Leaving the Closet to Become an Adult

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Atlantic reader Erin Fitzhenry writes:

I’m 33. I’ve been married for eight years. My kids are nearly seven and four-and-a-half. I’ve had three “real,” “good” jobs. I’ve moved across the country twice with babies. I’ve bought and sold three homes.

Yet it was only this year that I started feeling like an adult. I fell in love with one of my friends. I came out of the closet.

I realized my needs conflicted with those of my family in a way that was more substantial than the everyday exhaustion I had learned to handle. I understood, for the first time, that sometimes there really are no perfect solutions, and I started to see that everywhere in my life. I realized everyone has needs that aren’t being met. Everyone is a little bit broken. All of those people who hurt me in my life were probably doing the best they could. I can hurt people. The best I can do sometimes is to minimize the damage, to apologize when apologies are due, to offer empathy and validation of others’ perspectives.

My husband and I decided to stay together. I understood over time that I was bisexual, but there was a very long moment when I was not sure. I feel like I grew up in that moment.