Dating can be difficult, no matter what sexual orientation you are! There is so much to learn about the other person; such as your partner’s interests, music taste, and favourite food. But if you are dating someone in the closet, or you have not come out publicly yet, for whatever reason, things can become even trickier.
There may be an infinite number of reasons as to why someone may not be open about their sexual orientation. For example, the family is unaware of the reality for fear of rejection, feeling unable to come out as gay at work for fear of being fired, not coming out as bisexual to your queer community, and so on.
It’s important to point out that everyone has the right to live their lives and present themselves to the world in whichever way they please and makes them feel the most comfortable.
There is nothing wrong with being closeted and deciding not to come “out” to the rest of the world straight away.
Each individual needs to decide for themselves when is the right time to come out, and for many LGBTQ+ folks, coming out is a lifelong process that repeatedly happens, it isn’t just a one-time thing. And if yours or your partner’s sexual orientation is kept a secret, then it’s only natural that most friends and family will also have no awareness of the relationship status. So, let’s take a close look at what a discreet relationship really means for a couple.
What Does a Discreet Relationship Look Like?
Everyone in a romantic relationship should become accustomed to keeping an ongoing and honest dialogue about their feelings, likes and dislikes, needs, and boundaries. This is especially important when first getting to know someone. You need to establish when, how, and how often you will communicate as a couple. You also need to establish what you both are comfortable with romantically and sexually, and what kind of commitment you are both hoping for. If you and your partner are in a discreet gay relationship, you need to be even more diligent about making sure both of you are on the same page about what is and isn’t OK.
If your partner has decided not to reveal their sexual orientation publically to the world, it may be difficult and tricky to navigate.
Dating Someone in the Closet
If this is your first time dating someone in the closet, then here are a few tips that may help you understand how to best guide the relationship so that both of you are happy and comfortable.
Don’t take it personally
It’s important to understand and remember that this is not about you. This is an issue that preexisted you. We often like to think that we are “enough” to change a person and their outlook on their personal life. It’s so common to think that “If they love us enough then we hold the power to change the situation” or that “love will inspire and help them work through their issues”. This, unfortunately, is not usually the case, nor should you blame them for it. Everyone has their own story and their own timetime for doing things.
Don’t give ultimatums
It is completely unfair to pressure someone that isn’t ready or feels they may be in jeopardy (loss of a job or family abandonment) to move at a pace or make a decision that they are uncomfortable with. It is a personal decision that needs to come from them which, sadly, can potentially have massive repercussions.
Encourage them to get support
Instead of pressuring your partner to live up to your expectations and expression of identity, encourage them to try a support group. Some therapists are trained to work specifically with LGBTQ+ individuals. This will help them in addressing their issues with a neutral person and take some pressure off your relationship.
Don’t out them
You may find yourself getting increasingly frustrated, impatient, and your anger towards the situation may start to build up. This may lead to being tempted to “out” your partner. Don’t do it! It is extremely disrespectful, passive-aggressive, and could put your partner in harm’s way. You have to constantly respect their journey, even if you don’t like it.
Remember that you don’t have to stick around
It is important to recognise that you don’t have to stay in the relationship if it doesn’t work for you under these circumstances. You may come to the realisation that changing the situation isn’t possible, but removing yourself from it is. Sometimes you have to choose your wellbeing by leaving.
Living in secrecy is incredibly difficult and painful. People tend to only take this option when the anticipated pain of sharing the information appears to be greater than just keeping it hidden. As agonising as it is for you, remember that the person you love is living in conflict every single day. Try your best to be gentle and support your partner to the best of your ability.
Dealing With Discreet Gay Dating
An important point to always remind yourself of is that even if your relationship is not acknowledged by others, it is still significant. There is a great tendency to diminish and downplay what we cannot share with others. You can share an incredible love, have an amazing connection, and a meaningful relationship without anyone but the two of you knowing about it. It may cause a bit of uncertainty regarding the future of your relationship, but that doesn’t mean that what you are feeling in the present moment is not valid and legit.