DEAR NATALIE: After 24 years of marriage, my husband came out to me. I knew something was off in our marriage for a long time, but I never imagined that he was in the closet. I feel incredibly betrayed, heartbroken and saddened by the whole thing. We have a beautiful daughter together, and she just graduated high school. I think he finally realized that since she is grown, he can’t live this lie anymore. There have been a lot of tears shed by all of us over this. My question for you is this: I want to move forward and remain a family. I don’t care that he is gay. He is my best friend and has been for decades. He told me that he wants me to find love, but I don’t want to ever date again. How could I? My brother tells me that I have to let him go. I’m just having a difficult time imagining my life as a single person. We do everything together – except have sex. I just don’t understand why our lives have to be turned upside down. Can’t he just have a fling on the side when he needs to? –NO NEED TO TEAR US APART
DEAR NO NEED TO TEAR US APART: You clearly love this man on a deep level. No one can take away all of the memories or years together. No one can take away the family you have built together. However, it is important to take note of the fact that since he wasn’t able to fully be himself, he needs to explore who he is outside of this marriage. He cannot do that if you are still living under the same roof. While you may not want to ever marry again, keeping you both in this cycle of codependency isn’t healthy for either of you. No one is saying that you can’t still be a family. Many divorced couples still vacation together, enjoy holidays together and experience life together. But, living together may not be something that he wants, and if you try to keep this dynamic alive, it will only breed resentment. Allow him to move forward as a single, gay man. Allow yourself to move forward as a single woman with a whole new adventure in front of her. Maybe it won’t include love. But who knows? Having a blank page to write on can seem incredibly scary – but also exhilarating. This liberates you both. What do you want to experience at this point in your life? Embrace this new chapter. See how you feel in a year from now. Get a good therapist to help navigate this uncharted territory and allow space to breathe. What you have gone through would be a shock to anyone’s system. Good luck to you both!
DEAR NATALIE: My ex-husband and I have been divorced for six years. Recently, we reconnected and have fallen back in love. You would think the family would be happy about this. We have three grown children and while two of them are being (somewhat) supportive, my youngest daughter is fully and loudly against us reconciling. I had an affair many years ago that unraveled our marriage. I was unhappy and so was my ex. My daughter is convinced that I’m going to break his heart again. While I understand her concern, it has been wonderful reconnecting at this stage of our lives. We are both older and know what we want. I’ve done a lot of soul searching and regret the affair. He and I have put the past behind us and are ready to move on. Why can’t she? –REKINDLED ROMANCE
DEAR REKINDLED ROMANCE: Kids – even grown kids – can be very protective and territorial over their parents. Because your relationship ended in heartbreak, it is no wonder that your daughter has reservations about you getting back together. It may be worth having a family meeting so that everyone can share their concerns and thoughts. Working with a family therapist who does this kind of mediation would be helpful so that you have an impartial third party there to keep the conversation on track. Your daughter may also have some resentment or frustration that she has harbored about this situation through the years. The affair didn’t just impact your marriage – it impacted all of your children, too. Acknowledge her feelings. Validate them. She has every right to be nervous about this reconciliation and may not want to get her hopes up. Allow her the space to process this in her own time, and in the meantime, set up a chance for everyone to come together to talk about what happened. I know it may be awkward, but clearing the air with your family may help in the healing process and allow everyone the chance to move forward in the spirit of togetherness.
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