It’s certainly true that the healthiest love relationships are the ones in which both partners, on an individual level, value themselves and feel secure. One barometer you can use to determine how comfortable you are with yourself is to ask, “How would I feel about going out to lunch or dinner alone?” Or “How would I feel about treating myself to a movie or going solo on a vacation?” If the answers are consistently a resounding “yes,” then your feelings about YOU are in pretty good shape and chances are that you are ready for an amazing relationship.
However, not everyone experiences this sense of confidence and great self-esteem. Often fueled by our own internalized homophobia, many of us seek to partner with someone out of our own feelings of fear, insecurity, dependency, or loneliness. When this happens, our relationships often turn out to be less than satisfying at best, or even abusive at worst. Now, add to the mix that one or both of you are paralyzed with fear about being out in your relationship (maybe even your marriage) in some or even all areas of your lives. Perhaps you or your partner are out at work, but not out to your family. Or maybe Mom and Dad know but when you go to your partner’s work holiday party she introduces you as her “friend” or “colleague” or even that dead giveaway, “roommate.” And to make matters worse, you are really her wife! Your love becomes a shameful secret, something to hide.
Secrets regarding our sexuality and our relationships can lead to feelings of shame. Shame often leads to fear, anxiety, hurt, pain, and guilt. To cope with feelings such as these, we may develop unhealthy mechanisms to cope with them. For example, we may feel the need to numb ourselves by overindulging in drugs and alcohol and while uninhibited we may say and do things which we ultimately regret. Needless to say, when that happens our self-esteem plummets, our partner loses respect for us, and in some cases relationships end. But most important, we lose respect for ourselves.
So, if the fear of coming out to others is affecting your love relationship, here are some
suggestions for you, both on an individual level and as a couple.
Empowering Yourself with Pride
• Keep a journal—write about your fears regarding being open with others. Focus on the best possible outcomes.
• Read books and articles which are LGBTQ-affirming.
• Watch videos on both YouTube.com and LOGOonline.com which share coming out stories of those you admire
• Tell one person whom you trust about your relationship with your partner/wife. It’s actually often easier to come out when you’re already in a relationship.
• Stay away from labeling yourself. When coming out to others, talk about how happy you are in your relationship with your “wife,” or your “partner” (and quickly either use her name or say, “SHE and I have been together for two years”).
• Challenge yourself to do something that you’ve always wanted to do. Learn to play guitar, take photography lessons, train for the Marine Corps marathon, go skydiving—and remember to put your wife/partner’s name in the emergency contact section of the waiver and where it says “relationship,” be honest!
• Familiarize yourself with LGBTQ community resources. Join LGBTQ organizations and surround yourself with a supportive family of friends.
Empowering Your Relationship with Pride
• Volunteer – There are many opportunities to give of yourselves to the LGBTQ community. Whether it’s animal rescue, delivering food to those in need, or setting up at an LGBTQ festival, being generous together will strengthen your bond and will enhance the value of your relationship.
• Travel – Do a search online for LGBTQ-friendly locations and plan a trip. And when booking the reservations, be open about the fact that you are two women, and don’t be shy about asking for the romance package and the king size bed!
• Massage—Book a couples massage at an LGBTQ-friendly spa.
• Attend spiritual/religious services together at an inclusive, welcoming house of worship where you can be yourselves and celebrate your relationship.
• Do yoga, meditate, or go to the gym together at places where you feel comfortable to be yourselves.
• Go to couples workshops and retreats, which specifically cater to lesbian and gay couples.
• Play in DC – Be a tourist. Jump on a sightseeing bus. See free shows at the Kennedy Center.
• Remember that you are BEST FRIENDS and have fun!
• Get cozy and make love.
Most of all, remember that we teach others how to treat us. Given the oppressive history of our community, with its outlandish stereotypes and misconceptions, it’s no wonder that we often expect that others will treat us in a disrespectful way. Truly, with our own homophobia, we can even treat ourselves in a disrespectful way. However, as a committed couple it is important that you show others the love and joy you share. In doing so, you will not only
strengthen your own bonds, but you will teach others that love is love, no matter what, even if
it means going outside of your comfort zone.
So be OUT AND PROUD! Say, “This is my wife or spouse or partner” whether you are at a bank, a doctor’s office, or at a family reunion. Hold hands at the zoo; sit next to each other at your parents’ house, tell the auto repair shop that your wife will be picking up the car. Expect to be treated respectfully. And never underestimate the power of your love.