Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other staff.


Last week my partner told me she's leaving me after 16 years. This was a very big surprise. We've had some rough spots, but we always seemed to work them out, and she never said she was thinking about leaving. She says it's too late to fix it. She does have a new lover, but says that's not the reason she's going, that it's been coming for a long time. Now she wants to sit down with me and divide up all our joint possessions, and she wants me to buy her out of the house. Do I have to sit down and talk with her? I haven't been sleeping, have lost 10 pounds in the last week, and it hurts so much to see her. Please help.


My heart goes out to you--what a shock! There's no way to make the pain go away, but there are ways to manage it. Here are some suggestions:

1. Mobilize your support system. Reach out to your friends, family, spiritual leaders--anyone who will be nurturing and supportive and will help you to take care of yourself.

2. Find a good therapist. You may want to contact your local psychological association or gay/lesbian/bisexual center. Make sure therapist has skills in working with lesbian relationship issues.

3. You won't be able to manage any of the stress very well if you aren't sleeping or eating. You may want to consider seeing a psychiatrist about antidepressants and/or sleeping aids. Also, some people find herbal approaches useful, especially herbal sleeping aids.

4. Take your time. It's not a good idea to make big decisions right after a major trauma. Just because your partner wants to divide things up quickly doesn't mean you have to do so. Wait until you feel ready to decide how you want to handle things. You may want to have a third party, perhaps a professionally-trained mediator, help with the division of household goods. You may also want to hire an attorney to advise you about your legal rights and obligations.


Author and psychologist Gail S. Bernstein, Ph.D. has a psychotherapy practice in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Bernstein speaks and writes about gay, lesbian and bisexual people for both general and professional audiences, and is the author of the new audiotape, NOT HETEROSEXUAL: An Educational Program About Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People.


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