Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories #12

Here is the next article in our series where we share our stories gathered from the online support group for women coming out later in life. For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here. You can find the earlier posts and topics in this series here.


In this next part of our series, we are discussing divorce and all that comes along with it. Choosing to divorce is a very big step, so we asked our members to share what that was like for them. This week’s question is:

How did the divorce process unfold for you? Was it a friendly divorce, a difficult one, or somewhere in-between? Was your sexuality a main reason for the divorce, one of the reasons, or not a factor at all?

Friendly divorce

For some of our members, the divorce process went fairly amicably:

My divorce stemmed from various reasons to include lack of intimacy and lack of communication, but it was the realization of my sexuality that gave me the courage to make the choice to leave. The other reasons kept me stagnant and thinking we could overcome it. The divorce itself was fast, once he decided to move out of the family home, and the divorce was final within 90 days. All terms were discussed and negotiated upfront. There was no war over material things or money. We both were employed and made about the same salary. Things were amiable. — Julia

My marriage was shaky from the beginning. I knew in my gut that I had made a mistake, but convinced myself this was what I was supposed to do and stuck with it. We did not have a strong intimate connection but were comfortable and codependent. It was like playing house. Physical intimacy became a constant struggle between us. While I saw ways that he could have tried harder to connect with me and get out of his comfort zone, I always felt that I was probably the cause of our problems because I cringed at the thought of sex with him, avoided it, and felt such relief when it was over. I struggled for years with why I felt that way. Finally I realized I was attracted to women, not men, and everything made sense. It was a relief to both of us to have this explanation. It was very awkward for a while after the revelation, but it was never ugly. I am grateful that the divorce process was rather straightforward and not contentious after some time had passed. We were divorced a little over a year after I came out to him and now maintain a friendly way of relating when we discuss our dogs or our remaining financial entanglements. We’re still not able to connect emotionally very well, but we’re both there for each other like family would be. — Danielle

Difficult divorce

For some of our members, the divorce process was a difficult one:

I would have to say, my divorce was one of the worst I’ve heard about. I had come out to my ex, and despite other issues in our marriage, had thought we had enough respect for each other that it would be done in a civilized fashion, for the sake of the kids, if nothing else.

I think if I had focused on all the other issues in the divorce and had left my sexuality out of it, it would have gone a bit smoother initially. However, it only would’ve prolonged the moment when it would get nasty later. Simply because, religious intolerance for my sexuality would’ve reared it’s ugly head eventually. So, while my sexuality was not my only reason for the divorce(about 1/4 of the reason), it did become the reason my ex used to cause the divorce to get messy.

I cannot emphasize enough, the importance of a really good LGBT-friendly/affirming lawyer.  —April

My divorce was a build up of years of growing apart, becoming unappreciative of each other, lack of communication and not growing together as a couple anymore. We were in marriage counseling for about 7-8 years for typical marriage issues that we would work through until they reared their ugly face again and again. I was growing professionally after being a stay at home mom and this forged a bigger wedge in my marriage. I started finding more pleasure diving into work, meeting new co-workers and talking with friends. A new friendship developed with a female coworker that rocked my world. As my marriage continued to unravel and with my ex’s continued denial of our issues I began finding comfort in confiding in my new friendship. I began to realize that my 20 year marriage was not improving and I was falling in love with my best friend. The decision to finally end my marriage was heart wrenching as I had only dated this one person my whole life. I didn’t want my relationship with my best friend to be the “reason”. My ex began to suspect something more was going on, but I was too ashamed to admit it. His narrow mindedness and ignorance towards same sex relationships scared me to death and I couldn’t be honest with him about what was going on. The divorce has been horrible. He blames me for breaking up the family and wasting his life. I never meant to cause him such pain and I did not seek out another relationship to end my marriage. My heart ached for the things i needed to grow and feel loved, and ultimately I could not get them from my ex (since the years of therapy never changed anything). —Holly

Mine is ongoing. My ex and I had pages and pages of online interactions about how we would always be friends and this is just a new chapter in our future where we are still family since we have to raise our children together. We planned future holidays with our new partners and sitting side by side on the bleachers so the kids don’t have to scan a crowd to find two sets of parents. But, shortly after I moved out and his girlfriend moved in, when it became clear that he would not maintain ownership of me, my time, my life – he turned into a totally different person. Any time I enforced a reasonable boundary, he punished me with less time with my kids, but any time I enforced a boundary, he broke an agreement. It’s been 10 months of third party interviews, etc. Every one sees through his allegations, but in the end I’m still fighting to keep the 50/50 visitation that we initially agreed to when we were planning to be “friends forever.” It’s been absolutely soul crushing to see this person who lived under the mask of a man I knew for so long. It’s like at first I grieved the guilt of my journey and hurting my friend who still “cared” about me, then I grieved for the anger and dissolution of a long friendship, and then I grieved a death of a person who doesn’t exist anymore. After everything, he is trying to rip from me what little I walked away with. It’s infuriating. —Lily

We’re still in the middle of our divorce. In the beginning, we vowed to be the best divorced couple in the history of divorced couples. We planned to co-habitate (in separate bedrooms) and co-parent until our youngest graduated from high school in three years. Within four months of my coming out, our relationship had deteriorated so much, we secured separate households. The anger and vitriol has been shocking. And I have seen pieces of my ex that I never knew existed — mean, cutting, demoralizing pieces. He has called me homophobic names and has reinvented history to say that he was never really happy with me, anyway. He even put his hands on me in a rage — something he never did in our marriage. I hope that someday we are able to come out on the other side as friends again, but what has been said and done over the past year will be incredibly challenging to forget. I’m working on forgiveness. It’s a long, difficult journey for me.—Katrina

