Is there any going back?
June 16, 2011 11:26 AM   Subscribe

I think I'm a lesbian. I'm married. I have no gay friends. My family is Conservative Christian. What do I do?

Pretty much just like the title. I've been noticing an increasingly hard to ignore attraction to women, and a lessening (almost to the point of absence) in attraction to men in general and my husband. I still love him. I still want him in my life. I'm frightened. The thought of divorce makes me nauseous. Other than this blip, we have a pretty normal and comfortable life together. We talk, we fight, we make up, we laugh, we're happy, and even sometimes have enjoyable sex. I think I've known about my attraction to women for a while, internally. I just don't know what suddenly made it all click in my head.

I have no idea where to go from here and I'm scared. I really don't want this, but it feels too big to ignore.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The first thing you need to do is discuss this with your husband. Then you can figure out where to go with this. It will not be easy. But you owe it to him.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:34 AM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Hi anonymous,

First of all, you're going to be okay.

Second of all, a lot of what you said leads me to think you might be bisexual (a lot of us are!). Knowing your location would definitely help. Do you have access to a GLBT community center, therapist or SOMEONE you could talk to about this?

You probably DO have gay friends and don't even know it, but that's definitely besides the point.

You may want to check out the Gay Christian Network.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:34 AM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Other than this blip,

This is not a blip, this is a major deal. Sexual attraction to your husband should be a given in your marriage.

Seek therapy as soon as possible, preferably with a therapist who A) specializes in LGBT issues, and B) who will see you alone at first and then perhaps see both you and your husband as a couple if it becomes necessary. As soon as you say these feelings aloud to a disinterested party, you can manage them accordingly instead of letting them niggle at your brain indefinitely.

Please don't sleepwalk through life dismissing your attraction to women (and lack of attraction to your husband) as a tiny detail. It sounds like you're waking up to a reality; don't suppress it now.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:35 AM on June 16, 2011 [13 favorites]

If you are a lesbian, I think it's not fair to yourself or your husband for you to pretend you're not and stay married. But you don't know if you're a lesbian or not, and so your job right now is to figure out who you are and what you want.

Actually, I think that's all our jobs, all the time, for ourselves, but that's a bigger, more abstract question.

I'm bisexual. When I first came out and started dating a woman, I lost all sexual interest in men for a couple of years. Then my interest in men returned, and now I'm mostly into men. Maybe later, that will swing the other way again. Despite the cultural voice to the contrary, I think sexuality can be quite fluid and changeable, if we let it.

Can you talk to your husband about this? Tell him you don't know what to do or what you want, but that you love him, and also that you think you might be some variety of queer, and that you think you need to explore that. Find out what he can make room for. Is that enough room for you to figure this out, or do you need more?

Don't worry about your family, yet, just be compassionate with yourself.
posted by rosa at 11:36 AM on June 16, 2011 [29 favorites]

Along with talking to your husband, I think it would be an excellent idea for you to talk to a therapist. This person would be able to help you sort through all the emotions that are going to arise as you start going through this coming out process.
posted by AlliKat75 at 11:36 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

The first thing you need to do is discuss this with your husband. Then you can figure out where to go with this. It will not be easy. But you owe it to him.

I'm going to disagree with this and agree with zoomorphic. First the non-judgemental, confidential, knowledgeable therapy. Coming to your husband with something like this, it is best to have someone on your side -- maybe not in person, but you know -- and a therapist can be just that. Don't go into this alone.
posted by griphus at 11:38 AM on June 16, 2011 [17 favorites]

If I could favorite rosa a few more times, I would. Be compassionate with yourself. It's ok if your a lesbian or bisexual or whatever. You owe it to yourself and your marriage to explore that without turning it into a catastrophe by denying it and worrying alone. You'll be ok. Your husband will be ok. Talk to someone who will listen compassionately and help you figure this all out.
posted by ldthomps at 11:41 AM on June 16, 2011

