Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Girlfriend Refuses to Tell Her Son We’re in a (Lesbian) Relationship”

Lesbian

I am 28 and I’m in a serious relationship with another woman who is 30. She has an 11-year-old son from a past marriage and has been divorced for 10 years. She mostly had long-term relationships with men and a couple of flings with women. I am her most serious lesbian relationship. We are deeply in love with each other and she has said she wants to marry me someday. We live together in my house. We have been together for 8 months and things have been mostly wonderful.

My biggest issue with her is that she won’t come out to her son and refuses to even discuss it with me. Her son has a room in my house, but he’s only there on weekends. He stays with his grandmother during the week. When I have discussed her telling him, she states that she doesn’t want to confuse him and she will tell him someday. In the meantime when he’s around I have to act like a friend and she rips her hand away or acts really rude if I come close to her. Even if I give her a hug, she gives me a dirty look and pushes me off. I booked a trip for his birthday and she ignored me on the trip and neglected me the whole time. She is normally very affectionate towards me and we are loving towards each other. When he’s around, I can’t call her “baby” or say anything to her that would indicate that we are dating. I have to hold back the whole time.

As you can see. this is getting worse and I’m almost to the point of giving up and telling her to pack up and get out. I have grown resentful towards her son and don’t know how to explain to her further that this is causing a huge strain on our relationship. — Tired of Being in the Closet in my Own Home

If you’re almost to the point of telling your girlfriend to pack up and get out, I’d suggest you push yourself however much further you need to go to reach that point fully and let her know that she can no longer stay in your home until she is ready to come out to her son. Tell her that, for as concerned as she is about confusing him, you feel as though her living with you full-time along with his staying with you on the weekends without knowing the nature of your relationship already likely IS confusing — for him AND for you — and you need to reclaim your space and reclaim some of your sanity.

Honestly, I can’t believe you invited your girlfriend to move in with you without your relationship being clear to her son, especially knowing he would be a pretty big part of your domestic life together, staying with you every weekend. And I can’t believe she, as a concerned and loving mother, went ahead with the plan without thoughtfully introducing her orientation and her true relationship with you to her son. He’s 11 years old — old enough to understand that his mother loves another woman, especially when the idea is explained in age-appropriate language. Even if he’s confused by the idea, like your girlfriend seems to think he’ll be, clearing the confusion is as easy as answering some questions, giving him some time to process the new information, and letting him see you two as a couple and see how two women together — even when one happens to be his mother who has been involved with men in the past — isn’t any different than any two people of any sex who love each other making a life together.

That your girlfriend is so scared of confusing her son suggests that perhaps she isn’t as settled in the idea of being in a lesbian relationship as she’d like you to believe she is. Maybe it’s SHE who is confused. Maybe it’s SHE who isn’t ready yet to claim an identity she’s afraid will define her, especially in the eyes of her young son. And maybe she isn’t quite as ready to fully commit to you as she has said she is. This doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen. I just think you’ve moved a little faster than she was apparently ready to move. And now you need to backtrack, give her some space to figure shit out, and be patient if you can. In the meantime, let her know you still love her and want a future with her but that, in order to move forward, you need to feel part of her life completely and not like a partially hidden part she’s ashamed to share with her son.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

28 comments… add one
  • Lyra

    Lyra December 8, 2014, 8:50 am

    I have to say, 8 months isn’t that long of a time and I don’t think she is as committed to you as you are to her. I personally think you moved pretty fast, especially considering that she has a son to care for…who doesn’t know about you. Even though I’m sure you don’t want her to move out, I don’t think she realizes how important this is to you. It sounds to me like she rushes into relationships — I mean, she had her son when she was married at age 19 and you say that she has had multiple serious relationships with men since then. Maybe she rushed into this one with you? Maybe she rushed into something thinking that she was ok with it but then when she had to face the music and tell her son she realized she wasn’t ready.

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    • something random

      something random December 8, 2014, 9:32 am

      I think you’re on to something. If the girlfriend is used to things not working out in relationships and is still new to being “out” she might be reluctant to expose her son to another relationship, especially if her time with her son is limited to weekends.

      I agree with Wendy that this lw should take a step back and maybe ask the girlfriend to move out until things are more settled and certain.

