Get Naked with your FAMILY?

Getting Naked with Your Family

 

The people you’re least likely to want to get naked with are next. Let’s talk about getting naked with your family. I know, eeeeew! If your family is anything like mine you don’t discuss things that are too serious, and you certainly never talk about your sex life. But, if you stop and think about it for a minute, remember it if you’ve already come out,  imagine it if you haven’t, when you told your mom about your sexuality you were telling her what you do in bed. That’s why it felt so weird, and that’s why it feels so scary.

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I know you love your family. You don’t want to do anything that would make them feel uncomfortable. You don’t want hurt them. Let’s face it, you’re afraid of loosing them. I get it. There’s a lot at stake. But, you also have a lot to gain. It’s possible that your sexuality, or whatever else you’ve been hiding from them, will be upsetting. They may even need some time to adjust. Don’t forget They think they know you.

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Done right, being open with your family can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. It doesn’t have to be everyone, or all at once. And whatever you do please don’t go overboard and create “too much information” moments. Whether it be parents, siblings, or even your kids, share appropriately, and responsibly.

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You’re like everyone else. You depend on your family for unconditional love. But by hiding a significant part of yourself, you’re making their love conditional, with your assumption that they won’t accept you.  And you know what? Your love for them is conditional too. Give them a chance and be open to surprises. At the very least you’ll start to have unconditional love for yourself.

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Your instincts are likely  telling you that your parents are the right place to start.  That’s almost never true. It is perfectly natural for you to make that assumption. After all they are the most important people to tell,  but,  they’re also the ones who have the most invested. They have a lot at stake because, who you are is a reflection of them. They want you to be happy and normal , whatever that means to them. It can be hard for them to find out they don’t know you as well as they thought. Perhaps harder than anyone except maybe your twin. In many cases your parents can be among the last people that you should tell.

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One of the most important secrets about getting naked with your family is to find an ally. It could be just about anyone, sibling, cousin, uncle, for some people, yes, it could be a parent. Anyone in your family who you think is most likely to handle it well is the right place to start. Make sure that whomever you tell can keep it quiet and allow  it to be YOUR choice to tell other people. Besides building your confidence for the road ahead your ally will be able to give you some perspective on the other people in the family and how they’re likely to react. You’ve been terrified of doing this for a long time. Your ally’s take on what could happen might be the most valuable thing they can give you.

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My ally was my grandmother. I was lucky in so many ways that I had her. The summer I had my first kiss, with a boy by the way, she knew that something had changed. We were in her kitchen together, as usual. Her voice got very serious.

Then she asked me “Brian, do you like boys?”.

“What do you mean?”, I replied, “of course I do!”.

“No, I mean LIKE boys”, she said.

“Oh”, I replied, “Yes, I do.”

“OK” she said. Like I had asked her if she wanted another cup of coffee.

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That was it. Of course, if you haven’t guessed, my grandmother was someone who did talk about uncomfortable things. The line of questioning a few years later made me blush. But, I was out. She stood by me through struggles with my parents, my brother, and even my grandfather. Making it very clear that there was nothing wrong with me.

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If you’re listening to this you probably don’t have someone like my grandmother yet.  Please, whatever you do, don’t underestimate how important that first person is.

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Years ago I had a friend facing a difficult family dilemma. He and his partner were out to pretty much everyone in there lives but he had never met his partner’s parents. They were very conservative and couldn’t handle the gay thing. His partner’s mother was hosting a big family gathering and was surprised when her parents, and both her sisters, asked if the couple would be there. His partner’s mother panicked. Everyone else had known and accepted my friend as part of the family. So, she invited them.

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He had no idea what to do. Obviously he was angry. His first impulse was to create a scene by making it clear that he had never met her before. I made a different suggestion. While I understood everything he was going through, wasn’t he really looking for a long-term solution to the issue? Of course he was. What I suggested is that he help her save face by pretending he already knew her. You know what? It worked. She got to meet him and see that he was a totally normal human being, but he also showed her respect by not putting her relationships with her family at risk. In fact she was so impressed by his graciousness that they ended up having a fantastic relationship.

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If you’re feeling like you need to proceed cautiously in being more open with your family, I couldn’t agree more. But, there’s a big difference between caution and paralysis. Don’t let your fear, and imagined negative outcomes, continue to poison these critically important relationships. You can create powerful, positive, relationships with as many people in your family as you want to.

 

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