What it’s like when you’re gay and your partner hasn’t come out yet

Online dating was very much out of my comfort zone. I spent the first few weeks hiding behind a foggy default photo and talking to men, both tactics proving to be counter-productive. I had just recently come out but was still in denial of the fact that while I was still attracted to guys, my heart was seeking a female partner. I quickly realized that if I wanted to give this a real shot, I would have to be honest about who I was and what I wanted. So, I posted a few confident photos and wrote the best damn profile any 24 year old virgin could think up.

I officially became a woman seeking other women ’21-30 years of age, possessing a kind nature and open mind.’ After three months of meaningless connections and a few funny stories but no real connections, I was feeling discouraged. The dating pool has the tendency to make one cynical — so cynical in fact that when I received Robin’s* message in my inbox, it took me some time to realize that she was the gift I had been waiting for.

And yet, she was, and after a year and a half, I have never been happier. Her love has changed me in ways I never thought possible. However, while we have reached several glorious milestones together, she has yet to come out to her family. It can be an extremely difficult process, one that I myself struggled with immensely, despite the fact that I have very liberal family members and friends. Fortunately, I am able to share my life and relationships without the fear of my loved ones loving me any less. I want that for Robin, and I also want that for us as a couple.

Being the out person in a closeted duo is difficult; I love my girlfriend and I know that she is worth the wait, but I wish that I had been a little more prepared before entering what amounts to a secret relationship. We choose to be with one another and accept that fact that we are a work in progress. We also accept the fact that two people can be in love while simultaneously having separate journeys.

Here is what I’ve learned while Robin and I have been together:

It isn’t personal.

Earlier on in our relationship I believed that if she loved me, she would come out and yell it to the world. While I am happy to say that a few of her friends are privy to the existence of our relationship and are very supportive, it stings when I see photos of her siblings and their partners enjoying time with her family. I force myself to communicate these feelings, and we are in constant dialogue about the patience and understanding that we must give each other. I had to learn that her fear of coming out was about her own personal journey, and not about how deeply she cared for me. I was allowed the time to come out without the added pressure of being in a relationship and she should be given the same consideration.

Coming out deadlines are a bad idea.

Robin and I fell in love quickly. Our feelings were so intense that I imagined her coming out 6-8 months after we said the L word. When several other such “deadlines” passed, I was disappointed and angry. We were forced to have a frank conversation about where she was emotionally. The truth was that she did not know when she would be ready to come out, and could only promise to work on building the courage and emotional strength to do so. Together, we realized that coming out deadlines were pointless and stressful. Each individual must feel safe and emotionally prepared to open themselves up to sharing this potentially life-altering information. As hard as it was for me to admit, our love was not enough to push her to that point.

You have to speak up about your own needs.

Once, during an argument, I threatened to “take” my family away until she came out to someone. This was super unfair. Having her spend time with my family was something that we both enjoyed, and holding them for ransom was petty. Relationships are not about keeping score, but feeling taken for granted can bring you to the point that you start doing unfair things. These feelings would surface after small snubs would make me feel like she was ashamed of our relationship. (like having to go silent when someone calls, hiding my things when there was an unexpected drop by, sneaking around the city if she knew that her parents were in town).

These things would bother me, but I did not express that to my partner. Instead, I let them build until my emotions came out in a passive aggressive manner. I learned over time that passive aggressiveness had no place in a healthy relationship, and Robin and I wanted to be healthy together. We decided to start speaking up if something upset us and to listen to each other. I also learned that it’s important to acknowledge your partner’s feelings and do your best to make them feel heard and appreciated. Robin became more sensitive to my feelings and worked harder to make me feel supported in our relationship. She made it a priority to introduce me to other special people in her life. Meeting her best friend and her aunt was extremely important to me. It was a huge sign that there was light at the end of the closeted tunnel.

Be honest with yourself and your partner.

This is the most communicative relationship I have ever been in. We are constantly proclaiming and reaffirming our love. It sounds cheesy, but it helps if one of us is feeling unsupported. We both understand that if we reach a point in which our situation no longer promotes growth or happiness, we have to end it. I do not encourage anyone to be in a relationship that makes them unhappy. Our relationship works because we have a genuine love and respect for one another. We are not afraid to express our wants/needs and we are always open to making our partnership stronger.

Have faith that progress will happen.

I have witnessed the progress Robin has made in her coming out journey. When I first met her, she had barely come out to herself. Today, she has a strong and proud identity. I love seeing her flourish in our relationship and I am so fortunate to be a part of her life. I plan for our future because I am confident that we will continue to grow and love each other. I am a better person because of her, and I look forward to the day that she shares her entire self with those that love her just as much as I do.

I am especially excited in light of a new and exciting development. Just as I was finishing this piece, Robin told her mother about me. I made her repeat the story at least three consecutive times, because I loved hearing it so much. I was just as excited for her as I was for myself.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

Alysia D. is a grown-up-impersonator, trying to go legit. When she isn’t talking to her student loan collectors, she is studying social work and becoming a healthier vegetarian. Follow her on Instagram @thelastroller for photos of her furbabies. 

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