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Mixed Orientation Marriage

A mixed-orientation marriage (MOM) is a marriage between partners of differing sexual orientations. Most commonly, one partner is bisexual, gay, or lesbian and the other is heterosexual. Sometimes, one partner is lesbian or gay, and the other is bisexual. In other couples, one is asexual or the two simply have different sexual interests. Couples with differences in sexual orientation or sexual interests can often improve their relationships if they can  find a pathway for mutual happiness despite those differences.


Mixed-orientation marriages and relationships that feature couples with variations in their sexuality can be wonderful successful relationships. Bisexual, lesbian, and gay husbands, wives and partners need to be loved and love just as much as anyone else yet sometimes the person we fall in love with and want to spend our life with does not share our same sexual orientation, ideas about gender identity or interests in sexual expression.




Alternate Paths

Mixed Orientation


When You Discover Your Partner is Gay

Many gay men and women end up marrying people of the opposite sex. But what is it like for the spouse who eventually finds their marriage breaking down?

According to one comment that is typical in these circumstances, "They may go on and have a wonderful new life while leaving a crushed wife behind. You just feel like your whole life is wasted and there's no closure."

One of the most difficult things for many spouses is watching their former partner being celebrated as brave for coming out, but knowing the damage they've left behind.



Huffington Post: Women Share the Moment They Found Out Their Husbands Were Gay

BBC News: How I Found Out My Partner Was Gay

Straight Spouse Network: Discovering Your Spouse Isn't Straight

NPR: Place for Straight Spouses After Their Mate Comes Out

About Relationships: When Your Spouse Reveals True Sexual Orientation

Mixed Orientation Marriage (MOM): Support and Encouragement


Mixed Orientation Marriage Success


By Mark R / Pathways to Success


I am constantly amazed by the number of bisexual and straight spouses in mixed-orientation marriages who are surprised that staying together is an option. “You can do that? Who knew?” they say. This lack of knowledge about mixed-orientation marriage success is a result of the large number of bisexuals still in the closet, which is why hiding who we are is so detrimental to society.


Marriages don’t have to end needlessly over differences in sexual orientation. There is a reason why we married each other in the first place, and variations in sexual orientation do not necessarily change that reason. I don’t know any couples who say the only reason they got married was great sex. So one needs to ask oneself: Why, now, have sex and sexual orientation become the overriding measures of a successful relationship? While  sexual intimacy is an important part of many relationships there are many different ways to fit our differing sexuality into our marriages and relationships.


We can change attitudes about mixed-orientation marriages. It starts with learning from others who have found success and saying, “Hey, I want one of those too!” and then setting about to make it happen. One should not get caught up in the negative statistics showing a high rate of failure. As one wife said to her husband, “What makes you think we won’t be one of the ones that make it?” Indeed, there was nothing preventing them from becoming yet another success story. And there is nothing stopping anyone else. Simply look for one of the many ways to make it happen. Many mixed-orientation marriages have lasted 10, 20, 30, 40, and even 50 years; it is worth moving mountains and parting seas to make them work.


When a bisexual spouse can lead a self-actualized, fulfilled life with authenticity and integrity, it can bring that person unbelievable personal happiness. That personal happiness then permeates the relationship, and the mixed-orientation marriage can emerge with both partners happier than before.


Building a mixed-orientation relationship based on honesty and integrity does indeed require hard work, and in the rawness of a newly discovered mixed-orientation marriage, it may seem like we will never get there, but in time and with the proper steps, happiness can be greater than ever.


A huge part of the development of our sexual orientations is being able to live our lives honestly and authentically as the persons we really are, not the persons others wish we were. Acceptance of one’s gay, lesbian, or bisexual self is a core component of a successful mixed-orientation marriage. Note that accepting sexual orientation is very different from accepting sexual activity. Being bisexual is who I am and not just about what I do. What I do sexually with my bisexuality  is a separate issue and mutually agreeable ways of satisfying my sexual needs  is a challenge that also needs  to be  resolved, but it is not part of this core acceptance.


Growing up denying the part of oneself that is sexually attracted to one’s same gender is exhausting, and it eventually wore me out. No wonder so many gay, lesbian, and bisexual people battle depression, alcohol abuse, and even suicide. We eventually get tired of being sick and tired. I have learned this was all so unnecessary. All that is required is that we throw out the shame and guilt and accept ourselves. Then we need to support those who love us to do the same thing. Acceptance of our sexuality by those we love is one of the hardest struggles we face in our mixed-orientation marriages.


