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Advice From Dr. Stanwix – Living a Lie

Advice From Dr. Stanwix – Living a Lie
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Dear Dr. Stanwix,

My husband just recently turned my world upside down when he confessed his desires to end our marriage. It was devastating enough that he wanted to date other people, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the people he told me he wanted to date… other men.

My husband has never given me any idea that he was attracted to other people, let alone those of his own sex. He has been a loving husband and wonderful father for the last 18 years.

I am so confused. I want to feel jealous, but how can I feel jealousy toward people who I can’t possibly compete with? There is an entirely different dynamic involved in this situation. I want to be angry with him. I want to hate him. However, to watch him convulse in spasms of sadness when he finally came clean did nothing but inspire love and empathy toward him.

What can I say? I know he loves me and our children. I also know that this was obviously the hardest thing he has ever had to do in his entire life. I was angry that he hadn’t told me sooner, but then realized that something of this magnitude is not something you want to admit to your wife and children, let alone yourself.

I understand that this was something he simply couldn’t struggle with any longer. Out of his love for his family, he simply had to come clean. However, I am so at a loss for how to react to this that I have simply curled into a ball.

Although he confessed this to me six months ago, I still can’t get up the nerve to tell anyone about it. We continue to live a lie. He is patient but has made it clear that people need to know and that he needs to get on with the life he has been repressing for so many years.

Do you have any advice you could give us to make this whole thing easier?

Sincerely,

Living a Lie

Dear Living a Lie,

You are indeed in a difficult and life-changing situation. It is never easy to accept that someone who you love does not feel complete with the love you give him (or her). It is even more devastating when he or she discovers within himself the desire to be with people that are beyond your realm of competition.

This is not your typical situation where your husband cheats on you and you are left with all the legitimacy in the world to be angry, to scream and yell and then leave him. You can try all of those things, but, given the tone of your letter, I highly doubt that that will alleviate any of the pain you are feeling.

Where does all of that pain go when it has no legitimate outlet? Many times it turns inward. You begin to hate yourself. You blame yourself for things that are beyond your control. STOP!

You are not to blame any more than he is. This is just something that happens in life. No matter how much we want to assign blame or direct our anger at something or someone, we must understand that there are some things in life that we simply have to accept.

The important thing you must understand is that this was by no means an easy thing for your husband to do. I am sure that he entered into your relationship in good faith and truly wanted to leave any of those feelings for other men behind. He may not have even understood what those feelings were back when you began seeing one another.

Fortunately, (or unfortunately in this case), as we grow older we are increasingly faced with who we truly are. The din of distractions of our youth makes it easier to block out unwanted desires. However, by the time we reach our 40s, all of that dissonance begins to diminish and we must face some very important facts about ourselves. This is no doubt what happened to your husband.

Although many people believe homosexuality is a choice, there is no choice in the matter. If you are gay the only choice you have is in whether and how you are going to divulge your secret. Your husband has finally divulged his and I know that it hurts like hell. However, be strong, you WILL get beyond this and move on.

The only advice I can give you in the meantime is not to carry this burden around with you alone. It’s time that your secret is passed on to others in your family and circle of friends. You may find it difficult to tell other people, but, once you do, you will find that you have lifted an immense weight off your chest. You will also find solace from those around you.

You should also get on with you separation. You need to discuss the logistics of this separation with your husband. You need to decide how you are going to separate your lives and belongings and how you are going to share this secret with your family and friends.

Of all the people that you must share this secret with, your children are going to be the most challenging. The way you both break the news to them is going to be a very defining moment in their lives (as well as your own). Keep in mind that they, like you, may blame themselves. You have to make it clear that this was something that couldn’t be avoided and that no one can be blamed for certain things that happen in life. As they may have far more questions for your husband than for you, you might want to let your husband have some time with them alone so he can explain himself. He has to explain his desires to see other men and why those desires became strong enough to upset the dynamic of your family. This will not be an easy thing for him, but it must be done.

The most important thing you can do on your end is to put aside any of your anger and show your children that you support your husband and his decision. This is an opportunity to show your children what maturity is all about. They might not even understand the courage that you had to summon up to deal with this situation, but, I assure you, one day they will.

As for what happens after that, time and communication are the best healers we have to get through difficult situations. If you need to be away from your husband for a period, please make it clear that you need some time to sort things out. He needs to respect you, your patience and understanding, by reciprocating some of that understanding and giving you some time to sort things out. You may also want to consider counseling. This is by no means an easy thing to assimilate, and you may need an objective point of view to help get you through it.

This may take a while, but once the pain dissipates and you are able to consider dating other people, you may be able to maintain a solid friendship with your husband. Hopefully one day you and your ex-husband and your new partners will be able to get together on occasion. It may seem like something beyond your comprehension at this point, but if you keep the lines of communication open and respect one another, you may just get there.

Best of luck to you both,

Dr. Michael Stanwix

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