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Coming Out…To The Children

We were recently asked by a LemonAider how we came out to our children…

Our situation was somewhat different from theirs since our kids were the same age and already knew each other from various activities and social meet-ups together, so our transition into spending more time together looked mostly like a growing friendship to begin with.

The Early Days…

We didn’t tell them for about 6 months which, while sensible, was very difficult when we were in the midst of something so utterly life altering for us all!

However, we obviously weren’t quite sure (or ready to admit) whether this was something huge and important and love or just 30 odd years of pent-up latent lesbian sexual desire!! (I think we were both pretty darn sure it was the former but a bit scared to share that too early on).

A lot of our early courtship happened around the kids…

I had hardly any child-free time except when they were at school and Lea home educates hers so it was tricky! Needless to say we spent a lot of time at the cinema and in soft play centres (ugh) with them during those winter months so we could have the occasional illicit hand hold or cuddle between the seats or behind a giant wipeable block. Sexy, huh? Hide and seek was invaluable to us!

Coming Out…

When we did come out and tell them all, they were relatively unfazed by it all.

The older two had an awareness that women could have girlfriends and men boyfriends but there was no-one gay with a partner in their acquaintance who they saw regularly. We kept it brief and simple to begin with – we started holding hands in front of them and being more tactile. Kissing was a spectacle and can still, even now, cause guffaws or calls of ‘gross’.

But what they’ve all witnessed and still do is our love, physical affection and, for the most part, our care and desire for one another, something that was lacking in our previous relationships with their fathers. We both really wanted them to have a healthier model of what a loving, adult relationship can look like.

The Impact…

On the plus side for the two older girls, they quickly realised that our relationship meant they could see more of each other and be the ‘besties’ they’ve become. The younger two have had their moments of jealousy with the mummy being ‘taken away’ from them narrative playing out at numerous times.

From the beginning however, we agreed that the family model we wanted to emphasise is that we are the parents and adults at the top of the tree (and that our relationship and partnership is pivotal to the success of the family as a whole), with the children in their roles as children, NOT rescuing any of their parents (a work in progress!), and that as our children our love for them is always there, but in a different way to the love of a partner.

None of it has been without its difficulties, not least of which has been my guilt…

We’ve experienced a period when the big girls were feeling a lot of anger towards their fathers and feeling let down by them, which led to them turning even more into their friendship with each other and discussing whether they were going to be lesbians (and even whether that would be with each other!!!).

That was a tricky one and Lea had to pull me down off the ceiling to deal with that one calmly and not go off in a state of panic!

Then there was the dawning realisation from Mali that sex isn’t just for procreation which led to us letting the big girls ask us anything they wanted to know about sex, including whether we’ve had sex with each other (bless!).

They haven’t yet asked how we have sex – they know how men and women make babies and that sex is also for pleasure but thank goodness their naive little minds haven’t joined up any more dots…yet!

Let’s Talk About Sex… 

Since coming out, it’s been noticeable how sexualised a topic being gay is for many people. We’ve always agreed that sex is going to be positioned as something ‘normal’, natural and healthy, between adults…hell we’ve shown them pictures of Kim Anami weightlifting from her vagina (if you haven’t checked her out you really should – gay or straight she’s THE biz for all matters sexual).

We want sex to be a topic that we always talk about honestly (in an age appropriate way), that we’re not prudish around and connect to it as part of a loving, intimate, healthy, ADULT relationship. There are kids at school in the same year as Flo who have no clue how a baby is made or the correct names for their vulva and vagina…we want our children to grow up considering sex a natural form of connection (with themselves and others), and without the stigma or negative connotations so many of us feel. 

…And Other Things…

Our coming out has led to many interesting conversations with all the children – the vaginal weight lifting for example, vaginal health more generally, stereotyping, gender fluidity, masculine and feminine energy and how interchangable that can be.

In many ways it’s putting the theoretical meat on the bones of the gender studies degree I did twenty years ago, albeit tailored to a slightly different audience!!

Two of the children are now aware that their uncle is gay, they know about Pride and rainbows and about feeling like you’ve been born in the wrong body. They know that some people prefer not to have a gender at all (that’s not as complex for them to get their heads around as it seems to be for adults!). They know that mummy stopped being friends with someone they knew because she believed gay people would go to hell. That led to some very interesting discussions about love I can tell you!!

Having Gay Parents…

They’re also learning and telling us about their experiences of having gay parents. At our old Primary School Flo encountered some negative comments about it being unnatural for two women to be together. The Head seemed more concerned with stopping us flexi-schooling than dealing with that! Similarly, at our current school we’ve just experienced an incident with another child commenting on the girls having parents in a same-sex relationship.

These incidents are so small and yet they each have an impact which we see when our daughters are considering whether to tell people at theatre school that their mums are ‘gay together’. They made friends with two girls who they did tell, but were much more discerning about telling some of the boys, recognising that they might make life harder for themselves.

Those are the only incidents we’ve had and generally people are warm, friendly and interested (sometimes a bit too interested!).

You can see people mentally trying to work us out as a family – did we each have sperm donors and settle on two brown and two white children?!? Did we each birth each others?! It’s quite hilarious to watch, and tempting to play up to!

Lea and I have only had two direct experiences of homophobia, once in a bar in Lincoln where a guy made a rude remark as we walked in and once when we went to a dance class together. On both occasions Lea, as the more masculine energy, is the one in the firing line from men who cannot hold or handle that.

We’ve not told the children this but they are aware that discrimination happens to gay people because of who they love, just as it does to people of colour, women, disabled people, and anyone who isn’t a white, of a certain age male.

There is already a sense of injustice in them all about this, and a matter of factness that this is their normal. It will be interesting to see how this changes or develops in their teenage years, and whether it’s different for our son and daughters…

How To Have An Amazing Relationship (aka Conflict Resolution When You Just Can’t Stop Arguing!)

It’s been a challenging month at LemonAid HQ…constant arguments, bickering, both of us mired deeply in our respective positions and unwilling to step out of them for more than the briefest of times. You could say our experiment in living together has started with a bang…but not of the best kind!!

After a particularly stressful week that included multiple “Should we just end it?” conversations and only very brief respites in between recurring arguments about the same things over and over, on Sunday morning we happened across this article on how to make your relationship amazing.

Fortuitous timing since only the night before we’d attempted to have a conversation about establishing some ‘rules’ to try and improve how we handle the ongoing conflict in a more loving and adult way between us. The rules we’d come up with looked like this:

The Rules:

  1. Maintain an open physical posture. No arm crossing or sitting in the precipice of the bed/sofa as far away as possible from each other.
  2. Hold hands or maintain other physical touch, throughout difficult discussions.
  3. Agree what we’re trying to achieve, and keep coming back to this.
  4. No name calling.
  5. No meanness.
  6. No eye rolling.
  7. No absolutes e.g. “You always…”, “You never…”
  8. No interrupting – use the talking stick to let each other speak uninterrupted.
  9. Try the following technique:
    Person 1: “I feel…” – for 1 minute.
    Person 2: “I heard you say…” “What was the most important thing you want me to hear? And why? What can we do about it?”
  10. Agree themes still to discuss even if there’s no immediate resolution.

Naturally we did so well following our own rules while making them that we ended up in yet another argument!

So back to the article…in a nutshell, here’s the summary based on a TON of research:

  • Positive emotion beats problem-solving: Good feelings come first otherwise you’re solving problems with… someone you don’t like very much.
    [We’d both got into a very negative cycle of thinking the worst of each other, focusing on the negatives and generally wondering why we were together].
  • Avoid The Four Horsemen: Less criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling. And no contempt.
    [Becky does criticism, we both do defensiveness, Lea does stonewalling, we both can descend into contempt].
  • Perpetual problems don’t get solved: You can walk fine on a trick knee if you understand its quirks and don’t let it frustrate you.
    [There are recurring issues we argue about; the children’s dynamics is a key one which may never be fully resolved].
  • Soft startup to conflict discussions: Ladies, complain but don’t criticize. Conversations that begin negative almost always end negative. [Becky’s the mistress at criticising!]
  • Time-outs beat stonewalling: Guys, don’t tune out if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Ask for a 20 minute break. [Lea’s the master at stonewalling!]
  • Don’t resist — repair: Laughing, being nice or acknowledging what was said doesn’t mean you immediately lose the argument. And it might stop you from losing your partner. [Becky’s far better at this than Lea].

Reading the article in bed together on Sunday morning helped reset us; we managed to get back on the same page, or at least in the same book and are agreeing new rules which look something like this…

 The New Rules

  1. If we can, in the middle of an argument, list 3 things we love about each other, using our ‘love time-out’ signal to initiate and remind us of this.
  2. Use time outs instead of silence (Lea especially!), to take a breather and gather our thoughts.
  3. No name calling (Becky), eye rolling  (Lea), sarcasm (Becky), and mocking (both).
  4. Agree which issues we’re going to park, that aren’t fully off the table but that aren’t going to be resolved just yet. And once we’ve agreed, let’s not keep bringing them up.
  5. Start difficult conversations positively and gently…we’re not yet sure exactly what this looks like but we’re working on it!
  6. Keep trying to reconnect throughout an argument…both of us (especially Lea).
  7. Maintain high expectations of each other!
  8. Agree what we’re trying to achieve and keep coming back to it.
  9. Remember the good times!

Wanting The Same Thing…

Fundamentally, we both agree that we want the same thing: That we want to create an amazing relationship for ourselves, and that we want to create and head up a loving blended family with our little wolf pack of 4.

And that means we agree…

On working towards the same hopes, dreams and goals of home educating all 4 children together, of multiple extended travel fun both with and without the children. 

That we want to live together as a family, and that at the moment this means a fairly minimalist lifestyle when it comes to stuff (including – especially – the children’s stuff), it means figuring out how to juggle working from home, while home educating 4 children on part-time hours, it means figuring out how to prioritise ourselves alongside work, family and running the household. 

