I get many, many emails from women who reach out because of the intense pain they are feeling when their husband leaves them for another woman. Among other emotions, they tell me they are in shock, devastated, angry, scared, resentful, bitter, and beyond sad and upset. They are feeling very alone, their life shattered, and left to think about their husband in a new, blissful relationship, while they feel abandoned and trying to explain to the kids what the heck just happened. The anger burns in some of these women and they feel hurt, betrayed and hopeless.
So when I learned from a woman I met a couple days ago that her husband left her because he realized he was gay, it really made me stop and think. I wondered if she was feeling what some of these other women feel. Are the feelings of hurt, betrayal, hopelessness, fear, anger, bitterness, devastation, and sadness the same? Yes and no? Are they similar but different?
In talking briefly with her, she said that like any woman whose husband leaves (for whatever reason) it turned her life upside down. She didn’t know what she was supposed to do, she was scared, felt alone, abandoned, and hurt. She also said she felt like she maybe she wasn’t good enough, which was disheartening for me to hear (and which I will address).
I will start off my advice to women in this situation with a disclaimer because I think it is important: I can only speculate/write about how I would feel if it happened to me. In other words, I can’t give advice firsthand because I have never been in this situation. I also don’t want anyone to think my advice is right or wrong, it’s just how I think i would feel, put it this situation.
First of all, regardless of whether a man leaves his wife for another woman or another man or for any reason, it is hurtful, it is scary, and it can make someone angry and resentful, the mindset being that perhaps they “wasted” decades of their life with this person, and now they are alone possibly at 40 or 50 or 60 something.
I think a big difference in a man leaving for another woman versus leaving for another man is that if you think about it, how can you really be angry? I mean maybe at the beginning you would be, but if you really think about it, how can you remain angry with a man for admitting who he is? And, how can you really take it personally? We can’t change who we are in our core, so I have to believe that this woman’s husband was feeling tortured internally, and that he was most likely living a lie and suffering for many years (who even knows how long?) but felt trapped and obligated to stay with his family. I feel so so sorry for this woman, but I also feel incredibly sad for her ex. Can you imagine the guilt he feels?
One question I was considering is, Is it easier if your husband leaves you for another man? In other words, if you don’t hate him is that easier? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it’s easier to get over someone you hate, who you can say did the lowest of the low by cheating and leaving you for another woman. If it’s a man, you might be understanding, and it might make you love him still, and feel even more hopeless.
It’s kind of a coincidence that the night before I met this woman who told me her story, I had been watching a new Showtime documentary about the life of the late George Michael. In the show, which was narrated by Michael before he died suddenly in 2016, he talks about how he much he suffered while trying to hide being gay.
He explained that one Christmas, he had to go home and see his family, and not only did they not know he was gay, but they didn’t know he had met the love of his life, Anselmo Feleppo, and that Feleppo was awaiting results of an HIV test, which turned out to be positive, AIDS ultimately taking his life. A close friend of Michael’s described Michael as “missing a couple layers of skin” because he wounded so easily.
Being a writer and caring so much about words, I am a huge George Michael fan, and think his songs were absolutely beautifully written, with words that only someone who felt these things so deeply is capable of writing. Careless Whisper, Father Figure, One More Try, Kissing a Fool, I Knew You Were Waiting; all of these hit songs came from Michael’s emotions and experiences of which he had this amazing gift to be able to put into melodies and lyrics.
I can’t even begin to imagine the torture and pain he was going through not being able to express who he really was to the world for fear of being judged or losing his career or feeling judged. It saddens me for Michael, for this woman’s husband, and for any couple who split up because one of the people realized they were gay.
When someone is left by their spouse it hurts, no matter what the circumstances are. It kills, actually. But I do believe that if a man leaves for another man or because he is gay, in a way that might make a person feel differently–perhaps a little less angry and hateful over time.
Yes, he made a commitment the day he said “I do.” Yes, he had a family he abandoned. Yes, he lived a lie for a long time. But should you say “Yes, he should have tried harder not to be gay?” No.
My advice to any woman whose husband leaves for another man is that I feel your pain–just as I feel the pain for anyone whose spouse leaves, but try to be understanding. Most importantly, DO NOT EVER take it personally. It doesn’t matter if you look Angelina Jolie’s twin. It was not you. Say that 20 times a day. “It was not me.” There was nothing you could have done. It’s not because you weren’t a good wife and or a good mother. It’s because he wasn’t who he himself thought he was.
Now, could someone argue that you could say the entire paragraph above if your husband left you for another woman? I think so in some cases. But in the case of someone realizing they are gay, these things are a certainty.
As I am getting into my fifties I am realizing how short and precious life really is, and not living your authentic life is truly a waste. So, if you are gay you are gay. It’s unfortunate that people and families are hurt by the divorce, but what is worse? Living a lie and feeling trapped and inauthentic? Sadly, and although I think it is hurtful to the wife and family, I think so.
Here is the good news for this woman. She now has a chance to share her life someday with a man who really wants her. Doesn’t she deserve that? Of course she does.
George Michael died at the age of 53 in his sleep of natural causes. I didn’t know him personally, but I played his songs over and over again when I was in my early twenties and I think his talent was very very special, with his lyrics truly exhibiting a kindness and gentleness.
My gut tells me he was a good guy. It seems as if he just wanted to be loved. He starved for it. He found it and then found the courage to admit it. I bet Michael didn’t regret anything when it came to his relationship, except for waiting so long to admit to the world who he truly was. Maybe that’s a comforting thought to a woman whose husband left for another man. Because I really believe that one of life’s greatest joys is being with someone you adore and love, and I think any good person deserves that. Does that include your ex-husband? It’s something to think about it.
Like this post? Check out my article, “6 Pieces of Advice For The Person Who Was Left”