Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a Midwestern almost-thirty-year-old who loves to read, run, and cook new foods. I am a teacher by day and also love to travel whenever I can.
How did you meet your boyfriend?
I met him in college and was immediately attracted to him. He was a bit mysterious, but also fun, outgoing, and most of all thoughtful – he seemed to always be thinking a bit more than the next person, always appreciating the smallest things, and deeply enjoying life. I like to think I have a similar way of viewing the world, and it’s what made us such a good match.
We were friends initially, for several years, before we began dating. He grew up near me, but with a very different type of family. Whereas my family is relatively liberal and very accepting of anything my siblings and I want to do or try, his family was much more conservative.
What initially attracted you to him?
In addition to what I mentioned in the previous question, he was adventurous and outdoorsy, which has always been attractive to me in a partner. He was also very easy to talk to. He is much more in touch with his emotions than any other man I know.
How would you characterize your relationship with him?
It depends on what stage of the relationship we are talking about. Overall, he was always very fun and truly cared about me as a person. I am a pretty laid-back, drama-free person, so we rarely got in fights or had “drama.”
Instead, our difficulties mostly stemmed from his unhappiness. Whereas my baseline mood is usually positive and happy, his baseline mood fluctuated depending on the weather, the season, his day at work, you name it. I know now that his struggles with happiness came from a much deeper place than that, and it makes so much more sense now. But at the time, it was frustrating because I didn’t know where it was coming from.
We seemed to have a great life, and I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t happy. And unfortunately, it was making me very unhappy. You can only go so far in your attempts to separate your mood from your partner’s mood on a regular basis.
You were with him for four years. How serious was your relationship? Did you live together? Know each other’s families?
I usually say we were on the cusp of marriage. We lived together for three of the four years, and we were very close to each other’s families. We did holidays together, made plans for the future together. I twice moved to new places for his job, leaving my job and restarting my life alongside his.
Were there any clues that he was questioning his sexuality?
Yes and no. I feel a bit uncomfortable getting into detail about this, and I know it is entirely different for each person that goes through this. It’s easiest to say that, no, I didn’t have any clue. I was happy sexually and emotionally. Looking back, I do see some signs – but at the time, I was completely unaware.
When he came out to you, what did he tell you?
He got right to the point. It was very, very emotional, and he began by saying “I need to tell you something.” Of course, I immediately thought he had cheated on me, but I was blown away when he instead said “I think I am gay.”
He started off explaining that he was confused, and had been thinking about it for several months, but wasn’t 100% sure. As time went by, after about a week, he explained that he was becoming more and more sure that he was “entirely” gay. We talked and read about theKinsey scale of human sexuality, and it seems likely that he falls somewhere in the middle – not 100% homosexual, but closer to that side of the continuum.
And how did you feel about it?
I was completely blown away. My immediate reaction was to support him because he was so emotional. I was the first person he had ever said this out loud to, and it was a huge experience for both of us.
For the first ten minutes of the conversation, I thought more about calming him down, and letting him know that it was okay and I was glad he told me. Then – I’ll never forget this – it was like a huge, heavy wave washed over me, or more like crashed into me – the realization of everything this meant.
The life I had built with him, the city I was in because of him, my plans to marry him and be part of his family, the friends who knew us as a couple for so long, the thought of telling my parents that he was gay. The fact that he would never be my partner again. I had to sit down, and I started to sob. It was confusing (“Wait, you’ve been gay this whole time? Why didn’t I know? Why didn’t YOU know? What does this mean?”) and unbelievably heartbreaking (as breakups with your first real love tend to be).
Has your experience with him affected your romantic life at all?
I guess I don’t fear that I’ll date a gay guy again, although sometimes I joke about that with my friends. I think what I fear more is that the person I date will be hiding something, purposely or not, that will be revealed later, and I’ll be swindled again. I feel lucky to be a relatively confident, trusting person in general.
Now that I am two years removed from this experience, I can say that it shook my trusting nature a bit, but didn’t erase it completely. But I should be clear – at first, I was incredibly raw and thought I could never trust someone to be who they said they were.
Are you two still in touch?
We are. It took me a long time to be able to see or speak to him without being a complete mess of emotions. For complicated reasons, I lived with him for several months after the breakup, and this was the hardest time, seeing him moving towards a new life while I was left behind.
Eventually, I moved to another state, and started my own life, and this helped immensely.
However, even from a distance, I went through long phases that alternated between sadness, anger, and confusion. I was angry at him for not figuring it out sooner. I was angry at myself for not figuring it out sooner. I was angry at society for making coming out so hard to do. I was angry at him for dating other people after we broke up. I was angry at him for seeking happiness. I was angry at myself for not seeking it.
But I remember saying from day one that I would do everything I could to become at peace with the situation. I didn’t want to harbor bitterness and anger. I tried to focus on how hard it must have been for him to keep this huge thing a secret for so many years, and have to slowly reveal it to so many people who knew him as a straight person. If he could get through that, I could get through this heartbreak.
What advice would you give to others who have gone through something similar?
Oh gosh. So much to say, but I realize that every person’s experience is so different. First of all, I would say remember that IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. It may be your partner’s fault, society’s fault, or a combination of many different factors. But it is not your fault.
Second, I would suggest seeing a therapist. This helped me through the process immensely. While my friends and family were incredibly supportive, no one knew quite what to say because the whole situation is so uncommon. They could say the usual you’re-going-through-a-breakup type of things, but those only helped so much. The situation was more complicated and confusing than a typical breakup, so it helped to talk to a trained therapist about it all.
Third, give yourself time to grieve. Like any breakup or divorce, you are grieving the end of your relationship and life as you know it. But you are also mourning the loss of a person you once knew. While your ex is still technically the same person as he/she was before, the way you view him/her will never be the same. Give yourself time to be angry, sad, and confused. The only thing that will truly help is time.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, friend. Have any of you experienced something similar – from either side? Do you have any (polite, respectful) questions for her?
P.S. How to get over a break up + How to get the love life you want.