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Forums / Sexuality and gender identity / Female in a hetero marriage, asexual and in love with same sex friend

Topic: Female in a hetero marriage, asexual and in love with same sex friend

  1. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    18 July 2020
    I need to talk and get this all out of my head. I have been in a hetero relationship for 29 years and have known nothing else. I loved my husband but have never been in love. I have always thought of myself as being close to asexual, but strongly felt that this was something I needed to fix, that “normal” people want to have sex. I require a close intimate emotional connection to even consider physical/sexual intimacy. My husband and I have always managed this quite well, and although our relationship is not as conventional as some, we definitely had a good close partnership up until the last 2-3 years. We have 2 children in their late teens. This year, things seem to have shifted a lot. We have drifted from each other a bit and our friendship that underpinned our relationship has started to erode. He is struggling with work, life, sense of purpose and says he is unhappy and lonely. Adding to this, I am now questioning my sexual identity again. There is a woman who is the only woman I have ever had romantic thoughts about. She has been in and out of my life over the years, for a range of reasons to do with both of us, mental health issues, distance, readiness for emotional intimacy etc. this year however, after the death of a very close friend of mine, she has come back into my life and we have grown incredibly close. We saw each other recently for the first time in 6 years. We are both now ready for an emotionally intimate friendship and we spent 3 days together talking and getting closer. I am in love with her. She loves me very deeply but it is entirely platonic from her perspective. She is married to a man who has taken a significant amount of her mental health from her and from her kids, but she loves him and will never leave him. She seems to have flicked a switch in me and I know for sure that I want to be with her, but that is not something that will ever happen. I also have my primary relationship with my husband that is falling apart. I am feeling overwhelmed since coming home from the time with my friend, everything is so pale in comparison to being with her. Rightly though, she has switched her focus back to her life, and I am finding that incredibly difficult. I am also wondering if this year is a year for any big decisions because it has been a shocker on all levels. I am afraid to run from the life that my husband and I have built and I am afraid of continuing to deny myself and who I am. I am struggling. SH
  2. smallwolf
    Community Champion
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    smallwolf avatar
    5565 posts
    18 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    Hi and welcome to beyond blue.

    I have found this is a good place to get things out of my mind as well. It allows me to look at things more objectively and in this space get some feedback from others. And this is a space where users are non-judgemental and support each other.

    so, I am just a mere male ... who might ask too many questions. If you can put up with then I might walk with this journey with you while you are here, and learn from you.

    Am I correct is assuming the marriage with your husband has a foundation based on friendship? And issues within you are both experiencing within the marriage is also raising questions about yourself. Is this correct?

    Based on how you described your husband it sounds like you might also be trying to support him emotionally in the issues he is dealing with.

    And recently you are come back into contact with another person in your life with whom you have become very close to. It sounds like you are supports for ner (each other? even though it might not sounds like that) - which makes you are trusting and caring person. She has now returned to her family, and a sense of loss in you and your situation.

    if you went to sleep to night with your problems neatly packed away in a box on your bedside table. And then in the middle of the night, something magical happened and all the problems you had disappeared. In the morning when you wake up then... what would be different? how would you notice it in the environment? how would others notice it in you?

    You have a very interesting story to tell. I hope you will come back and chat some more.

    Listening to you,

    Tim

    1 person found this helpful
  3. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    19 July 2020 in reply to smallwolf

    Hi Tim

    Thank you so much for your caring response. I would love it if you stayed with me for a bit. Please ask questions because thinking about how I answer your questions helps me to pin down what I need to focus on.

    My marriage was always based on a strong emotional connection and friendship. We had physical intimacy and enough sexual intimacy to get by, given my asexuality. The last 2 or 3 years we have drifted away from each other and have been living separate inner lives and all intimacy has ceased. He is also having his own troubles and I am wondering if he is experiencing some depression. I have convinced him today that we need to seek some relationship counselling. At the very least I want to fix our friendship, because we will need that if we split and the kids will need us to have that too. I would like for him to realise that he should maybe seek some individual counselling as well. Honestly, I am not doing a very good job of supporting him.

    My withdrawal from him has been largely due to questions about my attraction to women, or one woman at least. I am drawn to good women, on an emotional and intellectual level but I am not sure if I have a broader attraction beyond my friend. I am incapable of considering physical/sexual intimacy without emotional intimacy, so it is hard to know. I can live with just being friends with her, I think, as when we are emotionally present with each other, we both feel so loved, safe, nurtured and nourished. She struggles to carve out space for our friendship in her everyday life, for a range of reasons and I find this difficult. We live in different States now, so that is also challenging.

    So, if I woke up tomorrow and everything was resolved, I would not be confused. I would understand whether I am attracted to one woman, or whether there could be other women, and whether my marriage fits in with any of that, or not. I would know whether my asexuality was with men and women, or whether really I am just not into men. My relationship with my husband would be stable and secure whether we are together or apart. My friend would be able to focus on her own well-being which would include me playing a bigger part in her life, even just as friends. I would not feel all of this grief at the loss of my imagined and beautiful life with my friend.

    I do get the sense that my best life would be lived with a woman, but life is more complex than that and we have to tweak it a bit.

    SH

  4. smallwolf
    Community Champion
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    smallwolf avatar
    5565 posts
    19 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    Sometimes it can be difficult to be supporting another person and living your own life as well. My parents are elderly and dad has Parkinsons. There was a time when dad was particularily low and mum was supporting him. She could get frustrated at times with things he did. The partner can also have problems as a side-effect. Their GP would also ask mum how she is coping.

    There is so much in your posts to unpack!

    In your first post you said you loved (past tense) your husband and not in love. And you refer to friendship with your husband and wanting to fix that.

    (If you read between the lines of what I about to say you will find out more about me than ...) Anyway, my favourite colour is grey which is also described as without emotion. I never get/got excited about thing - the big events. My wife and I have 2 kids in their late teens as well - one in yr 12, and one out of school. Marriage is not like I see in TV shows or movies. I have spoke about all of this with my psychologist.

