Welcome to the The Straight Talk Blog. This blog features the writings of Straight Partners, Partners of Trans People and others who have experience with Mixed Orientation Relationships, closets, coming out and how all these issues impact individuals and families.
This is also a platform for guest blog contributors to share pieces of their own stories and how they have navigated their paths in ways that provide guidance to those newer to the experience.
Have an idea for a blog piece? Want to be a blog contributor? Check out our Guest Blogger Guidelines and get in touch!
If you’ve come to this site, chances are good that you’re wondering about the sexual orientation or gender identity of your romantic partner, or your partner has just disclosed…
If you’ve come to this site, chances are good that you’re wondering about the sexual orientation or gender identity of your romantic partner, or your partner has just disclosed their LGBT+ orientation or identity to you.
We can help. We’ve been there too.
It can be terrifying in the early days after discovery or your partner’s disclosure. You may not know where to turn. It is our hope that in the posts, podcasts, and references on this site, you may find the guideposts you need to help you on your journey.
OurPath, formerly the Straight Spouse Network, is a 30-year-old international organization that provides personal, confidential support and information to heterosexual spouses/partners (current or former) of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender mates, as well as to mixed-orientation or transgender/non-transgender couples for constructively resolving coming-out problems.
We ourselves are Straight Partners and Partners of Trans People (current and former) of LGBT+ people. We come together as OurPath to empower Straight Partners and Partners of Trans People to cope constructively with disclosure or discovery, to move through their emotional journey, and to heal. We also work on a broader level to raise awareness of the experiences of Straight Partners and Partners of Trans People, the impacts coming out has on families, and promote access to support.
Core to our mission is also the building of bridges between spouses, within families and with the larger community through support, education and advocacy.
We’ve lived with the aftermath of disclosure or discovery, and helped one another and our communities to come to a better understanding of what it means to have been or be part of a Mixed Orientation Relationship, and how to move on from disclosure or discovery into honest, open lives.
It is said that grief isn’t a straight line, it’s a spiral. Even when it seems like you’re revisiting the same place countless times, you’re actually on a journey to find your way out. Even if it seems like the road is taking your farther away from your healing, it is always taking you closer.
Your current or former partner’s path is their path. You get a path, too. And you get to choose how you’ll walk it. We’ll be with you, every step of the way.
Your path is waiting for you. Welcome to OurPath.
By Kristin Kalbli A few weeks ago, I threw a $9 tube of under-eye concealer in my cart at the grocery store. (For the guys and the make-up illiterate,…
By Kristin Kalbli
A few weeks ago, I threw a $9 tube of under-eye concealer in my cart at the grocery store. (For the guys and the make-up illiterate, under-eye concealer is the stuff that makes you look like you actually got sleep last night). Anyway, I went through the self-checkout line and when I scanned the eye cream, the thingy didn’t beep, but I dropped the concealer in my bag anyway. Once I was out of the store, an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach prompted me to check the receipt, and sure enough, the eye cream was not on it. I kept walking toward my car, and the uncomfortable feeling grew, and grew, and grew. “Dammit! I can’t even steal a $9 tube of makeup from Giant Grocery Corporation!” I turned around, went back in, told the self-checkout monitor guy that the concealer didn’t scan and that I owed him $9. “Meh,” he said, and handed it to me anyway.
There’s a reason I’m telling this story. I promise I’ll get to it.
As many of us know, trusting again after learning our partners have kept a part of their identity hidden (for whatever reason), or have kept their behavior secret or have been unfaithful, is no small task. To me, recovering the ability to trust works on three levels: there is the challenge of learning to trust other people not to deceive or betray us. And then there is the challenge of learning to trust ourselves to discern when we are being deceived or betrayed. But before any of that, there is the challenge of trusting ourselves not to deceive and betray ourselves.
