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by Abigail Van Buren

Bisexual's Worst Offense Lies in Deceiving His Wife

DEAR ABBY: I must respond to "Bisexual in New Jersey," who asked what his wife would gain if she found out.

What would she gain? Her life. You're afraid to stand up and say you are gay to the world; so is your lover. Your wife deserves better from you. She has given herself to you, and she shouldn't be repaid like this.

I am the ex-wife of a man who recently came out. We were married for 20 years. I had no clue he was gay. He woke up one morning to tell me he didn't love me anymore, the marriage was over, and I had no choice but to "get over it." He said he's put up a good front through our 20 years together.

My ex has a married lover. I feel for his wife. She has no idea. You don't know how painful it is to find out your married life was a lie. I owe my well-being to my therapist, who helped me understand why gays do this. It isn't their fault. It is society's fault for making them feel ashamed, and the spouse is the one who pays for it. -- ALONE IN OHIO

DEAR ALONE: Because we live in a society that places great emphasis on "family values," many gay people marry in order to conform to societal pressure. While they may be able to stifle their inner feelings for a while –- even for years -– it should come as no surprise that eventually their true feelings emerge. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I was married more than 30 years when my husband came out to me. I lost my former life, including my home, friends, in-laws, my sexual identity, financial security, retirement plans, etc. I'm still struggling to put my life back together. My marriage is gone, and with it everything I thought was meaningful to both of us. I would much prefer to be in my marriage than living the life I am now.

Gay people have support groups to turn to with their needs. Support groups are also needed for the families left by the gay spouse. Straight spouses and former spouses need their concerns addressed, too. -- ALONE IN PHOENIX

DEAR ALONE: Of course they do. Please read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Bisexual" says his wife would destroy her life, his life, their kids' lives, his lover's and his lover's family's lives if she stumbled upon his 10-year affair with another married man. Hasn't his secret life already destroyed the trust at the heart of both marriages?

"What would his wife gain?" he asks. The truth! His wife would be devastated, but not destroyed. Wives whose husbands come out -– the thousands with whom I have spoken since 1984 -– tell me that knowing the truth was horrible, but better than living their husbands' lie without knowing it.

A nationwide support network is ready to help her resolve her anger, pain and grief in a constructive way. Resources are listed on the Straight Spouse Network Web page: www.ssnetwk.org; by e-mail: dir(at)ssnetwk.org; or by phone: (510) 525-0200. -- AMITY P. BUXTON, PH.D.

DEAR AMITY: I'm pleased to hear from you. I recognize your name as the author of an excellent book on this subject, "The Other Side of the Closet: The Coming-Out Crisis for Straight Spouses and Families." Thank you for sharing these important resources.

The first reaction many spouses have when they are told their husband or wife is gay is that of shame. They feel somehow they are to blame. In their zeal to hide the truth, they wind up closeting and isolating themselves –- actually assuming their spouse's place in the closet! It is vital that they understand they are not alone. An estimated 2 million women and men in the United States are (or were) married to a homosexual or bisexual partner.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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