I was very lucky that eventually my wife realized for herself that having a bisexual husband really didn’t change things except for the better. That change for the better didn’t happen until she could fully accept who I am. This acceptance included the trust to let me have bisexual and gay friends so I could celebrate my gay side. We all have different needs; one of my greatest needs is simply to have friends who understand what it means to live in the world being sexually attracted to men along with a wife who embraces that part of my journey. These friends add to my life and take nothing away from my relationship with my wife.


In the early days of a couple’s adjustment to a newly out-of-the-closet bisexual, gay or lesbian spouse, huge questions are understandable and to be expected about how the new relationship dynamic is going to work. But eventually, the acceptance must follow, leading to mutually agreeable ways to live our lives authentically and with happiness.


I struggle with what to tell others in newly discovered mixed-orientation marriages about what they can expect in their own relationships. In some newly evolving mixed-orientation marriages I see that the straight spouse’s initial response is “It is fine you are bisexual but forget about living life that way.” What does living life “that way” mean anyway? Determining how we are going to live our lives is one of the challenges to be met, and that takes time. Each person needs to decide how long is long enough to give to working out these challenges, as well as how much change is needed. But ultimately, personal happiness and fulfillment require a point of mutual happiness to be found. If after all our efforts the differences cannot be reconciled perhaps it is time to acknowledge those differences and try something different for our lives, such as ending the relationship and moving on but I believe it is worth trying everything else first. Life is not a dress rehearsal; it took me 53 years to realize it, but I did, in time, and I am thrilled that my wife is joining me for the rest of the journey.


Maintaining a successful relationship comes down to whether both the husband and the wife desire more than anything else to make the marriage work. If they do, then they can, but if one spouse wants it to work “my way or the highway,” then it becomes more difficult. We need to approach our mixed-orientation marriages from a success and acceptance perspective. A can-do attitude will beat a woe-is-me attitude every day. Looking back, it is clear to me that acceptance of all of me was essential to our success.


The secret to a successful mixed-orientation relationship is to find a solution that has both partners happy and in a better place than before the differing sexual orientation was known. We want the classic win-win solution. The concept of a partner’s feeling happy when their partner is happy is essential, but it often will require a change in basic thinking. In our society, we may be raised to expect our partner to meet 100% of our needs. This is simply not realistic. When one partner likes to sew and the other to climb mountains, or when one likes to fish and the other to play tennis, we don’t say this marriage will never work. Yet when differences in sexuality come up, many relationships enter the all-or-nothing, “throw the baby out with the bathwater” mentality. But often in mixed-orientation marriages, the partners provide each other with love and friendship, share hobbies and family, and feel they are soul mates and there is no one they would rather be with. The only issue is their sexual orientations do not match. It strikes me as very odd that anyone would want to throw away all that good just because one of the partners is gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Instead, ideally, they should work toward understanding and accepting each other’s needs and preferences.


Such understanding and acceptance are needed because both partners in a relationship should be allowed to lead self-fulfilled and self-actualized lives. Expecting people to deny their sexuality is asking them to abandon a part of themselves and not live their lives to the fullest. Demanding this of one’s partner does not speak of love. More positively, couples who recognize that their husband or wife is the person they are most supposed to be with can be inspired to work to accommodate their differing sexual orientations and sexual needs.


Each couple needs to work out for themselves their own pathway but  at a minimum, the gay, lesbian, or bisexual partner should be accepted as the person they are. In addition we need to understand that each gay, lesbian, or bisexual person has unique needs and  the couple should find, over time, mutually agreeable ways to satisfy the various needs  of their nonheterosexual side. This  process of course needs to include the feelings and needs of the straight spouse.  As partners and friends, the couple should work out solutions from a position of love.To be clear I am not  asking either the straight spouse or the LGBT spouse to give up who they are or their own personal happiness,  instead I ask that they work together to see if together both can create a happier more rewarding relationship. The solution needs to be one that says, “I’m happy, you’re happy.”


(From: Mark R / Pathways to Success)




Alternate Paths

Mixed Orientation



GSO / Gay Significant Other


MOM / Mixed Orientation Marriage: Marriage between partners of differing sexual orientations. Most commonly, one partner is bisexual, gay, or lesbian and the other is heterosexual.


