Why Do Gay People Marry Straight Partners?

(Author not attributed)

Some gay men marry heterosexual partners because getting married is what we all learned is the ‘right’ thing to do. Our culture is geared toward heterosexual married relationships, and gay people, like their heterosexual brothers, want to fit in and do the right thing.

Some Gay men who marry partners of the opposite sex do so in the hope that they will get over their homosexual feelings. That was exactly what Edward, a friend of mine, expected when he married Katherine. “We were both young,” said Edward, “and neither of us knew anything about homosexuality. I even told Katherine that I had these feelings but the psychiatrist I was seeing reassured me I would get over it, and the best thing I could do was to get married and have children.” Shortly after the birth of their second daughter, six years into their marriage, and after ten years of seeing the same psychiatrist, Edward left his wife.

“I didn’t get over it,” said Edward. “In fact, by the time I left Katherine and fired the psychiatrist I couldn’t have been more certain that I was gay and that my psychiatrist was a quack.”

Edward’s experience is not uncommon. This belief is still around today.

Some gay men enter heterosexual marriages for cover, hoping to fulfil family and professional expectations. Some don’t tell their opposite-sex spouses beforehand. Some do, and these include a number of closeted gay celebrities who have made arrangements, financial and otherwise, with opposite-sex spouses to enter marriage.

Sometimes gay men marry heterosexual people for love, friendship and companionship. Sometimes the gay spouse informs the heterosexual partner prior to the marriage and other times not. I know several gay male/heterosexual female marriages in which the wife knew prior to marriage that their husbands were gay, including one marriage that has lasted for several decades.

Many gay men at the time of their marriage are either in denial about their sexuality or are simply not fully aware of their sexual feelings. Many years later, after 20, 30 years or more of living a ‘Straight Lifestyle’ their authentic sexuality emerges and can no longer be denied.


According to Amity Pierce Buxton, author of The Other Side of the Closet, a book about the coming out crisis for heterosexual spouses of gay men, heterosexual spouses greet the disclosure as a denial of the relationship. “Shocked spouses,” she writes, “typically feel rejected sexually and bereft of the mates that they thought they had and although relieved to know the reason behind changes in the partner’s behaviour or problems in marital sex, most feel hurt, angry and helpless. And though their homosexual partners most often feel relief stepping out of the closet, and are likely to receive support from other gay people, the heterosexual spouses suddenly find themselves in a closet of their own, fearful of telling anyone the truth about their gay spouse.”


According to Buxton, although a number of couples succeed in preserving the marriage, the majority do not. Despite sincere efforts, the sexual disparity coupled with competition for the partner’s attention or unconventional, and for some immoral, arrangements eventually become intolerable for most spouses. Those men who leave heterosexual marriages frequently report feeling emotionally liberated and at last able to be their authentic self. However, leaving a marriage carries with it much emotional pain and distress to every member of the family as well as social and financial disruption. Often, the later the marriage breaks up the more costly it is likely to be in both financial and emotional terms.