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Dear Fifi: Do I have a responsibility to help my boyfriend to come out?

*to the tune of Dear Prudence* Dear Foofers.

dearfifiheader

There’s no one size fits all when it comes to peace of mind, but a thing often trotted out is going for a walk. Recently, going for walks has been helping me. It occurred to me recently that, at the very least, I’ve never regretted going for a walk and a think. Sometimes it is true praise to say that while maybe something won’t help, at the least it won’t hurt.

Send me your problems and I’ll have a think about them. Cannot guarantee I will do so while walking anywhere.

dearfifibar

Hi Fiona!

26 year old gay guy here. So six months ago, having moved to a new country, I met a guy and I’m happy to say I’m in my first long term relationship. I’m out to all my friends and family, and have been for a long time. However, he’s 31 and has never been with another guy. His family and a lot of his friends don’t know he’s gay, and he’s very reluctant to broach the subject with them.

This means that we’re a bit stuck in terms of developing our relationship to the next level, meeting the parents, holidays together etc. I want to be supportive and patient because I know how difficult it is to come out to those close to you, but I also feel like there’s some responsibility on me to help him on his journey to being an out gay man. I’m just trying to strike the right balance in overcoming this barrier to our relationship. What do you think?

First of all, fair play to you on the move and on finding something to embark on your first serious relationship with!

Secondly, in order to give you a truly expert piece of advice for this conundrum I contacted Bella FitzPatrick, a spokesperson and the MD from ShoutOut. ShoutOut is a community of volunteers and activists who run workshops on tackling homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools.

Bella’s take was that your role in this relationship is one of support for his personal and ongoing process of coming out. In her words:

The role is less “you should come out to your family” and more “if you decide to come out to your family, I can be there in whatever way you need.” That will be the beginning, middle and end of your role in his coming out journey.

That said, there’s no point ignoring the fact that him not being out presents challenges for you as his partner, in the way you’ve articulated – those normal relationship milestones being beset with difficulty out of the norm for a gay couple who are both out or a straight couple.

That’s not easy, and that’s worth acknowledging without placing any blame at the door of your partner and his experiences if you can. It can cause strain, as Bella put succinctly:

Only you can decide if the con of a life half in Narnia (the closet, get it?) outweighs the pros of all the great things about your man.

Bella emphasised, though, that the role of a partner in the coming out of their boyfriend is one of support and not pressure.

If you push him, you’re running the risk that if it goes badly, he’ll be resentful. I very much hope those close to your fella are kind and supportive, make sure he knows of all the supports for people coming out, and to contact a gay switch board or LGBT helpline if he needs advice.

I think it’s really worth considering your own state of mind in this, as Bella touched on.

Only you can answer the question of how important being openly a couple is to you, or will be to you long-term as this relationship progresses. And it’s up to you to figure out if having a relationship in the public sphere – with everything lovely that entails in many ways – is a deal-breaker for you.

Make sure you’ve got someone you can confide in sometimes, without breaking the trust of your partner of course, so that you have a place to let off steam or work things out in your own mind. At six months, this relationship is still very early days – while it might be serious, it’s perhaps not as “long-term” as you describe it. Don’t be afraid to accept this isn’t necessarily what you want.

Protect yourself and your heart if you and your boyfriend eventually decide that what an ideal relationship looks like is different – and always respect his choices if it does come to that. Good luck and I hope it works out!

dearfifibar

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