Every once in awhile, there is a meaningful celebration of victory in a straight spouse’s journey. I have experienced in it my own life. I have felt joy when other straights that I know go through it as well.
This is a celebration of relief and forgiveness when the LGBTQ spouse who hurt them shows true humility toward them in some way or another.
Sometimes it is when the LGBTQ spouse admits they’ve hurt their husband or wife and asks for forgiveness. Sometimes it is simply acknowledging the painful journey the hurt spouse is going through, without any excuses. Other times, it is showing some sort of effort to make amends, whether that be kindness, apologizing for crude words, or giving in on a contentious point during court proceedings.
No matter what it looks like, the straight spouse can truly feel the sincerity in it. Humility is powerful.
You see, humility can break down walls of bitterness and defensiveness quicker than anything. It has the ability to bring healing into the straight spouse’s life. It shows a willingness to be human with mistakes, instead of defending, making excuses about, and justifying the damage that has been done.
All of the above seems logical to outsiders. It appears that anyone would do what it takes to help heal the damage that has been done when a spouse comes out of the closet. Unfortunately, it is rare on the journey that the straight spouse endures.
I know it is rare because I know more stories of added pain after a spouse comes out than happy endings; there is a lot of justification and seemingly selfish choices coming from the betrayer. When a straight spouse hears some rendition of “I’m sorry I hurt you, but…” there is no way that humilty can enter in and help heal.
The “Sorry, Buts” become a regular occurance in relationships, where one spouse is straight and the other comes out. If you are not one of those, I commend you. If you are reading this, you likely don’t want to be like this. This gives me hope.
Listen…I want to acknowledge the fact that you, the LGBTQ spouse, have had a tremendous journey of time and a heavy burden while grappling with coming out. It is a big deal, and as the writer of this column, I feel you.
Now, picture the burden, the time, the pain of dealing with that…and taking it off of your shoulders and placing it squarely on the shoulders of your unsuspecting spouse.
That is what it feels like to your straight husband or wife.
Certainly, there are those who do not intend this. But unintended or not, I am speaking with some credibility on the subject.
While every situation is unique, most of us straight spouses, in order to work through this because we love you, have tried our hardest to understand with empathy about your journey. We ask questions. Sometimes we get the full truth. Other times, we don’t; maybe this is because of shame you feel, your own pain or not wanting to hurt us anymore than you already have. (See my post Telling the Truth – The Other Side for thoughts on this.)
However, when you try to turn the reasons you lied into excuses and justifications, there is nothing showing us that you are being humble. Again, we need that.
(As a side note, I am well aware that there are straight spouses who react so viciously, so vehemently, that being humble may not feel like an option for you. If you are one of those, then you cannot control the straight spouse and their choices. My hope is that with time and both of you working on yourselves, some healing can begin to happen.)
Please keep in mind the principles of humility. What can you do to help remedy the pain? Sincerely apologize for specific things, without any “buts” or defensiveness. From experience and through the shared experience of others, doing what you can to have empthy for us can do wonders toward healing a difficult situation.
Remember to give us time. You have had your whole life to work through your identity, whether you knew it your whole life or not. Don’t walk away because you now feel freer than you ever have. Stick around to help pick up as many pieces as you are able, be humble, and do whatever is within your power to make amends.
Humility without justification and defensiveness can be a huge step toward eventual healing for your straight spouse.
I would like to acknowledge, once again, that each situation is unique. Some things I have said may not apply to you at all. If anything I said struck a chord with you, then I encourage you to grapple with it. Living your true, authentic life from here on out will have a greater impact if you do what you can to live with integrity during this difficult situation which, unfortunately, started with bringing another person into your life through marriage.
A note to the straight spouse who may be reading this: you cannot make true humilty happen. You cannot force your spouse to make amends and help you pick up the pieces. I wish it were that easy. If it was, I wouldn’t need to be addressing this issue at all. My hope is that you find others like us through this website, Straight Spouse Network, or other resources. Knowing you are not alone on this journey and getting to know and love yourself apart from anyone or anything else, is going to be imperative for you.
My hope is that one day, straight spouse, you will get to experience the celebration of forgiveness toward your LGBTQ spouse and feel humility coming from them, so you can show others that healing is possible.
Help make that a reality, LGBTQ spouse, by living with integrity and walking humbly. You have the power within your heart and mind to help make healing more possible for your straight spouse.
Blessings to you on your journey,