As a coach working with gays and lesbians who are coming out in midlife, I am often called upon to help people sort out whether to stay in or leave their heterosexual marriage. It’s not an easy question to answer. Things to consider are the individuals’ feelings toward their spouse, the existence of another lover, their ability to remain monogamous in a heterosexual union, their dedication to their marriage vows and the basic strength of the marriage. With probing and discussion, the answer usually becomes obvious to the client over time.
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself if you are in this situation:
Are you in love with your husband or wife? What is the nature of the love you share? Is it passionate, romantic love or is it the love of respect and admiration? If it’s the latter will that be enough to sustain you over time? Is your spouse expressing fulfillment in the marriage or does s/he feel something is “not right?”
Have you started seeing someone outside of the marriage? How important is that person in your life? Can you envision a future with your lover? Does s/he share that vision? Would you be willing to give up your lover for the sake of the marriage?
Can you be emotionally and sexually satisfied in the marriage? Do you feel compelled to search for sex outside of the marriage? Does your spouse know this and what is their reaction? Do you feel guilty when you think or act on this?
Are you extremely religious? To what lengths are you able to go to maintain your vows? Does your spouse share these views? Are you able to consider an open marriage with your spouse and reconcile this with your beliefs?
Strength of the marriage.
Other than your sexual orientation, how are other areas of the marriage? Do you have arguments often? If so, what do you argue about? Can these issues be resolved or are they intractable? If you were not gay or lesbian, would you be considering a divorce over these issues?
If you are gay or lesbian and are in a marriage, you may be struggling with the decision to stay or leave. Allow yourself time to think it through, talk with your spouse, and seek counseling or coaching to help you. Consider alternative lifestyle options. Think about the ideal life you would like to be leading in 5 years. Most of all, be honest with yourself and with your spouse. The answer lies in your heart, waiting to be uncovered.
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.