    There are many forms of love and not just Eros. There is also Philia and Pragma. So you be in love but a different type of love. Can you have a friendship with the female and be married?

    How do you define or describe love?

    What is stopping you from being a closer friend to your friend? (An email or phone call, etc.) This question could also apply to your husband?

    I guess I am a fan of Rumi (you can google the name) and a quote attributed to him -

    There’s a field somewhere beyond all doubt and wrong doing.I’ll meet you there.

    Life is indeed complex. You may find the answers you are looking for. Be kind and give yourself time. I see it as a marathon vs a 100m dash. Or a journey over time.

    Tim

    1 person found this helpful
  5. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    19 July 2020 in reply to smallwolf

    You ask some good questions, again, Tim. I am sorry to hear about your Dad, it is tough adding a chronic and degenerative illness into a relationship. I hope both of your parents are coping. My eldest child is in Yr12 too. It is a tough year for that cohort of kiddos.

    I used past tense to describe my love for my husband, I do still love him. It feels like a bit of a stretched and threadbare love right now, for both of us. The relationship is strained. I would say that my marriage has definitely been based on philia or pragma love, a companiable type of love. I would say that successful relationships are negotiated and navigated to make them good enough. I don’t mean that as a negative thing, it is about a compromise and coming to a mutual arrangement. Love is grey.

    You have asked a very big question that I do not have the answer for, “can I have a friendship with my female friend and stay married?” I think if I did that I would need to commit to my husband as my primary relationship, stop looking outwards toward women and wondering. I don’t know if I can do that. And right now I am very much in love with someone else, which is not fair on my husband and amounts to infidelity.

    I text my friend most days and we speak semi-regularly on the phone. When she is with me she is different, she drops her guard and her survival and coping mechanisms are switched off, she breathes. Back in her life she is in a different space and she becomes much harder to reach and draw out. She loves me deeply and she wants closeness. she is working hard on it, but her capacity to give herself to an emotionally close friendship is reduced in the context of her life. I loved that Rumi quote, in fact it reminded me so clearly of the space she and I create when we are together. My love for her is different to the love I feel for my husband. I am working hard to suppress any hope for a life with her and I am trying to get my love for her to settle into something manageable in the long term, but it is really hard. I hurts actually.

    I am working on improving my relationship with my husband, and trying to manage my love for my friend.I don’t need to pin a label on myself, other than asexual, yet, but the idea of being with a woman who I have a strong connection with is beginning to feel right for me.

    I have been completely honest with my friend. I have not yet discussed any of this with my husband. He deserves some honesty from me, but I am afraid to have that conversation.

    SH

  6. smallwolf
    Community Champion
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    smallwolf avatar
    5565 posts
    20 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    Again, anything I ask here please do not feel you have to answer...

    It seems you are a little conflicted on what to do - despite your feelings for another person it sounds like you have a strong sense of loyalty to marriage and commitment to your husband vs a feeling there could be something else that is nagging at your mind and you are looking for the answers.

    The "what if" type questions are the worst - at least for me. I think that if I did this back then or similar, things would be much different. But then where would I be now? Would I be in the same position, worse off, or ?? Perhaps it is easier to accept whatever happened in the past and use that experience to inform the decisions we make now. Even if this does refer to the conversation a conversation with our partner.

    (I thought my wife would get worried or whatever when I told her about suicidal thoughts. If she was worried, it was not visible. For me, that conversation lifted a weight off me that had been holding me back.)

    You said that you have not discussed this with your husband and he deserves some honesty.

    What is "this" you have not discussed? Is it the asexual part? Or another person you have an emotional connection with? Or something else?

    Does your husband know about your asexuality?

    I have tended to start these conversations with "I need to talk to you about how I am feeling or what my mind tells me...." and use "I" statements. "It does not matter whether the thoughts are right or wrong". I guess it sounds like a disclaimer. Of course, how much I (or you) then divulge is a choice.

    Please tell me if I am wrong... is it possible the loss of connection with your husband has been taken up by the other woman?

    I think I have rambled enough for one night. And I hope some of what I have said made sense.

    Tim

    1 person found this helpful
  7. Esti67
    Esti67 avatar
    77 posts
    21 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    Hey SH,

    My apologies, I hadnt read your thread and replied on another. You have said something that has resonated with me - I feel I would be living my best life with a woman. That is how I have felt for the last 20 years!!! Its only in the last 2 that I was brave enough to action it. Glad I did but the cost was huge. I am now however living my best life with a woman. The fear of completely destroying my very stable world, losing my kids and my best friend nearly stopped me, but feeling so unfulfilled (especially sexually) and not being able to identify as a lesbian was terrible. I was miserable and living a life that felt very vanilla and very wrong. I have now met many people, found some new friends, and lost a couple (not many ) and am reconciling with my daughter.

    I think you need to be really sure about taking the leap, many people don't and thats ok, its your life and you know yourself best .

    Just out of curiosity, have you ever been in love with other women, or had a crush of some sort ?Sometimes this stuff comes from nowhere, for others there have been little clues along the way

    J

    1 person found this helpful
  8. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    21 July 2020 in reply to smallwolf

    Hi Tim.

    I am conflicted. I am working through it though.

    I find myself wishing hard that my friend felt the same way. I have loved her for a long time even with gaps in contact with her. But I need to get over that, and keep her in my life because her close friendship has to be the next best thing. I am working on that with her.

    The 2 big issues for my marriage are the deterioration of our relationship/friendship and my rising feeling of being attracted to women. It could be that I sought what I was losing with him, with my friend. That maybe I used her as a replacement. I have two other close friends though and I am not attracted to them. My husband also has close friends outside of the marriage. So our relationship has always co-existed with other friendships. I feel a bit wishy washy when I talk about my attraction to women. I am afraid to use the term lesbian, because so many women fought and sacrificed for that right, to be who they are. I don’t want to use it flippantly, because that feels disrespectful. But, I can’t explore that while I am in love with my friend or while I am married.

