Children resist lesbian mothers’ urge to merge.

Q:

My partner and I have just purchased our first home together. We are extremely excited about this move since we have been living in separate apartments for over eight months.

The problem arises with the different levels of acceptance our children have about our decision to live together. They range in age from 21 to 13. Her two oldest sons — both over 18 — will not be joining us in our new home. They are extremely homophobic and vocally oppose our plan. Her other son (13) and daughter (14) get teased all the time by their older brothers and father. They seem to be coming around, and say they are okay with my partner and I “being” together — as long as we don’t share a room. My son and daughter on the other hand, (also 13 and 14) have no problem with my partner and me sharing a room.

What should we do when we move into the house in less than two months? Do we continue sharing a room as my children have grown to accept? Do we sleep in separate rooms until her children can accept our relationship completely? I feel as if I would be lying to my children and hiding something that is so natural for them, but then again I don’t want to hurt her children. Please respond, as we are very confused on how to handle this situation.

A:

I am hesitant to believe that any teenager has the flexibility to completely accept a parent’s new partner of any gender within the time frame of eight months. I’m a big advocate for longer courtship when children are involved, because you can never be too careful. However, I understand that you are set on moving in together, so here’s my advice based on your choice.

My overall sense is that your children feel out of control in a situation that for them currently has a lot more drawbacks than benefits. They will be less likely to try to control the situation by dictating your sleeping arrangements if you take steps to increase respect and lessen anxiety in your home. Here are my suggestions:

1) Her former husband must quit the teasing immediately. Children should never be taunted about their families. When this taunting/ teasing is done by a classmate, it’s called “bullying.” When it’s done by a parent, I call it child abuse. Get a mediator if you need to. Make sure that their father understands that in his attempt to hurt his ex-wife, he is seriously wounding his own children. Ultimately, his strategy will backfire on him, when his children are grown and they realize how he tried to manipulate them and make them feel badly for loving their own mother.

2) The teasing from the older siblings must stop as well. No wonder the young teens can’t feel pride about their family when they are caught in the middle! Your partner should inform her older sons that she will answer any questions they have, that she will attend family counseling with them if they are willing, but under no circumstances are they to speak badly of their mother in front of their younger siblings. This step will only work if Step 1 is carried out, since their father is setting the standard and expectation for the boys to express hostility toward their mother.

3) Find out what her kids’ concerns are about you two sharing a room. What does that mean to them? How would it feel different to them if there were two separate rooms? My hunch is that they want to feel “safe” when classmates come over to their house by not being immediately “outed” when they look around the house and see only one bedroom for two women. (Just thinking about when a classmate asked for a tour of my dad’s house makes me remember how my stomach dropped as I tried to divert attention from the double bed.) It’s not necessarily that the kids of gay parents think of their parents as inappropriately sexual — indeed, we don’t often think of our parents as sexual at all — it is our peers who get hung up on it, and it’s often our peers who insist on detailed explanations. Unless you have told your kids specifically what to say to people who ask about you, they might not even know that it is okay to tell anyone — or how to explain it.

4) Offer this compromise, if you have a spare room. If there is a guest room in the house, give the kids permission to say that’s where one of you sleeps, but that it’s also okay to say you sleep in the same room. Give them the options to make the choice for themselves. Sometimes kids of gay parents prefer to not come out, for lots of different reasons — many of them reasons parents cannot understand. Having a back-up plan, knowing they will not be “outed” by force when a new friend comes over, removes the anxiety of feeling out of control in their own home.

5) Empower your children by observing this transition as a family. You could be taking for granted that what seems obvious to you are huge unanswered questions that are causing anxiety for your children. What is her commitment to your children? What is your commitment to hers? Are your combined children now “brothers and sisters” to each other? Even if you both have talked about it with each other, have you shared your thoughts with the kids? Help the children feel secure and permanent with a special event in the new home, like a dinner or private ceremony. Write something to acknowledge and celebrate each child in this new family formation. Assuming the older boys will not participate, I would still mention them in your ceremony, explaining that they are loved unconditionally and that the door is always open for them, too.

10 thoughts on “Children resist lesbian mothers’ urge to merge.”

  1. This is a powerful, carefully thought out response. You covered many details and are so very respectful of what children need and want from their parents. I’m not sure it is ever possible to over-clarify what people need, want and hope for from each other.

  2. Thank You so much for giving us insight!!!! I was so delighted to read my “Story” on your web site!! I should have better explained one thing though…My partner and I have been together for well over 2 years., It is only within the last 8 months that we have been in separate apartments (which is dragging all of us down!) You mention in your response whether the kids call each other brother and sister…and in fact they do!