MMOM / Monogamous Mixed Orientation Marriage


MOR / Mixed Orientation Relationship


OM or OR / Open Marriage or Open Relationship


When Your Spouse Reveals His/Her True Sexual Orientation

Many gay men and women end up marrying people of the opposite sex. But what is it like for the spouse who eventually finds their marriage breaking down?

You've had your suspicions. Your normal sexual appetite is considered by your mate to be excessive. Your spouse doesn't want to have anything to do with you sexually and acts repulsed by sexual activity. Your partner becomes more and more secretive and moody. You notice him/her looking at people of the same sex differently.

Then you discover the truth and learn that your spouse is gay or bisexual. As your world turns upside down, and as your partner 'comes out', you find yourself shoved in the closet. Although you may feel alone, isolated and shamed, you are none of these.


Statistics Concerning Mixed Orientation Couples

Mixed orientation couples means that one spouse is either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.  According to the Straight Spouse Network, it is estimated that there are up to 2 million mixed orientation couples. According to Amity Buxton of the Straight Spouse Network, "When the gay, lesbian, or bisexual spouse comes out, a third of the couples break up immediately; another third stay together for one to two years, sorting out what to do and then divorce; the remaining third try to make their marriages work.  A half of these couples divorce, while half of them (17% of the total) stay together for three or more years."  The Family Pride Coalition compiled the following statistics:


--2-4 million mixed orientation couples, and more than 80% get divorced
--3.5 million children are born to mixed-orientation couples
--20 percent of all gay men in America are in a heterosexual marriage.
--50 percent of all gay men in America have fathered children.
--40 percent of all lesbians in America are married to a male partner.
--75 percent of all lesbians have children.


Key Issues Facing a Straight Spouse

--Sexual rejection.
--Damaged sexual self-esteem.
--Questions like "what did I do to cause this" or "am I not masculine/feminine enough"?
--Low self-image and a high level of self-doubt.
--Concern about the children. How will they handle the news? What about the gay influence when they stay with their gay parent?
--Shattered beliefs after living a lie.
--Confusion about marriage and whether it is worth saving.
--Fear of having your family torn apart.
--Hurt over being violated and lied to.
--Handling feelings of rage, bitterness, fear, shock, despair, devastation, repulsion, hurt and anger.
--Questions about infidelity.
--Coping with shame, secrecy and a fear of lack of acceptance.
--Dealing with a gay spouse who doesn't want to limit sexual preference.
--Fear of having been exposed to or having contracted sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS.

Range of Emotional Responses of Straight Spouses


Shocked... Alone... Isolated... Betrayed... Confused... Relieved... Hurt... Disbelief... Bitter... Empathic... Self-blame... Shattered trust... Panic... Guilt... Disappointment... Fear... Anger... Rage... Shame... Denial... Despair... Devastation... Repulsion... Victimized... Entitled... Acceptance


Things to Do and Not to Do

--Don't isolate yourself. Your family is in crisis. Seek out a support group or professional help.
--Decide what you both can and cannot live with. Some people can look past sexual preference and some can't.
--Don't assume that your marriage is over. Some straight/gay marriages are happy unions. However, studies show that out of 15% of couples who try to make it work, only about 7% make it long term after learning one spouse is gay.
--Accept that it takes two to make a marriage. One spouse can't save a marriage alone.
--Get checked immediately for sexually transmitted diseases whether or not your partner admits to any sexual infidelity.
--Remember that no one can turn a person gay.
--Do take care of yourself as you go through the grieving process. Your marriage as you knew it is over. If you stay married, it will be changed. Try to accept this reality and move on with your lives.
--Telling your children depends on their age and understanding. You may need professional guidance to deal with this. It is important for them to feel loved and secure and that they know they are not to blame for the situation.
--Don't let the years of deception and the sense of betrayal take away from the good times and the positive memories you had in your marriage.

This is Not Your Fault

Although the trauma of being a straight spouse can be overwhelming, it is important to realize that the situation you find yourself in is not your fault.
The first year will probably be the toughest. Faced with this life-changing experience, you and your spouse can make life-giving decisions for you marriage, for one another, and for your children.

These decisions may mean the end of your marriage. Some couples stay married and some don't. Moving on and letting go will take time and it will take a willingness to forgive.


