As LGBT rights have gained acceptance in Florida and throughout the U.S., it has become more common to learn about a spouse in an opposite-sex marriage – sometimes a long-term marriage – come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. There is a term for marriage where one spouse is straight and the other spouse is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender: Mixed Orientation Marriages. The term can also be applied to same-sex marriages where one of the spouses is bisexual or gender fluid.
Transcending Boundaries, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides education, activism, and support for persons whose sexuality, gender, sex, or relationship styles do not fit within conventional categories, has published a brochure that discusses and provides resources for those spouses in Mixed Orientation Marriages.
The brochures says the following about Mixed Orientation Marriages:
The evolution of a mixed orientation marriage becomes more complicated the further into the relationship the couple becomes aware of the same sex attraction. Ideally the bisexual discussion should happen closer to the first date but sometimes occurs much later in the relationship perhaps after discovery of gay porn after 15 years of marriage or the “I am bisexual” talk after 30 years of marriage. In all cases the relationship dynamics are changed and a process needs to be gone through where the relationship is reinvented to reflect the two partners’ variations in sexual orientations. Voluntary disclosure or discovery also has an effect on trust issues which often must also be resolved.
What happens to mixed orientation relationships after discovery or disclosure?
There is no doubt there are many challenges when one’s sexuality does not match their partner’s. Typically there are several possible outcomes which include:
-Immediate separation or divorce
-Periods of struggle with several possible outcomes:
a) A period of struggle ending in separation and divorce.
b) A period of struggle that continues with years of continuing struggle.
c) A period of struggle that progresses to a vibrant wonderful relationship.
-Immediate acceptance of the bisexual partner.
While immediate acceptance seems to be the ideal the reality is most mixed orientation marriages go through a period of struggle as the dynamics of the new relationship are worked out. Ideally they progress to a solution that leaves everyone happy with the outcome and a renewed enthusiasm for a wonderful future together.
What are some strategies for a successful Mixed Orientation Marriage?
-Approach the situation as friends and partners.
-Brush up on communication skills.
-Allow for lots of time. A good marriage is worth a few years of hard work to ensure future decades of success.
-Understand there will be periods of forward progress and occasional step back for adjustments of emotional attitudes with our intellectual attitudes.
-Accept that progress will often be measured in baby steps.
-Have some sort of support network, either counselling or a support group.
-Acceptance of non-heterosexual partner’s sexuality.
–Work out a way for the bi/gay/lesbian partner to fulfill their same sex needs.
-Both spouses’ needs should be part of the solution. Your goal is to find mutual happiness.
-Be kind to each other.
Transcending Boundaries has also published a Spanish-language version of its brochure.
If it turns out the marriage is truly irretrievably broken, the spouses should seriously consider reaching a marital settlement agreement via the collaborative divorce process. This is a private form of dispute resolution where intimate personal details remain confidential and out of the public courthouse and court file.
Collaborative divorce is a non-adversarial process where each party has his or her own attorney retained for the limited purpose of reaching an out-of-court agreement. The process oftentimes involves a neutral mental health professional and neutral financial professional; this is so that not only the legal, but also the emotional and financial fallout from divorce are addressed in a respectful atmosphere.
If you have questions about your Florida LGBT family law rights or want to learn more about collaborative divorce, schedule a consultation with Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.
Adam B. Cordover now practices exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution. He has proudly served Tampa Bay’s LGBT family law needs and is a strong proponent of respectful resolutions of family disputes.