Coming Out, A Lesbian Mom and Lessons in Parenting
Disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only and are not to be considered a substitute for professional legal advice or a consultation with a lawyer.
1. Family Law Fact or Fiction (:57)
The purpose of this part of the show is to help dispel common family law myths circulating in the world. Wendy makes 3 statements, and your job is to decide whether each of them is family law fact or fiction.
If your ex-spouse remarries, under Arizona Law, you can stop paying spousal maintenance.
Fact. In Arizona, the presumption is that if your ex-spouse dies or remarries, your obligation to pay spousal support ends. However, keep in mind, before your obligation is officially ended, you must file paperwork in court asking the judge to terminate the spousal maintenance order.
In Arizona, even if you lose your job, you still must pay child support.
Fact. Your obligation to pay child support continues as long as there is a court order in effect saying you have to pay. In order to get that changed, you must file paperwork in court and have a judge approve your request.
If you have sole legal decision-making authority (sole custody) over your children, while they are in your ex’s care, your ex cannot take them to the doctor or give them medication.
Fiction. Even if you do have sole legal decision-making authority, your ex has the right to make routine day-to-day decisions about the children’s care such as (a) whether they need to see a doctor for a cold or the flu or (b) whether they can take over-the-counter medication for those types of things.
2. Coming Out, a Lesbian Mom, and Lessons in Parenting (3:00)
Wendy discovered Mary Gorham Malia on a website called yourtango.com from an article Mary had written on “Lessons in Parenting From a Lesbian Mom.” After reading that article, Wendy thought Mary had an important message to deliver about being true to yourself in the raising of children. Because of this, Wendy was excited to feature Mary as this week’s special guest.
(5:03) Mary got married when she was 26. She always knew she was attracted to women, but she grew up in a very Catholic family. For many years, Mary felt she had to do what her father wanted her to do.
She was married for 23 years to one man. Today, Mary and her ex have a son who is 30 and a daughter who is 19. Her son was planned, and her daughter was a surprise.
(6:03) For a long time, Mary stayed in the marriage because she believed in the vow she had made to her husband. She worked hard to suppress the feelings for other women she had. Mary got strongly involved in a Christian church in the hopes that she would be “fixed.” Mary prayed really, really hard that God would take her feelings away (for 15 or 16 years) until she finally left the church.
(6:57) At the time she left the Christian church, Mary was a licensed minister, had been working with victims of sexual abuse, and was training others to do what she was doing. She spent two years on her knees literally cleaning houses, trying to find herself. From there, she went to work at a Fortune 500 company and finished her degree. Through that process, Mary got into a position where she could support herself. She began meeting lesbian women who really had their lives together.
Mary’s Light Bulb Moment
(8:07) One day, Mary was in a meeting sitting across the table from a woman who she realized was lesbian. At that time, Mary had a light bulb moment. She walked out of the meeting feeling like she had to make a decision to be true to herself and say to her husband, “I can’t do this anymore.”
Mary realized she had been playing a game in her head wishing her husband would die young so she could “get on with” her life. She realized that was a horrible game to be playing and that there was no love in that. Mary felt if she really loved her husband, she would be honest with him.
(8:56) At that point, Mary really started shifting her life. It was about a year later that she talked with her husband about wanting a divorce. Before she approached her husband, Mary began seeing a counselor about all the concerns she would need to address in coming out.
What Happened Once Mary Told Her Husband She Was Gay and Wanted a Divorce
(10:13) When Mary initially sat down with her husband, he first started laughing. Then, he thought she had had a stroke. Then, he thought she had had a breakdown. It was a very hard thing for him because he didn’t want a divorce.
(11:18) For three years before coming out, Mary begged her husband to go to counseling. He refused. When she told him the news, he wanted to go to counseling at that time, but it was too late for Mary. Mary previously wanted to go to counseling because she had hoped it would help them resolve the conflict that was coming up for her in her own feelings about women.
(13:04) Mary told her children within three weeks of telling her husband. Initially when she told her husband, they made an agreement about telling the kids together. Within a couple of weeks, he was refusing to talk to the kids about it. Mary then made the decision to do it herself.
(14:03) Mary’s son was very angry and upset. Her daughter was 6 years old at the time and didn’t understand what was going on. Her response was what you would expect from someone of her age.
(15:00) Mary and her husband continued to live together for a short period of time (weeks). Then, one day she came home, and he was insisting she move out. Mary did leave, and she took her daughter with her.
