Dr. Lisa Diamond, an associate professor in the psychology department at the University of Utah, has studied female sexuality for years and believes such "sexual fluidity" can be common among women. Whereas men respond heavily to visual cues, Diamond said a woman's desires are far more likely to be swayed by emotions and personalities than by looks or gender.
According to her research, women in their 30s and 40s, just like Shira, are more likely to newly discover same-sex feelings as they become more attuned to their emotional needs.
"Fluidity suggests that a woman's sexual desires and her sexual motivation can actually swing back and forth between men and women based upon her relationship with that person, based upon where she is in the stage of her life course," Diamond said.
As Shira struggled to understand what she was going through, she took to the Internet looking for answers and support. One of the resources she found was Joanne Fleischer's website, lavendervisions.com, designed to reach out to married women questioning their sexuality. Fleisher, who herself was married to a man for 12 years and had two children when she fell in love with a woman, hosts support groups for these women to talk about the changes they are experiencing.
There are married women just like Shira who do keep their feelings a locked secret particularly when there are children to consider.
"For a lot of women, it's this secret life," Shira said. "And it's hard enough to deal with having an attraction outside of the marriage, but that it's to a woman, I think that can be absolutely terrifying."
Although Shira struggled internally for a long time with her own sexual identity with the help of Joanne Fleisher's support group. She decided she was ready to move beyond the platonic relationship she had with Kelly for so many years.
"It just sort of happened," Shira said. "It wasn't that I came to a realization and said, 'Oh, I'm a lesbian.' I became closer and closer to her emotionally and I think I was open to starting to feel romantic feelings for her."
In the spring of 2009, Shira's husband, John, moved out of the house, and soon Kelly moved in. Shira said most of her friends as well as her parents were in a state of shock.
"Shock, horror. And here are my parents who theoretically are very open-minded, very accepting, very tolerant, when it came to their daughter, that was very difficult for my parents to deal with," Shira said.
Shira and Kelly believe their relationship is for life and hope to be able to marry if gay marriage becomes legal in Pennsylvania.
Shira's ex-husband now lives a short distance from them and shares parenting duties with Shira and Kelly. Although it has taken some adjusting, Shira said they are all content with how their unusual, loving family has turned out.
Today, Shira has learned to move beyond what people who disagree with her life choices think. And although it may seem like she's made a drastic change, she said, in many ways she is still the same person she always was.
"I think what really made the difference for me was realizing that I am trying to raise my children to be who they want to be, to really live out their dreams for themselves," Shira said. "I realized I needed to have the courage to continue making the changes that worked for me."