Some women enter a relationship knowing of their partner’s sexual attraction to other men or being aware that her partner has been sexually active with men in the past. These couples may have negotiated an agreement about what he will and won’t do. Sometimes however these agreements can break down over time.
Other women have no knowledge of their partner’s sexual behaviour with men. When a woman discovers her husband, boyfriend or partner is sexually attracted to men, she can experience a range of reactions including shock, disbelief, confusion, betrayal and stress.
If their husband or partner is coming out as gay, women can initially find it difficult to reach out because of concerns about how family and friends will react. Some women say it feels like they go into the closet while their partner comes out of it.
There can be a feeling your entire future has been destroyed.
This is how some women describe their reactions…
‘I was shocked to discover a whole side of my husband that I had previously known nothing about.’
‘I felt completely alone and thought that no-one else would understand.’
‘It’s such a relief to finally discover the real reason for our relationship problems.’
‘It’s different to being left for another woman. I think if it was another woman I could compete or feel less alone. Most people would understand it can happen. The few people I’ve told about this have been shocked… and their shock just makes it worse.’
‘I felt very angry to think I might have been used to hide his sexuality.’
‘At first I blamed myself for what had happened; how could I not have known?’
‘Should I have known? He’d been homosexually active in the past, but assured me this was just experimental and would never happen again.’
‘What about the children? How will they react?’
‘It helped me a lot to attend a support group and link up with other women who really understood what I was going through.’
No two situations are exactly the same. Some women ask their male partner to leave the relationship, sometimes the man will initiate the leaving to embark on a new life, and other couples try to stay together and renegotiate a new form of relationship.
Many women try to make the relationship work, in some form or other, after finding out. It’s not uncommon for women to try to work at the relationship for one to a few years. For women this often involves thinking through the issues, getting in touch with their needs and wants and, ideally, finding support for themselves.
‘It took some time before I could confide in some family members, and to this day (10 years on) there are still friends I have not told …’
‘My biggest issue now is that my husband has been, and will probably continue to have sex outside the marriage. He has said he won’t again but he still has unexplained absences and there have been days when I get home I could swear the house isn’t as I left it…’ — 36 years, married 5 years
‘Over the past two years we have been renegotiating our relationship. Not in any structured or formal way – we deal with things as they come up. He has regular tests for sexually transmitted infections and has occasional gay sex with protection. Our sexuality is not an unspoken taboo topic and we are not pretending to each other to be a normal heterosexual couple, however no one else knows. We continue to love each other and our relationship is evolving. I can manage with it how it currently is, but it’s on the proviso that he doesn’t have a meaningful relationship with man – that would be a deal breaker for me.’ — 25 years plus relationship, two teenage children
If you would like to read more about women’s experiences go to Publications on this website.