I’ve been with Kurt since college and we’ve been married for 10 years.
In a moment of sexual boredom and frustration, I went on Manhunt to look around and saw a very familiar torso. Other identifying details in the profile matched up and when Kurt was asleep one night I looked on his phone and saw that he has indeed been hooking up.
I want this to stop. Yes, I went online myself but I didn’t actually have sex with anyone and we’ve always said we would have a monogamous relationship. I am surprised by how violated I feel knowing that he has been having sex with other guys.
However I can’t figure out how to bring this up without me looking bad too. I think he will find a way to turn it against me that I also went on Manhunt and I also think it looks bad that I went through his email. But he was the one screwing around!
Are my actions are defensible? If not, how can I talk to him about my hurt and wanting the betrayal to stop?
Your relationship is a mess because marriages don’t work well when spouses lie to each other, sneak around behind each other’s backs, spy on each other and jockey to claim the moral high ground.
Almost all coupled people struggle at times to resist temptation, to be consistently honest and to behave respectfully toward their partner. And gay men have some unique reasons for trashing our hard-won marriages:
• Internalized homonegativity may lead us to think that our relationships and our partners are not worth treasuring
• We may have trouble collaborating with our significant others because men often have bias to compete with other men
• Our early experiences of furtive sexual connections with other guys can condition us to be most aroused by risk, secrecy and semi-anonymous partners
• The heavy emphasis on sex among gay men encourages us to use sex compulsively to release stress, improve mood and feel desirable, no matter what the consequences to our lives
All of the above reasons lead many gay men to view cheating and lying as the norm for behavior in our relationships. Recognizing what we’re up against is the first step in choosing to honor our relationships, even if the decks are stacked against our doing so.
I doubt that you chose to marry Kurt in order to posture and play games. So how about setting a more worthy goal: Constructing a healthy marriage.
If that sounds good, your next step is to start behaving in a truly loving way toward Kurt. While this may sound simple and old-fashioned, it is the only way to get out of your fix and to have a decent relationship.
Choosing this path will mean that you are consistently honest and straightforward with Kurt. It will mean that you talk with him about tough issues, rather than avoid them. And it will mean that you stop focusing on how Kurt is letting you down and focus instead on your own actions as a partner. In my experience as a couples therapist, when one person cleans up his act, the tenor of the whole relationship is likely to improve.
Regarding your wish to stop Kurt from cheating: If you pursue a strategy of trying to shame him and make him look like the bad guy, you’ll continue to have a rotten marriage with more hijinks and drama to come. If you decide that you want something better, I encourage you to talk about your discovery honestly and without blame. Acknowledge your own struggle to maintain a loving and committed relationship. Speak with him about the kind of marriage that you would like to have and give him some time to figure out what he would like.
You may find it scary to have a relationship with Kurt that is far more real and close than the one you are having. That’s understandable; closeness is scary. But it can also be exhilarating. You might discover that you like the adventure and excitement of being yourself with Kurt, of letting him really know you, rather than trying to play him.
I also predict that you will like yourself better for behaving in a way that you respect. So if becoming a man who acts decently is important to you, here’s your chance. Consider your currently woeful relationship as an opportunity to become a better version of yourself. Beyond companionship, support and sex, this is the greatest gift a relationship can offer.
Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D, licensed psychologist, specializes in gay couples counseling and individual therapy in D.C. He can be found online at personalgrowthzone.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@personalgrowthzone.com