44239090_sA family chat, two years after coming out

Warning: this post is far more personal than most on this blog. In fact, it’s a bit closer to a diary post than anything I’ve ever published. However, I’m sharing this with you because many folks out there have it much, much worse than me. When they come out, they may lose their homes, their loved ones, their income, their marriage or their kids. My story is puny in comparison, but as LustyGuy says, “Everyone’s shovel is always full.” I still believe it’s worth sharing, this real story of how I coped when a family member out-and-out rejected my orientation. So here goes.

As many of you know, a little under two years ago I came out to my family. It seemed almost a non-issue at first, with my sister-in-law quickly saying, “As long as you’re happy, that’s OK.” My mom wrote me a disapproving letter a month later, but things seemed to stop there.

Then, last spring, heeding Dan Savage’s coming out advice for adult children to their parents, I spent a weekend with my mom and gave her the ultimatum: now that you’ve had a year to process and judge, your seeing me is contingent upon seeing my partner as well. I told her that I will only travel to Texas for visits in the company of my sweetie LustyGuy, and if she wasn’t comfortable with our staying at her house, we could get a hotel. Alternatively, I would pay for her to fly to visit me in Seattle and treat her to a fun weekend, and I would even give her my own bed instead of having her sleep in the guest bedroom (she complains the bed is too low).

I told her she didn’t have to make a decision right then. Since I only visit once a year for her birthday, anyway, she had a whole year to decide what she wanted to do. It was totally up to her; I would respect whatever decision she made.

Now, two years after coming out, her birthday is coming up again. And it’s her 80th, so I was planning to do something special: fly to Texas, sponsor a barbecue after the Sunday church service, get my brothers to come in that same weekend and take her out as well.

I’d left her a message about some birthday plans, and she called me last night. She told me that I was welcome to come, but LustyGuy and L were not, period. When I reminded her that if she wanted to see me, she’d have to see LustyGuy as well, she refused because what we were doing was “illegal.” When I asked for clarification as to what law we were breaking, she said that you can’t marry two people. Of course I clarified again that we weren’t legally married and were therefore breaking no laws, but she continued with her “illegal” objection (which is not unusual for her–once she decides she has an objection, she carries it to the grave, despite all facts and evidence to the contrary). She said, “I’m old, and I’m not going to change my mind.”

Being the bigger person

Now, I may seem all cool and calm now, but keep in mind that I HATE confrontation, even over the phone. My heart was beating out of my chest; my mouth was so dry that when I tried to swallow, there was nothing to swallow. And I was shaking to boot! I listened carefully, put myself in her position first rather than reacting with my own emotions, and I took a breath.

Here is where all that sex-positive and communication training kicked in, and I got the opportunity to be the bigger person, even though I was shaking:

This is 100% your decision, and if that’s what you want, I will respect it. I wish you would respect my choice like I’m respecting yours, but I understand this is hard for you and will miss you. I still love you, and I still respect you. I will still call you, and you are still welcome to visit me on my dime.

She did not reflect any of that language back on me, but that’s not unusual. (My parents have never told me they loved me or were proud of me, and I long ago gave up trying to get their approval.)

Some helpful self-talk

Frankly, I should have expected this reaction from the start, but I suppose I optimistically believed that pragmatism would win out over narrow-minded moral judgments. LustyGuy, who is far more cynical than I am, was not surprised in the least. Silly me!

But for those playing the home version of this game, here is some of the positive self-talk that I found helpful:

  • I am loved I am surrounded by my family of choice who loves me just exactly as I am, which is far more valuable to me than my family of blood. They chose to love me.
  • I chose my path and live my values I am smart, successful, compassionate and tolerant, which is something that any parent not my own would be proud of. More importantly, they are traits that I am proud of. I chose my path and live a life of integrity.
  • I’m no longer a rebellious teen (well, maybe a little bit) While I gave up being a rebellious teenager many years ago in favor of showing my mom compassion and patience, it’s curious that she can still bring that out in me! I had a devious little thought that LustyGuy, L and I could form our own legal corporation that would give us similar rights to those of marriage and then gleefully call my mom and tell her that I took her advice and made my relationship legal. (But then I remind myself that I’m in my 40s and far too mature to do things exclusively to piss off my parents!)
  • Mom’s disapproval = the right thing for me My mom has never approved of my choices, and her disapproval is typically a sign that I’m doing something right and good with my life. She thought I should go to college in order to meet a man and get married; she thought my French degree was useless, even when it landed me my first two jobs; she thought I was being seduced by “glamorous” big-city life when I moved to Chicago for a job opportunity; she even thought that I should abandon my pets when I moved cross-country because you could always get another dog or cat. So her ardent disapproval is usually a sign that I’m doing the right thing for my values.

