Dear Prudence

I’m a Straight Woman Who Married a Gay Man

I’m worried he’ll leave me for a man.

Torso of woman looking indecisive with arms crossed
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,

I met my husband 13 years ago, and we’ve been together ever since. We fell deeply, madly in love with each other and have been married for nine wonderful years now. He’s patient, kind, gentle-hearted. He’s also always been honest about being gay and has never hidden it from me. Only one of our mutual friends knows this about my husband. Our son also knows, since we thought it would be best to remain open with him about it, so he never “found out” by surprise or from our mutual friend. Our son took the news very well and doesn’t care that his father was gay.

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I’ve never told my family, or really any of my friends, as I think they’d all be judgmental. My siblings don’t like my husband, but that’s a different letter in itself. So I’ve always kept it bottled up inside. He’s been married before, and divorced, to a straight woman, with whom he has a grown daughter. I’m a straight woman too. I’ve asked my husband about it, and he confirms that he’s gay, not bisexual. He left his first wife because of a lot of problems (and her infidelity). Then he was in a few different relationships with other men, before he met his ex-boyfriend. They were still living together when we met. I’m confused by it all, and it has, at times, caused problems in our marriage, because of my lack of self-confidence. I have doubts that he might leave me someday for a gay relationship like he did his ex-wife. We’ve both been faithful to each other, and he loves me, and I love him. But is that good enough for him? Would you consider him bisexual or gay?

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—Not-Quite-Lavender Marriage

I think your husband quite clearly considers himself gay, which is far more relevant to your marriage than my assessment of his sense of self. The question of how he sees his gayness in relation to his two marriages to women, specifically his current marriage to you, is both more salient and open-ended, so I’d suggest you start by asking him to share more of his thoughts on the subject with you. That will get you a lot further than trying to figure out if your husband is “really” bisexual (and, implicitly, whether that means you can safely hope he won’t leave you for someone else) or “really” gay (and, implicitly, whether you have to fear that he’s going to break up with you for another man).

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Your decision not to share sensitive information with your disapproving relatives strikes me as a sound one, but I hope you can eventually find an alternative between keeping everything bottled up and inviting your hidebound family to cast judgment on your marriage. Finding a therapist, dropping in on a few PFLAG meetings, looking for ways to connect with other affirming straight spouses in mixed-orientation marriages (in-person or online), and disclosing to one or two other friends whose judgments you trust might all go a long way toward making you feel less alone. I can’t promise you that your marriage is sufficiently “good enough” that your husband might never leave or cheat on you, nor do I think the possibility that he might want to be with another man at some point in the future will be an indicator that your marriage (or you) weren’t “good enough.” His gayness isn’t something you can neutralize by being a sufficiently good or extra-loving wife. It’s something you two should discuss openly and often between yourselves, and at least some of the time with an outside party who can help you gather your thoughts, clarify your goals and desires, and figure out how best to care for each other.

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Help! My Partner Questions Every Little Thing I Do.

Danny M. Lavery is joined by Rax King on this week’s episode of the Dear Prudence podcast.

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Dear Prudence,

My husband is completely addicted to his phone, yet doesn’t seem to see any problem with it. He starts scrolling in bed immediately upon waking up, usually for an hour, before coming downstairs (where I am) and scrolling more. He doesn’t really pay attention to what I’m doing. Every few minutes he’ll show me a video or talk about what he’s reading, but he doesn’t pay attention to whatever I’m doing. If I’m doing something else, he’ll get annoyed that I’m not sharing his excitement about whatever’s occupying him on his phone. But I don’t want him to read whatever’s on his phone to me! I want to have a conversation where he doesn’t look things up constantly (especially when we have a disagreement and he needs to figure out whether I’m right or wrong immediately).

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I try to treat my own phone like a landline. I leave it one place and respond to texts or whatever else once in a while. I’m not on social media. To be honest, I hate my phone and only keep it because I need it for work and navigation. I get that smartphones are hard to put down. That’s why I make a point to stay away from mine for much of the day. But my husband won’t, and it’s starting to really bother me. I have addressed this with him, but he brushes my concerns off. I hate the idea that we’ll be 75 someday, in our rocking chairs, and all he’ll want to do is show me videos of someone else doing something cool. What can I do to get through to him? He has hobbies and interests that take him away from the screen, but once they’re over, it’s right back to it.

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—Married to a Screen

Several small-scale compromises spring immediately to mind: Don’t worry about convincing him to see everything from your point of view! Try to agree on a set time each day that you’ll both put your phones away and take a walk or have a conversation! Insist on a “no phones out while we’re fighting” rule! But I’m reluctant to emphasize any of them because it’s possible this isn’t just a question of negotiating with pleasant but time-wasting distractions so much as a widening gap in values and interests between the two of you. If you “dread” the idea of being 75 and relating to each other the same way you do now, if your ideal lifestyle is one without smartphones of any kind, if you’ve tried to address this with your husband more than once without making any progress, it might also be worth asking yourself if there are deeper issues here as well.

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The small-scale compromises are worth trying, I think, but keep an eye on your own response. If an hour of phone-free time every afternoon effects real, lasting change and you find you’re able to reconnect with your husband, that’s wonderful. Then do your best not to monitor or keep track of how often he checks his phone in other moments. But if the compromises feel grudgingly given, if they only serve to highlight how primary your husband’s attachment to his phone is and how secondary his attachment to you, then you might want to start talking seriously about your respective visions for the future and whether those visions have much in common.

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Dear Prudence,

I am fully vaccinated! That should be exciting, but is actually causing me stress because while I look like a healthy woman in her 20s, I have a medical condition that puts me in a priority group. I don’t want to share my medical history with colleagues and acquaintances, so I haven’t been telling anyone other than close friends. Recently I was awkwardly backed into telling an acquaintance about my medical condition, when she found out that I was vaccinated and started quizzing me about how I qualified. I am not looking forward to having this conversation dozens of times over the next six months. I know that I shouldn’t feel obligated to tell anyone about my medical history, but I also don’t want people to think I cut in line or make guesses about my health. (The acquaintance assumed I was pregnant, since that qualifies you in my state.)

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—Opposite of Vaccine FOMO

Perhaps your acquaintance was having an uncharacteristically rude day, but if anyone ever says anything to you like “I heard you got vaccinated. Are you pregnant or something?” then you should not concern yourself for a moment by worrying what they might think or guess about you. Other people’s unreasonable expectations are not your responsibility to manage, nor is someone else’s presumptuous curiosity your responsibility to satisfy. Anyone who hears someone say something like “I’m not interested in discussing my medical history with you today, thanks” and thinks Wow, she must have swindled somebody is making a wildly unreasonable leap. Let them leap where they like! It’s really, really not their business. Act freely and without obligation. The obligation does not exist.

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Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit YouGet it from Slate

More Advice From How to Do It

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