Relationship Q&A: He's in Love With a Male Coworker
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Relationship Q&A: He's in Love With a Male Coworker

Expert answers to your relationship questions.

Q. Three weeks ago, my husband announced that he was gay and in love with a male coworker. He wants a divorce as soon as possible, though he wants us to remain friends. We have been married for four years and have one child. He says he feels guilt and shame for what he has done. I feel so helpless. Is there any hope for our marriage at all?

A. I can understand how devastated you must be. Your husband's sudden announcement is a breach of the trust that is an essential part of the foundation of your relationship. Your sense of shock and helplessness is compounded by the fact that your husband claims to be in love with another man. It's one thing to feel you have to compete with another woman; competing with a man is another case entirely.

At this point, my honest answer to your question is yes, and, no. I'm not being coy. While you no doubt feel that you are all alone, in recent years I have seen a number of couples struggling with the same issue. Of course, every case is different, but I am always concerned when someone out of blue determines that they want to leave any marriage as precipitously as you say your husband has -- no matter what the reason.

First, you must both get tested for AIDS. Second, seek counseling together. There are many issues you need to sort out and no matter what happens, you, your husband and your child, will need the understanding and support that a trained therapist can provide. You will need to discuss, for example, whether your husband is bisexual, or truly homosexual. It's possible that he doesn't know for sure, either. He will need to be honest with you about his sexual history -- whether and when he had other affairs with men or with women, for example. Because of the stigma that still surrounds homosexuality, your husband may have entered into marriage with you in an honest effort to go the route that our culture dictates, though at great personal cost. If he has had other relationships with men, I'm afraid it is likely that this aspect of his sexuality is an integral part of who he is -- and he cannot will it away no matter how hard he tries.

However, there are also times when a person is depressed or wrestling with seemingly insurmountable problems, and feels the need to seek action and excitement in something new. Such people may surf the Internet and have an affair. Or they may feel compelled to act out latent fantasies as a way to escape the real world. Remember, no relationship comes with a guarantee -- but at this point, you still don't have enough information. Try to slow down, keep the lines of communication open between the two of you, and use your head as well as your heart to decide what you need to do for your own emotional and physical safety and the well-being of your child.