Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories #9

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.

STAYING WITH YOUR HUSBAND/PARTNER (Part 1)

by Laurel Peterson

The last several weeks, we talked about the difficulty of coming out to your straight partner. Now we’re moving on to the next step – once you have come out to your husband/boyfriend, your relationship doesn’t magically disappear. The next couple of weeks, we’ll explore the ways in which the late life lesbians in our group tried to make things work with their partners. This week’s question is:

If you chose to stay with your husband/partner after realizing you had a same sex attraction and telling him about it, why did you do so? How long did you stay together?


Still trying to make it work

Some of our members are still in their straight marriages and trying to navigate a way forward together:

I’m still married, and actually conflicted about whether or not I should divorce. We have a six year old son, and I’m currently dating someone pretty seriously, and my husband took all of that in stride. A part of me wants a new life, but I also feel responsible for him as he is quite a bit older than I am. I just can’t shed that sense of responsibility! – Diana

I told my husband about 7 months ago that I was gay and unhappy in our marriage. We’ve been in more of a roommate/friendship relationship for a couple years with him “being patient” with not having sex or having a romantic side to us. We still live together and co-parent. Our 3 year old son means the world to both of us and neither of us want to give up time with him. So for now, this is my life. It’s not by preference that I am still married and co-habitating. It’s my lack of knowing how else to do life.– Kari

I told my husband six months ago that I thought I might be a lesbian. I don’t think I will ever forget that conversation or the look on his face. We are still living in the same house with our two children but I’m not sure how much longer that will last because about two months after I told him I began a relationship with a woman and we are still together. He is a terrific guy and it’s very difficult to see him hurting. We both know that we need to be apart to be happy but it is hard imagining life without my kids every single day. – Karen

Made it work for years

Several other late life lesbians tried to find a way to stay with their husband and made it work for many years, but ultimately the relationship still ended:

When I first told my husband, we tried to make the marriage work as I “explored” my truth with a plan to stick it out until our youngest graduated high school. He was 12 at the time. Fast forward three and half years and we’re selling the house and officially divorcing. We’ve been together our entire adult lives, met at 18 and both turning 50 this year. The loss is tremendous. In hindsight, I’d dispense with the plan to stick it out for the kids and make a clean and abrupt break. The three and half years have eroded a once great friendship and sowed bitterness and anger and resentment. That’s the saddest part. – Annie

I stayed married even after realizing that I am a lesbian. I was a stay at home mom, with no outside support or financial resources. I felt imprisoned, but my situation was unique. I had a daughter with a life threatening illness and I put her life before my happiness. I have no regrets about my decision, but I sure am glad now to be divorced and free to live an authentic life. – Rose

I told my husband nearly a year ago that I was gay. We now have separate bedrooms in the same house. I don’t know what the future holds but for now it’s focusing on co-parenting our 8-year-old. I think short term we will continue living together while I finish my masters degree and our daughter starts middle school. It’s about a three year time frame. There really are no rule books for this situation. We are learning what works and what doesn’t as we go. – Nicole

Short lived efforts

Still others tried to stay with their partners, but it became apparent pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to work:

I started questioning who I was while with my second husband. I stayed married for a little over two years after I started identifying as bisexual. Toward the end of the relationship, I started to really need a relationship with a woman. My ex-husband and I decided to try a triad type relationship. While searching for a girlfriend to bring into the relationship, I discovered that I was truly a lesbian. I ended my search and separated from him. Now, almost four years later, I am engaged to the woman of my dreams. – Billi Jo

I moved out 3 months after I told him. I am just grateful I had the financial independence to do it. We are not officially divorced, but I haven’t felt “married” for a long time. Marriage is so much more than a paper, or organizing the house or co-parenting our daughter. Was I tempted to stay with him, for the stability that our life together used to offer me, and thinking of his and my daughter’s pain? Yes, very much. But I knew I could only stay if I could forget about being in love with a woman. In the end, I either had to leave and live life, or stay and die inside. It wasn’t really a choice. – Corina