      I also wonder if the girlfriend’s strong response to the lw when the son is over is in part because she feels the girlfriend is trying to push her. If girlfriend has said she isn’t comfortable being out, why does the lw keep trying to initiate affection around the son? I wonder if that might be making the girlfriend more rigid in her response?

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      • Lyra

        Lyra December 8, 2014, 9:38 am

        Yup, exactly. It obviously isn’t healthy to go from relationship to relationship and I think the girlfriend has a lot to figure out. You’re right, she’s probably still processing this all herself so she’s likely not sure how to address it with her son.

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      • something random

        something random December 8, 2014, 9:45 am

        edit “she feels the *lw* is trying to push her.

        And to expand on that, the girlfriend refuses to even discuss it. This reads like the girlfriend feels she has to assert a very strong boundary with the lw. Girlfriend doesn’t feel safe enough to discuss it. LW doesn’t feel secure or respected. Someone has to make the first move in validating if communication is going to move forward.

        LW, I suggest you kindly ask your girlfriend to explain her thoughts about not coming out to you. Give her time to think about them. Listen to them and validate her position. It will put you in a better position to ask her to do the same for you in a follow up conversation.

        I don’t know why, but I feel like I’m going to get smoked for this advice.

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      • Lyra

        Lyra December 8, 2014, 10:02 am

        No, I see where you’re coming from, for sure. I definitely think that the LW does NOT have as stable, healthy relationship as she thinks she does. It may be passionate and it may be loving when the son is not there, but overall I think she needs to be much more open and honest with the girlfriend and vice versa.

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  • avatar

    Laura Hope December 8, 2014, 9:00 am

    Does she really think her 11 year old son doesn’t, on some level, know? Kids are so much smarter than we give them credit for and much more in tune, because their world is much smaller. The children I know who suffer from severe depression or anxiety all have one thing in common–profound dishonesty in the home. I’m not saying there’s a proven cause and effect but I do think honesty is much healthier for everyone –even if it’s uncomfortable.

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    • something random

      something random December 8, 2014, 9:55 am

      From my perspective its not just the dishonesty but the instability that comes with never knowing what is true, solid, and reliable. It makes a child’s world seem dangerous and out of their control. My mom used to WAY over-share with me. I didn’t need to know about how insecure she was with my dad and his admin when I was eight. My point is kids shouldn’t be used to validate adults feelings, either. Exposing the eleven year old to the relationship only because it would make the lw feel better isn’t a good enough reason by itself, imo. But doing it because it is healthier for everyone involved is.

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  • avatar

    zanderbomb December 8, 2014, 9:23 am

    Does anyone else wonder why a 30 year old woman has her 11 year old son living with her mother? LW never tells us if her gf has legal custody of her son or not. That could be a HUGE factor in not being open with her son. My experience with family law is that judges like to see stability; not mom moving in with a new partner after a few months of dating.

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    • becboo84

      becboo84 December 8, 2014, 9:28 am

      Yes, I see that you noticed the same thing as me. That was honestly the thing that stood out most to me too!

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    • kare

      kare December 8, 2014, 9:30 am

      I was wondering the same thing. I know someone whose son lives with the grandparents during the week, but it’s not that they have legal custody. It’s that the girl (whose 28) says it’s too hard, her boyfriend doesn’t like him, she doesn’t have the time, etc. She’s incredibly irresponsible despite having a law degree and great job. So obviously I’m kind of concerned/biased in this scenario.

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    • avatar

      joanna December 8, 2014, 11:32 am

      Thank you for noticing that. It hypothetically says to me that her gf is not able to care for her son. Even if it’s not a legally-bound agreement, it still makes me wonder about the gf’s decision making.

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  • becboo84

    becboo84 December 8, 2014, 9:27 am

    Yeek, I see so many problems with this letter! First of all, as Wendy and others have mentioned, moving in together after only eight months is extremely quick in general, but especially when a child is involved. Secondly, the woman’s refusal to “come out” to her son seems odd, unless he’s been raised in an ultra conservative/homophobic home thus far. And third (and I get this is unrelated to your question exactly), but why the heck is the 11 year old living 70+% of the time with his grandmother instead of one of his parents? I recognize this could be a temporary situation with a perfectly reasonable explanation, but that type of lack of engagement in parenting would be a major red flag to me.

