I would never have imagined that I was going to turn my life upside down. I was 46 and had been happily married for 20 years. I really thought it was a forever relationship.
Of course I wasn’t gay, it was just a phase, it would pass. I didn’t want to be gay, it meant changing everything I knew about my life. It wasn’t convenient. So what if I found women attractive, I was never going to act on it. I was happily married, and that was that. But.
Months down the line I told my husband I thought I was gay, and that we couldn’t stay together. Once we had talked, the enormity of it all hit me and I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to leave him, and didn’t want to break the family up (our son was 16). Maybe I was bi, and we could stay married.
One day early on, I started writing a novel. I had had no intention of writing, but an idea dropped into my head, and I just couldn’t stop. It was a passionate story of a woman who falls for a slightly older gay woman completely out of the blue. The story just poured out of me, and I was writing at all hours. The struggle that the woman has with her feelings was a reflection of what was going on in my head, trying to understand my sexuality. I should make it clear that I hadn’t met anyone, the book is completely fictional. I did find writing cathartic, I hadn’t spoken to anyone about my feelings while I was writing it. Afterwards, I talked to my best friend. Having read the first draft of my book, I said there was something I needed to talk about!
I struggled with it for another two years. I wanted my marriage to work. I loved my husband, and I wasn’t unhappy all that time, but I found it really hard at times. He was very understanding and I talked about sexuality a lot. I was trying to get my head around it too. He knew I was writing lesbian fiction, but hadn’t read any of it. By now I had published two (quite steamy) lesbian romance novels. I thought it would be okay, I wanted it to be okay. But over time I struggled more and more. I couldn’t quite be myself, there was always a part of me I felt I had to hide. Being a very honest and open person by nature, I found that really difficult. More and more I felt emotionally exhausted. Sometimes people would ask if I was alright, and I just brushed it off, saying I had stuff on my mind, or that I was just tired.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put him through that. In the end though, although you think you have a choice, you don’t really. Well, I didn’t. I couldn't stay in a marriage where I couldn’t truly be me. I took some advice and went to see an LGBT counsellor. By the time I’d told my story, it was the end of the first session. When I went back two weeks later, I had already ended my marriage.
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. As difficult as it was, I know I made the right decision. I’m not going to pretend it was all rainbows and unicorns from there on in. In the first year after I left, I cried so much I was surprised I wasn’t a dried up husk. I would be great one day, and a flood of tears another. But I also felt free. Free to truly be me.
Coming out was the easy bit. Apart from a couple of people, when I told them the reason I had left my husband was because I was gay, everyone said, ‘I always thought you were.’ I was astounded by just how many people said that. I’m talking from close friends to people who hardly knew me. When I asked was it because of my books, they said no, although the books seemed to confirm it!
Telling my son was the hardest thing. He was amazing and so understanding. I have always talked to him openly, and by the time I left he had already moved out to go to university. My family and friends were amazing and so supportive. I told everyone the reason from the start. Partly I didn’t want anyone to gossip or think one of us had had an affair (a conclusion people sometimes like to jump to), and also because I wasn’t going to hide who I am. It took me to get to my forties to really find myself, and I am happy being me.
It’s been almost two years now, and I wanted to share my experience. The reason being that when I was struggling and questioning my sexuality, I was looking online to see if there were other people going through what I was, but at the time I didn’t find a lot. So this is my story.