I told my husband 18 months ago, after 21 years of marriage and three children. I went quickly through the rollercoaster that ensued: first having a catalyst*; then wondering if I was bi; then pondering whether I could stay married; then realizing I’m gay; then “wow, let’s do this!”; then the pain of unrequited feelings from a woman; then sexual exploration; then acceptance of myself; then making decisions; then recovering my self worth; and now, finally, I’m PASSIONATELY in love and TOTALLY gay! I’ve separated from my husband. He’s staying in the house with our teenagers. I’m moving in with my girlfriend. He and I are still excellent friends. He’s dating now and the children are fine. – Georgia

All late life lesbians must choose the path that’s right for them as far as whether they can remain in any kind of “together” relationship with their straight partner or not. Next week, we’ll explore how these efforts to somehow stay together have affected our straight relationships.

* – “catalyst” is a term frequently used among later in life lesbians to describe the woman we credit with “awakening” our true sexuality – either through a crush, a friendship or an intimate relationship. Not everyone has a catalyst 🙂

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #8

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.

COMING OUT TO YOUR STRAIGHT SPOUSE/PARTNER (Part 4)

by Laurel Peterson

Now that we’ve covered the things that we wish our straight partners understood about our experience as late life lesbians, this week it’s time to get down to the big question – is it possible to stay together once you’ve had a realization about your sexuality? This week’s question was:

How did you and/or your straight partner decide whether to stay together or split immediately in light of your attraction to women?


Both wanted to stay together

For some, even though the realization of their sexuality was real, splitting up simply didn’t seem right or desirable for the late life lesbian or her husband/partner:

The first time it came up, there was no question whether we would stay together. We would no matter what. Eight years later, we decided I’d go to therapy to work through all my issues, but we said we would not split unless it was a mutual decision. A year and a half in, we chose that we would be better off separated, that we could support each other better this way and keep our relationship intact but in a different way. So that’s what we are doing. We’ve been separated three months, living in separate rooms but in the same house. It was never discussed about leaving immediately, neither of us wanted that. – Bonnie

Open relationships explored

Other women tried to manage their same sex attraction yet stay in their marriage by exploring open relationships. Although open marriages can work, as these two quotes illustrate, it can be very challenging and complicated:

We tried having an “open relationship” for about three months. It was very hard. I stopped sleeping, stopped eating. Adrenaline flowed and I was emotional all the time. I knew that it wasn’t going to work long-term, but it took time to get the courage to say, “I’m not bi enough for this. I’m just gay. And I can’t stay married.” I couldn’t keep having sex with him. More importantly, I wanted to be WITH my girl. I wanted a real partnership. I wanted to have a sexual relationship with her, yes, but what I really wanted was a LIFE with her. – Anna

 

We had plans to co-habitate and co-parent until all our kids were out of high school. We opened our marriage, and disaster ensued. We hadn’t established enough boundaries, and our lives just turned into a mishmash of anger, resentment, blame, and hurt. When we finally ended up in separate homes, we were all much happier…including the kids. – Katrina

 

Marriage of Convenience

Many other late life lesbians find themselves wanting to move on, but not being able to immediately for financial or other reasons, so they find themselves living in a marriage of convenience. This, as these quotes illustrate, is usually a only a temporary solution:

When I realized I was gay & admitted it to myself, I wanted to split immediately. I was so enlivened by the possibilities of a new life, my new understanding of myself & starting afresh. It wasn’t possible because of finances. I was a stay at home mom, with our youngest being only 2 years old. After a while, we tried co-parenting under the same roof while seeing other people. I hated it – it made me feel frustrated, angry, sad, confused and split between two worlds, but not completely in either one. I finally landed a great job a few months ago & eventually found my voice to suggest selling the house & moving on. It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, but we have agreed that it needs to happen. – Kerri

 

My husband and I are separated, but we haven’t told anyone. We live under the same roof, but have separate bedrooms and bathrooms. It feels odd, like when you superglued something back together the wrong way! Ugh…for now we don’t have a better “fix” for the situation. We’re stuck. – Joh