In-between divorce

For some members, they are still in the thick of things and can’t tell if the divorce will be friendly, difficult, or something else:

I am still waiting to see on this. I’ve been separated 15 months and from the start, I have offered that he can cite my sexuality as the ‘unreasonable behavior’ to get it done quickly. He isn’t prepared to do this, so I’m sitting out for the two years so I can do it all myself then. –A

My husband had been in his own bedroom for 2 years. The fighting had slowly been increasing and that—in combination with our lack of intimacy, his deteriorating mental health, and financial issues—made the chasm between us seem so big. I told him I didn’t want to be married to him anymore. We stopped talking about it. Within the next few months, I met T. She made a first impression I will never forget. I knew I would never be with her, but in that moment I realized that I couldn’t feel what I felt and stay married. I knew something had to change. I started that change the next day. —Li

My new life

Sexuality was main reason for divorcing

For some of our members, their sexuality was one of the main—if not the main—reason for their divorce:

My sexuality was the thing that made me finally not able to power through my marriage. Because I identify as bi, it was so desperately difficult to try to explain, but the feelings I had about women seemed like a parachute. My ex-husband and I loved each other, and it shocked us both to find ourselves in such a broken place. But I had been feeling homesick and lonely for a long time. He was always stressed and our kids weren’t happy. And all of that became unlivable for me, even though I don’t think it would have been safe for me to know it had I not been also navigating the sexuality piece. And that homesick, achy longing is just gone now.—Rachel

My divorce was a direct result of my affair with my then girlfriend, however it had been an abusive marriage. He was also financially abusive, refused to pay child support and removed all money from joint bank account. He finally divorced me 4 years afterwards so he could remarry. He blames me for the loss of our marriage because of the affair, takes no responsibility at all for his behavior. I’ll never know if he’d have been as abusive as he was if we’d separated without the affair, but the affair was definitely a catalyst for some of his horrific behavior after our separation. Because of his behavior in our small town (he told everyone he met I was having a lesbian affair), I ended up moving 500km away a year after we split. He has no relationship with our children and rarely sees them despite now living 30km away. Leaving him remains the best thing I could have ever done, for me and for the kids. —Sian

Sexuality was not a factor in divorcing

For some of our members, their sexuality was not a big factor in their divorce:

My divorce had nothing to do with my sexuality, or so I thought. I just didn’t love him anymore and I’m not sure I ever did in a romantic sense. What I have realized looking back is that this same exact situation has happened in every significant romantic relationship I’ve had with men in the last 20 years…we are together a long time, they are head over heels, I don’t care one way or the other if they leave and then when I do they are absolutely crushed. I just assumed something was wrong with me, like an emotional missing piece of the puzzle that is me. What I’m learning now is that I don’t believe I form deep attachments to men romantically. But, my understanding of my sexuality changed when I got out of the marriage and felt more free sexually and found that underneath all the should’s and shouldn’t’s was this interest in being with women not just sexually but a deep desire to build a strong emotional connection with a woman to share life with. It was very surprising to me but looking back it all makes sense. My ex-husband still doesn’t know that I’m dating women. —Brooke

Our marriage had been rocky for years. We were long-distance for the first 4 years of marriage, then finally living in the same place and didn’t like it. We didn’t fight a lot but every fight was bad and usually ended with my ex threatening divorce.

When it finally happened, we had a pretty nasty divorce (no restraining orders, but close). But for our son’s sake, we got past that. After 2-3 years, there wasn’t much anger left. And now we’re not exactly friends but we are getting along fine enough that we can attend our son’s events with very little tension. When I told him I was introducing my girlfriend to our son, he replied “ok.” That is the extent of our discussion about me being a lesbian. Who knows if I had figured this out during our marriage or divorce, the process could have been different. Or not. Maybe all divorces are difficult regardless of the details, so changing details wouldn’t change the difficulty. —K

I didn’t leave my ex due to my sexuality, although I knew that once I finally had the courage to leave I would have the freedom to explore that aspect of myself. So it was always in the back of my mind. I left because it was an unequal emotionally abusive situation. We separated a year ago and despite stating we would be amicable, it deteriorated soon after. In retrospect I knew that would likely happen given his personality and needing things his way. But I’m proud of the fact that I hired a good lawyer and stood up to him and got a settlement I deserved, despite his views on what I “deserved.” He doesn’t know that I identify as gay now. Eventually he will once I tell my kids. Now, finally one year after separating and 5 months after our divorce he is finally being civil to me. But we will never be amicable—Dianne

My marriage was declining for reasons related to emotional intelligence, anger management, and parenting; same-sex attraction wasn’t even in the mix. Then love showed up in the form of a woman, and that gave me the strength and courage to leave. She and I discovered that the kind of partnership we’ve both always wanted was real and possible.

My ex and I wanted a fast and easy divorce, but he has been contentious and inflexible, and it took over two years to reach a decree that neither of us feels is particularly fair. Recently he has been so difficult that I don’t want much to do with him, although I expect that eventually we will find some peace in co-parenting. Our pre-teen son has been understanding and resilient, and we have grown closer. I’m a more present parent now when we’re together, as I’m fully focused on him rather than distracted by the marital issues. —M

As you can see, there are many paths that divorcing your straight spouse can take. We hope that by sharing our stories, you can find support and the knowing that you are not alone if you are also on this journey! Stay tuned for more stories soon!

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