Over the weekend I watched an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Although the plot went in another direction, the first victim and another guy were married men with children who had sex with guys on the side; I guess they were sort of on what we call the "downlow." I always thought the downlow was an African-American phenomenon but the two guys on the program were both Caucasian. Did Law and Order take some dramatic license here or what? Anon.
Although "being on the downlow" is a term that has been used within the African-American community to describe men who lead straight lives but who have sex with men on a regular basis, this type of behavior is certainly not limited to the African-American community. Neither is it a recent phenomenon. There are, sadly, even in this day and age, gay/bi men of all ethnicities and backgrounds who are ashamed of their homosexual feelings and want to come off as straight to their families and the world at large while indulging their sexual appetites with the men they truly desire. Their internalized homophobia prevents them from exploring or giving in to any romantic feelings they may have for other men. They occasionally go to gay bars, but more often they haunt online gay dating sites, occasionally calling themselves "married bi's" because it sounds better than "self-hating closet case."
One of the characters on the episode you mentioned told the cops that he "loved his wife and children." This is often a true statement with men like that, but they generally don't have strong romantic or sexual passion for their wives. Their wives may be their pals or best friends (as well as the mothers of their children), but the main reason they love them is because these women are the bedrock of the closet that their husbands hide in; they (supposedly) prevent the world at large from identifying these self-hating homos as "fags." And, boy, are these guys grateful!
In any case, being on the downlow is not a healthy situation in any sense of the word.