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh December 8, 2014, 10:14 am

    I have to wonder who initiated the living together. I agree with Wendy you both moved too fast. It seems she’s only fine having her son visit on weekends because she can pass you off as a roommate. Which is odd to me in a way because she’s trying to half protect her son but not completely. I would definitely take a step back and see if once she doesn’t live with you where the relationship goes.

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  • redessa

    redessa December 8, 2014, 10:55 am

    I have a little different take. The gf has been in several relationships in the last 10 yrs and, for reasons we don’t know, doesn’t have her child living with her full-time. I can’t even imagine the instability this poor kid has had to live through. I don’t think it’s at all unreasonable for this mother to minimize ANY love interest (male or female) to her son during the time they are together. At least not until she herself fully believes that relationship is going to last. And with her having already been through a divorce and other long-term relationships which didn’t pan out, it could take a long time for her to feel that secure. The two of you haven’t even been dating a full year yet but are already living together. Asking you to dial it back and just be the roommate when her kid is around is, IMO, her trying to be a good mom and protect her child.
    .
    Instead of resenting the boy for cutting into your PDA, have you put some energy into getting to know him and establishing a friendship with him? I want to know more about this birthday trip. Did you and his mom plan it together or did you surprise them with it? Because it’s a pretty bold move to be taking a trip together when the mom isn’t even acknowledging your relationship around her kid. As for you being neglected the whole time, well, it was a trip for the little boy, right? Shouldn’t he have been the center of attention from both of you? What were you expecting in regards to yourself?
    .
    All that being said, if this isn’t the kind of relationship you want, that’s okay. If you need more attention from your partner or just need to be acknowledged openly, this may not be the right person for you. You can certainly try to work on things and ask for what you want, but you can both be lovely people who want reasonable things, and those things just not line up.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover December 8, 2014, 12:29 pm

      I disagree, because if she really wanted to protect her kid from the fallout of another relationship, she would have made sure it was a longterm relationship BEFORE moving in. You don’t protect your child by moving in with someone you’re not sure about and then not telling them you’re a couple. Now she’s just messing with the kid, same as if this was a hetero relationship and she moved in with a man and told her kid it was a roommate.
      .
      The gf should move out. Both for the kid, and for the LW. It’s not fair to either of them. The gf is just being selfish, getting what she wants without having to fully commit, or to explain to her son what is going on. The LW should tell her to go live with her mom and her kid and focus on how to be a better mom. Lol, I don’t really expect the LW to say that, but that’s what the gf needs to hear.

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      • redessa

        redessa December 8, 2014, 12:57 pm

        “I disagree, because if she really wanted to protect her kid from the fallout of another relationship, she would have made sure it was a longterm relationship BEFORE moving in. ” Absolutely! I fully agree that moving in together was way premature and it would have been worlds better to ease the child into the idea of the relationship before putting him in the position of living together – even just on weekends. I’m sure the kid is picking up on all kinds of weird vibes while he’s there.
        .
        I also agree entirely with your 2nd paragraph. Next to moving out, I think being honest with her son (in an age appropriate way) would be preferable to whatever it is they’re doing now. But given that this is the situation, if they are determined to go about it all backwards, I don’t think it’s entirely unreasonable for the girlfriend to ask the LW to be a “roommate” while he’s there. Even if the little boy did know, the mom might not be comfortable holding hands and being affectionate in front of her son.

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  • avatar

    SasLinna December 8, 2014, 11:22 am

    I could understand not wanting to be out as a lesbian and even not wanting to tell the son about a new relationship 8 months in, but what is bizarre to me about this situation is that they have moved in together and the son has a room at LW’s place. You kind of can’t move in with someone and have your child spend a lot of time with her and still not tell the kid you’re together. They could have slowly eased into this situation if they had just waited with moving in.

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  • avatar

    memboard December 8, 2014, 12:14 pm

    So what about sleeping arrangements? Does LW share a bedroom with the girlfriend except on weekends? If not isn’t that a dead giveaway?

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy December 8, 2014, 12:24 pm

      Good point!

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover December 8, 2014, 12:30 pm

      They probably say they’re friends and they just share the room on weekends so the son can have a room when he’s there.

