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Hello everyone! I'm new to this forum, so I apologise in advance if I'm posting this in the wrong category!

The fact that I'm even typing this means that I'm considering making the next step, which is so incredibly terrifying to me, but necessary all the same. I won't go into great detail, to spare everyone, but let me give you a bit of an introduction.

I'm 21 and have been in a relationship with my cousin for the last five years. We've always been closer than most cousins, which has always been appreciated by our small family and looked at as 'Oh, how lovely that they get along so well'. I think that I've always been 'in love' with my first cousin, who's always been on the same line as I have. Our family is small and close and we've always been there for each other and, although our family is generally intelligent and very open-minded and understanding, I can't help but fear how badly they will take us telling them about our relationship.

When I was seventeen, a few months after my cousin and I had shared our first kisses, I suddenly realised that this relationship meant that I wouldn't have the 'normal' teenage love-life. I wouldn't be able to share it with my friends, I wouldn't be able to fall in love with someone in my year and have the most awkward dates and this had me so stressed out that I thought it was better that we would put an end to it. I knew that there was no way that this, our relationship, was okay and every moment I was trying to convince myself that it would be so much better to try to be 'normal' instead. I told my mother and got a relieved response, who thought something more serious was going on. Next she asked questions, but also said things like 'Did <name> force you into having a relationship?" You see, my cousin is four years older than I am, and at the age of sixteen, that's a rather big gap. I understand where she was coming from, but it was hurtful.

I spent a week at home, crying, because I didn't want that relationship, or so I told myself. I did want it, I wanted it more than anything, I just didn't dare to face the fact that I was going to have to bear all the complications that came with it. I already knew it was going to be a serious relationship, because I could feel it.

My mother helped me send my cousin some emails, formulating my feeling, or the feelings I thought I had, while I ignored his phonecalls and texts all week.

A few months after we were hanging out again and I asked whether we could try again. We were romantically involved and to not act upon it was merely denying that something was there, which was a feeling almost worse than the feeling that had had me crying in bed that week, heartbroken.

I haven't spoken to my family about it since, nor has anyone mentioned it. Over the past years I've 'come out' to two of my friends, one that I met and told about my boyfriend, to whom I then explained that he also happened to be my cousin. She didn't make the faintest problem out of it. The next person was a friend I'd had since I was about fourteen. She'd known both me and my cousin well and we'd been great friends, the three of us, for years. Telling her was unexpected and her response was that that she'd suspected it and that she couldn't see how it was a problem. We were meant to be together.

I've since moved out of my parents house and I now live with my cousin, my partner. My new acquaintances know I have a boyfriend and while I'm moving forward in my life (meeting new people, going to university in a different country, finally living a life without my parents looking over my shoulder) I feel like this secret is holding me back. I intended to keep it forever, if I had to, but I can't. It takes so much energy to keep it hidden and I realise that, somewhere, it might not be fair on them to not tell them. What if they understand? Don't they deserve to see how happy I am?

The reason I'm posting all of this is because I'm looking for advice from people who might have been in similar situations and who have come out to their parents. How did you approach it? And what kind of responses do you get?

I come from a non-religious British family, if anyone's interested in my cultural/social background to know in what culture to place this story.

Thank you all in advance. I'm grateful to have found this forum.

- Kate

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