    Either decision I make is full of risks and potential regrets. Either way will mean some big personal shifts for me and either denying the feelings I am having for other women or losing the life we have built over 30 years and the security that comes with that. I don’t want to be that person who is dishonest and unfaithful.

    My husband knows about my asexuality, he doesn’t know that I am attracted to women.

    My husband and I have a relationship counselling appointment in 2 weeks, so I have a bit of time to work through some things myself.

    It sounds like you and your wife have some good communication that has helped you and strengthened your relationship. It is definitely hard work and scary sometimes.

    SH

  9. smallwolf
    Community Champion
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    smallwolf avatar
    5565 posts
    21 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    Reflection can be a good thing ... you have a couple of weeks to work out what is important to you.

    As much as I would like to agree with you regarding my wife and myself do not consider myself successful in the communication. Unless pressed, it is easy to shut down a conversation with a grunt which to her means I am grumpy and don't want to talk about it etc.

    I am wondering out loud... if one relationship is deteriorating, would that mean one might look elsewhere or find something elsewhere and I not saying intentionally. Just thinking out loud.

    However the part that is interesting in your post is (denying your) feelings vs the life you have built. And what would happen in each case down the road. If you stay married would you regret that decision later on? If you followed your feelings how would feel about the security?

    And then there is the question about compromise and finding some way forward. Because of my lack of understanding with asexuality (and I have read a little) wondering what type of love you see with the other woman, if you were to use one of the Greek forms of love.

    On reading... I wonder what stuff you might have read, whether books, material online or other. There are also organisations in Australia you could talk to to get more information.

    And I would not worry about feeling "wishy washy" as this is something new to you that you are exploring and trying to find the answers because as you said there are risks and regrets. At the same time you do not want to put a label on yourself that might not be.

    If you allow me to be a little blunt... you are a person first with feelings, needs etc. I suspect your husband would be aware of the deteriorating relationship? And if not would be an opportunity to talk to him about that, if not during counselling in 2 weeks. As a person we all (?) want some sort of a connection with someone else? (Working for 15+ years from home with little outside contact, that is something I am certain of!)

    Hope you got something out of my random thoughts.

    Tim

  10. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    24 July 2020 in reply to Esti67

    Hi Esti

    I am really sorry that I had somehow missed your reply on this thread. I am so very grateful for your thoughts. I admire you for taking the step to live your best life and I am so glad that it is coming together for you.

    The fear of disrupting our comfortable and stable life (although that life needs a bit of work at the moment) is what is holding me back and also the relationship I so badly want to be in with my friend is not an option. Leaving and seeking my best life is so uncertain. I would also need to manage my intense feelings for my friend before I could even consider another relationship. Plus I would need to change the circles in which I hang out to make it more likely to develop friendships with other women, opening myself up to a potential lesbian relationship.

    You talk about being unfulfilled in your relationship with your husband and living a life that felt vanilla. I can really relate to those feelings. I feel like I am full of holes sometimes, like there are pieces missing. I describe myself as asexual and have for a long time as an explanation for the way I am in my relationship with my husband, but I now I wonder if I am just not that sexually interested in men. I have never been in love with another woman, although in hindsight, I have been in love with my friend for about 10 years. I have tried to find signs from my earlier life that I was into women. There was nothing in my teens, absolutely nothing. I guess all I can say is that I was never sexually attracted to other women, but there were times in my 20s and even in my 30s when I would develop an admiration, for want of a better word, for a strong and intelligent women. I would be so afraid and shy around these women that I could barely speak to them! There was no attraction though. My friend really did flick that switch for me though, and I am romantically, intellectually and emotionally in love with her. I also am attracted to her sexually. The idea of the softness of a woman is really appealing to me now. I think I would feel very tentative in any physical and sexual relationship with her or any other woman, but I really want to slowly explore that side of me. I don’t know if I am brave enough to do it, though, not under the circumstances I am in. I don’t even know how I would start to be honest.

    Your experiences are so valuable when thinking about what I will do. Thank you so much for sharing them.

    SH

    1 person found this helpful
  11. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    24 July 2020 in reply to smallwolf

    Hi Tim,

    thank you for your last reply. I had planned to respond to both you and Esti67 in the one reply, but I really do struggle with that character limit! I may have answered some of your questions in my response to Esti67 above.

    In answer to your questions though, I think my marriage is deteriorating because I am in love with my friend, not so much the other way around. I would definitely have regrets if I stayed, but also feel I would need to manage regrets if I left. I think it is not an either/or situation, that it is very much grey! I have replied to Esti above about the type of love I feel for my friend. I am still working it out, but all of these conversations are helping me to build a better understanding of that. But it is now also something I need to get past/beyond/over, in order to continue on. It really breaks my heart, but whatever I decide to do in my marriage, I need to stop being in love with my friend.

    my husband is aware that our relationship has been deteriorating. It is a problem from his perspective too. The whole stay or leave decision may well be out of my hands. I am not sure what he will want. No doubt the counselling will reveal some of that, and raise more questions too.

    I really value the opportunity to talk. I am also beginning to appreciate from your responses that you have/had your own tough struggles. Thank you for being generous with your time and kindness to help me think out loud.

    SH

  12. smallwolf
    Community Champion
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    smallwolf avatar
    5565 posts
    25 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    Going off on a slight tangent... In many areas before I say something to my wife I will try to find out the answers first to make sure I have all bases covered. And there are times when I won't say or do something. Why? Thinking of feelings of shame I will be subjected to for opening my mouth because of things that would have happened at other times in my life. Similarly, I like(d) to be in control and not liking uncertainty - there is sort of safety in the situation you know and being aware of the outcomes or consequences.

    I wonder if any of this relates to you? (It seems a sense of sense of safety in the comfortable and stable life, and uncertainty with the possibilities.)