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    • avatar

      SasLinna December 8, 2014, 12:38 pm

      Not necessarily. When I was a child I knew a lesbian couple (they were friends with my mom) and I spent a lot of time with them. I knew they shared a bedroom and I definitely saw them as a social unit, but I never connected the dots that they were lesbians until I was 13 or so. I just didn’t really consider the possibility. So I think if the kid doesn’t know a lot of homosexual couples he might not really ‘get it’.

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  • avatar

    Wendy_not_Wendy December 8, 2014, 12:38 pm

    So, to me the living together after eight months isn’t that weird (don’t you people KNOW any lesbians?) and even the being afraid to be open with her son isn’t that weird (it at least borders on talking about sex, and god knows that’s awkward for plenty of parents/kids). This is an old story in the lesbian/gay/etc community, though it’s maybe a little old-fashioned today. But maybe they live in a place that’s a little behind the times. I get the impression that these are definitely not LA or Seattle or NYC lesbians.

    No, what’s unacceptable to me is how badly the girlfriend treats the LW. It sounds like she’s just plain rude and disrespectful when her son’s around. The LW whining that she can’t even call her girlfriend “baby” on the weekends makes me hate the LW, but still, the GF shouldn’t act so ashamed and be so rude to the LW. That isn’t the way love acts.

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    • redessa

      redessa December 8, 2014, 1:02 pm

      This sort of touches on another thought I was having. Maybe she’s not out to her mother. She could be worried her son will go home to grandma and talk about his mom’s girlfriend and her mother will make it difficult for her to see him anymore. There are all sorts of possible reasons why the gf is trying to keep the relationship under wraps. Things she may not have even shared with the LW. Although if something like that is the case, I think she should say so. Maybe she has issues being forthright in general. (Another reason to reevaluate the relationship.)

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    • redessa

      redessa December 8, 2014, 1:06 pm

      Also, 8 months might not generally be that fast to be living together – isn’t there some joke about lesbians bringing a u-haul on the 2nd date? But when there are children involved, it requires (or should require) a more cautious approach.

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      • something random

        something random December 8, 2014, 2:11 pm

        I agree. I wonder how long they have been living together and if that’s the same time the kid was introduced to the “Friend”. I think this whole letter boils down to moving in too early (before girlfriend “came out” or possibly really introduced the letter writer to her son)

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  • mylaray

    mylaray December 8, 2014, 12:56 pm

    My best friend growing up was in this situation with her mom. Her parents had been divorced a long time and they moved in with a woman when she was 12. It was so obvious it was her mom’s girlfriend, yet neither of them said anything and went out of their way to hide it. But of course my friend saw them kissing at times. Even through high school and then when the girlfriend started paying my friend’s college tuition, they never said a word. It’s disrespectful to throw your child into something without actually communicating anything about it.
    .
    And LW, I don’t think your relationship is as perfect and as serious as you think. Living together doesn’t automatically make a relationship serious. I hate to say this but I have a feeling your girlfriend is just mooching off you. With her son staying with her mom most of the time it says either there is some legal issue there or she likes having her mom take care of her son and not having the bulk/all of the childcare duties. And moving in so quickly with you I think is another sign she wants to be taken care of. Where was she living before? Can she take care of herself (and her child)? Why won’t she tell her son she’s in a relationship with you? Is it not as serious for her and is she just using you? Or does she just not communicate with her son? It’s not a good sign either way. You need to be on the same page as her, and she needs to start talking to her son, or there will be resentment for everyone involved.

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    • Lyra

      Lyra December 8, 2014, 1:07 pm

      Definitely agree that she’s probably mooching. The fact that she’s been going from relationship to relationship since she was 19 indicates that as well — she likes being taken care of.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom December 8, 2014, 1:55 pm

    “He stays with his grandmother during the week. ”

    I don’t think we can assume that he is staying with the maternal grandmother. It could just as easily be the paternal grandmother who may already not like the mother. She may be walking a fine line to be able to see her son on weekends. If the grandmother has custody, regardless of whose mother she is, then she gets to say who sees him and who doesn’t. If she doesn’t approve of premarital sex and/or lesbian relationships the boy’s mother may have no choice but to keep it secret. Whatever her reason, she needs to share it with the LW.

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