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The Down Low - Same Sex Infidelity - When the Other Woman is Another Man
By Ruth Houston   

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Infidelity expert Ruth Houston discusses the “down low” or same-sex infidelity. Practical advice on what to look for and where to get help if you find yourself in this situation.

The down low is back in the public eye thanks to the pending divorce of author, Terry McMillan, of  “Waiting to Exhale” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” fame.  Terry’s husband, Jonathan Plummer, now admits to being gay.  The bombshell he dropped on Terry has even overshadowed the release of Terry’s new book, “The Interruption of Everything”.  At the heart of the controversy is Terry’s statement that by concealing his sexual orientation,  Jonathan put her life at risk “without her consent.”  Like most female partners of men on the down low, Terry lives in fear having been exposed to HIV/AIDS.


The Down Low Defined

“Down low” is the term used to describe the behavior of Black men who secretly have sex with other men while in marriages or relationships with other women. The men who do this do not consider themselves to be gay.  The term “down low” originated in the Black community, and is used almost exclusively to describe Black men.  But men of all races engage in this behavior. (Remember New Jersey governor James McGreevey?)

An Infidelity Thing

The down low is not a “black thing” or a “gay thing” – it’s an infidelity thing.  The down low is  basically another form of infidelity.  The difference, however, is that rather than cheating with a woman, a man on the down low is cheating with another man.  I prefer to call it “same sex infidelity.”  Earlier this year, J.L. King (author of On the Down Low) and I were both guests on The Breakfast Club,  the premiere morning talk show in Jamaica, West Indies,  -- the island that Jonathan Plummer calls his home.  I was invited to discuss the infidelity aspects of the down low.

Not an Uncommon Situation

Terry McMillan’s situation is by no means unique.  The situation is common enough to warrant its own support groups such as the Straight Spouse Network, Gay Married Men’s Association, and Wives of Bi/Gay Men, just to name a few.  An estimated 2 million other couples who have found themselves in this situation. On addition to J.L.’s book, there are several others are in Terry’s situation.

Health Consequences of the Down Low

The rising number of HIV cases within the African-American community, especially among straight Black women, has made Terry’s fear of HIV/AIDS exposure a valid cause for concern.  A man on the down low who engages in unprotected sex poses a health threat to his unsuspecting female partner by putting her at risk for HIV/AIDS.  J. L. King brought this to the attention of the Black community with his best selling book, On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of ‘Straight’ Black Men Who Sleep With Men.  According to a report presented at the National HIV Prevention Conference in June of this year, new HIV infections are rising among Blacks, women, and people who get the virus through heterosexual contact.

Why Women Miss the Signs

Most women are oblivious to the fact that their man is on the down low.  This typical of women with cheating husbands – even when the man is cheating with another woman.  Most infidelity goes undetected.  According to statistics, 2/3 of the women being cheated on, have no idea their man is having an affair – because they fail to recognize the telltale signs.  What the majority of women don’t realize, is that most of the signs of infidelity are subtle. So women who pride themselves on knowing all the obvious signs of infidelity, usually miss the many subtle signs staring them in the face. 

Detecting the Down Low

The same signs of infidelity that apply to a man who’s cheating with another woman, also apply to a man who’s cheating with another man.  So first and foremost you need to have a working knowledge of what those signs are.  If you’re unfamiliar with the many hidden signs of infidelity, you’re at a major disadvantage.  This should be a compelling enough reason for you to familiarize yourself not just with the obvious signs of cheating, but with the countless subtle signs.  Especially since these are the signs most women tend to overlook.

This is where Is He Cheating on You?- 829 Telltale Signs can be a tremendous help.  Based on 10+ years of research,  and almost 2000 interviews, this book lists practically every known sign of infidelity.  The telltale signs in this book are grouped into 21 major categories, so you can easily find the signs that apply to your mate. (For more information about the book, visit )

Once you establish that he’s cheating, then it’s a matter of determining who he’s cheating with. Is it a woman?  Or another man?   In “Is He Cheating on You?”, Chapter 26, entitled ‘His Behavior Around Other Women’ can also apply to your man’s behavior around other men, if you suspect him of being on the down low.  The 71 telltale signs in this chapter can help you find out who he’s cheating with.

