One of the most challenging situations to come out in the midst of is a heterosexual marriage. Add children to the mix and the guilt can be excruciating. This is not a rare occurrence I have discovered, so how does one deal with all the ensuing pain and guilt? And how do you create a new lesbian or bisexual lifestyle and still maintain your straight friendships and close familial ties? There is no simple answer, but the best advice I can offer is to join an LGBTQ or divorce support group, and find a gay-friendly therapist or coach, because girlfriend, you are in for a journey. In the best of all worlds, sign up for all of the above and see what works best for you. You cannot have too much support at this time!
Recently I have been meeting women who understandably afraid to leave their marriage nest, and some who are in the midst of a painful separation, finding it difficult to say goodbye to their old life. It requires great reserves of strength to give up the life you’ve known and venture out like a vagabond into unknown territory. You may feel that you don’t have the right to bring your children on such a “selfish adventure.” You may tell yourself all sorts of unkind things, but be assured that honoring your true nature is not a selfish act. It is the trailhead to discovering your true path and purpose. Only by being true to ourselves can we begin to be truly there for others and really make a difference in the world.
Take heart that I’ve also spoken with many women on the other side, who have created a wonderful new life for themselves, but it took time and a commitment to the goal of finding deep connection, love and intimacy within relationship. Sometimes it helped to know that by being true to themselves they were teaching their children how to do the same. Being a role model to your children, the neighbors, the world is a very powerful framework from which to gain strength.
Sometimes we may feel the “vagabond adventure” would be too disruptive of our children’s lives, but people get divorced all the time and manage to cope with overturning the apple cart. Sometimes we do not have the financial independence to leave. We may be dependent on our husband, particularly if we have been staying at home and raising the children for years. We may feel we won’t be able to provide for ourselves or our children sufficiently if we venture out on our own. What steps can you take to help prepare for your journey now?
- Do you want to learn some new skills to be able to provide for yourself and your children if you have been dependent on your husband?
- What laws do you need to research in terms of child custody to make you feel safer about being able to keep your children?
- What kind of emotional support system do you need to have in place to come out? Is there someone you can tell that you know will love you no matter what? What if you were to start there?
- What physical support system do you need in place? Do you have some place to go in case you need to leave your home?
No matter what your situation is, if you don’t have a system of support right now, take the time to build one up. If you can talk with a friend, and find a way to meet other lesbians, this will help.
I have heard many women on their path to coming out lament that they are “Too old to be coming out.” Know that there are women in their 50s, 60s and beyond that are still learning about their sexuality, sometimes after a husband has passed away or after the kids went away to college. There is no such thing as being too old to come out and the advent of online dating makes it easier to find women in your age range, even if you are in a smaller town. (You may have to drive a few miles to meet them!)
Embrace this change in your life as though it were your next adventure (it is!), even if it feels horrible at times and you wish that you could wave a magic wand and be straight again. It is life’s surprises that are the opportunities causing us to grow the most.