My boyfriend and I have been going out for two years. I have never met his family and as far as I know he has never introduced any significant other to them, because he’s not out to them. He’s met my mum and brother a few times because I’ve been open and honest about my sexuality since I came out at 15. My boyfriend gets on with his parents and family but refuses to discuss coming out. We’re looking at flats to move in together and when I ask him what he will say to his family, he says he has already told them about his new flatmate. This makes me feel unappreciated. Why is he ashamed of me and our relationship?
Phil, via e-mail
The Guyliner replies: In an enlightened age, with increased acceptance to gay people, and marriage equality finally becoming a reality, it can be easy for us to live in a bubble. If we don’t have a problem with being gay, why should anyone else? The reality, however, is that it’s more complicated than that.
Coming out is a very personal thing. We are, as gay men, keener to see people come out, because it helps with this whole acceptance and visibility thing that’s so important to combat prejudice. This can make us short-sighted on occasion, and show little regard for an individual’s own circumstances and feelings. While I’m sure you had your struggles, you were the lucky one – you came out at 15 to a loving and supportive family.
For whatever reason, either your boyfriend isn’t confident of a similar reaction, or simply doesn’t want to share that part of his life with his family. It’s disappointing and disheartening, but you mustn’t take this personally – it’s not a reflection on you. Rather than get insecure and upset by his refusal to reveal all – totally understandable reactions, by the way – you need to lead by example. Show him the way.
Spend more time with your family as a couple to show how brilliant an open, honest relationship can be. Show him what he’s missing out on. You say he gets on with his family, but unless you’ve experienced his nearest and dearest first hand, you’ve no idea whether he is telling the truth or just covering up a house of horrors.
It is sad that he can’t talk to his family about his sexuality, but it needn’t destroy your relationship. Be there for him, encourage him. It may be, after a few months of living together, his lies will become too much for him – or he may realise he wants to share this fantastic relationship with his family.
This may take some time, but until then, you need to be his support. Rather than think of the situation in terms of what it means for you, try to understand his struggle and ensure he doesn’t feel alone while he’s going through it. Doling out an ultimatum isn’t going to do any good; it will only make him feel worse and could set him back even further. The thought of losing you is one worry he can do without – show him you’re there for him whatever he decides.
If this becomes an insurmountable stumbling block, consider couples counselling – a third party might help move the discussion along. Head to relate.org.uk for more info.
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