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5 Reasons Gay-Straight Marriages Can Work

Jan 24, 2008
Most people think that divorce is a foregone conclusion when one spouse comes out of the closet as gay in a marriage. While it is true that the majority of mixed orientation marriages (MOM) do break up (about 80%), it is also true that a significant percentage of couples manage to hold it together. Since the overall statistic for divorce approaches 50%, one can extrapolate that about 30% of MOM's end in divorce primarily because of the homosexual issue. About 20% stay married, despite all the odds. So how do they do it?

Every couple is different, and what works for one will not for another. In general however, the success in maintaining mixed orientation marriages will be dependent on several factors.

1. The basic strength of the marriage. If the husband and wife function well as a team and maintain strong lines of communication, the chances of success are greater. The more problems there are in addition to one spouse being gay, the more likely the marriage will not be able to survive. If the overwhelming issue is that a spouse is gay, but the marriage has few other problems, the marriage is more likely to survive.

2. The existence of mutual love and respect. When spouses describe each other as best friends and profess love for each other, there is a greater likelihood the marriage will survive. This aspect may seem a bit confusing, since the gay spouse is naturally romantically attracted to the same sex...so how could they profess love for their spouse? This is possible for two reasons. First, although a gay person may be predominantly attracted to the same sex, it is entirely possible to be occasionally attracted to the opposite sex. There is a theory that attractions occur on a continuum and that very few people are strictly 100% gay or 100% heterosexual. Second, there is a distinction between love and being in love. When pressed, many gay spouses will admit to being loving toward their spouse rather than being in love.

3. Open mindedness to alternative lifestyles. When both spouses are agreeable to trialling options such as open marriage, a third partner or swapping, much pressure on the relationship can be alleviated. These options come with their own set of risks, though. It is best to seek professional guidance prior to embarking this path in order to keep the relationship as centered as possible. An alternative to seeking external sex partners is for the couple to expand their creativity in the bedroom, including the use of toys, cross-dressing, graphic videos and role playing.

4. Sex drive. If both spouses happen to have a low sex drive, there will be less pressure to find alternate partners. Of course, being gay is not just about sex, but rather the romantic emotional attachments derived from a same sex partner. So, even with low sex drive accounted for, the gay partner may experience a desire to form an emotional relationship outside the marriage. In some cases gay spouses are able to connect with others in the same circumstance and form non-sexual emotional relationships.

5. Strong religious beliefs. This factor can work either for or against a couple in a MOM. If both spouses share a strong belief that the marriage vows cannot be broken, then there is tremendous motivation to find ways to make the relationship work. A danger to avoid is in trying to change the gay spouse's orientation to straight. There is no evidence this works over the long haul. A much better option is to acknowledge the gay spouse and to try and accommodate their needs. Religious beliefs can work against the couple if it causes the gay spouse to experience guilt and depression.

If you are a spouse in a mixed orientation marriage, you owe it to yourself to give careful consideration to the decision to divorce or stay together. Do not make the assumption that it can't work, since many MOM's do succeed. Instead, stay open minded, consider experimentation both within and outside traditional marriage boundaries and seek professional assistance to help guide your way.
About the Author
Pat Cheney is a life coach working with gays and lesbians who are coming out in midlife and with spouses in gay-straight marriages. To find out more about her services, visit Pat's website at www.discoveringpride.com.
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