It means figuring out how to handle navigating through our own emotional journeys, with the help of our therapists, and without playing out our stuff with each other (too much!). 

It means expecting the best of ourselves and each other and not the worst, and staying willing to explore the hard stuff.

It means that if we want this, we commit to this, no matter what. All in!

That’s a scary proposition for both of us…but as we keep reminding each other:

What if what we most want is on the other side of what feels like the most dangerous precipice or behind the thickest wall? Do we dare jump ?

Bent Becky

Bent Becky

Guilt is only a burden when you bend down and pick it up… apparently. Unfortunately, I keep bending.

Our last post saw Lea talking about whether it’s right that the children should always come first and how, as a couple parenting our four children, we don’t think it is – for them or for us.

One of the reasons I find it hard to let go of the idea that we SHOULD be putting them first is because I feel guilty if I don’t.

I feel guilty for considering my own needs, guilty for not making everything about them – whether that’s money, food, holidays, days out etc. Hell, I even feel guilty when I encourage their father to step up and have them more!

Take an incident this week for example…

My children’s father had agreed to have them on Friday and take one to a party she’d been invited to. He was meant to arrive at ten to be there on time. This was my day to work. That morning he announced he couldn’t come at that time, cue me (why not him??) scrambling around trying to arrange transport to the party and work out why he thought it was ok to drop this on me an hour before he was due to arrive.

Also cue me feeling guilty because neither child wanted to go to him for the weekend and were quite happy he wasn’t coming.

In moments like this I want to scoop them up and not make them go. But is that really the best thing for any of us?

After a lot of cross words from me, he finally came and collected them much later than agreed. When I packed their bags I snuck their school uniforms in the bag with the idea of telling him he should take them to school on Monday (they were due back with me Sunday afternoon) given I’d lost work time that day.

This didn’t feel ideal at all given I’d not told the children this, but I’m at the point where I feel forced to take drastic measures to get him to step up and take his parenting responsibilities seriously. Not only does it impact my working time and ability to make money but it also demonstrates to the children that they are not his priority.

After a quite spectacular row and him venting on me what I suspect is his anger at himself, he agreed to take them to school (something he never does). This feels important in so many ways…

First, because his children need to experience him having an active role in ALL aspects of their lives. Not just being a fun daddy (or not) for 1.5 days a week.

Currently I organise everything for them:

  • School stuff –  homework, spellings, reading, trips, dinner money
  • Activities – forest school, violin lessons, dancing, play dates, sleepovers, parties
  • Emotional well-being – sportscasting, processing, talking, listening
  • Physical wellbeing – making elderberry syrup, ensuring they don’t eat too much shit, talking to them about looking after their bodies…the list goes on.

Second, because my kids want to home educate at some point and there’s no way I can do that on my own. The more engaged he becomes in ALL aspects of their education now, the more chance we have of making that a reality for them instead of a promise that’ll never happen.

Third, because I want them to have a relationship with their father and experience him as just as capable of meeting their needs – albeit in different ways – as me…or do I?

This is the tricky bit. Whilst part of me, of course, wants this for them – hell my relationship with my own father was a once a fortnight job that didn’t feel enough – another part of me wants to keep them away from him and his influence!!

I want to be their number one. Not ideal! I suspect from hearing other women talk that this is common.

Letting go of our children is really difficult, who are WE, after all, if we’re not their everything? When motherhood demands so much sacrifice from us how do we be ‘us’ when we are only ever defined through our children?

No wonder we have feelings of guilt for giving them to other adults to look after – even when it’s their other parent, for fuck’s sake. It feels like a massive taboo…

Society tells us that mothers shouldn’t want to do that; that mothers should be the primary caregiver. Mothering as a verb comes with an implicit all-encompassing assumption that your children are your entire world.

We are ALL sold down the river by these narratives…

Fathers because they assume there is no place for them other than as a bit part actor to the mothers leading role. This then often stops them learning or having the confidence to step up and parent their kids and develop a strong relationship with their children accross all areas of their lives.

For the kids, well they often don’t get to see the model of both parents stepping up and parenting them competently (and incompetently at times!) which then repeats the narratives of whose job child rearing is when they become adults themselves. It also denies them strong loving and more complete bonds with their fathers which will sustain them throughout life.

Mothers because it is unrealistic to expect or want one person to be another person’s everything. That’s symbiosis and doesn’t end well for either party. Mothers need time and space for themselves aside from their kids.

The guilt we often feel though is pervasive and is based on the strength of the narratives that outline what motherhood is meant to look like in our society.

When we can’t or no longer want to live by these narratives, guilt is the common consequence. How dare we step outside of those narratives and define motherhood differently?

Sadly most of the time it is other women who are our worst enemies.

We’ve certainly had the biggest anti-feminist responses from other mothers. Is this because so many of us feel the pull of this all-encompassing guilt and we’d do anything to avoid feeling it ourselves including judging others when they step outside of the ‘good mother’ role?

So what happened in my weekend situation?

Well, after I’d been told that I was like a witch stirring a cauldron trying to come up with new ways to make his life difficult (Like really??!! Like I don’t have enough on already??!! Like asking the father of my children who cost me half a working day to compensate that by having his own children and taking them to school constitutes some kind of black magic??!!), he sorted himself out. Made their pack lunches, had them overnight and took them to school the next morning!

On talking to him afterwards I could see the pride that he’d done it, the delight that they’d enjoyed it so much and his confidence on a high. He also enjoyed telling me they wanted him to pick them up and go home with him that night! (That’s a whole other world of pain and panic in letting go of them for another post!!).

For now, I’m getting over the exhaustion of standing up to him, the anxiety about insisting he be more to them and enjoying their obvious enjoyment that ‘Daddy did it’ and Daddy gave enough of a shit to do some hard stuff.

I am also, as always, extremely grateful to Lea, who shows me where I need to face my own hard stuff around letting go, and supports me through it all, despite the tears and flouncings that often accompany it. She’s a wise one that girl…not least because she aint bending to pick up any goddam guilt. Now that is something to aspire to!

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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Should The Children Always Come First?

Should The Children Always Come First?

I believe that making our children the centre of our universe is not the kind of parenting approach that benefits them most to prepare them for the world they’ll be living in as adults. Why not? I can think of at least 3 main reasons…

1. Because in the ‘real’ adult world, everything does not and will not revolve around them…

[This is an excellent talk about how recent parenting strategies have failed millenials going into the workplace of today].

Bringing up our children to believe that they are the centre of the universe and everyone should treat them thus, only sets them up for a rude awakening when they grow up to realise that very few other people consider them to be the centre of the universe around which everything else revolves.

2. Because it benefits our children when we are the healthiest, happiest, whole versions of ourselves…

To do this, we need to ensure we meet our own needs in ALL areas of our lives – health, career, emotional wellness, physical health, significant other relationships and more. At times, this means we will need to prioritise ourselves so that we have enough energy, love and resources to meet our children’s needs, from a place of full-ness rather than empty-ness.

“You can’t give what you don’t have.”

3. Because as mothers of girls, and as feminists who believe in the equality of genders, it’s imperative that we model the kind of life we want our girls to know it is ok to lead for themselves as women.

Which means showing and modelling for them that it’s not just ok but absolutely necessary to meet their own needs and sometimes put those needs first.

Please do not mistakenly assume that at any time we neglect or ignore the needs of our children…

Our primary goal is to ensure that they too are the healthiest, happiest children (people) they can be – and I believe a key part of that is having parents who model what healthy and happy looks like. 

So being in a relationship together, expressing our love physically and verbally to each other, and wanting to spend alone time together as we do has become a priority for us.

Though this is not at the expense of the children who are usually with their fathers or sometimes grandparents; we typically schedule the entire week (year) around their needs, fitting in our work together, our alone time together as well as admin, grocery shopping and household stuff in the time that they aren’t with us.

We have received some flak for this – accused of being selfish, irresponsible and ‘just fucking about’. Frustratingly this has often been from other women and mothers (though that last was is from an ex).

I get it..

I know that for many women their role as a mother defines them; and in the absence of continuing or pursuing their career, the role of motherhood becomes a key part of their identity.

Who are you if you’re not a mother?

It requires trust that our children are actually ok and can survive without us being the sole centre of their universe.

It requires trust that other adults can be and are responsible and trusted enough to meet the needs of our children – yes, even their fathers who may not have not had a huge role in their lives to date (alongside some serious ‘training’ and support, where necessary).

Because the positives of this approach are many…

The children’s relationships with their fathers are better for seeing them frequently – for us letting them go and entrusting their fathers to be their equal parent.

And for girls and boys, I think it’s hugely important to see and have a male role model effectively be the parent to their children and to see their mothers also creating a life for themselves beyond children and being a mother.

And while we absolutely don’t have it all worked out, at times we can console ourselves with evidence that we’re not (hopefully) fucking them up too badly!

Our eldest 2 girls are best friends. The youngest 2 have a fun, cheeky and boisterous relationship and consider themselves best friends too.

As a 4, they think of themselves as a little wolf pack and it’s obvious to see the bonds between them when they’re out in the world and faced with threats. They pull together brilliantly as a pack, get confidence and ground from each other and their approaches provide endless opportunities to learn from and see how they each deal with similar situations.

But this is NEVER easy…

Balancing the needs of all the children and adults in the dynamic is an ongoing work in progress and has resulted in many a HUGE bust-up (between us and our exes).

We have to address ongoing feelings of guilt (Becky) and feelings of jealousy (adults and children)…but more on that in the next post!

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Still The One

Still The One

So what are the things we do that we credit with us still being together, still loving each other and still wanting to have sex with each other more now than in the beginning?!

As we head towards the 3rd anniversary of radically changing our lives we’re in a pensive mood here at LemonAid HQ…

How the heck did we get here?! How on Earth have we navigated our way through the turbulent emotions – our present ones, our past ones and our kids?!

While sometimes it might feel as though we are stumbling along blindly hoping for the best, there are certain things that have kept us on the same team, moving forward as a unit of six…albeit a unit with 12 legs that seem to be attempting to wander off in a variety of directions!