One thing-just in case you didn't know this, even straight females are attracted to the female form. I think someone did a study on this, I dunno. I am not you and I don't know exactly what you are feeling but I just wanted to throw that out there.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:43 AM on June 16, 2011 [10 favorites]

I also agree that while talking to your husband is ultimately something that needs to happen, a safer* and more productive first step right now would be to talk alone with a therapist open to LGBT issues. (*And when I say "safer" I absolutely don't mean for it to sound like your husband would hurt you in any way -- just that talking privately to a neutral third party is likely to be less scary because you can keep the focus on your feelings, rather than immediately going to how your feelings may impact your marriage.)

Be gentle and kind to yourself. Whatever happens, you'll be OK.
posted by scody at 11:45 AM on June 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

As a male I say talk to your husband first. Its not fair to him to stay married to him when you are not sexually attracted to him .
posted by majortom1981 at 11:46 AM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

You should talk to a therapist before your husband. This will hurt him in the same way you're scared and distrustful of your own feelings. You'll have to talk to him, but I've found that talking to a third party about something can help me process and get a handle on it internally which you will want to do before taking it to your husband.

She needs to work out what she wants to happen, and how to either continue her marriage while satisfying her needs or ending the marriage with as little pain on all sides as possible. Two people very emotionally invested will not be able to do explore that coherently or well.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:48 AM on June 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

Whatever you do, don't let anyone tell you what you are or aren't. Rosa's point about sexuality being fluid is really important....sometimes we don't have to label ourselves, we just need to explore. I have friends who have done that and stayed in their marriage. Happily. And I have friends who have explored and decided to leave.

Exploring doesn't have to mean breaking up a marriage. Or it might need to. But that's your decision and you'll know what to do. A compassionate therapist who understands the fluidity of sexuality, the confusion of bisexuality, and who will not try to persuade you into any conclusions....I would highly recommend one.

I hope your husband is a compassionate, open-minded man who will embrace you for who you are....loosely....and that in the process, he will give you space and not react too much. It may be hard for him for a while, but maybe he'll be understanding of sexual confusion and exploration?
posted by sleeping beauty at 11:52 AM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Lesbian commenter here. I do not think you should talk to your husband before you hash out your own feelings. I agree with those above who say you should try to figure out what's going on in your head in a safe space with a therapist before springing this on your husband. If you try to talk to him now, he's going to want answers (as would I in his place) and you're not going to have them.
posted by Lieber Frau at 11:55 AM on June 16, 2011 [46 favorites]

FWIW, in recent years, I have had a sexual awakening of sorts (after conservative background) and have noticed that my increased attraction to people and awareness of it is very overwhelming at times. During this awakening, I've noticed that I'm attracted to just about anyone sexually attractive. Men gay or straight, and sometimes women. It confused me for a while and I considered the lesbian possibility. But in my case, I had a sense it was an overall awakening -- with broad effects -- and that I was transmitting much more of a sexually open vibe in general. I get hit on a lot more, and noticed by both men and women now, and I didn't before. That's okay. I realize everyone is sexual, and sparks can fly, and we're attracted to PEOPLE sometimes. I'm sure I have an element of bisexuality and I'm okay with that. But for me, I don't really want to consummate the sex-with-women attraction. My desire for sex is with men and a male partner. But that's me.

I needed some time to sort this not freak out about my desires and responses to people, but to let them pass through me and then see what my deepest desire was. It's taken me a few years to have my own sense of this sorted out. Therapy in general has helped me a lot. I'm still on the journey of exploration.....
posted by sleeping beauty at 12:06 PM on June 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

Definitely talk with a therapist. Definitely don't talk to your husband until you're more sorted out.

