptance of the sexual orientation by both part-ners, agreement to a non-monogamist relationship system, openness, honesty, etc. This model originated from sub-jective experiences and meanings of individuals who were living the studied phenomenon, together with knowledge available from theory and research. Thus, it may contrib-ute to our understanding of the constructed reality of gay people who attempt to integrate homosexuality into their heterosexual marriages. Such understanding could be used to help both men and women who are engaged in heterosexual marriages with gay men, as well as profes-sionals working with such couples. 
It is important to stress a salient limitation of the cur-rent study. Although we have focused on the mens’ point of view, this multifaceted phenomenon needs to undergo a broader investigation by taking into account the per-spectives of all the individuals involved in the situation, including: the woman, children and male partner if such exists. This deficiency is being addressed in a study we are conducting at the moment. 

M. A. Yarhouse, L. M. Pawlowski and E. S. N. Tan, “In-tact Marriages in Which one Partner Disidentifies with 

Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH Dialectics between Splitting and Integrating in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men 112 

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  1. Very interesting post as well as article.

    I have never heard of the opposite of this situation being true in which a lesbian (with an active female-female sex life) is married to a heterosexual male. I would think that the dynamics of marriage would be very different from that of gay/bisexual males married to heterosexual females. How do the husbands react when they find out? Are they more accepting than wives would be? Does it lead to open marriages and threesomes?

    1. UncutPlus, you raise some very interesting questions. The report did not tackle any of those questions. Like you I suspect such cases are rare, however from what I've read, they do exist.

      Just my opinion but I suspect a number of men would want to invite the two females into the marital bed.

      Jack Scott

  2. Way to cheat on your wife and encourage the stereotype that bisexual people always have to have "one of each." As a bisexual man myself, let me just say there is nothing inherently contradictory about bisexuality coexisting with monogamy and fidelity. You may have felt a "need" for polyamory, but there are plenty of us who are a little more old-fashioned.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. I really appreciate you taking the time to disagree with me.

      For the sake of time I'll use your words. To "cheat" or not to "cheat' is the $64,000 question for every married bisexual or homosexual male. Unfortunately there is no good or universal answer to the question.

      I am happy that as a married bisexual man yourself you have been able not to "cheat." However you do not tell us your age, and your life is not over yet. As you age the desire to "cheat" will grow immensely if you follow the normal path.

      You are correct that I felt a need for polyamory. But that is putting it mildly. For some of us the need for male/male sex is just as strong as our need for straight sex. Telling us we can choose not to have it is like telling a highly sexual straight male to just forget about having straight sex. It is much easier said than done. Most of the time it simply cannot be done. Even Priests who take a vow of abstinence frequently find they cannot keep the vow for a lifetime.

      You should take pride in your ability not to "cheat" thus far. But don't let your pridefulness blind you to the realities that other married bisexual or homosexual men face.

      Jack Scott


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott