What Happens to Straight Women Who Try to Be Happily Married to Gay Men?

sad couple divorce

Can a couple enjoy a happy marriage if one spouse is gay and one is straight? Documentaries like TLC's My Husband's Not Gay and The Third Way suggest they can be. So do men like family therapist Joshua Weed, who is married but has outed himself as gay. But what about the sex in these marriages? I tend to be skeptical of the couples, in what's referred to as a mixed-orientation marriage, who say they have great sex -- not because I think they're not, but because I've been there.

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It really depends on who you talk with. In some mixed-orientation marriages, you'll have couples who are okay with living more-or-less, nearly celibate lives and others who claim to have satisfying bedroom action. There's a pretty broad spectrum of possibilities. 

As someone who has been in a mixed orientation marriage, I feel for these couples. My former husband and I were raised Mormon, a conservative religion that considers homosexual practices immoral. Add to that the general homophobic environment we grew up in a generation ago and you can see why a young gay man might try his best to live in the closet. It's not just your personal happiness at stake -- it's your community, your support network, and your eternal soul.

We met just before my 24th birthday. I was one of those "special" ones, the only woman my ex thought he could love, the woman who would save him from coming out. I thought he was bisexual, and I was fine with that. Maybe some days he thought he was bisexual, too. These things aren't always clear when you're young and staring at nothing but possibilities.

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And it worked, most of the time. We had an active and mostly satisfying sex life. If anything, we worked harder at it than other couples who could take their heterosexuality for granted might.

But over time the strain of bending put cracks in our relationship. And those cracks grew and widened. The older we got, the better we began to know ourselves, and the clearer it became that my ex was not bi, he was definitely gay.

We tried our best, especially once we became parents. But it was taking its toll on my husband, on his mental, emotional, and even physical health. And I was unhappy as well. The thing is, when a gay man makes love to a straight over the years, it starts to feel a bit like being serviced, like a car getting its oil changed. Sex should be better than that.

It wasn't until we'd separated, begun our separate lives, and I started dating again that I truly began to understand what I'd been missing out on.

There is a world of difference between sex with someone who is attracted to you in spite of your gender and sex with someone who is attracted to you because of your gender. A world of difference? Oh my God, it's galactic.

Sex isn't necessarily the most important thing about a relationship. In any couple, anything could happen to make it impossible -- illness, a debilitating accident, mental or emotional issues, old age. But it's still enormously important. It's a way you connect with each other in a way you can't connect with anyone else.

I want all of the women who are compromising themselves in these mixed orientation marriages to know this. You are diminishing his potential -- and yours. The love you have is wonderful and admirable and hard-won. But it is not the fullest expression of what marriage can be. You can have more.

And if you choose to leave, know that there are other women who made the same decision and are thriving now. I am a stronger, happier, more whole person than I was before. I'm not telling you that you should leave. But I am saying leaving is not a dive into the dark abyss. It's a leap into a well-lit and welcoming space. That is what I needed to know to gather the courage to leave.

Do you know anyone in a mixed-orientation marriage? Do you think you could be happy in one?


Image © Maksim Toome/Shutterstock

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