Kids could also be a factor (you don't mention if you have them). I don't recommend staying in a loveless relationship for the sake of the children. But because their stability and well-being should come before your own, how you handle this could vary drastically depending on their age(s). Spoken as someone with a lesbian mother who handled everything perfectly.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:07 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your experience of coming to terms with your sexuality while married is so common as to be pretty much the norm among lesbians my age (50s) -- and don't let that scare you if you are way younger; just know that yours is a well-worn path. I walked it years ago and everything is now fine, although it was difficult and harrowing at the time (it involved two kids still in preschool and a pretty good marriage). As far as the sexual fluidity goes -- I'm going to go out on a limb and "guess" that the OP has probably tried to convince herself for years that she is straight, or maybe bi, and her attraction to women thus is "normal" and does not need to be acted on. (Again, hers is such a common story, and this is a common theme within it.) Of course you will eventually talk about this with your husband, but there really is no rush. Please be kind to yourself and ignore the (well-meaning?) folk that think that your husband's feelings about your coming out are what's primary here. He will know soon enough, and you are not being deceptive or unfair in the least in getting clearer and stronger before approaching him. As far as therapy goes -- yes, but please consider using an LGB therapist. It is really paramount that your situation not be treated as something overly psychological, unusual or idiosyncratic. A straight therapist may be able to help you with your feelings but really, a lot of this is about how to bridge cultures (if you want to move to Sweden, talk to someone who's lived there, not somebody who will help you process your feelings about being Swedish). All will be well; I promise. Please feel free to me-mail me.
posted by Wordwoman at 12:08 PM on June 16, 2011 [19 favorites]

Whether you should talk to your husband or someone else first depends on the sort of relationship you have. Some couples are really good at talking through issues and have effective strategies for communication about even the most difficult issues. Some couples have a harder time talking about things. That's not to say that people in the latter group have less good or strong relationships -- just that talking about things isn't necessarily their strong suit. They have other ways to express love, or they historically haven't had conflicts and thus haven't needed to develop these skills, or they come from a culture where debate and uncertainty are discouraged, or whatever.

You should be able to look at your history to learn which kind of relationship you're in. If you've had big debates or discussions about major issues before, and you feel good about the process and the results in all cases, then maybe it makes sense to talk to your husband first. Otherwise, find someone else to talk to first.
posted by novalis_dt at 12:11 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

You say that your family is "Conservative Christian" but are you? Because the answer to that would seem to make a difference as to how you want to think about this, which in turn will make a difference as to how you want to handle this. It would also seem to suggest the presence or absence of various social and community resources which could be of real use depending on how you want this to look.

At a bare minimum though, plenty of married people, indeed probably all married people periodically feel sexual attraction to people who are not their spouses. It kind of goes with the territory and is indicative of little more than being alive and possessed of a healthy sexual appetite. So as a first order matter, and not knowing you from Eve, I'd suggest that you take a few deep breaths and talk to your husband before you come to any firm conclusions about who you are and what you want.
posted by valkyryn at 12:13 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

+1 to Wordwoman's post.

I am no therapist, but here is the only (hopefully) useful advice I can give while you are waiting for the appointments:

Take a sheet of paper and divide it into two columns. In one, note down what you find/found attractive in men. These do not need to be limited to sexual/appearance traits. In the other column, write down what attracts you to women.

I find that using exercises to try and write down what I am feeling tends to organize the emotions in my head.

I think the biggest thing is to not let noise affect your analysis of your own sexuality. It's very difficult, but you have to try your hardest to figure these things out without bias from commitments such as marriage and the like.
posted by mungaman at 12:15 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

My family is Conservative Christian.
Seconding valkryn. Are you a conservative Christian? (Don't worry, I think it's okay to admit this on Metafilter.)
posted by BurntHombre at 12:24 PM on June 16, 2011

This is such an immense thing, and your post about it is so cursory, that I don't think you should do anything right now other than wait and process it yourself for a while longer.

I realize that you're posting anonymously, and can't go back and add details, but it kind of scares me that you might take the advice of a commenter and make a big decision when really basic and vital information like whether or not you have any kids is absent from your post.

