Life’s Too Short to Live a Lie
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I’m about to retire from my lucrative career and move here to join my partner full time. My job requires last-minute travel, long commutes and my full attention. My partner, who is already retired, had an operation recently (not life threatening). She was disappointed that I couldn’t drive her to the hospital. I was called to D.C. on short notice and had no choice but to go. I say no choice because I just don’t know how to do my job any way other than 100 percent.
I know she was disappointed. But we live very comfortably because of the hard work and responsibility we’ve both taken on over the years. My part ends in a year, but isn’t quite over yet. But I feel bad that I can’t give her the attention she deserves now that she has the time to enjoy it. I know she understands in principle, but it still bothers me.
We adore one another, but it’s like we live in two different worlds. How can I make it through the next 12 months?
Dr. Hurd replies,
First of all, keep reminding yourself that it’s only 12 months. Secondly, begin to reprogram yourself to the new reality of your impending retirement. In the old days, you were in for the long haul so you could flourish economically. But if you can truly afford to retire in a year, it seems reasonable to assume that the stakes are not quite as high as they used to be. I’m not telling you to abandon your work ethic, and I’m not saying you should always stay home when work beckons. But the circumstances have changed, and perhaps you can stay home occasionally when you otherwise wouldn’t have. Weigh each case by the rules of the new reality—not the old.
You said you have “no choice” but to do what your work requires. Are you sure of that? Are you sure a meeting can’t be moved, or a task delegated to someone else when you have a pressing personal concern? Yes, your work ethic calls for doing things right or not at all. I respect that, but make sure you have all the facts before you conclude that things can only happen one way. Emotions often tug us toward what we’re comfortable with, rather than to what’s actually right.
In 12 months, life will be totally different. Why wait to adapt one day next year? Get working on it now, step-by-step, case by case.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I hope you don’t mind if I don’t sign my name. I live nearby with my parents. I’m first-string on the football team, and I hold several offices and honors at my school. Everybody thinks I have it all, but I don’t. I’m gay, and I’m SOOO tired of playing the role of a straight boy.
I love football, I like my “girlfriend” very much, and I love being popular. But I know everyone wouldn’t feel that way if they knew my secret. It wasn’t that hard to hide it before, but at 19 my feelings are overwhelming. Letters from CAMP Rehoboth is one of my few connections to the world in which I want to live. (I sneak into town to get it when I take my mom shopping. She thinks I’m parking the car.)
I know: “What a tangled web we weave…,” but that ship has sailed. I just don’t know what to do.
Dr. Hurd replies,
Ask yourself this: Do I live for myself, or for others?
Like most of us, it was probably hammered into your young head that it’s always wrong to live for yourself and that you must live for others. Never, ever be “selfish,” you’re told. (Have you noticed that those who preach this usually have something to gain from your sacrifice? Quite the contradiction, isn’t it!) In fact, those who rant against your accepting your sexuality often do so in the name of condemning “selfishness.”
By living for others, you’re denying your true self in the interest of presenting a certain image. In your case, the “self” is your sexuality—a very important part of life. This denial amounts to living a lie. Do you want that for your friend (who happens to be a girl) whom you like so much? Or for your other friends? If these people abandon you if you come out, then what was it they liked about you before? Your fake heterosexuality?
There is no healthy ethical standard that preaches dishonesty. You’re worrying about the consequences of coming out, but the consequences of refusing to be who you are will get worse the longer you live the lie.
That being said, these pages are not the forum in which to make a decision like this. Get a trusted counselor or therapist to help you. An honest therapist won’t tell you what to do, and I suspect you already know what to do. The key is how you navigate through it. The “other side” isn’t perfect either, but at least it’s a reasonable place where you’re free to be who you are.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office may be reached at 302-227-2829. Email Dr Hurd