In response to my current research project regarding experiences of heterosexuality among same-sex attracted people, I received the following email recently. This individual is quite interested in the research for reasons that are clear here. He gave me permission to include this portion of the email which speaks to the fuzziness of sexual orientation concepts as well as their inadequacy to guide value-based action.
I would probably have chosen to live a gay life if I was born 20-30 years later than I was. The option of choosing to pursue men in the early 80’s was nothing like it is today. I do love my wife very much, and do feel very attracted to her emotionally, physically and sexually – however I am not attracted to any other women at all. (Isn’t that what most women would prefer?) Yet, I am often attracted to other men, some so intensely that I am convinced I could have lived a gay life had I never married.
So, a rhetorical question, if I may:
Do I separate from my wife just because of this? I could say that as a married man, my real identity is that of a gay male, and I should be honest with myself and pursue what I feel in my gut. If I did, I think it’s quite possible that I could find another man to love, but eventually, still long for the softness and tenderness of my former wife. I may be living out a straight life now while secretly longing to live a gay one; or, if I chose to follow the path of some others, I could end up living a gay life while secretly longing for what I missed from my straight one. So I have often wondered, which is the real me? Am I really gay pretending to live a straight life, or if I switched, could I really be straight pretending to live a gay life?
Confusing? Hell yes, this dilemma has consumed me for much of my life. I know if I ever chose to leave my wife, I could never come back to her; it’s a one way road, so I have chosen to stay, “un-regretfully.” If I’m the only such man, then so be it; but surely you must come across other men just like me – do you not?
In answer to the last question, I certainly do come across other men like him and have written about this elsewhere. I began to explore the practical implications of men whose historical sexual desire includes men in general but only wives on the female side after reading this article by Daryl Bem (see especially the last paragraph). I am not sure where the term “spouseosexual” came from (from me or one of the people I have interviewed) but perhaps it comes closer than bisexual to describing this type of inner experience – although I wouldn’t quarrel greatly with any terms at this point in our understanding.