Lisa is currently married to her husband of 12 years. They have two children and Lisa has been staying home with them since they were born. She has an associates degree in a field that is somewhat outdated. She has been unhappy in her marriage for many years and a year ago fell in love with a woman she met at her gym, we’ll call her Sally.
Before I got married, I considered myself bi or at least flexible. I had been with women before, but always in the context of a threesome. My relationship with Sally is something much different and I don’t know what to do. It has completely changed me. I love my husband and my family. My husband is a good man who provides for us. He’s a good dad who loves his kids. I just don’t feel the same way about him as I once did. I really can’t imagine ever feeling that way again, as I’m not even physically attracted to him anymore. I know now that I am a lesbian and I don’t know where to go from here. Where do I?
I have received Lisa’s story from hundreds of women over the past seven years. They’re all unique yet the emotions are almost always the same. How does one navigate through something like this? It’s a place that many women find themselves; a dark place, filled with more questions than answers and an entire truckload of “what ifs”. What if my husband tries to take my children? What if I can’t provide for them? What if everyone finds out and shuns me? What if my kids end up hating me? What if this completely screws them up? What if no one will ever love me again?
Lisa is asking herself if it’s even worth it. If perhaps she should just end her relationship with Sally and go through the rest of her life knowing that she is a lesbian but pretending she doesn’t know. She likes her husband, he is reasonably good to her, she knows she can live with him because she’s done it for 12 years. She knows that she can go through the motions: Holidays, Anniversaries, Kids Activities, Family Events. She can fake it. She can probably even deal with the fact she’s no longer physically attracted to him and that the thought of being with him sexually makes her physically repulsed. Maybe she can find a way to only have sex on special occasions or talk him into allowing another woman in their bed from time to time. Maybe he won’t even notice? She could find activities that will keep her away a lot. Join several clubs or take some classes. She can get a job. Anything to distract her from the empty pit her life will be if Sally is no longer in it.
Where should Lisa go from here?
There is no one right answer, nor is there a wrong answer–there are only questions, compromises and contingencies. There isn’t a formula or a plan when one finds oneself in an intense situation like this one.
How do we know what we know and what is our perception of our own circumstances and reality? What is our perception of other people’s circumstances and realities? How do we navigate between the two, especially if they are different?
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have huge regrets on many of the decisions I’ve made over the past eight years. I do. I think how much easier it would have been if I stayed married and that happiness and authenticity didn’t matter. I should have just dealt with it or found ways to distract myself for however many years it would before we divorced for some other reason. I didn’t have the strength or fortitude to see myself as someone who was worthy of being completely loved. I accepted that the relationship I had was fine. “He loves me as much as he’s capable of loving me,” is what I told myself and what I truly believed. I was trapped in a web of my own making and I only had myself to blame and maybe I should have just continued lying in the bed I made. I would be lying if I said I never thought this.
I just finished reading Stephen King’s new historical fiction, 11-22-63 about a time traveler who tries to interfere with the Kennedy assassination. I won’t give anything a way but most time travel books have the same theme: some things aren’t meant to be changed, there is a paradoxical effect, fate, destiny, you can’t change the past without thoroughly fucking up the future, etc. etc. Going back in time and changing just one thing could have a drastic negative consequence on the future. Or not. Perhaps we’ll never know (or perhaps we will someday.) Obviously looking backwards is only beneficial if it helps to not repeat past mistakes. Unfortunately from what I’ve learned, the past is a good determiner for the future.
So we have now and we have the future. The past gets in the way if we allow it, which we all do regularly. If it doesn’t stay where it belongs, it really starts to make the present look a lot different and that isn’t very fair to the present, now is it? And really, what about the future? It might not be there. Each one of us could be run over by a bus tomorrow, or get a terminal disease. Death waits for no one and is the one universal truth that is in everyone’s future, whenever that may be.
So today. And maybe tomorrow.
Where should Lisa go from here?
Lisa needs to decide what is truth for her and she needs to understand that her truth is going to be different that of someone else. She needs to know that her husband may not see her truth the same way that she does. Each of us is self-preserving and we don’t like change! We don’t want to interrupt what is the status quo of our environment and will do just about anything and everything to resist a shift in our normal. When that change is relegated by another person–we resist even harder. Generally, we are willing to accept change when it starts with us; getting everyone else on board is the challenge.
Who’s life do we live? Our own or another person’s?
The answer is probably both, depending on the situation.
I have a responsibility to other people in my life but that doesn’t mean that I don’t do things and make decisions for myself as well. If I only lived my life the way other people wanted me to live, what kind of life would I have? Not a very full or happy one. I would be like a life-force for parasites; my only purpose to be there for other people to use. How many women live this life? Probably a lot more than anyone could ever imagine. This is especially true of mothers who try to navigate meeting their own needs as well as their children’s. Here’s a simple answer to that question and it comes right from the safety demonstration that is given before every single flight in the world: Secure Your Own Mask Before Helping Others.
You aren’t good to anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first.
Obviously there are always extenuating circumstances that this can’t or won’t happen: I need sleep but my baby is screaming with a fever. A mother without enough food who feeds her children instead of herself. A woman who buys her daughter products from Sephora but puts her own back on the shelf. Big or small, sacrifices are made all of the time. Mothers do this because they want to; it’s what they signed up to do. But when it comes down to it in everyday life, it’s important to not be a parasite. We probably only get one shot at life and if we have even a little bit of privilege in it, we should try to make it the best one we can imagine, knowing that along the way we will all make sacrifices for the people we love. There can be a balance.
Lisa needs to define her truth and she also needs to be fair to her husband.
I always ask people to turn the situation around. If your husband was in love with someone else and was no longer attracted to you, would you want him to stay in a relationship with you out of obligation?
There is not one right answer, nor is there a wrong one. It depends on the individual person and his or her perceptions.
Personally, if I am in a committed relationship with someone, I want it to be more than just obligation. Every relationships have difficult times when one or the other questions why they are there. Difficulties arise and you think, “I don’t want to be here anymore” and then the difficulty goes away and your happy you’re there again. That is much different than being in love with another person and not attracted to your partner. I don’t think it’s fair to him or her. I wouldn’t want to be treated that way. I want the person I’m in a relationship with to love me, respect me and be kind to me and if that person loves someone else, he or she should move on and allow me to move on too. Life’s short. Remember? I never want a partner who isn’t totally into being in our relationship. I deserve so much better than that and so does every other person in the world.
Define your truth. Be honest, be gentle, be kind.
I would call that Step One.