Before we get started, I want to point out that Y’All Need Help was conceived as an either bi-weekly or monthly advice column and, I believe, was cruising along quite nicely, doing its very best. The last installment came out on September 13, 2016, which means the next one should’ve come out mid-November. Ahem. It’s taken me eight months to summon the whatever-it-is I need to write this advice column. That is a long time. If I’d asked you for advice re: “How do I get back into the swing of things when it feels like the world is exploding every 20 mins/however frequently I check Twitter?” what would you have said? Just curious!
Hi! I am 28 years old and about a year and a half ago I realized that I am not straight. I am so embarrassed that it took me so long to figure it out. The main reason is that six years ago I met a guy and fell in love, and during the first couple of years I didn’t even want to think about being with anyone else. I was so happy and so so sure that I wanted to grow old with him. Now we are married and have a child. Generally, things are good between us, but my identity crisis has been hard on our relationship. I have been so scared and sad, and he has been trying to support me while going through a lot of emotions himself.
I identify as bisexual/queer but haven’t told anyone except my partner. He wants to be supportive, but I can tell he is ambivalent. Part of the reason why I haven’t told anyone else – except dropping a few hints – is that I am not sure how he would feel. Another reason is that I am not completely sure about my label. I have been wrong my entire life. What if I am still wrong and I end up identifying as a lesbian? Is there any way a relationship can survive this? Should I just leave now before I hurt him even more? How do I embrace my new identity and convince people that I am not just making this up?
Hey great job learning a new thing about yourself! I’m sure that wasn’t an easy, chill realization to come to, so take some time to be grateful for these new pieces of your puzzle. Now where do those pieces fit? Good question. You get to decide!
Wrestling with if I didn’t know this huge thing about myself, how can I trust that I really know anything about myself? is HARD. It’s a total mindfuck. The thing to remember is that you were telling the truth about yourself this whole time, based on the information available to you. It’s valid to be annoyed or even super pissed off that some crucial info was somehow just out of your grasp for so long (and it’s probably useful and necessary to investigate why, and take some time with that), but the truth is that we make all our decisions based on the information we have at that exact moment. That’s what you did. You weren’t wrong your entire life. Every day that you identified as a straight woman, you were going off of exactly what you knew about yourself. It was true! It was all true and honest. You can still trust yourself.
Lots of things can and will be hard about your relationship with your husband (or anyone), but yes, there are ways it can survive. Actually, plenty of bisexual/queer women — women who’ve known they were bi forever or had no idea or just kinda thought maybe they were — marry men! Some lesbians marry men! Some straight women marry men and then realize they’re actually lesbians and stay married to that man anyway! Relationships change and grow and survive so many things, including gathering new information about your identities. I left my husband after realizing I was gay because, first and foremost, I wasn’t happy in that relationship. We’d been together for nearly nine years and I’d never been able to come up with a concrete reason why I was so unhappy, so I’d stayed and stayed, because why not? Then I saw an episode of The L Word and subsequently received my own queer puzzle pieces, which quickly became the concrete reason I’d been holding out for. But listen, if you don’t want to leave him, don’t! Follow your big ol’ thumping heart. Be honest about what you both want and what you’re willing to do to get it, and that’ll require some communication. Ask him how he’d feel about you coming out to more people, and then figure out if that even sways your decision one way or another. For the record, you do have the right to come out to whomever you damn well please, because we’re all just doing our best in this world and sometimes that means telling people you’re bisexual!
And another thing! You might identify as a lesbian one day down the road, but also it’s just as likely that you won’t. You might wake up at 50 years old, married to the same man and just hoping there’s coffee, or maybe you won’t. The important thing is that today, right now, you’re honoring your own truth.
Trust yourself, and be kind and gentle with that internal monologue. That’s one of the best ways to embrace your queerness. Read about other queer people throughout history and learn from them. Investigate your politics and see if they still line up with the You you know now. As far as convincing other people of anything, let that worry fly away from you like so many pigeons in a park. You weren’t delivered into this universe to convince anyone of anything. All you have to do is live up to your own high standards and love your babies. And label yourself however you fucking want, because it’s true.
