My girlfriend is telling me that we can never be together because of her kids (ages 11 and 2). Our relationship began seven months ago, but we were friends first. This is her first gay relationship. She has told me that she has never been happier in her life, but she just can’t do it because of the kids. I told her she should come out to the kids, and she sounded scared to death to even think about it. Plus, she won’t talk to anyone else about this.
It makes me feel as if she is ashamed of me in public, but in love with me in private. She states she has to let me go for my own good, but my own good is with her and the kids. We went to my home for her to meet my family, and it was complete bliss. She was filled with affection and just glowing because she was with me. We get back to reality and she became completely distant.
She says we have to stop because it is not fair to me and because she can’t give 100% like I deserve. Our only issue is the kids and I feel that we can deal with this, but how?
Her kids are not the “only issue,” but rather part of a much bigger issue. She is still closeted and you are not. Her insistence to not come out to her kids could be a convenient excuse that insulates her from the risks and consequences that come with being visible in a same-sex relationship.
With or without children, differing levels of outness between couples put a huge strain on any same-sex relationship. The “out” person feels stifled; the closeted person feels anxious. There’s little room to grow as a couple under these circumstances.
On the other hand, seven months is not a very long time to be out. She might need more time to feel comfortable with herself before she fully accepts it and is ready to come out to others. When you brought her home to meet your family, you gave her a glimpse of how comfortable she could feel. It could take a while before she is willing to take the risks necessary to get to that level of “outness” in all areas of her life.
Her fear of coming out to her children is not atypical; the part I am more concerned about however, is her unwillingness to explore solutions. Find out if she is open to a reasonable timeline for being open with her children. If she is emphatic about never, there’s little you can do. She is setting up an impossible scenario for a relationship with her, and her affectionate/distant cycles will soon drive you crazy. We both know those cycles are all about her and not about you, but it doesn’t make them any less hurtful or confusing.
At least she’s right about one thing: you deserve someone who can be with you 100%. Unless some radical changes happen soon, she’s telling you — and showing you — in numerous ways that she is not prepared to be that person for you.
For more information on this topic, see Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell it Like It Is.
The chapter, “Coming Out: A Family Process” speaks directly to parents about why it is important to come out to children, and addresses the most common reasons parents avoid doing so.