Unless you have made a conscious decision to stay in your marriage and reaffirm your relationship with your husband (and some do), you will need to work on the business of ending one phase of your life in order to start another. Before I get into that, I want to stress that the process of your self-acceptance and readiness to leave your marriage should be done in your own time. Don’t feel rushed to make hasty decisions—by your spouse, a new love, or anyone else. Take the time YOU need to figure out what it is you want. If fear of future unknowns is keeping you stuck and unable to move in any direction, get help. There are people (like me) who are here for you to help sort things out.
If you are married to a man who can be verbally or physically abusive, or if you suspect he may use your sexual orientation in a custody battle, disclosure that you want to leave the marriage should not be done before consulting an attorney. An attorney may recommend that your sexual orientation not be brought up at all until the marriage is dissolved. Your safety and the safety of your kids should always be the #1 concern.
For those who are not in high-risk marriages, the hesitancy in speaking with your husband about your questioning feelings may be about not wanting to hurt someone you care about. Take a look at the assumptions you’re making.. If you’re thinking that he’s never going to get over the pain, you are probably letting your fear take your imagination to the worst possible scenario. It’s a scary thing to disclose what is going on with you, but the burden of keeping your secret is not a good thing for anyone long-term. Talking about your struggle with your sexuality and how much you hate to hurt him will hopefully help him to see beyond his own pain.
Don’t be surprised if both you and your husband go through many different emotions after this conversation. Some husbands will stay in denial about what they’ve heard, some will begin to bargain, thinking, “if I become the perfect husband, she’ll change her mind and stay.” At some point he may experience anger, but with any luck, it will eventually lead to acceptance of the situation. Expect that both of you will go through a time of grieving. Even if you’re excited about all of your new life possibilities, the reality is that your family, as you’ve known it, is changing forever. Within my journey, I second-guessed myself and my decision several times and grieved the ending of not only a relationship that I cared about, but friendships that ended because they couldn’t understand why I would leave my marriage.
I recommend having a specific conversation with your husband about the emotional health of your children. Try to set up an agreement that your first priority as parents is to help your kids grow up emotionally healthy, and make a promise that you will not use them to hurt each other. No one wins in that situation and your children, who are the most innocent, are the ones that get hurt the most. I did this with my ex-husband and it made a big difference in how we handled the entire situation.
As I write this, I see that there is much more that can be said about the children of women who are experiencing a change in sexual orientation. Therefore, I’ve decided to expand this series to devote an entire blog to address this important piece of the coming-out process.