Splitting was the only answer

For others, even though they loved their husbands/partners, they immediately knew that they would have to move on from their marriage:

For me it was only a few weeks after I realized I was gay that I knew an open marriage would be too complicated. My husband wanted this; he wanted for me to always come back to him, but I knew how complicated this would be for me – to always be in the middle of my husband and a lover. I knew it would be unfair to everyone. It has been incredibly painful for him, but I remember him saying how he understood… how if he were gay he would want to walk down the street holding hands with another man and wake up to this man every morning. Though he has never said it again, I cling to this notion when I am feeling guilty. – Rachel

 

I knew that the only way to be true to myself was to live fully and authentically, and that meant separating and eventually divorcing. He tried to offer opening up the marriage, but I knew it would never feel “right.” I’ve held on to my guilt for a LONG time, knowing this would change our family forever. I didn’t want to give myself any reason to feel guilt or shame in a future relationship with a woman by starting it under circumstances that didn’t feel right for me. It’s not what he wanted, but I think he knows it’s the best way for us to move on, be happy, and live our lives fully. – Kristin

 

 

Some relationships were already irrevocably broken

Although a same sex attraction can be a major problem in a straight marriage or relationship, often times this realization isn’t the true cause of the demise of the relationship. Sometimes, there were other issues pulling the couple apart for years. In these cases, same sex attraction is the final straw more than the cause:

I was already in an unhealthy marriage. It looked good from the outside – deacons of the church and their wives are good at the masks. I believe the decision to split up was about three quarters an unhealthy relationship and a quarter because I met someone else. A healthier relationship with my ex to start with might’ve encouraged a more open though discrete marriage, staying together for the kid’s sake, allowing us each an outlet for intimacy without judgement. Or, if I had not met the one who helped me wade thought my sexuality questions, I might’ve lived miserably the rest of my life. – April

As you can see, same sex attractions do not necessarily mean your straight relationship is imminently over. In most cases, however, our members find that the only way to truly live authentically is to find a way to move on and end our straight romantic relationships. In our next blog, we’ll start a new series of questions regarding how our members have tried to make things work and find a way forward.

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #7

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.

COMING OUT TO YOUR STRAIGHT SPOUSE/PARTNER (Part 3)

by Laurel Peterson

Last week, we discussed how our relationships with boyfriends, husbands, or ex-husbands had changed in light of knowledge about our same sex attraction. This week, we’re digging deeper into the complications that arise for our straight spouses/partners who are trying to understand us. This week’s question was:

What do you wish your current/former straight partner would or could understand about you being attracted to women?


Our attraction isn’t a kinky fantasy

Many straight men have sexual fantasies revolving around having sex with more than one woman, so it’s probably not a surprise that the first reaction of many of the men we’ve been with is to think about how our sexuality can help their fantasies come true:

I wish he knew that watching lesbian porn will not make us closer, or him more involved! – Hayley

I wish he could understand that being attracted to women doesn’t mean I wanted a threesome. I wish he could understand how hard this has been, and that I didn’t choose this, and I certainly didn’t do this lightly. I also wish he understood that although I wish I’d known far sooner, because our marriage gave us three wonderful children, I don’t regret marrying him. – Sian

Our attraction is more than just sexual

Not only is our same sex attraction not about having a threesome or a woman “on the side,” the attraction we feel is much more than just physical:

My ex thought that my being attracted to women was easily satisfied if I just had sex with women without attaching myself to them emotionally. He thought I could “see” women without falling in love, and still live a normal life at home with him. He thought it was sexy that I desired woman and that he could join in on the fun – but when he realized that my being gay would push him away, it was no longer sexy. – Shelly

Our sexuality isn’t a choice

Now that many LGBTQ people come out in their younger years, it’s becoming more accepted that your sexuality is just part of the way you were born as opposed to being a choice. When you identify as or live as straight for many years, however, this notion is harder to believe or accept for those who have seen us as straight for so long…especially our sexual partners:

I wish he knew that this wasn’t a choice. That everything we have been through; the life we lived, the love we shared, the beautiful children we brought into this world, wasn’t all a lie. It was real – but once I was awakened, there was no going back to how it was. – Becky

I wish he understood that I am not just “deciding” to be a lesbian. I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that I want to give up the security, comfort, and acceptance of my heterosexual marriage and be gay. It took me years to make this realization about myself – but now that I have, I can’t just turn it off and make it go away. – Karen

We have no ill will against them

Traditionally, the breakup of a relationship often means that anger, blame, and hatred are part of the territory. When an awakening of sexuality occurs, however, this isn’t necessarily the case:

I wish he didn’t think I hate him. Every time we talk about my bisexuality he asks why I hate him. I don’t – I love him, but I resent him for not letting me explore…He still just doesn’t understand. – Joanne

I wish he didn’t believe I planned this 15 years ago to “f*** him over.” – Kara

They deserve love we can’t give

In the pain and tumult of dismantling a marriage or relationship, it can often be hard to see that splitting up and/or choosing to live authentically isn’t just the best choice for us, but also for the long term well-being of our former partners:

I wish he would understand how truly sorry I feel. I wish he could understand the pain I have from spending decades disassociating from myself. I don’t wish him to feel the intense pain I have felt – just truly know deep in his bones that my intention was never to hurt him. He was more than a “beard” to me, and I wish him the best in life. Sometimes the greatest act of love is setting someone free. – M

He didn’t make me this way. Our trials didn’t make me this way. This is just who I am. What I can give him is limited, but in the end, we both deserve the world. – Carolyn

Hopefully, these quotes illustrate how much we want to be understood by our straight spouses/partners. Next week, we’ll take a look at the process of figuring out whether or not you can stay in your straight marriage once you realize you are attracted to women.

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, pt. 5

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, and part 4). For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here.

COMING OUT TO YOUR STRAIGHT SPOUSE/PARTNER

by Laurel Peterson

In last week’s post, we wrapped up our month of questions about making the realization that you aren’t “straight as an arrow” on the sexuality spectrum. Now that we’ve talked about making this discovery for ourselves, the next consideration in most cases for our members is “what about my straight spouse/partner?”

For the next few weeks, we’ll tackle how our 600 plus members have approached the difficult dilemma of how to address this issue with your significant other. This week’s question was:

How/when did you come out to your boyfriend/husband?
How did he react?


Supportive & kind

First, the good news. There are many men out there who were supportive of their partners when faced with their coming out. Here’s a few great examples of that:

I came out to my husband first as bisexual seven years ago. He took that news very well. I told him I was primarily attracted to women a few weeks after my personal “aha” moment. He took that news really well again. He said he was happy he had me for as long as he did. All along the way, he has been very supportive. Whenever I have gotten scared and tried to back track, he has talked me through it by putting words to my fears. I really couldn’t be happier with the support and strength he has shown me. – Autumn

Once we separated and he had moved out, we went to lunch to discuss divorce options. During casual conversation, he said he had heard that I’d been hanging out with a bunch of lesbians, and in the same breath asked if I was seeing anyone. So I laughed and soon just blurted out that I’m seeing a woman. His eyes got as big as saucers, and he sat in silence for all of one minute. He then grinned, gave me a high five and told me to be me. Of course, he had to end it like a typical man and asked if he could “peep through my window!” – Tasha

He suspected it

There are also several instances where the men our members came out to already had an idea that they might be lesbians:

I started by telling my husband I was bi. Seven months later, we were at a beautiful hotel in London and I was dreading it because I hadn’t been able to bring myself to sleep with him for four months. That night, in that beautiful hotel room, he asked if I was gay instead of bi, and I admitted it. I was in a floods of tears but tried to assure him that I would have therapy to sort it out. Of course, therapy didn’t make it go away. Two months later, I had a breakdown and finally told him it was over. He was devastated. It is so desperately sad to break your best friend’s heart, but I genuinely want him to be happy and I know he ultimately couldn’t be as happy with me as he would be with someone who could love him fully the way he deserves to be loved. – Emma