    I can imagine that having felt asexual for a long time, and getting these feelings for your friend would be confusing and perhaps a little scary. Can I ask whether you have reads any books around the thoughts you have? I am not sure whether your library would have any books. For myself, I have read a few books on depression to get other perspectives and ideas.

    Also, how does your friend feel about you?

    Please do not feel you have to answer my questions. Some might be better as self-reflection.

    I see my life now (figuratively) like the story of Monkey (Journey to the West) at least as far as the TV series was concerned - ups and downs, never finishing, always learning.

    Peace and comforting thoughts to you,

    Tim

  13. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    25 July 2020 in reply to smallwolf

    Hi Tim

    I am happy to answer questions. Writing helps me to reflect.

    My friend does not feel the same way. My choices would be easier if she did. She says she loves me very deeply and with all of her heart. She says she needs me but does not want to be with me. She says I make her want to be a better person, that I inspire her and that it is only around me that she can relax and drop her guard and turn off her coping and survival mechanisms. There is no romantic or sexual attraction from her side though. There are times when I wonder if that is true, because our friendship is a little blurrier around the edges than other close friendships I have. I don’t mean there has been any crossing of lines but it is a little different. I can’t afford to think that, though. There will be nothing but misery in that for me if I let myself keep wishing and thinking there is a chance.Falling in love with a straight woman was not my best decision! Plus she is married and not likely to ever leave her husband.

    Honestly, I am really feeling pretty rough at the moment. I am trying to be mature and thoughtful and pragmatic in the way I deal with everything, but today is a really bad day and I can’t kid myself that I am alright. I am very quick to tears and feel pretty emotionally wrecked. I am so sad. I feel like I am just waking up to who I am, which should be a good thing, but what I am waking up to is an absolute excrement sandwich.

    Although I read a lot of books as a general rule, I haven’t read any books on what I am experiencing, but I have read lots of articles and people’s stories like mine. It has definitely been very helpful to do that. I have experience of getting myself through stuff as I have some underlying trauma-related mental health issues, which these days are well managed thanks to an excellent psych I saw for a year or two about 10 yrs ago, but it takes regular self care and check-in maintenance still to keep me on track.

    Just when you think you have life sorted and you have stability and comfort, because that’s what you think you need, life takes you on a different path with more learning and ups and downs as you say. I think I am a bit like you in the way you describe yourself. I am cautious by nature, not a risk taker at all. I need to have all of the information I can get before making a decision to do or say something.

    Thank you for your thoughts, Tim. I could do really do with a bit of peace and comfort.

    SH

    1 person found this helpful
  14. smallwolf
    Community Champion
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    smallwolf avatar
    5565 posts
    25 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    Hey, I am still here. I am procrastinating a little with an assignment that I am don't really want to do at the moment.

    It would be normal to allow yourself to grieve a little about what will not eventuate - there is another person whom you love and recognise for a number of reasons would not work out. That does not change who you are - a person that cares greatly for other as well as your own family. I am also hopeful you will find a way for your relationship with her to move forward that is good for both of you. Be kind to yourself at this time though.

    Do you feel the need to conform to societies expectations in what you do?

    For myself, I have found it hard to be myself for if I feel that if I speak out about something now ... that I did not years ago (ergo agreement with a differing view) I am also a walking contradiction. Part of that would also be related to not wanting to upset others and in particular my parents. And if I do an alternative view to those who are important to me, what will they think of me afterwards?

    What is it that concerns you about who you are?

    Peaceful thoughts,

    Tim

  15. Timshel
    Timshel avatar
    86 posts
    26 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    Hello SH,

    I only started reading your thread tonight. I hope you don’t mind if I submit my 2 cents worth of advice.

    The first thing I would suggest is to try and abandon the idea of giving yourself a sexual identity label i.e. straight, lesbian, asexual etc. In ancient times, people didn’t have the same fetish for labels when it came to describing their sexual or even gender identity that we in modern societies seem to have developed. They didn’t feel the same need to comply with just one way of being and were more fluid and accepting in the way they lived their lives. This incessant need we ‘modern peoples’ have to ‘label’ everything and everyone is baffling. I personally think it is a coping mechanism we have developed over time to deal with the stress of a rapidly changing world. An attempt to establish some kind of order in what we perceive to be an increasingly disordered and chaotic environment. An attempt to control the uncontrollable. (I have OCD and I can see a kind of parallel here. OCD can be about having total control over something, not leaving any room for doubt or ‘grey’ areas because they cause a sense of dis-ease, of something not being quite ‘right’). And, let’s face it, nothing is more uncontrollable than human emotions especially when it comes to love and attraction.

    I, personally, subscribe to the theory behind the Kinsey scale which ascertains that few of us are 100% anything. Only small portions of the population are definitively 100% gay or straight. Most of us sit somewhere along a sliding scale. If not exactly bisexual, then at least still capable of being attracted to or even falling in love with people of either our own or the opposite sex depending on circumstances. Even asexuality may, indeed, be subjective depending on the circumstances we find ourselves in. (That being said, I do understand that some people can have very low to non-existent libidos which inhibits their desire for physical and sexual intimacy with anyone but doesn’t mean they can’t develop emotional and romantic attachments to people). Then, of course, on top of this is the whole area of gender identity and where people sit on that scale. All this labelling can be so confusing.

    We are human. We form all sorts of connections with others throughout our lifetime, some emotional, some physical, some romantic, some a blend of all three. We can love and can be loved in many ways. All love is special.

    Damn this character limit, I’ll be back....

    1 person found this helpful
  16. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    26 July 2020 in reply to smallwolf

    Hi Tim and Timshel,

    Tim, thank you for still being there last night. I hope you got your assignment done! I am doing better today, but have a long way to go. I have to let go of so much of my relationship with my friend, my hopes, the depth of my love and even my expectations of the type of friendship we will have going forward. I had a conversation with her this afternoon along those lines. It hurts because I think she will take a step back. Perhaps it is for the best. I have to be more realistic about what that friendship can give to me. I am not an easy person in some ways. I want deep connection and significance in my life. But I can only be responsible for me and how I manage myself. I am trying really hard to be kind to myself.

