The New Mixed Marriage: Understanding Mixed Orientation Marriages and Relationships 

When one spouse in a heterosexual marriage reveals he or she is gay, profound emotional, ethical, and practical dilemmas arise for both the couple and the therapist. The couple often struggles with feelings of betrayal and shame, along with a sense of being caught in a bind between anguished love and hopelessness. In this situation, therapists are often too quick to recommend divorce. In this course, we’ll discuss ways of dealing with the reactivity of the “betrayed” spouse, confronting our own and the couple’s homophobia, helping the gay spouse work through their guilt, and helping the couple decide what course is best for them.

Existing literature and research is old and outdated. It focuses on only married couples where on partner is straight and the other LGB rather than two people those sexual orientations do not match.

We’ll explore the reasons LGBQ individuals marry and how to help the couple move forward without blame or defensiveness. We’ll also discuss what “coming out” stages are necessary, both for the couple and for each partner, if there is to be a successful “mixed marriage.” These couples end up managing their journey alone and with much judgment from others who believe they should not stay married and additionally judge them negatively thus keeping the mixed orientation couple in the closet. The straight spouse has the least amount of support and navigating her process can be brutal.

This workshop will explore the treatment issues for the mixed orientation marriage (MOM) and mixed orientation relationship (MOR), from how therapists can recognize their countertransference and keep it from interfering to ways they can tailor therapy to the couple’s unique needs. Participants will learn how to facilitate dialogue between the partners to deal with the straight spouse’s reactivity and the LGBQ spouse’s guilt, and how to help the couple decide what’s best for them.

Revised Learning Objectives:

A) Decsribe their own countertransference toward these couples and avoid it interfering with them providing treatment.

B) Explain 2 ways they can help partners in recognize their own accountability in terms of why they married and what to do now that they know without blame and defensiveness.

C) Describe the stages of coming out for the couple as well as the LGBQ spouse and straight spouse independent from the relationship.

D) Explain the differences between how male and female spouses, both LGBQ and straight, handle the coming out process of the “mixed orientation relationship” differently.