“The good news: I’m madly smitten with a woman I’ve now been seeing for just under a year. She is like no one I’ve ever met and our chemistry is fantastic. The bad news: I’m a 28-year-old proud lesbian who came out to myself, and my circle, when I was 19. For my girl, who is 34, I’m her first gay relationship. Despite saying that she is completely self-accepting of her sexuality, she has yet to tell any friends or family. This makes our social life awkward and makes me feel, at times, like I’ve rolled back into the closet again. I think she should be moving a little faster and am worried that it will never happen. Help!?”
Anyone who’s picked up an outdated 1970s-font-laden brochure at their local community sexual health clinic might be reminded that “coming out is a process, not an event.” I can absolutely understand your frustrations: You’ve worked hard to cultivate the out-life that you lead and here you are being stunted by a newbie. But you did fall for this special newbie and she happens to be at a pretty different stage in her life from you.
Here’s a helpful hint when you really want your partner to hear your needs without putting her up against a wall: Speak more about the impact of her actions (or inactions) than of your notions about where she “should” be.
Do: Talk of how it makes you feel confined and less able to celebrate your beautiful love thang with your peeps.
Don’t: Say things like “You should be moving faster than this.” Expressing our feelings and needs in relationships is not only fair game but crucial for keeping the connection strong. Judgments are shaming and divisive.
Coming out in your teens and coming out in your 30s can be two very different experiences. As a 34-year-old, your gal has had that much longer than you to inhabit a straight identity, making for that much more upheaval, or at least the anticipation of upheaval, in her life. Reminding her that she can turn to you for support when that shake-down hits could go a long way in bolstering her confidence around coming out.
While I absolutely don’t encourage you to assume the role of therapist with your own GF, I wonder whether you could learn a little more about her hold-up. Is she afraid her friends will freak? Does she fear that you’ll both get hurt should her family suggest she attend some sort of twisted sexual “re-orientation” summer camp?
While you are so happy to wear your proud pink triangle hat, you have to remember that we are living in a culture that on one hand is becoming increasingly open and on the other is still filled with fearful and hateful folks who haven’t read Our Bodies, Our Selves. Your woman is likely to feel resentful should she decide to bolt out of the closet sooner than she was feeling prepared for because of your nagging. You’re a team so be her best cheerleader and not her coach. Good luck.