Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online

 

 

Relationships - September 2015

My son is gay...


Maggi Stamp is a highly qualified relationship counsellor and trainer who writes each month about emotional and practical concerns and challenges that many of us meet in later life. For 20 years, as well as running a private practise, Maggi worked with the organisation Relate to help married and single people, cohabiting couples, same sex couples, families, young and old people and the bereaved to develop, foster and enjoy healthy and fulfilling relationships. No less important, as she is herself a wife, mother and grandmother, she brings a lifetime of varied and eventful experience to enhance her empathy and understanding.  

Many of her examples are based on concerns that clients, family and friends have presented over the years. In the monthly articles where she responds to issues raised by readers, she strictly respects confidentiality and never identifies those who write to her. But the individual worries they raise are invariably felt by others, so her responses can help many.

You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


My son is gay...

I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. Three weeks ago our 28-year-old son told us he has a special person in his life now and we were thrilled to hear it. He has been a bit of a loner for some time and we were a bit concerned for him. But then he said the person’s name and we realised this was another man.
While this didn’t shock me - I had suspected he might be gay, from when he was a boy - my husband was dumbfounded. He sat and stared at the ceiling for ages and then got up and left the room, went upstairs, and didn’t come down until our son left. After that he paced around being very bad tempered.
Now he doesn’t want this young man to be brought here and can hardly bear to look at our son. Things are getting so tense when he comes for a weekend visit. I’m so relieved he is no longer living at home. He moved to his own little house last year and has made a really nice home for himself.
My husband is going around looking like thunder and I can hardly get a word out of him. I am so surprised as he has always been such an open-minded and accepting kind of man with other people’s differences.
But it seems he cannot do this when it comes to his own son.
I have talked on the phone to our son since and he is still shaken by his dad’s response. I’m so worried that my husband will be openly hostile, not only to the new man, but to our son. I have always thought that when he does eventually bring someone home who is important to him that we would be welcoming and try to learn to love that person because our son does. My son is now very upset. He says he tried to talk to his dad before now but it was always brushed aside.
How can I bring them together again and relieve a bit of this awful tension?

This must have been an ordeal for your son. I’ll wager he has been bracing himself to do this for sometime, suspecting that his dad would have this sort of reaction to his news – news that he would want to be received happily by his parents.

It is going to take your husband some time to get his head around the fact that his son really is gay. He might well have suspected it at times but we are all capable of burying our heads in the sand over some aspect of life that we do not want to confront, for whatever reason. Your son says he has tried to broach the subject without any success. I wonder if your husband knew, or sensed what he was trying to tell him, and didn’t feel able to talk about it? You have had your suspicions yet have never talked about it with him until now. I am feeling rather sorry for this young man who has grown up trying to find who he is but has had no opportunity to discuss his feelings with either of you.

You have quite a task ahead of you in helping your husband to open up about his feelings – and that could mean hearing his anger or prejudice towards homosexuality. It doesn’t mean you should do anything different from normal in terms of talking about your son. You seem to have accepted your son’s revelation more calmly. That is not unusual. Many mothers of gay sons sense from very early on in the child’s life that he is not developing along what they think of as conventional lines. Yet they continue to love and cherish their boy – in some cases becoming over-protective towards them, sensing they could be vulnerable for a while. The mother/son bond can become very strong. Sometimes stiflingly so.

Try to recall if there have been times when you noticed this in your own relationship with your son. I encourage you to talk with him about his experience of making choices on his direction. This maternal over-protection can be consolidated if there is a fear that the father is not going to feel as open to a son being gay. So many heterosexual men of the older generation, who grew up in the era when homosexuality was illegal and any public references to it were insulting, heavily disguised or downright banned. They have come to feel that, no matter what the law says, it is plain wrong, and no-one can convince them otherwise. So this opening up might take you some time. He might never be entirely at ease with the concept, but at least try to persuade him to be good to his son and polite to his son’s partner or friends. He will be under no irrationally imagined threat and will find that gay people are interesting and valued individuals in society just like anyone else.

The promising sign is that you say your husband has always been an open-minded man when it comes to difference in others. He is halfway there. He just has to apply that openness to his own son – with some help from you!

You also need to talk with your son about his life, so that you have more information at your fingertips to use in convincing his dad that your son is still your son – is still the child you both loved and nurtured. All his qualities are just as they ever were.

Whenever I have worked with gay couples, we have discussed the very same emotional worries that a heterosexual couple might experience. Many manage to maintain mature relationships that last as long as anyone else’s, in the same loving and caring way, and that is a great achievement in my eyes. I see that they still find prejudice and ignorance blocking their way and these kinds of problems are on top of all the problems and difficulties they can experience in common with heterosexual couples.

Happily, society has moved a huge way to accepting the differences of others so that gay couples can now enjoy much of the security that everyone else has. Your son has found the courage to come and tell you of his life and his new happiness. You owe it to him to be happy for him and offer all the support you would always have wished to give.

The disappointments in your heart might be over things like ‘the big fancy wedding’, a lovely daughter-in-law, grandchildren of your own and everyone’s unconditional acceptance of your family group. Well, you might even get some of those things, just in a different configuration. Gay weddings are not unusual now and can be as wonderful (or otherwise!) as anyone’s and gay adoptions are often a great success, with most gay adoptive parents ensuring that their children have equal exposure to important family members and friends of the opposite sex as they are growing up, in order to give them a balanced experience of loving relationships. What other people think has never been an issue worth bothering about.

With your help your husband might accept the facts and slowly see that his son is conducting his life in a mature way, demonstrating all the skills he has learned from loving parents – and probably a lot more he has learned from growing up in a world that is still not as easy for some as for the majority.


You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


back to the Relationship Counselling Index

 


Bookmark This Share on Facebook Receive more like this

 
Back to LaterLife Today

Visit our Pre-retirement Courses section here on laterlife or our dedicated Retirement Courses site

Bookmark


Advertise on laterlife.com



LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti