Gay & Married. Is it Time to Come Clean? - Relationship Advice
I read your piece entitled, I'm Gay - Advice on Coming Out. I really feel like it's time to come out but my situation is different. I'm 42 and I've been married for ten years. My wife has no idea that I'm gay. I shouldn't have gotten married, I know. I grew up in a very harsh home. You described what it's like when people will only love you conditionally. They don't love you, they love what they want you be. That's how I grew up. I wasn't ready to be alone. I knew they would reject me completely and I hid. No one knows. I've kept this secret and even go to this point after I turned 30 where I was just so used to being alone that I thought I could pull off getting married. I married this woman and wanted to just lose myself in this lie where everyone liked me. We have 2 children and a big house, everything she wanted. I went through the motions and I just kept lying to everyone. We haven't had sex in 6 years. Two things happened this year that make me think maybe it's time to come clean and end this charade. My son who is 8 years old asked me about a television show we saw that involved a gay boy being rejected by his father. He asked me if I would still love him if he didn't grow up to be just like me. He looked genuinely scared. I realize he's very young and may not have any idea what exactly he was asking or why. But the fear was there. He didn't use these words, but he wanted to know if my love was conditional. The other thing that happened is my daughter, who is 7 drew a picture of the family. In the picture I have my eyes closed and I am frowning. My wife, son and daughter are pictured smiling with their eyes open, holding hands. I didn't ask her about it. It is obvious she senses I am unhappy and I am not part of the family they way the others are. I believe I am setting a horrible example for my children living this lie and I don't want to do it anymore. How do I do this? What do I say to my wife?
It's frightening how perceptive children can be.
I'm not going to pretend to understand what you're going through. But I am so very moved by the two events that you've pointed out as having such an effect on you. And I have empathy for everyone involved.
You all deserve a chance at an honest and authentic life. Your wife deserves to be told, and she deserves to be loved by a man that actually feels in love with her and wants to spend his life with her. You deserve to be yourself. Your real self. Not the lie that you believed you had to live, not the you within their conditions.
Your children deserve your honesty. They deserve to be able to look up to you, and to feel your unconditional love. They can't live full and whole lives if they believe you are frowning, eyes closed, not touching anyone. They can't thrive sensing your misery. A family that really loves you doesn't want you to be miserable. That isn't what love is.
If you have not slept with your wife in 6 years, she knows something is wrong. You didn't go into any detail regarding your wife or your marriage. Is she someone that shows prejudice, is she a friend, what have you two talked about, why does she think you don't sleep with her. No matter what the relationship has been, when you tell her, she will be hurt. She may lash out, she may yell, she may cry. These are all reasonable responses. She may feel some relief to finally know that what's been wrong in the marriage is not her fault. Of course years from now she will be glad you were finally honest. She will have moved on and felt freed and accepted, hopefully in a relationship with someone that is in love with her. But that's well up the road. Here in the now, it's not going to be so easy. The odds are it's going to be pretty hard. Often doing the right thing is.
All you can be is yourself. The people who love you will love you. And as you already know, the people who loved you conditionally aren't worth having in your life.
My advice for the tell is to do it privately. Send the kids to grandma's or a sleep over. Give your wife the time and space to react. If she wants to yell, cry, or break stuff, she should have that freedom without having to worry about the little ears that don't need to bare witness. As much as I am rooting for you, I am well aware that the lie you told her is a huge one. No woman wants to hear her husband isn't in love with her, let alone that he never was and never could have been. It's going to tear her world apart. It may make her question her ability to believe people, or trust in herself and her instincts. You have to prepared for that, you have to be ready to understand that once you come clean, this isn't just about you anymore. This becomes about her.
Ultimately all involved will be stronger and better once the truth is out. Try to keep that in focus as you wade through the difficulty of telling the truth. It's the right thing to do.
I'm very curious about what you were watching on TV that instigated your son to question the scene where a father rejected his gay son. Every decade, every year, the subjects of gays, sexual preference and acceptance infiltrate the living rooms through television and movies more and more. I realize we still have a long way to go. But the subject isn't the taboo inaccessible thing that it once was. Where I'm going with this is the living room you grew up in, to the living room your children are growing up in. I seriously doubt you asked your father when you were 8 if he would love you if you grew up to be different than he is. The last three decades have been significant ones. Keep that in mind as you speak to your children.
One more thing I really want to suggest to you, is that after you've told your wife and given her some space to lash out and react and absorb, tell her about those moments you had with your children. Let her know your kids are your priority and that you want to be authentic with them. You want to be an example for them. Please tell your wife that she is of course free to be mad at you. She is allowed to take this out on you and blame you and be angry. That's all fine. But to please be very careful with the words she chooses around your children.
Your son's expression of concern to you may have been a first awarity on his part that he's different. Some people will tell you he's too young to know. Some people will tell you he isn't. In either case, he may be sensing that he's different. To be only 8 years old and asking you what will happen if he grows up to be different than you are, that to me says something. Your wife needs to be very aware of herself. She can't lash out or say anything derogatory about your sexual preference.
She has to be aware that the words she chooses may damage him forever. Not only because she is speaking about his father, but also because he may come to realize he's gay and assume that she despises him for it. That would be horrible, and wrong, and painful. No matter what you and your wife can and can't agree on during this split, you have to agree to the best parents you can possibly be. You have to agree to make your children feel safe and loved. If she is showing hate and anger toward gays your son is going to pay the price for that. He will grow up like you did, feeling he will only be loved conditionally. That he can't be himself or that he can't be honest. Your wife can't let that happen. No matter how mad she is at you, she has to make sure she creates an environment for her children that is safe and honest, where they know they can grow up to be themselves, and that they will be loved and accepted.
She needs to understand that if she's mad at you, she needs to make sure the kids understand she's mad at you for lying, not for being gay.
I hope you will do this, and report back to us and let us know that you're all OK. Namaste.
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