Another thought I’ve been musing over is that perhaps my mom doesn’t enjoy my yearly visits as much as I thought she did. Perhaps she is faking it, too, and doesn’t enjoy spending time with me any more that I do spending time with her. I began making the trips as an alternative to visiting for the holidays, so I could spend Christmas with friends and family of choice. And I always go to lengths to make sure her birthday weekend is about her: the places she wants to go, the food she wants to eat, the topics of conversation she prefers, the activities she doesn’t get to do otherwise. It might very well be that she is doing both of us a favor by putting a stop to these visits, in the end!

Where I am now

All that being said, it will be very odd never to see my mom again. It’s quite likely that the next time I see her will be at her funeral. For those who may think I’m being a bit dramatic, here’s a story: my mom carried her judgment of her sister (over a small financial dispute in the 90s) literally to her sister’s grave. My mother refused not only to speak at her sister’s funeral but even to say a kind word about her at all ever again. She did attend her sister’s funeral, but she stubbornly refused to say one positive word about her. So believe me when I say that the next time I see her will be in the urn holding her ashes in Texas. And if an urn could look disapproving, I’m sure she could manage it.

That being said, all the above self-talk is still true, and I encourage you to use it if you’re having similar judgments placed on you. I’m so fortunate to be in every way independent of my narrow-minded family: financially, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and geographically. I have my wonderful life, my wonderful friends, my awesome kitty and the best listenership a podcaster could ever hope for. In the end, this judgment is unfortunate, but it will not change me nor my path.

If you are going through a tough time, here’s hoping that these words and this situation will help you to know you are not alone.

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  1. Sorry you’re going through this, but I appreciate you being honest. I am going through something similar, though poly isn’t the issue. Chosen family is really crucial and it’s a good reminder to ourselves thst it’s not our choices that lead to these divisions with blood fsmily, it’s THEIRS. But it still hurts, of course.

  2. What a fine role model you’ve been for us in how you’ve handled this and your reactions to it. Why am I not surprised?

  3. I’ve been going through the same thing, of sorts.

    My father has been arraigned on charges… Let’s just say… Involving my daughter… And my mother had chosen to protect him at every turn. To the point of questioning my lifestyle (which she never allowed me to discuss with her).

    She attempted to strip me of the rights to my son who lives with them (he’s 17), and has now thrown us under the bus at every opportunity. She tried to convince my daughter to live there, telling her that we are immoral and breaking our wedding vows ( which never included the “one and only” clause).

    My brother had the nerve to ask me for money to take care of her because my father faces, essentially, a life sentence. I declined. The conversation ended with me telling him that I don’t care about her. He said that he didn’t know how to respond and told him not to.

    It hurts to know you’ll never see a parent again, even knowing that she’s alive. It’s actually more painful because choices were made consciously.

    I, too, value my chosen family over blood family.

    You’re not alone, and many people are in your same predicament.

  4. Your relationship is illegal? So was the American Revolution, just for one example. So what?

    Your whole story seems to me to be about her and her limitations, for wind no one is to blame. The effect on you seems to be limited to your no longer visiting a scene from your past that no longer fits who you are; in other words, one w=you have outgrown. Healthy parents let their children go at tome point to run their own lives, and I guess healthy children (like you) have to let parents go and run their own lives too.

    It’s too bad that reality so often is not congruent with desire, but that’s the way the world woks. I see your difficulty with this as an indication of a disconnect between your assumptions of how family is “supposed” to work, and how it actually works. It’s stressful when your assumptions about how the world works prove wrong, but it happens a lot, unfortunately.