When I look back at what lead me into a marriage with a closeted gay man, and what lead me to stay for twelve years, I see a lot of self-deception and self-betrayal. No, I didn’t know he was gay, and I didn’t know he was closeted or that I was in the closet with him. But I did sense something was off, and I did settle for a marriage and a sex life that was a pale shadow of what I longed for. I deceived myself that our marriage was actually good, and that we were best friends, and that he loved me. And I betrayed myself by suppressing and second guessing myself and the niggling doubt that haunted me. I made my doubt wrong and made myself wrong for having it. (How could I be a good wife if I doubted my good husband?) I can confess this without the slightest bit of self-blame or self-beat-up. I did what many of us are taught to do from the time we are little: second guess ourselves, deprioritize ourselves, negate ourselves, doubt ourselves, deceive ourselves and betray ourselves.
We do this for all kinds of reasons: to be “good,” whatever that means, to do the “right thing,” to fit in, to rebel against what everyone else is trying to fit into, to make others happy, to follow our religion or faith, and on and on. The reasons for self-negation are endless.
Well, that nonsense has got to stop. If we are to heal, really and truly heal, heal to the point where we can love again and trust others again, we have to begin to build a foundation of trust in ourselves.
And I have a hack: integrity.
In short, there is no trust where there is no integrity. That goes for our partners, but it goes for us too.
What is integrity, you ask? For me, it’s simple: integrity is when actions align with words.
It’s taken me years to understand integrity, and I’m still practicing, I’m still learning and failing. I still feel the pull to take short cuts, to jump the line, to sneak a $9 tube of makeup out of a grocery store. But I also feel a sickness in my gut when I do that. And that sickness in my gut is everything. I ignore it at my own peril. Ignoring that sickness in our guts leads to all kinds of mischief. For me it lead to staying in a marriage with a closeted gay man far longer than was good for me. It led to me betraying myself.
And, I’ll say it again, that nonsense needs to stop. So yes, while we lament the lack of integrity in spouses or partners who may have hid a part or all of themselves from us, or hid behavior from us, or betrayed us, we must cultivate our own integris relationship with ourselves first; we have to keep our word to ourselves.
How do we do that? That’s coming in part 2 next week. But in the meantime, you can check out this week’s OurVoices Podcast featuring Dr. Debi Silber, founder of the Post Betrayal Transformation Institute and author of Trust Again. We talk about what happens to us when there has been intimate partner betrayal, and how we move through it and learn to trust all over again. You can listen to the podcast here.
And come back next week for Part 2: “Trust Others? Yeah, Right…How?”
By Kristin Kalbli Last week I wrote about learning to trust ourselves – learning to trust that we won’t betray ourselves – as a first step in learning to…
By Kristin Kalbli
Last week I wrote about learning to trust ourselves – learning to trust that we won’t betray ourselves – as a first step in learning to trust other people, and (gasp!) future partners again.
I wrote that integrity is when actions align with words, something that did not happen in many of our relationships with closeted people. It is inevitable that when someone is not being true to who they are, their words and actions will not align, whether that misalignment is intended to deceive, or the product of denial, or the result of deep confusion on the part of our partners. From closets we learn to trust actions, not words, because we have so much experience with words being meaningless, or used to deflect, or distract, or gaslight.
So, when we are rebuilding our ability to trust others, we have a powerful tool at our disposal: observation. We can sit and observe the people immediately around us – our friends, our family members, our colleagues. We see if their actions align with their words. If they do, that’s good information. If they don’t, well, that’s also good information.
And then we see how our body responds to what we observe. Was there tightness in the chest? Queasiness? Resistance? Exhaustion? These are all ways our bodies speak to us when something is out of joint. When we are in the presence of integrity, I’ve noticed, the body doesn’t have these reactions.
I remember when I was learning to trust others in relationships again. Years after my divorce, I was still coming out of a fog of intense gaslighting by my closeted ex spouse. I landed in a relationship with a lovely man, more a friend than a lover, but we enjoyed each other. He was the first person I’d dated whose actions, on balance, matched his words more than not. But one night, something was off. I don’t remember what happened, or what he’d said, but I noticed that his actions did not align with his words. And that set alarm bells ringing, my stomach got that sinking feeling it used to get around my ex husband…
“I don’t know what’s happening right now,” I said, “but I feel like I’m being manipulated, and I’m going to leave.” And then I did.
