LGBTQIAcoming out when married

I came out as gay, to my husband

20 June 2023

Waking up to who I really was, finding my own true self and more importantly - accepting my own true self, was one of the biggest pieces of work I've ever taken on. It’s also one of my proudest achievements.

Taking a Terrifying Leap

 

I was 38 when I pulled my world down around me.  At least that’s what it felt like at the time and honestly, that’s probably how most of my loved ones experienced it also. 

Now, ten years on, I can honestly say I could never regret that terrifying, blind leap of faith into my life.  All I knew at that time was I couldn’t do one more day being who I was. 

To quote one of my favourite songs - “What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours.”  One day you are 12 years married with a one year old and a four year old, the next you are looking your husband in the eye and trying to explain what you still can’t quite understand yourself. 

 

Navigating the Unknown

Are you trying to tell me you think you are gay?

Those were the words that came back across the table to me as I was crying and clumsily stumbling all over my words, attempting to articulate the impossible.  It was like I had opened up my head and poured it all over the table like a giant pile of jigsaw pieces and expected him to sift through it all and try to work it out as I babbled uncontrollably, unable to consult any part of myself as the words just kept falling out of me in no particular order.  He didn’t deserve any of this.  

“You’ve been internally struggling with this for some time now but this is all news to your husband, you need to give him time to catch up and get his head around this” were the wise words from a relationship counsellor some weeks after I threw the devastating hand grenade into our family. 

How do you pick this apart, bearing in mind we had been together for sixteen years, how do you go about understanding any of this? 

His questions were more than fair and valid. 

“I don’t understand, are you telling me you’re bisexual or completely gay?”

“So you’ve just been pretending all these years?”; “How could you not be sure this whole time, but now you are?”

“Perhaps there’s a way we could work through this and still remain a family?”

 

Finding Strength and Authenticity After Major Life Changes

 

It wasn’t until losing both my parents to cancer, my life changed forever.  I became a different version of myself.  Things that had felt safe, right, comfortable and enough my whole life, no longer did.  I didn’t know who I was anymore and felt a significant shift within myself. 

I had begun a counselling course, which required much self reflection.  This had come at a time when I was already beginning to pick apart who I now was, feeling life was short, and questioning if I felt fulfilled - if I were to die tomorrow, would I be happy with my lot?  

Old familiar, and scary feelings had begun to rumble up for me again.  There had been times throughout my life, when confused feelings around my sexuality would bubble up.  I always managed to find a way to put them away.  This time was different, because I was not the same person anymore.  These feelings felt impossible to ignore.  I didn’t know who I was anymore.  I felt I was living a lie, pretending to be something else.  When I tried to think of a way through it, I could barely breathe.  I was terrified. 

 

Unraveling the Pieces

 

Once I began to pick at it, it didn’t take long before it all began to tumble down around me.  I felt like I had spent my entire life to date, steering my ship in the wrong direction - totally unconsciously.  I realised I had perpetually chosen the path of least resistance my entire life, all with the best of intentions. 

I began to recollect that all of my earliest crushes throughout childhood had been on girls and that even as an adult, confusing feelings would still bubble up from time to time, which I chose to ignore.  I had been with a woman a few times when I was in my late teens, and as I picked at that, I admitted to myself, that felt very much like the real thing to me.  Nothing else had really compared to that experience - like a light had been turned on inside of me.  But it was riddled with fear, insecurity and shame.  It felt like nothing I had ever experienced before and made me feel more alive than anything, but it was unpredictable and definitely heart breaking.  It therefore felt painful, scary, unsustainable and ‘wrong.’ 

I remember seeking counsel from some closer friends at the time and being told:

“all girls experiment now and again and have crushes on other girls, it doesn’t mean you’re gay, don’t worry about it.” 

I didn’t know any gay people at all and it all felt like a very unsafe and forbidden place to be and so, I put it away. 

