lesbianSexuality may take a lifetime to really master, but as for identity, many would assume that gets sorted out in the teen years. But for Jessica Streit, mother of two boys, she didn’t become aware of her own sexual orientation until well after she was married to a man and her sons were born.

The topic of LAMs — lesbian after marriage — is hardly new terrain. Jennifer Baumgardner explored the phenomenon not too long, defining LAM as:

These are the women who have tied the knot, procreated, and, once the children are out of the home or more independent, found love in the arms of a woman.

Jessica tells me that she was well aware of her attraction to women at the time of her marriage and had openly dated a woman prior to marrying. She describes herself as “madly in love” with her girlfriend at the time, but ended the relationship a year before meeting her husband. She considered herself bisexual and was out to both her husband and her mother. Yet, after her first son was born, Jessica began to doubt whether she was actually sexually attracted to men.

Prior to marrying, Jessica had shared with her mother that if she had not married a man by the time she was 35, she would seek out a sperm donor and have children either on her own or with a woman. Jessica’s mother replied that she didn’t want “children whose father came from a test tube.” She adds that something about about the conversation stayed with her well into her relationship with her girlfriend, and the relationship eventually ended because she couldn’t reconcile her identity with her desire for a family.

“…we ended it because I didn’t feel like I could be a part of a lesbian couple. I just didn’t feel like I could live open and out and raise kids as a gay woman. In retrospect, I was scared and not feeling very strong,” says Jessica.

A year later, Jessica met her husband and engaged in a whirlwind in courtship that she admits “moved very quickly.” The pair moved in together after five months of dating and married a year later. Jessica was eight weeks pregnant on her wedding day. But not long after getting pregnant, the mother says that she lost all interest in her husband sexually. She began to experience physical pain during intercourse and visited multiple doctors to determine the cause. Even after an exploratory surgery turned up no explanation, Jessica began to realize that her block may be mental.

She remained in the marriage for another five years.

“I think it was in large part psychological,” says Jessica when recalling why she stayed in the marriage despite her suspicions about her sexuality. “I wanted a family. I wanted to be a stay at home mom with the minivan and 2.5 kids. I convinced myself that I was happy.”

Baumgardner found while researching LAMs that this was not at all an uncommon trend in bisexual women. She cited Laura Eldridge, author of The No-Nonsense Guide To Menopause in explaining this shift in desire:

So in your coed days you’re free to fall for women if you have the inclination; as you get closer to the childbearing end date, that social freedom constricts. Eldridge thinks that many bisexual women start to focus on dating men “not because they were pretending same-sex desire before but because they are giving in to intense social expectations now.”

When Jessica finally did tell her husband that she was a lesbian, he didn’t believe her. She came out to her extended family and friends via Facebook in 2008, but feared taking her sexual orientation into court once divorce proceedings were underway. Worried that her husband would use her sexuality against her in a custody battle, she conceded to him out of court.

As for their relationship now, Jessica suggests that her ex-husband still has not accepted the fact that she is gay.

“He still jokes around and hints that if I wanted to have a sexual relationship with him it would be possible,” she says.  “I truly think I broke his heart and surprised him but I also think he is and was in complete denial if he is surprised.”

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Her sons, now nine and six years old respectively, believe that the marriage ultimately concluded because their parents didn’t get along. Jessica’s children know that she is romantically interested in women and she has broached the topic more tangentially with her older son with issues like marriage equality and the NOH8 campaign. But for the time being, she is in no hurry to connect her sexuality with the end of the marriage.

“I do not plan to talk to them about my sexuality being a part of the failure of the marriage unless they are older and ask questions. For now, it’s too much information for their age.”

The mother is currently not dating anyone. But when she does, she suspects it won’t be much of a problem for her sons. After asking her eldest what he would make of the scenario, he simply said “it would be strange at first but I don’t think it’s a big deal at all.”

(photo: Shutterstock)