Dear Amy: I’m a 26-year-old male with a gorgeous, amazing girlfriend, a loving family, a successful career, and a house to call my own.
Through college I had lots of girlfriends. From the outside it seems like the perfect picture.
For the better part of my life, I’ve been hiding thoughts and feelings about men, constantly brushing them off as a phase.
The problem is that year after year these feelings have begun to get stronger.
I realized this year this wasn’t just a phase, but a real part of who I am, and I believe I need to embrace it.
The problem I have is that even in this culture of acceptance and openness I cannot get over the thought of hurting those around me by admitting to these feelings.
My sex life with my girlfriend has slowly fizzled over the last five years, so maybe this knowledge could bring some comfort to her, but also pain.
Not to mention the challenges with my friends who have strong conservative views, or my father, who is old school.
I feel like I have to choose between throwing everything I have away or continuing to hide and bury it. I think I’m bisexual, but I haven’t felt any sexual feelings toward women in a while. The back and forth is killing me.
I don’t know what to do.
Can you help? — Upset
Dear Upset: You are conflating two challenging experiences: breaking up with a longtime partner and confronting your instincts about your own sexuality. The two challenges are related, but you might do better and be less overwhelmed if you approach them separately.
Yes, ending your relationship will be very hard to do. Your girlfriend will likely be hurt and disappointed, but perhaps — not quite surprised.
I don’t think it is necessary for you to discuss your sexuality with your girlfriend, until you feel emotionally ready. However, remember that she loves and also likes you. Depending on the kind of person she is, she may be able to love and support you through this. She could continue in friendship with you, as an ally.
It is not necessary for you to disclose your sexuality to your friends or family until you are more experienced and feel emotionally ready to do so. Coming out is a process, and it begins with you acknowledging to yourself that you want to live authentically, and that you have a human right to do so. As hard as it is, and no matter how others react to it, your bravery will liberate you.
The Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org) offers a supportive, comprehensive guide to the coming out process, which I know you would find helpful.
They note: “There is no right or wrong way to come out or live openly. ... You decide how, where and when, based on what’s right for you.”
Dear Amy: For the first time in my life, I find myself facing the prospect of spending Christmas entirely by myself.
Unfortunately, a surprise expense scuppered my plans to go to my home of origin and I have no close friends within a day’s drive.
I have been offered Christmas dinner with the family of a colleague, but spending the day with strangers sounds somehow worse than being alone. I am resigned to a day of movies and cocoa on my own and I think it will be fine. What I don’t want is to spend the day feeling sorry for myself or crying because I am alone and far from loved ones.
Any advice for making the most of my circumstances? — Santa Claused
Dear Claused: My first suggestion is that you look for a way to be of service on Christmas Day, whether through helping to serve dinner at the Salvation Army, walking (or petting) the dogs at your local animal shelter, taking a plate of goodies to an elderly neighbor, or working as a “shovel Santa” (I just made that up!), shoveling a few sidewalks in your neighborhood.
Check meetup.org for ideas in your area.
I also think you should take your colleague up on the offer, but only for dessert. After that, a movie and Chinese takeout sounds like a perfect day.
Dear Amy: Regarding the conversation prompted by “Stumped in Alabama,” I’d like to vote for retiring the label “housewife” and embracing “homemaker.” That’s what I was, for many years, and I treasure the experience. — Homemaker
Dear Homemaker: “Homemaker” is nicely descriptive of the domestic experience. Thank you.
You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.