    Of course I’m sorry you have to see this so up close and personal. You know well that you are not alone, although that may not make it any easier. I wish you the quickest and least stressful recovery possible of the violation of your expectations.

    Joe
    (FWIW, we’ve met once at a Poly Living conference in Philly, and I still remember you well, including the naked ice cream party in your room).

  5. Once again, after proofreading)

    Your relationship is illegal? So was the American Revolution, just for one example. So what?

    Your whole story seems to me to be about her and her limitations, for which no one is to blame. The effect on you seems to be limited to your no longer visiting a scene from your past that no longer fits who you are; in other words, one you have outgrown. Healthy parents let their children go at some point to run their own lives, and I guess healthy children (like you) have to let parents go and run their own lives too.

    It’s too bad that reality so often is not congruent with desire, but that’s the way the world woks. I see your difficulty with this as an indication of a disconnect between your assumptions of how family is “supposed” to work, and how it actually works. It’s stressful when your assumptions about how the world works prove wrong, but it happens a lot, unfortunately.

    Of course I’m sorry you have to see this so up close and personal. You know well that you are not alone, although that may not make it any easier. I wish you the quickest and least stressful recovery possible of the violation of your expectations.

    Joe
    (FWIW, we’ve met once at a Poly Living conference in Philly, and I still remember you well, including the naked ice cream party in your room).

  6. Thank you for sharing this and reminding us all what matters and what to stand up for. I’ve never understood the “blood ties above all” attitude that keeps people in toxic relationships (parental, sibling, etc) for no other reason than that those relations happen to have been born into the same family. Other than my amazing mother and accepting father, there isn’t a blood relative I can think of who I want as part of my life. We have no core values or interests in common, so why would I? The argument “because they’re blood” is so astoundingly flawed.

  7. Thank you, Minx, for sharing. I so admire your courage and your wholeheartedness. My wish is that you continue to be surrounded by love and caring, and that your choice to honor yourself is affirmed by your chosen family. Your bravery is contagious! <3

  8. Hugs and thank you.

  9. You have a family that love you ? . A daughter is always a daughter , so your mother is the one that’s going to miss having you as a daughter . See you the next time you come to Atlanta Ga

    Shirley

  10. Thank you for sharing the tough times as well as the awesome times. I feel honored that you let us know you a little deeper. Hugs to you. Well done.

  11. TommyElf March 20, 2016 at 8:07 pm · ·

    Bravo! You not only stuck to your principles but you did it in a way that was respectful of her position while not compromising or watering down your own. I had a very scenario happen to me when I told my parents I was a Pagan. Glad that you took a principled stand for you! –TommyElf

  12. rapunzel_jen March 20, 2016 at 9:04 pm · ·

    I told my sister in confidence, a little about my lifestyle and the relationship I share with my partner. After my sister kind of outed me, I too came out and explained my “situation” to my Mom. He is married and his wife and I are friends but my sister stood beside my Mother at my Daddy’s funeral and told me that he was not welcome and asked us to leave because they did not approve of what we were doing. They said he (and his wife) were not welcome anywhere near them again though I could come to family meals and gatherings if I wanted.

    I still spend time with my Mom and sister – and I continually speak of them when I am with my Mom and sister, because he is an amazing man who deeply loves me, and his wife and I spend a fair amount of time together – cooking, doing crafts, antique shopping, etc. They are my family now because of the the way my birth family has decided to be about our relationship.

  13. Minx. I’m so sorry to hear you had to deal with this situation.

    I’m glad you chose to share this and to share that it wasn’t easy for you and you’re having feelings. It’s important for me to remember that even if I’m living my highest truth and even if I’m doing what it right for me, that there may be pushback about it anyway and I will have feelings about that anyway. What feels good isn’t always right and what’s right doesn’t always feel good, at least at first. I totally agree that loving those who choose to love me is the way to go, and that living to my values is the way to my greatest happiness and to the best life I can create. It’s unfortunate that at times that is a painful turn or a difficult step or a scary leap into what I don’t know yet. Congratulations for standing up for what really matters to you, and congratulations for having the courage to share it with us. Thank you!

