It’s not your fault.
Not only do you have to deal with the standard feelings of hurt and betrayal, but you now also have to question the very foundation of your entire marriage.
Was your union a lie from day one? Was your partner so deeply closeted that they couldn’t admit their true sexual preference? Is he really gay? Is she really a lesbian? Or did their gender identity subtly shift as your marriage progressed and now you’re not sure where you fit in?
In our latest Expert video, Senior VP of YourTango Experts Melanie Gorman gathered together a panel of psychologists and counselors and asked them — what is the impact when someone finds out that their partner cheated on them with someone of the same sex?
Experts Dr. Eli Mayer, Sue Butler, Ian Kerner, and Lewis Brown Griggs have extensive experience on this topic and, in their wide-ranging conversation (which you can see above), they discussed some of the ways that their various married clients have reacted to same-sex affairs.
You can see their full discussion in the video, but, drawn from their conversation, here are 5 things that every married person definitely NEEDS to remember if they find out that their spouse has cheated on them with someone of the same gender.
1. Don’t internalize it.
This can be difficult to process, but you can’t blame yourself for the actions of your partner, particularly if they’re struggling with their gender identity. It’s 100% normal to feel betrayed and angry, but you can’t cast yourself as the cause of your partner’s desire to explore a same-sex relationship. This is one case where “it’s not you, it’s me” is actually true.
2. It doesn’t have to be the end of your marriage.
If your partner has decided that, ultimately, they’re attracted to a different gender, that might make continuing your marriage impossible. But if your spouse was simply exploring their sexual boundaries (and they want to come back to you), depending on how you feel, reconciliation might not be out of the question.
Don’t get us wrong — they’re still jerks for cheating. That alone might be enough of a reason to call it quits, but, if you can forgive the affair and they really do want to get back together, the gender of the person they cheated with doesn’t always have to matter.
3. It’s OK to feel relieved.
This sounds like a strange reaction, but it makes a certain degree of sense. According to our Expert panel, there are cases where, when a married person finds out that their spouse cheated on them with someone of the same sex, it’s almost simpler to deal with than if they’d had a heterosexual affair.
Why? Because it makes the betrayal easier to rationalize. “Well, they clearly wanted someone VERY different than me, so I can’t really blame myself.” If you’re a woman and your husband cheats with a man, sometimes, that other man doesn’t feel like competition. That man can give him things that a woman can’t.
So, don’t feel strange if your initial reaction is “Thank god, he/she cheated with someone totally different than me!” It’s a very normal response.
4. You deserve to be with someone who wants you.
Regardless of WHO your spouse cheated with, the important thing to remember when infidelity strikes is that — if your partner didn’t want you in the first place, you weren’t getting what you wanted anyway. We only want to be with someone who wants to be with us.
If your partner doesn’t want to be with you because of problems in your relationship — or because you don’t fall into their sexual preference — it might be better that everything ends now. You deserve to be WANTED in your marriage.
5. Living a lie is HARD — for both of you.
Often times, the prevailing emotion around a same-sex marital affair is sadness. You’re sad because you feel betrayed. But your partner — there’s the chance that he or she has been deeply closeted or trying to suppress their true sexual identity for their entire lives. That’s tragic.
It doesn’t mean that you don’t have permission to feel the pain of the infidelity (you do), but you should also have some empathy for your partner as well. Living a lie is a horrific way to exist. It takes an enormous toll on your sense of identity.
If the same-sex affair has the result that your partner is now finally comfortable admitting their true gender identity, that’s not a bad thing. It’s bittersweet and it might hurt like hell, but if it means that you both get to move forward in your lives — living honest lives for a change — it’s for the best.
Surviving infidelity is rough. But, when your partner cheats with some of the same-sex, it raises a lot of difficult questions you need to address before you can figure out where your relationship stands. Just look out for yourself, try to have empathy for your partner, and know that you’re not alone.
If your partner is having a same-sex affair or if issues of sexual identity are causing problems in your marriage, please visit the websites of our Experts and contact Eli, Sue, Ian, and Lewis directly. They’re here to help.