Monday, November 9, 2009

Letting Go and Moving On

I am a gay man and I have a platonic friend, another gay man in his early forties, who has come out of the closet and left his wife. Well, let's say the two are divorced, but he never really left. They do everything but live together. My friend badly wants to be in a committed relationship with a man, but I've told him that any guy he gets serious about is going to be a bit put-off by all the time he spends with his wife, [Everytime I go over to his place she's there!] which has already happened more than once. He says he's fully accepted that he's gay, totally gay, and he and his wife have become good friends, which is fine as far as it goes. What can I say to him to make him understand that it's okay to be friends with the ex-wife but that he needs to keep boundaries if he's ever going to move on. By the way, they have no children. Anon.

I can see what the problem is here and it's a common one in these situations. Often when mixed marriages end because one partner comes out, it's the straight spouse who has trouble moving on -- but sometimes it's both of them.

Your friend was in the closet for quite a few years, I imagine, and now in middle age he's part of a whole new community. It's understandable that he would still need his wife's friendship [and often what couples in these mixed marriages have going for them is friendship and little else] because he's still testing the waters. The wife was probably his best friend for many years, and still is. The trouble is that while he's looking for a new relationship, she may still be in love with the guy and is reluctant to move on. The fact that she's at his place all the time indicates that she still needs to be in his life, but there's a difference between being part of someone's life and clinging to someone who wants and needs to move on. It's good that they're friends, but you're right that boundaries need to be set. As they have no children together, there is no reason for her to be hanging out with him excessively.

I assume from what you say that a couple of budding relationships ended because the wife was around a little too much and made the guys he was dating uncomfortable. That's understandable. Any man who wants to enter into a relationship with your friend needs to know that a.) the wife is over him and is not going to be a problem and b.) he's over his wife and is ready to move on with someone new, specifically a man.

His ex-wife needs to start dating. Know any single straight guys? You might have your friend suggest that his wife contact the Straight Spouse Network, whose whole purpose is to give support to heterosexuals who are or were married to gays.

Also understand that your friend probably feels a great deal of guilt. Coming out for him was a reason to celebrate; but it was probably devastating for his wife. He married this woman under false pretenses, and he doesn't want to blow her off because he already feels bad enough for what he's "done" to her. At the same time, they have both got to understand and accept that the "romantic" part of their relationship is over.

Both of them can find happiness with new people while remaining good friends, a happy result that often comes about when mixed marriages come to an end. Hopefully your friend will realize that sooner than later.

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