The Stages that Straight Spouses Face

Typical stages of working through common issues that heterosexual  spouses/partners face when their spouses/partners come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

Each spouse progresses through these stages whether or not the couple stays married, separates, or divorces. Getting through these stages makes the straight spouse stronger, wiser, and more understanding as individuals, spouses, or post-divorce co-parents.

  • Stage One: Disorientation, disbelief, denial, and often relief
  • Stage Two: Facing and acknowledging the reality of the partner’s sexual orientation (or gender identity), the spouses’ own pain, and changes in their life resulting from the disclosure
  • Stage Three: Accepting present reality and realizing the irreversibility of the new aspects of the partner even if the marriage might continue
  • Stage Four: Letting go of past assumptions about themselves, their marriage, and their partner.
  • Stage Five: Healing their own identity and integrity including self worth and value system
  • Stage Six: Reconfiguring and refocusing themselves to view their situation in perspective and formulate a belief system with meaning and purpose
  • Stage Seven: Transforming their lives based on their reconfigured worldview

(Adapted from, Buxton, A. P. (2004) Paths and Pitfalls: How Heterosexual Spouses Cope When their Husbands or Wives Come out,” Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, Vol. 3, No 2/3, Haworth Press, Also, Relationship Therapy with Same-Sex Couples, eds.,, J. J. Bigner and J. L. Wetchler), pp. 95-109.