I’m currently facing the possible (probable) end of my first serious relationship with another woman. All train wrecks aside, one particular issue has come to my attention. I U-Hauled with this girl hard core starting day one for reasons that all felt right. Now I’m regretting it, as the relationship quickly became codependent and after only a year I’m exhausted and I want out. Trying to change the terms of this relationship to take some of the codependency out of it may lead to its demise. So my question is, how do I get to experience all those exciting feelings of wanting to run away with someone and be wrapped in a love burrito without doing it to such an extent that it leads to codependency and resentment?
Oh this is an easy one! The quickest and dirtiest advice I’ve ever had the pleasure of giving: You just do. You just learn a lesson and you don’t make the same mistake again. I’m sorry about the train wrecks and the exhaustion, but it’s great that you’re taking steps to make the relationship a healthier one for both of you, however that ends up.
Now you just needlepoint an elaborate wall hanging that says No U-Hauls, No Problems. Let every potential partner know that you are super into your independence but are still excited about the love burritos. Set boundaries and keep them (until you don’t, and then learn from those times, too). You’ve been given a wonderful gift: the gift of hindsight. Use it for good and use it often!
After many years of failing to deal with my mental health problems I finally started seeing a therapist a few months ago! I spent weeks finding one that looked perfect and despite having a shitty experience with counselling in the past I was excited to start owning my shit. Except…I’m not finding it that useful. We mostly just end up talking about the internet. And it’s so expensive! Having to borrow money off my girlfriend to make rent every month is making my mental health worse than before I started! I want to quit, but I’ve already tried medication and exercise and everything else the internet recommends and I don’t know what else I can do. I need help!
First of all congratufuckinglations on taking these steps for your mental health! It’s not easy to get to where you are right now and I’m impressed and excited for you and your goals. I say this as a woman who’s put off making an appointment with a therapist for months — I even have her cell number and she is so nice, and so accommodating, and yet! So anyway NICE WORK, seriously.
Having said all that, you should look for a different therapist! Finding a therapist you click with — meaning you actually feel like your time together is useful and building onto itself in a productive way — isn’t easy, and can take several tries. You’re only around most other healthcare professionals for what? About 10 minutes per visit, maybe less? So maybe you don’t care if you click with your pediatrist or your ear nose and throat specialist, but a therapist is staring you right in the eyes for the better part of an hour, and it’s all supposed to mean something, and there’s so much to say and hear. And you’re paying them! It’s a lot to put on any relationship, really.
Go ahead and admit that this therapist simply isn’t right for you, and get to work finding another person who might work better. It will suck and be exhausting and annoying, but you must. Keep trying until you find someone who fits your needs.
Y’all Need Help is a now-biweekly advice column in which I pluck out a couple of questions from the You Need Help inbox and answer them right here, round-up style, quick and dirty! (Except sometimes it’s not quick, but that’s my prerogative, OK?) You can chime in with your own advice in the comments and submit your own quick and dirty questions any time.
Twitter has just been…so unhelpful. It’s not a meaningful conversation so much as it is a message board with op trolls. Lately I’ve found kid and YA stories very uplifting because there is good and bad clearly defined with the good as the clear message/winner. It’s nice when the”good guys”win.
I am so glad this column has returned to us! I always get something out of every piece of advice you give, even from the questions that don’t have anything at all to do with my own life or circumstances. This is because you have a gift. Sending love to all these question askers!
I do so love the graphics in this column.
A thing of beauty
*AIRHORN* i’m so excited this is back! i’m going to blow up the watermelon graphic to 5×5 feet for my wall!
Yay! People getting help!
The therapist advice is so good. I finally made myself start going to a therapist but it turns out I really didn’t get along with him and instead of finding a new therapist I just stopped going. I didn’t even tell him I wanted to stop, I just never made another appointment. Finding the right person who takes your insurance AND you get along with is so time consuming!
On the therapist/money front: biweekly sessions are an option and save 50% moneywise.
As a therapist, I will say that biweekly appointments are SOMETIMES an option. Depending on the work we are doing and the current level of symptoms/diagnosis/functioning, it would be unethical and even potentially dangerous to see some people biweekly. For example, someone with a lot of suicidal ideation or in the middle of some really tough trauma work, biweekly isn’t going to be often enough. Someone who is struggling with generalized anxiety or life stress, bi weekly is usually fine.
Fortnightly sessions can work very well for some people, but usually don’t. The therapy loses too much momentum with the two-week gaps. I’ve been a therapist for 20 years and have only known fortnightly sessions to work well for two people.
“How do I get back into the swing of things when it feels like the world is exploding every 20 mins/however frequently I check Twitter?”