After several drinks one night, my soon-to-be ex-husband and I were sitting around talking, and with liquid courage, he asked me if I would ever be with a woman. I sobered up in a second. I knew this was finally my moment to come clean of the secret I had held for years. I answered truthfully and said yes. I shook uncontrollably through the whole conversation because I was so scared of what his reaction would be. Thankfully, he was very understanding and supportive. He had initially asked because he suspected that I was. I rediscussed the topic with him the next night without alcohol in our systems to make sure he understood what this meant for me, for him, for us, and our family. – Cynthia

Denial

The first stage of grief is denial, so it’s probably not a surprise that many other men don’t want to believe that what their wife or girlfriend is telling them about their sexuality is true:

I kept trying to tell my husband. He knew that things were strange between us and I tried a few times to tell him I’m gay. But he just didn’t get it – he knew I was bi when I married him, so he assumed I was referring to that and maybe I was feeling a bit more attracted to women than I used to be. I’ve explained to him – no, I am GAY. But now months on, he still seems to think it’s a phase and I’m bi. When he found out that I was having an affair with a woman, he assumed it was because I missed women after being with him for ten years, rather than because I needed to be with a woman because I AM GAY. He won’t accept it. – Jasmine

Holding on tight

Just because our members are attracted to women, it doesn’t prevent them from having very real and deep relationships with their husbands or partners. The following examples show that even when the truth comes to light, some men (and sometimes our members too!) want to do what they can to save the relationship:

I came out as bi to my husband (then boyfriend) when I realized it myself way back when I was 19. I was already in love with him, and he never approved of me exploring. We’ve had many ups and downs over the years, but now I need to explore, he knows this and is scared I’ll leave him for a woman. He says if I start, I won’t stop, which may well be the case, but I won’t know that until it happens. I don’t want to leave him, but I need to see where this takes me. – Joanne

I told him just over six months ago. He was giving me “the look,” and I did an internal sigh and realized I just couldn’t do it anymore. I blurted out that I didn’t think I was “into guys in general.” At first he said he was relieved, because he thought I was asexual. Then he suggested we have sex while watching lesbian porn. I was not keen on the idea, but tried it. We tried lots of “new things” that still didn’t do much for me. There was so much pressure. I ended our sexual relationship, but wanted to stay married. We tried counseling. I offered to try sex therapy, too. In the end, it just wasn’t there for us. We both deserve to be happy, and complete, and fulfilled. – Annie

Anger and hatred

Unfortunately, there are also several members whose husbands/partners lashed out, sought revenge, or expressed harmful anger toward the women who told them about their sexuality:

I came out to my then-boyfriend about six months ago and it was horrible. The look on his face was devastating, and I didn’t know how to make it better for him. We cried and screamed at each other, and that first night he tried to force me to have sex with him to show me what it’s like to be with a “real man.” I left my house that night and sat in a parking lot crying and just about having a nervous breakdown. He moved out and we haven’t spoken to each other since. – Melissa

I came out to my now ex-husband last year. I was having constant panic attacks, and he sensed things weren’t right. It was immediately clear we would divorce. He was totally out of control for a while, running around and outing me, not only to my brother and our best friends, but also to our dentist, the barber, and at the local supermarket. It culminated when he hacked my accounts and sent a text message outing me and trying to damage me to my boss. We are now on speaking terms and communicating when it comes to matters that concern our two sons. Otherwise, he still plays the guilt card whenever he can. – Simone

All over the map

It’s also common with men, just like our members, that their emotions and reactions to the news evolve and change over time:

I came out to my husband eight years ago. I told him, “I think I’m a lesbian,” and he said, “Well that’s cool, can we still have sex?” That ended that conversation. I then told him again two years ago, and explained that I was struggling with what this means for my life, my identity and our life together. He was very sad and hurt, and over time the hurt turned to anger, and now has slowly become accepting. – Bonnie

We’ll take a closer look next week at how these changing and evolving emotions on the part of our members and their husbands/partners has affected how they relate to each other long term.

Planning with pushpins