In that moment, I did three things: I observed that his words in that moment did not match his behavior, I observed my body speaking to me, and for the first time in my life, I spoke up in the moment when I felt something was off. I didn’t have to know why it was off, I didn’t have to get to the bottom of what was going on, I didn’t have to defend myself. I stated what was true for me, and then I removed myself from the situation. I finally knew I could keep myself safe. And that meant I was safe to trust others when they merited my trust.
And a few days later, after the dust settled, we talked it out and came to a better understanding of what was happening that night, and his actions made more sense.
Observation is a powerful tool. We can sharpen our abilities to notice when people’s actions don’t align with their words, consistently, because we’ve practiced it with ourselves (see Part 1). And the more we discover that people in our lives do or don’t act with integrity, and we learn how our bodies signal us when there is a lack of integrity, we can make decisions on that information about how much interaction we want to have with them, how far to let them into our lives, and whether or not we want people in our lives whose actions do not match their words.
And eventually, the people around us are more likely to be the kind of people we can trust. Then, we just have to take the leap to do it.
How do we do that? Check out last week’s OurVoices Podcast featuring Dr. Debi Silber, founder of the Post Betrayal Transformation Institute and author of Trust Again. We talk about what happens to us when there has been intimate partner betrayal, and how we move through it and learn to trust all over again.
By OurPath After two years of planning, the Straight Spouse Network officially rebranded as OurPath, Inc. And just like that, the 30-year legacy of SSN, beloved by so many…
After two years of planning, the Straight Spouse Network officially rebranded as OurPath, Inc. And just like that, the 30-year legacy of SSN, beloved by so many of us, entered a new chapter.
For many of you, the change is welcome and brings about a refreshing new tone and look. We’ve heard from new people requesting support through the website that the rebrand has made them feel more comfortable seeking support. And that is exactly what we hoped would happen.
But for many others, especially members of our community who have been around 10, 15, or 20 years, the change has been hard. It has been felt by some of us as a loss, a rejection of Straight Spouses and our experiences, even a betrayal. And those feelings have given rise to grief, frustration and even anger. The loss of the name feels like a loss of an identity, an identity that meant community, connection, and the feeling that we finally knew we were not alone in our experiences as Straight Spouses.
It feels hard to give that up that identity. But the good news is, no one needs to. For those in our community who feel the term ‘Straight Spouse’ best describes them and their journey, we can go on being Straight Spouses.
Our name has changed, but our founding mission and our community remain the same. The adjustment of terminology to Straight Partners is meant to encompass everyone in long term, committed partnerships, married or not, who discovered their partners were LGBT+.
Whether we grieve or welcome the turning of the page from the Straight Spouse Network to OurPath, we cannot forget to honor all that the Straight Spouse Network, and the work of our founder Amity Buxton, has meant to so many of us.
But why the name OurPath? What does it mean? “It’s wishy-washy!” “It’s too vague!” “It could be anything!” come the resounding objections. And we have heard them all in these last few weeks. The Straight Spouse Network seemed so clear, so direct, so unmistakably defining. It said who we are and what we do. OurPath comes along and changes its name to something undefined and open to interpretation. Why?
OurPath is absolutely a metaphorical, rather than a literal, name. One thing we all have in common as Straight Partners and Partners of Trans People is that when our partners come out (or are discovered to be LGBT+), we are now on a totally unexpected new path in life, a path most of us did not choose, but we find ourselves on nonetheless. Many of our LGBT+ Partners go on to find a new path of their own in the LGBT+ community, leaving us to wonder, “where do I go from here?”