So this week we thought we’d share with you what’s worked for us over the past two and a half odd years – what’s kept us together, and how we’ve just about managed to work through the frequent flouncing, tears and tantrums.

To quote the underquoted Bridget Jones, please know this is not written from a ‘smug married’ place!!!! AT ALL. Hell we’re not even married yet! There are probably a zillion more strops before we make it up the aisle! We’re also under no illusions that we’ll be two brides who periodically still flounce off on our path to ‘Happy Ever After’!

No, this is from an ‘every day we work at this shit’ kinda place, a ‘Jesus H Christ we’re having THIS argument again’ place and a ‘Ohhhh, look how much easier things are when we do it this way – if only it hadn’t taken 356 times of doing it badly to realise it’ place!

Commit, Commit, Commit…

The most important thing we’ve both brought to the table is a commitment to working through the tough times together, including dealing with our emotional worlds and turbulent childhoods. However, that commitment gets sorely tested when we’re both massively triggered by our stuff and we’ve needed more than just the fine words of ‘we want to work through this’.

I’ve been in therapy for years on and off, and very early days when we were first discussing Lea’s adoption and the ways it may have affected her she decided to see a therapist too (OK, I may have ‘suggested’ it!). 

It’s been hugely beneficial – knowing that we each have a space and a person that is ours, outside of the relationship, to process our emotional stuff with. For it not to feel one-sided, where one of us relies solely on the relationship for that processing.

Process, Process, Process…

Coupled with that is our mutual ‘processing’ – trying to figure out what’s is going on between us, especially when we get triggered; that is, when we fly off the handle about something in the present moment that reminds us of or triggers past feelings and experiences. This feels like the biggest aid to us working through stuff together.

Therapy is only once a week or once a fortnight which means there’s still the space to hide, for things not to be addressed or even come up with our therapists. In a relationship, everything gets seen, raised, triggered. Frequently!

A classic example are my intimacy issues – my inability to let love and sex go together. I’m not sure this would have been easy or as quick to unravel in therapy. Being confronted with my intimacy issues and the ways I would try to avoid an intimate connection with Lea on a daily basis made it impossible to sweep under the proverbial rug!

Sportscast, Sportscast, Sportscast…

With the kids, the biggest tool we have used to help us and them to navigate their emotions has been sportscasting.

Originally used by childcare expert Janet Lansbury to help younger children by literally sportscasting what was physically going on “Ruby took the toy from you and you hadn’t finished playing with it.” – we go a step further and use it to help our children work out what they are feeling and why: “You’re hitting your sister, I’m wondering if you feel embarrassed because she laughed at your song.”

We have seen all of them in their different ways learn to be more direct, less passive aggressive and become more able to express themselves (including the shadow emotions of anger, jealousy, shame, embarrassment etc).

The ability to name and own their feelings usually shortens the time they spend angry and upset, and teaches them new ways to be (ways that many adults, myself included, often struggle with!).

Us, Us, Us…

The final thing that has been of such importance (although I’ve found this one the most difficult) has been the ability to treat ourselves, as a couple, as the strong and primary unit at the heart of the family, rather than act as two individual sets of three musketeers.

This has involved prioritising our relationship at times, and for me, dealing with a shed load of guilt! But that’s a whole other story, for next time…

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Night At The Circus

Night At The Circus

We wrote these letters after a Christmas night out with fellow LemonAiders, that also turned into a celebration of us being newly engaged. There was a fair bit of Becky’s stuff around and Lea felt she’d had a night at Becky’s personal Circus…

Dear Becky,

I found last night really, really hard. For a large part of the evening, I felt totally disconnected from you – like it wouldn’t have really mattered whether I was there or not – and wanted to head back to the hotel (or more ideally my bedroom at home aka my womb!) on my own.

It started at dinner – there was a point at which you were regaling a story and I asked you a question about what had happened. You seemingly didn’t hear me and didn’t answer, so I asked you again. No response, again. At this point, I tugged your sleeve/tapped you on the arm to get your attention but still couldn’t get it so I gave up.

Obviously, there’s an adoption trigger for me there – about not being heard/having no impact – but I was mostly pissed off. I could see/feel you behind your defences – the loud, brash, crude Becky – and as we’d previously talked about this, I so desperately wanted you to show more of the ‘real’ you that I am lucky to see behind the defences.

It continued throughout the evening as things got louder and louder, and cruder and cruder around our table. While I have no problem with swearing or crude language – as you well know! – and I’m rarely the one who cares about what anyone else thinks, to have to put my hand on your arm and suggest that ‘we’ might need to tone it down a little was, I felt, going to be a tricky thing to do and could well cause some kind of argument between us, if not in that moment but most definitely after the event.

But I did it anyway, because my needs – as the more classic introvert of the two of us! – felt like they were being totally overwhelmed and overlooked at the expense of others.

It feels like we’ve been working so hard to ‘be’ more ourselves with each other…how can we do this around others too? xxx

Dear Lea,

Whilst I’m tempted to reply thus…

Dear Lea, I’m sorry you feel this way. It’s clearly all your stuff. Maybe you should see your therapist more often? I am comedy gold and I must give of myself to my adoring crowd. Get used to it love! This is what being with an alpha narcissist is all about 😉 Xxx

However, the reality is very different…

Oooooh that’s hard to read. I can’t deny it as we’ve talked about this pattern of mine before. I had no idea that you had tried to get my attention AT ALL! That feels pretty shitty. I think by then I was far too carried away in the crudity and banter to even notice. I think I get something pretty powerful from these group encounters where the rude, witty repartee feels like it’s everything and the real me slips further from view.

Some of this is connected to my belief that just being me is not enough. As a child of parents with strong narcissistic traits, I felt that who I was depended on who they needed me to be. It was never about who I ACTUALLY was. The ‘real’ me got lost. Inevitably, growing into an adult, those patterns learnt in childhood – to be what others need at the expense of myself – continued, but the need to be seen, to be noticed, had to come out somewhere. Being the clown, using my humour as a defence to continue covering up the real me but to get some kind of attention – albeit not the kind I really wanted – became highly addictive. So addictive that whilst using this drug I seemingly have little awareness of what’s going on outside of my own personal circus!

I’m hopeful that the swing into my own narcissism is not a permanent one and that gradually, as I start to meet my own needs in healthier ways, I won’t crave this shallow, all-encompassing, spurious, unfulfilling type of attention anymore. As we know, this still happens between the two of us, when I slip into my defences – fearful of intimacy in all its forms.

However, we also have many more moments now where, as you say, you get to see the real me, behind all those many defensive layers. Not only do you see me, you tell me it is a privilege to see me and that you’d like to see me more!! Scary, (yet deeply exhilarating) times!!!!

I think another part of the extremeness of my behaviour that night was because it was only a few days since you had proposed to me, which sent me off in a massive spin! More intimacy, having to hold the fact that you had publicly declared your love for me, the fear that I didn’t deserve it or that you just hadn’t seen all the awful bits of me yet etc all got massively triggered and it probably felt much safer to retreat into Bozo’s clown shoes than hold that level of intimacy within a group of people eager to congratulate us!

So, I’m very sorry that the real me felt the need to hide so much on our night out. I think I know that the real source of much of my angst is a lack of self-love and that feels intimately entwined with the narcissism . Work in progress as they say. Please know that I desperately want to be the real me, as much of the time as I can xxx

This Letter’s Soundtrack…

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Step By Step (Parenting)

We went for a walk in the woods yesterday. All six of us. Nothing very unusual there given we are forest school types…But it struck me as we were taking moody wintery shots of the kids climbing trees and Lea was helping them climb higher, that I am a step-parent.

Now this might seem obvious to you, and I know I’m often a bit late to the party – I still say ‘Oh my god I’m a lesbian’ to myself fairly frequently – but this recognition was a little overwhelming!

Some of this no doubt comes from the fact that I’m in therapy, currently working on my own emotional and childhood ‘stuff’ so I don’t feel I can parent my own children let alone be any kind of useful influence on anyone else’s!

What I’m learning, slowly, with my own children is that the patterns most familiar to me from how I was parented really can be changed.

Being part of a blended family is interesting since you get another parent’s up close and personal insights into your own parenting beliefs, skills and decisions. Scary, but bloody useful!

When a break up happens its hard not to feel like you need to protect your offspring, especially as they didn’t ask for any of what happened.

For both of us, that sense was exacerbated by the fact that our own parents had dramatically separated – when I was six and when Lea was 4 – so we both knew all the feelings we’d had to bottle up then that are still trying to come out now!!

In the early days, this was my energy whenever we were together with the children – that we were two separate families of three. This feels inevitable when you’re dealing with the fallout from the initial separation and are unsure where the new relationship is going (although I think Lea and I always knew!).

However, there comes a point where we (Lea) realised we really needed to be thinking about us as a unit (family) of six, not just the three amigos x 2.

I resisted this, for many reasons…

Some of them connected to my stuff – I feel I have experienced a symbiotic relationship with my mother where it felt that she needed me to need her, and I consequently feel that I can’t do things for myself. I think I have unconsciously been doing the same thing to my children.

I have a belief that somehow they’re not ok, they won’t be ok and that I need to protect them from the big bad world. This has all been very unconscious and very insidious so probably not noticeable, except to the person in a relationship with me noticing the different ways we parent,  and the different beliefs we both carry around with us.

In the two and a half years we’ve been together we’ve had many, many rows around the children…

  • Whose (family’s) needs are prioritised and come first? Mine because my children are at school and our schedule is less flexible?
  • How do we meet each children’s needs, and their needs as a unit? Especially given the narratives each child has (more on those below!)
  • How do we meet our own individual needs, and our needs as a couple? How much child-free time are we ‘allowed’?