I then met my (now) ex-husband.  We had so much in common, we enjoyed each other's company, shared close friendships and loved each other.  It felt the opposite to all of that scary stuff that had come before.  It felt safe, loving, reliable, secure and it fitted - neatly, into the world I lived in.  The society within which I lived had me convince myself that the other stuff had felt so confusing,  shameful and scary because it was ‘wrong.’  This was the real world, that was not, and it had only felt exciting because it was scary.  

I always managed to explain away any lack of real intimacy and emotional connection in our marriage with what felt like, very valid explanation.  Not least, the loss of my parents leading to depression and then starting a family, which can often lose a ‘couple’ along the way.  All couples function in different ways, this is how we function and it works, we are fine.  And we were - for sixteen years together, we were better than fine, we were, for the most part, happy enough. 

That word ‘enough’ became quite integral on my journey as we moved through this huge change.  I realised being happy enough was not the same as being happy.  It implied compromise, it implied a life not yet fully lived, a lack of wholeness, completeness, like there was something more to be had.  It implied something was missing.

When we experience change, trauma, or major loss, it impacts us all in different ways.  It changes us and on many levels, I believe it should change us.  We will all be familiar with the term ‘post traumatic stress’, but not many people talk so much about ‘post traumatic growth.’ 

My period of self reflection felt like a curse at the time, because it was creating mass destruction, both within and all around me.  Now, it feels like it was a gift.  If we are fortunate enough, a major life event will tap us on the shoulder and invite us to dig deeper and answer the call that is nagging us for more.  Waking up to who I really was, finding my own true self and more importantly - accepting my own true self, was one of the biggest pieces of work I've ever taken on.  It’s also one of my proudest achievements.

 

So what happened?

 

Before I came out to my husband, I had experienced months and months of personal anguish and fear.  I visited my GP who booked me a double appointment to talk over what I was going through and I confided in my big sister.  Once I had reached a point where I felt I could no longer contain my feelings, I finally broke down and spoke to my husband. 

We talked and talked and then we talked to our family and friends.  We attended a relationship counsellor for one session.  Sixteen years together and two small children, we felt it was important to have another pair of ears in the room as we tried to unravel the mess.  We also felt we owed it to our kids and family, to explore our options.  That experience in itself, was important, to hear our own words back - out loud. 

It helped us to realise just how difficult this was and how we both felt.  It was easier for my ex-husband to be more explicit about his feelings with another person, engaging eye contact with them, rather than saying it directly to me.  We agreed to separate and co-parent.  That is where it began.  

 

Accepting and Loving Your True Identity

 

The journey beyond that was years of learning to trust myself and lean into who I was - the version I had been hiding from for a lifetime.  A constant and almost unbearable battle with guilt and shame for hurting so many people, and anger, for not knowing my own self, eventually made me realise I couldn’t do this alone. 

I found a personal therapist who had experience with LGBTQ clients and he supported me throughout the next stage of my journey.  I am not sure where I would have been without him.  Slowly but surely, he helped me to lean into myself, be who I needed to be and ultimately accept, embrace and love who I am. 

He also helped me to accept I hadn’t broken my family, I had just grown.  By being open, honest and vulnerable, I could be a better, happier, more fulfilled human and in doing so, a better parent.  With the support of him and close friends and family, I stepped into my life and met a new partner. 

The connection I have with my partner makes me feel alive from head to toe.  It is everything a relationship should be and whilst I am of course, my own self, there is a sense that the love we share completes me in many ways.  We bring out the very best in one another.  My ex-husband is also in a committed relationship and our children seem very happy, healthy and wholesome.  I believe they have now got the best version of each of us - a concept I never could have entertained ten years ago.

 

We need to know who we truly are in order to thrive

 

Not just survive, and we owe it to ourselves to discover the best possible version of ourselves.  Albeit, some could say I arrived at the party a little late, I am so grateful I responded to life’s tap on my shoulder and did something about it.  It was far from an easy journey, but I am glad I made it and can never regret finding my own true, authentic self. 

There is so much more accessible support out there now for the LGBTQ community, that simply wasn’t available ten years ago.  Everyone's journey is different.  If you find yourself struggling with your sexuality, talk to someone, reach out, ask questions and talk. 

 

There is always someone out there ready to hear, understand and accept you.

 

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