OurPath is about empowering each Straight Partner or Partner of a Trans Person we support to find their own authentic path forward to healing and a new normal. It can be a confusing road, filled with twists and turns, which is where the labyrinth imagery and logo come in. Labyrinths are meditations on hope. As you walk a labyrinth path, you may feel you are getting farther from your destination, but it is a trick of the eye. A labyrinth is always leading you on a journey to the center of yourself, and back out again. And that is what OurPath stands for: Finding our path, as Straight Spouses, Straight Partners, and Partners of Trans People, and claiming it. No matter what your individual path looks like, we are here with you, as you walk your path. We are all walking OurPath together.
By Kelly Wilkins I’ve been battling what I thought was severe bone-on-bone arthritis for a few years now. It’s kept me from doing a lot of the things I…
By Kelly Wilkins
I’ve been battling what I thought was severe bone-on-bone arthritis for a few years now. It’s kept me from doing a lot of the things I really love to do. Recently, my insurance decided that they would not cover any more steroid shots into my knees until I’d tried physical therapy.
I recently had my first appointment, and it was something I’d been dreading. My therapist said “This is the hardest thing you’ll do in here, coming to this appointment. Congratulations, everything after this is easy in comparison. It’s one of the hardest things to do, asking for help.”
After my range of motion consultation, I had surprising news – my knee joints are achy and crackly, yes, but they’re not the main problem. My main problem is that over the years, I’ve adapted a bad walking gait and it’s causing my leg muscles to overstress.
But it’s treatable. The damage can be mitigated.
The next thing he said was “I’m going to ask you to do things your body isn’t going to want to do easily. We have to teach you how to walk again without pain and strengthen your muscles. It’s going to suck, but work with me and you will be walking better.”
I said “When I’m doing difficult things, I congratulate myself for doing them. We’ll start with doing one thing, and we’ll move on to more, and better things. Deal?” He took the deal. So did I.
Today, I walked the length of my front yard without my cane. That was my one thing to do today. I did the thing. I celebrate doing that thing. It wasn’t easy (it hurt, not going to lie), but I did the thing, and I feel better for doing it.
As you recover from disclosure or discovery and enter into the new life ahead of you, you’re going to have difficult things that suck to do. You won’t want to do them, and they’re going to hurt, but in the end, you’re doing them to help yourself. So be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Congratulate yourself when you accomplish a difficult thing, and encourage yourself to continue.
Just do the one thing today. Better things are coming tomorrow.
By OurPath Today, October 11, is National Coming Out day. According to the Pew Research Center, for LGBT+ people, “realizing their sexual orientation or gender identity and sharing that…
Today, October 11, is National Coming Out day. According to the Pew Research Center, for LGBT+ people, “realizing their sexual orientation or gender identity and sharing that information with family and friends is often a gradual process that can unfold over a series of years.” If these LGBT+ people have Straight Partners, those partners are part of this process whether they are aware of it or not. This is why coming out well to your Straight Partner matters. OurPath, formerly the Straight Spouse Network, assists Straight Partners and Partners of Transgender People post discovery or disclosure. OurPath affirms that everyone deserves to live life as their authentic selves. However, we must consider the experiences of Straight Partners and Partners of Trans People in the coming out process, who are very often overlooked or even harmed.
A quick review of the Human Rights Council’s resources for coming out includes articles on coming out at work, coming out to your doctor, coming out to extended family, and coming out as and LGBT+ BIPOC. Sadly, there are no resources listed for coming out to your Straight Spouse or Partner.
With that in mind, OurPath has compiled comprehensive guides for coming out as LGBT+ to your spouse or partner in a heterosexual relationship. These guides will cover possible responses to disclosure from Straight Partners as well as best practices to improve outcomes for entire families. When LGBT+ Partners come out with consideration and compassion for a Straight Spouse or Partner, it lays the foundation for faster healing and better co-parenting relationships down the road. We hope you’ll use these resources to plan your coming out in a way that maximizes healing and minimizes harm to the entire family.
By Kelly Wilkins Grief is a rude bastard. You’re out there, doing your best, trying to adjust to a new, scary normal while it feels like you’ve just been…
By Kelly Wilkins
Grief is a rude bastard.
