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Coming Out When You’re Married: A Brave Journey

Isaac Archuleta

Man is taking off the wedding ring

Jump To:


1. What language is mine?

2. My Internal Truth

3. Necessary Closets

4. Acknowledge Outdated Assumptions

Coming Out

Self-Care and Coping Strategies

Advice for Spouses and Loved Ones

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

She was so sincere in wanting to help her coming out husband. Wanting nothing more than for her husband to be happy and for their children to go through any transition smoothly, she was eager to learn and love. It took her husband quite some time to make it in to our sessions because he was terrified that was would cause his family pain.   

For a variety of legitimate reasons, coming out to your spouse can be a very scary and challenging process, to say the least. You’ve built a life with someone, and the idea of unraveling and abandoning that history can leave your central nervous system paralyzed. Perhaps you are considering if the benefits of coming out really outweigh the costs.

To help create peace of mind and find resolution, let me explain a couple of moving parts to help you determine if you want to come out.


1. What language is mine?

Sexual orientation describes what happens in your central and autonomic nervous systems—the various involuntary ways your body respond to visual stimuli (like another person’s body or personality), emotional intimacy and sexual pleasure. Sexual identity, however, is the name with which you label your sexual orientation. Although your sexual orientation could be, let’s say gay, you could publically claim that you are bisexual. In this scenario, your private sexual identity would be gay (because it matches your sexual orientation), but your public sexual identity would be bisexual. Your sexual orientation does not have to match your sexual identity, at least until we come out fully.  

Some sexual orientations are lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, demisexual, gay, asexual, etc. 

Gender identity is the felt sense or internal knowing of one’s gender, regardless of the physical body with which they/she/he is born.

Some gender identities are transgender, gender nonconforming, gender non-binary, trans non-binary, and trans binary, to name a few. 

Sex symbol

2. My Internal Truth

I encourage my clients to ask a very simple, yet illuminating question: What is true about my gender identity, as well as my sexual orientation, both physically and emotionally?

Asking this question as you walk down the street, see an attractive person, interact with coworkers, fall asleep at night and pleasure yourself sexually will help you make peace with the physiological and involuntary mechanisms of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. I also strongly encourage you to discover which personality types you are drawn to and what yearnings they provoke. We are emotionally aroused when we feel seen, special, sexy and wanted.

Taking a thorough inventory of what brings you comfort and pleasure––from the inside out––will contribute to a comprehensive picture of your sexual orientation and/or gender identity and all their components. Self-understanding is the best catalyst for deeply rooted confidence. 

3. Necessary Closets

As you make peace with your sexuality, coming out may be too emotionally or relationally threatening. And for this reason, you may reach clarity and identify exactly why your closet has been necessary. Acknowledging any imminent or assumed rejection, isolation, or derogation will help you prepare for the initial jolt of coming out. Laying a stable foundation––like a trustworthy support system, for example––will give you the emotional and physical stamina to withstand challenging relational storms. 

4. Acknowledge Outdated Assumptions

“My sexual orientation was socialized, and I can change it” 

Thankfully, we now have scientific data that proves we were born with both a pre-established sexual orientation and gender identity set in place by in utero bathings during weeks 6 and twelve. 

Although there are no genes fully responsible for homosexuality or gender identity, it is easy to understand our sexual orientations and gender identities were installed by hormone bathings that wire our brains for sexual preferences and a felt sense of gender. The software, if you will, that encodes our sexuality will remain somewhat unactivated until puberty, whereas that which encodes our gender will be activated as early as 2 years old. 

“I’ll be alone forever”

Many of my clients who contemplate coming out assume their lives will completely fall apart or that they’ll be seen as the world’s biggest jerk for causing so much pain in their loved ones’ lives. 

There is a major range of reactions in those who hear the news for the first time. A significant percentage of my coming out clients face a short-term season of relational discord where time and space help everyone involved establish a new normal. 

Another noteworthy percentage of clients face the transition as a team, creating a new normal side-by-side. Families and couples who do this have well-developed abilities to communicate, to be vulnerable and to practice unconditional love. 

It is rare, but worth mentioning, that for bisexual, pan, or demi clients––who are in some capacity attracted to their opposite gendered spouse and the same gender––remaining in their marriage is possible. Again, these mixed-orientation marriages are stabilized by mature communication and thorough understanding of both their sexual orientation, sexual desires and deep emotional intimacy.  

Coming out can change your life dramatically, possibly leading to utter rejection. But with more than ten year’s worth of clinical experience working with couples and families, complete rejection is very, very rare. If being ostracized from your loved ones is possible, take every step necessary to create a safety net of trustworthy friendships before coming out.

Wife supporting husband in therapy

Coming Out

As you plan your coming out, identify the triggers your spouse might experience and how you may be prone to feel responsible for their reactions. Remember, you cannot cause another’s reaction; they do! Amidst their triggers, for which you are not responsible, implement a sophisticated boundary so that you can stay in your truth, while your spouse or loved one experiences theirs. 

One major element to a successful coming out is your story—the tale of your lived experience as you felt your sexual orientation or gender identity blossom. I have my clients complete a timeline where they list experiences of their sexual orientation/gender identity (e.g., a crush in elementary school, a self-discovery in adolescents, an epiphany in young adulthood, etc.), as well as what they thought and how they felt during those experiences. Pack out your timeline will all the details that will help them understand you, your body, your desires, and your lived experience.

Share with your loved ones when you first discovered what your sexual orientation or gender identity are and how you knew. Tell them what it felt like as you held this secret and all the assumptions (and painful realities) that made your closet so necessary. All in all, this timeline, once completed, will be a robust repository of helpful language for you to articulate your story with confidence and peace of mind. It will also help you know the answers to deep, probing questions that might come your way.  

