(404) 874-8536 johnballew@gmail.com

Married Gay Men

More gay men have been heterosexually married at one time or another in their lives than you might imagine.  Census figures suggest that up to 96 percent of Americans are heterosexually married at one time or another in their lives.  If you assume that all always-single people are gay or lesbian (they aren’t, but let’s be conservative here) and you assume that 5 to 10 percent of the population is same-sex oriented, that translates into 20-60 percent of gay folks either currently or once having been married.  That’s a lot of married gay men!

Gay men get married for a variety of reasons.  Some men are late bloomers who rarely gave their sexuality a thought; one day they woke up to their same-sex attraction after years of marriage.  Others – especially those from fundamentalist religious backgrounds – hoped that marriage might “straighten them out.”  A few men always knew they were attracted to other males, but preferred the social status heterosexuality provided.  And others are bisexual – open to sexual relationships with partners of either gender.

While some homosexually oriented men decide to stay in the closet at all costs, more and more married gay men seem to be deciding to speak honestly with their wives and acknowledge their attraction to men.  Understandably, women have strong reactions to finding out their mate has a secret.  “’So that’s it!’ I thought,” one woman told me.  “All his anguish and stress makes sense now that I know what’s been going on inside.”  If their mate has been in obvious internal distress, some women are actually relieved to find an explanation.

Women who feel they have been used or deceived by their hubby are likely to have a very different reaction.  That’s healthy for them and to be expected.  The man doing the disclosure will want to take that into account.

Some men have a difficult time recognizing the impact their disclosure may have on their spouse.  They are deeply in denial.  Bill imagined that if his new self-understanding were such a positive thing for him, then surely his spouse would not stand in the way of his happiness.  His wife saw things differently:  her marriage of more than a decade felt like a sham, and she felt as if she had been sleeping next to a stranger all those years.

Is divorce inevitable for gay men who come out to their wives?  Not necessarily.  Paradoxically, the option of staying married is more available as homosexuality has lost much of its stigma over the past decade or so; being gay doesn’t seem so perverse or exotic anymore.  In marriages where both partners are deeply committed to their relationship, flexible in their approach to each other – and where both are willing to do a good bit of work – staying together may be a viable option.

Self-deception is not a good way to go through life. Coming out is almost always the key to physical, emotional and spiritual health.  Staying in the closet has been shown to correlate highly with increased risk for depression, alcoholism and other health concerns.  Coming out often takes a great deal of personal courage and resolve.

Going through the process alone is very difficult and painful.  Support groups are available. Individual counseling is often very helpful.   Some pain in life is inescapable and some losses in life are necessary.  Avoiding pain is sometimes not an option in this world.  Choosing how we respond to difficult situations can make all the difference.

About John

I have been  licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years.  My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression.  My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships. 

I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems.  My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate.  If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.

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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions.  It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist.  I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.