Q: I can’t stop feeling like I’ve been living a lie when it comes to my romantic relationships. I’ve dated women my whole life (I’m mid-thirties), but it never felt right, and I always ended relationships after a few years.
I never knew why as the women were really nice and weren’t treated badly by either them or me. I just felt like something was missing. I’ve recently started a new job after going back to college to retrain, and it’s a very different environment than anything I’ve had before.
In the office there are people from all over the world, many of them are gay, some are married. I struggled to say out loud why I felt uncomfortable around her, and I think I’m finally accepting that it’s because I’m jealous. I might think I’m gay too, but I’ve never said that out loud or to another person. I see my peers and it just makes sense to me and I feel like this is really what I want. I don’t even know what to do now, or if I’m even gay, but I can’t shake this feeling.
dr West replies: First of all, thank you for trusting me with your question. It takes courage to step out of what we think and what we’ve been taught and start living the kind of life that feels right for us.
This is a major turning point for you, and I think it will be a very positive one. You are now on the cusp of finding out who you really are and what you want out of your relationships.
Your body has told you what you couldn’t admit on a conscious level. Those feelings of jealousy and feeling “right” are your body’s way of saying, “Hey, what you’re repressing won’t be silent anymore.” Her letter reminded me of a line I love from Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk of staying stuck in a bud was more painful than the risk of budding.”
You have reached the point where the need to live an authentic life is stronger than staying the way you lived. The fork in the road presents two choices—the potential for joy and genuine connections with others, or moving on as before and experiencing jealousy and bitterness because you are not living the way you want to.
Choose to be nice to yourself. It’s hard to be our true selves when we’ve been told by society, religion, or family that our true selves are false. Today, however, the LGBTQIA+ community enjoys a level of freedom that was denied to previous generations. There are open communities, clubs, charities, pride events and more filled with people who accept you and support you on your journey. Find out what works for you and what’s happening in your area through community groups like GCN (Gay Community News), a free magazine available in many shops across the country or online at gcn.ie. It’s perfectly fine to come out later in life – either to yourself or to society. There are events and community groups for all ages and people at different stadiums.
You don’t have to immediately figure out which label applies to you. Definitions and labels change, and we create new terms to define how we identify as we learn more about ourselves. Outrightinternational.org has a large list of different terminologies and descriptors and explains what they mean in easy to understand terms. You may also be interested in Cass theory, which states that there are six stages of coming out: identity confusion, identity comparison, identity tolerance, identity acceptance, identity pride, and finally identity synthesis. These different stages help you navigate your comfort zones and give you a map of sorts to help you understand the process.
You’ve tried pursuing heterosexual relationships and it hasn’t worked, but it’s important to remember that as you learn to figure out what works for you and what types of sexual acts you find arousing, the most important ingredients of consent and communication still exist . Porn is not a good sex educator in many cases as there are professionals who have negotiated the plots off-camera in advance. Find some realistic advice on lgbt.ie, man2man.ie, consenthub.ie or on podcasts like Queer Sex Ed. The more you empower yourself with knowledge, the better your experiences will be. You will benefit from learning about healthy and unhealthy relationships so you can have the best dating experience possible.
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You may be attracted to people with more experience so it is important to learn how to communicate what you are interested in and what your limitations are as this is new to you. This obviously applies to all types of relationships, regardless of gender or sexuality, as power differences can play a role in how we interact with one another in intimate situations.
Take it at your own pace and remember that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you start living the life you’ve secretly wanted for a while.
Life is short so it’s important to stay true to yourself. You are now in a supportive work environment where you may feel more comfortable being yourself. Friends and family may be more receptive than you think, but in the end, only your opinion counts. You are the one living your life and you are responsible for treating yourself with respect and living a life that makes you happy. Take the chance to thrive and find true happiness, however you define it for yourself.
dr West is a sex educator and host of the Glow West podcast, which focuses on sex. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. dr West regrets that she cannot answer questions privately
https://www.independent.ie/style/sex-relationships/asking-for-a-friend-ive-dated-women-all-my-life-but-it-never-felt-quite-right-ive-started-to-question-my-sexuality-and-think-i-could-be-gay-what-should-i-do-now-41531468.html Asking about a friend: “I’ve dated women my whole life, but it never felt right. I’ve started questioning my sexuality and I think I might be gay. What should I do now?