Should a lesbian mother and her partner keep their hands to themselves?

Q:

My mom is a [recently out] lesbian and I approve of her lifestyle. However I really don’t want to see [my mom and her partner] being affectionate with each other. I know it sounds like a double standard, but this is my mom…and that’s very hard for me to deal with. Do you have any advice???

— Child of a lesbian mother
(gender and age not disclosed in email)

A:

It does sound like a double standard. Before you hurt your mom’s feelings or you worry about being uncomfortable around her and her partner, you both need to share a clear understanding about how “being affectionate” is defined. Are you talking about holding hands, or are you jumping to a conclusion that they would want to make out on the living room couch?

Sometimes straight people who aren’t around gay couples much assume that “openly gay” people are going to behave in excessively and inappropriately sexual ways. When you think about how your mom and her partner would show each other affection in front of you, what do you imagine?

Wouldn’t it be fair for your mom to be affectionate with her partner in front of you in the same ways she might if she were with a man? Could she kiss her good-bye before going to work? Could they hold hands while they are watching TV together? Put her arms around her partner’s waist while they are preparing dinner together?

I don’t know if you have been involved with a significant other before, but it takes a lot of energy to always be reminding yourself to not reach out to the one you love. In most communities it is simply not safe for same-gender couples to show even the most basic affection. That leaves their home as one of the only places they don’t have to worry about getting “caught” being in love.

I encourage you to talk to your mom about what you or she mean by “showing affection” and try to use the same standards of appropriateness that you would if your mother’s beloved were a man.

While intellectually you probably already understand this, emotionally you might still feel uncomfortable. After all, your mom is newly out and is in a relationship that much of our society considers wrong or deviant. Give yourself some time to get used to it, and remind yourself that her expression of affection for her partner is also an indication that your mother is happy in her relationship.

6 thoughts on “Should a lesbian mother and her partner keep their hands to themselves?”

  1. I remember when I had first come out (again) and this time I had children. I remember being at the park with my girlfriend (who is now my partner) and I had taken my daughter with me who was 9 years old at the time. She knew that I was a lesbian but had never seen me being affectionate with anyone. My girlfriend and I just happened to share a kiss (thinking she was playing on the swing set) and then I noticed her. Her head was buried so she couldn’t see then she marched up to me and told me I was embarrassing her and that everywhere she looked in the park, people were kissing! It was kind of funny but it wasn’t. Now of course, she laughs about it.

    The part of your response that says it’s really hard NOT to be affectionate with someone you care about really hits home also. In fact, I’m going to send this particular question and your answer to my mother. After 20 some years, my mother is just now getting used to my being with women. She’s been spending a lot of time with my partner and our 5 children the past couple of years. She goes camping with us, stays at our house for a week here and there and really enjoys herself. She says she really appreciates the fact that we don’t show affection in front of her because it makes her more comfortable. I told her that it was very hard to do and for her to think about if she was in her house what a natural reaction it is to give my dad a hug or something…and was it really fair for her to put that kind of burden on us?

    Some people are just uncomfortable for any couple, gay or straight, to be affectionate with one another.

  2. I am 30 and can still uncomfortably remember hearing my Mom and her partner making love when I was 11 years old. Yuck!!! But, it’s not yuck because of the same-gender aspect, it’s yuck because that’s my Mom! Children of straight parents are just as turned off by such situations. Children of straight parents worry that lovey-dovey parents will embarrass them.

  3. I think you need to think about two things. One do you see this a “committed relationship,” or is that still being defined. I don’t mean monogomous but rather committed. Secondly, how does she want her daughter to behave in term of sex when she is older, because whatever she models for her now will likely become her behavior later. So if she is sleeping with you after 1 or 2 months then her daughter will likely take sex more casually as well. That may be fine for her mother and she may not be too concerned with the possible ramifications but unfortunately is the females who must deal with the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy.

    I also think once the comitment to each other has been made, then it is ok to sleep in the same room. Lastly, kids need the language to understand their parent(s) relationships and when that does not happen confusion and misunderstandings occur. Kids often pick up that something is not being said and they can feel like something is “bad or unspeakable”

  4. My partner and I have been together for 2 years now, and my sons, 4 and 7 are used to us being affectionate – holding hands, hugging etc – them, and each other. When I was “straight”, this was more than appropriate – it was demanded from society! now that I am gay, I see that “normal” affection is seen as inappropriate by many parts of society, even gay people themselves!

    Another issue is that children go through phases – all children – when affection from and between their parents is seen as “yuk!” –

    I think all families need affection. They need to get it, see it and give it. This is a greater need than the discomfort it may cause some people.

  5. We think that you are very cool!

    We touch affectionately, but not inappropriately in front of our daughters constantly…they would think that something is wrong if we didn’t. We have been a family for nearly four years and our daughters are now 9 and 12. They even turn on our favorite CD just to have us slow dance :0).

    Joy & Keltie
    4 years of blissful love and counting!

  6. Hi there, I am 44 and divorced for 5 years. My daughter is 9 yrs old. We are extremely close. I have known a great Girl friend for 4 years and 3 months ago we realised that we wanted to become girlfriends. She has been Gay all her life and this is my first Gay relationship….and I hope my only Gay relationship for ever. I adore being with her and we are now in a very established relationship all be it living in separate houses. Last weekend my daughter came down later on in the evening and saw us kissing on the sofa, very simple fully clothed but more than a normal peck on the cheek. She was horrified and screamed at us to stop…….It is affecting her school work and her headmistress took me to one side and asked if anything is wrong at home…….I had wanted to avoid a big ‘sit down Mummy is in love with Kate’ (my girlfriends name) but I can see that I really need to talk through with my daughter her feelings and to ensure that I do it right…….How do I tell her? xx

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