In this blog series, I’ve been talking about the experience of questioning your sexuality when you are married or in a long-term heterosexual relationship. While this is obviously not something that happens to all women at midlife, for those who are in the midst of the experience, it feels huge and all encompassing. I devoted the first article to discussing the questioning phase of coming out; in this issue I’d like to focus on what happens when you are no longer questioning – but know.
There are so many considerations when you decide that you are in fact gay. Do I stay in my marriage? Do I tell my husband? Do I talk to my kids? The huge impact on your life when you come to terms with this realization can’t be underestimated. Let me try to break down just a few of the common thoughts and feelings.
As married women and moms, we may have lived our lives with a desire to embrace diversity. I’m here to tell you that there is nothing like the realization that YOU are the one who is gay to shake that foundation of surety. It was only when I was the one with the feelings and desires and when it was ME who would be in the same-sex relationship that my internal homophobia surfaced. It took me years of processing feelings before I felt totally comfortable and open about who I am. And it’s not because I ran up against blatant discrimination – it all came from me, from what I’d accepted as homosexual stereotyping to facing the fact that I was no longer in the majority. I was now someone who could face prejudice and the pushback of “it’s not normal.”
Strong emotions also play a part in this phase of coming out. Guilt and shame are very common for women who are on this journey. It’s been suggested that shame is a sense of disapproval or embarrassment about who you ARE while guilt involves the same feelings about what you’ve done. We may feel shame when the way we are thinking and feeling are totally different than what we’ve always believed to be right. We feel guilt when we act on feelings of attractions that go against long-held values. If you have no one to talk to about your negative feelings, it’s easy to create a loop in your mind that keeps you from moving forward into self-acceptance and love.
The ups and downs we feel during this odyssey are huge. For me, feelings of anger at myself for hurting my kids and my husband when they had no fault in what was happening were terrible. Grief and sadness over the loss of my family were everyday emotions. On the flip side we can experience feelings of euphoria. Feeling like you are “waking up” for the very first time can make you feel like you’re 15 years old. Being self-consumed is not a-typical when you are going through this feeling of awakening. There are times when we feel we’ve lost all control of our lives – we’re on a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows that can both happen in the same day!