Really, truly: back away from the Twitter. It helps. A lot.
Signed, Person Whose Therapist Essentially (Lovingly) Told Her “Stop Checking Twitter, Dumbass”
But I love my U-Hauls. :(
To LW#1 – I practically could have written the exact same letter 18 mos ago. I want to echo everything Laneia said and also encourage you to give yourself some time to adjust to your new understanding of yourself and to be gentle with yourself in this time of adjustment. I ended up ultimately identifying as lesbian/queer after taking some time to really sort through my feelings, my past, etc. but that may not be the same for you. Give yourself time to figure things out (I’m 35 fwiw so you’re figuring things out earlier than I did!), and forgive yourself for not knowing earlier. A good therapist also helps tremendously, and one for your spouse as well if he’s willing and you can afford it (separate therapists if at all possible). I wish I could give you a hug! You will figure this out, you will find your own way to embrace your identity, and whether others believe you or not is ultimately their problem, not yours. Your journey is real, and I and so many others here honor it and you.
This is so good and helpful.
Hi bisexual/queer 28-year-old! I’m a 30 year old married lady who just came out to myself last summer and to others slowly over the past year, starting first with my best friend and then telling my husband. I’m currently identifying as “bisexual or pansexual or queer or something along those lines but definitely not straight.” It’s a mouthful. It’s been a rough and emotional year. Why did it take me so long? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve spent too much time combing through my past, looking for clues, looking for any sort of “aha!” moment to validate this identity shift. And then somehow I realized I didn’t need to do that – how I feel now is how I feel and it’s real and true and valid.
I don’t have any advice for you, but I just wanted to share a little of my story so you know that you aren’t alone.
“how I feel now is how I feel and it’s real and true and valid.”
I need to remind myself of this every morning because it is so real and so important (and so easy to forget)
Therapist fit is totally a thing! Sometimes it takes time and other times it’s just not a good fit! Some therapists skype! Open Path Collective is so cheap and psychology today’s search engine has nearly any therapist ever on it!
I’d like to comment that like with any relationship, sometimes communicating about your problems in a therapy approach can help quite a bit. I’m a rambler and I tend to get off topic in therapy, but communicating to my therapist that I need her to get me back on topic when I start complaining about politics or whatever other wormhole has made a huge difference. If you feel comfortable with the therapist themself, it might be worth talking about how you can have more productive sessions. I’ve also found it helpful to bring notes about what I’d like to discuss and bring one of them up immediately so I don’t get distracted and talk about something else. Of course, if you try that and it doesn’t work, or if you just can’t connect with the therapist, there’s no reason not to look for a new one. <3
IT’S OKAY TO QUIT YOUR THERAPIST AND GET A NEW ONE. When I was a depressed teenager, I was assigned a therapist who didn’t work well for me. She was a lovely person but didn’t get me. I told my prescribing psychiatrist that I wanted a new one, and she hooked me up with an amazing psychologist who helped me so much.
It’s okay, I promise.
It might take a few tries. That’s okay too.
Also- IT IS OKAY TO TELL YOUR THERAPIST WHAT YOU NEED/NEED TO CHANGE. Be direct. Be specific. Say it multiple ways. I need my therapist to be an affirming accountability partner in areas that help me control depression (Am I exercising? Am I trying new things? Am I eating well? Am I challenging negative thoughts?), work through grief, and grapple with career. She is. It’s lovely. But the reason she is that way is because I asked her to be, not because she did it naturally.
You should be able to trust and find sessions with ANY doctor you’re seeing useful. Therapists are especially important for this since you’re, y’know, TALKING and that’s the whole plan and there’s no bit of physical exam as another measure of how you’re doing like other docs will often do.
And maybe this is my chronically ill ass speaking but if any doctor is spending less than 10 minutes with me, that is not a doctor I will want to continue to see (at least until I can find a suitable replacement) because there’s no way I can know if they’re adequately reviewing my chart (for my other health stuff outside their realm of expertise and my medications so they don’t give me something that will cause a bad medication interaction) and my current symptoms in less than 10 minutes. Y’all deserve a doctor who will TAKE THE TIME to talk with you about your concerns and will listen to you, and that is really hard to happen in 10 minutes (unless like, you have a UTI and need to come in to get your antibiotics to fix that).
This is very very very good advice. Thanks Laneia.
“You weren’t delivered into this universe to convince anyone of anything. All you have to do is live up to your own high standards and love your babies.”