I disagree with the advice that you should go and talk to your husband. Once you say that to him, you can't unsay it, and your post doesn't say anything about what he's like, what his beliefs are, etc.

I hope you're OK. Many other people have been where you are, and have come through it, in some way or another.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 12:25 PM on June 16, 2011

Please be kind to yourself and ignore the (well-meaning?) folk that think that your husband's feelings about your coming out are what's primary here.

I think it is being well meaning to explain to the person that you are married to that you are having problems being attracted to him. Something like that eats at the core of a trusting relationship. It is something that ethically, one needs to inform one's spouse of. Assuming (without knowing for sure) that this is a plain vanilla monogamous marriage, it is important to let him know sooner, rather than later, that you are not attracted to him.

I do think a therapist can help immensely with this, but you have an ethical duty to your husband. I would give the same advice for any couple where one person was not feeling attracted at all to their spouse. Honesty is critical in making sure that this thing does meet your expressed goal of making sure that you keep someone you love in your life.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:30 PM on June 16, 2011

Try to worry less about labels -- as recently as fifty years ago nobody categorized human beings as "lesbian", "straight", etc., and you have no obligation to define yourself in exactly one category today.

Okay, so recently you're increasingly attracted to women, and decreasingly attracted to men. Maybe this is the new normal for you, or maybe your sexuality will continue to ebb and flow. Either way, this does NOT mean:
1) that you have betrayed your husband in any way,
2) that you have to get divorced, or
3) that you have to lose your conservative-Christian friends or family.
After all, you've done absolutely nothing that you should feel guilty about! and (even if there is no heterosexuality left in you at all!) there will definitely be potential solutions less drastic than divorce or estrangement.

The next step is NOT yet to look for those solutions. The next step is to make your way to a less anxious mindset. This could take the form of therapy, of finding fellow "Questioning" friends online or in person who can relate to your current situation, of long contemplative walks, or of anything else that will help you realize "This is not a disaster. This is something new for me to come to terms with, but it will not be nearly as disruptive as I sometimes fear." You know yourself better than we do, and you know better than we do what will be a useful source of solace, comfort, and acclimation.

Once you yourself are in a more comfortable headspace, then and only then will it be time to bring the issue to your husband. Yes, he ultimately has a right to know if you aren't sexually attracted to him anymore -- but to try to explain it to him now, while you yourself are still somewhat confused and anxious about the whole topic, would neither be a service to him nor to you. Speaking on behalf of loving partners everywhere, I can assure you that one of the things that Loving Partners are willing to do is defer Things We Have A Right To Know in the interest of the emotional wellbeing of our partners. Not forever, but for awhile. And he is no less your loving partner for the fact that your sexual interest in him may have waned.

That's another important point -- you don't have to feel emotionally alienated from your partner right now. If he loves you, he will be a source of emotional support for you whether or not he fully understands why you need support, and it's not at all unfair for you to draw on that support. In the worst-case scenario -- where you decide you really cannot remain with him because you are completely sexually incompatible -- there can still be love and even romantic love between you, and the sad ultimate break would not cheapen the relationship you have shared.

Bottom line: you're going to be okay, you've done nothing wrong, and there is no urgent need to act now; it is perfectly okay to take some weeks or months to recover emotional security before you make any decisions about what to do next.
posted by foursentences at 12:36 PM on June 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

Honesty is critical in making sure that this thing does meet your expressed goal of making sure that you keep someone you love in your life.

Absolutely. But honesty does not demand that she tell him immediately, right this second, just as she's just started processing this issue enough to ask a question here.

Indeed, what others are trying to point out is that telling her husband while this is still an unclear, confusing issue for her might do more damage right now than if she tells him a little later when it's clearer to her what she's feeling.