(From Sheri Stritof / About Relationships)


MOM Support Groups and Resources

Making Mixed Orientation Marriages Work Yahoo Group

Monogamous Mixed Orientation Marriages (MonMOM)

HUGS Couples (Hope-Understanding-Growth-Support)

Alternate Paths Yahoo Group for Women Married to Men in MOMs

Appendix of Support Groups from Pathways to Success



“I felt I was not an adequate man. It completely destroyed my self image”
(Dan, whose ex-wife is a lesbian)

“We’ve survived 7 years of marriage by tolerating the ambivalence of what we are and the uncertainty of what could happen” (Barbara, whose husband is bisexual)

“Being a ‘straight spouse’ does not automatically mean ending your marriage. It does mean you have to decide what’s important to you, how flexible you are willing to be, and how committed you and your partner are to each other and the marriage”
(Miriam, wife of a male-to-female trans partner)

“I was doubly traumatized by the deceit. I thought, ‘How could I have missed the signals?’”

(Wes, whose ex-wife is a lesbian)

“My deep rage persists to this day, five years later. Anger is my only connection to Tim’s gayness”

(Moira, whose husband is gay)

“Everything I thought I understood was wrong. My memories of our marriage and our life together lost their meaning. It was like I had fallen off a cliff and there was no bottom”

(Anna Marie, whose husband is gay)

“I have met and learned to appreciate the men that he loves, who have helped him become a much happier and whole person. The days of depression and anger are gone. The days of rejecting me sexually are gone.”

(Paula, whose husband is gay)

“My wife chose to act on her deviant desires, lose her faith and everything she has ever pretended to be, and we will get divorced from the results.”
(Joe, whose wife is a lesbian)

“I was able to accept that he was gay and be supportive of his decision to leave once I knew that he was gay. It took a lot longer for me to get over being angry that it took him a year to tell me the truth. His secrecy was a personal affront and said to me he did not trust me”

(Sandra, whose husband is gay)

“Why wasn’t here any intimacy? What was wrong with me? Why was he depressed? What was he withdrawn? Why did he think he was in a prison?”

(Amity, founder of the Straight Spouse Network, whose husband of 25 years came out after they separated)


(From Gary Williams and Anita Neuer)

Recovering From the Shock

When a spouse reveals his or her true sexual orientation, it can be very traumatic for the partner.  A process of healing or recovery is required.  Here are the typical stages of recovery for a spouse who discovers that his or her partner is gay:

Stage One: Disorientation / Disorientation, disbelief, denial, and often relief.

Stage Two: Acknowledgement / Facing and acknowledging the reality of the partner's sexual orientation (or gender identity), the spouses' own pain, and changes in their life resulting from the disclosure.

Stage Three: Acceptance / Accepting present reality and realizing the irreversibility of the new aspects of the partner even if the marriage might continue.

Stage Four: Release / Letting go of past assumptions about themselves, their marriage, and their partner.

Stage Five: Identity Healing / Healing their own identity and integrity including self worth and value system.

Stage Six: New Normal / Reconfiguring and refocusing themselves to view their situation in perspective and formulate a belief system with meaning and purpose.

Stage Seven: Transformation / Transforming their lives based on their reconfigured worldview.

(From, Buxton, A. P. (2004) Paths and Pitfalls: How Heterosexual Spouses Cope When their Husbands or Wives Come out," Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, Vol. 3, No 2/3, Haworth Press, Also, Relationship Therapy with Same-Sex Couples, eds. J. J. Bigner and J. L. Wetchler, pp. 95-10)



Family Pride Coalition (FPC)
P.O. Box 34338, San Diego, CA 92163; 619-296-0199

Straight Spouse Network:
8215 Terrace Drive, El Cerrito, CA 94530-3058; 510-525-0200

Children of Lesbian and Gays Everywhere (COLAGE)
3542-18th St. #17, San Francisco, CA 94110; 415-861-5437



The Other Side of the Closet, Amity Pierce Buxton
Married Women who Love Women, Carren Strock
Is He Straight? A Checklist for Women who Wonder, Bonnie Kaye, M.Ed.
Uncommon Lives: Gay Men and Straight Women, Catherine Whitney
In the Meantime, Iyanla Vanzant
Husbands who Love Men: Deceit, Disease, Despair, Aileen Atwood, RN, Ed.D.
Living Two Lives: Married to a Man and In Love with a Woman, Joanne Fleisher
My Husband is Gay: A Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Crisis, Carol Grever
Silent Partner, Dina Matos McGreevey

Books Especially for Kids:
Coping when a Parent is Gay, Deborah A. Miller, Ph.D.
There’s Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You, Laralee Pike


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Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama