Psychology, 2010, 1, 106-112
doi:10.4236/psych.2010.12014 Published Online June2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
Dialectics between Splitting and Integrating in the
Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men
Adital Ben-Ari, Adir Adler
School of Social Work University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel.
Email: {mselizur, mseba},
Received February 26th, 2010; revised April 16th, 2010; accepted April 18th, 2010.
Mixed-orientation marriage is usually an invisible phenomenon , but its frequency is not insignifica nt. The present paper
describes and examines the experiences of 13 heterosexually married gay men, seven of whose wives were aware and
six who were unaware of their husbands’ homosexuality. We take the insiders’ perspective as a point of departure to
develop a conceptual model that may contribute to our understanding of the constructed reality of this relatively unex-
plored phenomen on. The findings show that life in a mixed-o rientation marriage can be unde rstood along a continuum
running between two poles: splitting and integrating. This continuum corresponds to the fundamental question in the
lives of heterosexu ally married gay men: Is integration between homosexu ality and heterosexu a l marriage possible, an d
if so, how?
Keywords: Qualitative Research, Mixed-Orientation Marriage, Disclosure, Gay Men, Integrating, Splitting
1. Introduction
The Mixed-orientation marriage is usually an invisible
phenomenon, but its frequency is not insignificant. No
accurate estimate of the prevalence of heterosexually
married gay men is available in the literature [1 ]. Kinsey
[2] estimated that 1.7-1.9% of heterosexually married
men are homosexuals. A survey using a probability sam-
ple of gay males found that 42% of the men who self-
identified as homosexuals or bisexuals had previously
been married to a woman [3]. Other studies show that
20% of homosexuals had been married to a woman at
some point in their lives [4-6]. A more recent study [7]
shows that an estimated two million homosexuals, lesbi-
ans and bisexuals in the US had, at some time in their
lives, been part of a mixed-orientation marriage.
What brings a homosexual man to marry a woman?
The literature suggests a number of exp lanations i nclude-
ing internal homophobia [8], cultural and social expecta-
tions [3-5,9], social and familial pressure, a wish to hide
or eliminate the sexual orientation, desire to have chil-
dren, feelings of love towards the woman, dissatisfaction
with the homosexual world and negative feelings towards
the homosexual lifestyle [10-12]. Th is array of motives is
dynamic in that it may change over time. For example,
Matteson [13] has distinguished between positive and
negative motives, corresponding to the periods prior to
and following th e Stonewall Riots in 1969. These violent
riots took place between policemen and homosexuals,
lesbians and transsexuals at Greenwich Village, New
York. This event marks the establishment of the gay
rights movement in the US and arou nd the world. Matte-
son found that the most common motive for gay man to
marry a woman prior to this incident was the negative
perceptions of homosexu ality, and following the event, it
was the desire for f amily life.
In principal, mixed-orientation marriage can take one
of two forms; the wife is either aware or unaware of her
husband’s homosexuality [12-14]. Within this context,
the present paper examined personal narratives of gay
men who were married to women, some of who were
aware and some who were unaware of their husbands’
homosexuality, to gain a deeper theoretical understanding
of mixed-orientation marriages. It is important to note
that the nature of unawareness is dynamic and it may
evolve over time (i.e. a woman can become aware of the
man’s sexual orientation in different stages of the mar-
Gay men’s heterosexual marriages are usually port-
rayed as problematic [8,11,14-15]. In an attempt to pro-
vide an answer to the question of why mixe-dorientation
marriages break apart, Higgins [8] referred to cognitive
consistency theory. According to this theory, a cognitive
dissonance occurs when one’s behavior is inconsistent
with one’s perception of it. In the case of mixedorienttio n
marriages, a dissonance exists between homosexual
Dialectics between Splitting and Integrating in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men 107
men’s attraction to members of their own sex, and their
engagement in heterosexual marriages. The cognitive
dissonance increases as the man manages two simultan-
eous relationship systems with a woman and with men,
thereby running a double life. In order to obtain consis-
tency, these men make the decision to marry (i.e., invok-
ing the belief that homosexuality is wrong, homosexual
relationships are doomed to fail, etc.). To attain congru-
ence in this situation, homosexual men may disclo se their
sexual orientation, identifying with and participating in
the homosexual world [16 ].
As mentioned, researchers have been aware of the
fundamental difference between the two situations in
which women are aware or unaware of their husbands’
homosexuality [12-14]. Each of these two situations in-
volves certain individual and dyadic processes, which
will be examined below.
1.1 Wives are Unaware of their Husbands’
Little has been written about this specific phenomenon.
Berger [10] found that although successful marriages of
this type are rare, several men reported having satisfying
marital relationships. Their wives’ and children’s lack of
awareness is a mediator variable that contributes to the
perception of the marriage as successful. The gay men’s
concealment appears to play an essential role. However,
Binger [14] indicates that many of these men are likely to
experience guilt and anxiety. Guilt stems from their un-
authentic lifestyle and from the concealment itself. Anxi-
ety is associated with the potential harmful ramifications
of an unplanned discovery of their homosexuality.
Several theoretical perspectives have been suggested
to account for the implications of concealment by het-
erosexually married gay men. Pennebaker [17,18] sug-
gested that Inhibition Theory may provide a useful ex-
planation, as it emphasizes conflict or inhibition over
em ot i o n a l expression (e.g. concealment), which may result
in stress-related illnesses or reactions. According to this
theory, emotional expression and sharing significant
personal aspects with others via disclosure are important
to maintaining good mental and physical health. Using a
Minority Stress conceptual framework, Meyer [19] con-
cluded that the combination of various stress-simulating
processes, such as concealment of sexual orientation, can
provoke mental health problems. In conclusion, con-
cealment of sexual orientation can have destructive im-
plications for homosexual men, both emotionally and
physically. Interestingly, while the wife’s unawareness
appears to be a contributing factor to the success of the
marriage, the concealment of homosexuality is thought to
be a disruptive factor.
1.2 Wives are Aware of their Husbands’
Relatively more scholarly attention has been directed to
couples who share the information about the husbands’
homosexuality, particularly in the 1980’s [11-13]. Disclo-
sure of homosexuality to wives varies and may occur
during different stages of the marital relationship: Some
men come out prior to the marriage, while others do so
during their married lives, which may pose a certain
threat to the continuation of the marriage. Both spouses
can find themselves in situations where they would initi-
ate termination of their relationsh ips. Even for those who
decide to keep their marriage intact, homosexuality can
be a source of tension and conflict, introducing continu-
ous pessimism about the future of their marriage [11,12].
In spite of such complexities, some couples manage to
sustain their marriage following the discovery of the
husband’s homosexuality. In these cases, the spouses
begin to integrate homosexuality into their heterosexual
relationships [12]. Several studies have indicated that
some couples indeed survived the crisis following dis-
closure [13,20], emphasizing that open communication,
understanding and acceptance of homosexuality by both
spouses can help the couple overcome their difficulties
Couples in mixed-orientation marriages cope with the
complexity of the situation in various ways, including
various networks of social support (homosexual, hetero-
sexual and bisexual); professional help or paraprofes-
sional support groups (self-help groups for other men and
couples in a similar situat ion). At the dyadic level, couples
develop various accepted rules or routines related spe-
cifically to the husband’s homosexual behavior and prac-
tices, e.g. the husband always comes home at night, takes
precautions against infectious diseases, limits his sexual
partners, etc. [12]. Successful adaptation to mixed-orie-
ntation marriage has been attributed to several factors.
One is love and affection between spouses, together with
their commitment and desire to maintain a successful
relationship. Another is open communication and physi-
cal contact, as well as dealing with feelings of guilt and
shame related to the husband’s sexual orientation. Al-
lowing the wife’s sense of self-realization outside the
marriage as well as agreeing upon practices related to the
husband’s homosex ual encounters may also contrib ute to
successful adaptation. This can include the creation of a
contract between the spouses on such issues; for example,
establishing that the woman would not be informed about
the husband’s sexual contacts, deciding to conduct an
open relationship, etc. [11]. In addition, the husband’s
realization of his homosexuality was found to contribute
to the quality and stability of the marital relationships
Most of the literature about mixed-ori e nt ati on marriages
was written during the 1980’s and referred to quantitative
studies. The present study, however, utilizes qualitative
methodology and examines constructed meanings and
experiences of heterosexually married gay men [22],
with wives who are aware and unaware of their homo-
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
Dialectics between Splitting and Integrating in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men
sexuality. We take the insiders’ perspective as a point of
departure to develop a theoretical framework that may
expand our understanding of the constructed reality of
this relatively unexplored phenomenon [23]. Within this
perspective, the main research question is as follows: Is
integration between homosexuality and heterosexual
marriage possible, and if so, how? Is there an alternative
way in which a homosexual man can realize his sexual
orientation and simultaneously live in a heterosexual
2. Method
2.1 Participants
The participants were 13 heterosexually married men,
who define themselves as “gay”. Seven of the wives
were aware of their husband’s homosexuality and six
were unaware. One man had disclosed his sexual orienta-
tion to his wife before the marriage, while the other six
had made the disclosure at different stages of the mar-
riage. The men’s average age was 51 years (SD = 8.43),
ranging from 35-64 years old. The average duration of
marriage was 24 years (SD = 9), ranging from five to 37
years of marriage. All the married couples had children,
and all participants were secular Jews with high school or
academic education.
The participants were recruited using criterion sam-
pling, to ensure th eir compatibility with the phenomenon
under study [22]. We interviewed gay men whose wives
were aware of their homosexuality, as well as those
whose wives were unaware, to increase variation within
the studied phenomenon. In addition, we located partici-
pants of different ages and at different stages of married
life. This line of reasoning was based on the assumption
that any common patterns emerging as a result of greater
variation would be valuable in capturing the core ex-
periences [24]. The sampling process ended when theo-
retical saturation was reached, when new information
from the participants fit existing themes, but did not add
new categories of meaning [25].
2.2 Procedure
Participants were recruited through a dating website for
the homosexual community, according to the criteria
specified above. Out of more than 125 men who were
contacted, 99 did not respond, 20 responded but refused
to be interviewed due to fear of exposure, and only six
were willing to participate (four in the WN [wives un-
aware] group and two in the WA [wives aware] group).
The other seven participants were recruited through
snowball proced ures and by word of mouth. Initial phon e
calls were conducted with each participant, in which re-
search description, interview processes, documentation
methods and procedures to ensure confidentiality were
presented, followed by participants’ consent to be inter-
viewed. Then, a face-to-face interview was scheduled.
Time and place were determined by participants’ prefer-
ences. Each interview lasted between one and two hours.
The interviews were digitally audiotaped. In addition to
ensuring accuracy, this also enabled the researcher to be
more attentive to the interviewee [24].
2.2.1 Data Collection and An alysi s
Data was collected using in-depth semi-structured inter-
views focusing on the subjective experiences and per-
spectives of the heterosexually married gay men. The
interview followed an interview gu ide contain ing a list of
issues relevant to understanding the phenomenon [24].
Two versions of interview guide were developed, to meet
the special issues characterizing each of the two situa-
tions of the studied phenomenon (i.e. WA and WN). The
main questions in the first version dealt with issues in-
cluding married life, relationships between the spouses,
coping strategies, realization of husband’ s homosexuality
and disclosure of homosexuality to the wife with regard
to two time periods: prior to and following disclosure.
The second version contained questions that related to
the same issues as in the first version, but with no refer-
ence to the two time periods. Demographic data were
collected uniformly in both versions (e.g. age, religiosity,
education, etc.).
