I realize I'm about to stir up some controversy. Please realize, I'm on both spouses' side when it comes to, well "coming out." No it's not pretty when a spouse has lived a dual life, and then comes out of the closet. Nor is it any more honest, when a spouse says, "I've found some one else." Sexual orientation doesn't really have that much to do with why a relationship goes awry, yet it creates much more controversy than a relationship torn apart by infidelity or irreconcilable differences. And why is that?
It seems that most people looking from the outside in believe there must have been some magical backbone to just say, "I'm gay and I'm not going to pretend." Maybe now, in 2014, that may be more common, but I'm refereeing to people to those of us who grew up in the '40s – '80s. It was a completely different world, so back off and ask yourself, "If heterosexuality was the minority, and you had to justify when you chose to be heterosexual, how would you feel, react, and what actions would you have taken?" Not quite so easy to swallow is it?
Religion, family upbringing, masculinity, femininity, etc. all play pivotal roles in the decision to "play by the roles and pretend this doesn't exist," or "hide the truth, and live a life in the closet, except in certain circles."
Having been one of those that took the route of, "Let's see if being heterosexual will heal the gay away," I realize now, it sucks, to be that kind of person. In turn, it sucks to be the spouse of someone who finally says, "This sucks — and I'm gay!"
Not unlike death, spouses go through stages of grief. Go check it out. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Without being flippant, the person who shared their truth also went through these same stages. Yet, here's where it gets messy and where the two journeys out of the closet collide.
Both parties, like it or not, start to lay unrealistic expectations on one another. For instance…
1. Don't tell anyone! Really? So, we've been in a relationship for "X" years, and now we’re going to separate, and we're going to brush this little tidbit of truth under the rug. Hmmm? How’s that work when suddenly, the "gay" spouse gets asked, "Are you going to get remarried?" Uh, yeah, except I can't in certain states. Regardless of how logical it may seem to "don’t ask, don't tell," often it's in the best interest of both parties to be honest with their most inner circles so that the healing can progress. If not, it's just another lie, upon another lie upon another lie. I'm curious, how does that usually play out in the movies?
2. OK, you can be gay but not in this town. Often, the society, hometown, city, of the couple who've come the crossroads of "coming out of the closet," may seem like everyone in town will know their dirty little secret. Really? Unless it's a town of "X" and you're known throughout the community as your own celebrity, the chances of someone finding out your spouse is gay, is pretty slim. Even if they do, what would lead to that assumption? A dinner out with someone of the same sex? Attending a local concert with someone of the same sex? Hello, don't people of the same sex go to social events and outings together? This type of paranoia comes mostly from fear of what people will think of the spouse who "married someone who was gay." In reality dear sweet spouse who just got dumped on, "YOU DID NOTHING WRONG!" It hurts, and it sucks, but it wasn't because you didn't read, Don't Marry A Gay For Dummies!
3. Let's not tell the children. Talk about perpetuating the pattern. It's hard enough for kids to go through a divorce. It's even harder for kids to find out years later that both good old Mom and Dad have been lying to them for years about the real reason they got a divorce. Hello, "trust, honesty and integrity" are on the line, and then you’re going to tell your teen that they can't "lie to you!"
4. Hey, I gave you what you wanted; now it's my turn. Really? If you're the spouse who's finally coming out of the closet to live your truth, watch your mouth! Granted, you may have given your spouse a good life, children, a nice home, fabulous trips, security, but all that was just a mask to pretend to be something you weren't. No harm, no foul, just be careful throwing this sort of stuff at them as bargaining chips. When they walked down that aisle, they didn't bargain for, "Until death do us part or you come out of the closet!"
5. Let's make this work. As well-intentioned as that may seem, and some do make it work, how do you live, sleep with, or maintain a "healthy" relationship with someone who is coming home to you and getting their rocks off with someone of the same sex on a regular basis? Not saying it doesn’t work. For some it does. I'm only suggesting, what are each of you losing by being in a relationship of convenience? Granted, it’s not just "I'm gay and you're not" relationships that get by for convenience," but does it really work in the long run?
6. Let me just go explore. This could work. Kind of like an open relationship and depending on the sexual energy between a couple. However, more times than not, the constant, "Where is he/she?" becomes to much of a burden to bear, and before you know, emotional pain overtakes logical thought, and one or both parties gets hurt. Often, the exploration does lead to the realization that, "Yep, I’m gay," and then what?" You're both still facing the inevitable doorway, of "Ok, we're done, so screw you and get out of my life."
Like most professionals who serve individuals in this field of "coming out," divorce, and "OMG you just screwed up my life," there is no easy answer. However, when unrealistic expectations start to become the standard protocol, no good for anyone will come from it. One or both parties will get hurt in some way, even if one party sees the other as going off to live their "happy, happy, joy, joy life of diddling someone of the same sex."
In the words of one of my wise teachers, Bruce D. Schneider, "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional!"
How about, during these times of deconstructing relationships, we find a way to make suffering non-existent? Are you at the crossroads of life, and confronting your sexuality? Fearing that your journey is the end of life as you know it? Schedule a complimentary "Coming Out Coaching Session" with Nationally Known Coming Out Coach Rick Clemons Today and discover how you, your spouse, and your inner circle can thrive beyond the closet doors!
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This article originally appeared on YourTango.com: "Coming Out In A Marriage: 6 Unrealistic Expectations"