You’re out there, doing your best, trying to adjust to a new, scary normal while it feels like you’ve just been asked to juggle live chainsaws, and here comes Grief, with sounds, sights, and smells that kick off the memories that bring you to your knees. The only thing you get out of it is the urge to listen to your favorite sad songs and clogged sinuses.
Grief doesn’t take a breather for the holidays, either. Nope, it likes to settle in, getting nice and comfy, hanging around the background of every room, subtly reminding you it’s there, just waiting for your guests to leave.
What a bastard.
So what do you do? The answer to this question was actually in a book about housekeeping. I know, it sounds wacky, but stay with me.
Over the summer, a book kept cropping up in my autoimmune disease support groups called How To Keep House While Drowning, a book on compassionate approaches to dealing with housework. My sister actually sent me a copy of the book as a gift, so I can vouch for the wisdom contained in it. One of the most important things I learned is the concept that household chores are “value neutral” tasks. That is to say that accomplishing them or not accomplishing them doesn’t make you a good person or a bad person, they simply make you a person who has housekeeping tasks to do in your own way, and in your own time.
The act of grieving is value neutral, too. When you have grieving to do, it’s going to happen in its own time and its own way, regardless of the date on the calendar.
Grieving is still going to be value neutral during the holidays. If it helps, think of it like a psychic tummy bug. When you have one of those “everyone leave the building immediately” viruses, you know you need to treat yourself gently, to not overdo it, and to rest often. Some warm soup and a cozy blanket help, too.
Give yourself the time and space to grieve when you need to, even if it’s in the middle of your Auntie Edna’s Christmas party. You don’t have to force yourself to be holly, jolly, or any other kind of olly if you’re not feeling it, and it’s completely okay to leave early or keep your stay short. It’s okay to send your regrets during the bad times. It’s okay to not host the holiday party, or change the number of people invited. It’s okay to say “I’m sorry, I need a moment alone” when you need a moment alone.
Treat yourself with some kindness and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
The holidays can often remind us of what we don’t have, or what we’ve lost. It’s okay to grieve that loss during the holidays. Not all holidays will feel like this one, or the next one. And if you find that your old traditions aren’t working for you, feel free to create new ones that celebrate how far you’ve come, and the holidays you’ll look forward to in the future.
And the next time Grief turns up and puts its feet on the table, you’ll know how to deal with it, and you’ll be better at showing it the door when it becomes unwelcome.
Happy Holidays, and take care.
By Kristin Kalbli “After all, sex isn’t everything.” At various times throughout my 12-year marriage to a closeted gay man, I found myself saying those exact words: sex isn’t…
By Kristin Kalbli
“After all, sex isn’t everything.”
At various times throughout my 12-year marriage to a closeted gay man, I found myself saying those exact words: sex isn’t everything. “We are best friends!” I reasoned. “There’s so much we love to do together, surely I can overlook what’s not happening in our bedroom can’t I? Who am I to be so greedy as to want a robust sex life in addition to all the fun we’re already having as besties? Don’t be so demanding, sister. Nobody gets everything they want in a relationship. Sex isn’t everything.”
I’m well beyond divorced now, and although I’m no longer the person saying those words, I still hear it from other Straight Partners in Mixed Orientation Marriages. Most of the time this is spoken, the Straight Partner has recently learned that their spouse or partner is LGBT+, and they are still negotiating the new parameters of the relationship, including what will or will not happen in the bedroom.
“I love my wife/husband,” they say, “he/she is the best man/woman I know. Maybe we can still make this work. After all, sex isn’t everything…”
I am not here to question if you love your spouse, or if they are the best human being you know, or whether you can make it work (2/3 of Mixed Orientation Marriages will try to make it work post disclosure). All those things are possible. But I will enthusiastically question whether “sex is everything.” Of course, it’s not literally everything. There is affection, respect, communication, how well a couple co-parents together, how well they solve life’s daily predicaments together, from the large to the small. No, sex is not everything, but it is…a thing. Quite a significant thing.
And so is the lack of it.
