Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
306: What About the Straight Wife?: Understanding the Women’s Experience in Mixed-Orientation Marriage: Debra Brown Gordy

306: What About the Straight Wife?: Understanding the Women’s Experience in Mixed-Orientation Marriage: Debra Brown Gordy

After Debra Brown Gordy (President-Elect of the Mormon Mental Health Association) discovered that her husband, a BYU Professor, was gay her world fell apart.   They tried to keep the marriage together but it wasn’t to be.   

After the divorce, Debra went back to graduate school and conducted research about the experience of women in relationships with gay men. She joins me to discuss her personal experience being married to a gay man;  the results of her research and the reconstruction of the lives of women divorced from gay men.

(Photo Credit: ‘Divorce: Billy Grace Ward)

Debra Brown Gordy, MS MRET is a women’s Energy Psychology therapist and Spiritual Life Coach, and founder of The Sophia Women’s Institute. Specializing in the healing of unhealed childhood trauma, relationship coaching and intimacy counseling, and divorce coaching for spiritually-searching women, she guides clients through the inner healing and transformation they need to reclaim their sovereign feminine souls, and create the soul-satisfyingly joyful and fulfilling lives and relationships they hunger for! Debra serves clients worldwide. Learn more at:


  1. TM

    Admittedly, I was not able to listen to the entire interview. I got as far as the one-way mirror story and felt all the anger and frustration I was willing to feel in the moment. My heart goes out to all women who have had this or something similar happen to them. Even after 5 years, I’m still trying to figure out what I’m supposed to feel after my husband of 18 years confessed to having been unfaithful to me with other men for years during our marriage. I went numb…immediately. I went into denial about the seriousness of it because I knew God could heal it and we would just go on as though nothing had happened. Of course, it doesn’t work that way and we’ve been trying to stay together but, I just asked him to move out for the second time in the past 5 years after our 20 yr old daughter self admitted to the hospital for suicidal behavior. My children and I are also recovering from covert narcissistic abuse from him. I’m just now coming out of the numbness and allowing myself to feel a lot of emotions I would not allow. I have a road of healing to do and I pray daily for my amazing children. I believe, like others, there isn’t enough being done to help these women and their children.

    Even as I reread this comment, I am horror-struck at what it sounds like. The reality is so raw and I’ve just never really seen it for how horrible it really is. I think it’s a miracle we are as high functioning as we are after all of this. The big focus for me has been the abuse…the homosexuality issue has been secondary to my whole situation.

    Thank you for the work you do! Blessings!

    1. Gina Colvin

      Blessings and kind thoughts to you and yours. I had a heterosexual first husband who was unfaithful and I can only imagine how the horror of infidelity when it’s compounded with abuse as well. I hope you are able to finish the interview at some point. Debra is a wise and wonderful soul.

    2. Kirstty

      I am so sorry for what you are going through, and for the path ahead that you have to face. I have been along that journey , and just when I feel like I am doing so well, something happens and I am at the bottom of the snake, if I compare this journey to a game of snakes and ladders.

  2. David

    I like the previous website skins or appearance more.
    Overall good interview.
    But I would agree that I find myself feeling for the gay man more than what the straight woman had to go through.

    Ultimately, we need a church and theology to grow beyond what Joseph Smith viewed.

    1. Gina Colvin

      Why did you like the previous skin more? SMDH.

      I don’t think its a competition between who is more deserving of our feeling. It’s about noticing that both have their own suffering that needs attention.

  3. Karen

    Thank you Debra Brown Gordy, for your thoughtful work and continued advocacy for straight spouses. Thank you, Gina Colvin for including the discussion of this important topic on your podcast.

    I’m a former straight-spouse, married for 10 years to a closeted gay man and divorced for 5, I completely agree with Debra’s comments about how hard it is to discuss this situation with other people and for other people to understand and react to the nuances of this situation.

    For me, the key things to remember is that his pain doesn’t erase my pain and visa-versa. We both needed and continue to need loving support from friends and family. The other important thing to remember is that despite our past circumstances, we all bear responsibility for our actions. A gay individual who is raised in a conservative home faces an immensely challenging situation in which they must choose between gaining the acceptance of their family and their faith-community while lying to and immensely hurting another individual, or face rejection by their community. It is understandable that many individuals in this situation choose the straight marriage, but that does not absolve them from the pain they caused the straight spouse and the potential emotional damage they cause to children in this marriage. I strongly second Debra Brown Gordy’s comment that pain and damage does not come from the break-up of the marriage alone, but occurs throughout the entire marriage. The gay individual should do what they can to lessen the emotional damage they caused. A comparable situation might be one in which an individual faces abuse in their family of origin and then perpetuates that abuse in their own marriage. It is understandable why an individual might act this way. However, they are still responsible for their own actions. They have the ability to choose how they respond to that responsibility and thus have the power to lessen the emotional repercussions to those they hurt.

    Overall, we need more compassion all around. The closeted gay spouse needs compassion and the straight spouse needs compassion, and it is possible to extend compassion to both.

    FYI, Maggie Rayner, if you are interested in more stories like this one, check out the Straight Spouse, Voices podcast

  4. Jenny

    I listened to the whole painful pod cast and read all the comments. I am incensed… Are you to innocent to recognize that you got a black eye in a fight you picked? Is it hard to talk about a pit you dug for yourselves?

    Anyone who pays or paid tithe, anyone who sustains or sustained the Q15 (to any degree), is culpable in the, P A I N, of a Mormon mixed orientation marriage and divorce. I say you deserve it! You sustain or sustained it! You PAY or paid to support it! You were, and most still are, okay with causing it; until it’s your family. Now you are the victim? Take your [] medicine!

    Homosexuals did not do this to you; religions that deny the empirical do it to you. Why don’t you put your anger on them? Why don’t you put your betrayal on them? Why don’t you put your pain on them?

    Poor ten year marriage; how about a [] lifetime? You got to divorce your problem, you got to move on. We are still Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender in your Mormon world! So when the chickens come home to roost, cry us a Mormon river…

  5. I am the CEO of the Fair Marriage Foundation, a non-profit organization for victims of sexual orientation marriage fraud. We promote legislation to require people to identify their sexual orientation on a marriage license in Iowa. Please take a few minutes to review our website and send me a note. If there is anyone willing to help make a difference in this world about this issue please contact me.

    Linda Foegen

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