At a major crossroads in life, I’m close to falling apart. I was raised by my parents in a strict Christian faith, which was everything.
I did all that was expected of me. I was taught that homosexuality is an abhorrent sin. My faith is one that expects much. Young men are expected to give up two years in missionary service; health codes prohibit alcohol, smoking and drugs; a tenth of our salaries are paid as tithes in good faith. This was all I knew.
I am now approaching 50 with a wife, three adult offspring and grandchildren. But suddenly I am finding myself at a crisis. I have always been attracted to the same sex but dutifully pushed those feelings aside. Now, after having a serious health scare a couple of years back, I have come to realise that life is too short.
I am at war within myself. My faith is actually diminishing, although for my family (immediate and extended) it remains strong.
I could easily pick fault with the faith but don’t want to upset anyone. I would rather slip away from my faith quietly. But that isn’t really an option, as I know family members would very much disapprove, if not disown me. What can I say about my wife, after almost 30 years of marriage? I’m not even sure she suspects. She probably does because, as much as I love her, it is more as a friend. Sex is not something I ever initiate. Personally, I would be happy for her to take me for everything.
I dearly love my children and grandchildren and would hate to be distanced from them, but sometimes faith and feelings make it inevitable. It almost feels as if I’d have no option but to run away without leaving any way for forward communication — because I know it would only be negative.
I can no longer live a lie. Recently, I started communicating with a new-found gay friend who is supportive. This friend gives me courage as I edge closer to the closet door. I know if I don’t come out I will have security but with it comes self-loathing.
But if I come out I risk losing everything and will have to start my life anew, leaving all that has shaped me so far. It causes me mental anguish and preoccupies every waking moment. How do I summon the strength to follow my heart?
This week Bel Mooney advises a 50-year-old married father of three if he should follow his heart and come out as gay
This is one of the toughest letters I’ve ever read; your final question is all but impossible. All I can do is walk you through alternatives to see if we arrive anywhere at the end. Each step must be profoundly uncomfortable, I know. And, to be honest, right here at the outset, I also fear that pain is the inevitable destination.
Let us identify four different factors within this problem.
First, there is the particular Christian belief you show to be repressive, yet which is all you have known. You are now chafing against it.
Then there is the love you have for your family: wife, adult children and grandchildren — which now feels in conflict with your feelings of wanting to break out of the closet and acknowledge a repressed sexuality.
Thought of the day
I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it. But that was the pearl of great price, the one field that had treasure in it.
From the Bright Field by R.S.Thomas (Welsh poet and priest, 1913-2000
For better, for worse, both those elements (church and family) represent ‘the known’.
And while you are currently feeling them both to be ‘a lie’, they still represent the undeniable lived experience of your heart’s truth up until now.
Now come the other two factors — both of them new. Fifty is an age when many people feel and fear the brutal march of years and yearn for a fresh lease of life: new job, new friends, new home, new love. And your health scare intensified an understandably urgent wish to seize the time.
Second is your conviction that you are gay, long suspected but now encouraged by a new friend supportive of your leaving the closet — at whatever cost.
You give no indication of whether this is a platonic relationship or whether you’ve had any sort of sexual engagement. I’m suspecting not.
Both those elements represent the ‘unknown’ — the latter because you have no idea what your life would be like as an openly gay man, nor can you predict how you will feel about the ageing process when you are 60.
All things change and we change with them; such ancient wisdom tells us not to believe the present is a permanent state.
It would cause great distress to your family if you simply walked out of their lives.
A wife loved for 30 years does not deserve that treatment, nor does a cherished family.
The opposites to weigh are the ‘known’ versus the ‘unknown’. You could destroy the whole life you know — and find yourself unhappy in the end. That is to say, more unhappy than if you had stayed.
I don’t think anybody could possibly advise you, because we all have a different attitude to risk; some (like me) prefer the known, others run away to the new — and damn the consequences. Either way, the Greeks were surely right that life is suffering.
I feel desperately sorry for your turmoil and believe you would benefit from counselling. You can find help at counsellingdirectory.org.uk/sexuality.html#sexuality andmentalhealth.
And is there anybody within your church you can talk to about losing faith? Have you confided that part of your angst to your wife? Does she have any inkling that you are unhappy?