    Since I wrote this article our kids have been very involved in planning for the new house. We have gone bedroom shopping, house ware’s shopping, and have had a great time!! Our youngest (both boys) are so excited to be sharing a room and bunk beds!!! The comments have lessened and they are coming around! As a matter of fact my partners daughter wants to move in with us permanently and the question about sharing a room has lessened.

    Although I regret to say that my partners ex-husband is still the same as well as her older sons. We have been threatened that we will return to court because he refuses to allow his children to grow up in such an evil home!! We pray everyday that they will join us in time! I can definitely say that the two youngest are coming around because they don’t like the “home” environment that they have to endure with their father and brothers. Thank You again for your insight!!!

  3. Great thread, especially the post from the original Question Asker, responding to Abigail’s questions and advice.

    I’m a gay dad with two teenage sons (16, 13). I came out to my sons and their mom four years ago, at which time their mom and I separated. She and I are now divorced. I am in a new relationship with a man, and getting ready to introduce him to my sons.

    Long story short, I’d love to hear how Question Asker and her family are faring three months later. Keep us posted? Thanks.

  4. HOW ABOUT AN UPDATE——

    Since my first and second post to Abigail I would like to update everyone on our progress and maybe someone out there can help us with some new issues that have arrived. For starters…we have been in our home for almost 10 months and are getting ready for our First Christmas in our new home with our new lives and new families!!!

    It’s been quite an adventure to say the least!! You have the typical disagreements that any blended family would have or any family would have. Our children have become very close with each other and look out for each other, which is a wonderful site to see!! Our children now call each other brother and sister when ever they are introduced to anyone new. My children call my partner various names such as Mom #2 or just Mom, and have no problems asking for her help or advice!

    Her children are coming along but they still have the “outside” influences that come between our relationship. They have a hard time warming up to me and that’s because of what they hear at their father’s home. Their father and brothers and the majority of my partners family are very negative when it comes to our relationship and I am sad to say that it will always be that way.

    We are no longer invited to family functions, instead her ex is invited, which is so hard to see. My partner is falling apart because of this, but I refuse to let it come between us! We are strong and Love will conquer! We are like any typical parents trying to raise 4 teenagers in this day and age (which I’m sure you all can agree that’s not an easy task to do!) but then add on that we are gay, two Moms trying to do their best to keep the house up and keep things normal for our kids, and dealing with health issues ( I have MS and have been on disability for 8 years.)

    So anyone out there that doesn’t think they can handle “Coming Out” believe me that was the easiest thing to do!!!! In a nut shell- we are doing very well, the kids are adjusting, My family supports our relationship and have welcomed my partner and her children with OPEN arms! They are included in every event and given as many hugs and kisses as if they are one of us!! My partner’s ex is still as homophobic as before and still makes horrible comments and tries to keep her kids away from us but it’s not working and he is losing control! We still have no contact with her two oldest children but I have faith that in time they will see that we haven’t changed and we will welcome them into our new family with open arms!

    Now my question for anyone out there– How do we deal with her former spouse? Her family? and the fact they continue to make comments in front of the two youngest children. Every time they go back to their father’s and then come back to us it’s like we have to start all over again!!! The stress is getting out of hand! We love each other very much and will keep fighting and keep trying to prove that we are NORMAL!!! I promise to keep updating and maybe when things settle I’ll start my own web page for a support group for families like us!! God Bless and take care!!!

  5. I am a 57-year-old lesbian and my partner is 65. I have one son, a daughter-in-law and a 3-1/2-year-old grandson. I only see my ex-husband at birthday parties for our grandson. We still like each other and are very friendly when we see each other. But we don’t take on the “couple” role.

    My partner, on the other hand, has two kids (now in their 30s)with her ex. The ex is invited and expected to join in on all birthdays and holidays. He not only splits the meal, but they also give gifts to their children as a couple. If my partner needs something opened or served, and I’m not available at the moment, she will give Joel a chore list. Anyone who doesn’t know us would assume that Joel and my partner are a couple.

    I don’t like this, so “I’m the problem.” I do understand there will be times that we all we have to be around each and play nicely, but my partner wants to include her ex in every family thing we do. Thay act in every way a couple — emotionally, psychologically, and with family, they are partners except they live in different houses and they don’t have sex.

    I have expressed my feelings and was told I’m being silly. I need some perspective.

