Q I am 45 and recently separated from my husband. There was no third party involved in the break-up and we have three children together ranging from six to 17.
Recently I joined Tinder and would like to meet someone else. The thing is I would also like to try dating women, but I am terrified that it might adversely affect my children, particularly my teenager. What do you think? Should I try it or should I put my kids first?
A Thanks for writing in with this question as it is more common than you may know. As you have closed one door, the opportunity to explore your sexual identity is opening. How are you feeling about this? Has this been something you have been curious about before? Was it present before you got married or is this new?
It sounds like you feel conflicted between what you would like to try, but then fear judgement and the impact on your children.
Even if you were to date a man on Tinder, is this something you would discuss with your children? Maybe we could firstly see it from that perspective. When a parent becomes free to start dating again, they might explore or start dating without their children knowing at the outset as they aren't adults. If a date turns into something more serious it can be normal to wait until a time to introduce them in a way that feels more comfortable.
Sexuality and relationships are complex and I hear your concerns, I think this is a dual process for you to explore for yourself first and then when you are ready to bring it to the children.
Have you received any support for this? Have you spoken with your ex-husband or family and friends? I'm wondering if this is something you have kept to yourself or if you have openly talked about it with others? Have you spoken with a therapist who understands and has experience with sexual fluidity?
There are a lot of questions in my response, as I would like to get you to explore and answer your own questions, it could be very helpful to open up this space for yourself to explore and hold what your sexual identity is and/or what it may be developing into.
Sexual fluidity and the concept of late-blooming lesbians is something Christan Moran of the Southern Connecticut University explored for women who had been married for more than 30 years to a man and then with great angst found they were attracted to women.
The researchers questioned the old belief that they must have repressed or hidden their sexuality of being gay or bisexual and explored the concept that "a heterosexual woman might make a full transition to a singular lesbian identity" and that sexual fluidity can be as much as a surprise to you as to others.
What factors may impact this, we live in an anti-ageing culture where sex is linked in with a narrow concept of being young, attractive and with a very specific body-type. In terms of adult development, we know that exploration continues not just within adolescence and life brings many adjustments and changes. At a time in a woman's life where her sexual attractiveness may be culturally seen as closing, the opposite may hold true regardless of sexual preference.
For women, ageing changes the expansiveness of how they interact with themselves and the world. It might not have been until you reached your 40s that you began to ask questions about how the marriage was for you. As you may have asked if it was satisfying, engaging or fulfilling? For all the negativity with skin ageing, many women actually become more comfortable in their own skin and begin to connect and tune back into their own needs be it physical, emotional or sexual. In what may have been years in tending to everyone else's needs as a parent, mother and wife the connection and caring piece may come back to you.
Dr Lisa Diamond, associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah, checked in with 79 women to see if there had been any shifts with their sexual identity. She'd ask every two years how they identified 'straight, lesbian, bisexual, or another category of their own choosing'. All the women had expressed some same sex attraction at the beginning of the long-term study over 15 years, if even to a very small amount. In each two-year period 20-30pc showed a sexual shift and in the end 70pc had shifted from how they identified at their initial interview.
Everything in life is in constant flux, from ourselves, to who and how we are in relationships. In terms of this being a dual process, once you have explored your own needs and sexual identity perhaps then the time to open up these conversations with your children can occur.
Each conversation will be different and age dependent. What are your specific fears with your 17-year-old? Protecting your own mental health first is of great importance as grappling with sexual identity can be fraught and it can be a good idea to have a professional support and help you at this time.
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