4 of the 5 grown kids don’t know Mom is gay.

Q:

My wife came out last year and a divorce was finalized two months ago. We had both been married before, and our blended family includes five grown children — all in their 20s.

My wife says she doesn’t want to tell any of the kids because the reason for the divorce is “none of their business.” She doesn’t want me to tell anyone either since it might get back to the kids somehow. She believes that the divorce is hard enough on the kids and that adding her sexual orientation on top of the divorce would be too much.

Unfortunately her youngest daughter already knows because she figured it out, but neither she nor her mom has specifically said it. They were talking and my ex-wife just said, “You know don’t you?” And her daughter said, “yes.” That’s the last they’ve talked about it and now neither want the older daughter or my kids to know. They’re both afraid of the older daughter’s reaction.

Should we tell the rest of the kids? And how soon? They all were terribly upset over the divorce. They don’t understand how it could have happened – we were such a great couple and the kids loved coming “home” as often as they could because we always had such a good time. They feel we have destroyed that.

Now I’m beginning to recover from the shock and can actually talk with my ex- and be “friends” which is what she wants. I can see us having a mutually supportive relationship that includes the kids being close to both of us despite the circumstances — but not if we keep “the secret” from them.

A:

You already know the answer. And I agree with you. You and your ex need to tell the whole truth to the kids — you also deserve the right to “come out” about your experience so that you can get the support you need. For straight spouses, having a husband or wife come out can be a very isolating experience; having to stay quiet about it only compounds the isolation.

A parent’s sexual orientation is their children’s business. Information about a parent’s sexual behavior, however, is not. Oftentimes closeted parents don’t come out because they think those two issues are one and the same. They are not.

Just like you were shocked at first, the kids will probably need some time to adjust to the news. But if your family is as close as you allude to, the adjustment time could be minimal. If your ex and her daughter are afraid of the older daughter’s reaction, imagine how she might react, say, five years from now when she figures it out and also learns that you, her mother and her sister had been keeping the information from her. In addition to potentially shocked, she is likely to also feel hurt and betrayed.

I am not a therapist, but I don’t think it’s a stretch for me to say that there is an overall theme here of unnecessary protection and caretaking. You think you have to protect your ex, your ex thinks she has to protect her kids, her daughter thinks she has to protect her sister.

Your kids are grown-ups now, so treat them accordingly. Give them the missing piece to help them understand why the divorce happened. To hide this piece of information from them is unfair.

Besides, it’s likely that all five of them know, but they are waiting to hear it from their mom. This silence will chip away at any chance of maintaining authentic relationships. Start talking.

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