When You’ve Said “I Do,” And Now You Need to Say, “I Don’t”
If you are a gay man who married a woman, you most likely did so because you loved her, believed you were doing the “right thing,” and thought that your attraction to men would just go away or somehow not matter, if you even consciously acknowledged it in the first place.
But, in the paraphrased wisdom of Carl Jung, father of analytical psychotherapy, “What we resist persists.” And eventually the walls of compartmentalization grow thin, deteriorate, and the two selves must meet and figure out how to work together. Not to integrate the two sends the energetic struggle underground and that results is dis-integration (a pulling apart the sense of who we are at our core) that manifests in anxiety, depression, and behavior such as intentional deception, alcohol and substance abuse, indiscriminate and dangerous sexual behavior, self-sabotage, and estrangement from one’s wife often prompted by a combination of withdrawal and blaming her for the husband’s dilemma.
So, what to do if this is your situation?
* Get ready. Some wives will be relieved. They knew something was wrong, but could not figure it out, or thought this might be the case, but took a cue from their husbands and denied it. Others, however, will be irate and seek to retaliate -- draining finances, attacking character, and seeking to withhold access to the couple’s children. Know your rights and have a plan to take care of yourself.
* Tell her the truth. No matter how you package this, it will be the hardest day of your life. And it will feel like death because it is. Self deception and deception of others must die if you are to be raised into the fullness of who you know you are at the core. She deserves the truth, and so do you.
* Be prepared to answer questions. You may not want to go into exact details for all questions, but know that she is asking in part to grasp this new reality. You know you are the same person, but she may have the sense that she does not know you at all. Be patient. Your direct and clear answers help her to understand. Remember, it has taken you some time to put this all together yourself.
* Children often know what is going on, even before their parents “have the talk.” Tell children the truth in terms that they are capable of understanding for their age and development. No matter their ages, they need to know that the parting of their parents is not their fault. How you navigate this with their mother will either help hold their world together or further shatter it.
* Get into a healthy support group or work with a gay affirming psychotherapist. There will be so much more to work on within yourself once you are “out.” In fact, our lives as gay men is a constant unfolding and coming out to others and ourselves. But they are also a daily invitation to be truly alive!
As a gay man, an ordained pastor of over 25 years, and a licensed psychotherapist, I stand in awe of the transformation that can happen when gay men come out to themselves, and subsequently to others. To be witness to this is, for me, to witness something that is truly reflective of the work of the Holy One, because once men experience wholeness in themselves, their relationships can now be whole and real and alive. And for the first time, they can say “I do” in the most genuine way possible!
Brian Hooper, M.Div., Psy.D. is a licensed pastoral psychotherapist with a private practice in the Belle Meade area of Nashville. He invites you to visit his website: www.drbrianhooper.com