Dear Christine, I am a married 41 year old stay–at–home mother of 4 children. You must be thinking I have found the wrong advice column… but no. I have known I was a lesbian since I fell in love with my older sister’s best friend when I was 6 years old, who, ironically, turned out to be a lesbian. But I was determined to get married and have kids… it is what I always wanted, and I thought I could just suppress my lesbian “side”, but it has gotten more and more difficult as the years have gone on. I have told my husband but he just brushes it off. I don’t want to hurt or lose my kids, and I don’t want to destroy this life I have built for them, but I am so desperately unhappy I have considered suicide just to escape the pain of this life. I feel like a caged animal, but I walked freely into the cage… is it fair of me to destroy everything my kids trust and believe in just for the sake of my own happiness? I am so frustrated and sad, and I really don’t know what to do. At My Wit’s End in Waterford
Dear Wit’s End in Waterford, Please sit down and take a deep breath. Let it out. Now take another deep breath. Let that one out. Now, stop considering suicide. I know it feels like you have only dead end choices, but that is only your perception at the moment, not necessarily the reality awaiting you. If you were to kill yourself, you would truly lose your family and the life you have built for your children. They need you as their mom, whether or not you stay married to their dad, or if you come out as lesbian. Your family needs to know who you really are.
Your husband brushes you off because he hasn’t had any reason to take your feelings seriously. Many men are turned on by the thought of another woman with their wife. He needs to know that you are not satisfied in your marriage with him, and that it really isn’t about him, but that you are not being true to yourself and you never have been. Your children need a mom, whether you are straight or lesbian. They need a mother who loves them and is open with who she really is, guiding them to find themselves by her example. It’s not always comfortable or easy to be who you are, but you are the expert on you, and you are the only one who can be fully you! Your kids are developing a sense of self, trying on different identities and awareness’s, trying to figure themselves out. Your example of still learning who you are and being that person even as an adult is a very important role model for them.
Just because you come out as lesbian and end your marriage does not automatically mean you will lose your children. They are always your children, and they love you because you are their mom and you love them. You can provide them with stability and love probably better if you are authentically who you are and not pushing a big part of yourself away. They may not understand initially, and they may be hurt or rejecting at first, but having in there with them. You may be surprised at how they adjust, perhaps even easier than you are! The younger crowd isn’t bothered by people being GLBT. It’s normal to them. Your husband deserves a chance at an intimate relationship with someone who authentically wants to be with him, and isn’t suppressing her needs for “his sake”. Let him know the truth and allow him to start the process of healing and figuring out what he needs to do to take care of himself and continue to be a stable father to your children.
The two things you can depend on in life are death and taxes. A third thing would be change. Everything that lives, changes. You did what you thought was best and right at the time when you married and had a family. Now that has changed. Welcome to life. You may “destroy” the family as it is currently, but you are teaching your children to be honest with who you are, with yourself first, and with your family next. This is a very important lesson for them. Once you tell your family, it will release you from this “cage” and allow you and your family to start dealing with reality, rather than playing house. You might be surprised by how much better life can be, once you live your truth. Go for it, and be fully who you are.
Keep in touch,
Christine C Cantrell, PhD.
Prism of Possibilities Psychotherapy
1026 W. Eleven Mile Road, Suite C
Royal Oak, Michigan 48067