While it might be debatable, just whether, to what extent, and in what order of events homosexuality is a mental illness, I think it’s quite certain that our marriages were very sick.
Living with a gay man is not an easy task, or a pleasant one. The first manifestation of this is a dearth of physical affection and intimacy. It’s highly revealing that one of the first things ex-wives want to talk about, when we find one another, is sex. Rather, the utter lack of it. It’s as if we’re grasping for reassurance:was my experience unique? is something wrong with me, or did you go through this, too?
One woman told me she could count on one hand the number of times she and her husband had sex – although they were married for more than seven years. My own husband would flinch if i demonstrated the most benign and nonsexual affection by resting my hand on his shoulder or his arm: “Don’t do that!” he’d explode. “You know that bothers me!” When he would condescend to hug me, it was done gingerly, actually touching me as little as possible, as if he were afraid of catching something.
For a woman who is as affectionate in nature as I am, and who came from a family of very affectionate people, that hurt terribly. It hurts all of us.
We were ignored, rebuffed, as companions as well as lovers. Our husbands didn’t mind talking about their work – a topic in which they could dominate and control the topic and our participation was severely limited, but they didn’t want to really communicate with us. Our husbands have used a lot of mechanisms to shut us out, from television to workaholism to spending all their spare time with their buddies …
And did you know your husband’s friends? Because I never met mine. They were “some guys I know through work,” but I never met them, or learned their names, or anything else about them. He never liked the men we went to church with. He complained they were snobs, while I thought they were terrific fellows. Now I realize that he – so many gay men – have to cut others down because they’re so insecure in their own tenuous masculinity; the men in our church, straight men, were a threat; through them he might be found out for what he really was.
And, of course, for so many of us, all these issues had to be our fault.
We’re women – we are created to adapt and to yield. When we are said to pour our selves into a relationship, it’s true: we adapt to fit the mold we’ve chosen. So when the “mold” kept changing and pushing us away… what’s wrong with me? became the relentless cry of our hearts.
Discovering our husbands are gay doesn’t quiet that cry, as noted by the point, above, that we seek reassurance from one another that our situation was not unique, and therefore was probably not our own fault.
So now we must take stock, recognize that it’s not us – if we’d been perfect, it would not have been enough! – and begin the process of recovering our own serenity and wellbeing.