When a married ‘straight’ man falls in love with another man

Thanks for your email Anthony and reaching out to me like this. It is wonderful to finally have someone to talk to about these things who understands my situation.

In your email you said ‘I guess the question arises Joe – what happens if you and the guy you occasionally have sex with fall in love and want to share a life together…what happens with your wife then????’

To be honest this is what I really struggle with and it does really scare me at times. Whether you “fall in love” or not maybe depends on your age. The older you are, the less likely you would be so taken with another human being. Now I am older in life I don’t think this will happen or that I would allow to happen.


Hi Joe

From my personal experience, and from the many gay men and women in straight marriages I’ve worked with, falling in love is frequently the catalyst that jolts them out of denial about their sexual orientation. Whilst many men will deal with this in midlife, age is not a determining factor it has happened to men I have worked with in their 60’s.

Some though, have successfully shut down the emotional part of their life. But putting the lid on something is no guarantee that one day all the planets, chemicals and triggers might align and the persons finds themselves hopelessly in love for the first time in their lives.

For many, until the point of falling in love, we are happy to live with the term bi -assuming that because we have sex with our  wives and sex with men on the side, makes us bisexual. About 90% have sex with one woman many times and have sex with many men once. This in itself should be rather telling.

When you really fall in love with another man, everything changes. You not only want to have sex with him, you want to spend time with him, know him, have intimate conversations, or just enjoy each other’s company in silence. You may even want to grow old with him. It is at this point we realise that our homosexuality is not about just sex but is far more profound and is the very essence of who we are. At this time, many of us will use the term gay to describe ourselves, and the shame and guilt previously attached to the term begins to disappear. The identity we chose to reject, we are now willing to not only accept but embrace.

If we decide to stay in the heterosexual marriage, we need to be aware that our emotions are an area needing constant monitoring or possibly shut down all together. Personally I think this is sad. But I always respect people’s personal choices as it’s their life to live, not mine, but I think our choices need to be informed ones.

Up until my 40th year, I had managed to ensure that I never got emotionally attached to another man. It was too dangerous – too much was at stake. In order to do this successfully, I made sure encounters were brief and that I never took the risk of seeing a person a second time.

Just a few weeks before my 40th birthday I was in a place in my life where I let my guard down and the end result was that, for the first time in my life, I didn’t experience sex with a man clouded with shame, regret and guilt – I experienced something amazing, something I never knew was possible. That night was the turning point. Once I became to allow myself to experience what had been awakened within me I didn’t want to shut it down. It was too beautiful and it was as though something inside of me had come to life. The part that I’d tried to deny, control, suppress even destroy.

For a brief while I regretted that encounter because of the long term implications but in the long run I’m grateful it happened as I wouldn’t be where I am at today living openly and authentically.

I’m not saying these things to scare you, but just to make people aware of the enormous difference between sexual behaviour/activity and our sexual orientation.

Orientation is about love, affection, intimacy, tenderness, and partnering. So if we are same sex oriented……we will only ever experience those things in their fullness in a same sex relationship……not in one-night stands…anonymous sex…..or casual encounters with other men who need a sex fix……and rarely with a straight partner.

© Anthony Venn-Brown

You can find out more details in my bestselling autobiography, A Life of Unlearning HERE.

Further reading

See my YouTube playlist on Being Gay in a Straight Marriage here.