It’s not easy. And sometimes it doesn’t work at all.
Dating’s a lot easier when you’re younger. You’re both trying to figure out where you want to go in life, so you have the opportunity to forge that path together. It’s easier to compromise in the beginning than it is a decade into a career path.
That may be why I didn’t have a problem dating women who were in the closet in my early twenties. I wasn’t thinking about holiday dinners and awkward excuses for why we’re sharing a one bedroom apartment. I was still trying to figure out how to finish school and pay rent at the same time.
Now that I’m older I know myself better. I won’t say I have myself figured out because I don’t think we ever stop learning about who we are, but I’m much more aware of what I do and don’t want. I know I want to get married, I know I want children, and I know I don’t want to be in a relationship where I have to hide who I am.
There are plenty of really valid reasons for why a person needs to stay in the closet, especially when it comes to where they work or their family situation. They may rely on their family financially, and they may work in a homophobic industry where coming out may impact their ability to keep their job. Homophobia is alive and well, and you do should always do what’s best for you and your life.
You should be respectful of what other people need to do for their lives too. Just because something works for you doesn’t mean it’s the best way for everyone to live. Being out does not make you better. It just makes you out, and maybe a little more privileged than others.
But it’s important to take care of yourself too. And that’s exactly why I can’t do it.
Dating someone who’s in the closet means you have to be okay with at least partially hiding the fact that you have a partner in the first place. You can’t tag cute photos on Facebook, you can’t send out couples holiday cards, and you can’t have everyone over for birthdays without lying about who your partner is.
Not only is keeping up with all of those lies to various people difficult, it chips away at my sense of self. It makes me feel like I should be ashamed of who I am.
I dated a girl who was in the closet for two years in my mid twenties. She was out to her friends and some of her family, but not her mother. She’d moved back in with her a few months into our relationship and it made things incredibly difficult. Her mother had actually kicked her out of her home when she was a teen for being LGBT, so the threat here was both real and serious.
When I came to visit we had to pretend like I was her best friend. When I would send her flowers or cards I had to be careful about the inscriptions in case her mother saw them. I felt like I was sixteen and sneaking kisses behind the bleachers. Ultimately we broke up, and a big part of that was me deciding that I couldn’t spend time at her mother’s house so long as we had to hide who we were.
Respect others and respect yourself at the same time. Before you date someone who’s in the closet, really think about whether this is something you can invest in for the long term. And if you’re in the closet make sure your potential partner knows it. It’s not an easy life.
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Comment: Could you date someone who had to hide you from their parents?