    It’s nice to remember none of us is perfect and nobody’s situation is smooth all the time, even for those we admire and look up to. Life is messy for us all.

  14. Thank you for your story. I am sorry for the pain your mum’s intransigent brain is causing you.

    That said, I believe that you fail to consider something important in this case.

    Your mother’s brain is set. It CANNOT be changed, she does not have the physical/psychological ability at this point to rewire her brain and to accept new concepts.

    So, while I understand and respect your decision to not see your mother for the rest of her life, I feel that your attempt at changing her, the “deal” that you are proposing to her, is as hopeless as if you were a marathon runner and told her that to see you she would have to run marathons with you. That is just as impossible as her retraining her brain. As impossible as if you went to a chimpanzee and asked her to read you the paper or you won’t feed her anymore.

    This is not about you, it is not about your mother judging you and making a thoughtful choice against you. She cannot! She does not have the “wiring” in place and the wire layers have left the building.

    What happens with your mother from now on is your decision. You alone can make the choice that is best for you; either seeing her brings you something -anything, but it seems that it does, if only by allaying your own sense of duty since you still went to see her once a year and are inviting her to your home-, but understand that you are not giving her a choice, you are forcing your values on someone who cannot accept them.

    Make sure you do not regret this when you are 80.

    Best of luck!

  15. Hi Minx, Thanks for sharing. As an exact contemporary of your mother, (81) I have had my share of family dysfunction. But I have learned that finding your own authenticity is key to a happy life. Difficult at times but in the long run keeping to your own authentic path is vital. A major part of your charm and loveability IS your authenticity. Keep on keeping on. You have many friends (and lovers I hope). We love you.

    • Ken–

      Great to hear from you! It’s nice to know that we can choose to live and love as we wish, regardless of our age. So nice to have your support!

  16. Mia Martina March 21, 2016 at 3:41 pm · ·

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is powerful and I am glad you did what is right for you.

  17. Thank you for sharing this, Minx. I’m sorry this trial came your way, but given that it did, you responded in the best possible way. I wish you peace and comfort in dealing with this.

  18. Wow! I never thought about that fact that every time my mother disapproves of me, I’m doing the right thing for me. Thank you so much for pointing that fact out!Also, I just love the affirmations that you’ve created and how you are taking care of yourself despite the rejection of your family. Great work!

    • Happy to help. 🙂 I’ve known for a very long time that my mom and I don’t share values, but I’ve worked to accept hers. Sadly, she is incapable of returning the favor.

  19. Hi appreciate the sadness of this situation but box clever and live without
    Regret! You have accepted your Mothers disapproval but go to her 80th
    be the bigger person and maybe look at your brother contacting you
    as sign of how much he wants you there! He may not have contacted you in 30 years, did you contact him? If you had (come out is over descriptive in 2016) discussed this 15 years ago your Mother would have time to digress but realistically to act like a child to someone who is aged – Go!

  20. Minx,

    I congratulate you for prioritizing your own well-being. And I thank you for setting an example.

  21. Dear favorite internet person,

    YOU ARE AWESOME for standing up for yourself. I hope your brother is as quick with his “pretend” recommendation with your mom as he was with you. Love yourself enough to stand strong in your own corner. Let them sort themselves out and (hopefully) come to their senses about what a loving family can be for each other.

    Lots of hugs!

  22. This makes me think of a recent experience with my father… I decided about a month ago that I was going to seize the (day/month/year?) and follow my heart-call to Hawaii. When I told my father I bought my plane ticket, he launched into a lecture on financial responsibility … I tried not to absorb the fear and judgement and to just notice my triggers around feeling criticized, but I couldn’t … I spiraled pretty quickly into a depression that has lingered now for quite awhile.

    I’m floored that his reaction impacted me so much. I thought just being aware that he’s not me and I can do my own thing and think my own thoughts was enough … but sometimes there’s just more there.

    I believe things happen for a reason, so I’m praying that I learn whatever I’m meant to learn and open up in whatever way I’m meant to through this experience. I also pray that I continue to see myself more directly and am able to hold my own sense of self, no matter what I may perceive others as seeing.

    Love to all of us as we walk, dance, sing, and move through this world. <3

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