Data analysis was performed in several stages. First,
all recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and
read as text to gain familiarity, bracketing prior percep-
tions and knowledge [24,26]. Second, a separate case
analysis of each interview was performed to identify units
of meaning related to the studied phenomenon, which
were organized in meaningful clusters. Third, cross-case
analysis was conducted, using an imaginative variation to
find possible meanings and to approach the phenomena
from several perspectives [26]. Fourth, structural synthe-
sis was established, to reveal the essence of the phenom-
ena and to develop a theoretical framework for more
in-depth understanding [24] .
2.2.2 Trustworthiness and Credibility
Unlike the positivist researcher who seeks for internal
and external validity, the qualitative researcher is geared
towards trustworthiness of findings and analysis [25].
Accepting that there is no single objective reality, the
researcher is concerned with credibility, transferability,
dependability and conformability [23]. In the present
study, we employed the following procedures to establish
trustworthiness. We used information-rich quotations to
provide thick descriptions of various aspects of the stud-
ied phenomenon. An experienced researcher was closely
involved in the analysis and interpretation of findings,
which were then shared with some participants to receive
their perception of the findings, including suggested
meanings and interpretations [25].
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
Dialectics between Splitting and Integrating in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men 109
2.3 Results
The interview data shows that life in a mixedorientation
marriage can be understood along a continuum running
between two poles: splitting and integrating. This con-
tinuum corresponds to the fundamental question in the
lives of heterosexually married gay men: Is integration
between homosexuality and heterosexual marriage pos-
sible, and if so, how? When telling their stories as ho-
mosexual married men, participants used contradictory
terms to describe their experiences, which indicated
mechanisms of splitting and integrating. In particular,
they were attempting to create a separation between their
homosexual life and their family life, while apparently
integrating or wishing to integrate the two worlds simul-
2.3.1 Splitting in the Lives of Heterosexually Married
Gay Men
When splitting appears as the dominant theme in their
stories, interviewees refer to their double lives in a di-
chotomous manner, using contradictory language. Such
structural aspects may reflect their initial stance: that the
two worlds cannot coexist in harmony. This means that
only a total split between them would enable them to
continue living in both worlds. Thus, splitting appears to
be an essential mechanism cont ri buti ng t o t he continuation
of the heterosexual relationship. Within this context,
splitting can be experienced at three related, often over-
lapping levels: emotion a l, cognitive and behavioral.
Emotional splitting: All participants perceived their
relationships with their wives as essentially different
from their relationships with men. Emotional splitting
occurs when one relationship system, mostly with the
woman, is characterized as emotional, while the other,
mostly with the men, is not. Michael, who had been mar-
ried for 25 years to a wife who was aware of his sexual
orientation, used different words to characterize the two
relationship systems. Excitement referred to relationships
with men, while emotions defined the essence of his rela-
tionship wi t h h i s wife:
Relationships with men mean excitement. After you
have your orgasm, you put on your clothes and that’s it,
“back to reality.” Reality is home, family, kids. Relation-
ships with men are nothing but fantasy fulfillment. I’m
very satisfied with my relationships with men. I mean the
sex part, the sexual attraction and that’s it. Sweating,
preying, like an animal. Animals are like that. My rela-
tionship with my wife includes lots of emotion; love and
By creating a contradiction between relationships with
his wife and with men, between reality and fantasy, Mi-
chael used splitting as an enabling mechanism. By de-
fining his homosexual relationships as fantasy, he was
separating them from reality. After the fantasy was ful-
filled, he returned to reality—his routine family life. He
used metaphors from the animal world (e.g., sweating,
preying) to describe his sexual encounters with men,
which may also intensify the split between his homosex-
ual life and his family life, as “preying” belongs to the
fantasy. Thus, splitting allows for the movement between
the two worlds, which helps to keep both intact. It would
appear that only one relationship system is generally de-
fined as emotional, meaning that love and affection tend
to be directed toward only one intimate partner in one
relationship system. This can be either a man or a woman,
but not both.