    Regarding your question about conforming to societal expectations. My answer is yes and no. I grew up with very clear expectations about how I should act as a girl, (think 1970s and 80s in a very small conservative rural community). I did not always conform though. I was openly challenging and questioning about religion, politics, equality. I played cricket and kicked the footy etc. However, I did feel a very strong expectation to marry a man, have kids and I did not even think to question it. Even now, there are some areas I will stand up and there are others that I am afraid to go against the expectation or to stand out in any way. Like you, having a differing opinion to key people sometimes impacts negatively (my mental health issues are often tied to this).

    Timshel, thank you for coming in to the discussion. I love the way there are so many different caring and supportive people here. Human emotions are definitely uncontrollable! I also agree with what you say about labels, we don’t always need to look for them and right now, for me, it feels like it is all fluid and soupy! I agree that I am somewhere on a spectrum and who I love and how I love is what matters. I do think there is value in some labels though, because if they do fit, they carry some strength. I will always label myself feminist because there is so much fight and history associated with that label, calling myself that is a nod to the strong, and sometimes difficult women who came before me. And the label fits me, and with it comes a sense of belonging and love. I think if the label lesbian ends up being me, I will embrace it. But you are right in that it is not at all necessary right now and it may well shift - it is all about love and connection.

    SH

  17. smallwolf
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
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    smallwolf avatar
    5565 posts
    27 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    On the assignment... it was starting the assignment. Got a bit done on it though.

    I can imagine it would have been hard to talk to your friend about the situation. I hope it went OK for both of you.

    In the 70s and 80s I would have been in 3 places - 2 rural communities and then a regional city. I have an idea of what you are referring to there. My interest in things was different to that of my family and relatives. It is also easier to learn to shut up than say anything. Enough on me.

    It was only recently in the last couple of years with the help of my psychologist I have started to say what I think. So that is perhaps about 40+ years of not being myself. I would not change my tastes, but never spoke about them, fear of being judged or shamed. Of course, to work this out i had to write a summary of my life, and write a letter to my younger self.

    When you said you look for deep connections - is that with anyone/everyone? Or the person you want to settle down with?

    Do you think your upbringing has had an effect on the way you see yourself?

  18. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    28 July 2020 in reply to smallwolf

    Hi Tim

    I hope your assignment is still going well.

    It was hard talking to my friend although we are close and can talk about most things. It is hard to not feel rejected, though. It is good to have a reality check too. I just can’t allow myself any hope there. I am trying to turn away from that and focus on some of the other stuff. I have my first counselling session with my husband next week so I need to work out what the important things are for me in that process.

    To answer your question, I look for deep connections with a number of people in my life. I have superficial relationships and others that are contextual (ie people I work with), but I seek depth and meaningful connections with a few people. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect my primary relationship/life partner to provide everything in terms of meeting emotional needs. I think it is healthy to have close people outside of your primary relationship if possible (although I would not recommend falling in love with one of them!). I have one other close friend and a third who we lost to brain cancer earlier this year.

    I think it is useful to reflect on your younger self and upbringing like you have. I think we need to know and understand ourselves well to get through difficult times, well to be our best in any times really. My upbringing definitely shaped me, and I would say that is probably the case for most people. There are aspects of growing up where I did that were idyllic, other aspects that were full of trauma, and other parts were just regular, but it all shaped me and impacts how I see myself. There was a very narrow range for what was considered normal, I guess. In terms of my sexuality, in a different context I may have realised my same sex attraction earlier, but who knows?

    I am so very glad that I decided to post in this forum. It has been so comforting to have such caring people just there, and reading other people’s stories. I am so grateful for being allowed to work through some things out loud. Things still feel like a bit of mess in my life and I have no idea where it will end up, but I feel a bit more capable of getting through it.

    thank you

    SH

  19. Timshel
    Timshel avatar
    86 posts
    29 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    Hello again SH and greetings to you Tim.

    SH, in reply to your last post addressing me, I agree with you that certain ‘labelling’ can and does play an important role in society. Labels can be ascribed to various belief systems that bring people together under a collective banner. They can unite people, strengthen their resolve, enable them to effect change in any number of realms throughout society. Most notably perhaps in the area of social justice with feminism being the perfect example. Labels are also a necessary sociological tool when it comes to looking at the demographic breakdown of a population through a socioeconomic lens.

    In my post, I was referring specifically to the ‘constrictive labels’ we use when describing someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, areas I feel are fluid and ambiguous for many, if not most perhaps.

    I may be wrong, but it is my theory that the whole area of sexual orientation can be a little more ‘blurry’ for women than for men. This may stem from the fact that, in general, women tend to have a stronger need for emotional intimacy in relationships than men and again, in general, tend to be better at providing it. Which is why I strongly believe that women really need other women in their lives whether it be family members, friends or life partners.

    Speaking as a woman myself, I know that the ability to be emotionally intimate is something I find very attractive in another person. This has, on occasion, caused me to question my feelings towards 1 or 2 female friends over the years with whom I have shared a particularly strong emotional bond. I should mention that I have been married to my husband for 28 years now and have never been unfaithful even though it has not been an easy marriage. During our time together, however, I have, on a number of occasions, genuinely found myself drawn to the idea of being in a relationship with another woman. Even though I have only ever been in heterosexual relationships in my life, I did have sexual relations with another female when I was much younger and found the experience to be very pleasurable and natural. I also know that, although I did not act on my feelings, there have been times in my life when I have developed ‘crushes’ on other women. So, even though I have always been in heterosexual relationships, and am genuinely attracted to and satisfied by men, I could never define myself as 100% straight. Ironically, my husband is the only person I have told this to so far.

  20. Lillipilli80
    Student Mentor
    • Masters of Psychology student on placement
    Lillipilli80 avatar
    25 posts
    29 July 2020

    Hi SH-2600,

    I hope it's ok to add to this discussion but your journey struck a chord with me, not for the same experiences you have had but more from the 'being at a crossroads' time in life. It sounds like you have denied your needs, desires, attractions for so long that of course it would feel hard to make that decision to choose a path just for you. There are many factors influencing a path that feels true for you. You still have love and respect for your husband but it sounds like there is some deep connection you crave that he was never able to meet. Let us know how you go with the counselling session with your husband. I hope that you are able to make some progress with him so that you both have a deeper understanding of each others needs.

    Have you by any chance read "Untamed" by Glennon Doyle? You might find this a useful read at the moment.

    Big hugs.

    LP

  21. Timshel
    Timshel avatar
    86 posts
    29 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    SH, I also wanted to tell you how much I respect your determination to find a way through your current dilemma without causing too much pain to anyone. You really care about ALL the people in your life, that is abundantly obvious.

    Hard and painful as it may be, I think distancing yourself from the friend you are in love with is the right decision to make at this time. No matter what your friend says she feels or doesn’t feel for you, she is obviously committed to maintaining the status quo, at least for now. This really gives you no choice but to move on just as you would from any ‘broken’ relationship. Maybe one day you can be close again but in a redefined way. You need to grieve and heal first. Grieve for what might have been and heal your pain. This will take time and you will undoubtedly hurt for quite a while yet. But you will get through this, you will survive. Promise!

    Also, I know that pursuing and ultimately persevering with counselling for you and your husband will pay dividends in the end, for both of you. (I have just started some long overdue relationship counselling with my husband and, although it can be quite painful, confronting and downright uncomfortable at times, it is a cathartic experience overall. It is good to have an allocated time and space to really listen to each other, hear the other person’s perspective and hopefully find a more constructive way to move forward).

    You said that you and your husband have managed to maintain a solid friendship base throughout the years in spite of everything. But it is not surprising that now even your friendship is under stress. You have fallen in love with someone else and are requestioning your sexuality, even if your husband doesn’t know it. These are big issues to deal with alone and will have undoubtedly caused you a lot of stress which your husband is bound to have picked up on. You may have even unknowingly been pulling further away from him emotionally as your feelings for your friend grew. I think that would leave anyone in his situation feeling lonely, confused and even depressed.

    My only advice for both of you going into counselling is to be 100% honest. You have to be in order to get anything positive from it. No matter what decisions you ultimately make about the future of your marriage, it seems to me that your friendship is worth fighting for as is your ability to successfully co-parent your children into the future. I am a mother too so I really get the importance of this.

  22. smallwolf
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    smallwolf avatar
    5565 posts
    29 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    Will try a little more on my assignment tonight.

    Aside from the little we find out about each other through posts in the forum, our experiences and how we react to situations may have an effect on how we see ourselves for better or worse. In my story there were little thing that by themselves are probably nothing. And begin to feel like an outsider. And then conform to be accepted. I described it to my psychologist as a shield that gets dented and repaired. However the shield is not as strong as it was before. Repeated hits and repairs over time. Until one time when the hit penetrates the shield. I felt I was never good enough. For me that was a little over 2 years ago. Since then I have been deconstructing things to make myself feel worthy.

    Now I am not suggesting it will take you that long to discover yourself or who you are. Perhaps the one little bit of advice (I was told) is that sometimes you get to the top of the mountain you have to go through a valley to find an easier path.

    It may be messy and confusing, sometimes painful. Sometimes you also have to put you first. I think you will find the answers you are looking for. What that looks like I cannot say.

  23. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    30 July 2020 in reply to Timshel

    Hi Tim, Timshel, and Lillipilli,

    I am unable to reply to all of you in one post, so will do two. Having all of your thoughts, suggestions and kindness are so valuable right now. It helps me to think and to just manage everything swirling in my head!

    Timshel, thank you for your care. I agree with you about the fluidity of sexuality. That is definitely my experience. All I can say about my own sexuality right now is that, in my marriage, I am closer to asexual than not (and have been for most, if not all, of the time we have been together). If I was no longer in my marriage, I would not seek to enter a relationship with another man. I can’t imagine myself in a heterosexual relationship beyond the one I am currently in. If I was not in my marriage, I would most likely seek a relationship with a woman. This is everything I know right now.

    Your own experience of your sexuality in many ways reflects my experience. I am really very grateful that you have shared your experiences and thoughts, thank you. It really helps me feel like I am ok.

    You are so right when you say I have no choice but to move on from my friend. That is a hard realisation, and because she is also my closest friend, I feel like the loss is double. I have already lost one beautiful and intimate friendship this year (today is the 6 month anniversary of her death), and right now I feel like I can’t manage to lose another person from my support network. I know I have to come to terms with that. My friend was feeling extremely anxious that I was going to walk away from our friendship. I have said I wouldn’t, but it does need to change, at least in the short term. I also need to work out what my relationship with my husband will look like going forward. I will manage and survive as you say, but some days are hard.

    My marriage was built on emotional intimacy and a close friendship, and we have had counselling previously to maintain this as we both saw that as the strength of our relationship and something we prioritised. I think this would continue to be a priority for both of us regardless of whether we remain married or not, and certainly for the well-being of our kids. I know he has picked up on what I am feeling and I am responding to his withdrawal as well. We have become distant with each other. I am really afraid of telling him that I am questioning my sexuality, but I know I will need to. I am not sure if i can tell him that I love my friend, well not yet anyway.

    SH

  24. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    30 July 2020 in reply to Lillipilli80

    Lillipilli, I am thankful that you have entered the discussion. Everything is helpful right now and your reply has made me think a little deeper about my path and where it is leading me. You use the words “crave deep connectionl and that is so apt, it is exactly what I feel. Funnily enough I added Untamed to my “to read” list a couple of weeks ago. I haven’t read it yet, but will definitely track down a copy to read soon. Especially now you have recommended it.

