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I am a lesbian and love my female cousin

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Hi everyone,

I have looked at this forum for the past year and I am so hopelessly lost and would welcome any advice please. 

I am a lesbian and am nearly 40 and am married to a woman for 8 years.

My cousin is in her mid 30s and she lives about a 2 hour drive away from me. 

Last year she contacted me via email and we had not been n touch since we were children, but even then we were never in touch.  The last time I saw her was at her mums funeral and she was still a child as I was.  She and I have had terrible childhoods but were kept apart by distance and family troubles. 

We started texting last year and she flirted with me and I flirted back. My partner knew all of this.  I must stress that my partner knows everything that has since happened with my cousin and I. 

Then one day my partner and I suggested we meet my cousin in person for the first time.  We did and I hugged my cousin and we hugged for what seemed like hours but was actually 30 minutes. The hug nearly turned into a kiss in front of my partner and it hurt her I know.

I felt so sorry that I hurt my partner, but it was like an explosive had hit my heart.  I know you all are going to tell me that I am crazy and that I have been so bad but it has happened.

Since then my cousin and I have met several times and slept together, which was a little awkward at first as we were so scared of the whole thing but my partner knew it was going to happen and she even gave her blessing though I know this hurt her. To explain a little my partner and I kind of had previously thought about having an open relationship as she was interested in experimenting with a man.

Recently my cousin and I fell out massively and she said she didn't want anything more to do with me as she told someone and they gave a negative reaction and then my cousin got scared.  We haven't been in touch for 2 days nearly and it hurts like mad.  I have never felt like this before about anyone and it scares me as I love her and I know she loves me too as she said so many times.

I do love my partner. Yeah I know it doesn't seem like it, but we have had a rocky relationship too.

I just don't know what to do.  I feel bereft.

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i'm going to state up front and for the record  that i don't agree with homosexual activity... and now that i have stated that, i'm going to talk to you just like i would anyone else who came here in an identical yet heterosexual situation. (did that even make sense?) my words are going to sound harsh, but i want you to know that they aren't harsh because of my position on homosexuality, but rather because of my position on adultery.

you don't deserve your partner, and you do deserve your lover leaving you. if you can't give 100% to the commitment you made to your partner, then you need to let her go. you acknowledge the pain you are causing her, but you keep doing it. why? i can only assume the answer is because you know she'll put up with it. maybe she feels like she deserves it because she flirted with the idea of an open relationship so she could try it with a guy... but you didn't give any indication that she ever went through with it. there is a huge difference between a person fantasizing about an open relationship so they can try something (or someone) new and actually HAVING that open relationship. she's most likely allowing you to torture her like this because of her own feelings of guilt... or of saving face because she'd thought about it too.

you've given her a taste of one of the worst emotional traumas imaginable. you think YOU feel bereft? good grief. how the heck do you think she feels? does it matter that you and she have had a rocky relationship? not really. show me a marriage that has lasted more than five years and i'll show you a couple who have stumbled over some pretty big rocks. and if a couple has been married ten years, or has raised children or has dealt with an ex  over custody of children, or has dealt with a major illness or trauma, or substance abuse, or in which one partner has a job that seems to take priority over family time, (shall i go on with examples?) and i'll show you a couple who have struggled, clawed, and climbed over landslides, not just rocks.

i can't tell you what to do. i can just say that i feel very sorry for the woman who has committed her life to you, who has stood by you, and who has allowed you to batter her emotionally. i don't care that you never meant to hurt her. the road to hell is paved with good intentions, isn't it?

maybe someone else can be more sympathetic. it just won't be me.

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Well, I think I understand your story but I'm not sure exactly what you're asking or wanting to know.  Are you asking if you should leave your current relationship for your cousin?  Are you asking if you should go ahead with an "open" relationship with your cousin while staying in a relationship to a woman who wants to experiment with a man in what sounds like a 3-way no-strings-attached casual relationship?  Or are you asking if we think you should break it off with your cousin and preserve your current relationship?

While I do know a few lesbian couples, I don't pretend to understand the emotional dynamics of lesbian relationships.  With that said, my response will be shaped by my current world view, which is that of a heterosexual man with 20 years of marriage.  I'll give my perspective and advice, which I believe works well in most cases but your mileage may vary.