You have to start the conversation — and if she rejects your hesitant confidences it might help make up your mind. In my opinion, sympathy, not sex, is essential to happiness.
I’m fed up with life being on his terms
I have been dating a man for seven years and want to take the relationship further and purchase a house together.
However, he’s not ready for this next stage. He’s intimated he would like me to move in with him, but I don’t want to take that alternative to combining our assets and buying a home belonging to us both.
Our relationship is all on his terms. He does not stay at my place; I stay at his four or five nights a week. That impacts on my personal life as I cannot get things done at home, so that when I go home for a couple of days it’s a mad rush to complete all my tasks before it’s back to his again.
I didn’t envisage my life would be like this in our late 50s. The last time I brought the subject up I was told not to ask any more questions about it. When I did I was told I had ‘ruined the weekend’.
We do everything together and are close but I feel rejected and not like a proper couple because I want that one last piece of the jigsaw that he is not ready for.
He has told me it will happen but will not make any plans.
I honestly feel as though I am chasing a rainbow. What do you think?
Perhaps it’s strange, but I stumble over the concept of ‘dating’ when it comes to mature people — and shouldn’t adults discuss things properly? But, of course, you tell me nothing about both your previous marital histories, which might have explained this man’s reluctance to commit to you.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
I understand how much, in your late 50s, you want to settle down with a man who proves steadfast affection, not necessarily by marriage, but by agreeing to symbolic shared roof tiles. After seven years, it would hardly be an impetuous leap of faith, after all! You know each other well, share activities and (you say) are ‘close’.
But if you are indeed close why is the relationship so one-sided that he is incapable of compromising? To be frank, it’s surprising you have tolerated such an unequal relationship for so long.
For me it’s that very aspect of your story that gets in the way of your being a ‘proper couple’, not the bricks and mortar. He ‘tells’ you not to express your wishes; I don’t know many women who would accept being shut down like that.
Yet there must be enough happiness in the times you share with this man to outweigh your frustration at his unwillingness to talk.
Since he has ‘intimated’ that you could move into his place, why not suggest you take him up on that plan? It could be that his love of his own home is much deeper than yours for your place. Would it be so painful to rent out your home, stashing the money away and/or spending some of it on lovely holidays with him — while retaining your own property just in case your relationship becomes problematic?
It’s far less stressful than house-hunting, selling two places etc.
But if you reject this pragmatic option, then why not cultivate some friends and activities you don’t share with him, maintaining more independence during the week and not always staying at his? More absences and less compliance might stop him taking you for granted.
And finally… Dying to do something? Don’t wait!
Two inspirational friends came to lunch. Both 90, they have razor-sharp minds, impeccable taste, jovial personalities and are as elegant as they are adventurous.
Stalwart Mr D goes everywhere on his mean mobility machine, and he and his wife are planning a trip to the Holy Land, among other things. Nothing can keep them down. Amazing.
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email [email protected].
A pseudonym will be used if you wish.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
By way of thanks, Mrs D posted me a book as uplifting as she is. The title might put you off, but 33 Meditations On Death by David Jarrett was hard to put down. It’s subtitled Notes From The Wrong End Of Medicine — because the author, an NHS consultant in stroke and geriatric medicine, knows all about the dying game.
His brilliant crisply-written book is a series of reflections on death in all its forms, which asks key questions like, ‘How would you choose to live your last few months?’ and ‘Are we wrong to keep people alive when really they’ve had enough?’.
A thought-provoking coda to the time of Covid-terror, it’s my must-read of the year so far.
Jarrett quotes the American novelist Garrison Keillor, recalling his mother’s advice for life: ‘Cheer up, make yourself useful, mind your manners and, above all, don’t feel sorry for yourself.’ Hooray for that!
He then reminded me of the Mail’s important campaign (in 2018) to get people volunteering: ‘Being useful is a beautiful thing. However badly your own life turns out, if you have been helpful to others, or to animals, or to the world in general, you don’t have to apologise. There’s dignity there.’
Such precious wisdom there. So is Jarrett’s advice to get on with the things you long to do (like walk through the streets of Naples — one of my own modest ambitions — or watch the sunrise on a tropical isle) as soon as you can, because making plans for retirement just tempts fate. Remembering mortality urges you to live — just like Mr and Mrs D who refuse to let age stop them.