When the other woman is a man

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
When the other woman is a man

He’s your husband and soul mate, but he secretly prefers men. Jordan Baker talks to women who married men they later found out were gay.

When Lisa looked into Mike’s eyes and vowed to stand by him through good and bad, in sickness and health, for as long as they both lived, she meant every word.

As Mike looked into Lisa’s eyes and took the same vow, he thought, "I hope I will be able to get through six months".

Related: My gay child changed my world

Lisa knew nothing of his doubts. There was no hint in the way he looked at her or kissed her that betrayed how hard he was fighting to keep his deepest desires in check.

She crept out and held him in her arms, and for two hours he wept. Finally, he looked at his wife through tired eyes. "I’m gay," he confessed.

Neither slept that night. Mike told her he had always known, but could not face the disapproval of his church and family.

The lie became more of a burden with each year and each child, and finally unbearable when he fell for a young man in his office.

The love was unspoken, but it left Mike craving a more powerful connection than Lisa could ever offer him. He felt the only option was to confess to her and leave the marriage.

"It was the most devastating, biggest shock I’d had in my life," says Lisa. "I felt like an old discarded shoe that had been worn for years and thrown away."

It might not be the taboo it once was, but many men still struggle to come to terms with their homosexuality.

They might live in a conservative world and fear disapproval or they may crave the trappings of a "normal" life, with marriage and children, so they remain in the closet, loving their wives and children by day, and dreaming of men at night.

Peter Allen, Elton John and Rock Hudson married women before revealing they were gay.

More recently, the NSW Transport Minister David Campbell was outed when a television crew caught him leaving a gay sauna.

He was not condemned for his homosexuality; rather, there was sympathy for him and outrage at those who had exposed him.

"They have destroyed a man’s career not for the words he spoke, but for the desires in his heart," wrote one blogger.

Related: Should Australia allow same-sex marriages?

Yet one person who could lay claim to more sympathy than David was his wife, Edna.

As acceptance of homosexuality grows and more men "come out", there is a growing number of women, such as Lisa, the wives and girlfriends of secretly gay or bisexual men, who are left devastated when they find out that the man they thought they knew inside out, the man they loved, trusted and chose to father their children, built his world – and therefore hers – around a lie.

Your say: How would you deal with this situation?

Video: Gay marriage debate

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