Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, pt. 6

Here is the next part in our series where we share our stories gathered from the online support group for women coming out later in life (Here is part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5). For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here.

COMING OUT TO YOUR STRAIGHT SPOUSE/PARTNER, Part 2

by Laurel Peterson

This month we’re focusing on relationships many of our 600 plus members have or had with the men in their life. Last week, we discussed the different ways we as late life lesbians came out to our husbands or boyfriends, and also discussed why not telling them was sometimes the choice we made. This week, we’re taking a closer look at how revelations about our sexuality have affected how we relate to these men on a longer term basis. This week’s question was:

How has your relationship with your husband/boyfriend changed or evolved since coming out to him?


Good terms throughout

Some of our members were lucky enough to have a very open and supportive relationship with their husband from the start, which continued even in light of this difficult realization:

After I told him, he offered me the option of an open relationship on my side (which shocked me), because he didn’t want to lose me. Ultimately, I couldn’t do that so we separated, and 13 months after separation, we filed for divorce. He remains a close friend and he and my girlfriend have developed a friendship too. I’m very lucky! – Sandy

More honest relationship

Other members actually have a better relationship with their husbands/boyfriends now that their sexuality secret is out in the open and they can be honest with each other:

Our relationship has evolved to best friends with no sexual relationship. I feel like we are doing a better job at co-parenting now as well. I think this is partly due to the tension being gone. I had been feeling so frustrated for so long, a weight lifted when we discussed it. – Autumn

We’ve always been best friends but now we have “friend zoned” each other. We’ve become more honest with each other and essentially become closer while growing further apart. Ironically, we comment on girls together, talk about future girlfriends, etc. We both feel like this is right and this feels real and whole and like we can appreciate each other fully now. So overall, our relationship has improved. – Bonnie

Good relationships sometimes deteriorate

Not everyone had a positive experience with the changes to their marriage/relationship, however. Understandably, learning that your wife is attracted to women is a huge hit to the male ego and often times men can take it personally or act out in ways they hadn’t before:

When I first told my husband, he was sad, but supportive and wanted to be “included.” I soon had a breakdown, and he would hold me and comfort me. However, when I finally accepted myself and told him we needed to break up, it went downhill. He became angry, sometimes wouldn’t talk, and his moods became unpredictable. His moods are still there now that he’s moved out, but I am calmer and can handle it better…but I miss his friendship. I miss having him to talk to about the kids and what I am doing. I always said I hope we can be friends one day, but who knows. – Hayley

When I first told my husband, he was very supportive and accepting. We discussed the possibility of an open marriage and decided that if either of us met someone we’d be open and honest about it. Unfortunately, nothing else about our relationship changed. I kept up the facade for almost two years, despite losing myself to depression and becoming resentful of having sex with him while he grew more frustrated at my lack of interest. Then I met my girlfriend. I told my husband about her, and he became very angry. He tried to control me and my relationship with her as much as possible. We rode the rollercoaster of emotions for about three months before he moved out. He still feels anger and sadness about our situation, but has recently evened out and is now easier to deal with. – Cynthia

True colors come through…in the worst way

Sadly, some of our members through their coming out process realized that the men they were with weren’t the people they thought them to be, and splitting with them meant bringing out the worst sides of the men they had once committed themselves to:

My ex and I went from a peaceful though emotionally distant relationship in marriage, to an emotionally tumultuous relationship during divorce. Unfortunately, when you are raised to be extremely passive and submissive like I was, you don’t see the true nature of someone until you start standing up for yourself. I can now see that he is a narcissist, and I do not use that label lightly. While I was passive in our marriage, things were peaceful. Now that he can’t control me through religious dogma, he uses our kids as manipulation and spiteful retribution. – April

Civil but not close

Still more members had a rough split with their husbands/boyfriends, but have found a way to at least coexist peacefully:

My husband actually took the news OK. He was surprised, but hugged me and told me he knew that must have been hard and that there was no bad guy here. But after the first week, he disengaged. He has never brought up my sexuality again, even though we see each other every few days. Our communication is civil and polite, and always stays in “safe” territory. I was disappointed in his lack of interest in this life-changing experience I was going through, but it also makes it easier to move on and not be tempted to cling to him for comfort. – Danielle

My ex-husband was very sad at first. He felt lost and betrayed, and then the anger came and he was out of control for a while. Our talks with the mediator were tough. He was angry, made hurtful remarks all the time and it was hard to not feel guilty – which caused me to give too much away too easily. Since divorcing, we’ve gradually gotten into a mode of at least being able to communicate about our children. We inform each other and go to parent meetings at school together. I hope we can maintain doing this and perhaps even improve on parenting our boys together. – Simone

Still evolving

Just like life, even long after coming out to your husband or boyfriend, the relationship our members have with these men can continue to evolve for quite some time:

The relationship with my husband has been all over the map. At first he was sad and supportive. Then he was angry and resentful. For a time he wanted me to hurry up, find a job, get out so he could move on. But when I was finally ready to start moving forward, he suddenly became hesitant. When I told him I had become attracted to a woman I met online, he was astonishingly supportive – although at times he has been jealous and used it against me. We will be starting mediation in the next few weeks, and I am sure things will change again. However things end up between us, I will be at peace knowing I did the best I could to inflict minimal harm in a very complicated situation. – Mari Ann

My husband was supportive when I first told him I was attracted to women, but once I realized I was a lesbian and I had to leave the marriage and started dating my girlfriend, he became quite angry and verbally abusive. After over a year of tension and harsh words from him as I tried to keep my head above water around him, he settled down. Sadly, the damage had been done. He now sees me as a friend and confidant, but I’m at the point where the harshness of his earlier behavior has taken a toll on me and although we generally get along OK, I would rather have distance from him than maintain a friendship. Perhaps once I get that distance, then the desire for eventual friendship will return. Only time will tell… – Susan

As you can see, the effects of coming out on a straight relationship are as varied and diverse as our members and the men in their lives. Next week, we’ll take a look at what we wish these men could understand about our late life lesbian experience.

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