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LIVING LA VIDA LIMBO (April, 2001)
Let’s discuss married gay men who won’t leave the marriage or for that matter, won’t leave the closet. This is a subject that can never be talked about enough because it seems to be a stumbling block for so many of us who can’t get our husbands to “come clean” with the truth about their homosexuality. I receive so many letters each month from women who are sure about their husbands but fear confronting them. But I also get letters from women who do confront their husbands with evidence in hand and get denials with distorted truths giving excuses such as “Those pictures belonged to a co-worker,” or “I have no clue how those websites got on our computer.”
For those women whose husbands eventually tell you the truth, count yourselves as lucky even though you may not feel that way at the time. No doubt hearing the word gay is devastating, but not hearing it is even worse. This month alone, I have received 32 letters from women who asked me for advice because their husbands or ex-husbands will not admit to their homosexuality. These women know the truth. They have stumbled on it one way or another. It has smacked them in the face through hidden websites, email, pornography, letters, hotel receipts, phone bills, etc. And yet, their husbands just keep lying or denying. They are not ready to be honest--and may never be ready. Some men will never be ready to accept their homosexuality because it is too painful or embarrassing.
These are the men whom I call the “Limbo Men.” Their whole lives are lived in limbo. They are emotionally straight, but physically gay. They never feel totally comfortable in either world, but they are much more comfortable “passing” in the straight world where they are accepted as part of mainstream society.
All married gay men go through “limbo” for a period of time. In otherwords, they are stuck in between both worlds hoping that by wanting the straight world badly enough they will be able to “cross over” into it. They keep thinking that if they play the role long enough, they will become transformed into the part, not just play the part as an actor. But the Limbo Men I place in this category are different from other gay men who eventually come to terms with themselves. They are even different than the gay men who are staying in their marriages but who acknowledge they are gay, at least on some level.
The real Limbo Men have no sense of remorse for what they are doing to their wives. In fact, they often feel as if they are the victims and strike back at their wives in an emotional or physically abusive manner. They blame their wives for their unhappiness and never have a clue about the damage they are doing to these women whom they promised to love, cherish, and respect. They place the blame of their unhappiness on their wives, when in fact, there is nothing that their wives could possibly do to make them feel happy or fulfilled. Their wives are women, and they are gay men.
These are the men who will never leave their marriages. They will stay there until the day they die, leading a painful existence and sharing that pain with their wives. More specifically, pouring that pain upon their wives. We all know that misery loves company, and these men are happy to make you as miserable as they are.
So often, these “Limbo Men” husbands luck out. They have wives who are much kinder and more understanding than average. These are the women who will keep trying every little trick in the book thinking someday they will get their husbands hooked. The women live an accepted existence, looking for the crumbs in the marriage while trying to turn those crumbs into a cake. It is truly a tragedy and waste of human life.
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A TRIBUTE TO VIVIEN LEIGH AND ALL OF THE OTHER NYMPHOMANIACS OUT THERE
A few years ago, I was watching a television special on Vivien Leigh, deceased mega-movie star best known for her role as Scarlet O’Hara in the 1939 movie saga, “Gone With the Wind.” As the story went on about her life, there was mention of the word “nymphomaniac.” The story continued about the years of depression and mental illness she endured and her tragic death after losing her battle to tuberculosis.
When I heard the word “nymphomaniac,” it grabbed my attention and brought back some very troubling emotions. The word is derogatory for certain. When people call others this name, it is a name of shame, not admiration. I know this because I had heard this word too many times through my marriage to my gay husband. And yes, it took its toll on my self-confidence as a woman. No woman likes to be accused of being a sexually demanding partner. It is degrading to think that there is something wrong with you when you think that your sexual needs are normal.
Through the years, I heard many other women express their feelings of shame over this accusation. Of course, by then I knew the deal. I knew this was a way for some gay husbands to make their wives feel abnormal enough that they would stop asking for sex. This accusation usually came when they were running out of headache excuses to avoid the physical interaction that was being increasingly difficult to pull off.
When I investigated further about Vivien Leigh’s life, I learned that the love of her life was Sir Lawrence Olivier. Olivier was gay or as some men like to call themselves, “Bisexual.” Was I surprised to find this? No not at all. It was so much easier to label Leigh a “nymphomaniac than to understand the real problem—her husband’s homosexuality.
I understand this. I know what it’s like to be told that the fault for bad sex in a marriage is my fault. My husband used to say that I was too demanding or too pushy when it came to wanting sex. I remember what it feels like to be told that wanting sex as much as I wanted it was “abnormal.” I couldn’t understand why once or twice a week was “excessive” for a newly married couple. I would voice this concern only to be shot down with more insults. When my husband saw that I wasn’t backing off, he resorted to calling me the worst name of all…nymphomaniac. That quickly put to rest any thoughts for a night of passion. It belittled me enough not to ask again. So sex (not lovemaking) deteriorated quickly within that first year and I became too ashamed to suggest or approach it.
I learned through conditioning that I was much too “aggressive” in that area, so I stepped back and retreated.
Yep, it hurt like hell. I think this is one of the worst parts of being a wife of a gay man. It slowly strips away from you one of the most important parts of being a woman. You start to believe that you are inadequate as a lover. After all, if you were a good lover, your husband would want you, right? Well, we know in these cases, wrong, but while we’re living this way, it’s hard to keep it in perspective.
Getting back to Vivien Leigh, the more I researched her life, the angrier I became. It is common knowledge that she suffered from mental depression. She went through a series of shock treatments and was labeled manic/depressive.
Sir Lawrence Olivier finally left her twenty plus years into their marriage saying he could no longer deal with her mental state. It seems to fit the prototype of so many of our own marriages. Some biographers attribute her depression to her tuberculosis, as explained away by some medical practitioners. I guess back in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the medical field wasn’t aware of the mentally debilitating state of straight wives married to gay men. I’m sure there weren’t any support groups around for women in this position.
It’s interesting that so many of the women I hear from and work with are also taking medication for depression. Even more interesting is the fact that none of them are suffering from tuberculosis. Rather, they are depressed because they feel like they are failures in their lives and marriages. They can’t please their husbands no matter how hard they try, and they place the blame on themselves. Even after they know the real problem in their marriage, they continue to be depressed internalizing the blame. We may rationalize intellectually it’s not our fault, but on some level, our intellect is clouded by irrational emotional feelings of responsibility. .
. If Vivien Leigh were alive today, no doubt she would have much greater support in her struggle to understand why her marriage failed, why she was depressed, and why she was a normal woman with normal sexual desires. The love of her life went on to marry some other love in his life after the marriage ended. How that marriage worked out is a mystery.
So the next time you see a movie with Vivien Leigh, realize that we hold a common bond with her. Let her serve as an example of what can happen to a woman when she lives her life in a maze of distortion. And let us also learn from her tragedy and seek professional help to put our lives on track lest we end up spending wasted years on medications that don’t change the source of our unhappiness.