My husband turned out to be gay – and blamed me
Mum-of-two Suzanne’s heart sank into despair as she read through the pile of phone bills. A long list of premium rate numbers, dialled night after night, jumped off the pages at her.
Suzanne already knew her six-year marriage to husband Rob was in crisis, but she didn’t understand just why until she dialled the numbers herself.
“They were gay sex chatlines,” she says. “I felt shock, bewilderment and disbelief – anger came later. Suddenly everything fell into place and I was hit by the sickening realisation my husband was sexually attracted to men.”
Their second baby was just four months old at the time. And when Suzanne, 34, confronted Rob, 35, that night, his retort left her stumped for words.
“He became angry with me,” she remembers. “He said I was to blame and accused me of letting it happen by focusing on the children and not him. I was stunned that he was actually insinuating I had turned him gay by having children.”
In the days that followed, Suzanne admits she naively hoped that somehow their marriage might survive.
“I was in shock and hoped it was just a breakdown,” she says. “It wasn’t until a relative bluntly pointed out that I was never going to be able to fix this that it hit me the marriage was over.”
Rob moved out leaving Suzanne to replay their entire six-year marriage in her mind, looking for clues.
“I felt stupid, cheated, humiliated, but more than anything I felt angry,” she says. “My children and I had done nothing to deserve the situation he had thrust us into, let alone the heartache that was to come.
“My entire world came crashing down and I even questioned my own judgement. After all, what woman would not know her own husband was gay?”
Suzanne met Rob when they were both studying sports science at different universities. They shared a mutual love of cycling and soon became a couple.
They then spent two years biking around the world and it came as no surprise to their families when Rob proposed in summer 2000.
“We were the perfect couple,” says Suzanne. “We had the same interests and hobbies and were always laughing. Life was wonderful and I had no doubt Rob was the man I would spend my life with.”
Crucially, at this stage, there was no indication Rob was gay.
“I don’t mean to talk in stereotypes but Rob was a macho sportsman with a healthy sexual appetite at home. Why would I think anything different?” she says.
The couple married the following year and agreed to try for a baby. In a month, Suzanne was pregnant.
Rob said a new baby would help
“Rob’s mood changed suddenly and I put it down to getting pregnant so quickly. It was a shock for us both,” she says. “But as the pregnancy progressed his attitude got worse and he seemed angry that I couldn’t go running or biking with him because of my bump.”
Looking back Suzanne wonders if her curvy body caused the first chink in his armour.
“Before the pregnancy I had a very athletic straight up and down shape, but suddenly I had boobs, a big bum and a bump,” she says. “I looked very womanly for the first time and it seemed to disgust him.” Suzanne’s friends all reported how their own husbands had gone off sex during pregnancy so it didn’t set alarm bells ringing. But she says Rob’s behaviour when she went into labour certainly did.
“The contractions started at night and I asked him to drive me straight to hospital,” she recalls. “He refused and went back to sleep. I couldn’t believe what had happened.”
Suzanne was on the verge of phoning an ambulance when he reluctantly got up and drove her to the maternity ward when she was already 8cm dilated. Rob showed no emotion during the birth and failed to show up at visiting time the next morning.
“To be honest I was so exhausted from the birth and wrapped up with the baby there wasn’t time to talk about it, I just hoped he would adjust and snap out of it,” she says.
Using waking the baby as an excuse, Rob stared sleeping in a different room. The cracks in their marriage were growing wider, but Suzanne remained sure they were just experiencing the tricky patch many go through after a baby.
And when Rob started drinking, he blamed it on work stress. But Suzanne couldn’t help feeling he was picking fights on purpose. Then in the midst of the trouble, he suggested having another baby.
“We always wanted a big family, and I thought if we got through the hard part, everything would be OK. So I agreed and we started trying,” she says. Again Suzanne got pregnant quickly and this time his reaction stunned her. “He looked horrified when I told him, which made no sense because it was his idea.
“I just wanted my old husband back and suggested counselling, which he agreed to.”
It was while she was pregnant Suzanne walked into his office to find him looking at a gay porn site. “I was shocked and asked what he was doing,” she says.
“He said a child he coached was running with a bad crowd and there had been rumours he was involved with gay porn. Rob said he was worried and wanted to make sure it wasn’t true. At the time, it seemed plausible.”
Two months later the couple’s second son was born and things went from bad to worse. “He was drinking and staying out all night,” remembers Suzanne. “One night he came home with a male pal and let him sleep on the sofa. I had no idea who he was.”
Rob had told their counsellor he was not having an affair but Suzanne wasn’t so sure. When she asked to borrow his car one day, he flinched – and she knew then she’d find his secret there. When he went out, she took the keys and found a box of the phone bills.
“The years of confusion and upset all made sense when I realised it was gay porn lines. It took days to sink in that Rob could never be who I thought he was again,” she says.
“But it was cruel to blame me. I never made him gay but I imagine saying that made him feel less guilty. He has not once apologised to my face.”
Suzanne had to break the news to their families. While hers were shocked, Rob’s seemed unsurprised.
“It hit me they had known or suspected he was gay the whole time,” she says. “I felt like he’d used me as a kind of experiment and I wondered if his mother’s desire for grandchildren had been the reason he’d played straight.
“I saw my GP as a new mother with a toddler and a 16-week-old baby to breastfeed, He never asked how I was feeling. I was a prime candidate for postnatal depression but there was no follow up.
“I was also worried Rob was having a breakdown and asked how I could help him. I felt angry that what I’d told them didn’t set off alarm bells.
“I needed support and help but he never even offered me any STI checks, despite the fact I was breastfeeding!
“Rob wasn’t brave for coming out – he was selfish, cruel and deceitful. To put my health at risk is awful, but to risk the health of our baby was unforgiveable.
“He has the right to be gay but surely I also had the right to know the truth.”
Suzanne is now struggling to bring up her small children as a single mother with limited financial support from Rob.
“He says he would pay more if I let the kids go away with him and his new boyfriend but I can’t,” she says. “My children are six and three, too young to understand why daddy kisses another man.”
Suzanne divorced Rob last year and still doesn’t feel ready for a relationship. And what she doesn’t understand is the lack of support groups for women in her situation.
“I went to one well-known group and they shut the door in my face. And the friends I’ve made at one haven’t been so lucky, if you can call it that – they only found out their husbands were gay after contracting an STI,” she says.
“Rob now lives the life of Riley with his boyfriend while I’m struggling as a working single mum with two confused and upset children. He has destroyed my life.”