(16:16) In her research, Mary has found that in relationships when a woman comes out to her husband, in 90% of cases, men get violent. In these types of cases, men feel very threatened. In Mary’s specific situation, her husband was a “man’s man” – a Teamster, a UPS driver, etc. Mary’s revelation threatened him in his core.
(17:29) Mary believes that in a relationship where a gay man is leaving, women are so much more relationship oriented and about connection, their femininity isn’t challenged as much as a man’s masculinity might be.
(18:37) Another thing you have to think about is the fact that in our society, most men make more money than women. If a man leaves, generally, he is still going to support the family. If it is a woman who is leaving, the man often says “you’re on your own.”
Mary and Her Ex’s Parenting Relationship With the Children After She Came Out
(19:33) Mary’s son stayed with his father. Her son’s high school was right around the corner. This arrangement seemed like the way to create the least upheaval for their son.
(20:30) For almost two years, Mary’s son barely spoke to her. Mary and her ex-husband did have a visitation plan in place for their daughter.
Mary and her ex had a unique situation in that he had been married and already had children when Mary married him. Mary and her husband had an agreement that they would never badmouth his girls’ mother in front of them, and they didn’t. As a result, that became an automatic pattern they carried into their own divorce and how they dealt particularly with their daughter. Mary doesn’t know if this “agreement” was effective with their son.
(23:16) Mary knows she broke her ex’s heart. She destroyed the plans they had made. She changed everything about her ex’s life. As a result, Mary tried to be very respectful of him and give him plenty of space.
(24:12) Mary and her ex have gone through interesting changes in the relationship. She was recruited to Texas for work four years ago. At that point, in the state of Maine, their daughter could choose who she wanted to live with, so she decided to stay and live with her father. Mary’s ex moved into Mary’s house so their daughter could have consistency. Through that period of time, Mary got a lot closer with her ex. The real gift, however, was that her ex got a lot closer to their daughter.
(25:29) Before that, Mary observed her daughter and her ex had gotten into a pattern where they didn’t see much of each other. As kids get in high school, they don’t spend as much time with the non-custodial parent because they want to hang out with their friends and do their activities. Mary’s move to Texas put her ex and their daughter in a relationship they never would have otherwise had.
(26:04) Mary’s ex has since remarried. That was her wish for him. Now, however, Mary and her ex never talk.
Mary’s Conversations With Her Children About Being Their Truest Selves
(26:40) When Mary’s son was young, she was in the ministry in a born again church. Thus, her son grew up going to church and was raised in a strict Christian environment. On the other hand, her daughter never went to church because Mary had stepped away from being involved by that point.
(27:41) As a result, Mary and her son and Mary and her daughter have had very different conversations about what life is about and how you become your truest self. When she told her kids she was leaving their father, she apologized for not being able to be truthful about who she was. Mary encouraged them to be all of who they are. She told them not to push who they really are away to make others happy.
(28:50) Now, things are better between Mary and her son. The turning point for them was when he was being deployed to Iraq almost immediately after enlisting. Mary made a point of traveling to see him to clear the air. They resolved the conflict, the pain and what her son didn’t understand. Her son was really grateful, and they have a close relationship now.
(31:44) Mary still thinks her children struggle with being authentic to a certain extent. She thinks her son truly is living his own life. Mary keeps encouraging her daughter to pay attention to what is in her heart and remember that she is not on this earth to make anyone happy but herself.
(32:28) Even before she came out, Mary believed her children were put on this earth to figure out who they are, not make her happy. Mary sees her job as helping her children figure out who they truly are, not who SHE thinks they should be.
(32:47) Mary advises people to pay attention to when they are feeling unhappy.
What is it you are unhappy about? Typically, you’re trying to make someone else happy. Why are you doing that? Why is that important? If you are unhappy, are you denying something about who you are?
Take Care of Yourself First
(33:48) Look in your own heart and take care of yourself first. Then, reach out to others from your own fullness and your own happiness. That is where you are doing a life-giving thing.
(34:13) Mary is a dating coach for lesbian women. She helps them break through barriers to finding and creating a great relationship. Mary has been doing a series of workshops on dating and relationships for women. In mid to late January, Mary is hosting a free global tele-summit on “Living Your Best Lesbian Life.” Mary has 16 lesbian speakers lined up who live their lives out loud. These women can be an example to other women about honoring who they really are on the inside.
(35:24) You can find out more about Mary and/or her telesummit at gaygirldatingcoach.com.
3. Thoughts from the Life Coach (36:01)
To create the life you want, it is important to get your head right. This starts with a dream. Your thought patterns will determine whether you achieve the dream. Keep those thoughts optimistic!
And…by the way…Happy New Year!