Guest Post by Dr. Joe Kort, author of the new book Is My Husband GAY, STRAIGHT, OR BI? A Guide for WOMEN Concerned About Their Men
“How do I find out if my husband is gay?” I get this question all the time. The TV and Internet are full of stories about “gay husbands” who endanger their wives by having unprotected sex with AIDS-infected strangers. According to The New York Times (December 7, 2013), of all Google searches that begin “Is my husband . . . ,” the most common word to follow is “gay.”
But there can be a surprising difference between a man’s sexual orientation – gay, straight, or bi – and what he does – has sex with men, watches gay porn, is drawn to kinky sex, etc. Some men are gay but don’t know it. Other men seek sex with men but are not gay.
Jennifer and Tom came to see me, because Tom had been secretly meeting a man for sex. Jennifer was sure Tom was gay and their marriage was doomed, but he wasn’t gay. He had been sexually abused by his coach when he was a boy. He had repressed the abuse but was compulsively acting it out in his sexual encounters. Over a relatively short course of therapy, Tom dealt with the abuse and lost his compulsivity to have sex with another man. The couple still had to recover from the trauma of Tom’s cheating, a therapeutic journey that took them several years. Even so, their marriage was not “doomed.”
Of course, a husband in a heterosexual marriage might be gay. I often work with men in therapy who don’t know if they are gay but want to find out. The following list of characteristics of gay men summarizes part of my diagnostic process.
1. The beach test: Gay men see the men on a beach, not the women.
2. Youthful noticing: Before puberty, gay boys notice other boys with a kind of delight, just as straight boys do girls.
3. Waking up: Straight guys, even those who have sex with men, don’t want to wake up next to one.
4. Falling in love: A gay man can fall in romantic love with a man; straight men don’t.
5. Romantic hopes and dreams with a male partner: After a period of promiscuous “gay adolescence,” a gay man will yearn to “settle down.”
6. Gay sex not degrading: Straight men sometimes interpret gay sex as humiliating. Gay men find it fundamentally joyful.
7. Homophobia: If a gay man is repressing his gay identity, he is often negative about gay people and the “gay lifestyle.”
If you are concerned your husband might be gay, then talking over these seven characteristics with him might be clarifying. He might remember his youthful noticing. The beach test might strike him as a sudden revelation. Letting him know that you are interested and non-judgmental might be enough to help him talk about what is going on for him. If your husband is not gay but has “shameful” kinky sexual secrets, then clearing the air is the right thing to do. Maybe you won’t need to know the details of his kinks, as long as he agrees to vent them in benign ways. For example, you might decide together that time-limited porn viewing is okay but meeting people for sex is not.
If your husband is gay, your marriage is not necessarily “doomed” but it will be complicated. I discuss this at length in Chapter 13 of Is My Husband Gay, Straight, or Bi? Here is a summary. You have two practical options: (1) Divorce (2) Stay married, allow him some mutually agreed upon “gay outlets,” share your “secret” with a few selected friends and family members, and live in your community as a heterosexual couple.
Let me be clear. A gay man can totally love a woman. He can be devoted to her, have sex with her, and be as monogamous as anybody. He is still gay. On the beach, he still ogles the beautiful men. The only woman who interests him is his wife. His orientation has not changed, but love can trump orientation. I’ve seen it happen.
If your man is talking with you, if he will work to clarify what he wants and who he is, then there is always hope for a marriage. No matter what you discover, nobody, not even an “expert,” has the right to tell you divorce is your only option. It’s your marriage; it only has to satisfy the two of you.
Dr. Joe Kort, one of the nation’s leading sex therapists is available for interview or to do a guest post. He’s a certified Imago Relationship Therapist and board-certified clinical sexologist. Dr. Kort is a regular writer for The Huffington Post; he has been talked about in the New York Times and has appeared on national TV shows like Tyra. His website is http://joekort.com/