Phillip Schofield announcement: How it feels when your partner comes out as gay

By Francesca Gillett
BBC News

  • Published
Philip Schofield and wife Stephanie Lowe arriving for the wedding reception of Frank Lampard and Christine Bleakley at the Arts Club in Mayfair, LondonImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
Phillip Schofield, pictured here with wife Stephanie, says his sexuality led to "many heart-breaking conversations at home"

Phillip Schofield's decision to come out as gay has been widely praised, but thoughts have also focused on his wife of 27 years, Stephanie.

He said she had been "incredible" in her support, although acknowledged "the hurt that I am causing to my family".

But like coming out, discovering your husband is gay can also be incredibly difficult, say women who have been in similar situations.

"You doubt everything you've ever believed in your life," says one woman who found out her husband was gay six years ago.

Caroline - who did not want to be identified - still lives with her husband of 18 years for the sake of their four children, but she says that she is "in a hurry" for when they can sell the house and live apart.

"We get on really well as a family," she says. "As a couple, it's destroyed our relationship.

"We do still do family things, we go to the cinema, we will have family meals.

"But I do go through my stages where I feel the hurt and betrayal more than at other times. And the life I had planned is gone."

Caroline says she knew there was "something seriously wrong in her marriage" but did not know what until she discovered - by accident - an email showing he had been meeting up with other men.

"When I found that email and when he told me parts of his story that he did share, that was like little pieces of a puzzle falling into place," she says.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Flowers outside Phillip Schofield's home near Henley-on-Thames after his announcement on Friday

"Most of the time I feel sorry for the future we had together. But at the same time I don't really resent him; it's a truth about him, it's not a choice.

"I do think he made a choice to make me part of his cover story so that hurts, but I accept it's not something he could have changed."

Comedian Sarah Bowles, 54, had been married seven years when she first started having suspicions that her then-husband might be gay.

Image source, Sarah Bowles
Image caption,
Sarah met the presenter when she appeared on This Morning three years ago to discuss finding out her husband was gay

For religious reasons the couple had waited until marriage before they had sex and Sarah says they "had moments where we were very happy".

"He was a handsome man. Many people said I had it all," she says.

Sarah, from Kings Cross in London - who three years ago was even interviewed by Phillip Schofield on This Morning about the issue - says her suspicions were first raised when she found gay pornography and numbers on telephone bills.

Later, it was through her volunteering work with the Samaritans helpline where, as a telephone counsellor, she had conversations with gay, married callers and noticed parallels with her own husband.

"They all described what their whole life was like and how they would get time away from the family. I realised that was what was happening in my house."

Image source, Mark Weeks
Image caption,
Sarah is no longer in contact with her ex-husband

Sarah says she worked it out just before her husband was outed by someone who had been blackmailing him.

"It was a really, really gentle way of finding out," she says. "If I'd just been startled [with the information], I suspect I would have had a breakdown."

After realising, she says: "I was like, now it makes sense. And I was very worried about my husband's mental health.

"The truth was I did still love him. My main concern was that he would be OK."

Sarah says she is now "at peace with what happened" and enjoying her comedy career by "taking the mick" out of the situation.

Media caption,
Phillip Schofield on ITV's This Morning: "Every person I tell, it gets a little lighter"

Amy, 33, who lives near Belfast, was married for six years when she found out in 2017 - by seeing a Facebook message - that her ex-husband had been having a relationship with another man.

She says: "I took myself out for a drive, I went to a friend's house for a few hours then I went back. He left the house that evening."

In later conversations with him, Amy learned that he had known he was gay but he felt as if the feelings were "wrong".

She says: "If they leave you for another man, [you think] he couldn't possibly have ever loved me, he couldn't have ever found me attractive.

"Anyone experiencing feelings like these need to be encouraged to acknowledge them and not enter into a life that they cannot maintain long term. That's not healthy for them or the people around them.

"It's not wrong to be gay but it is wrong to lie and deceive people."

'Second-guess yourself'

Broadcaster and psychotherapist Lucy Beresford says the impact on the relationship depends on how the information is revealed - for example, whether it is the gay person sitting their partner down, or whether it's discovered through cheating.

"Either way, it's going to turn your world upside down," she says. "When something emotional happens you often do want to turn to your partner to help you, but yet if it's your partner, that can make you feel very lonely and isolated.

"It can make you second-guess yourself, how didn't I spot this, how could I not see the signs. There's a lot of self-doubt.

"Your self-esteem can be affected. You're in a sense being rejected, but not to do with anything to do with who you are."

Lucy advises couples to keep communicating.

"You will have lots of questions and issues to talk about. I would suggest the partner who has this news seeks some emotional support themselves."

And she says it is possible in some circumstances to maintain a friendship, but both partners need to be "open and honest" and pay attention to "what feels most authentic to them".

Information and support: If you or someone you know needs support for issues about sexuality, these organisations may be able to help.

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