What to Look For – How You Can Tell

Most of the signs of a man on the down low will be very subtle, since the whole idea is not to call attention to himself and his behavior.   Be alert for suspicious non-verbal communication between your husband / boyfriend and other men -. a look, a touch,  or hug that lasts a little too long or has undertones of intimacy.  If you get an uneasy feeling about certain of his male friends, trust your intuition.  Your subconscious mind is probably picking up some of the more subtle signs.

In a recent article in Newsday by Pat Burson entitled “When Spouses are In the Closet,” I listed several ways to spot a man on the down low.  Computer clues can alert you that your man is on the down low.  You may find incriminating e-mails or evidence of frequent visits to gay websites which indicate that he’s having , or planning to have sex with other men. Be observant. Pay close attention to everything he says and does.  Secretive behavior of any kind should raise a red flag.  If he seems to be hiding something, find out what it is. Your very life could be at stake.

The Down Low Dozen – More  Telltale Signs

How can I tell if my man is on the down low?   What signs should I look for?  These are the two most frequently asked questions about the down low.  In response to your questions on how to detect the down low and what to do about it, I’ve compiled a tip sheet entitled “The Down Low Dozen” which lists:

  • 12 telltale signs of a man on the down low
  • 12 tips for women who know or suspect their man is on the down low (including tips on how to approach him if he’s giving off down low signals)
  • 12 books with practical advice about the down low and related issues.
  • 12 discussion lists and support groups for women married to bi or gay husbands, or who are in relationships with men on the down low 

The Down Low Dozen Tip Sheet is packed with practical information that you can put to immediate use.  It also includes websites, organizations, and other resources for women and couples in down low situations. For your FREE Down Low Dozen Tip Sheet, e-mail InfidelityAdvice(at) with “Down Low Dozen” in the subject line. 

A Matter of Life and Death

Meanwhile, from the minute you suspect your man of being on the down low -- until you know and  can prove otherwise -- practice safe sex for your own protection.  To drive home the seriousness of this situation, let me tell you about an incident that occurred in the mid- to late- 80’s when HIV/AIDS was nowhere near as widespread as it is today.  The wife of someone very close to me contracted HIV from an extramarital affair with a man on the down low and died of AIDS-related complications. After 2 ½ years of going from doctor to doctor to find the cause of her mysterious health problems, she was finally diagnosed as being HIV positive. 3 years later, she was dead.  Her husband was devastated, because until they found out what was wrong with her, he never even knew his wife was having an affair.  She ended up on the same hospital ward as her bisexual lover, who died a week before she did.  Dealing with a man on the down low cost this woman her life. 

Don’t Be the Last to Know

If your husband or boyfriend is on the down low, you can’t afford to be the last to know. Familiarize yourself with the telltale signs of infidelity. If you don’t, it could end up costing you your life.  Start by sending for a free copy of the Down Low Dozen Tip Sheet, and make use of the information. The life you save may be your own.

About Ruth Houston:


Infidelity expert Ruth Houston is the author of “Is He Cheating on You? – 829 Telltale Signs”, which documents practically every known sign of infidelity.  Ruth has been quoted in the New York Times, Newsday, the New York Post, the Christian Science Monitor, the Houston Chronicle, the Toronto Sun, iVillage, MSN Lifestyle, AOL BlackVoices and numerous other print and online media.  Ruth has been a guest on The Today Show, Good Day New York, Telemundo, 1010WINS, TalkAmerica, The Breakfast Club and over 150 other radio and TV talk shows in the United States, Canada, Europe, the Caribbean, New Zealand, and South America.  For more information about Ruth, her book, or infidelity, visit   For your FREE Down Low Dozen Tip Sheet, e-mail InfidelityAdvice(at) with “Down Low Dozen” in the subject line. 

To interview Ruth Houston, call 718 592-6039 or e-mail infidelityexpert(at)

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