Cognitive splitting manifests itself in various ways,
including in the minimization of homosexuality and its
significance; viewing homosexuality as a temporary ph as e,
as a transient episode; or objectification of the sexual
orientation. Daniel, who had been married to his wife for
20 years and discovered his homosexuality five years
prior to the interview, used all of these in his narrative:
I hope it will end at some point. I want to continue
with my normal life, because that is the most important
thing in my life. As long as I have control over it and can
maybe even stop it, I think it will go away. I feel good at
the moment. Stop now? No, no, no! I’m enjoying my
new toy very much. It’s as though I’ve foun d a new toy.
I play with it. I think that someday, I will have had
enough of it—I really hope and believe so. I know my-
self. Throughout the whole of my life, I have had this
tendency to get fed up of things and move on to some-
thing else. A few years ago, I su ddenly had a passion for
learning to play the organ. I bought an expensive organ
and contacted a teacher. After only one lesson, I felt that
it was enough and I stopped.…I know that someday, my
thing with men will also become a statue.
By objectifying his sexual orientation (i.e., a toy/org-
an/statue) and defining it as a temporary episode, Daniel
actually distinguished between “doing” and “being” with-
out creating a contingency between the two. Contrasting
normalcy with playing served to gain a sense of control,
allowing him to decide whether or not it was a part of
him. This cognitive split served to normalize his life
situation and to generate a feeling of stability and secu-
rity. The two lives were not symmetrical: the heterosexual
life was considered as “normal” and received the highest
priority. His “thing with men” was just a passing hobby,
implying that homosexuality is temporal, insignificant;
an object whose excitement will eventually diminish.
Behavioral splitting: Several indications of behavioral
splitting were identified in the interviews: limiting the
homosexual encounter to an alienated meeting place and
treating it as such; defining the encounter as a merely
sexual act; washing the body carefully after the sexual
encounter and before returning to the normalcy of the
heterosexual relationship. All these contribute to the per-
ception of the homosexual encounter as detached from
anything in the familiar world. David, whose wife was
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
Dialectics between Splitting and Integrating in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men
unaware of his homosexual orientation, described such
encounters as follows:
At that moment, I go down the stairs (after a sexual
encounter with another man. If our paths cross, I will
ignore him. I am not there any more. It is important for
me to make a cut. I must separate and I know how to do
that, because otherwise, you might get divorced. I will
come home, take a good shower and wash everything
away…I am clean again.
David had developed certain behavioral rituals to es-
tablish his much needed total separation in order to con-
tinue with his heterosexual life. At the end of the meeting,
the man would leave the place and would totally ignore
his male partner, expressing a conscious decision to re-
nounce familiarity with the other man to prevent any
continuation of the encounter. Thus, homosexuality was
constructed as a merely sexual act, confined to a specific
rendezvous, and not as an intimate relationship. This lim-
ited construction portrays homosexuality as insignificant,
thereby protecting the heterosexual relationship. Indeed,
some participants mentioned customarily washing their
bodies after homosexual encounters. The apparently
physical-behavioral act of washing signified a transition
between the two worlds, which simultaneously intensi-
fied the split between homosexuality and the routine het-
erosexual life. Thus, the parallel emotional, cognitive and
behavioral splitting enabled participants to lead a double
life, and to continue living in both worlds while keeping
each world intact.
2.3.2 Integration in the Lives of Heterosexually
Married Gay Men
Although splitting was a more prevalent theme in the
stories recounted by heterosexually married gay men,
few participants spoke of integration between the two
worlds. Integration is perceived as a desired ideal, a
situation in which one does not have to relinquish either
world. Such a perception challenges the dichotomous
normative notion that homosexuals cannot be heterosexu-
ally married. Arik, who had been married for 25 years,
described a period in which he felt good, because of the
balance between the homosexual and the heterosexual
aspects of his life:
Back in those days, I experienced a “modus Vivendi”
in my life. I had my family, my wife, the good life I had
with her in our home… and I was a very happy person.
