Who Love Women
by Carren Strock
Trade Paperback: 340 pages
Published by Routledge; 3nd edition
(June 12, 2020)
Praise for Married Women Who Love Women
(reviews from periodicals and quotes from letters and e-mails I have received)
1st, 2nd, and 3rd Editions
The discovery of same-gender orientation can be made by any woman at any age. Many of the women I interviewed (myself included) had no idea of our same-gender orientation until after we were married. Many women believed they were the only ones to ever have had these feelings and and their realization was often terrifying.
When I originally wrote Married Women Who Love Women, I had focused primarily on the women who were in marriages—how they dealt with husbands and children, and how they coped with double lives. But there is another very important part of the picture that I had inadvertently left out: the single lovers of married women. I realized that I could not ignore them while trying to grapple with this complex issue from multiple perspectives. I put out a call looking for these women to interview for the second edition. Thanks to their generosity, both in time and in the information they willingly shared, the second edition rectified that omission.
The second edition, in addition to updating the current chapters, included a new introduction, a glossary, and these additional chapters: The Single Lesbian Lover, Redefined Marriages, and Labeling: Lesbian/Bisexual/Unsure?
The request from my editor that I write a third edition of Married Women Who Love Women came as no surprise. So much has changed, and continues to change daily with regard to the way we think, feel, and more importantly, understand the issues of sexuality and gender. I realized that the first thing I would need to adapt would be the title for the new edition. When Married Women Who Love Women was published in 1998 and as a second edition in 2008, the title was self-explanatory. You knew that married meant a woman to a man. However that is now longer true. Hence the new title, Married Women Who Love Women and More.
In 1998, when the first edition of MWLW was published, there were three basic labels being used for those who did not identify as straight. They were lesbian, bisexual, and gay. As the transgendered community made it’s voice heard, the acronym Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) came about. Then, with talk of sexual fluidity rising to the forefront, the acronym LGBTQQIAPP—lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual, and polysexual appeared.
Why I Wrote Married Women Who Love Women
Until I was forty-three, I would have said with absolute certainty, “I am not, nor could I ever become, a lesbian. I know exactly who and what I am.” One year later, after 25 years of a contented heterosexual marriage, I fell in love with another woman. I experienced more passion, pain, isolation, and turmoil than I ever thought possible and I began to question who I really was. My journey from denial to self awareness, understanding and acceptance was not an easy one.
I wrote Married Women Who Love Women as a way to deal with my own discovery and to help other women deal with theirs. By interviewing more than 100 women, as well as their husbands and children, and through additional research as well, I found that this phenomenon—married women loving women—was not as uncommon as I had believed.
I also realized that no woman, single or married, is automatically exempt from the frightening possibility that she too might one day realize a dormant sexual awareness that she is lesbian or bisexual.
One of my insights is that many women, like myself, have remained married while also actively loving women. Some are out to their husbands and children, others are not. Apart from a few well-known married women who love women, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Virginia Woolf, and Vita Sackville West, married lesbians are a large, but largely hidden, segment of the population. As far as I know, Married Women Who Love Women is the first book written about married women who discover their same-gender preference or recognize long hidden knowledge of it. This book was written for them, and their friends and families, and for all women who have wondered about their sexuality, their marriages, and whether they might be more fulfilled in same-sex relationships. I think it will also fascinate anyone interested in female sexuality and human behavior.
By revealing my personal experience, and also sharing the frank responses of the women I interviewed, women of diverse backgrounds and educations, as well as their husbands and children, I hope to answer many often asked questions such as how does a married woman realize that she is a women who loves women, how does she come out to family and friends, how does she deal with guilt and shame, how does she find acceptance and redefine or rework her marriage.
I also address issues that have never been freely discussed before: Why do women turn to other women for emotional fulfillment? What would make a married woman cross the invisible line that turns her best friend into her lover? Why do some women struggle with identity while others easily embrace their sexuality? What do married women do when they realize that a large part of themselves has been missing? What kind of men are they married to? How do these women and their spouses cope? MWLW also answers intimate questions that have crossed the minds of all women such as: What is it like for a woman who believed herself to be heterosexual to suddenly find herself enthralled with another woman? How is making love with a woman different than making love with a man? And finally, where do straight women fit in?
