When individuals with same-sex attraction marry a person of the opposite sex before they have worked through issues related to same-sex attraction, the couple may face complex difficulties. This is compounded if the partner with same-sex attraction is also struggling with additional issues such as depression, anxiety, or sexual addiction. The non-same-sex attraction spouse may have also brought emotional or psychological issues into the marriage.
In most cases, it is helpful or even vital to the success of the marriage that the non-same-sex attraction spouse receive professional counseling to help them understand their same-sex attraction partner, to work through psychological issues that come from being in such a marriage, and to heal any emotional wounds they carry from before the marriage.
It has been our experience in most cases that when the spouse of an individual in therapy doesn’t aggressively engage in their own therapy a rift eventually emerges in the partnership. Typically, this is because the partner in therapy progresses through their issues more quickly while the other partner continues to experience emotional or psychological issues such as hurt, betrayal, mistrust, or pain from the marriage or their own traumatic early-life experiences. This imbalance may create conflict and resentment between the partners, slowing down and complicating the healing process. It is typical in such cases that the therapy sessions of partner in therapy become focused on these problems, increasing the length and cost of their work.
If the same-sex attraction partner has been involved in homosexual behavior that the non-same-sex attraction spouse is not aware of, disclosure of this behavior is usually a necessary part of the healing process. This disclosure should occur once the non-same-sex attraction spouse has appropriate support, which may include a friend or family member with whom they can share their feelings and should include a counselor who can help them work through the emotional and psychological impact of the disclosure. Initial disclosure tends to be most successful if it is general and gradual, unless a therapist advises otherwise.
We highly recommend that the same-sex attraction partner and the spouse work with different therapists who share a hopeful perspective about resolving the couple’s issues, who practice using similar therapeutic modalities, and who engage in a team approach. For many couples it is also important that, at some point, they work together with a marriage therapist who has experience counseling couples with this issue.