    Tim, I hope you are making some good headway with your assignment and everything is going well for you. I like your shield analogy. Self worth is such a powerful thing. When you have it, you are resilient and strong. When it is gone, it takes so much with it. That is something I struggle with. Sometimes there are people in our lives, often in our young lives, that take our self worth from us before we have learned how to protect it. That was the case for me, and I think it is actually really hard to put it back the way it should be. I am still working with that. My heart goes out to you Tim as I learn more about you through your posts. I also think, though, that we never stop discovering ourselves, we are certainly never finished and those mountains and valleys will always be there requiring us to make choices about our paths. I value the kindness and support in your posts. It is messy and confusing but this opportunity to talk and think helps.

    thank you

    SH

  25. Timshel
    Timshel avatar
    86 posts
    31 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    SH,

    I can tell how overwhelmed you are feeling from the ‘tone’ of your posts and I really feel for you. I know that feeling so well, it has become a regular companion of mine over the years. Sometimes you just feel you want to run away and leave all your problems behind, start your life anew somewhere else. And for some people that may be possible, people who either have no responsibilities or who feel no responsibility. But that is not you, SH, is it? It’s not me either for that matter. You, like me seem to be a particularly sensitive and empathetic person, someone who feels things very deeply. Both your own pain and the pain of others. Maybe like me you too can hide that pain well, put on a good show, but it’s still there, lingering just below the surface, usually accompanied by a strong sense of responsibility to make things right.

    But,in all honesty, would you change that about yourself if you could. Would you rather be less sensitive, less empathetic, feel less pain and hurt, worry less, thus leading a more stress free life? I have asked myself the same question many times, especially when I look at others in my life. And the answer is a definite NO. I would still prefer to be me, sensitivity, pain, worry, stress and all. I would still prefer to feel the weight of responsibility, the desire to ‘fix’ things, make things better. I would still prefer to know what it is like to feel a sense of regret or guilt about things so that I could move forward in a more constructive way. I like the saying ‘when you know better, you do better’. I find it empowering. You can take responsibility for past mistakes, but not be paralysed by them. Feel a sense of regret but still forgive yourself feel and move on with a with a renewed sense of determination to do things differently, better. It can be a saying that applies to either personal development or the development of society as a whole. It is really only those you are not afraid of being sensitive, of feeling pain, regret, of being uncomfortable about something who actually have the will and find the way to improve things. So being sensitive and empathetic are actually strengths in my book. And that is you, SH. Strong! So please, put those brownie points in your self-worth basket! If you can’t be proud of yourself, then at least appreciate yourself.

    You are taking the right steps moving forward. Take it as slow as you like. Find the easiest path over the mountain for you even if it takes longer.

    Thinking of you.

  26. Timshel
    Timshel avatar
    86 posts
    31 July 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    I meant to say SH that I am so very sorry about the death of your friend. The loss of someone special is a terrible thing. Whilst time doesn’t heal that pain, it does allow you the space to live with it. I look at grief and loss as something that always starts off the same way. Initially it is unbearable. An open, festering, painful wound. But with time, that wound starts to close up and heal. It forms a scar. The unbearable pain subsides but the scar remains. That scar is not a constant reminder of the person you have lost. A reminder of how much love you felt and still feel for that person, how important they were to you, how grateful you are that they existed. It is a scar you bear proudly. Sometimes you look at it and it makes you smile and sometimes you look at it and it makes you cry but you are still glad you have it because it keeps that person close to you always, you will always be connected to each other in some way. It is their legacy to you.

    I understand that recent loss may be affecting your thinking when it comes to distancing yourself from the friend you are in love with along with her anxiety at loosing your friendship. But try to look at it as just taking a step back in order to move forward. You don’t have to distance yourself forever, just long enough for you to be able to grieve and heal and redefine the terms of your relationship in your head. Just until you are comfortable at being her friend and nothing more. Until you can love her without being in love with her. It is not an all or nothing decision. I know it’s an overused phrase but ‘you just need some space’.

    Tackling everything at once is way too much.

    I would suggest repairing your relationship with your husband is the best place to start. You obviously care for each other a great deal. You have built a family together. You owe it to that family to make sure it is okay, even if it should take on a new form. There really is no such thing as a ‘normal’ family. Every family, like every one, is fighting their own battles. A happy, healthy family can come in all shapes and sizes. The only things that are important is to love and feel loved, to feel safe and to feel heard. You have a good foundation, you just may need to do some renovations. Once those are underway, then you can take time to address the situation with your friend.

    You are going through a tough time now but just remember - everything will be okay in the end, if it’s not, then it’s not the end yet.

    Take care of you.

  27. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    31 July 2020 in reply to Timshel

    Hi Timshel

    It certainly feels like I feel deeply sometimes! You are right, I would not change that. Even the childhood trauma has given me strengths and traits that I value. Without our experiences who the hell are we? Besides, how many people get through life without scars or pain? I think those people, if they exist at all, must be quite boring! So my answer is also a big NO. I am reflective though and I strive to know and understand myself better. I try to pay close attention to the way I respond to things and my reactions in order to improve the way I manage myself. I get the sense that you are the same. “When you know better, you do better” is something that makes sense to me too.

    I also think vulnerability is a strength. It is a catalyst for connection. I am careful about where I lay my vulnerability though, and I will choose safe places and people to do that, but when you get it right it holds on to you and wraps you in a sense of well being and connectedness. Plus it is such a relief to drop the mask and the pretence with someone.