No matter how you look at it, you're going to end up in a position where you will deal with heartache and pain.  There's no easy way out of this.  You're deeply invested emotionally in BOTH relationships and you already seem to know you can't have both.

"Open" relationships only lead to pain or disinterest.  "Successful" open relationships are marriages of convenience with hedonistic license.  They only last as long as they remain convenient; the second the relationship becomes more trouble than it's worth, it ends.  Introducing a third party, and in this case adding a man to a woman-woman dynamic, will probably kill any remaining intimacy you may have.  Having your cousin as a fling on the side will do likewise.

Ditching your current relationship for your cousin will be an exercise in extreme patience.  If you both had rough childhoods, to say nothing of your adult lives and challenges you've had, adding the challenge of divorce (assuming your current state sees you as legally married AND you can get divorced legally in that state) is going to amplify that.  It will create a temporary, false sense of "closeness" between you and your cousin and once it's over, you'll have to learn how to live together and deal with quirks neither of you knew you had.  You'll fight, you'll struggle - in short, it'll be just like your current relationship.

I don't know if I was able to give much help or hope, which is always my goal, but maybe we can learn from one another.

Best wishes,


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Thank you Lady C for your in depth points of view. I guess I knew I would get this response regarding homosexuality on here.  I don't agree with you either but thank you for the other points. 

It is actually my partner that suggested I find a website to post what I am going through and also to get it out of my head.  My partner has also had a difficult childhood and so we both have already negotiated this. Also my partner has been in various open relationships in the past.  I haven't until thus point. 

The flng with my cousin is over I should point out.

Thank you Colorado Married.  I think your responses were well considered and I will take a lot from this. 

I think so many people have flings and don't be honest with their partners, at least I have been honest.  No one seems to have recognized this.

Yes I already know I'm selfish and hurt people.  It s my partners hurt that I feel inexplicably for.  My point in this is that I want to repair my married relationship.  I have told my partner I don't deserve her a million times.  I have said to her I am worthless as a person and she could do better than me.  But we both want to work at it.

I agree that if I were to have carried on seeing my cousin it would have been totally disastrous for everyone. 

Sexual infidelity takes many guises.  I could have fancied my cousin secretly but done nothing about it.  That's still infidelity.  I guess we can't help who we are attracted to but we can help what we do is what most would say.

Anyway if there is a book that people have read that could help me repair the mess that's left in all this I would truly appreciate knowing about this.

Thank you all for your thoughts.  I still feel like a useless worthless person and that I deserve to be hung but at least I know where the future is not. 


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Tornrose, I must have misunderstood your intentions; I thought you were struggling to decide where to go between the two.  If I now understand right, that's not the case; you know what you want and are seeking a way to repair the damage done to your committed relationship.

You are right that so many people do have flings and are not honest.  This board is full of married men and women who have had an adulterous sexual tryst with their cousin and don't know what to do.  Usually, they're looking for a way to have their cake and eat it, too - to carry on in the secret (or sometimes accidentally discovered) unfaithful relationship without leaving what they have or leave what they have without any pain.  They usually say they don't want to cause pain for others but what they more often mean is that they want an easy way out that doesn't cause pain to themselves, which might include not having to see the pain in others.  In short, the very selfishness that got them into their situation is apparent in their desired escape method, equally selfish.

So, it seems you recognize that you've had a fling and were open and honest about it.  One the one hand, you can never undo the fling.  Don't try because what's done is done.  On the other hand, you can, if you and your partner are both willing, overcome the damage done to your relationship.  When you recognize that behavior and trust are the real issues, not the action itself, it will help.

On the behavior side, it will require you to both draw a boundary around your relationship of what is and is not acceptable.  Frankly, this is why I oppose "open" relationships.  I know a few people who claim they are successful in marriage because they are both open.  They draw a line between sex and "making love".  Well, they attempt to.  Some of those couples are divorced now.  It's not surprising. 

