Mixed Orientation Marriage

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Introduction to Mixed Orientation Marriages

By Mark Rheault

 

A mixed orientation marriage most commonly presents itself as a marriage where one partner is either bisexual, gay or lesbian and the other is heterosexual. Mixed orientation marriages often contain complex relationship dynamics but can be fabulous marriages.

Secrets, Discovery and Disclosure

The evolution of a mixed orientation marriage becomes more complicated the further into the relationship the couple becomes aware of the same sex attraction. Ideally the bisexual discussion should happen closer to the first date but sometimes occurs much later in the relationship perhaps after discovery of gay porn after 15 years of marriage or the “I am bisexual” talk after 30 years of marriage. In all cases the relationship dynamics are changed and a process needs to be gone through where the relationship is reinvented to reflect the two partners variations in sexual orientations. Voluntary disclosure or discovery also has an effect on trust issues which often must also be resolved.

How does one end up in a mixed orientation relationship without knowing it?

Due to strong religious and social pressures there is a societal bias towards a traditional marriage between a heterosexual man and a woman. Many bisexuals are raised that there is no acceptable alternative to traditional heterosexual marriage. Sometimes bisexual, gay and lesbian individuals simply fall in love with a heterosexual and may not realize the importance of their same sex attraction. Bisexuals who marry heterosexuals without prior disclosure usually honestly believe they can put their same sex needs aside. This often is true for a while but for some it later becomes obvious that same sex attraction is a more important part of their life then once thought.

What happens to mixed orientation relationships after discovery or disclosure?

There is no doubt there are many challenges when ones sexuality does not match their partners. Typically there are several possible outcomes which include:

  • Immediate separation or divorce 
  • A period of struggle 
    • Ending in separation or divorce
    • With years of continuing struggle
    • Progressing to a vibrant wonderful relationship 
  • Immediate acceptance of the bisexual partner. 

While immediate acceptance seems to be the ideal the reality is most mixed orientation marriages go through a period of struggle as the dynamics of the new relationship are worked out. Ideally they progress to a solution that leaves everyone happy with the outcome and a renewed enthusiasm for a wonderful future together.

What are some strategies for a successful mixed orientation marriage?

  • Approach the situation as friends and partners. 
  • Brush up on communication skills  
  • Allow for lots of time. A good marriage is worth a few years of hard work to insure future decades of success. 
  • Understanding there will be periods of forward progress and an occasional step back for adjustments of emotional attitudes with our intellectual attitudes. 
  • Acceptance that progress will often be measured in baby steps. 
  • Some sort of support network either counseling or a support group. 
  • Acceptance of the non-heterosexual partners sexuality. 
  • Working out a way for the bi/gay/lesbian partner to fulfill their same sex needs. 

Pathways to success

Finding ways to fulfill same sex needs is one of the most challenging yet important aspects of a mixed orientation marriage. 

 

Some common solutions include acceptance of same sex attraction while maintaining a monogamous marriage. There are often variations to what a monogamous marriage means so for example acceptance of same sex pornography might be considered an acceptable outlet.  Other couples introduce role playing and toys, Other bisexual spouses simply want a chance to be with other bisexual, gay, or lesbian friends. This is the birds of a feather or “me too” and “I understand” that we all crave.

 

Other couples look at some sort of open marriage perhaps with a friend with benefits or a partner. Some couples prefer to compartmentalize the gay side and they are two separate worlds others integrate the other person into the couples day to day lives and two become three. Some very successful poly relationships and families are created because of the complex needs of bisexuals attracted to two different genders. These are just some of the viable solutions and each couple needs to work out the best solution.

 

Mixed orientation marriage facts

  • Mixed orientation marriages are often just called MOMs.
  • There is a tremendous need for positive support for couples in mixed orientation marriages. An ever increasing number of gay, lesbian, and bisexual husbands and wives, many of whom have been married for decades, are deciding to come out of the closet, or their previously secret same sex attraction is being discovered. It is essential these couples have a positive support system with role models and pathways for success.
  • Mixed orientation marriages are not just for heterosexuals. They come in every relationship combination imaginable. It is not uncommon for one partner to be gay or lesbian with attraction to only their same gender partner while their bisexual partner lives with attraction to more than one gender. Many of their issues are similar to those in a heterosexual mixed orientation marriage.
  • Mixed orientation marriages may include variations in gender identity. Men and woman who are gender fluid or transgender have many of the same challenges in maintaining a loving relationship with the person they love, especially when the gender variations emerge later in the relationship.
  • Mixed orientation marriages may include variations in gender identity. Men and woman who are gender fluid or transgender have many of the same challenges in maintaining a loving relationship with the person they love, especially when the gender variations emerge later in the relationship.
  • Statistics on the number of mixed orientation couples in the US have been difficult to quantify, but estimates from various researchers range from a low of under a million to as many as three million - perhaps even more. Precise numbers are hard to come by due to issues with self-identification and secrecy surrounding same sex attraction within heterosexual marriages.

What are some resources for mixed orientation couples?

Mixed orientation marriages that succeed do so often because the couple approached the challenges as best friends and partners with a "we can do this" attitude . While it is true not every mixed orientation marriage is destined to survive, at the end of the day every couple should at least be able to say they gave it their best effort. A counselor experienced in mixed orientation marriages or a mixed orientation success oriented support group can go a long ways towards helping find those  pathways to success.


Online Support Groups

  • Yahoo Group Making Mixed Orientation Marriages Work (MMOMW). This group has every possible combination of mixed orientation marriage and is open to both the heterosexual and GLB partner
  • Husbands Out to Wives (HOW) for bi and gay husbands who are either out or plan on coming out to their wife.
  • Alternate Paths (AP) a group for heterosexual wives with bi or gay husbands
  • HUGS, a group for couples
  • MMTL ·A Yahoo group for Men Married To Lesbians and Bisexual Women

Other options for support include 

  • Local support group meetings . Many large cities have a GLBT resource center contact them to see if there is a group in your area. 
  • Find a counselor that specializes in Mixed Orientation Marriages 
  • Books and articles – read everything you can on the subject as knowledge leads to success. 
  • Attend Conferences - Conferences like the New England based Transcending Boundaries Conference often have several workshops of interest to those trying to make mixed orientation marriages work. Workshops on communications skills, panels on bisexuality and alternative relationships, workshops on mixed orientation marriage success, workshops by well-known authors on open relationships are just some of the wonderful resources available at the typical TBC conference. 
  • The Bisexual information website Livingfabulous.org also contains many additional resources for bisexuals in mixed orientation marriages including a list of books and additional websites. 

 

 

 

 

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