This is because there are two major issues here: 1) what this means for HER (in terms of her identity, needs, etc.), and 2) what this may mean for HER MARRIAGE (in terms of how whether she wants to stay married or not). Her husband will almost certainly (and quite understandably) want to discuss issue 2, which will be all but impossible to do in a productive manner until she's got a little more of a grasp on issue 1.
posted by scody at 12:39 PM on June 16, 2011 [14 favorites]

As a husband, I'm in the "talk with him" department. Not because your husband "deserves" to be kept in the loop (he may, he may not), but because the sort of relationship I want with my partner is the sort where we can turn to each other for support in our challenges.

Maybe the original questioner's relationship isn't in that place, in which case a therapist may be a good idea (my experience with therapy and therapists is such that they're way down on my list of ways to move forward).

However, my hope with my partner is that we can be partners, we can support ourselves through the challenges as we grow and stretch. With a previous partner that meant that we decided it was better if we pursued our interests separately, and if that's the right way to move forward then that's okay. But being able to explore those issues is part of why I'm in a long-term relationship. To Scody's point, if I can't explore issue 1 with my partner, then that kinda gives me an answer for issue 2...
posted by straw at 12:43 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whoa whoa whoa. I think a lot your worries and some of these answers are putting the cart before the horse.

OP, I agree you should have at least a few sessions with a therapist, a disinterested 3rd party. Saying it out loud might really clarify things for you. Someone who specializes in LGBT issues is essential.

I don't understand why divorce is the next logical step, either. That's, like, 10 steps too far to be worrying about right now. Right now, all you know is that you don't know. I caution you about talking to your husband about this until you have some idea of what's going on. Have at least 2 sessions with a therapist to sort yourself out, lest you miscommunicate your situation to your husband and then add his confusion on top of yours. That would be a unnecessary tragedy. Proceed wisely and with care for yourself and him.

Furthermore, let's say you are bi instead of gay. How does that effect your marriage vows? I don't think it does effect them at all unless you want to act on your interest in women and/or leave him for other reasons.

Do you want to leave him for other reasons? Because if you are committed to your guy, then whether the other options are male or female, you're committed and it shouldn't matter. You choose him. If you become 100% certain that your husband is wrong for you (and yes, being completely incompatible sexually counts here) then that's a different story.

Just because you are finding out after marriage that xyz thing is attractive sexually, it doesn't mean you are automatically required to persue an entirely new lifestyle based on that new (or old but unacknowledged?) attraction. Do exactly what you need to do to be happy. It's your call entirely. There is no rulebook you must follow. I want that clear, k?

You need to sort out precisely where you are coming from before you bust out this info with people you know. This is why I think you need therapy with an objective non-judgmenta third party.


I'll add one more thing. There is a lot to be said for privacy and discretion where sexuality is concerned. Keeping your preferences private is NOT to be confused with guilt or shame about your preferences.

Just the way you don't broadcast to the neighborhood what your latest trip to the bathroom entailed, it's not necessary for you to know that your postman has a latex fetish or prefers anal sex. In fact, wouldn't it be weird if your postman started talking to you about his latest bowel movement or his bedroom proclivities??

You are not obligated to share anything about your sexual desires with anyone, ever. It's sacred. No guilt necessary regarding the nature of your turn-on's.


I hope you have the kind of marriage where talking about sexual issues is natural and accepted. There are a lot of valid sexual attractions out there that go beyond the traditional male/female/husband/wife dynamic. However, finding yourself interested or turned on by the idea of something outside the dynamic you now share with your husband doesn't automatically mean you must embrace an entirely new lifestyle and ditch the old one, y'know?
posted by jbenben at 12:44 PM on June 16, 2011 [8 favorites]

If you talk to your husband about this before sorting it out in your own head, there is the possibility (YEMV) that he may pull back from the marriage to avoid being hurt (thereby, exacerbating an already delicate situation).

Get thee to a therapist to help sort it out.

Take care and good luck!
posted by PsuDab93 at 12:47 PM on June 16, 2011

To Scody's point, if I can't explore issue 1 with my partner, then that kinda gives me an answer for issue 2...

