THE BLOG

My Husband Is Not Straight

03/19/2015 01:55 pm ET | Updated May 19, 2015
Peter Dazeley via Getty Images

Trevor and Liesl*

What stays with Trevor is his wife's expression.

"The look on her face is forever embedded in my mind, a look I never want to see again," he said. "A look of pure pain and fear, all in one."

The two had been married 19 years when, while attending a semi-annual meeting of the Mormon Church with his wife, Liesl, the words just came tumbling out. He was gay.

I remember not wanting to have the kids around when I spoke to her. We were watching a Mormon General Conference. During one of the talks I just blurted it out; I could no longer hold in my secret. Probably not my most shining moment.

For Trevor, now 42 and living in Salt Lake City, it was the culmination of years of a growing awareness of his sexual orientation. While he had experienced boyhood crushes on other boys, he always had a girl on his arm and had never dated a man. "I was late into my adulthood, mid-30s before I came out," he said. "I tried everything to maintain, but ultimately was not healthy to anyone in my life and we separated. How could I ask Liesl to live a life without intimacy? How could I ask that of myself?"

His main fear was how it would affect his three children, Jeff, Laura and Rick, now aged 19, 17 and 13: "I had to be ready to lose everything in my life as far as a family, home and stability."

For Liesl, Trevor's announcement came as a total shock.While she had been struggling with what she felt as his lack of sexual interest in her, she never suspected its cause.

"The most difficult part for me was the loss of trust when out of the blue, for me, he told me he had something to tell me and told me," she said. "I honestly did not know what to say or what to think; when I finally responded it was to say, 'At least it wasn't me.'"

*Not their real names

John and Hollie

Forty-year-old Hollie Warner teaches sixth grade in Sterling Heights, Michigan. A sense of relief was the only surprise when her husband John told her that he was gay. "I had been working on him to come out for quite some time and when he finally did, I just felt so relieved," she said. "It was a huge weight off me; perhaps that my earlier suspicions weren't unfounded. There's something to the whole gut feeling thing and I guess I felt relieved that that wasn't wrong."

John, a 39-year-old illustrator, says that one of the main reasons he got married was because it was what people did after graduating from high school in his small Michigan town.

"I grew up on a horse farm there and it was a rural community of about 2,500 people," he said. "My primary memory of growing up there was wanting to get out of it. Too small, too boring, too dirty, too much labor. I really didn't feel like I belonged."

He thought he found some of that sense of belonging when he met his wife-to-be, Hollie.

My sister introduced us and we hit it off very quickly as friends and found we shared the same sensibilities and sense of humor. It was very easy to be around each other and we never had any trouble conversing until wee hours of the night. We were always very excited to see each other. Looking back, I can now see that most of it was based in great friendship and that the romantic or sexual component was not what it should have been.

But at some point during their 13-year marriage, Hollie's suspicions deepened. By 2011, John says that she "pushed the issue."

"The coming out process was horrible," he said.

There was a growing feeling of disconnect that was palpable. I confided in my mother that I was gay and she immediately told my niece, and then it spread through the family. I really couldn't come out to anyone but friends and co-workers, none of whom were surprised.

David and Susan

David Hall, a 47-year-old probation supervisor in Hannibal, New York, sounds sadly resigned when he talks about the demise of his marriage.

"Because she always really knew, the only surprise was that she had the affair," he explained.

He met his wife Susan, also 47, in college and already was aware of his sexual orientation. But because he grew up in a rural area and was afraid of disappointing his parents, he felt that life as a gay man was impossible for him.

I felt that I needed to do the "right" thing and get married. And, since she seemed willing to marry a man with this issue, I decided I needed to marry her. I had convinced myself that it wasn't possible to be happy as a gay man or to have a normal life.

"Dave was upfront and honest with me about his struggle with his sexual orientation," said Susan.

We were very close friends and dated all through college. I think the thought of him coming out to his family and to himself was just too overwhelming and it seemed easier to try to do the "right" thing and just get married and have a family.

But in spite of the births of Ethan, now 17, and Jillian, now 14, both knew deep down that the issue of David's sexuality had never gone away.

"There just came a point where our relationship was not enough for me," said Susan.

I needed more. I knew that I deserved more. Unfortunately, I made the choice to have an affair; at first just to experience what it was like to be with a straight man sexually, but I ended up falling deeply in love. The fact that I broke the trust of our marriage was the biggest challenge. That issue is still there, regardless of everything else.

Splitting up

It's virtually impossible to estimate the number of gay men in heterosexual marriages. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, some 3.6 percent of Americans are lesbian, gay or bisexual. But according to one study, for every gay man who is open about his sexual orientation, at least another 1.5 are still in the closet. How many of them are married to women? Hard to say, but the study found that of all Google searches beginning "Is my husband...," the most common follow-up was "gay," 10 percent more common than the runner-up, "cheating." While the study put no number on how many suspicious wives are out there, the number appears to be substantial. Easier to grasp than the numbers are the emotions involved.

Read the rest at Gays with Kids