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LOVE LETTERS

Married to a guy, she dreams of women

For 20 years she’s been happy, but lately things have changed

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / July 2, 2011

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Q. I am a married woman in my mid-40s. My husband and I met when we were undergrads. At the time, I was wrestling with the fact that I was probably a lesbian. I had just started to date women and found an emotional and sexual connection I had never felt with men.

Then came my husband. He was extremely bright and funny. He was outgoing and athletic; I was quiet and studious. He had a string of women running after him, while I did not have members of either sex running after me. We became great friends, and I really adored him. One night he kissed me, and the rest is history. I had told him I had an interest in women, but the truth was that I fell very much in love with him and was attracted to him. We were married more than 20 years ago.

He is a great husband and father. He has a great career and has been extremely supportive of my career. He pitches in around the house and is as adoring today as he was when we met.

Things are more challenging for me. I ignored any feelings I had for women for years. After all, I was a married woman, and it doesn’t matter the gender because I made a vow to my husband. The problem is that something inside me is changing. I just don’t find my husband attractive any more. I want to, but I really don’t. I notice women everywhere. I feel silly writing this, but I buy lesbian fiction and hide the books from my husband. I’m always extra friendly around gay women, thinking one of them will certainly notice that even though I’m not wearing the uniform that I’m part of the team. At night when I close my eyes I see women’s bodies. It’s driving me crazy and driving a wedge in my amazing marriage.

Anything I say to my husband is going to make him feel inadequate or bad. I realize he’s not the problem; I am. I’ve tried to tamp down this overwhelming desire for women, but sometimes it’s all I can think about. I should note that I’ve never cheated on him.

I keep telling myself that I have to control myself. I made my choice back when I was 22, but it’s hard to understand the consequences of the life choices we make when we are young.

So, wise Meredith, how am I supposed to handle this? I’m afraid I will meet the right (or wrong!) woman and end up cheating. I’m also afraid I’ll never meet the right woman and spend my life with this unrequited longing.

CONFUSED IN THE SUBURBS, Suburban Boston

A. You were physically attracted to your husband for a long time. That’s excellent - and very, very important.

The fact that you were attracted to him for years means that you’re probably experiencing what many people deal with after 20 years of marriage: bedroom boredom. Fantasies about other people. FOMO (fear of missing out). Midlife questions (let’s not call it a crisis).

If you were 100 percent straight, you’d probably still be having fantasies about people other than your husband. You’d just be thinking about men.

My advice is to tell your husband about these fantasies - not to make him feel bad, but to involve him. Talking it out might give him his own real estate in your private world. You don’t have to say, “I’m not thinking about you anymore; I’m thinking about pretty girls.’’ You can just say the part about the girls. The conversation could get interesting. It could bring him into the part of your brain that you’ve been hiding under the bed (that’s where I assume the lesbian fiction is kept).

At the end of the day, you don’t seem to want to leave your husband. And really, that’s the only other option here.

You said that he’s been a great friend to you and that he knows about your attraction to women. Let him in on what’s happening in your head. And maybe loan him some books. Do you really think that any of this will shock him? I don’t. I think that the more you tell him, the more he becomes a part of the story. MEREDITH

READERS RESPOND:

Can sexual orientation change as you get older? You’ve had a healthy relationship with your husband for 20 years, so I wouldn’t think that is an issue. I second Meredith on “bedroom boredom.’’ See what you can do to mix it up? And even if it is hard, you need to talk to your husband about this. Waiting five years and then telling him, “I’m leaving you for my lesbian lover’’ is not an improvement. There are many possible answers, but all the healthy ones involve the active participation of your husband. Talk to him, and good luck! THIRTYSOMETHING

Hmmmm, not sure I agree with Mere. I think the letter writer is thinking of pulling the plug on the marriage. He’s a great husband/father and helps around the house - but no mention of her being in love with him. I think if she were sure she could find a hot girl to occupy the other side of the bed, she’d bolt. But she’s afraid her plan will backfire and she’ll end up alone. So she stays. Lucky guy, that husband of yours. SOXYGIRL123

You suppressed your desires when you were 22 and made a “choice.’’ Why did you make this choice? I feel like you settled. He kissed you and made you feel special, and you went for it, despite your desires deep down. You obviously made it work for 20 years. You can talk to your husband and see what he has to say about it, but ultimately he will not be able to tell you what to do. Only you can decide if this is a temporary longing or if deep down you feel like you made the wrong choice 20 years ago. DRUNKWITHLOVE

I think you’re trying to throw the “I think I’m a lesbian’’ card out there as your “get out of marriage free’’ card. You knew you had feelings for women, yet you decided to marry a man. And you were happy for a while. Now, like a lot of other people, your marriage isn’t new and shiny anymore. POWDERGIRL

You want what you really want. Honestly, my concern is about the letter writer’s husband. I do think she should be honest with him. If he wants to hang in there and try to work it out, great. But if he decides he needs to move on and find someone who wants him in every way, that would be very understandable. BOSTONBREEZE

Edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@globe.com. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.