Your coming out will be the very beginning of a long process, but with the internal inventory you’ve completed and the confidence you’ve built, hold to your inner knowing, which is where freedom lives—for both you and your loved ones. 

Self-Care and Coping Strategies

The process of coming out while married can be emotionally taxing and overwhelming. It’s crucial to prioritize self-care and implement coping strategies to manage the stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil that may arise during this journey. Here are some suggestions:

1. Take time to understand your experience of gender and sexuality. When coming out, your spouse may have a lot of questions and you might not have the language to easily articulate your answers. Getting to know your experience and having language to describe it will help you come out in ways  your spouse will clearly understand you and your authenticity. 

2. Mindfulness and Meditation: Incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily routine. Simple techniques like deep breathing exercises, body scans, or guided meditations can help you stay grounded, reduce anxiety, and cultivate a sense of inner peace. Apps like Calm, Headspace, or Insight Timer offer a variety of guided meditations specifically designed for LGBTQIA+ individuals.

3. Journaling: Keeping a journal can be a powerful tool for self-reflection and processing emotions. Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences can provide a cathartic release and help you gain clarity during this transitional period.

4. Support System: Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family members, or professionals who understand and validate your experiences. Joining an LGBTQIA+ support group or finding a therapist specializing in LGBTQIA+ issues can provide a safe space to share your journey and receive guidance. “Safe” and “trustworthy” are the words we use to inspire our clients to find the right support system.

5. Self-Compassion: Be kind and compassionate towards yourself. Recognize that coming out is a courageous act, and it’s okay to feel a range of emotions. Practice self-acceptance and self-love by engaging in activities that bring you joy, comfort, and a sense of inner peace.

6. Exercise and Movement: Regular physical activity can be a powerful stress-reliever. Engage in activities like yoga, hiking, dancing, or any form of exercise that resonates with you. Movement can help release pent-up emotions and boost endorphins, improving your overall mood and well-being.

7. Creative Outlets: Explore creative outlets such as art, music, writing, or any other form of creative expression that allows you to process your emotions and experiences in a constructive manner.

8. Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, visualization exercises, or aromatherapy to help manage stress and anxiety.

Remember, self-care is not a luxury; it’s a necessity during this transformative period. Be gentle with yourself, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you need additional support.

Advice for Spouses and Loved Ones

Coming out while married can be a challenging experience not only for the individual but also for their spouse and loved ones. It’s essential to approach this transition with empathy, open communication, and a willingness to support one another. Here are some suggestions for spouses and loved ones:

1. Practice Active Listening: Make an effort to listen without judgment and create a safe space for open and honest communication. Allow your loved one to share their experiences and emotions without interruption or criticism.

2. Seek Understanding: Educate yourself about the LGBTQIA+ community and the coming out process. Read books, attend workshops, or seek counseling to better understand what your loved one is going through.

3. Respect Individual Journeys: Remember that everyone’s journey is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Respect your loved one’s pace and decision-making process, and avoid imposing your own expectations or timelines.

4. Be Patient and Compassionate: Coming out is a deeply personal and emotional experience. Be patient and compassionate as your loved one navigates this transition. Offer support and understanding, even if you don’t fully comprehend the situation.

5. Seek Couples or Family Counseling: Consider seeking counseling or therapy together to navigate the challenges and emotions that may arise during this process. A qualified therapist can provide guidance, support, and tools for effective communication.

6. Maintain Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication throughout the process. Address concerns, fears, or misunderstandings as they arise, and work together to find solutions that respect the needs and well-being of all parties involved.

7. Celebrate Love and Commitment: While the dynamics of your relationship may shift, remember to celebrate the love, commitment, and journey you’ve shared together. Focus on building a new foundation of understanding, acceptance, and support.

Remember, this transition is not only about the individual coming out but also about the entire family unit. By approaching the situation with empathy, understanding, and a willingness to support one another, you can navigate this journey together and emerge stronger and more connected.

Coming Out When You're Married: A Brave Journey

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Coming out while married can raise a myriad of questions, concerns, and misconceptions. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) that can provide readers with quick access to essential information and address potential doubts or uncertainties:

No, medical research has found that sexual orientation and gender identity are deeply rooted aspects of a person’s identity that cannot be changed or chosen. They are an innate part of who someone is.

Not necessarily. While some relationships may not survive the transition, many couples find ways to adapt and redefine their relationship dynamic. With open communication, understanding, and a willingness to work through challenges, it is possible to maintain a loving and supportive relationship, though it may take a different form.

While change can be challenging for children, research suggests that having a parent who is open,  honest, and safe can have positive effects on children’s wellbeing and acceptance of diversity. With proper support and guidance, children can learn valuable lessons about authenticity, acceptance, and unconditional love. 

Yes, it is possible for some couples to maintain a mixed-orientation marriage, where one partner identifies as LGBTQIA+ and the other partner does not. However, this requires open communication, mutual understanding, and a willingness to navigate the unique challenges and dynamics of such a relationship.

The most important things are to listen without judgment, educate yourself, be patient and compassionate, and create a safe space for open communication. Seek counseling or join support groups to better understand the process and learn how to provide effective support.

There are numerous support groups, counseling services, and organizations dedicated to supporting LGBTQIA+ individuals and their families during the coming out process.

Depending on your location and specific circumstances, coming out may have legal or financial implications, such as divorce, child custody, or legal protections for LGBTQIA+ individuals. It’s essential to seek professional advice from a qualified attorney or financial advisor to understand your rights and obligations.

Remember, every person’s journey is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s essential to approach this process with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and a commitment to supporting one another with empathy and understanding.

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