These days these themes can still be the biggest source of arguments between us but I think we’re far more on the same page now…

  • Yes, we DO deserve child-free time without feeling guilty we’re not, for once, prioritising the children.
  • WE, that is the two adults, are the vital unit to prioritise…to work together as a team, to present ourselves to the children as a team; when we are strong, they’re strong and we’re ALL strong together.
  • Encouraging healthy separation, individuation and building up their own trust and confidence in them each as individuals is our priority as one of their main parenting units.

From speaking to people we know, it seems to be a common strategy when parents split up: Try and protect the children from everything: seeing stuff, feeling stuff, hearing stuff. Gather them in. Hold them even closer. 

When we, as parents, are left reeling from what has happened and are trying to make sense of it ourselves, how the hell are we supposed to help our children make sense of it?!

Well I won’t deny that I’m a big believer in therapy. Ok, more than that, I think it should be compulsory for everyone, that emotional management has far more use and relevance to us than many of the things we learn at school.

We’ve both worked hard – in therapy individually, and by processing things together – to understand the dynamics, patterns and narratives for ourselves and for each of the children…

  • One child has the narrative that she needs to be different/special in order to be loved; she takes up much of the airtime and energy away from the others and can be extremely violent, rageful and aggressive towards everyone when a boundary is put in place and held.
  • One child has always felt that her brother is the priority and loved more than she is (her exact narrative, as she so directly articulated is “I wasn’t good enough so you had to have another baby” 😱).
  • One child feels acutely inferior and ‘not good enough’ in every way; and another feels that his sister is better at everything than he is. (More on how we worked out their, and our narratives in later posts!)

It has been hard for me to hear that my children’s narratives may stem, at least in part, from me recreating the symbiotic dynamic I feel I had with my mother. It has taken many conversations, much processing, both with Lea and in therapy for me get a handle on it all and sometimes I still want to tell Lea it’s nothing to do with me, that it’s all her stuff! But as I’ve been starting to let go and do things differently I can literally FEEL those truths. 

Trust seems to be my life lesson, gah! And learning to trust my children, let alone myself, to believe that all of us are ok. That we’re not damaged, useless individuals, has been hard. Especially when I still feel damaged and useless myself.

It sounds terrible that somehow that’s how I’ve viewed my kids but deep down I think that’s what’s been going on. Because I don’t feel ok about myself, as some kind of extension of me, somehow they’re not ok either. Remembering that they’re not one of my limbs but their own people helps me separate that out and not engage in that symbiotic dynamic.

 Working on this – for myself and for my own children – is a MUST if I’m also going to have to step up and be a step parent to Lea’s kids too!

Down To The Bottom (Of It All)

Down To The Bottom (Of It All)

Dear you,

Good question! How exactly have we managed to stay together for 2 years, given the potentially explosive nature of our stuff – how Becky’s shit triggers mine and mine triggers hers- and with the kids in the mix?! One of the most useful tools we’ve discovered is…

Sportscasting! WTF is sportscasting you might ask? (as has many a friend when I’ve mentioned it!).

I first heard the term when my kids were little from Janet Lansbury, a huge proponent of respectful parenting. She describes it as a “just the facts” verbalisation of what’s going on for a child without taking over. It’s not about judging, fixing, shaming or blaming but giving them the “space they need to continue struggling until they either solve a problem or decide to let go and move on to something else.”

For example, saying “You’re working very hard on fitting that puzzle piece. You seem frustrated.” rather than rushing in to fit the piece for them. It’s an acknowledgment that they’re seen, understood and empowered to continue to work things out for themselves with support if needed.

We use this approach with the children in a slightly different way these days, but we also use it for ourselves to get out of the drama our stuff seems to entangle us in frequently…I’m pretty sure it’s what has saved us from even more flounces, dumpings and huge bust-ups than have already occurred!!

It’s been useful when we seem to keep having the same argument over and over again.

It’s been relationship-saving when one of us is stuck knee-deep in a long-held but highly destructive narrative that might cause us to engineer a relationship-ending argument.

It’s helped us each reach the other person, kindly and with love, without that person feeling like they have to ‘give in’ or concede.

It’s been the single most effective way to get out of child, parent, victim, rescuer or perpetrator state (yep, heavily pulling from Transactional Analysis and Karpman’s Drama Triangle there), and back into adult where we can see things more calmly and in a less emotionally-fuelled state.

So what does it actually look like in practice?

It’s a pretty simple technique on the surface but takes quite a bit of practice to get right when you first start doing it…

For example, take this morning as we were both writing these letters – me to you, Becky to her friend. Becky was in danger of flouncing off – annoyed that we were ‘constrained’ to writing in letter format and pissed off that we were writing about something she didn’t feel like writing about today.

Sportscasting what I thought might actually be underneath/behind all of this, I said “But do you think it’s because letters feel (and are) more personal? And you’d rather keep things at arm’s length, especially when they still feel too raw, too close or too personal?”.

Or going back to the early days of our relationship when separation anxiety was rife, I’d often become (even more – as Becky would probably say) aloof, engineer arguments or be unnecessarily mean because of our impending separation. Rather than buying into the drama, engaging in the provocation and arguing, whenever Becky took a step back and sportscasted what was going on – “Is this about separation? Are you needing to separate from me?” – it all became clearer.

Followed up with “So now you have a choice – either stay in your narrative or triggered place, or choose to spend the time we have together in a loving way”…as frustrating and annoying as that can be, it was and is a great way to nudge someone back towards their adult place again!

While it wasn’t (and still isn’t) always easy to own what is really going on beneath the surface, the relief, gratitude, and sense of being held and still loved are worth the uncomfortable feelings of embarrassment, shame, or anger that someone else has truly seen you and helped you verbalise what might be going on for you.

But we don’t always get it right and – as we’ve discovered – there’s a fine line between ‘telling’ someone what’s going on for them versus allowing them to identify and confirm for themselves what’s actually going on. Get it wrong and it leads to more explosive fireworks between us “Who the fuck are you to tell me that’s what’s happening?” “What makes you the expert on me?”. Ouch.

But get it right, and it’s becoming easier and easier to own our stuff and what’s at the root of some of our patterns with less shame, less embarrassment and a feeling that – just because someone else has seen it first, it doesn’t make us weaker or give them more power. It’s made for the most open, honest, authentic and vulnerable relationship of my life.

Dear You,

Yes, you’re right! The kids and how we all come together as a six – especially as we don’t live together – is one of the things people are most curious about in our new blended family.

It can feel like a potential minefield helping four under 10s adjust to their new life and family situation. As we’ve already discussed, there’s nothing like a big life change to not only throw up new stuff but also highlight existing dynamics based on all our emotional baggage.

You know that Lea and I have a raftful of our own pre-existing stuff that we’re both currently contending with in therapy, and one of the themes for both of us around that stuff has been not knowing and uncertainty.

It seems pretty obvious then that our way of broaching our life change and its impact on the children’s existing narratives – the stories they tell themselves about who they are, how their world works and their sense of self – is about transparency, knowing and comprehension.

Do you remember when we first came across Janet Lansbury, the parenting educator? (Incidentally she’s rooted in Magda Gerber’s RIE conscious parenting approach that my cousin, Sarah is writing a book about).

Well, when we first discovered her we were obsessed with the techniques of sportscasting and used it loads with our then toddlers, didn’t we? We had many a chortle about how useful it would be to use on the men, parents or any other difficult people in our lives!!!

Well, it’s this sportscasting approach that has helped us so much with our children. Yes, even now they’re not toddlers – in fact especially now they’re not toddlers! Janet Lansbury’s work seems to be aimed at younger children and I’ve not been able to find anything about continuing to use it throughout their lives and with adults too and yet this seems so useful to everyone.

When we reflected back to our toddlers the facts of what was going on in a non-judgemental, factual way, as a narrator or sportscaster might do, the idea was to empower our children to figure things out and resolve things for themselves. The same is true now, although it feels like we get to a much deeper layer these days as we try and figure out what might be going on for them on a more emotional level – and whether they’re responding from within their narratives.

Narratives have been really important to get to grips with as they are essentially the lens through which they view everything else…

For one of them this centres around the belief that they play second fiddle to their younger sibling (they even verbally expressed that they thought the sibling was wanted as a second child because they themselves weren’t good enough ?), for another the focus is on them not being special or good enough to have air time or attention, and for the youngest two it seems to be the belief that they have to be different or special to be loved and that they will never be as good at things as their older sibling and that it’s not ok to make mistakes when they try.

Layered on top of these narratives are their additional anxieties around parental separation and new relationships and step siblings.

Sportscasting enables us to discuss with each of them what might really be going on underneath the surface behaviour of crying, shouting, lashing out, hitting, kicking, whining, etc – that often stems from their underlying narratives.

For example, “Are you feeling jealous because mummy’s spent time with your sister and you felt rejected and not as important?”, or “Are you cross because I’m cuddling your brother and you think he’s the favourite?”. Often we have to make numerous guesses at exactly what is going on, but can usually tell when we’ve got it right because they ‘feel’ its accuracy and feel understood, and confirm that to us.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a work in progress. I still struggle not to judge or attach blame or criticism at times but when it works it really changes things…

We’ve seen all four of them become more comfortable discussing emotions, be able to better access what’s going on for them more quickly and express this, understand the lingo around their own and others’ narratives, admit when they’ve been triggered, feel less embarrassed that their stuff has been seen, more able to discuss their emotions in a matter of fact way, and generally come out of their triggered places much more quickly.

These skills that they’re learning and the ability to talk so freely about their emotions feels to us like some of the most important tools we are equipping them with for adulthood, and sportscasting continues to be a really useful means of doing this, with their stuff and our own!

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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Kill ‘Em With Kindness

Kill ‘Em With Kindness

Dear You,

Sorry for the delay in writing back. The article that Lea posted on feminism sparked some unexpected controversy with two of our friends so we’ve been a bit ‘self absorbed’ working out what was really going on beneath the surface and whose shit was whose!!

In a nutshell they took issue with the references in Lea’s article regarding the fairness of our ex’s having their own children EVERY weekend. I found this really difficult to hear.

