Reader dilemma: 'My daughter saw me with the young man I live a double life with'

Advice: 'You have no idea that your daughter knew what was going on. Unless, of course, you were walking arm in arm and nuzzling each other’s necks.'

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Dear Virginia

For many years I’ve been living a bit of a double life. I’m happily married but when I go to my other offices in Bristol, I see a young man there who I have grown very fond of. He is happy with the situation – I only see him once a fortnight or so. However, recently, I was walking down the street with this man – who’s very obviously gay – and my daughter saw us. She was in Bristol on a course, and I had no idea she’d be there. I’m sure she knew what was going on – she looked stunned – but I’m at a loss to know what to do now.

Yours sincerely, Alan

Virginia says

You have absolutely no idea that your daughter knew what was going on. Not unless, of course, you were walking arm in arm and nuzzling each other’s necks. And it doesn’t sounds like that. Guilt has fired up your imagination, and you forget that all your daughter saw was you walking with a gay-looking man down the street.  And how gay-looking was he? Are you sure she could identify his sexuality from just noticing him walking along? Was he wearing a “Proud to be Gay” T-shirt? He could be any old bloke: an old friend from school, or a work-experience guy from the office who you were showing around, or anybody.

Unless you are absolutely certain that, from bumping into you, she could tell the entire story – you have a gay other life,  you’ve been having an affair with this person for years and you’ve been keeping all this from her mother – I don’t think that at this moment you need necessarily confess; unless, of course, you’re finding it all a burden and some part of you would welcome the ability to be more open about your double life.

Even if you do feel like this, I would keep quiet just at the moment if you can get away with it. But perhaps this meeting has signalled if not the need to be open, at least to take stock.

Can you really maintain this life without being found out? Should you be taking even greater steps to be secret – not even being seen anywhere in public, for a start? Or would it be politic just to introduce the existence of this man into conversation with your wife?

She doesn’t have to know anything about your sex life at this stage. You could just say you’ve become friendly with someone in Bristol and it’s a relief to have someone to chat to rather than spending your evenings in a lonely hotel room.

Only you can decide whether this surprise meeting pushes you to greater openness or greater secrecy, but one or the other is obviously in order. I tend to favour honesty, but if you feel the relationship in Bristol might, at some point, fizzle out – while you’d like your marriage to remain strong – I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.

Then again, of course, you have no idea whether your wife has some inkling of your sexuality. Some partners are astonished when their partners reveal another side to their characters. Others say: “Oh, I always suspected it. It’s nothing new to me!”

I suggest making an appointment to see a psychosexual counsellor. I’m sure it would be a relief for you to have someone you could talk to frankly and openly about your sexuality – before making a decision whether to open up about your double life or disguise it more efficiently.

Readers say...

You won’t get away with it

It can be presumed from your dilemma that you are bisexual and you believe your daughter has found out. If she has, you can assume your wife knows also, especially if some time has elapsed since you thought you were caught.

You will be able to judge whether or not your wife knows by her behaviour and, if she does, the only option you have is to come clean. On the other hand, if she doesn’t know, then give the boyfriend up straightaway and thank your lucky stars.

Malcolm

Banstead

Don’t hide your affair behind your sexuality

I am sympathetic to your cause: I have several friends who have struggled to be open about their sexuality, and it never ceases to amaze me how different things were in the UK until fairly recently – see the film Pride – and how terrible the situation continues to be for homosexuals and bisexuals in so many countries.

Homophobia and your troubled relationship with honesty aside, you seem to have glided over the real issue here, distracted by what your daughter may or may not know about your sexuality. You are cheating on your wife! So what if it’s with a man, a woman or a piglet? You are leading a double life and you need to make some choices. Is this current dalliance a conduit to coming out properly, or do you love this man? Do you want to maintain your domestic arrangements because you love day-to-day life with your wife, or to keep up appearances? How would you feel if your wife said she enjoyed family life but went elsewhere for decent sex?

You have a lot of thinking to do, and you need to seek help – both professional and personal – to work through all the issues that your affair has raised. Good luck!

Rachael

by email

Honesty’s the best policy

You say you are happily married but your actions would imply otherwise.  If you truly love your wife and daughter, you have to seriously consider sitting them down and telling them the truth. It’s likely your daughter will put two and two together, and rather than let the seeds of suspicion grow, nip this in the bud early. While it may not be easy, the trust of your loved ones is at stake. You might be surprised how far frank honesty can be accepted.

Arnold

by email

Next week's dilemma

I’m having a 40th birthday dinner but because of my desired venue, I can’t ask more than 20 friends. I want it to be special because my own mother died when she was 39. So, though for most people 40 is “just another birthday”, it’s really special to me. There are at least 30 people. I’d like to invite but I can’t fit them all in. The problem is that I know a couple of them will be extremely offended and hurt if I don’t ask them. Can you think of any way I can get round this, so that they won’t be upset? Unfortunately, I don’t think I can keep it secret.

Yours sincerely,

Willa

What would you advise Willa to do? To answer this dilemma, or to share your own problem, write to dilemmas@independent.co.uk

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