~ A man has said despite having a “good sex life” with his wife, there is a “huge problem” and he doesn’t know how much longer he can hide it.
Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred.
This week, our resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie tackles the issue of a man holding onto a 30-year secret, a woman becoming fed up with her single friend and a widowed woman’s struggle to date again.
QUESTION: I’ve been holding onto a secret for 30 years and I’m not sure how much longer I can keep quiet. I’ve been with my wife for 33 years and we’ve got two amazing grown-up kids. When my wife and I met we were young — both 18 — and we got married at 21.
We clicked immediately and I knew I’d found my soulmate.
There’s a huge problem though — not long after we got married I began to have sexual feelings towards men. It was confusing as I loved my wife and we had a good sex life… but I also felt something wasn’t quite right. Over the past 25 years as homosexuality has become more talked about, I’ve had an internal battle about whether I’m secretly gay. I have never acted on these feelings apart from very brief flirtations with men at work. I have never cheated on my wife. I still love my wife but I think she’s my best friend not my lover. How should I broach talking to her about my confusing feelings? It would break my heart to hurt her but I can’t keep living a lie.
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ANSWER: I’m not quite buying that you only began to have sexual feelings towards men after you were married. My guess is that you had these feelings before but were too scared to really acknowledge them.
It can be helpful to examine our ideas of gay and straight. We tend to think of there being only three possible sexual orientations: straight, gay or bisexual. But sexual orientation is more like a scale.
You can have sexual desires for people of one gender and not necessarily want to be in a relationship with them.
That being said, I get the feeling there’s more to it for you. It sounds like you’ve made a decision on wanting to tell your wife and not keep ‘living a lie’. I’m imagining this means ending the relationship with her to explore your desires for men. Am I right?
There isn’t an easy way to talk to your wife about this. There is a strong likelihood that she will be hurt and feel incredibly betrayed when she finds out.
Consider talking to a therapist, well-versed in supporting people with a variety of sexual orientations so you can gain clarity first. This will also give you emotional support and help prepare you for what your wife’s reaction may be.
It will probably take many conversations as you both come to terms with it. I imagine she’ll face all the stages of grief as she comes to understand this.
QUESTION: My best friend has been single for 10 years and it’s all she talks about. I’ve tried to give her advice about how to find someone but I think she’s happy in her misery. How do I tell her that I don’t want to listen to her moaning whinging anymore without hurting her feelings?
ANSWER: We often think that giving people advice on what to do will solve their problems, but it’s a highly ineffective strategy. It was just about telling people the right thing to do, we’d all be doing the things we know we should.
Often when someone continues to talk about the same thing over and over, it’s because they’re not getting to the core of the issue. That being said, it isn’t your role to help her get to the core issue or to ‘fix’ it for her.
You’ll best preserve your friendship with her by setting appropriate boundaries. (If you don’t, you’ll end up resentful).
Tell her that it’s frustrating and upsetting for you to keep hearing her talk about her unhappiness. Let her know that you want to see her happy and suggest that she reaches out to a therapist to help her deal with what’s going on for her around this.
She might be hurt, but if you don’t say anything, you’ll eventually avoid spending time with her anyway.
QUESTION: I’m a 70-year-old woman who was widowed last year. I want to begin dating but I’m not even sure where to start. What advice do you have for older people who want to date?
ANSWER: I really want to congratulate you on being willing to look for love and companionship. Dating can certainly feel more daunting as we age. I’m sure you’re also still processing the grief of losing your partner recently.
The heartening news for you is that there are now an increasing number of people looking for love in older age.
If you’re tech savvy, there are dating sites and apps that specifically cater for those over 50. Also, make a point of going to social events in your area where you can make in person connections.
Isiah McKimmie is a couples therapist, sex therapist and sexologist. For more expert advice follow her on Instagram.