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Should I tell my girlfriend I've had gay sex before?
April 15, 2007 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Should I tell my long-term girlfriend (I'm male) that I have had sex with men in the past?

I've tried to include all the details here, so this is a long one!

I am 22 year-old man. I've been with my current girlfriend for nearly 3 years now, and this is my first long-term relationship of any kind. We have a great relationship, in which we are both very supportive of each other. While I'm trying to write this dispassionately, I will say that I have grown a lot since we met 4 years ago and I really believe that she's the woman I'll marry. We talk often and communicate very well and openly. Except for one thing.

I have had 2 homosexual relationships before, and I haven't told her this. While keeping this from her is an issue for me, the questions it might raise about my sexuality aren't a problem. I'm quite confident in my sexuality, however it might be labelled (bisexual?). Most of my attractions are heterosexual. I've been physically attracted to men, but never emotionally. While my homosexual experiences were with guys I consider friends and get along great with, they were purely physical. I really doubt I'm going to wake up one day and think, "Oh shit, I was gay all along" -- I think I'm pretty much bisexual. I certainly don't feel like I'm repressing anything or missing out, any more than I'm repressing heterosexual urges. That is, I'm not going to cheat on her (or want to) with a man, for all the same reasons that I'm not going to cheat on her with a woman (although with that added reason that I'm less frequently attracted to men anyway).

I haven't told anyone else, simply because of all the bullshit I might have to go through for something that really isn't that important to me. I truly wish for others' sakes that not being 100% straight didn't carry a stigma in some peoples' eyes, but it does and for me personally, not coming out to the world doesn't bother me at all, so I've chosen not to risk suffering that stigma.

However I love my girlfriend, and while I'm fine with keeping this from everyone else I'm conflicted about keeping this from her. There's no doubt that apart from fearing her possible reaction, telling her would make me feel better. On the other hand, I don't want my telling the truth to make her worried that I might secretly be a gay man who's one day going to leave her for a guy. Her father left her family quite unexpectedly when she was young (he wasn't gay, fwiw) and she's told me before that this has made it hard for her to trust in relationships. Also I think she'd have a hard time dealing with this as she's pretty traditional in many respects. She's never expressed anything even remotely anti-gay, but I think it'd be huge bombshell nonetheless.

So my question is: What are reasons why I should tell her, and reasons why I should not tell her? Have you ever been in this situation -- on either side -- and what happened and how did it work out?

If you're not comfortable replying in the thread, please email mefi.anonymous@gmail.com. Also, I'll reply in the thread via the admins if necessary. Thanks!

By the way, I was properly tested for STDs before we started going out, and practised safe sex in all of my past sexual encounters. Despite this secret, I would never and have never put my girlfriend's health at risk.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (65 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
If she doesn't ask, and you don't say anything, is it really a "secret"?

I just think it's going to be harder if you decide to bring it up, regardless of how you choose to say it, than if you just wait until some point when it might come up passingly. Look at it from her perspective -- all of a sudden you just unload on her that you've had sex with men in the past. She's almost certainly going to wonder "why is he telling me this now?" That, even more than the content itself, is going to be an issue. She's going to wonder what your motivation is for bringing this up suddenly.

I just don't understand why you'd go looking for trouble. If she ever asks about your previous relationships, I wouldn't lie about them, certainly, but frankly I think it's just odd to sit down and start telling your SO about things they haven't asked about previous partners.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:04 PM on April 15, 2007


Never been in this situation, but I'm assuming that if she's the person you want to marry someday, you'll also want to be as truthful as possible (it's pretty much part of what "love" means, to my eyes). Do tell her sooner rather than later.
posted by fredoliveira at 4:06 PM on April 15, 2007


I think you shouldn't tell. Not because it's bad, but for the same reason that you wouldn't tell her detailed descriptions of relationships you had with girls before you met. What happened before you met, stays before you met.

What I'm not quite understanding, though, is your desire to tell her. That seems to me to suggest that you aren't as OK with what happened as you want us to believe you are.
posted by AwkwardPause at 4:14 PM on April 15, 2007


I think all unassumed sexual history should be disclosed, (i.e. anything that your partner shouldn't be expected to guess), if for nothing else but safety. It's possible that your past behavior may put you, and also her, into certain risk groups. You also seem to identify yourself as not 100% straight, which I think is absolutely your lady's business.
posted by monkeymadness at 4:20 PM on April 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Would telling her be therapeutic for you? If so, I think you should tell her. I can't speak for what her reaction will be, but if my long term boyfriend told me about those experiences I wouldn't think much of it. We are already very upfront about our sexuality, and I would be happy that he felt he could confide in me.

Do you share other things about your sexuality/past relationships/other people you are attracted to? If those conversations are already open and comfortable, I don't see it being a problem in your relationship.

