Dear Dana: How Do I Tell My Husband I’m A Lesbian?

Dana lesbian

Dear Dana is a bi-weekly advice column for humans who engage in romantic relationships. Please send your dilemmas, issues, conundrums, assumptions, conflicts, anxieties, worriments, obstacles, complications, predicaments, queries, questions, and any other synonyms for “problems” to deardana@rolereboot.org.

Dear Dana,

I’ve been in a loving marriage for 20 years and have two children who are now in college and out of the house. I’m relishing my time as an empty-nester, but the quiet house and free time has brought something to the surface that I’ve been denying for many years: I’m gay.  

I love my husband very much, but have never been in love with him. We got married very young because it was what we were “supposed to do.” Soon after, we bought a house in the suburbs, had two kids, and settled in to our stereotypical husband and wife roles. Over the years, I’ve had feelings for different women, but never wanted to rock the boat, so I stayed quiet. Each time, I died a little bit more inside.

But now that my children are grown, I feel like it’s time to finally tell the truth, to come out of the closet, to live an authentic life, to pursue happiness. I know it will crush my husband, and I’m scared that my kids, my family, and my friends will judge me and be angry for lying to them all these years. But if I don’t do it soon, I’m afraid I never will. 

So, Dana, how should I reveal the news? And where do I go from here?

Sincerely,

Scared To Come Out Of The Closet

 

Dear Scared,

I am so very proud of you for coming to this crucial realization about yourself. Many people spend their entire lives doing what’s expected of them without taking time to consider what they really want, especially when what they want would make them part of a group that is often maligned and outright persecuted.

People often decide to stick to the script given to them by sitcoms and magazines and their relatives. People often decide to do what is expected of them. People can spend the entirety of their existence on this planet living a half-life, fulfilling other’s expectations instead of their own. Play-acting instead of being actually, fully, vibrantly, and messily alive.

You, my dear Scared, want, and deserve, to be fully alive.

I hope for a future where coming out of the closet is no longer required. We talk about ways to make it easier for people to come out, but only gay people are tasked with having to announce their sexuality to the world. Because my sexuality happens to line up with the presumed default, I don’t have to confess my love for men to anyone. I don’t have to agonize over who to tell, when to tell them, and dread their reactions.

Coming out of the closet means you get to live your truth but it also means you have to make a correction to people’s assumptions. I want a world where sexuality isn’t presumed and therefore closets, and emerging from them, is no longer necessary.

But that’s not where we are, and coming out is a necessary step in your process. I am a straight woman and I have never lived this experience, so I turned to a female friend who has come out of the closet and has been happily married to a woman for over 10 years. I gave her your question, told her what advice I was planning on giving—what I recommend you say to your husband and children—and my wonderful friend rolled her eyes, sighed heavily, and said, “No. You’re a straight girl, and you have no idea. The first thing Scared needs to do is find herself a pack of lesbians and ask them. Because we got this, we know this, we have lived it and, no offense, anyone who hasn’t gone through this process has absolutely no idea.”

It is isolating to be on the precipice of a major life change, but others have done this, and done it well, and are more than willing to help you walk this path. My friend recommended that you reach out to the GLBT National Help Center, which is a non-profit group that provides vital support to people dealing with sexuality and gender-identity issues. They have a database of 15,000 local resources and a hotline that provides confidential counseling, both of which are available to you for free.

I also found an article that’s completely up your alley: How to Leave Your Husband (Because You’re a Lesbian). In it the author, Laneia, writes about her experience of coming out and telling her husband, children, and family that she is a lesbian:

…coming out after being married to a man has the tendency to send almost everyone who knows you into screaming hysterics. People just can’t wrap their heads around how you could’ve lived one life and now want to live an altogether different one. At least, that’s how they see it—it’s actually still just you and your life.

You say that you’re scared that your friends and family will be angry with you when they learn that you’ve been lying to them for all of these years. Your friends, extended family, and especially husband and children, will have to alter the story of their lives. They’ve been operating under one narrative and now they need to change it.

When you come out to them they will likely initially be upset and even angry because people 100% hate having to change their narratives. We all tell ourselves a story of our life—my mom is straight, my life looks the way I thought it would, everything is fine. We cling to our stories of how life works, even if these stories are false and ultimately destructive.

But your family and friends being angry at you isn’t your problem to fix. Eventually they will rewrite the story, broaden it to include your sexuality, and, maybe even thank you for finding and then revealing your true self to them. Changing the narrative is hard, but their stories will change and their lives will, again, return to normal.

While I do think that your family may initially react negatively to your news, I disagree with your assertion that it’s because you’ve been lying to them. You haven’t been lying to anyone. Lying means that you knew you were a lesbian when you spoke your marriage vows to your husband. But you didn’t know. You lived in a world that didn’t want you to be a lesbian so you acquiesced, even to the point of not allowing yourself to know that you were gay.

Your life up to this point has not been a lie—it’s been a journey that brought you to this place. You did not know. But now you do.

Now you can reach out to others who can help you make this transition. And they will grasp your hands and pull you up and show you how to begin living the truth that you deserve.

Dana Norris once went on 71 internet dates, many of which you may read about here. She is the founder of Story Club and editor-in-chief of Story Club Magazine. She has been featured in McSweeney’s, Role Reboot, The Rumpus, and Tampa Review and she teaches at StoryStudio Chicago. You may find her on Twitter at @dananorris. 

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