My dad just left my mom because he says he’s gay. I have friends who are gay, I have other people in my family who are gay, and I never thought I would ever have some of the feelings that I have right now. I’m really angry at him for being gay and I know that’s stupid because it’s not a choice. How do I get over this?
First of all, thank you for your question, and for reaching out during such a difficult time. It shows a lot of courage to pose an honest question about such a personal subject. A marriage break up, no matter what the circumstances, is a difficult situation to endure for everyone involved.
“your parents’ relationship is ending,
and you are allowed to feel
whatever emotions come up for you“
How Do I Get Over It?
Unfortunately there is no simple answer to this, as much as I would love to give you one. Your anger in this circumstance is understandable, and yet it sounds like you have no simple place to direct these feelings. There’s no easy person to blame, and no obvious bad guy here, but that does not change what is happening and the difficult emotions you are left with, as you grapple to make sense of it. Furthermore, you have other people you care about in your life who happen to be gay, and who have trusted you enough to share their true selves with you. Those experiences of being trusted in that way have clearly had an impact on you, and I imagine that your respect and care for those gay loved ones is complicating things for you. With all that you know, I imagine you’re asking yourself how you could be angry at your dad for being gay? Unfortunately, being supportive of gay people and gay rights does not automatically prepare someone to be supportive of a newly out parent.
What You Are Feeling is Normal
You have correctly identified that your dad’s sexuality is not a choice, and yet his realization and expression of his sexuality has likely caused great hurt and disruption to your mom, you, and probably your whole family. Anger is a natural response to seeing people you care about get hurt, and being hurt yourself. It is even normal to feel deceived or betrayed, as the reality that your father helped build for you is now in jeopardy. The first step to moving forward from these difficult emotions may be giving yourself permission to feel them in the first place, even though it sounds like you feel confused and uneasy at being angry at your dad. No matter the reason, your parents’ relationship is ending, and you are allowed to feel whatever emotions come up for you. Your anger at the circumstance, and even at your dad, does not mean that you hate him, or hate gay people. It means that you are hurt and upset about the situation, nothing more, nothing less.
Accepting Difficult Emotions: A Metaphor
Imagine that your anger is a large puddle of water blocking your path: walking through it will be uncomfortable, and it might make sense to try to avoid it by finding another way around it. But the more you try and avoid the anger by moving around the puddle, the bigger the puddle gets, until eventually you’re dealing with a lake. The anger has not gone away, and now you’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands. If you instead take the plunge, your feet may get wet, and you will be uncomfortable, but you’ll likely realize that it was not that bad. Accepting the anger makes it easier to take a clear look at the situation and take steps to address the situation directly. And anger can actually make it easier to do that! Anger gets a bad reputation as a destructive and dangerous force, but it can also be an important catalyst for change. For instance, in your situation, anger might give you the strength to ask difficult questions which will give you the clarity you need to get through this.
Another way to move forward might be to hear the stories of others. I imagine that with what you’re going through you might feel pretty isolated, and hearing similar stories can help in feeling less alone. The book Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell it Like It Is by Abigail Garner is a collection of interviews with adult children whose parents were in a heterosexual relationship until one of them came out as gay. I would bet the descriptions of their thoughts and feelings would seem pretty familiar to yours, and help you to feel less strange for having them. Abigail Garner has also set up a website, familieslikemine.com, where people can share their stories.
I hope that this has helped, and I wish you all the best.
Stephen Nicol is a highly skilled Registered Clinical Counsellor with the Summit Counselling Group. Stephen has extensive experience working with clients in both private practice and health care settings; and one of his areas of specialty include gender and sexuality concerns. You can read more about Stephen on his bio page, and contact him at 604-558-4898 or through our contact form.
Summit Counselling Group is made up of eight, professional, and compassionate Registered Clinical Counsellors. We work with individuals, couples, adults, children, adolescents, and families at our executive West Broadway office in beautiful Vancouver, B.C.
Ask a therapist at Summit Counselling Group. We randomly select one of your questions and answer it on our blog. To submit your anonymous question, just visit our blog page on our website (the message box is on the right hand side). http://summitcounselling.ca/blog/