I'm not suggesting that the OP can't explore issue 1 with her partner. I'm suggesting that when issue 1 is in what appears to be such an inchoate, unformed, confusing state, it may very well be more helpful for both partners if she brings it up with him after she's had a chance to discuss it (even once or twice!) with a neutral third party.

She is still an individual, and any individual -- male or female, gay or straight or bi -- has the right to privately work out issues of their individuality without immediately having to include one's partner into it.
posted by scody at 12:49 PM on June 16, 2011 [9 favorites]

I assumed you were married to a woman until I read the details, and that this was just a question about finding gay friends. There has been a previous ask about that, so check it out for some ideas.

As far as your husband, I think you have to be honest with him and then figure out where to go as a couple. If you're a lesbian, he deserves to know. You both deserve to get out of the marriage, if that's what you want (I know you said that you don't want to get divorced, but it might be best, depending on how this plays out).

However, based on your question, it sounds like you may actually be bi-sexual, since you're still enjoying sex with your husband and such.

I think you need to figure this out in your own mind (are you gay, bi, straight?) before talking to your husband, though, for the reasons that PsuDab93 has given.
posted by asnider at 1:00 PM on June 16, 2011

I think you have two separable issues here:

One is that you feel like you might be attracted to women.

The second is that you feel like you aren't attracted to your husband any more.

Whether you're gay or not gay, if you're attracted to people other than your husband, that's a problem for your marriage, and one that needs to be dealt with honestly. You need to find someone you can talk to about this. If you can't talk to your husband, find a friend, or find a therapist, but this isn't something that you should bottle up and hope it goes away.
posted by empath at 1:03 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, and I swear I'm not being flippant, women being openly attracted to other women seems like such a normal thing with people I know that a lot of my guy friends would just think "sweet, now we have something new in common." I'm not joking, one of my friends is bi and married and her husband is completely okay with it. She even fools around with other women casually and it's not a big deal. If you're otherwise happy in your marriage and are having sex you enjoy it at least sometimes, it is completely feasible and workable to just be honest with your husband about it and not have it end the marriage. It might even spice up your sex life.

Of course, a conservative christian is probably going to see things way differently.
posted by empath at 1:10 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

The first thing you need to do is discuss this with your husband.

Don't do this until you have figured out exactly what you need, exactly what you are asking for. With a therapist, or whatever. You aren't be prepared to deal with his shock, grief, and fear, and anger yet -- you're still sorting out your own feelings.
posted by hermitosis at 1:25 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, and I swear I'm not being flippant, women being openly attracted to other women seems like such a normal thing with people I know that a lot of my guy friends would just think "sweet, now we have something new in common." I'm not joking, one of my friends is bi and married and her husband is completely okay with it. She even fools around with other women casually and it's not a big deal. If you're otherwise happy in your marriage and are having sex you enjoy it at least sometimes, it is completely feasible and workable to just be honest with your husband about it and not have it end the marriage. It might even spice up your sex life.

Sigh. Yes, that's a very common chapter in the married-lady-figures-out-she's-a-lesbian story. The next chapter is when the other woman that the man has so graciously permitted her to "fool around" with "casually" becomes his wife's primary emotional/sexual partner. And I'm not saying that what you described doesn't ever happen, but I wonder how often it happens when women are really really struggling, really desperate to stay married, and from a conservative background -- but they just can't make it work anymore.
posted by Wordwoman at 1:29 PM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yes, I also had a friend lose his wife to her 'sexual partner'. His wife was actually a lesbian, in that case.

My friend in the happy marriage is actually bi, and so are her friends (and very casual about it). I don't think the op actually knows whether she is gay or straight or bi, to be honest. I'm just saying that if she is bi, it doesn't mean her marriage needs to end, and being honest about it can make things better.
posted by empath at 1:32 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

She is still an individual, and any individual -- male or female, gay or straight or bi -- has the right to privately work out issues of their individuality without immediately having to include one's partner into it.

