Tell Me About It: There is emotional and psychological damage being inflicted
PROBLEM: My husband is severely homophobic. My daughter (mid-teens) has had a relationship with a girl that is a couple of years older than her. My daughter has been through a lot the last couple years. Her stepdad (my husband) became increasingly distant after his own child came back into our lives.
This child can do no wrong in her father’s eyes. My daughter did the opposite. She quit sports, got new friends, got into drugs and I lost who she was. She struggled with who she was, which included her sexuality. I got her help when I knew all that was going on, but I didn’t get it as soon as I should have. She is doing a lot better now. For the most part, she’s back to being the girl she was, and not hiding in her room depressed and withdrawn.
She’s still struggling with deep feelings of resentment towards me, her dad and her stepdad, and our living situation in “his” (my husband’s) home. My husband has a very unhealthy belief that this is his, and his child’s home, that my kids and I live in. We feel unwelcome and uncomfortable quite often. His child can do anything, and it’s overlooked, but anything from my kids is a problem. I’m constantly anxious and I don’t know what to do.
Now, my daughter has come out as bisexual, but more gay. She has her first love, a nice girl, that is always polite, reliable and respectful. My husband is completely homophobic and has been really mean to me about it. He’s disgusted by my acceptance of her sexuality. He tried to blame the age difference. It is a lot, but my daughter is beyond her years in maturity. Her girlfriend has been a positive influence in many ways. My husband has banned her girlfriend from the home. He can’t stand to see her, because she’s gay. He said I’m always pushing “it” (homosexuality) on him by acceptance and allowing her with my daughter. He already banned my oldest son from ever coming over.
I often am made to feel like I’m next. The hateful way he vents to me about my kids and now how I’m handling the “gay thing” makes me feel so unwanted and anxious constantly.
ADVICE: It is clear that your relationship is in severe difficulty and perhaps the time has come to call it out. There is a clear divide with you and your daughter being tolerated, or perhaps that is too kind a word for what is happening. You are being bullied and coerced into going against your principles and now you can see it clearly.
Your anxiety may have been extremely high when your daughter was going through her self destructive phase and this may have made it almost impossible for you to focus on much else, but now she sounds resilient and is asking you to stand up for her and her right to express her sexuality in whatever way she wishes. There is no middle ground here – supporting your daughter means disagreeing completely with your husband and challenging his homophobic comments and actions. Of course, this may mean the end of the marriage, but do you really want to align yourself to a man who refuses to allow your son to come over and who banishes a loving girlfriend from visiting?
With anxiety, it is always important to take small steps so that you do not end up in panic
It appears that you have gone through one breakup already so you may be somewhat battle scarred at the thought of going through this again but then, you have survived it once and honestly, it seems that the losses in your current situation might be mostly economic. Your main feeling about your relationships seems to be anxiety and should this continue, you may find yourself becoming less able to take action and you might find your self confidence ebbing away.
On the other hand, every time you speak up for yourself and your daughter, every time you take a step to secure an unconditional loving space for both of you, you will find that your sense of self worth will increase.With anxiety, it is always important to take small steps so that you do not end up in panic. Your first step might be to contact Women’s Aid for advice or it might be to see a psychotherapist to help you manage your anxiety or indeed it might be to get some free legal advice about separation – in fact, doing all three over the coming months might well put you on the road to a life free of intimidation and bullying.
There is emotional and psychological damage being inflicted and seeking help is now fully warranted
There is a hierarchy of need in any situation and in this situation, your children need you to put them first, to support them in the full expression of who they are. In order to do this, you will need to bolster your own sense of self and this probably means getting away from the incessant negative commentary from your husband. During Covid, domestic violence has been highlighted as a huge issue and while there is no physical violence going on in your home, there is emotional and psychological damage being inflicted and seeking help is now fully warranted.
This is a well-known path and you will find that the understanding and support you need is both available and skilful.