It’s more than a broken handle that keeps your spouse in the closet...A lot more!
Regardless of the recent swell of states adopting gay marriage, and even though Gay/Straight Alliances are commonplace in most progressive high schools these days, there’s still plenty of reasons your spouse may be hiding in the closet.
Before leaping into the list of reasons someone continues to hide in the shadowy closet, it’s important to understand one critical piece of this journey for both you and your spouse: “No one is ready to come out until they’re ready to come out!” Seems almost too simplistic, but it is true.
Even in the most progressive families where the parents help their child come to terms with their sexuality, until that child is truly ready to accept their sexuality, they’re simply going to stay snuggled in the closet. The same holds true for your spouse who is hanging out between the wooden hangers, hiding (or hiding from) their sexual truth. No one can force them to step into their sexual truth until they are ready to look their sexual identity in the eyes and say, “And so I am!” Of course it’s possible that you might find an email between your spouse and someone of the same sex that reveals the truth. Or maybe, you discover same-sex porn on their computer and their hand gets forced to confess their sexual proclivity. In these cases the truth is shoved into the spotlight, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your spouse is ready to face it, or that you are. In fact, Comedian Todd Glass said it best when he recently outed himself on Marc Maron's WTF Podcast, "Every person on this planet comes out at exactly the same time: When they're ready."
Forced outings around sexuality can cause pain and suffering that may take years to heal, or could lead to suicide as seen in the recent highly publicized Dharun Ravi case. (Ravi has been convicted of cyberbullying for posting the secretly videotaping and posting online the sexual acts of his gay roommate, Tyler Clementi, which led to Clementi’s suicide.) But why else might a spouse stay deeply secluded in the closet.
Top 10 Reasons Spouses Don’t Come Out of The Closet!
- They like having their cake and eating it too. It’s simple. They like living the “normal life” in the public eye and having sex on the side with someone of the same gender. As ironic it sounds, they simply have no guilt, no shame, living this type of life. It’s simply just the way they do it.
- Religious Right. For many, their religious beliefs are preventing them from seeing any other way of being in this world than depriving themselves or hiding from their true sexual identity.
- Happily Ever After Is Elusive. Whether it’s fantasies of the horse-drawn carriage to the altar or the white picket fence after the honeymoon, many men and women can’t envision themselves living in a “committed same-sex relationship.” Mostly because they haven’t been socialized to understand how it works, nor have they been exposed to many examples of these types of relationships.
- The odds are worse than Las Vegas. There are no guarantees how “coming out of the closet” will turn out. For most it’s a gamble and a limiting belief that “I will lose everything if my truth is told.”
- Sex is sex. Straight, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender, one aspect of being a healthy you is finding pleasure in sex. For the closeted spouse, this may be the only reason they engage in intimacy with someone of the same gender. It’s simply another route to sexual exploration and satisfaction...not a life long relationship.
- Thou shalt put others before self. Anytime someone takes care of someone else it is a beautiful thing, until that becomes the problem. Denying oneself to protect others many times leads to bitterness, “victimized”, conflict-driven thoughts, feelings and actions. Staying in the closet to protect others’ feelings is one of the most powerful reasons for keeping silent and in the closet.
- I’m a freak. Some experts would argue that this belief is more prominent in teens as they “come out of the closet.” However, having witnessed and been through this first-hand, I can attest to the fact that feeling like a “freak of nature” as an adult because of my sexuality kept me hidden for well over 20 years. Trust me, there are many more adults who feel this way.
- I'm Not good enough. “Late in lifers, Breeders, and Late Bloomers,” are labels the LGBT culture casts upon those of us who escape from the clutches of heterosexuality later in life, instead of just flying out of the womb waving the rainbow flag. These labels can feel judgmental, and often there is this sense that “I’m not good enough even for the gay culture” that imprisons many in their heterosexual life, or worse yet leads to a life of celibacy.
- Dirty, dirty, dirty. The desire be intimate with a person of the same-sex is often precluded by thoughts of “Dirty, disgusting, filthy activities.” While sultry, sensual fantasies of same-sex intimacy rage on the big screen of their minds, often -- without warning -- the sinister voices of “you’re nothing but a sexual pervert, a deviant, and a disgusting human being,” take center stage, further cementing the belief that being LGBT makes your spouse believe he or she is a dirty individual.
- Lack of Courage and Confidence. Stepping out of the closet takes a lot of courage. Courage to say, “This is who I am and I am good with it!” Add to this, having the confidence as an LGBT individual to own their sexuality in their own way, and you’ve got two very powerful skills that many people haven’t honed. If your spouse is not an individual who is hard-wired with strong foundations of courage and confidence, then the journey out will not happen until these two muscles have been developed.
Regardless of the reason(s) -- and there are many more than listed here -- your spouse may be hiding behind for not “coming out of the closet,” the bottom line is, if and when they are ready, it will happen. Waiting and letting more and more years pass, doesn’t necessarily make it any easier either one of you when they finally "come out." However, regardless of whether it’s a spouse coming out of the closet, or you find yourself staring at a divorce because your marriage simply isn’t working, you stand at choice point regarding how you react to and through the experience.
In that moment of choice, you actually affect your emotional and physical well being, simply with the thoughts that you allow to come forward. Thoughts lead to feelings that lead to emotions which then manifest into actions. And, as the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.”
Stay tuned for the next post in this series, “Knowing when they might be gay or lesbian!”
Coming Out Coach Rick specializes in working with men, women, couples and families during the transition when a spouse comes out of the closet. Drawing from his own coming out experience, Rick facilitates mutually beneficial rebirths for all concerned, that reflect an energetic shift that is a win/win. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Mention YourTango to receive a unique YourTango, Your Truth offer for services from Coming Out Coach Rick.