As you know I have struggled with massive guilt about letting go of my kids to the degree that I have. Encouraging them to have regular and consistent time with their dad who obviously does things differently from me, felt really hard. Letting go also meant facing who I am without them, which after 8 years I didn’t actually know. Scary times.

I was really going to try and not defend myself to you – thereby exhibiting my ever present guilt – but I just can’t quite do it so I’ll get that out of the way now! One of the accusations levelled at us was questioning when the fathers manage to ‘self actualise’, to find love and create their own blended families, especially if they have their children every weekend. I was really quite stunned that someone who knew so little about my personal childcare arrangements could be quite so rude.

My reply was thus: “I think my ex’s self actualisation comes Monday to Friday daytime plus the five and sometimes six nights a week he doesn’t have the children. He is currently on his second relationship since our split and my children are part of his new blended family in which he is, at least for now, the house husband. He seems to be managing pretty well wouldn’t you say?!”

I found it really difficult that a woman who regularly posts feminist memes and clearly identifies herself thus could rush to rescue the males in this dynamic quite so readily.

Given how hard I (and I suspect scores of other women) find it to poke my head up above the parapet and try and own the fact that I want a life for myself too, that I want to self actualise, that I think it’s healthy for my kids to see me doing that and to have their father parent them just as (in)competently as me, I feel devastated that I should be so readily shot down by a friend, a feminist, a mother. As my therapist declared ‘women are often the biggest threat to feminism’.

So I’m in a shamed place. Shamed for daring to consider my own needs ahead of (although I don’t think that’s true!) my ex’s, shamed for having…drum roll…child free time (cue much tutting and head shaking or repeated comments about how lucky I am).

Believe me, it’s not luck that has created this child-free time; it is intentional, repetitive and practised behaviour and action. It hasn’t been easy on many fronts to help my ex parent his children from a foundation of almost zero parenting experience and carve out this child-free time for myself – from the weekly emails to him discussing where the kids are emotionally and how to handle it, to the odd feeling in my house with just me in it, to the guilt when I am enjoying myself without them and daring to self actualise!

But hey, shame loses its power when we share it with another – so Lea and my Lemonaid adventure feel really important to me. However, they tried to shame us for doing that too…

Suggesting if it were them that they’d “get a court order to shut us up” felt like the kind of comment a well-known US president might make – NOT a female friend – and it had an impact. I doubted whether I was ‘allowed’ to have a voice, to talk about my experiences and the full gamut of emotions this midlife awakening is having. That’s why this letter is late – it is, quite literally, shamefully late.

You know I’m a people pleaser; that I find it hard to be boundaried and not consider everyone else’s needs before mine so even after all of this, it was difficult for me to unfriend the people concerned, or respond further to their messages. However, it is done and for my own sake (see there I go again, putting my own needs first! Jesus – so bloody selfish! Interestingly these days I see selfish in different terms – as a form of necessary self care).

Kill em with kindness’ feels like an interesting phrase that makes me consider what kindness really is. They certainly wouldn’t describe our behaviour as kind, but why? Is challenging people’s behaviour when they post angry and passive aggressive remarks on a public and personal thread unkind? Is being willing to talk about publicly or privately what might really be going on with a view to resolving it and remaining friends unkind? I don’t think so (and believe me I constantly analyse my behaviour and find it wanting!!).

I find it difficult that directness is construed as confrontational, when really it’s about simplified, honest, communication, which to me feels like the best form of kindness. After Lea and I had both been direct and honest in our replies we were interrupted with a comment from the second woman in defence of the first of “I don’t like to see anyone getting upset or hurt”! We hadn’t been unkind, malicious or personally attacking in any way – we had responded to what had been veiled personal attacks on us (which was later clarified and confirmed in a personal message to a third party).

Her comment – that she didn’t like to see others getting upset – on the face of it implies kindness, but frankly that kind of kindness I can live without. This inability to differentiate between directness and passive aggression and to hold disagreement or challenge led her to send the most unutterably offensive remarks to a third party (behind our backs), whilst simultaneously messaging me ‘kind’ utterances about how it would be nice if we could just move past this and be friends! I was, quite frankly, at a loss for words by that point.

The scariest thing about all of this is that all the above feels like a smokescreen for what was really going on…

I think for a long time I was admitted to a victim club with these friends. This was a club that although I didn’t want to partake in, I sometimes did. My own health condition meant that in between trying to take responsibility, I’d have moments of feeling really sorry for myself and thus joining the ranks of the ‘Poor Old Me’s’.

Victim clubs thrive on others staying in static places with them so no one has to look at what they’re doing or not doing that enables such behaviour to persist. In finally choosing to step out of this club and begin a relationship with Lea (never described as a victim) Woodward I think they were confused and possibly a little threatened.

Often women seem to be triggered by Lea and what she represents and I think that is certainly true here. In Lea asking a direct and pretty pertinent question, all hell seemed to break loose and an anger that possibly already existed was tapped into…

Dear you,

Remember I told you I’d written a post about all the feminist stuff we’ve talked about over the past few months? Well it caused all sorts of enlightening events this past weekend! Both Becky, my ex and I were dragged into a vortex of other peoples’ stuff in the most frustrating of ways…

What became abundantly clear though, was quite how strong a reaction I appear to provoke in some people (women) because of my beliefs, values, behaviour and how feminist I am (yes, you read that right).

As you know, one of the reasons I wrote the post is the shock I continue to feel that so many women around me are still playing out the very conventional, traditional roles of primary homemaker and parent, despite banging the feminist drum.

I won’t repeat the contents of that post (you can read it here if you like), but suffice to say, I’m coming round to the conclusion that, when it comes to feminism in ACTION (and not just paying lip service to it), women are often the most guilty of holding back the movement towards greater or even full equality, for themselves (and others, if this experience is anything to go by).

If this has resulted in anything, it’s been the enlightening awareness of quite how other people (women, mostly) experience me. And not in a positive way…

When one acquaintance worries about my ex’s “self actualisation” because he’s having the children every weekend and another jokes to my ex about getting a court order to “shut them up” and suggests he “tell her (me) to blog about something else” it’s clear – to me at least – that there’s a huge amount of – anger? Resentment? I’m not really sure what – but something that feeds an already biased narrative about me. A narrative that puts me very much in the position of oppressor, or perpetrator (in the Drama Triangle) or more simply “bitch from hell” ?  Why?

…Because I ‘force’ my ex husband to have joint responsibility for his children. Never mind the fact he actually wants to and doesn’t see any reason why he shouldn’t actually share that responsibility, equally.

…Because I control my ex husband and don’t consider his needs in my alleged ‘demands’ for him to have the children every weekend, thereby stunting his opportunity for ‘self actualisation’.

Never mind the hours and hours I’ve spent processing his emotional stuff with him – since we divorced – encouraging him to look at his ongoing patterns so he’s aware of them, their impact and can then choose to change them, with a therapist (and not me) for a neutral and safe space for him to do this. Never mind the fact I’m the one who often urges him to have better boundaries – fully aware that this’ll likely bite me on the bum when he starts to use those boundaries with me too.

…Because I have strong boundaries, fight for my space and time and don’t do guilt when I’m not the be all and end all to my children.

Never mind the fact I’ve had to let go massively to let my ex’s parents play a far bigger role in their lives than they ever have before, or likely ever would if we’d stayed together. The reasons for this are many, but primarily, I wanted my ex to be able to stand up to his parents when needed on behalf of the children before I wanted them to spend more time under their influence – as well as the children being old enough to communicate and state their needs too. Now he does, both his parents and my children benefit greatly from their relationship.

And never mind the fact that I now actively encourage him to let go of any guilt he feels at letting his parents sometimes take care of their grandchildren while he has time to himself; something he has acknowledged he finds difficult.

…Because I have made some unconventional life choices, support myself financially and exhibit what are typically thought of as the more masculine qualities.

Never mind that doing this often results in me being labelled as cold, aloof and distinctly unnurturing, despite attachment parenting both my children (from intuition and innate sense without reading any books on, or even knowing till a later date that it was even called, ‘attachment parenting’) and having a very strong nurturing and maternal side that those who truly know and see me often experience.

As a loud and proud feminist – and one who LIVES this value in almost every way I can – I am utterly incredulous that this should leave me open to such spiteful and malicious attacks from other women.

How is that helping the feminist cause?

That some women feel such a strong need to (still) rescue men in the face of feminism, and that my life choices provoke this reaction – from women and fellow mothers – utterly dumbfounds me!

If a woman who equally shares EVERYTHING with her male ex – financial responsibilities, parenting responsibilities, personal development responsibilities and more – is perceived as a threat, vilified for not apparently caring about her ex’s self actualisation enough, urged NOT to share so much about her life (even though the act of doing this is an exercise for my own self actualisation) and is essentially torn down for fully living her feminist values, what hope is there?

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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Children of Ours

Children of Ours

Hey you,

I think it’d require a book to cover the ups and downs of the journey for the kids so far. As you’d expect, mine were both devastated at the breakdown of our family unit. Even now, almost 2 years after their father and I decided to separate, they have their “I wish we were all still a family” moments, and I know Becky’s kids feel similar.

We’re pretty sure that, at times, there’s still that tiny little ray of hope for each of them that things will just go back to how they were before and that their mummy and daddy will get back together again ? 

From the very beginning – having read about how children internalise blame and (if they’re not explicitly and repeatedly told otherwise) they’ll think it’s their fault – we have worked hard to tell them none of this is their fault.

So what have we told them? I’ve focused on a few key things…

That mummy and daddy still get on and have love for each other, but not enough for us to want to be together as a couple anymore. That I will always be their mummy and daddy will always be their daddy and nothing or no-one can change that. That they get to choose how to feel at any given moment. That it’s ok to feel sad, angry and hurt. That none of this is their fault. 

And that it’s important to me that they have a model of what (I believe) a loving relationship is between 2 adults, in as holistic and rounded way as possible. So yes, that means they see Becky and I arguing, that they see us kissing, holding hands and being physically affectionate, and that they see us prioritising our relationship too.