  6. Hi Roni,
    I just read your response dated November 29 and feel that I must reply. I don’t think you are being silly at all! There is a time when the “Ex’s” should be included but not to every “event”. How confusing that must be for her children! Here you are trying to start a new life, new relationship, new family, how are you supposed to do that when the former spouse is involved. Your partner needs to let go a little and realize that she is hurting the kids and your relationship. I can see the former spouse being involved in major issues such as weddings and illness,etc. but not every event! How are the children going to accept your new relationship and respect you when the former spouse is involved in so much. Yes, I feel the father should be involved in the children’s lives as much as possible but on a separate level.

    If I may ask one question: Is he involved in a relationship? If so, how does his new “significant other” feel about the situation? I’m sure she is not very happy either! Or, if he is not involved in a relationship maybe they do it because they feel sorry for him and want to include him in, but in the long run it is only going to hurt him and your relationship with your partner, and hurt the kids. You need to let your partner know that “letting go” is the best answer so you can all move on. Just my thoughts. Take Care and God Bless! Kerry

  7. Hello Again!!!! I’m in need of some advice! Here is what is happening in our Happy Home- My partner’s father is dying of terminal cancer and has less than a week to live, he has been in the hospital since before Christmas. The problem that is causing much stress and heartache is that her family does not accept our relationship. Her parents are friendly to me in person, but does not accept us at all. Her two oldest boys are down right nasty and vindictive, even in front of hospital staff. I support my partner’s desire to be there at the hospital every chance she can get. The only time I visit her father is when no one else is there because I do not want to start WW3 in front of everyone, and believe me her boys and ex-husband (who is more welcomed than I am or even my partner is) would start a huge scene, which they already have.

    The hospital called everyone for a final prayer last week and when my partner showed up to be with her father, her two oldest boys yelled and screamed saying: “Why are you here- this is for family and you are no longer family.” Mind you this is a polite way to say what was really said!

    Not one person stood up for my partner or made her feel like she was family, instead she was the outcast. I felt so sorry for her, I couldn’t believe that not one family member told these boys, “This is your mother and what ever choices she has made she is still and will always be your mother!” Instead they all went and supported the two boys and the ex-husband. How do we deal with this? How do we deal with the fact that soon there will be a 3 day ordeal of saying goodbye to her father and I can’t stand by and support her and be proud of her. I’m at a loss as to what to do, do I show up at the funeral and take the dirty looks and comments or do I support my partner in my own way and be there for her when she returns home. I looked up to her father and it’s killing me knowing I can’t be there to say goodbye. I am a very loving person and Thank God I came from a family that truly knows “UNCONDITIONAL LOVE!!!” I can’t be around stressful situations and definitly do not want to be around NEGATIVE PEOPLE!!! If anyone out there can comment or give advice, I would really appreciate it!!
    Thank You!

  8. Update:

    My partner’s father passed away on 1-09-2007 at 12:13 a.m. I am happy to report that I was with her when her father took his last breath, but I was made to feel like a total outcast and I have been warned by ALL her family members that I am not welcomed at any of the services. Where do I go from here? I am at such a loss as to what to do!!! I want to support her but yet I am not in any shape to cause havoc or be yelled and screamed at. I am so devestated by all this. Even her daughter whom we have raised for the past 2 years insists that I not be there and that I am NOT FAMILY!!! The pain I am feeling is overwhelming! I have done everything to make her children feel welcomed into my family. It’s ok for them to do things with my family, example: celebrate Christmas, celebrate New Years Eve, Birthdays, trips, you name it they are welcomed with open arms! But have me included in her family is a huge NO-NO! What do I do? Where do I go from here? Any advice would be wonderful!

    God Bless and May Everyone out there enjoy life to it’s fullest…it ends way to soon!!!!

    Kerry

  9. I am not a lesbian but I do feel the greatest sympathy for your situation. Unfortunetly until such times as sociaty fully accepts homosexuality your children will pay the price for your ‘lifestyle’ You get to choose how you live do but your children have no say. They do and will get teased etc etc. It is not an easy road for them. In some ways you are the trailblazers as were the first black and white couples who dared to love each other openly. Their children also suffered as they were not accepted by either blacks or whites. Times will eventually change. I can only wish you all well,

  10. hi Kerry,

    it has been two years since your last blog. as a lesbian mom with many complicating factors in our home and melded family i really would like to hear how you dealt with your situation and what has happened in the last couple of years. my heart just went out to you reading about the pain and rejection you and your partner have experienced.

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