My friends Alex and Michael are in a loveless relationship. They rarely have sex and trust has been drained to the point that Alex monitors all of Michael's e-mails, texts and phone calls. Michael had an affair several years ago and confessed this to Alex. Before the affair occurred they adopted a child and for the sake of the child, they continue to exist in a relationship that is at best a business arrangement and at worst, mentally damaging. Alex thinks that they should stay together because so much time has been invested in the relationship and Michael wants to split up, but is afraid of the stigma that the divorce will bring. He has admitted that he is not in love with Alex.
They have tried marriage counseling, but even the counselor agrees that their marriage was never fully functioning and most likely never will be. Michael has a secret that he has shared with Alex. Michael is attracted to women and indeed had an affair with a woman several years ago.
Why do they stay together? They remain in the relationship because they made a commitment and will stick by it. Society has told Michael that only same-sex relationships are valid and that opposite sex attraction is an abomination. Michael is afraid that if he comes out as "straight" to his family they will disown him and that his church will ex-communicate him. But he knows deep in his soul that he can only truly romantically love a woman.
This sounds like an impossibly unbelievable scenario, doesn't it? How could we expect a straight man to marry, have sex with and raise children with a gay man? But I hear of this happening every single day, not with two men, but with a gay man and a straight woman. While the names above are fictional, the plot is not.
Your background, generation and religious upbringing will likely shape the way you view this story. You will either be outraged by the insinuation that same sex marriages could be viewed as normal or outraged that we ever brainwashed our children into believing that being gay was a disease which could be cured and that happiness could only be achieved through an unhealthy marriage. Whatever your background, you will most likely agree that a straight man and a gay man should not remain in a marriage together. Why should it be any different between a gay man and a straight woman?
Since my last post "Is My Husband Gay? The Other Side of the Closet." I have heard from many closeted gay men who are in long term marriages to women. They are part of a generation that has been left behind by the progression in public opinion towards gays and trapped in a time warp that prevents them from making a change. They are wracked with guilt, self-hatred and have a fear of the unknown.
They ask me for advice and all that I can tell them is that sometimes it is necessary to look at the puzzle from a different angle in order to see the solution. The end of a long term relationship can be the most difficult, heart-breaking and sad thing that any couple may endure and every spouse deserves the time and support necessary to heal and move on. But, it is time to stop expecting any couple in an unhealthy relationship to maintain it and it is also time to stop suggesting that it is all about sex. Just as we would never tell a straight man that his desire to love a woman is only about sex the same is true for gay men and women.
As marriage equality and gay rights continue to progress, instances of these marriages will dissipate. But there is a generation of marriages lost in the middle. If the story above about Alex and Michael strikes you as preposterous, good, that is the first step into understanding that marriage equality means that all marriages should afford the opportunity for both spouses to be equally happy.
William Dameron's personal blog is The Authentic Life