What Should I Say to My Wife When I Come Out?

Dr. Olson,

I’m listening to Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight on Audible, and so many things you say are relevant to my situation. I’m planning to come out to my wife next week, and I am absolutely petrified. I feel so sick and anxious, but I have to do something.

I have written this letter that I plan to read to her:

I absolutely love our life together. I love our children with all my heart, and I love and care about you, but I can’t love you enough in the way you deserve to be loved. My growing attraction to men means I can’t love you in the way I once did, even though I desperately want to.

I feel so confused and lost and like a complete failure as a husband. I have tried so hard to fix this on my own (mainly by burying it), but I just can’t keep it to myself anymore.

Over and over in my mind, I keep playing the image of closing that front door, with my children asleep in their beds upstairs, and walking away and driving to god knows where.

What do you think of my letter? Is this the best way to do it?

Gib

Dear Gib,

I think you have written a strong letter. In it, you tell her that you still love her, and that’s important. If you didn’t love her and your children, this process wouldn’t hurt so much. But you also let her know she deserves more than you’re capable of giving her.

I suggest you tell her briefly about the pain you have been in before writing the letter. For example, if you have had thoughts of suicide (as many of us do), let her know the depths of that pain.

The letter will act as a script for you so you can say exactly what you want to say. No more, no less. A lengthy description or details of any infidelity are not important (even if she asks). If she does ask, I would suggest responding, “I don’t think it will be helpful to you to share those details.” On the other hand, positive communication will help her resolve her injury.

Then, focus the conversation on her and not yourself. Your empathy with how this upends her life is important. The hardest thing for you may be that you will want to help her through this, but as I have suggested in earlier posts, this role no longer belongs to you.

One resource that may be helpful to her is Our Path, a website for partners of spouses who come out, and their podcast, Our Voices. Hopefully, she has friends and family to support her. A good therapist may also be important, especially if she lacks other resources.

Speaking of resources, you need them too. You should not be alone after having this conversation with your wife. When we’re alone, we tend to magnify the shame and guilt we feel. Find a place to go where you can get some support after you leave. When we’re alone, we tend to expand on negative thoughts, such as “I feel like a complete failure as a husband.” But know that you don’t have to share the details of what you’re going through with that person. Some cities also have support groups for gay fathers. One good online support group is Gay Fathers Worldwide on Facebook.

Your coming out to your wife and children is a gift, although they may not see it that way, at least for a while. You will give them an opportunity to know you more completely instead of someone who has been playing a role based on the idealized image of who and what a husband and father is supposed to be.

Your wife’s ability to heal will partly depend upon how much of herself she feels she has sacrificed to be the wife and mother that her family, society, and religion have dictated for her to be.

You have gone through a difficult time of trying to determine who you were meant to be. That process for her is just beginning.

Loren Olson

 

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