In love with a parent in the closet.

Q:

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?

A:

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.

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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.

7 thoughts on “In love with a parent in the closet.”

  1. Response to article

    This scenario sounds just like mine; except I was the “closeted” parent (first gay relationship also) but I decided that my happiness was worth the risk. And, honestly, I wouldn’t even use the word “risk”. My situation may involve different issues because when I began dating Beth, I was separated from the boy’s father and in the process of a divorce. I get negativity from my boy’s father, and I sometimes see his “attitude” through my oldest son, but that may always be a battle. That is another issue, and this article does not mention whether the “closeted” person has the kid’s father to deal with??

    My boys are ages 11 & 9. I told my 11 year old about 4-5 months into the relationship and my 9 year old was told around 2 months later. It has now been over a year and we, just 3 months ago, moved into a larger home with her son, age 7. Of my two boys, my 11 year old had the most un-easiness, questions, etc. about the relationship. I would not consider the 2yr old to be a risk because, if the mother continues the gay relationship, the 2yr old will be raised in this environment and it will be the “norm” for him/her. My 9 year old has accepted our relationship and does not express any issues whatsoever.

    I can only explain via my experience with my 11 year old and his primary statement has been “why can’t you just date a guy”. I explain to him that I care for Beth, and that I don’t see her as just a “sex/girl”. You can’t help who you fall in love with. I continually talk with my boys so that they know I’m always here for them. I feel that we are closer than we’ve ever been. I try and explain to my oldest that our family is no different than any other; our home if full of love, respect, laughter, discipline, etc….like any other. Why is that wrong? (per society, his father, etc.?) Beth treats the boys like her own, and they see/feel it. I came to the realization that I had lived long enough without being happy. I tried to explain to the boys this way….all I want for you, in your life, is to find love with someone. I don’t care what color, race, sexuality, etc. issue surr ounds them, if they are lucky enough to find someone to be happy with, cry with, love, respect, etc. then I will be truly happy for them. Why should anyone, society, government, etc., push on my life what can or cannot make me happy. I will always by their mother and along with many other things they will learn from me, I am also teaching them compassion, confidence, tolerance and pride.

    Around the time I “came out” to my children, I also talked with my parents and my brothers. It was hard to have to explain alot to them about when, why, etc…?? But, it has been worth it…I wanted to be happy. My children love me and I am confident that they know our family is a good one. Unfortunately, they will have to grow up surrounded by a society where they will come in contact with people who think our family is wrong. I hope they continue to grow up as confident young men who will be proud of their life, their family, and see these prejudice people as being ignorant of what they don’t know. As Beth tells me, “people are afraid of what they don’t know.”

    In conclusion, I basically came to the point in my life, after finding this beautiful person who truly knows my soul, that I wanted to live…really live. I knew that my family and friends, if they truly loved me, would continue to love me and be a part of my life. It may take time for some, but it will happen. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my happiness and not be with the person I love. My children are treated wonderful, have a safe, warm home to live in, with laughter, fun, discipline, honestly, respect, etc….which is more than many homes (heterosexual homes) in this world. I am proud of that.

    Just yesterday, me and my partner Beth, traveled to Windsor, Canada and had a beautiful wedding ceremony. All three of our children were there and participated in our ceremony. She is my spouse and we are a family…no one will tell me different and whether my government believes it or not.

  2. I am in a very similar position.

    I have been out to my children since they were very young (9 & 7) and are grown now (21 & 19). But I have been seeing a woman whose divorce was just finalised in November 2005 who has never given her children much of a reason to suspect she is a lesbian (and if she had she was able to fully deny it and convince them otherwise).

    They would be truly shocked and she flat refuses to address this issue so soon after the divorce. Her children are 18, 16 and 13.

    She has convinced herself that we should simply carry on and they will come to accept me in her life as somebody who makes her happy.

    This has been truly painful and ego crushing at times with all of the lying and hiding, most of it I try to keep from her. At times (especially when the oldest is home from University) when she has to step up the secrecy I can’t help but be hurt and complain. But always the same – she can not ‘come out’ to them. Her line is always ‘What should I have to?’ and ‘Why do they need to know?’.

    My friends (I haven’t told my family she isn’t out!) are concerned for me, I keep telling them that she is trying to do the right thing for her children, but I do agree with them when they say the right thing is to be honest about herself and honest about me.

    But anything and everything I say to her about this is perceived by her as me ‘trying to get her to come out’. Although she has acknowledged that no matter what she does somebody will get hurt. I guess it is difficult for me as a mother to find fault with another mother who chooses herself and her lover to bare the burden of pain rather than her children. Her children will never be given the full opportunity to really know her.

    It is a shame that the messages that will be delivered are:

    1. It is shameful to be a lesbian so hide it at all costs.
    2. Lying ‘to protect’ is much better than openness and honesty.
    3. Our relationship is shameful and should be hidden.