During those years, when I had Gil (a male partner),
there was som e kind o f a balance, a feeling of serenity.
Running two parallel, long-term, stable relationship
systems—one with the wife and one with another man
—was perceived as an ideal, and therefore as a rewarding
experience, as the ideal was realized as a possible alter-
native. Despite their satisfactory relationships with their
wives and their love towards them, some interviewees
reported the need for a simultaneous, committed, long-
term, stable relationship with a man. Some participants
expressed the potential for harmony and coexistence be-
tween the two worlds. Realization of one relationship
system did not necessarily preclude the continuation of
the other. If integration is possible, then splitting is no
longer needed, and integration then replaces it.
Our relationship has been best since we got married,
but I am still looking for a male partner, one who will
accept the fact that I have a very good relationship with
my wife that I do not want to break. We (he and his wife)
had 25 good years, with ups and downs and we have a
very long joint history, which isn’t easy to give up. At
the same time, I also need a relationship with a man, and
I am not talking about casual sex, it’s not enough. I need
more (Daniel).
Daniel represents a desire voiced by several participants,
to conduct two simultaneous, committed, stable relation-
ship systems with a man and with his wife, which are
viewed as complementary, creating balanced integration
between the two worlds. Unlike the situations of splitting ,
where participants talked about integration, the homo-
sexual and heterosexual relationship systems were not
constructed as essentially different and contradictory, but
as complementary. Within this context, it is noteworthy
that participants described both the heterosexual rela-
tionship and their homosexual sexual encounters as rela-
tionship systems, suggesting a perceived implicit similar-
ity between the two.
Although the two mechanismssplitting and integrat-
ing-were presented in a dichotomous manner for heuris-
tic purposes, they are, in fact, dynamic and tend to oper-
ate together, often in parallel. For example, a participant
might describe in one interview how he detached himself
emotionally from relationships with men and then ex-
press his yearning to manage two intimate relationships
simultaneously, with his wife and with another man.
3. Discussion
Splitting and integrating are interwoven in participants’
narratives. Some made a total split between their homo-
sexual and heterosexual relationships; others integrated
or wished to integrate the two worlds, and several men
spoke in terms of bo th splitting and integrating. As such,
the findings of the present study address the main re-
search question: Can heterosexual and homosexual rela-
tionship systems coexist? Is there an alternative way in
which homosexual men can fulfill their homosexuality
and simultaneously engage in heterosexual marriages?
Leading two fully co mmitted relationship syste ms with
a man and a woman simultaneously, which are charac-
terized as both emotional and sexual, contradicts main-
stream Western cultures regarding the nature of intimate
relationships [27]. This challenges the ideal of monoga-
mist relationships and the binary structures of man/
woman and ho mosexual/heterosexual [28].
Although most of the literature is p essimistic about the
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. PSYCH
Dialectics between Splitting and Integrating in the Lives of Heterosexually Married Gay Men 111
success of mixed-orientation marriage [8,11,14,15], the
findings of this study corroborate findings from several
previous studies [12,13], suggesting that such rel ation ship
systems are not doomed to failure. In line with this, the
concept of polya mory [29,30] may be us eful in provid ing
ways to examine dominant mainstream relationship
structures, as it undermines the monogamist relationship
ideal and the concept that a relationship should exist be-
tween two people only. According to this approach, one
can co- nduct sexual and/or emotional relationships with
a number of people of the same or opposite gender. Al-
though the literature about polyamory relates mainly to
bisexual [31] and homosexual [32] couples, we argue
that it may also be appropriate for mixed-orientation
couples. As we accept the possibility of creating such a
relationship system, and as our findings indicate that
some participants wished to integrate the two worlds, we
suggest an alternative conc eptual model for their integra-
tion. Based on quantitative methodology, a previous
theoretical model [13] sugg ested developmental stages in
mixed-orientation marriages. In contrast to this, our
model developed from the subjective experiences of het-
erosexually married gay men, together with their con-
structed meanings. Whenever relevant, it integrates ac-
cumulated knowledge pertaining to the studied phe-
nomenon, to map the essential components that may
contribute to the success of such marriages.
