Arts & Entertainment
Coming out - as a family
Originally printed 4/21/2011 (Issue 1916 - Between The Lines News)
My girlfriend "Julie" and I are having a disagreement and I am thinking this may be a "deal breaker" for me, so I hope you can give us some sage advice that will help us save our relationship.
Julie and I are both in our thirties and have been dating for three years. We both own our own homes and have good jobs. Julie has a 4-year old-daughter, "Kelli." Our problem stems around Kelli. Kelli and I have a great relationship; I love her dearly and feel like a second mom to her. Almost everything Julie and I do includes Kelli, which is great with me because I love doing things as a family.
The problem Julie and I are having is how to handle our relationship when Kelli is around. Julie wants to pretend that we are just friends so as not to confuse Kelli. She says Kelli is too little to understand two women in love and also feels it might cause her problems at the day care center. The day care that she is sending her to is a religious one, and many of the parents and teachers are quite conservative.
I want to get married, sell one of our homes and move in together so we can start being a real family. I am tired of just being a "friend" to both Julie and Kelli. I ache to be a mom to Kelli and to live with Julie. Julie doesn't want any of this until Kelli gets older. She doesn't say how much older Kelli would need to be before she could be told that her mom is gay and in a permanent relationship.
Julie doesn't get how awful it feels to come home alone after a great day with the two of them. She also doesn't understand that I want more of her than just sex once in awhile and time with the three of us. I want to be a part of their lives every day. I want to go to bed with Julie and wake up with her. I want Kelli to understand that I love both her and her mom and that our relationship is a beautiful, spiritual thing. I just don't want to hide our relationship from anyone anymore.
Well, Julie says that she doesn't think Kelli is old enough to understand gay relationships and she isn't ready to "traumatize" her daughter. I have told her that I don't think I can continue on this way, indefinitely, and that if things don't change I may have to move on. Julie always breaks down and sobs and says she can't live without me, and that I am the most important thing in her life, next to Kelli.
I don't know what to do. I feel like I am living a lie, as things are right now. If I leave I will hurt Julie, Kelli and myself. If I stay I feel like I am not being true to our love or myself.
What do I do to let Julie know that Kelli would be OK if we told her about our love and functioned as a family?
Not Allowed In
A: I could go on and on about why I think this is a good time for Kelli to have you become an official couple, but I think the problem runs deeper: Julie is being held back by her internalized homophobia and fear, both real and imagined. She needs to deal with it all.
It sounds like you and Julie have been doing a lot of talking about this problem, and Julie is not willing to budge. So now this issue is in your corner; you must decide whether you are willing to spend your life as a friend to someone you love dearly. Consider how that will feel in five or 10 years down the road. At this point you don't know when, if ever, Julie will deem it appropriate to tell Kelli and start living as a family.
I would suggest that you and Julie get into couples counseling with a therapist that understands and respects gay relationships, internalized homophobia and family dynamics. It is worth the time and effort as this issue is on the verge of breaking up a loving relationship and family.
How can a gay person be homophobic and suffer from internalized homophobia? Search "Dear Jody Valley" on Facebook to find out.
Jody Valley spent 12 years as a clinical social worker. She worked with the LGBT community both as a counselor and a workshop leader in the areas of coming out, self-esteem and relationship issues. Reach Jody at DearJodyValley@hotmail.com. The "Dear Jody" column appears weekly.