I wonder where the idea that “sex isn’t everything” comes from. When we say it to ourselves, it seems designed to minimize our own desires, our own longing for intimacy, pleasure, and connection with our partner. Why are we making those things wrong? Is that some cultural belief grounded in (many forms of) religion that encourages us to keep ourselves in relationships at all costs? Is it promulgated by those who fear the disintegration of society if too many people get divorced? Is it designed to keep people obedient and willing to settle for less than they desire or deserve? For less than they truly need?
Of course, it is perfectly legitimate to decide that sex truly isn’t everything for you. Sexual appetites vary widely among humans, and not all of us have the sex drives of Samantha Jones or Steve Stiffler. And to the degree that sex is genuinely not that material a need for you, your Mixed Orientation Relationship may weather that particular deprivation rather well. The key is to ask yourself if “sex isn’t everything” to you? Is that your authentic belief? Is a healthy, fulfilling sex life part of your authentic value system? Part of your legitimate needs in a relationship? And is it something you authentically desire?
We get to question any ethos that tells us we are greedy or oversexed or high maintenance for unapologetically stating that yes, a robust and fun sex life is something I both need and desire. Those shaming voices are just more of our cultural baggage around sex. So many Straight Partners grapple with what sex and intimacy mean to us. And it’s a big damn deal because if we are in a marriage to someone who cannot meet our sexual needs and desires, and sex is a priority for us, then some scary decisions may have to be made. Decisions we may not be ready to face.
In my own marriage, the outings to quaint restaurants and cooking dinner together, walking our dogs, restoring our house, going to cocktail parties and occasional travel were enough for me for a while. Until they weren’t. In the end I left before I even knew for sure he was gay. Even though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I left because I came to realize that sex, sensuality, and pleasure are a huge part of how I express myself, my love, and how I build intimacy and connection with my partner. Frankly, without it, I was like a plant deprived of water – wilted, undernourished, and brittle. I was so bereft I thought I would crack apart and float away on a light breeze. You see, “sex isn’t everything” was indeed a belief, but it wasn’t my belief. It came from somewhere outside of me; and I needed to banish it back to wherever it came from.
I did eventually learn (years after our divorce) that my ex-husband was indeed gay. But in leaving before I knew for sure, I claimed what was true for me – that I wanted a fulfilling sex life whether my husband was gay or not. And by claiming that truth, by putting a stake in the ground for what I really wanted, even though that stand begot a brutal, harrowing divorce, I had a far greater chance of creating a life and a partnership in the future that could truly meet me in all the areas of life I wanted to be met, including in the bedroom.
By Kelly Wilkins “You know, you’re going to have to forgive him soon. You won’t be able to live with yourself otherwise.” I know this person meant well. I…
By Kelly Wilkins
“You know, you’re going to have to forgive him soon. You won’t be able to live with yourself otherwise.”
I know this person meant well. I know they wanted what they thought was best for me. But the presumption and the assumption in the comment made me seethe with anger. My ex-husband hadn’t even moved all of his things out of what was our house, and this person wanted to rush me into the forgiveness stage? I hadn’t even gotten through the shock and disbelief stage yet!
So, I said as much. “I may find myself capable of forgiving him one day, but that day is not today.”
Not today. In the course of my life as the heterosexual partner in a mixed orientation marriage that ended in divorce, I’ve had a lot of “not today”s.
When you’re the partner to someone who has come out of the closet, sometimes you get prying questions you’re not really prepared to respond to, or your heartfelt response isn’t the one people are expecting.
I’m here to tell you that that’s okay. You feel how you feel, and you get to reevaluate it on your own timeline.
Most often, the responses others want you to change are the negative ones. There’s a push to forgive, to excuse, to get over. Each one of these steps are important, and they can be healing, if you’re truly ready to take each step. But until then? Your journey is yours, and you aren’t on a clock. “Not today” acknowledges that your opinions and emotional needs may change over time and that you might change my mind, but no amount of arguing, advising, or cajoling is going to change it today, and that the discussion is off the table for now.
So, take the time you need to heal. We’re here to help.