The Straight Spouse Badge of Honor

When your partner comes out as gay, you join a club no one wants to be in. But, once in, many people embrace it, live it, can’t let it go.

OK, your spouse lied and cheated. They deceived you. That sucks. Some say “they stole my future.” But how does this differ, really, from any other ugly divorce to a bitch or bastard? Lots of straight-straight marriages are filled with lying and cheating and bullshit. Gay-gay relationships, too. It’s the way some humans are wired, it appears. (Though I refuse to believe it is inevitable in every relationship. Just can’t let myself give in to that much skepticism.) 

When “I’m gay” first hits you, it’s the most lonely feeling in the world. Luckily, there are straight spouse online and in-person support groups, Facebook groups, mailing lists, etc. I’ve belonged to them all (and left most of them). It’s a huge relief to know you are not alone. And you are not. There are literally millions of people who have been in or still are in this situation. 

But something happens. These groups take on lives of their own. The vibe on one Yahoo! group I belonged to, dedicated to staying married, became angrily oppositional to anyone who suggested that being married to a gay person was difficult. (Sorry, it is. It just is.) And the other extreme, a Facebook group for straights became a feeding frenzy of unwavering support for the wronged straight and unmitigated fury at a gay ex who did anything the straight did not like. 

The first group bummed me out, and I felt very strongly that they were giving up their own lives to accommodate the gay spouse. But I can’t know that, and they were making their own decisions and choices. 

But the second group, the ‘straights can do no wrong’ group, leads to a kind of group-think I find even more dangerous. There was very little critical thinking about anything a group member posted. A member angry with a gay ex for taking the kid to a movie the straight didn’t like, or going on a vacation with a new partner, or not calling on Mother’s Day or some such, was met with universal ‘that bastard!’ and ‘what a narcissist!’ Whereas I’d like to  have seen a few responses along the lines of ‘how is it your business what he/she does?’ and ‘remember to stay on your side of the net.’ But in that community, such questioning is heresy. A straight has earned the right to be angry, now and forever, world without end. Amen.

I don’t want to come off as bitter. I’m not. I just find the straight spouse badge of honor to be too broad a shield. Eventually even straights need to let it go an move on. There are members there still angry eight or 10 or more years later, still have not gotten over it, learned about themselves, and made some kind of peace. A little righteous anger can do wonders to get one unstuck and get needs met, but continually stoked and tended, supported and inflamed by unquestioning fellow straights, it grows into bitterness and a life of anger. 

Some argue that “the gay community owes us.” No, actually, we owe ourselves the gift of taking responsibility for ourselves, and letting the gay ex go and be whatever the hell they need to be. 

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The Straight Spouse Badge of Honor

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful and candid comments. As a fellow straight spouse, I think our anger is best channeled into changing a society that forces the LGBT person into the closet in the first place. If we str8s could fully understand their pain, and they ours, perhaps we could work together for change on a broader scale. I agree, getting stuck (or seeing others stuck) in a vortex of anger is ultimately unproductive and unhealthy.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I’m sorry if I came across as angry; I’m not. I just like to be contrarian when I see people caught in a resonant loop of ‘support’ that keeps them stuck in anger and resentment. More helpful would be a little straight talk about moving forward, recognizing what’s our business and what isn’t – in other words, what we can change, what we can’t, and how to tell the difference.

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