Aug 1st, 2002
I am a 20 year old college student and my dad just came out to me. My parents are still married and don’t plan on divorcing. My dad wants to continue his relationship with his boyfriend while staying with my mother. He sees no problem with splitting his life in two.
I feel like my father is cheating everyone and being selfish. My parents have always had a “not-so-perfect” marriage, but now he wants to keep his life with my mother and his children, but have another life on the side.
My mother is having a hard time dealing with everything and is calling me, so I am directly affected by his choices. I have always been involved with my father’s life, we are as close as two people can be, but now I have told my father that I do not want to speak to him until I understand what it is I need from him.
I just feel so lost. Nothing makes sense to me anymore. Any advice for this very unusual situation?
Not speaking to your father is not going to solve anything. In fact, it will only add to everyone’s pain. I have heard from far too many parents whose hearts have been shattered because their children won’t speak to them.
Regardless of children’s reasons for that silence, to a parent who has just come out, they can only interpret a child’s response as punishment and rejection. If you aren’t understanding what you need from him right now, that’s OK. But re-connecting with your father should not be conditional on your figuring that out.
I understand that you are uncomfortable with the family arrangement, but how your mom and dad handle this is not within your control. Some married couples do choose to stay together after one or the other (or both) comes out. Some of those couples remain monogamous, others agree to an open marriage. Some couples try to stay together for many more years, but later decide to split up. There is no one path for your parents and they need to figure out what they will do between the two of them.
As difficult as it might be, you need to get out of the middle. Easier said than done, right? I asked for some guidance on this question from “V.” She moderates an on-line discussion group for over 2000 straight women who are/were married to gay and bisexual husbands.
V. suggests that you tell your mother, “Please leave me out of this, as I love you both. If you are not comfortable with the situation, you need to discuss it with Dad. No one should be pressured or coerced to accept a situation they are not comfortable with.”
V. also made it clear that this is not a situation in which a child can protect a parent. She commented, “Part of [your] mother’s [journey] is learning to assert herself with her husband to communicate her needs and wants rather than involving [you] or anyone else.”
You don’t have to have all the answers right away. Your dad has just come out and your family is changing. That’s a lot to process. Give yourself time. And remember: Loving your father doesn’t mean you love all the decisions he makes.