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social sciences

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Mixed-Orientation Marriages  
 
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Some women think of men with homosexual tendencies as challenges. They may believe that they are attractive enough to "convert" gay spouses or "rescue" them from a life of misery.

Other women are drawn to men who are not anything like their macho, patriarchal, abusive fathers in the hope that their partners will not sexually or otherwise overpower them.

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Still other men and women marry gay or lesbian spouses out of unconscious interest in controlling or micromanaging a "flawed" partner.

Less is known about straight men who consciously or unconsciously marry lesbians, perhaps because these men usually do not talk about the subject and their reactions. They may find it humiliating to admit that their spouse prefers sexual relations with other women.

"The Seven Year Switch": The Gradually Gay Spouse

Women repress their homosexuality more than do gay men. Though they may engage in homosexual activity, gay men often do not label themselves as gay until they fall in love with another man, whereas women tend to discover their lesbianism when they experience sexual desire for another woman. The crisis of identity felt by gay men in heterosexual marriages usually occurs when they become emotionally involved with another man as opposed to merely engaging in homosexual sex.

Some gay spouses act out in addictive ways to avoid dealing with their sexual identity. They use drinking, drugs, and sex to evade the issue. Often, gay spouses have no one to confide in, not even a priest, minister, or rabbi. They find it hard to seek comfort in organized religion and support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Without anyone to help them articulate their innermost feelings, they bottle up their inchoate emotions and fears, thereby slowing the coming-out process.

Before they consider being honest with themselves and their wives, gay husbands typically want to have their cake and eat it too, believing they can keep a wife and a boyfriend while not being honest about the latter. They may rationalize that having anonymous sex with other men is not really adultery or they may alter the definition of what they are doing from "cheating" to "protecting" or "not wanting to hurt" their wife.

Going on the "down low" --i. e., secretly engaging in homosexual activities--can lead to such psychological fallout as depression and low self-esteem, plus many other dysfunctional behaviors such as chemical dependency, sexual addiction, suicide attempts, affairs, and unprotected sex that may result in STDs, including HIV infection.

From Being on the Down Low to Straight Spouses Being in the Know

Few revelations are as dramatic and potentially traumatic as revealing one's homosexuality to an unknowing spouse. How straight spouses react depends largely on their personalities and experiences within the marriage. However, anyone who is confronted with such a revelation needs to examine their marriage and their role in it.

Some straight spouses go into the very closet their gay spouses are in the process of leaving when they learn that their partner is gay or lesbian. Once they acknowledge that they knew or suspected, on some level, that their spouse is gay, they then have to deal with their own denial and, in some cases, their , and the homophobia of others as well.

Some straight spouses feel humiliated, cheated, and fooled. They believe that they have been victimized by their gay or lesbian spouse, who has ruined their marriage and disrupted their comfortable lives. Most often, they particularly resent their spouse's deception.

Some straight spouses grow so enraged that they refuse to examine themselves and the situation from any perspective other than their own anger and pain. These spouses typically make no attempt to reconcile or to understand their partner's dilemma. They usually insist on a divorce and often attempt to turn their children against their spouse.

Feeling a sense of betrayal in such circumstances is understandable, but staying betrayed and embittered only perpetuates a bad situation. Those straight spouses who cling to their negative feelings unwittingly betray their loyalty to the gay or lesbian spouse who has inflicted pain.

If they decide to stay married, their motives may simply be their underlying need to be attached to any spouse no matter what. Frozen in time and unable to move forward in life, these women may cultivate their humiliation because they enjoy the sympathy they receive as a victim.

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