Is Separation or Divorce More Difficult When Your Partner Comes out as Gay?
My long-term partner left me three years ago after declaring he was gay. We had been together for twenty years and had two children together, so the end of the relationship was a monumental change in my life. Even though there had been subtle signs throughout our relationship, I was completely shocked. I wasn't expecting it and I wasn't prepared for it, but suddenly everything had been turned on its head.
My partner quickly moved in with a man but insisted there was 'nothing in it' at the time, and that he wasn't in a relationship at all. However, it quickly became evident to me that they were, in fact, a couple - and probably had been for a while. Little hints sprang up, like traveling to Paris and Ireland together (even though they'd supposedly only just met and were landlord and tenant). Even many weeks before he moved out, I had discovered receipts from bars laying around the house, for just two drinks at a bar in London. That might not sound like much of a clue, but it was revealing to me. We don't live in London, and he'd given the impression he was going there 'with friends'. (The plural is the key here.) Usually, groups of men buy drinks in rounds, or just for themselves.
Eight months later, and fast forward through a very difficult period for me, they had married. I stayed in the house with the children, and have remained single ever since.
Many People Assumed it Must Be Much Harder
When I tell people the story of our breakup, especially the part about my ex-partner marrying a man, they often assume that it must be very hard for me. Some people are clearly shocked, some less so—but many people jump to the conclusion that the ordeal I have faced - the father of my children leaving me for someone of the same gender—must be much harder than if he had begun a new life with another woman. After all, that happens all the time, doesn't it? What I experienced was surely far, far worse, and on a whole new level.
That conclusion surprises me because while the separation itself was quite difficult, that was more to do with the practicalities of splitting from someone you have spent almost your entire adult life with than anything else. The fact that my partner made a life with a man, and not a woman, was not really a factor in terms of how difficult I found the process.
In fact, in many ways, it was actually easier.
No "Other Woman"
After all, since my partner left me for a man, and not a woman, it meant there was never any other woman to compare myself to; to wonder what it is that he sees in 'her' rather than me. It doesn't matter whether his new partner is younger, good-looking, charismatic, amazingly successful or whatever - quite simply, there is nothing about him that can make me, as a woman, feel inadequate in any way. Quite simply, he is a man, and I am not. There isn't even any sense of 'why did he leave?' because, really, that part was already answered. He came out as gay and found a male partner, and to analyse the situation any further is rather pointless to me.
Arguably, it is easier to move forward as a person when your partner leaves you for a gay relationship because there is less of a conundrum over whether or not the pair of you can go back and make it work again.
"If they split up, will he come back?"
"Does he really love her?"
"Is it just lust?"
"Does he want me back?"
All of those questions are much less of an issue. At least they were for me because I didn't feel it was possible to turn back, whatever happened.
What Do I Think of My Partner's Husband?
The truth is, when I meet my ex-partner's new husband, it feels as though I am chatting with a casual friend; someone on the outskirts of my social circle. Perhaps surprisingly, it doesn't feel difficult, and I don't really feel a sense of betrayal. After all, even if their marriage doesn't last, there won't be any going backward. My ex-partner and I are on friendly terms; I think that we will always be friends because of our connection with the children and our shared past. In a sense, I am still the woman in his life, because I am the mother of his only children.
I'm Still the Only Mother Figure
For me, that is the easiest point of all. I know that one aspect I would find really difficult if my ex-partner was with another woman would be that extra maternal influence on my children. Thousands of women hand their children over to fathers with new female partners every week - but I find it hard to imagine that. Thankfully, it's not something that is likely to affect me.
The truth is, I don't want someone else to act like a mother to my children. I don't want another woman to kiss them goodnight, or to be the first to see them in the morning as they come downstairs dreary eyed, asking for breakfast. I don't want another woman sorting out their clothes, or picking them up from school, or any of that other stuff. Maybe that's selfish - I don't know how other mothers feel about it, but for me, it would be the hardest part of all.
For me, it's much easier when no other woman is involved. I know, if I sent my children to stay with their father and he had a new wife, that I would definitely compare the two of us, especially with regards to parenting. I think, at least at first, that I would sense an inner hostility; a jealously bubbling away underneath.
Rightly or wrongly, being 'Mum' is my job. No one else's.
A Different Kind of Relationship
The relationship between my children's father and our sons is totally different to the one they share with me. They talk about 'man' stuff - gadgets, computing, fast cars; all the topics I usually avoid. And they talk in a different way. This is also true for the communication they share with my ex's husband. No one is acting like "another mum." In that sense, there is no comparison—I am still the only mother-figure in my children's lives; the only one with that maternal touch and viewpoint, and that looks unlikely to change. And that makes me feel much more relaxed about the whole situation.
Much more so than if my ex was with a woman.