This blog is from the heart, informed by having been married to a closeted gay man and understanding how that experience changed the trajectory of my life, both as a woman and as a psychotherapist. Please add to the conversation and "Follow" if you're so inclined; all voices are welcome!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

My Most Sincere Condolences for the Loss of Your Marriage

Yesterday, the New York Times published a story called "The Art of Condolence," about how difficult condolences can be to express. How it can be challenging to find just the right words. How awkward it can feel to comfort others in times of loss. 

*From NYTimes.com October 1, 2016 
Straight spouses are often on the receiving end of awkward condolences...if they receive condolences at all. "How did you not know?" "At least s/he didn't leave you for another wo/man!" "You're so lucky you didn't have children!" "So does that mean you're a 'fag hag?'" (I was personally on the receiving end of that one.)

Insensitive comments and intrusive questions are part and parcel of the straight spouse experience. 

As Jean Schaar Gochros wrote in her 1989 book, "When Husbands Come Out of the Closet," straight spouses experience a profound sense of "unique isolation." One aspect of this isolation is what we call "disenfranchised grief." That is, grief that others -- society, our families, our ex-spouses, the LGBT community, the church -- don't feel we're entitled to. Because perhaps we're somehow complicit in the deceit. Because we stayed. Because we didn't know. Or because we loved and married a closeted LGBT spouse, we deserve ridicule, not compassion. But just as our exes deserve compassion for their struggle, so do the unsuspecting spouses who are left devastated by the lie. 

You can simply say, "I'm so sorry. I can't imagine what this must be like, but I'm here for you. And I care that you're hurting."