By Denise LaFrance, CPC
Sometimes when I am out at a local restaurant I look around and see men and women around my age, seemingly lost in thought. I often wonder what they are thinking about and what problems they are mulling over and trying to solve. It strikes me that the chances are quite good that at least one of these people is grappling with a deeply personal issue— coming out in midlife.
For many people, midlife is a time of deep introspection. The realization that our lives are not infinite leads many to ask questions such as, “Am I doing what makes me happy and feeling fulfilled?” Others look at their marriages or intimate relationships and begin to pay stronger attention to how they feel in them.
Some men and women have had same-sex attractions since they were in high school and younger, but because of societal pressure and feeling like there was no other viable option available to them, they got married and often had children. During the time leading up to midlife they were so busy living and raising children that they put their own needs on the back burner. Others have never felt happy in their male/female relationships but couldn’t identify why, until they met someone of the same sex who changed their perception of what happiness and love could feel like.
Questioning your sexuality at midlife is no small feat. It can feel overwhelming and isolating. The fear of others finding out and the possibility of the life you’ve known spiraling out of control is enough to keep many people stuck in their fear and unable to move ahead. Outwardly processing what you are thinking and feeling allows you to stop the loop in your head. This could be done in a variety of ways. Writing is a good way to process, although feeling safe in that processing is hugely important. Do you feel confident that your innermost feelings will be secure until you are ready to reveal them? If you are lucky enough to have a person close to you who has already communicated in some way that they are accepting and safe for you to confide in, use them as a sounding board. For others, having an objective person outside of your personal life (a coming out coach or therapist) is going to feel like the best way to proceed.
Coming out is most often associated with the “telling” phase. Undoubtedly though, the most important phase is coming out to yourself. When you can look in the mirror and say the words “I am gay”, you are then able begin the process towards self-acceptance. Working through many of the complicated feelings you have about issues like religion, culture, values and familial expectations can take time. But it is by working through many deep-seated issues that you are able to love yourself for the magnificent and one-of-a-kind person you are. When you come out to others from a place of confidence and pride vs. self-doubt and fear, you have a better chance of it being a positive experience. Can you think about a time in your life when someone told you something about them-self and seemed embarrassed by it? The feelings of that person are usually transferred to you, the listener. My advice is that before you begin talking to many of the important people in your life about this newly discovered part of you; take some time to love yourself first.
Denise LaFrance is the owner and coming out coach with Emerge Into YOU Life Coaching. Having come out in midlife, Denise is able to use her own experiences to help move you through the coming out process over less time and with less pain than if you were to experience it alone. Contact her at to schedule a free 30- minute consultation.
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