Shared life, shared bed, shared closet. A spouse coming out changes all of that. It might seem a little crazy, but when you're a gay person in a heterosexual marriage, you're both coming out of the closet.
His side: jeans, ratty T-shirts, the mandatory sport coat, a few shoes, and of course the duffel bag the ever-frequent trips to the gym.
Her side: jeans, T-shirts that go from casual to office wear, suits, skirts, cocktail dresses, brunch dresses, Friday night dresses, and of course the sacred homage to footwear that covers an entire 8' x 10', floor-to-ceiling wall.
His and hers closets. Similar, and yet so different. Metaphorically speaking, both have closets to come out of when he or she admits that "I'm gay!" Two words, uttered in under five seconds, that have the power to bring the shrine of shoes crumbling down, leaving a miss-mash of flats paired with sling backs, and Mary Janes paired with platform stilettos. All of a sudden, you're hyper aware of the person you are — and the image you're presenting to the world. No stylist, personal trainer, make-up artist, or mere living a healthy lifestyle can prepare a spouse for the moment they discover their partner would rather be messing up the sheets, and building a life with "one of their own kind".
Shock, anger, sadness, death all prevail. (Hopefully not literal death). Rather, an honest death of a shared life, a person who suddenly becomes a complete stranger, and a relationship laid to rest. In reality, the "comer outer" has consciously and subconsciously been preparing for this reveal. On the other end of the shockwave, the spouse who had no intentions of coming out, other than from their walk-in closet looking fabulous, is now facing their own truth and ramifications. Their confidence may be just as shaken.
Often times, the "comer outer" is shocked that his or her spouse's reactions. Common thoughts about anger, disappointment, lying, deceit, are verbal bombshells most anticipated by the spouse, but there may be some surprises along the journey. Fortunately, even though the jilted spouse won't recognize it immediately, both parties are on a coming out journey, walking very similar paths. The freshly out person may ask him or herself "was it worth it?" The answer, while hard to believe at times, is yes.
10 Surprising Reactions To A Spouse Coming Out:
1. Therapy the gay away. The denial a spouse will be in will often have him or her believing that couples counseling and individual therapy will magically make the gay disappear. A much better approach is to use marriage therapy for unraveling the relationship in a healthy manner that benefits both parties.
2. Have your cake and eat it too. Really? Yes. More often than you might think, a spouse actually will consider keeping the relationship together and allowing the other spouse to "have your gay flings". In some relationships this works, in others it won't. If and when this conversation turns up, let your spouse talk it through. He or she, has some very solid reasons why they believe they could have this type of relationship. Of course, then you'll need to weigh in on how that would or wouldn't work for you.
3. Be gay but not here! This kind of "out of sight out of mind" approach makes it less real. Here's a parallel: If you've been having same-sex relationships while being in your hetero-normative relationship, you might have been having your liaisons while you’re out of town or at least in the next city or town adjacent to where you live. Often the "not happening here" thought for both you and your spouse makes your "gayness" seem not quite so real. In reality, whether you're gay in Paris or gay in the Castro, you're gay. It's just part of your DNA. Keep reading...
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