3.1 Integrating Homosexuality within
Heterosexual Marriage: A Conceptual Model
1) Honesty and openness between the couple—When a
couple decides to lead a one-sided or two-sided open
relationship, honesty is an essential component [33]. The
wife’s awareness of her husband’s homosexuality is an
important part of such integration. The findings of the
present study and the literature show that context [34]
and timing [13] of disclosure of homosexual orientation
can contribute significantly to relationship quality. There-
fore, early disclosure of the sexual orientation within a
positive con text (e.g. to be open and increase inti macy in
the relationship) can help both partners to adjust more
successfully to the new situation.
2) Formation of a contract—Open communication
may serve as the basis for an agreed upon contract re-
lated to the husband’s homosexual practice outside the
marriage [11,20]. The contract needs to be clear and dy-
namic to suit both partners’ preferences. Issues that need
negotiation include, for example, timing and location of
homosexual encounters; what kind of information is dis-
closed vis-à-vis the homosexual encounters; the nature of
the homosexual relations—emotional, physical, or both,
long-term vs. temporal relationships, etc.
3) Acceptance of the sexual orientation—Acceptance
of homosexuality by both partners is necessary for inte-
gration of the sexu a l orientation into the marriage [7,11].
4) Fulfillment of the sexual orientation—Another im-
portant element in the integration process is the hus-
band’s fulfillment of his sexual orientation. The findings
of our study show that sense of fulfillment can also pro-
ject positively on the relationship with th e wife. Some of
the men returned home after homosexual encounters and
felt they had more to give to their wives, both emotion-
ally and phys ically. Previous re search has also sug gested
that gratification from homosexual relations and a sense
of fulfillment contributes to marital satisfaction [21].
5) Solid basis of the heterosexual relationship—After
years of married life, participants who emphasized that
love for their wives had been their main motive for mar-
riage felt that they had established a solid relationship,
which served as a good basis for the integration.
6) Perception of the mixed-orientation marriage as a
unique altern ative—Some of the participants in our study
perceived heterosexual relationships as normative—“like
any other normal heterosexual relationship.” As this per-
ception ignores the idiosyncratic components of mixed-
orientation marriage, it may cause difficulty in integrat-
ing the sexual orientatio n into the heterosexual marriage.
Recognizing that this relationship creates a unique alter-
native and the understanding that it contains specific is-
sues that are outside of mainstream conventional marriage
is an empowering experience, which contributes signifi-
cantly to successful integration.
We claim that the proposed model offers an alternative
for those who decide to keep their marriage intact. We
recognize that the model entails some challenging tasks
facing the spouses on the personal and dyadic levels, in-
cluding acceptance of the sexual orientation by both part-
ners, agreement to a non-monogamist relationship system,
openness, honesty, etc. This model originated from sub-
jective experiences and meanings of individuals who were
living the studied phenomenon, together with knowledge
available from theory and research. Thus, it may contrib-
ute to our understanding of the construc ted reality of gay
people who attempt to integrate homosexuality into their
heterosexual marriages. Such understanding could be
used to help both men and women who are engaged in
heterosexual marriages with gay men, as well as profes-
sionals workin g wi t h such couples.
It is important to stress a salient limitation of the cur-
rent study. Although w e have focused on the mens’ point
of view, this multifaceted phenomenon needs to undergo
a broader investigation by taking into account the per-
spectives of all the individuals involved in the situation,
including: the woman, children and male partner if such
exists. This deficiency is being addressed in a study we
are conducting at the moment.
[1] M. A. Yarhouse, L. M. Pawlowski and E. S. N. Tan, “In-
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