Sex is a very intimate thing.  Even if a person has had hundreds of casual sexual partners, once in a committed relationship, it becomes a very different thing.  It now has emotion attached to it.  Even in a declared "non-possessive" relationship, it takes on a possessive quality.  Yes, this is my wife, and yes, she has other friends and some of those friends are very close.  Suppose she decides to have sexual relationships with others?  Well, that's one thing - the most intimate form of contact - that was before now reserved.  Because it is so intimate, sharing that portion of her with another will naturally begin to breed insecurity which leads to distrust.  Is she *really* just having fun and still fully committed to me?  How can I tell?

Okay, so that's how I feel about "open" relationships.  Now back to your situation.  You've taken what is usually the hardest step in any affair.  You've admitted it.  You've (hopefully) stopped it.  If you and your partner are to move forward, you will have to re-earn her trust.  You will have to deal with her taking actions that prove she has present insecurities (she does not fully trust you anymore and won't for some time).  That could mean that she checks up on you when you're separate.  It could mean that she'll say some hurtful things from time to time.  Those are acceptable and normal for a period necessary for full healing.  You will have to break all contact with your cousin - forever.  That's forbidden fruit for you and touching - even looking at it - deserves banishment from the garden that is your present relationship.

I don't know what to offer in terms of books.  I'm a Southern Baptist preacher-type and all of the books I use to counsel marriage and relationships essentially reflect that.  Those books include the mostly secular but still very heterosexual intended books by Dr. Willard Harley, such as "His Needs, Her Needs" and "Love Busters".  Because they are so heavily gender-biased, I would have a hard time shoe-horning them into your relationship. 

For books that are less gender-biased (or not at all), there are a few I can recommend that you at least pick up and read to see what you can make of them.  There is the book by Mark and Grace Driscoll, "Real Marriage", which you may actually find very helpful so long as you realize that Mark Driscoll as the pastor of a mega-church and his perspective reflects that (I actually think you would find that book very helpful because it DOES cover some of the ground you're going over - cherry-pick it if necessary but I highly recommend it for you).  Finally, another book, also religious in intent but not the least bit gender-biased and potentially very helpful, is "The Love Dare".  That final book is designed to help heal hurting relationships (usually relationships hurting up to but not after the point of affair, but still very worthwhile) and as best I remember, it has nothing too gender-specific.

Sorry to be so long-winded.


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i also thought your original post was about lamenting the loss of the cousin, rather than about wanting to repair the damage done with your partner. so aside from saying DITTO to everything coloradomarried just said, i'll add this...

if you want to make ammends, quit telling her how sorry and undeserving you are, and become the kind of partner that she does deserve. give your cousin no more time to occupy your thoughts, and give 100% to the one you committed to spending your life with. and learn from this... BOTH of you should learn from this and decide from here on out that it will be a monogamous relationship. open relationships never have the well-being of one's partner in mind... and people who engage in open relationships usually start out totally clueless about the damage they can do. you've both learned that the hard way. and if she ever contemplates "experimenting" with a man again, well, that will hurt you as deeply as you and your cousin hurt her. infidelity destroys relationships, no matter how agreeable it may appear in the beginning.

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TORNROSE, All I can say is that I am in a very similar situation. I am lesbian, single, and recently met a female cousin of mine, which I had not seen since childhood.. She is divorced with two children, but never wants anything to do with men anymore. It was a wonderful experience to see her again after all those years. I immediately fell in love with her and she  had the same feelings for me. We  now are in daily contact  and will be meeting again very soon. I expect it will be very intimate indeed and look very much forward to a loving relationship. But how do I tell my parents and family? 

Edited by Willeke Vorster
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Willeke, which part do you believe is harder for your parents and family?  That you're cousins or that your lesbians?  I ask this with all sincerity because I honestly am curious about the dynamic and whether one "taboo" has greater influence than the other.

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Yes we do want an update!

Relationships are complicated these days, huh! In truth, a lot of people seem to complicate their own lives. I'm afraid you are too.

I have heard of every possible cousin relationship problem out there I believe. Your problem seems to be that you lack the kind of meaningful boundaries that protect you from big messes like this. You cheat on your partner. You get involved with your cousin. I do not know if you are content with being a lesbian. Your partner seems to be still trying to find herself. Can we make this any more complecated? I don't know how.

I say find out what you really want and go after it; stop hurting the people you love. Stop complecating your life and the complications will go away.

Seriously, be good to yourself and true to your partner. Start there. God bless and good luck.

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