The reason, according to Fleisher, is the depth of intimacy women are capable of sharing. “It can be as powerful as an addictive drug,” she says. “Women tend to be more intuitive, nurturing, in tune with and willing to share feelings. Imagine these qualities free-flowing back and forth. Now add to that someone who can navigate your body almost as well as you can.” It’s a heady combo, she says.
WHEN DANA TOLD her husband, he was devastated. Had everything been a lie? He wanted to know. No, she explained — she still loved him, the kids, and their old life, but she could never go back. Her boys took it surprisingly well, though the youngest is angry with her for leaving his father. For months, Dana vacillated between returning home to her family (she and her husband agreed not to uproot the boys) and trying to live an honest life. She chose the latter, but hasn’t filed for divorce. “The most excruciating part is feeling like I’m a terrible mom,” she says. “A divorce is hard enough. Then you add this element. How much damage am I going to do?”
It’s an issue Fleisher sees repeatedly. Women tend to put their families’ needs first, and feel selfish if they don’t. But she tells her clients: “When you’re being your true self, when you’re feeling fulfilled, everyone benefits. You’re a better parent, partner, friend.”
Considering the complex issues and the number of gay, married women out there, the conspicuous lack of support for them — outside of Fleisher — is a mystery. Ample support groups exist for married gay men, and unlike women, men avoid support groups like the plague. It may be that in the interest of protecting their families, mothers don’t go looking — except late at night, on a secure computer, when everyone’s asleep.
If they’re lucky, they find Fleisher’s site, LavenderVisions.com, or her Internet message board, featuring links to the day’s discussions: “How do you know?” “When to tell H [husband]?” “Married and scared to lose my children” — a sad reality in some places. “Are you staying in a marriage because of financial security?” One can pore over the personal stories and find solace, advice, camaraderie. Those who are “stuck” speak of spiraling depression. Those who’ve left mourn the loss of former lives and dreams. They discuss relationships, the logistics of female orgasm, and not being readily accepted into the lesbian community, where they’re seen as married women out for a fling. Fleisher’s name pops up frequently: “Thank God for Joanne.” “Check with Joanne.” “Joanne’s book says … ”