This last one has been the hardest to find the right balance. I do NOT want to raise entitled, bratty children who think the universe revolves around them but there’s been an inevitable reaction of jealousy as the kids have experienced us sometimes prioritising our relationship and doing things together while they’ve been with their fathers. They’ve all reacted as you might expect – with rudeness, a certain amount of aggression at times and all manner of ‘playing up’ which is basically them communicating their unhappiness and powerlessness at the situation.

It’s struck me recently (DUH), quite how much this has had an impact on mine’s little lives…

The life they previously had and knew – with 2 adults who very much shared the parenting duties and had a fairly decent balance when it came to division of labour – has been totally turned upside down and on its head.

They now experience their father and I individually doing our best to parent them on our own while still working together to be on the same parenting page, despite the ups and downs of separating from each other. Funnily enough, I think it’s been more of a shock for them to experience me parenting them on their own than it has been to have had their father parenting them on his own ?

There have been positives though! One of them has been becoming far more emotionally aware of and tuned into what we’re all going through, emotionally. Both Becky and I have regular therapy sessions (separately!), mine’s father also has therapy sessions when needed and, as you obviously know by now (!!), Becky and I constantly process what’s going on, between us and with the children. Yes, it’s exhausting but it’s yielded some really interesting and useful things.

For a start, I now have a much clearer idea of the narratives both my kids have – it helps when one of them specifically has expressed some of her ‘stuff’ very coherently, eloquently and directly! As you’d expect, it’s almost always around rejection of some kind.

It’s rarely been easy – the children as a ‘theme’ have been one of the most challenging parts of the dynamic of our relationship. At the worst of times, I think they might still have the capacity to derail things in a major way as we each go into our ‘mama bear’ modes, and protect what is ours. But we work exceptionally hard to remain a strong and united front, and not be divided and conquered…

Dear You,

You’re right, you don’t embark on a midlife awakening – when you’ve got four children under 10 between you – without taking it seriously. However, if we’d thought about it too much we might never have done it!

Weighing up the pros and cons of splitting up the family dynamic my children knew, and acting ‘selfishly’ to ensure my own happiness and improved mental health wasn’t actually that difficult, when I could stop feeling guilty!

The bottom line was I didn’t want my kids to have the model of a relationship based on me and their father and I also didn’t want them to see me sacrificing my own happiness out of fear of the perceived consequences or to see me experience my entire life living a very ‘straight’ lie! (Not the greatest modelling…)

Lea and I figured that however hard they all found it, we’d deal with it. We were in love after all and with the right gender finally – so that felt like pretty big stuff in the pros column!

One of the things that gave me some confidence was the nature of my relationship with Lea. We don’t just talk about stuff, we process it to within an inch of its life!! We talk about our feelings around everything, where they come from, and why we’re triggered by certain things so we can understand each other and ourselves within the relationship better (and of course reduce the number of flouncings off, something we’re both highly skilled at!).

Between us we’ve done counsellor training, NLP, Louise Hay Teacher Training, and Lea has over a decade of coaching experience. We’re both interested in personal development and trying to understand ourselves better and we’re also both in therapy, still unravelling painful parts of our complicated childhoods. Basically, as someone once said, we’re pretty good at navel gazing (ok, that was the polite version…!)

So what does that mean for the kids? It means they get to navel gaze with us of course!

We talk with them about their emotions, their different personalities, their individual coping mechanisms and defences. We discuss the dynamics between us all, our triggers and how our individual triggers interact with everyone else’s (‘cos it’s so much fun when that happens!!).

We don’t ignore what’s going on for any of them, or hide from it. We deal with it head on. I confess I don’t always find that easy. I don’t like confrontation. Lea is the more direct communicator (except when she’s really in her stuff), I’m usually too busy feeling everything and anything.

We spend a lot of time and energy figuring out how to map a way through things by working out, together, what might be going on for the kids, seeing if our own stuff is involved, and discussing the best way to handle it as a united front. 

For the kids – as much as they sometimes roll their eyes when their mummies start talking ‘about emotions’, I think they secretly get a kick out of learning skills at such tender ages that lots of grown ups, us included at times, are pretty rubbish at!

Giving them an idea of – and helping them verbalise – what’s actually going on beneath some of the angry, hurt responses has been empowering for them in a situation in which they’ve essentially been powerless and had no say in, and we’ve already seen changes in how they deal with things because of this.

Hahahahahaha! This makes it sound like we’ve got this ALL under control, that we know what we’re doing, that we get them and their stuff and everything is rosy!! That sure as hell ain’t the case, and we have many a tantrum (especially the grown ups!) and feel like we’re making it up as we go along on a minute by minute basis!

However, I would wager that most families rarely examine what goes on underneath the surface of each other’s behaviour and typical responses, what makes every family member tick, and the patterns and dynamics that develop. So, there have been advantages to our upheaval. I know it’s taken being part of this blended family to make me see an unhealthy dynamic that I had fallen into with my children (more on that later!).

So while it certainly isn’t ever easy, we remain committed to ensuring that all four children and two mummies feel heard, loved and respected as part of our six and beyond…

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Big Magic

Big Magic

Dear you,

We’ve had an interesting few weeks. As part of my birthday present, Lea got tickets to see Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. She was running a Big Magic Event in London based on her book ‘Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear’. I was afraid!

Lea had booked a very swish hotel nearby and we got there on the Friday afternoon in time to have a Pret lunch in the park with a very tame squirrel and a small afternoon nap, before she took me out for a Lebanese dinner and a wander round Chinatown (bubble tea, who knew? Not I!). So far, so good…

We arrived at the venue the next day unsure what to expect. It was held in the Quaker building, in Friends house and we were to be in the Light room. All good signs. Yet I was nervous…

I’d read Big Magic a year earlier and had found it annoying, challenging and button pushing!! I can remember calling Lea on numerous occasions from my bathtub, indignantly ranting about some passage or other and insisting on reading said section out, spitting each word out venomously. My kids started to think ‘Bloody LIz Gilbert’ (BLG) was her real name!

And the reason for such tantrums and outbursts? Well, one of the biggest triggers was her insistence that ideas aren’t loyal. That they emerge out of the ether and search for a suitable host to bring them forth into the great universe of ideas to be magically realised. Surely that’s not so awful, I hear you cry? Ah, but you are forgetting something my friend…

Given that I’ve had an idea burning away inside me since I was in my mid twenties – an idea that I’ve never been brave enough to birth until now, some 20 odd years later – it feels more than a little unnerving to have BLG discuss my idea as some unfaithful, unloyal and fickle wee sprite, off to attach itself to another willing host if I don’t get my proverbial shit together – and the fear that maybe it already has…

Obviously, Bloody Lea Woodward (BLW) knew that behind all triggers there is damn useful learning fodder and so my present was purchased! But that wasn’t the only reason for us attending.

As you know, we’ve followed Liz Gilbert closely since we got together because nine years after Eat, Pray, Love’s romantic hetero conclusion, Liz Gilbert announced that she was in love with her, by then, terminally ill, female best friend, Rayya Elias. Following their love story whilst ours was also in its infancy was moving, poignant and ultimately painful when Rayya passed away in January this year. We identified with them and their journey, even looking vaguely like them as a couple, and to see someone find the love of their life and then lose them was a further wake-up call in our own vivid mid-life awakening.

Clearly there were a fair few other lesbian couples there who felt the same that day and that brings me onto my next issue with the day…the green eyed monster!!!

I’ve never really done jealousy before (more clues I was in the closet??!!) and yet with Lea I feel those pangs on occasion. It’s a most odd sensation in a relationship and quite disconcerting!!

To make matters worse I was in a very moony (for want of a less humiliating word) place with Lea, given that only a few days earlier we’d had quite a pivotal conversation about our relationship and the respective space we each occupy within it. This conversation deserves a whole post of its own, so I won’t dwell here, but suffice to say, I feel like I’m back at the start of our relationship; giddy, lovesick, yep there’s no less humiliating word, moony!

And yet here we were on a course with 998 other mainly women, unable to work together and Lea working with another pretty fit dyke. Seriously, this never really bothered me with men! I can even remember encouraging one of my exes to befriend his younger, fit PA, as I sensed a spark between them and thought it would make my life easier given I didn’t want to have sex with him! (Oh god that sounds so awful when I see it written down!).

On top of all this was Lea’s stuff; her utter loathing of being in a room full of people and being seen, especially when Liz was going round with a microphone and getting people to read out some of their answers and one of Lea’s partners, had her hand up wanting to read Lea’s! (I think she may have combusted had she not sat on both her partner’s said extremities and issued the Lea ‘stare of death’).

With all this emotional stuff going on as a backdrop, the workshop itself didn’t feel too taxing! We were guided through it beautifully by Liz who, still in the midst of grief, was open, warm and extremely skilled at making a room of 1000 people feel like a cosy intimate space where we could all share some pretty personal stuff, with strangers on a one to one, as well as with the whole room.

She joined in all the exercises with us which was useful (to see her examples), powerful (she’d done this process many times before and could get to the nub of things very quickly) and important as we felt she was really ‘with us’. Her relaxed and utterly authentic presenting style is still a rare one and – given that one of my core values is that people show up in my world with vulnerability – made me feel instantly trusting.

And the Big Magic? Well, the day itself was a gift in many ways – emotionally challenging, charged and thought provoking, however the really Big Magic happened after the workshop – but that’s really Lea’s magical tale to tell…

Dear you,

Yep, it was brilliant. I’m pretty sure 1,000-odd people left The Light (such a fitting name for the venue) wanting Liz Gilbert as their best friend!

The workshop itself was interesting – watching someone do their thing in such an accomplished, authentic and congruent way was worth the ticket price alone; the content of the workshop was valuable too. We basically had to write letters to ourselves from different parts of ourself – our fear, our enchantment, permission, trust and persistence.

And then we had to read each one out. To a stranger ?  She made us switch who we were sitting next to in the morning and after lunch; you can imagine my (and Becky’s) reaction to that!!