    The future?

    Throw the dice. She feels it will get better as the children will see me ‘around’ more and more. Sad pitiful lesbian (they know I am) hanging onto their unsuspecting mother.

    I am not so optimistic. I detest the lying. I hate the hiding. But more than anything I cannot stand not being able to openly date her. Something else that gripes me? She has said ‘I wouldn’t be openly affectionate with you around them anyway.’ Any guesses what THAT indicates??

    How in the world can I get her to see all of this??? My suspicion is that she has spent years and years (married for 27 years) having it drilled into her head that being a lesbian is ‘wrong’ and should be hidden. She has had two other female lovers and both of them flatly refused to accept their relationships and would NEVER come out (the last one was also married and incidentally swears she is not lesbian, not even bi).

    Well, guess this is entirely too long to post as a comment but it has made me feel a little better to talk about it.

    If you have made it thus far…congratulations!….and thanks for ‘listening’.

  3. As a gay and out dad for two boys aged 13 and 19, I am not sure that I have much to offer a boyfriend. I am completely dedicated to the well-being of my kids, and they will always come first. I am in business for myself, and that takes about 12-16 hours a day, and
    the precious remaining time is for my kids. There is just no more time left for a boyfriend. I would not ask anyone to become involved with someone who clearly has no time for him!

  4. I have a question myself, first of all concerning U, Our Kids r part of our life, but should not CONTROL our lives. I believe that if the two of u R happy together U should be together. The Kids will come around in time.

    My question is…I am involved with a woman her daughter age 21 found out about us, and told her mom she is disgusting, her mom is afraid to stand up to her daughter for fear of her walking out on her, My girlfriend wants to be with me, but needs her daughter to except this relationship before we can be together, she said she doesnt have the courage to stand up for herself and tell her daughter she is going to be with me, I told her she needs to let her adult daughter to quit letting her control her life, that if she stands up for what she wants, her daughter will come around in time. but as long as she allows her daughter to control whether we r together, is wrong. any advice would truely help, on how to get her daughter to except her mom is in luv with another woman

  5. READ SOME F THE STORIES. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME AS A 46 YEAR OLD GAY WOMAN THAT I ACTUALLY SOUGHT OUTA SITE ON THE WEB THAT DEALS WITH ISSUESOF BEING IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH A WOMAN THAT HAS A DAUGHTER AND A SON AGES 12 AND 14 WHO DONT KNOW SHE IS GAY. SHE LIVES WITH HER PARENTS WHO ARE EXTREMELY CONTROLING, THINK THAT GAY IS WORSE THAN ANYTHING AND KEEP ASKING IF SHE IS GAY. SHE DENIES IT TO THEM. ESPECIALLY HER DAUGHTER IS KNOWS BUT IS LIED TO BY MY PARTNER. MY PARTNER WHO IS 41 YEARS OLD IS AFRAID OF HER FATHER AND IS TRYING TO SAVE MONEY TO LEAVE.. THREE YEARS LATER SHE FINALLY MOVED HER PRACTICE AWAY FROM HER FATHER. ANYWAYS THE WHOLE THING IS MAKING ME SICK.. I LASHED OUT TERRIBLY THE OTHER NITE.. I WAS EXTREMELY HURTFUL IN FRONT OF OTHER PEOPLE.. IM BOTTLED UP WITH SO MUCH HURT AND ANGER.I CAME OUT WHEN I WWAS EIGHTEEN YEARS OF AGE..I WAS NOT RECEIVED WELL. I AM FINDING MYSELF LIVING A LIE FOR THIS PERSON. PUTTING HER GOD DAMN WELL BEING BEFORE MY OWN..I NEED TO LET SOME OF THIS OUT AND I AM GOING BACK TO THERAPY.. I JUST NEED SUPPORT BECAUSE I FEEL SO REJECTED, INSECURE, DEHUMANIZED THAT I SHOULD BE DEAD. THE PAIN IS TOO MUCH. FEEL EXTREMELY ALONE..CAN ANYONE RELATE TO THIS PLEASE WRITE BACK.

  6. I am in a similar situtation with a lady who had one or two brief lesbian affairs but never a relationship. I was bi-curious when we first meant, but only looking for friendship. We fell in love but she too wanted to stay in the closet and I felt that she was ashamed of me. I waited patiently for about three months of going back and fourth telling me I should look for something better but eventually she came around and unfortunately had to tell her kids because the father of the kids outed her in front of them. It is a really tough situation, not to mention that I was in the process of divorce, and my family is not totally accepting. Our goals are to continue to love each other because we get so much drama from the outside. There is hope but it is best to make boundaries around getting your own needs meant because no matter how much you love the person your own sanity is not worth it there are too many other fish in the sea.

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