I’m 53 and gay (black) and I’m having problems coming out of the closet. I have a son that’s 34 and I’m pretty sure he knows. I had been married to his mother for many years and then we separated about 5 years ago. I told her what was going on but we made the decision not to burden our son with the news. However, it’s getting harder and harder to hide things from him as he has recently moved back into town. I think I want to tell him. Part of me is afraid of his reaction and part of me is just plain afraid to have the actual talk. What should I do?
Signed, Father Troubles
Dear Father Troubles,
Having a heart to heart conversation like that with your son is somewhat of a double edged sword. The reason I say this is because however you slice it, things will change between you and your son. It could get better and, of course, there is the possibility it could get worse. The good part is that you will no longer have to live your life in secret. You will be able to let those who care about you know what is going on in your life. Do not underestimate the power of truth here. It is a valuable resource and one that you will look back on and turn to many times as this process unfolds.
You said your son most likely knows. As a father myself, I understand this thought. I can often intuit what my son is thinking. Your guess is probably right. If you have come to terms with your sexuality there is a piece of you that exudes that. No matter what words you use, or don’t use, people who love you can pick up on things like body language and emotional energy. If you go with this hypothesis, you could also assume that he may be looking forward to the time when you do let your guard down and tell him. It could be the beginning of a whole new chapter in your relationship with him. If he doesn’t want to know and would rather operate on the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy, my advice is to give him time. This policy really never works and over time as you grow as an individual and a gay person this will become more apparent.
It might be a good idea for you and your ex wife to sit him down and tell him together. If you are still on good terms with her, a united front can sometimes make a difference when talking to a child. This is just a thought. However you choose to proceed, please remember how long it took you to come to terms with your sexuality. Your son’s reaction may not be what you had hoped for but the love between a father and a son can be very powerful. Give him some time to digest this news and keep your heart open to frank discussions about his feelings/fears/thoughts. “Families Like Mine” by Abigail Garner is a great book written by straight children with gay parents. It brand new and really tells this dynamic from a fresh standpoint. You may want to pick up a copy and give him some reading material. Best of luck to you.
Take Care, Mark
My girlfriend and I have been together for 22 years. It’s been a long and beautiful relationship. I have always loved her but the passion stopped years ago. Last year I met a woman at work. There was an instant attraction and we began an affair. I have never cheated on my partner but I could not help myself. I knew it was wrong but I wanted this woman too much to resist.
Not surprisingly, my lover found out and confronted me. I confessed and she gave me the option to leave her and follow my heart if I needed. I don’t know what to do. I love my partner but I am in love with the new woman. However I can’t bring myself to tell her that my partner told me it was okay to leave. That’s what she has been waiting for but I don’t know if I’m ready to leave or even if I want to leave. She wants me to leave my lover today and move in with her.
Stay with your lover. This is a blunt statement but there are reasons. First, you owe it to yourself and your lover to give this 22 year relationship the respect it deserves. If you don’t exhaust all of your resources in trying to stay together, you will always look back and wonder if there was a chance the two of you could have made it.
Second, this new woman may in fact have feelings for you. But if she does not allow you to take care of your unfinished business then she doesn’t truly love you. I suggest you talk with her and tell her in order for you to feel okay about pursuing anything with her that you first must work out the problems with your partner. Tell her you need three months of no contact while you work out your issues. She will not like this but, if she loves you, she will agree to it.
If you don’t take this time for yourself you will enter this new relationship with all this unfinished business. It will take away from your ability to be fully present. If after three months, you are clear about wanting to leave the relationship then you can have a talk with your partner and end things appropriately. But 22 years is a long time. My guess is that if you focus on each other again you may remember why it is that you fell in love with her in the first place. I suggest seeing a couple’s counseling skilled in Imago Relationship therapy. There are plenty in your area. Contact me if you need a referral. All the best.