As I think back to the day though, my overriding emotion throughout was fear – probably more like terror actually. I felt highly visible, uncomfortably seen and towards the end of the day as Liz was doing a Q&A I had an overwhelming sense of being desperate to leave; and we practically ran from the venue once it was over.

This experience – the sensation of terror – in itself was the nugget of gold…in our processing after the event, it was like a download of my stuff directly into my head.

Why on earth did I feel such terror? Why did I feel so visible? Why is the prospect of being seen so utterly repulsive to me?

You know how I’ve always preferred to stay in the background – personally and professionally, avoiding the limelight and never wanting to be front and centre…why?

The answer: Because my first experience of being seen resulted in my ‘primal wound’.

The memory that felt like it was downloaded straight into my head that day was a sense that while I was in my birth mother’s womb I somehow knew I wasn’t wanted, but I had a hope – an expectation in fact – that in being seen (born) things would change and I would indeed be wanted, kept, loved and not rejected, not abandoned. Obviously that wasn’t the case and therein lies my first and fundamental experience of being seen and what happens when I am: Rejection, abandonment and separation. Ouch.

It was a powerful insight and I’m sure you can draw the same conclusions from that around my career (and personal) stuff of wanting to stay in the background, never being front and centre, so I’m never really seen.

And yet, when I look back at the letters I wrote, one common theme emerges: my desire to be more fully and wholly seen ?

As for us – Becky and I – it’s yielded all sorts of interesting insights!

On the day, we felt totally disconnected – which I think was largely down to me and my utter discomfort and need to disconnect.

And we didn’t actually read each other’s letters till a few weeks later – this past weekend in fact – which in itself was interesting and feel relevant to the whole theme of being seen and putting/having the focus on myself.

In a nutshell, Becky’s letters included a lot of me and mine didn’t include much of her!!! Although that caused a minor wobble, fundamentally I think it’s a perfect reflection of our stuff – our past experience of relationships, how we work together, and how we view our relationship together.

And no, it’s not that she’s not a feature of my life!! It’s that she’s already so embedded in my life as a defining feature, I didn’t feel the need or desire to make that explicit through my letters. And given there’s a current theme floating around of me finding and fighting for space and airtime, it feels like my letters – which were so unusually focused on me and no-one else – reflect that rather fittingly.

So…Big Magic indeed. And given what’s currently going on, this feels like just the beginning!

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Fireworks

Fireworks

Dear you,

It’s not all been a bed of roses. I know it can be easy to focus on the upsides, especially in the beginning when a new relationship is fresh and exciting, but there have been many difficult aspects in making this leap to totally change all our lives.

First, having the courage to end a 12-year relationship was not easy. It had been the longest relationship of my life and the man in question was my children’s father. However, I had known for a long time that things weren’t as I wanted them to be between us, and while my coming out might seem the reason for that, it was by no means the only reason and our differences were, for me, too great to try and work through. Although it was difficult at the start I think he realises now that we were both in denial, not facing up to the reality that we just weren’t in love any more and clinging onto the relative safety and security of our familiarity.

Once Lea and I were aware there was something between us, even though we didn’t know what, we knew we had to be brave and end things, not just because we wanted to give us a chance but because regardless of whether we worked out or not our relationships weren’t right for us anymore and hadn’t been for a while.

That was a difficult call to make because once we did, it meant facing up to the fact that we would be breaking up the family unit for our children. We both come from divorced parents and each have our respective emotional baggage around that. So, the idea of consciously creating emotional baggage for our own children was painful, however much we believed that in the long run it would be better for them having two happier parents.

We’ve had to navigate our way through holding four little hearts and minds, and help them come to terms with all the change that has been thrust upon them through no fault of their own. There have been many challenges, but overall we have worked tirelessly to try and ensure they all have a voice and aren’t internalising their feelings. That’s certainly how I felt as a child, and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that holding onto those painful and unresolved emotions from childhood can lead to illness and disease in later life – I have fibromyalgia ?

Helping the kids navigate their emotions has got easier as Lea and I have navigated our own, both individually and together. We were both pretty self aware when we met but being together has taken this to a whole new level! As we have processed our way through aspects of our own individual unresolved stuff and supported each other to look at our defences – the ways we hide and the games we play, often unconsciously – we have become better equipped to help our kids unpack their emotions and deal with them in a more direct and straightforward way. It’s been a steep learning curve though and continues to present challenges!

All that said, despite the difficulties, challenges and sadness I wouldn’t change any of it. I have never grown so much in so many ways – ways that have helped me grow as a parent, as a partner and as a person.

I’ve made tons of mistakes and will doubtless continue to do so, but I’m living a life that feels far more authentic, makes me feel happy and offers my children a chance to see their mother taking her own needs seriously, managing (for the most part!) to have an amicable, adult relationship with their father and helping them learn emotional skills that sadly they won’t learn at school. That’s the thing with fireworks…after the loud bang and the shock, you’re treated to something spectacular ?

Hey you,

Well, I think the hardest thing has been making sure the children are as ok as they possibly can be with what’s happened. We’ve all worked really, really, really hard to make sure they know it’s not their fault.

Navigating the dynamics of each of them individually, as siblings in a pair, and then all four of them together has been and still is a massive challenge, and can be quite triggering for us both at times especially given some of the dynamics currently playing out. I think it’s probably been one of the biggest causes of friction between us, aside from some of our own stuff. Fingers crossed that the endless sportscasting will eventually pay off (for adults and kids!!!).

The second hardest thing was obviously the ending. How do you end a 22-year relationship as smoothly and amicably as possible for all parties? From dividing house things and sorting out joint admin to agreeing how things are going to work with the kids etc., never mind the emotional stuff.

It seemed much easier in the beginning strangely, but even months later it’s still not a clean break – not sure it’s really ever going to be given the kids and some of our respective ‘stuff’. 

And then I think it’s been the realisation – from being in a new thing with someone – that we all have so much of our own shit to deal with. Obviously mine relates hugely to my adoption (rejection, abandonment and separation, as you can probably guess ?).

There’s something scarily powerful about the dynamics of being in a new relationship that will highlight all sorts of insecurities, patterns and behaviours that an existing ‘safe’ relationship just doesn’t. And being with someone who is so good at seeing my shit – sometimes before I even know anything’s going on – is both a blessing and a curse!!

But while this has been really, really hard, it’s also been one of the best and most precious things about what Becky and I have together…the ability to see through the BS and the defence mechanisms we’ve so cleverly hidden behind throughout the years to keep everyone else at bay is something I’ve never experienced with anyone before. There’s nowhere to hide and for the first time, it feels like I’m being really and truly seen for who I am by someone who gets me, sees me and loves what they see.

So yes, there have been some very tough times and there continue to be. But was it worth it and would I do it all over again? Hell yes!

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Why?

Why?

Dear You,

So why does someone straight suddenly decide age 42, to leave the father of their two kids, and begin a romantic relationship with a close same sex friend? One of the biggest reasons was that I really didn’t want to get to the end of my life and not have drunk from the furry cup!

Ok so I’m being facetious. But seriously, I consciously had the thought “would I be ok with being on my deathbed never having been with a woman?” The answer was a definite ‘no’! Given that it was something I’d fantasised about for a long time, at least sexually, and given that I have spent my life searching for someone who really got me, and men didn’t seem to fit the bill, it seemed pretty clear cut.

However, I think I would have drifted on indefinitely had I not met Lea and realised quite how much I had been surviving on breadcrumbs in many ways and how detrimental that was for all of us involved. Myself, as I felt I wasn’t honouring who I really was and what I really wanted; my ex, who really wasn’t getting what he wanted and needed from me, especially on the love, sex and romance front; and my kids who were experiencing parents who were together purely for their sake and because it felt too difficult to contemplate anything else.

For me, I think I had become so embroiled in the ‘my kids are my life’ narrative that I couldn’t see beyond it to what my needs were and why they were important – especially raising girls! The realisation that my being selfish and acting with integrity about what MY needs were was not only a good thing for me and my mental health but, at least longer term, a great example for my children of not becoming a martyr to something that really isn’t working – even for the sake of your own kids!

Not only that, but I want my girls to grow up with a great model of what a loving relationship looks like. And with the best will in the world, that wasn’t their Dad and I anymore, if it ever was. Being with Lea has shown me what real love, romance, affection and yes, wonderful intimate sex, is really all about. I haven’t experienced that before. Ever. And anyone who knows my sexual history might be surprised by that!! (Put it this way, I was making jolly sure I wasn’t straight for a really long time!)

I know you’ve thought about making a slightly different life leap for sometime and I guess what you’re asking me is ‘whether leaping is worth it or a massive mistake?! Well I know the saying goes ‘look before you leap’ but frankly sometimes your only available mode of transport is a leap of faith…and in my experience you can build your wings on the way down!

Hey you,

Good questions! Why now? Why do it at all? Why, why, why?

Well, a few things had been whirring round my head but I think the big catalyst came one day when I suddenly realised that the life I was living – 2.4 children in a country cottage with a Volvo in the driveway wasn’t exactly the one I’d seen myself living. It brought about a very definite “What the fuck am I doing?” moment which lead to the following thoughts, in no particular order…

Finally admitting to myself that I was probably gay or at least bi, and thinking to myself that there was no way I wanted to get to the end of my life and regret not ever having done something about that, would it be better to wait till the kids are older to leave? To defer my happiness for theirs? Which would be more detrimental to them – destroy their family now or later??!

If I waited, then they might then think I’ve/we’ve/they’ve been living a lie for all these years (watching the film, Elena Undone in which the teenage boy feels this way when he discovers his mother is having an affair with a woman had quite an influence on that)…and that’s not fair on me, their father or the kids to have known all this time that I wanted to make a change but not to do it. That feels like a coward’s approach.

And did I really want to wait until I’m almost 50 to be trying to find and start a new relationship when I’m well past my prime? I know how ageist that sounds but did I really want to be trying to pull a hot woman when I’m half a century old!!!