I love reading advice columns and Laneia you have great advice. Thanks for reviving this column.
LW#1 – from one bi woman married to a man to another – congratulations! Laneia’s advice is spot on.
I have a couple things to add from my own experience (which is completely different). I was out before I married, but I’ve been married almost 16 years and I’m really private and IDK, my identity didn’t come up in conversation much. A few years ago I realized that I’d unintentionally erased my bi identity – that everyone I’d met in the last 10 years, including all of my coworkers, assumed I’m straight. So I decided I needed to come out again, in my 40s. And it was a terrifying prospect.
My husband was supportive, but kind of confused and not super sure about me coming out to his family / our friends, etc. I started by taking small steps that felt daring but were mostly comfortable. The thing that worked for me (and that may work for you) was to find queer community first before worrying about coming out in the rest of my life. Because once I had that community and support, it was easier (and more natural) to do everything else.
Looking back on it, I think sites like AutoStraddle and The Toast and a couple of my favorite book blogs let me practice being out publicly before I was ready to do it online. From there I found a queer book group and a support group at the local LGBTQ center (admittedly, I live in a large city with a visible queer population)
Fast forward 5 years and I’m completely out to my (very liberal) church, I’m out to maybe 3 people in my husband’s family, including my MIL and my Evangelical but oddly liberal SIL, I belong to two queer book groups, I volunteer at my local LGBTQ+ center (and I wear my bi pride pin every time), my mother (who really would rather pretend I’m straight – she supports gay rights but finds actual gay people a little unnerving) has asked me a few times about my various queer activities and we both lived through the conversations. And I’m much more comfortable in my skin. And my marriage is stronger than ever. My husband and I marched with my church in the Pride Parade last year – I wore my bi pride T-shirt and it felt like a miracle.
I really identify with coming out after being married to a man! I am glad to read this and Laneia’s story. It has been really difficult for me. I had only been in relationships with women then just sort of ended up with a guy and ended up getting married and ended up being really unhappy. I am divorced now and dating a woman but I am still struggling so much with my identity. It is so scary to wrestle with such a core part of our identity! I have driven myself crazy trying to decide if I am really sure that I am gay and what that means in the context of my past relationships. I have been overthinking myself to death and I am worried it is going to compromise my new relationship. Any advice and support is welcome :)
Are you still out there? How are you doing? I don’t have any advice as I’m in a slightly different situation. I was out and with women/nonbinary folks and then ended up marrying a man. We have been together for almost a decade and have a kid. I started feeling really gay a year or so ago and then ended up meeting an amazing friend with whom I have this really exciting chemistry this year. But also my spouse is generally a great partner, super responsible, generally respectful and shows up when I need him. Also an awesome parent. Like my marriage is totally serviceable. But I also feel so gay. And uggghhh my friend and the sexual energy that I haven’t felt in a damn decade… My husband knows about it and she and I have been going out/talking/etc but nothing physical which is excruciating but probably necessary really.
LW#1 – Another one here who was married with kids LONG before figuring out I’m bi. By long, I mean I’m nearly 40 & figured out I’m bisexual this year. My oldest kid is 11, my youngest is 2. Ironically enough, my husband and I started to think HE might be bi, based on where our fantasies were going in our nearing middle-age sexual re-awakening. But then a thing happened & I came to the really world-shattering realization that I’m very much bisexual & probably always have been, but just never thought about it because, like you, I married early & was really happy; plus I was raised religious. I’ve been married for 20 years & I’m still really happy. Unfortunately, I’m really not out to more than a couple of people- mostly because of my husband’s job- it isn’t worth the risk, but also because his family is very conservative, and although mine is somewhat liberal, I don’t think they’d quite understand why it matters to come out if I’m “passing” just fine.
I’m really happy in my marriage, and always have been (not that we haven’t had ups & downs). I think it’s really important to follow your heart, no matter the direction. If you are happy where you are, then stick with it until something changes that you can’t fix. If you’re not happy, fix it- whether that means working on your marriage as it is, changing the rules with your partner, or taking a different path, you should be true to yourself. And you shouldn’t be ashamed that you are still learning things about yourself- you are not a static being, but a living, dynamic, growing individual, as we all are. Oh, and my husband has decided he is just a curious person who likes sex in all forms, but is not actually bi, lol. Good luck & know that you’re certainly not alone.