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Straight Spouses in the West

Posted on 28 June 2008 by Darryl W Bullock
Over the last couple of years we’ve seen some very high-profile ‘straight’ marriages put under the spotlight as one partner has either been publicly outed or has decided to come clean about his or her sexuality. Take the case of Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat MP whose 13-year marriage was left in tatters after revelations about his sex life, or Michael Barrymore who spent two decades with his wife before famously outing himself in a London pub.

Go back a little further and you’ll discover dozens of famous lesbian and gay people who have married a partner of the opposite sex, often for convenience, sometimes for companionship, or simply because that was what was expected of them: Elton John, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf and so on. Even in this day and age it’s a situation that many couples find themselves in, and for a wife who has had no inkling that her husband was anything other than heterosexual (or a man who felt the same about his wife), is it any easier to deal with than finding out that he has been unfaithful with a woman? Is it at all possible to sustain a marriage after such a betrayal, or is parting inevitable?

There are no statistics on marriages such as these in the UK, but according to the US-based Straight Spouse Network (www.straightspouse.org), about two million gay men and lesbian women are married to straight partners in the State. They estimate that around a third of couples break up immediately, a third remain together for a year and then split, while the remaining third try to stay together. After three years, half this latter group are still together.

There are few resources in the UK for people in similar situations: the UK website Married Gay (www.marriedgay.org ) is aimed at LGB men and women married to (or in a relationship with) someone of the opposite sex, and for their spouses or partners to help them to understand what might be going on. The Gay Married Men’s Group (www.gaymarriedmen.co.uk) is, as the name suggests, for men who are, or who have been in relationships with women and who also have sexual feelings for other men.

Now a group is setting up right here in the Bristol area to help married lesbian and bisexual women in the same predicament. Gay/Bi Married Women hopes to be able to offer help and support to women in the process of coming out, beginning to question their sexuality and provide space for those who are just looking to chat or socialise with women in similar circumstances.

To contact this new group, email lightreturning@googlemail.com