Ask Fiona: Will my dad ever accept me being in a same sex relationship?
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine answers another set of reader dilemmas...
I’M GAY and I left my husband to be with the woman I love. It was traumatic at the time, but I’ve come through it and feel so much better for not living a lie any more. My husband was actually really understanding – he said he’d suspected for some time – and we’ve stayed friends. He’s now with someone else. Our divorce is going through, and I hope he’s going to be really happy.
I was dreading telling my mum as she and I have always had a really close relationship, which I was afraid I might lose when she found out. In fact, she was absolutely fine – she gets on well with my partner and is happy for me that I’m now living a much happier life and feeling more like myself. My brothers were fine too, although there was some teasing, but the problem has been my dad.
He and I were never really that close – he gets on well with my brothers and he liked my husband. When I told him, I expected him to be a bit like, ‘So what?’ – but instead his reaction was, ‘What am I going to tell people?’ That was six months ago and he’s not spoken to me since.
I tried to contact him at Christmas but he blocked my calls. I shouldn’t care because, as I said, we weren’t that close. But somehow, I do, and I just want him to accept me and my partner for who we are. Is there any way I can persuade him to accept us?
FIONA SAYS: Sadly, sometimes when people hold entrenched views, it’s very hard to get them to move past these and change their minds. It can be done but, usually, it’s something that takes time. I wish I could tell you that your father will come around and that he will be happy for you that you’re happy, but I can’t.
There are many people who have had to cope, over the years, with rejection for being who they are – or who they chose to be with. It’s not always about their sexuality, it might be about the race or character of their chosen partner, or it might be the religion they adopt – there may be other reasons too.
Often the reason for the rejection isn’t really clear but your father’s reaction is quite telling. By coming out as gay, you’ve rejected his way of life and his way of thinking, and he doesn’t know how to deal with that. Rather than try, he is simply avoiding seeing you, thinking about you or, of course, talking to you.
He probably doesn’t know what to say. He may not even believe, at the moment, that you really are gay; he could be hoping it’s a ‘phase’ and that you will ‘grow out of it’. He may feel that if he accepts the situation, he is encouraging you to be something other than what he thought you were. There may also be an element of grief too – you mention brothers, not sisters, so I’m guessing you’re his only daughter.
That could mean he’s going through feelings of sadness that you won’t fulfil the dreams he might have had for you. All these are his problems – not yours – I’m merely trying to offer suggestions as to why he’s not talking to you.
You have been fortunate to have been so readily accepted by your mother, your ex-husband and your brothers so maybe they can talk to him. Perhaps, in time, they will be able to get him to see how much better you feel and how much happier you are now you’re not pretending to be someone you’re not.
It may take weeks; it may take months; it may even take years; before your father accepts you and your partner as a couple together. It may be that, sadly, he never does but at the end of the day the loss is really his, not yours.
THE MAN I’VE BEEN SEEING DIDN’T TELL ME HE WAS MARRIED
I HAVE just found out the man I have been seeing for the past year is married. We met online during lockdown, and so I didn’t really know much about his background. I was just happy to be with someone, even though we couldn’t see one another as often as I would have liked – I assumed it was because of all the restrictions.
He didn’t tell me he was married, and I think he was shocked when I bumped into him and his family at the local cinema. It was really embarrassing – more for him than for me, I expect – but I avoided making a scene in front of his wife and children.
When we did next meet up, we had a really nasty row and said a lot of hurtful things about each other. I was angry about being duped by him, and said I was going to tell his wife what he’d been doing for the past year with me. At this point, he became very aggressive, grabbed me by the hair and threatened to really hurt me if I did.
I had never seen this side of him before and it shocked me. I do still love him though, and although he’s told me that he’s not going to leave his wife, I still want him to be with me. We haven’t spoken now for over a week, and I am already feeling lost and lonely. Why do I still want to be with him, even though I now know he’s married?
FIONA SAYS: Yes, why do you want to be with this man? He’s a liar, he’s a cheat, he’s aggressive and he can be violent. What attractive features can he possibly have that mean so much to you? Wanting to be with someone like him indicates that you don’t really value yourself. Surely you know deep down you’re worth better than this – and if you don’t, then I think you need some help in boosting your self-esteem.