I’ve always wanted the kids to have the model of a relationship where 2 adults love each other, are attracted to each other and are in a ‘healthy’ relationship in as many ways as possible; and I think deep down I suspected that I could only do this if I were with a woman.

On many levels, their father and I ‘worked’ but having made the leap I realise that on many levels we didn’t work, and certainly not as well as things can work in a relationship. Not addressing this would have meant continuing a relationship that wasn’t best for either of us, or the kids.

I remember spending a day with some friends and feeling really uncomfortable that they were really lovey dovey after at least a decade of marriage still – snogging in front of us, wanting to touch each other constantly – it highlighted the fact that we weren’t like that, that I wasn’t sure I could be or wanted to be like that with their father but that I did want that with someone.

And ultimately, it came down to the fact that I didn’t want any regrets; I didn’t want to live a life that wasn’t what I knew I truly wanted deep down and pretend that it was ok. Once I’d fully acknowledged this to myself – that it’s not how I wanted to live for my kids and it’s not how I wanted to live for me – I knew it was time to do it sooner rather than later…and so I leapt!

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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Get Together

Get Together

Dear you,

OK OK!!! So I drop a bombshell like that and then don’t give you enough juicy details!! Well, I think I began to feel we could be good friends when she out-pooed me at Forest School!! As the queen of poo gags and double entendres I am always impressed if someone can tell a good poo story and she raised the bar…considerably! The story in question involved her then 10 month old son eating his own poo!!

We started hanging out more socially, and talking on Messenger, about all sorts of stuff. I was quite depressed at the time, remember when I first had anaemia and how I hadn’t realised for ages and just thought it was the fibro and I was just beyond exhaustion? Well this was during that time so I shared much of how I was feeling with her.

Fernfest, the mini festival at her house showed me quite how much I enjoyed her company although I still couldn’t have said I fancied her! However, I can remember talking to two girlfriends about arranging a girls’ weekend away in London to include Lea and I laughingly said how great it would be to have a lesbian encounter whilst we were there. Still refused to mentally make the connection that I meant with Lea!!!

It was Elbowgate at the cinema where our elbows brushed against each other and it felt like a lightening bolt through my body, that finally kicked everything off. However, after it had happened, she seemed to move away from me and I had a slight panic that it was because my wool coat was smelly from being in the rain!! We messaged that night and she told me she thought I was that friendly with everyone, to which I retorted I never got electricity surges from my elbow touching other people!!! She said my coat wasn’t smelly and that actually, just as I had been, she’d tried to find subtle ways for us to touch again. I didn’t see her for four days after that as I was away, but we messaged throughout that time trying to work out what the hell was going on between us.

None of this was expected or ideal. We were both still in relationships. That didn’t feel good. However, for me it made me realise quite what a half life I’d been living and how I was being cowardly for not ending the relationship with my children’s father.

That weekend we met up again and shared our first kiss. She’d prefaced it by saying that she’d been told she wasn’t a great kisser! I didn’t go into it with high hopes, frankly. Was I nervous?! Hell yeah! I’ve never kissed a girl before, but to quote Ms Perry, I liked it, and fortunately she wasn’t a shit kisser at all. Quite the opposite. It felt strangely normal, natural, because I really liked her, not just on a physical level but much more deeply than that. However, there was a voice in my head that kept saying loudly ‘Oh my god I’m a lesbian’!

And it turns out that voice in my head is quite correct, I am!! And I finally feel like me!

Hey you,

So you want details???! Hmmmm. Ok… Well, I think things started quite some time ago before either of us were really conscious of it being anything more than ‘just friends’. My first real memory of meeting Becky was at a meal for local women that she’d organised with another acquaintance of ours. One of our mutual friends invited me to come along and we had a great time on a table on our own – may have been something to do with the fact that we were the only table to have brought wine with us!!! I remember asking my friend if she’d introduce me to Becky and we had a brief chat as we left the restaurant.

We then met sporadically at forest school sessions though I’d often send Jonathan along – very much a fair-weather forester me! I think one thing that put me off was the clique-y nature of the friends she’d go to forest school with – I used to describe it to Jonathan as a witches coven from which I felt very excluded.

As I write this, I think this is the main reason I didn’t often go – that sense of not being included/not belonging and feeling really uncomfortable which obviously, as I know now, taps into my adoption stuff. But one forest school day was particularly memorable – we all went exploring in the dyke (ho ho ho!), Becky and I had more chance to chat (I think the rest of the witches coven may not have been there that day), and I think it kicked off our messenger conversations.

The messenger chats went on for quite some time, sometimes becoming quite intense. At the time, though I sensed it might be something more, I just assumed she had these kinds of conversations and this kind of relationship with all her friends! I also think this is why so many people were surprised when we came out…while we were both busy getting to know a bit more about each other and were in sporadic but fairly intimate contact with each other via messenger, no-one else really knew we were friends. In fact, a couple of mutual friends said they didn’t even realise we knew each other when we told them about ‘us’.

So fast forward to FernFest and I knew on that last day when she was literally the last to leave that something was up! We had a level of intimacy, a level of comfort, a level of connection that felt different. A week later at her daughter’s birthday party, I felt it there too.

And then there was ‘elbowgate’ at the cinema about a week later… We’d had a messenger conversation the night before where I’d disclosed a near-miss I’d had with a previous friend (am pretty sure that planted the seed and so the cougar was born!!!!), and there was a palpable tension when we met the next day. I remember feeling nervous wondering how it’d feel to see each other, seeing her in a different light though I didn’t exactly know what that light was. But she looked HOT! Black top tight black trousers, high ponytail (it turns out I’m a sucker for her high ponytails!!), it felt like instant physical attraction, but this time far more explicitly than ever before.

And when our elbows inadvertently touched… More juicy details later 😉

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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We’re Coming Out…

We’re Coming Out…

Dear you,

I’m not going to beat about the proverbial bush, great choice of pun as you’ll soon see… I’m now in a relationship with a woman!!!

Can you guess who?? You never will. Most people that know us both would never have put us together in a million years because we are so different in many ways. People have almost fallen over with shock as they didn’t even realise we were close friends, let alone soul mates, lovers or future wives!!!

Well, it’s Lea. Do you remember her? I think I once told you about her briefly because I had googled her and found her somewhat terrifying!

Well after meeting at a Women’s meal I organised I was still too terrified of her and we didn’t actually start getting to know each other until we met, several years later at the same forest school.

We then started talking properly on Messenger, not the superficial bollocks that you know I struggle with but ‘deep’ conversations!

No-one else knew, and although we got on really well I was still too scared to do much with her socially in case she saw too much of the real me and found me wanting. Yes, I know, TEDIARSE!

Then in the summer she invited me to a mini festival she and her husband were having in the grounds of their cottage. I think I knew by this stage that I was attracted to her but I couldn’t admit it to myself for many reasons. There were a few moments over the course of that festival weekend that didn’t go unnoticed to my conscious mind. I wanted to talk to her, and just her, for as long as I could, I didn’t want to go home, oh and I walked in on her in the shower!! (Come on, who leaves their ground floor bathroom door unlocked whilst wet and naked with a field full of festival goers roaming around ffs??!! Especially when some of them are un-outed lesbians).

Despite this, and the fact that I’d never felt like this about any other female friends, it never really crossed my mind that we would have anything but friendship as she was married, I was in a relationship, we had four young children between us and I presumed she was straight!

I had no idea she had set an intention to be with a woman earlier that same year, that she thought she was gay or that events would bring us together…and soon!

Cue a late night conversation where she disclosed that she had had a very ‘near miss’ with a female friend several years earlier, followed by a trip to the cinema with the kids that resulted in an explosive touch of our elbows as we sat next to each other in the dark.

But elbowgate was just the pinnacle of feelings, desires and emotions that had been deeply buried in both of us for a very long time.

Don’t misunderstand me, these feelings weren’t JUST sexual. They were about the longing for and utter joy of finding someone who really sees you, can offer you love, intimacy, connection and the potential to grow together.

And that is exactly what we have found together.

All for now, hope I haven’t blown your mind too much!! x

Hey there,

So I have some news! Becky and I are together together 🙂 Am thinking it’s probably not a huge surprise to you, given some of the other ‘experiences’ in my life that haven’t ever amounted to anything but do, I guess, point to a pattern I’ve been a part of creating…

Have I always been gay? Yes, I think (know!) so. Remember the school girl crushes I worked hard to hide? The bout of depression at 17 when I knew I wasn’t brave enough to come out and follow the path I knew I should have? Or the constant itch I thought was some sinister disease but was, I’m now quite sure, an itch I hadn’t yet scratched…quite literally?!?!

Remember I told you a few months ago that I’d set a specific intention but didn’t quite tell you what? Well, the main thing behind the intention was that I couldn’t continue living the lifestyle I was in…a 300-year old cottage in the country? A Volvo in the driveway?!? NOT the life I’d ever imagined I’d live and it felt so very far away from what I knew I really wanted which, when I finally admitted it to myself, was to be in a relationship with a woman.

So that was the intention I set: To be in a loving, intimate relationship with a woman, who probably had her own children so she’d understand what that meant and how it impacted life.

And lo and behold, 5 months later, Becky and I got together 🙂

I think most of our friends have been utterly shocked and didn’t see it coming AT all. I don’t think many of them really knew we were friends, yet alone close enough friends for something like this to happen.

Although we saw each other at forest school on odd occasions, most of the time we’ve been FB messaging but it’s not ever been on that kind of basis or level either, though we have always had deep and intimate conversations about what was going on for us each.

I think I really started to twig at FernFest (did you get the photos I sent?). Might have been the fact she barged in on me in the shower on the last day or that she wouldn’t go home until everyone else had gone!!?!?!

And then when we went to the cinema a week later and had ‘elbowgate’ – a bolt of electricity when our elbows inadvertently (yeah right, Becky) touched – it was obvious there was, and I think always has been, something more between us.

So…I’m finally ‘out’. After 39 years!

More later x

This Theme’s Soundtrack…

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