Eric Marcus

My Boyfriend Is Gay

Filed By Eric Marcus | August 17, 2008 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: coming out of the closet

Dear Eric,

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend of three years came out to me, confessing that he's gay. At first I was very shocked, but as I've accepted this, I've begun to wonder what he's feeling like right now. He's my very best friend, and I love him dearly and want to do anything and everything I can to help him right now. This desire had led me to doing research on the internet, which has led me to discover you and your books. I was wondering which of your books would be most beneficial to me and if you had any personal advice.

Here's a little background information that may be helpful--both he and I are 19 years old and sophomores in college. I am 100% pro-gay rights, and always have been, years and years before this happened. In fact, my boyfriend was the fourth person to come out to me, so I've helped others through the process before. However, this time it has touched me on a deeper level than ever before and I find myself literally in pain at the apprehension I can see in his eyes. What I want more than anything is to help my best friend and be of assistance to him rather than a burden.

Thank you for any advice you have to offer.
-- Heartbroken Coed

Dear Heartbroken,

I'm sorry for the heartache you've been through (I know you are focused on your ex-boyfriend's feelings and helping him, but I can only imagine how painful this has been for you as well). And I'm sorry for your boyfriend.

I remember vividly when my college girlfriend and I broke up (I was a week shy of turning 18 and she was a few months shy of turning 19). I was way too conflicted and immature to be open in the way your boyfriend has been. And my girlfriend, to her credit, reached out in the way you have. I couldn't cope and simply withdrew. It was a few years before we renewed our friendship and we remain very close friends 30 (!) years later.

I have a couple of pieces of advice for you. First, I hope you'll take the time to attend to your own feelings about the experience you've been through. And then when you're ready, start dating again.

Regarding which of my books you should read, I think you might benefit from reading What If Someone I Know Is Gay? It's got all the basics that you need in order to have an understanding of gay people and issues. For your ex-boyfriend, I also recommend Making Gay History, so he can have a broader understanding of himself and how we got to this moment in time when gay people can live their lives openly and anticipate a life that has as much potential for happiness as anyone else.

There are also some novels that might give you further insight into what your ex is going through and how you might be supportive, but rather than make recommendations what I'd like to do is put your question to the people who read my blog. Many of my readers are closer to you in age than I am and will likely have some helpful ideas.

All best, Eric

In a subsequent e-mail, "Heartbroken" acknowledged that she was indeed heartbroken, but that she was afraid of being selfish and didn't "want to wallow in self pity." She went on to say: "I've almost been ignoring my own feelings because I figured they pale in comparison to how hard this entire process has been for him, but I am heartbroken right now." She was also concerned that she would become a "bitter and cruel" person.

I responded with the following:

How could you not be heartbroken? How could you not be angry? You have just been through a major emotional trauma. And no matter how much you may be concerned about what your ex-boyfriend is going through, you've got a full plate of your own. For one thing, you must be wondering why he didn't tell you sooner. And if he'd had a sense that he was gay all along, why did he go out with you in the first place?

There is much to be said for doing a little wallowing. I don't think of it as selfish. And I don't think of it as self pity. It's part of what you need to go through to get past this initial period of shock and upset. As my own therapist has said in the past, you can't go around these experiences you have to go through them and experience them. Of course we learn from these experiences, as well, but that's only in hindsight (and it's of no comfort to know this in the moment--I generally hate when anyone says to me that whatever awful thing I'm going through is "a learning experience").

From the little I know about you I can guarantee that you won't become a bitter and cruel person. But if you want to avoid becoming a depressed person, I suggest that you find a counselor to talk to at school. It will really help you to have someone you can confide in. At a moment like this it's very important to have someone to talk to. And from my own experience I can tell you that talking to a professional counselor will help you get through this experience more easily and completely.

You can't just turn off you emotions and pretend you're not heartbroken. And focusing on helping your ex through his current upset of dealing with the fact he's gay is not a great idea. I suggest that you suggest to him that he see a counselor as well. You can't be his recently ex-girlfriend and his therapist at the same time.

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All very good advice, Eric. A story about a friend...

He came out in college. He was dating a girl and let her know. She, like your correspondent, was heartbroken and supportive at the same time. The biggest fight we've had in our 15+ years of friendship happened around that time. Since they'd been dating a while, he was used to confiding in her like he would a friend. After he came out, he started telling her about his experiences with men and the times he'd cheated on her with a guy.

Of course, she was trying to be supportive so she'd listen. And then call me horribly upset after he left. Eventually I had to tell him to give her some space; he was ruining the friendship by providing too much information and not enough healing space. He became upset when he found out that she got upset, but didn't share that with him. "How can she be so hurt when she's not angry? How can she not see how difficult this is for me?" To which my answer was, "This isn't about you. It's about her and her personal space and emotions. Slow down and give her some time to work through her own feelings about this development."

He backed off. She started asking questions after a while instead of passively accepting the information. He felt better and so did she.

We're all still friends today.

move on. do not ponder about one another.

Same deal with my highschool girlfriend. Except, in the twenty some-odd years since then she's developed the annoying habit of accusing all her men of being gay. It's caused her numerous relationships. I recently pointed out that fact to her and I think she's come to grips with her own behavior in the matter. We've remained best of friends all these years and for a while back in the 80's she was my fag-hag side-kick.

But it seems there can be consequences.