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In yesterday’s post, Candace (@Candacewalsh) shared how the catalyst for divorce can be a spilled secret – her husband told their therapist about the feelings Candace had for her. At the time, Candace was beginning to realize she was gay. Now Candace is in a committed gay relationship and has a edited book with her partner – Dear John: I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women that’s due out in October from Seal Press. I asked Candace to talk about what coming out was like for her, her ex and her children. Here’s Candace:
The stories in the book often times were women who had very consciously repressed their sexualities. There were women who were in a climate where it was not even brought up and there were no examples of it.
There were also women who talked about never ever having a drop of a lesbian attraction in their entire lives and suddenly they meet this woman and it totally changes everything in terms. Surprise!
For me, it was a combination. I had inklings but repressed them because of a religious childhood and culturally, my community considered it loathsome. But also it was just theoretical – I did know there were some gay men and I knew there were probably gay women but I had never recognized any. I’m sure I saw plenty but I didn’t know they were gay.
It just took becoming older, being more exposed to the world and the richness of diverse populations.
Jennifer Baumgarder wrote the epilogue for Dear John: I Love Jane and said when you start dating women for the first time and you’ve been dating men, you suddenly feel like you’re wearing a civil war uniform because of this identity that comes with dating a woman, like it doesn’t fit given the life you’ve lived so far.
I did feel that. It is incongruous to find yourself in a new category and that there might be assumptions based on who you are and who you’re sleeping with. I wrote on my Facebook that I was excited and it was about something work-related. This guy I’d dated in high school commented “Did you get Indigo Girls tickets?” I was so angry I de-friended him. He thought he was being funny but it really bugged me because that is what the civil war uniform feels like. You write something on Facebook and somebody tries to ascribe it to a cultural identity you don’t really connect with. I like the Indigo Girls but I like a lot of things.
My ex was upset about my coming out. He’s not an anti-gay person, he just resented that it interfered with what he thought his life was going to look like. I know our marriage was compromised way before that came up for me – it was just a catalyst for me to come out of the comfort zone. I always thought at least he wouldn’t have to think of me with another man. He’s even said,
“I didn’t do anything to contribute to the end of this marriage. She just wants to be with a woman. Sucks for me!”
But he knows we had problems before that . He gets along well with my partner – he thinks she’s great. In fact, I think he thinks she’s more fun than me. He’s handled it pretty well.
My kids love my partner too. It’s natural for them. It’s just what is. They grew up opposed to a phobia world because I always took great pains to say women could marry women, women could marry men and men could marry men, hoping that by the time they got old enough, that would all be true.
My kids go to a really progressive school and there was one boy who had never been exposed to any same-sex relationships and when my daughter said something about my partner, he said,
“You mom’s with a woman? That’s not right.”
My daughter just said,
“I love her and I’m happy that my mom’s with her.”
It was very scarring for her. I ended up speaking to her teacher who was wonderful. He spoke to the parents and the child and gave them both an opportunity to have closure about it. The school is awesomely accepting and that a good thing, it’s a privilege.
My children are in a good position I think because they just see love around them around them and they feel it and it’s not complicated.
I often hear stories about women who get divorced and make these monumental changes. Candace choosing a same-sex relationship is a good example. When I first started talking to women about divorce, I was surprised by this – not any more. I’ve come to understand that going through a divorce is often about wiping the slate clean and a chance to start afresh. I will say though, that even if I’m not impressed, I am still impressed with the courage these women show – you can do anything you set your mind to.
The reaction of Candace’s ex to her same-sex relationship is not unusual. What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas – Kay went there thinking she was renewing her vows only to have her husband tell her he was gay. In some ways, it made the divorce easier for her – she couldn’t compete.
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