This is wise. She should probably find a therapist to discuss how to proceed and what to say to her husband and then how to work out how she feels about things and eventually, what she wants to do.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:39 PM on June 16, 2011

I have some words of advice for you from my sister. She is 27 and has been married twice and has one kid. Recently, on Mother's Day, she told the family she was a lesbian and the next day filed for divorce from her husband. Like you, my entire family (except for me, I left the day after my high school graduation and never looked back) lives in a small conservative town (in Texas). My family aren't exactly rednecks, but they are not far from it. I have four sisters. One sister married a black man when she was 19 and was pretty much disowned by my parents for years, until they realized they had three grand children that were growing up not knowing them, but I am getting off topic here. Anyway, my parents, are not taking this well and are giving my sister an insanely hard time. Threatening to try and take her child from her cause she's no longer fit to be a mother, that kind of thing. People from her church will no longer speak to her and she has been asked not to return to her Sunday School class. She has been ostracized (by some) at work and made to feel very uncomfortable. My aforementioned sister, apparently completely recovered from being ignored by our parents for years, has told my gay sister that she doesn't want her kids around her because "we didn't raise our kids to be around that."

Thing is though, she has never been happier. Like you, she says she knew for a long time that she was attracted to other women but was trying to do the "right" thing and make it work with her husband. For years she repressed her feelings and kind of just played along to expectations from my family.

So I called my sister and she read your post and she emailed me back this message:

"The only thing that kind of bother me about giving the advice I am about to give is that she said she "thinks" she's a lesbian. For me, I thought I was a lesbian for years. I think it's important that she KNOWS she is a lesbian before she comes out. And that sounds harsh but what I mean is, in a small, conservative town like hers and mine, once it's in the air, once that Pandora's box is opened, it can not be closed.I thought I was a lesbian since about 8th Grade, but I didn't know for sure until a couple of months ago; and it wasn't because I met some girl that I was infatuated with or anything, it was because [my exhusband] and I were out at a movie and he saw a gay couple, guys, and he just started saying the worst things about them. Just terrible things that I don't need to repeat, the kind of things Dad would say about [someone] when we were growing up. And so he was saying these awful things about them and I just suddenly screamed at him to SHUT THE FUCK UP!! It startled him and me to be honest and he was like "What's your problem?" and I just said to him, "I don't know, I just want to have a good time, why do you have to be so mean you don't even know them." But what I realized and what I wanted to tell him at the time was that all of those things he was saying about the gay couple he was saying about me. That's when I knew, without a doubt, that I was gay. So, I guess what I am saying is that is what "made it all click in my head" and if she has had the same type of eureka moment it would be better for her and her kids and husband if she just comes out with it and starts to build her new life. It took me a couple of months after that day to finally come out, and at first it was hell, as you know by all the times I have called you in tears because of something Mom or Dad have said to me or threatened me with, but I have to say I have not ever been as content as I am now. So, hope that helps."

Hope that helps.
posted by holdkris99 at 1:56 PM on June 16, 2011 [17 favorites]

Anonymous, wordwoman speaks truths. Contact me if you'd like some resources.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 1:58 PM on June 16, 2011

All the advice above is wonderful.

To answer the 'why is this coming up now' question: Is it possible that you have some unaddressed anger/issue/resentment with your husband right now? It might be what is helping to push these feelings to the surface. Also, if you are bi, I would imagine that this would push you stronger in one of your directions away from your husband. Not that that changes anything, but it might help give you clarity in the 'why now' department.
posted by Vaike at 2:41 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am of the group that thinks you need to sort out your feelings a bit before talking to your husband. Until you are more clear about what's going on with you, discussing this with him could cause him a huge amount of unnecessary pain. I think this especially applies when you are in a conservative Christian area/family. Do let him know something is up, and see a therapist if possible.

