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Advice: I love her, am I gay?

Last updated 05:00 14/03/2013

She thought she was straight, but she's fallen deeply in love with a woman. What now?

Send your questions to lifeandstyle@stuff.co.nz, and remember to include a nickname if you don't want to be identified.

I have fallen in love with someone who I feel I should not have. We have known each other now for almost six months and having them in my life has been amazing, and I can say this from both our sides. The respect, love, adoration and communication is just amazing. I have never felt so connected with anyone before.

The only issue is we are both females. I have never been with a woman and neither has she. She is twice my age, has kids and is separated. I have only ever dated men and have never been interested in women in my entire life, so all these feelings are completely new.

Whenever we have a few drinks we always get so close it feels like we are going to kiss, but we never do. We kiss on the cheek lots, we spoon when we stay together, we talk on the phone and text all the time, so this makes it even harder sometimes because I can't stop thinking about her.

She is just so beautiful, smart, funny, intelligent, she makes me think every day. and when I look in to her eyes., it is like my heart melts.

What do I do? I love her so much and we have both said these words to each other. The awful thing is I know in our heads we both think that we are straight. What do we do
?

What a surprise for you! In terms of the relationship all is going wonderfully well, the constraints appear to be around your idea of yourself, and perhaps what this might mean socially should you enter into a same-sex relationship more fully. Is this correct?

Firstly, the issue of sexual identity. You are both in a position to be able explore the relationship, and you feel a strong affinity with one another. I hear that this challenges your heterosexual identity, and poses you with a possibility you haven't considered before.

When we think about sexuality, we can do so in terms of four continuums, sexual orientation (what we are attracted to), sexual identity (how we view ourselves), social identity (how others see us), and sexual behaviour (what we do). We can move up and down on these continuums at different times of our lives, much more than many people realise. You have experienced a new shift in your orientation (you find yourself attracted to a woman), this is somewhat confusing for you (your identity) even while you start to explore some forms of physical intimacy with this woman (your behaviour). We can experience internal conflict when these ducks don't all line up.

Just a little flag for me, but equally important as the issue of sexual identity is the age difference that you describe. There is not enough detail to know here, but if for example you were say 22 and your friend is 46 there is likely to be a significant power differential in the relationship. You may have some challenging conversations ahead around the different wants and needs you have in different life stages, and how you see your futures. You may want to
give some consideration to this area and what it means to you both.

What to do? In terms of exploring this same-sex attraction you have already started to act on it, and a big question is how willing are you to explore this further. Can you be open to the feelings that you have, and the new meanings that might come from them? Even though it may initially be confusing, are you open to broadening your idea of who you are? To what degree would this exploration brush up against your own attitudes around sexual orientation,
or those of others? Do you have the strength to confront these and explore a new identity?

If you are interested in this exploration it will be important to keep talking with your friend about what it means for you both. The more you can be real and open with each other around how you are feeling, the better. Give yourself room to move and explore without coming to hard and fast rules and decisions. Let the answers come with time and with conscious exploration. Remember to look after your "self" in any exploration, until you are willing to
declare any new found identity publicly.

Know the friends and family who you can trust and get support from, and those who will muddy the waters with their own agendas. Keep reaching out for help when you need it. I wish you the best with this new journey,

For more advice and information on counselling, visit Relationships Aotearoa online or join them on Facebook.

We'd love to hear your take on this week's issue. Before you comment below, though, remember that this is a real-life situation. This reader has bravely shared their personal life with you; please show them respect by refraining from hurtful or abusive comments.

- Stuff

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