Every week, Mallory Ortberg answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Baby daddy jumping out of the closet: About a year ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Her dad and I were not married, had dated briefly, and ended up being friends more than anything. We were great co-parents and were fairly happy. About three months after my daughter was born, he gave the indication that he wanted to get back together. So we started dating. He had even hinted that we should get married in 2018. Fast forward to just a few days ago, when he drops a bombshell that he is gay. He says he has only been with me and “entertaining” our relationship because he wanted to make sure he was gay.
I am sad to say that I completely blew my stack. I accused him of leading me on, said I always knew he was a closet case, and told him to never come near me or my child again. Now I feel awful. His sexual orientation has nothing to do with his parenting abilities. And while he was a jerk to me, he has always always been good to my daughter.
What should I do? Apologize and try to build a good relationship? Contact him and pretend it never happened? I am not sure at all what to do.
A: I am rarely going to encourage a letter writer to pretend that something never happened, and I don’t encourage it in your case. It’s understandable that you feel hurt and betrayed by someone you thought saw you as a meaningful romantic prospect, especially since he’s the father of your child—but that doesn’t justify what you said to him, either. He has the right to see his daughter, same as you, regardless of what your personal relationship looks like. You can’t—and shouldn’t—threaten to withhold custody over his sexual orientation, or over the fact that he seems to have wanted very badly to not have to accept the reality that he’s gay. You say that you’ve considered him a friend, and it seems less likely that he took joy in misleading you than the alternative—that he hoped he might not be gay, and that if he thought he could ever be with a woman, that woman would be you. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to be hurt, or that everything he did to you is fine and can’t be criticized, either.
You should reach out to him, and you should apologize for telling him to stay away from his daughter. You two might benefit from a professional mediator or an official custody agreement as you continue to establish a civil, working co-parenting relationship. If you’re both willing to apologize to one another and prioritize your daughter, I think there’s an excellent chance you’ll be able to do just that.