I am not aware of any specific LGBT support groups, other than PFLAG, but others might have some suggestions. Perhaps talking directly to someone who has been through a similar situation would help.
posted by annsunny at 2:53 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the biggest thing to remember in a situation like this is, there are no rules: no rules that say if you're attracted to women you must be a lesbian, no rules that if you're married you've made your bed and must lie in it, no rules that say you are obligated to share every thought or feeling you have with your husband, no rules that say you must do a, b, c, on this timetable.

The first thing you need to do is get more clarity about your feelings, needs, and identity, and if you feel like you've exhausted your ability to do that on your own, then get the help of a third party without a dog in this fight. That could be an LGBTQ-friendly therapist, but it could also be an open-minded pastor, a personal mentor, a trustworthy friend who has no reason to favor a particular outcome, or someone else you can trust to help you calm the fears and sort out your "in the best of all possible worlds" outcome.

You will have to fill your husband in on something, at some point, and it's more loving to do it before everything is a done deal, but there's no need to just throw him into the deep end of your pool of confusion. Get yourself to the shallows first.
posted by notashroom at 3:40 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm a man, but I am not your husband. I don't know how he would react. I would strongly second those that say you need to talk with a therapist or someone else that is neutral and experienced and with whom you can discuss about your feelings. Only when you are more confident in how you feel should you communicate with your husband. Yes, I would like that my spouse would tell me if she found herself in your situation. But I would respect her enough to understand that she'd want to be very sure of herself before she told me about her feelings.

Good luck.
posted by aroberge at 5:01 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I favorited nearly every comment in this thread, and honestly, I wanted to favorite them all.

(BTW, sorry about the typos in my earlier comment, iPhone.)

As someone who is happily and monogamously married to a man, but is pretty open sexually, I know now for sure that there are many many layers to human gender and sexuality. These two factors are expressed in so many different shades of intensity and combination under the sun. One thing that happens when you recognize you might be wired a little differently than the few black and white options we are presented with, is that you start to perceive how truly diverse human sexuality is. You get more magnanimous about the whole thing.

My point is that if you are freaking out about sexuality generally, because it's just something you never had to really think about before, DON'T PANIC. It's very natural not fit into strict definitions, normal even. You're fine.

Just wanted to add that. I wanted to work it into my earlier answer, but didn't want the point to get lost.
posted by jbenben at 8:15 PM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

You might also be interested in this book, if you can find a way to safely acquire and read it.

It was a thing I found when I was looking around for resources trying to grok the situation when my current same-sex partner was in the process of leaving her husband.
posted by treblemaker at 1:39 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to add that, if you are bisexual (as opposed to gay), then you may decide that you don't actually need to be with another woman. While you are attracted to them, that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to leave your monogamous relationship with your husband (unless you want to).

It's a myth that bisexual people need to have sexual partners of both sexes. In the same way that many heterosexual people choose to monogamous, many bisexual people are quite happy to be monogamous once they find someone with whom they would like to be "exclusive."
posted by asnider at 8:35 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just want to add, regarding the conservative Christian aspect of your dilemma, that you might find some fortitude for the journey head of you in the story of pastor Jim Swilley, who came out to his huge congregation after 21 years of marriage. The story he and his wife have to tell is both relevant to you and gospel-based. I'm not kidding myself (or you) that his reconciliation-based ministry is mainstream or getting a lot of traction in key quarters, but there is a lot of mileage in the view that "inclusion is not a sloppy grace. It is the will of God." People can come around, as his (conservative Christian) parents did.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:32 AM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

The danger to your marriage is not that you might be attracted to women. It's that you're not attracted to your husband. You might want to think more about your orientation. If you are a lesbian, rather than somewhere in the bisexual spectrum, then the end of your marriage really is just a matter of time.

I still love him. I still want him in my life.

Think about this really hard. Are you sure; or do you just not want to hurt him? Or face up to your Christian family? Or upend an established life?
posted by spaltavian at 11:10 PM on June 18, 2011

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