    My friend who passed away was an extraordinary woman, quite a bit older than me. I was absolutely privileged to be part of her life. She was never afraid of a deep conversation and she allowed me to share and be part of her inner life. She also wanted to know me well and allowed me to share my inner life with her. We both had an understanding of how the other was put together. She also allowed me to be in the hole with her through her last year. It was tough but I had no regrets when she died, nothing left unresolved, nothing I wished I had said or not said. It was only grief I had to deal with. She was of the view that you have to lean in to grief, feel it, acknowledge it and respect it. I did that when she died. It was rough, there was such a large part of me missing. But the grief I felt and the ongoing process of grieving makes me understand how lucky I was, how important she was. We loved each other so well. And while I am still missing her every day, I know we were so incredibly lucky to have found each other.

    You are right about my need for distance from my other friend. as much as I want to say I can stay close to her and deal with my feelings, she clouds my vision. She is not part of my solution, she can’t be, because my choices will never include being with her. The problems in my relationship with my husband feel big, regardless of whether we stay together or split. I need to get my head into that space.

    SH

  28. Timshel
    Timshel avatar
    86 posts
    1 August 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    SH,

    I hope you know that you can be vulnerable here always. There is no need for pretence. Just be you. Be whoever you are in any given moment. No judgement whatsoever. Just lots of love and support and then some.......

    I know your situation with your husband seems hard right now but hopefully the counselling will give you what it gave me, a place to be heard and a place to listen with someone who is trained to guide you both through the process in a constructive way. It will become more apparent what the right course of action to take is as the process moves forward.

    While I think being 100% honest with each other about how you feel is best, that honesty doesn’t have to be unloaded all at once if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. If you aren’t quite ready to tell him about your feelings for your friend, then don’t. Do so if and when the time is right for you. Maybe you could even have an individual session with the counsellor and discuss the matter with them first and see what they advise on how to handle it or if it is something they think should be kept out of the mix altogether, at least for now.

    On that note though, do you think there is any way your husband might already know or even suspect that you have romantic feelings for someone else? Could he have overheard something or read something or is it possible that your friend may have told her husband and he told your husband? I don’t quite know the dynamic of your relationships and whether or not everyone knows everyone else. Could that be a possible reason for his withdrawal in the last couple of years? Or is it possible that he may have met someone else?

    When stonewalling and distance develops in a relationship, it is hard to know who started to withdraw first and who reacted to the other’s withdrawal. Very often, each one thinks the other started to withdraw first and that they were just reacting to that. That is exactly the case in my marriage. Each of us thinks the other pulled back first. Two totally different perspectives on the same situation. But this is what counselling is for, to give each other a chance to explain where you are coming from.

    As for your friend, just take it one step at a time. You seem absolutely convinced that there is no possibility of a future romantic relationship between the two of you. That is step 1. Step 2 is where to from here. She cares about you, I’m sure she will understand if you need time to ‘clear your head’ and readjust.

    Remember, no judgement here.

  29. smallwolf
    Community Champion
    • Outstanding members who have volunteered their time to support others here on the forums
    • Life membership is awarded by beyondblue for providing outstanding peer support to the online community over a period of 3+ years.
    • A member of beyondblue's blueVoices community
    smallwolf avatar
    5565 posts
    1 August 2020 in reply to SH-2600

    Hi. Hope your weekend is going well. Or OK.

    And your husband ... in your first post you were also concerned he might be suffering from depression as well.

    When I am feeling low, I don't like to be around people. That is perhaps because of a fear that I might judged and told to cheer up. Or, if they asked what was bothering me, I might be taken as crazy (figuratively) if I told them. There is a whole bunch of other ORs. And this is not very helpful for a relationship either. Rather an engaging, I will (likely) disengage. With my wife there can be a feeling of embarrassment.

    Has he been able to talk to you about what is on his mind?

    When you are supporting someone else it can also be emotionally draining on you. There can be a point where you just get frustrated as well.

    Is it possible for such as conversation to (re-)create some sort of deeper connection?

    I know you will both be getting some counselling this week where you may start to find answers about yourselves an your relationship. Working out the path forward is not easy. What that does regarding your relationships is unknown. In my life, the following quote is something I am trying to work towards...

    “I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” - Rumi

    ... it might say something to you as well?

    Tim

  30. SH-2600
    SH-2600 avatar
    106 posts
    1 August 2020 in reply to smallwolf

    Hi Timshel and Tim,

    I feel so much love, kindness and support here.

    Timshel, I do feel like I can be vulnerable and drop the pretence here. I hope you know and feel that too.

    I think I will just focus on fixing the friendship I have with my husband and forget (for the time being least) about making any big decisions about staying or leaving. Within that counselling process, I need to be honest about my sexuality, even if I don’t have a name or label for it, or even have a good understanding of where I fit on the spectrum. I am not sure at this point what my husband will want. I do know he is unhappy, that he feels lonely, that he misses the physical intimacy like hugging and holding each other (not necessarily sexual intimacy, although I think this is an issue for him too). For me, this physical/sexual side goes as soon as the emotional intimacy starts to wane. I also know he is unhappy in many parts of his life. He feels some resentment towards me I think. I don’t think I am enough, and I am certainly not what he envisioned for himself from a long term relationship.

    I don’t think my husband suspects that I have feelings for someone else, although I don’t think he will be shocked when I tell him. I feel a bit gutted that I am the one destroying trust. He knows I love my friend dearly. He knows her but is not close to her or her husband. We did things together as families before they moved away, but they never were more than dads/husbands in tow! He may have met someone else, although I don’t think so. Having said that, he is starting to wonder about all of the typing I have been doing since joining this forum a week or so ago!

    I pulled back from intimacy first. There are things running underneath the surface of our relationship that I find difficult and I have let them impact my feelings for him. We definitely have different perspectives on the same things though. We have had counselling 3 times before, all in the first 10 years of being together. Each time we focussed on maintaining the friendship that underpinned our relationship.

    My friend made it clear when I spoke to her this week. It is not grey for her and even if she was single tomorrow, she would not want to be in a relationship with me. It was hard but she needed to say it and I needed to hear it again. She will be hurt, but will understand if I step back for a bit. None of this is fair on her either.

    Tim, I have hit the character limit (again) so will do another post to respond to you.

    SH

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