Coming out — as a couple

Coming out — as a couple


Between celebratory parades for Pride Month and increased calls for marriage equality, it would seem that, for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community, things are indeed getting better.

But what happens if you’re in relationship with a partner who just isn’t comfortable being “out” with his or her sexual identity? Does the desire to keep your sexuality private create tension, or can an LGBT couple still succeed when one person isn’t ready to go public? I recently asked some of my colleagues for their insight on this issue.

“With most of the LGBT couples that I see, both partners are out, but to varying degrees,” said New Jersey-based psychotherapist Israel Martinez, who specializes in LGBT therapy. “One partner may be out with his or her family but not at work, and the other is out in both situations but is shy about holding hands in public, for example.”

That may not always pose a problem for couples, but it can certainly be an issue when one partner doesn’t publicly acknowledge being homosexual at all.

“In my experience, the partner who is more ‘out’ tends to see the partner who is more ‘closeted’ as less emotionally healthy,” explained Gordon Powell, a psychotherapist in New York. “Meanwhile, the closeted partner may feel judged and criticized.”

Such emotions can simmer, creating tension for even the happiest couples. “If the couple is closeted because of one partner, that person often feels guilt, anxiety and fear of abandonment,” sex therapist Margie Nichols added. “And the ‘out’ partner may feel anger and eventually distance and disconnection from the relationship.”

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