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."

4 comments:

Brassyhub said...

Thank you for this post. The Gay Thing, a Mixed Orientation Marriage, is a very hard thing to mourn, especially when, as with us, we don't divorce but stay together and try to make it 'work'. But I have to mourn the marriage that I thought that I had, to mourn the desire that my wife hasn't and cannot feel for me, since her strongest, deepest attractions have always been for other women... The few friends that we've talked to, 'come out' to, never come back to me and ask me how I am, how we are, how life's going. I guess they don't know what to say... what to ask. They know and love us both... My wife asked one deeply Christian friend, 'What could I, what should I have done differently?' And there was no answer, just an embarrassed silence. But we were both doing our best with our very limited understanding of ourselves and of our sexuality, and the relatively unchanging nature of sexual attraction. So here we are, in retirement, after a lifetime together, rather as room-mates and good friends, in a sexless marriage with no desire... And I struggle every single day for some measure of peace and plenitude.

Karma said...

The concluding para nails it!!!! Thanks a lot for putting words to a lot of people's thoughts. Waiting to read the next post :)

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for your post. 4 years ago I was a wife and mother of eight children and married 20 years. When I found out my husband was gay and had an STD and had been having gay sex for years most of the time unprotected I was devasted. I remembertalking to a sister in law tell me that when she was first told her immediate thought was " That is so sad he must have struggled a long time with his sexuality" her second thought was " f... that OMG his poor wife and children" It really showed me that in this western culture the immediate compassion was towards my husband and I really struggled with that. Here I was totally blameless yet the person to blame for the end of my marriage,my hopes,dreams and future was given compassion first. I and my children were an after thought. I even had a close friend of the family say to my best friend " you can't tell me she didn't know" and " there are always two sides to a broken marriage".

Over the past four years I have had incredible support from my family but very little from his. Friends have been supportive but I do face similar comments as above from acquaintances upon being told about my marriage. That really hurts.

He has been able to make a new life with a new partner. Meanwhile I'm a single parent with 100% care of our 4 youngest children aged 5-14 two of whom are profoundly deaf. I will be dealing with the consequences of his actions for many years to come but the public perception is "how wonderful that he is now living his authentic self" no mention of the life his wife and children have been now forced to live.

Pam Harris said...

I can really relate to this situation, it happens to me all the time. With the gay marriage debate a huge topic in Australia at the moment I am well and truly over hearing about it,