Before I get to the answer to this important (and confusing) issue, I want to share my excitement with you that in just 3 days from now, my new confidential, online Community for partners will officially launch! Partners from 8 states in the U.S. and one international member have already joined.*
The Partner’s Healing & Empowerment Online Community will be a space for you to:
- Gain clarity and confidence through connecting with other partners dealing with the same issues you’re facing.
- Reduce the isolation and loneliness that are a by-product of betrayal and addiction.
- Increase your current set of skills and capabilities through learning from the collective wisdom of Forum Members as well as access to an addiction and trauma specialist.
- Feel more empowered because you have the support and information you need.
Now to the question:
My team and I have been busy putting the final touches on the Community website for its Monday launch, and I just completed the Frequently Asked Questions for Partners section. In the FAQ section I answer questions like this one, as well as others regarding disclosure, couples sexual reintegration, and how to talk to children about addiction.
So here’s a sneak peek into some of the great content in the Community, and the answer to a question that haunts partners when the addict in their life engages in sexual activity with someone of the same gender:
My partner has had same-sex sexual encounters. Is he/she gay or bi-sexual?
If you’re in a heterosexual relationship and you discover that your spouse has been sexual or has acted out with someone of the same gender, you likely feel confused and hurt. You may even lose interest in being with your partner sexually because of his/her sexual activities with someone of the same sex.
There are a variety of reasons unfaithful spouses choose to be sexual with someone of the same gender—other than same-sex attraction. Past trauma (including childhood sexual abuse), easier access to same-sex partners, and rationalization are just a few.
Some people “re-enact” past traumas as part of their addictive behavior. They may unconsciously create situations or scenes that closely resemble an event (or a repeated event) in the past when they were sexually abused. If the past abuse was perpetrated by someone of the same sex, in a re-enactment the person will likely seek out the same type of person. When re-enactment is part of an addict’s pattern of acting out, it is important for him/her to seek the help of a mental health professional trained in the treatment of trauma.
If the addict is male, it is often easier to find another man to be sexual with. Or the addict may feel less fearful about being rejected when approaching a man for sex.
Lastly, because addiction always involves rationalization and minimization, the addict may believe that their sexual infidelity will be less painful to their partner if they’re sexual with a man rather than a woman (if they’re in a heterosexual relationship). This is a classic example of the distorted thinking that goes hand-in-hand with addiction.
Of course, there are times when addicts choose to be sexual with someone of the same gender due to confusion or internal conflict about their sexual orientation. When that is the case, it’s important that they seek professional help to assist them in resolving any internal conflicts related to their feelings of sexual attraction.
Regardless of the reasons an unfaithful spouse chooses to engage sexually with someone of the same gender, their choice is in no way a reflection on their partner or their partner’s worth. And in many cases, there is little—if any—confusion on the spouse’s part as to his sexual orientation.
For more information about heterosexual spouses engaging in same-sex sexual activities, see Chapter 12 of Mending a Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addicts (“Straight Guise: Is My Partner Gay?”), edited by Stefanie Carnes, or Joe Kort’s book, Is My Husband Gay, Straight, or Bi?: A Guide for Women Concerned about Their Men.
(*Thrive Community for Women 2016-2021)
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© Vicki Tidwell Palmer, LCSW (2016)
All submitted comments are subject to editing to protect confidentiality and maintain anonymity.