Wanting to be with him may be academic anyway. He has already distanced himself from you and, if you’re honest with yourself, you already know that this is the only sensible outcome. He’s not going to leave his wife, and even if he were, would you really want to be in a relationship with someone who can lie, sleep around, and be violent?
As you’ve threatened to involve his wife, I suspect he won’t want to run the risk of seeing you again. You are, I’m afraid, in for a painful time, because much as you don’t want to hear this, I think it really is over between the two of you.
If I’m wrong and he does drift back into your life, things will never be the same between you now that you know the truth. Your relationship will be furtive, sneaking and underhand, so please try to move on and call an end to things yourself. It will hurt, but at least you’ll be free to look for someone who can respect you and who is genuinely free to return your love.
If you think he is really the best you can get, then please talk to your doctor about your self-esteem. Perhaps you can get some counselling that will help you realise how much better you are then you seem to think.
SUDDENLY ANXIOUS ABOUT BEING ALONE
MY HUSBAND And I have decided to get divorced. He’s 20 years older than me and there’s been nothing between us for some time. Although we’ve been together for 25 years, we’ve both realised that our marriage has no future.
At first when we made the decision, I was relieved – but as we get closer to the day when he’s due to move out, I am starting to feel quite anxious. I’m also worrying about how I am going to cope on my own and what I’ll do if I feel lonely. It’s all very silly – I’m 48, not 17.
What’s more, we’ve been living separate lives for the past two years, so I’m used to being independent. Why do I feel like this?
FIONA SAYS: This man has been a major part of your life, through good times and bad, for over 25 years. It would be surprising indeed if you could simply walk away from this marriage and not feel concerned about what effect this is going to have on your life.
Over the past two years, as you’ve been living separate lives, there has probably been quite a build-up of low-level unease, as you wonder what is going to happen. You’ve now both made a decision to move forward, but you don’t quite know where you’re going yet – so no wonder you’re a bit anxious.
Once your husband has moved on, you will probably find a lot of this anxiety will disappear – things that he did will become your chores, so why not make a list of them and start tackling them now? Yes, you may indeed find that you feel lonely from time to time once he has gone, so make sure that friends and family are geared up to visit and support you as much as they can too.
If you have the space, maybe think about taking in a student or a lodger to boost your income and provide a bit of company. I think you should also consider taking every opportunity to get out and meet new people and develop new interests whenever you can.
If your separation is amicable then there is also no reason why you and your husband cannot remain friends – even close friends – if that is something you both want. It may be unusual but it’s perfectly possible – I have one friend whose older ex-husband is godfather to the two sons she’s had by her second husband. He visits regularly and is a grand-father figure in their lives.
DO I NEED A NEW JOB?
I AM feeling more than a bit jaded by my job. I’ve been with the same company for over 15 years and in the same role for the past 10. I’ve achieved a lot and should feel proud, but instead it feels as though I’m on a never-ending treadmill.
I find it really hard to get going in the mornings and even when I am at work, I’m always looking for reasons to avoid what I should be doing. I haven’t had a proper holiday for three years now, because of Covid, and my husband thinks that’s what the problem is. I’m not so sure though – I’m wondering if I need to do something completely different. What do you think?
FIONA SAYS: If all you’ve done is work for the past three years, then it’s entirely possible that your husband is right; working continuously for that length of time would make anyone jaded. We all need time to rest and re-charge our physical and emotional batteries, so I suggest you take a holiday – go somewhere different and do something you’ve not done before. It doesn’t have to be abroad.
I suspect you’ve built up plenty of holiday entitlement, so I think you should make it a long one; anything less than two weeks and you simply won’t unwind enough to get some real benefit.
Use the time away to think about what you really want. If your job no longer satisfies you then maybe it’s time to think about moving on. If you’re happy with your job but would like something more challenging, ask if there isn’t something more you could be doing.
If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do for yourself, maybe consider taking a sabbatical from work for six months or a year, if that’s a possibility for you, to see if you can make it happen. Taking that much-deserved break is really important to help you decide about the future – I hope you find out what it is you really want out of life.
If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to email@example.com for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.