I was married to a woman for a long time (over 26 years) and she left me because she fell in love with another woman. I never had a clue that she was gay during the entire time we were together – in fact I was pretty sure she was having an affair – but assumed it was with a guy. Anyway – is it common for lesbians to build long term relationships with straight men? Do they do it to have kids and then leave? I know I should ask her – but there is still tension about the split. Thanks for your site.

Thank you for asking this question.  Truly.

First off, I want to say that there is no singular answer for why someone has an affair, whether they’re gay, straight, or something else.  I think you’re right that talking with your ex-wife would probably answer your specific questions more completely, and I encourage you to do that as soon as you feel comfortable.

That said, here’s what I have experienced:

The short answer:

It’s not as though there’s a chapter in the lesbian play-book about how to snare yourself a straight man for the purposes of procreating.  It would be much easier and cheaper to go to the sperm bank.

The long answer:

Some women aren’t aware that they are, in fact, lesbians until they meet a woman who rocks their world and their understanding of what attraction is.  Some women think that it’s normal to not want to kiss their partner, or to be neutral about or even “grossed-out” by sex with a man.  I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve heard it described by my “straight” friends.

Some women are bi-sexual, and don’t think of themselves that way until they meet a woman to whom they are attracted.  It can be a total surprise to them, as well as to their partner.

Some women are willing to ignore the fact that they are, in fact, gay in order to try to live the white-picket fence dream of having a family and a husband and a home.   It’s the dream we are all taught to aspire to, and the default we start with.  I mean, most of our parents are straight, right?

As I’ve said before, there are certainly generational things going on that inform how it is that lesbian relationships look.  Without role models, or positive portrayals of lesbian relationships, we’ve had to figure out what it looks like to live our lives.

Based on the fact that you were married for more than 26 years, I’m going to make an assumption about your ages.  Generally speaking, my generation of lesbians (30ish) grew up in a shifting society, where the idea of being in a committed relationship with another woman wasn’t an impossible one.  It is something that’s presented as, “not what I’d want for my daughter, but at least it’s love.”

And still, I remember being in high school and deciding that I wouldn’t be gay.  Looking at my best guy friends and making a list of who I could most stand to spend my life with, knowing that I’d never be attracted to them.  I wasn’t thinking about building a strategic long-term relationship with them.  I was thinking that I liked them.  That I loved them even.  And that I’d be able to make it work.  They weren’t some suckers that I thought I could dupe.  They were loving, beautiful men whose friendship was so strong that I thought it could be enough to have a life-long emotional relationship with them.  Even while I was in a long-term relationship with a woman.

The generation older than mine (to which I’m assuming you and your ex belong) grew up in a very different world.  That world was one where the idea of two women living together was a near impossibility.  That only happened for spinster sisters or widows.  Relationships between women were hidden, deviant, and never aspired to.  In fact, gay sex was illegal in a number of states.

Nearly everything around us still screams that it would be much easier to be accepted; so much easier to fit in.  Books, movies, tv shows, magazines, cocktail parties, co-workers, and on and on, all point to the “normal” straight relationships that are the generally assumed goal.  And sometimes, the idea of trying to live that dream with a man can be enough to convince women who would otherwise live as lesbians to push down the essence of who they are in order to try to be “normal”.  Having a shot at a patently accepted life with someone you love – especially someone who is your best friend – can be tempting, even if you know you’re not attracted to him.

But society is changing.  And that means that lesbians who have, in the past, chosen to try to live a straight life are now living in a more accepting society.  And that can allow all of us the beautiful freedom to live our lives fully and honestly.  Something that wasn’t always the case.  For the women who find themselves in inauthentic relationships with men, however, the transition can be painful for them and for their partners.  I’m grateful that the current generation will have less of these painful transitions as they are able to be themselves more fully from the beginning.

It’s an incredibly hard thing to be yourself when you’re gay.  But it’s even harder to not be yourself.

In the end, who we are will always come to the surface.  I don’t know your wife, or the relationship that you have.  But when you are able to talk about the whats and whys, you may find that she wishes that she hadn’t hurt her best friend.  Just the fact that you want to understand why this happened instead of blindly blaming says a lot.  Thank you for taking the time to ask.  I hope that you will find the peace and great, authentic love that we all deserve.