Married Women Who Love Women is a look at how conflicting human desires such as change and stability, companionship and sex, commitment and passion, social acceptance and personal happiness are handled by this little-studied group. It is an honest exploration into the secret life of married women, the power of female attraction, and the mysterious bonds between women.
From the Foreward: I never imagined Married Women Who Love Women would touch so many women so deeply. Since its initial publication, I have received numerous letters and E-mails from across the United States and from as far away as Australia, Brazil, Columbia, England, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Mongolia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Slovakia, and Switzerland. They have come from women struggling with feelings of guilt, shame, and isolation, as well as from women with long-unanswered questions.
Many have shared their own poignant stories. One woman, sobbing and clutching my book, approached me at a reading. “I came to thank you. I thought I was the only married woman ever to have fallen in love with another woman,” she said, pausing often to regain her composure. Finally she told me, “I was so terrified, I decided to kill myself. Then I found your book, and it saved my life.”
Married women who love women are not the only ones who have contacted me. I often receive mail from single lesbians thanking me for helping them gain a better understanding of the married women they love and from straight women thanking me for helping them to better understand what their sisters, daughters, mothers, or friends are going through.
Reviews in the third edition of Married Women Who Love Women
“An enlightening book that addresses with sensitivity and compassion for all involved, the difficult circumstance—more common than many may realize—of women who are married to men, who then become aware of their primary desire for other women. Updated to speak to evolving sexual and emotional mores, this volume underscores how complex is the human heart, and how resistant to rigid and unchanging labels human sexual responses can be.”
—Dr. Naomi Wolf, Author of The Beauty Myth and Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love, USA
“This book provides a deep, thoughtful, and moving account of the diverse experiences of married women who find themselves unexpectedly but passionately falling in love with other women. The powerful first-person accounts in this book will shatter all of your stereotypes about what “typical lesbians” or “typical bisexuals” are supposed to be like, and whether those are even the right terms to apply to some of these cases! Anyone who has marveled at the power of love and desire to turn life upside down will find this book captivating and engrossing.”
—Lisa M. Diamond, PhD, Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies, University of Utah, and Author of Sexual Fluidity, USA
“Carren Strock’s first book helped me find my authentic voice and life many years ago. Her words spoke to the depths of my heart, gave me the courage to step fully into who I am, and helped me to live an authentic life. I am sure that this edition will help many more women. I highly recommend it! As a 62-year-old woman who came out when I was 41, her words gave me the wings to fly. I will be forever grateful for her literary contributions!”
—Micki Grimland, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, USA
“I think MWLW is a great book. I find it helpful for women who are debating what to do. I feel that it’s on a level with Nancy Friday’s The Secret Garden because it opens up the possibilities and normalizes a variety of sexual feelings and sexual ideas for a number of people.”
—Elisabeth Gordon, MD, Psychiatrist, Sexual Health, USA
“Twenty-years after Carren Strock shattered barriers with her best-selling book, Married Women Who Love Women, changes in social mores and attitudes have necessitated a third edition. This book apprises the expanding consciousness of sexual attraction, orientation, fluidity and identity. By sharing highly personal and compelling stories of married women around the world who have an affinity for other women, she has created a safe space for kinship, understanding, and sisterhood for those who identify with this experience. Carren’s honest description of her own journey helps to sooth the angst that often accompanies this type of exploration. MWWLW+More is a useful guide for therapists and helping professionals—and most of all, for women who love women, their partners, family members, and friends.”
—Margaret DaRos, LCSW, LADC, Psychotherapist, Contributing Author to the anthology, Out of the Closet, Into Our Hearts: Celebrating Our Gay Family Members, and Board Member of Portland Maine PFLAG, USA
“MWWLW+ deepens the complex narrative around women’s lives. While society is evolving and is seemingly more open to the fluidity of gender and sexual expression, the actual negotiations between the women and those they love—husbands, children, family, friends, and lovers-is still shrouded in societal norms and pressures. This edition using women’s words, and some of their husbands and children’s voices along with accessible professional/academic analysis allows the reader to begin to understand the complexities of gender but more importantly the fluidity of love.”
—JoAnne Myers, PhD, Associate Professor of Political Science and co-founder of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Marist College, USA, and author of The Historical Dictionary of the Lesbian and Gay Liberation Movements