I've found that being as revealing an honest about sex as possible can increase emotional intimacy, make sex better, and strengthen your love/loyalty to each other. Still, you're allowed to have some secrets, even if you're married.
posted by Packy_1962 at 4:23 PM on April 15, 2007


I have a secret thing for just the right kinds of redheads. Must I disclose this? I think not.

Frankly, as long as you've had a nice HIV test, it's all in the past. This revelation isn't going to do anything positive for your relationship, unless she has a secret fantasy to watch you with another guy.
posted by adipocere at 4:29 PM on April 15, 2007


If someone told me this upfront, I would not be bothered (actually, it's kind of hot).

If someone told me this far into the relationship, the only thing that would bother me is wondering why they hadn't told me earlier. I believe that for people you really want to be with, honesty is absolutely the best policy.

I would still rather know about something like this, even if I didn't find out until a few years in.

Plus, one of the great things about being in love with someone is that you can tell them about all your fantasies and experiences that you don't tell anyone else. I think if you tell her exactly the way you told us, she has no reason to feel insecure about you leaving her.

What's the downside of telling her - that it will upset her? I think it sets a terrible precedent in your relationship to keep secrets because you worry about upsetting the other person. If she is upset, reassure her and help her feel better as best you can. I don't think it will hurt your relationship in the long run.
posted by mai at 4:39 PM on April 15, 2007


It is going to do something positive for the relationship. It's truthful, it's honest, it's you telling her something that you've never told anyone else, it's showing her that you trust her completely, that you don't want to hide any part of your life from her.

If the relationship has a solid foundation (and if you want to marry her, you'd hope it does) then she should be able to deal with it. You're obviously in a fair amount of anguish over this, so telling her will definitely allow you to have a better relationship with her.
posted by twirlypen at 4:49 PM on April 15, 2007


You should tell her. If nothing else, do it for her safety and that of others. Here in Canada, you can be ineligible to donate blood if you've been intimate with a man who's been intimate with another man. I don't mean to suggest at all that you've put her at risk, but it is something that our blood services considers important and it could potentially factor into her health.
posted by acoutu at 4:51 PM on April 15, 2007


For however long (more often in the past few months), I've been telling people about my bisexuality. It's not something that bothers me or is affecting my daily life, but it isn't apparent to everyone I know, and the act of letting friends in on it can solidify feelings of mutual trust and respect. Responses have been generally positive, although sometimes tinged with disbelief.

I've told most of the women I've been in sexual relationships with, and inevitably, some women won't enjoy knowing that you can find men attractive. Know that your girlfriend may very well have beliefs concerning the longevity and fate of your relationship now that she can picture you engaged in gay sexx0rz.

For me, the bottom line is that you should tell your girlfriend about your sexual inclinations and past experiences, but as a living, thinking human being, her response may surpass all of your expectations, whether in their understanding or ignorance.
posted by Monstrous Moonshine at 5:15 PM on April 15, 2007


tell her! my lord. you say it's not important, but clearly it's important enough to hide. it's part of who you are and who you were, and if she can't accept it, then your relationship has no future.

besides, if it's weighing on you so much now, think of how hard it will be to deal with 20 years from now! also, if she has trust issues, you are hardly helping her by lying to her.

i wouldn't panic about her reaction. she will probably be more hurt that you waited 3 years to tell her than that you did it all. do it, get it over with. life is too short to hide who we are.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:22 PM on April 15, 2007 [3 favorites]


Reasons you should tell her:
- to make yourself feel better. Obviously it's bothering you.
- to be open and honest about who you are to the person closest to you

Reasons you shouldn't tell her:
- as you said, she may be concerned about whether you are gay and may leave her for a man
- if you bring this up, my next thought would be "what else hasn't he told me?". It may be hard to convince her that this is your one and only (fairly significant) secret.
- I would personally have a bit of a difficult time wrapping my mind around this, especially after 3 years of thinking you know someone. I don't think it's the gay aspect at all, it would be not knowing something pretty fundamental about my partner at this point in the relationship that would bother me.

Are you concerned that she may find out about these previous partners on her own? If there's a good chance that she may, it would definitely be better to come from you. If there's not much chance of that happening, it would be a harder decision to make. Good luck.
posted by nelvana at 5:22 PM on April 15, 2007


Gotta tell her. If only for the reason that this is a great barometer for how suitable you and she will be together in the long-long-run. If she freaks out at knowing one of your deep, dark secrets she's probably not the best for you.

If only we all had such clear barometers...
posted by jckll at 5:24 PM on April 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Acoutu: in the US, you're ineligble to donate blood if you've spent more than three months in the UK from 1980-1996. I'm not sure that's the best method of screening mates.

To address the main question: have you discussed your previous hetero hookups with your girlfriend? What about her sexual history? Early into my relationship with my partner, he made it clear that he did not want to hear about the sex I had before he came along. That's worked for us for twelve years now. Sharing the details of my (sometimes) sordid past would only have spoiled our relationship.

However, you should ask yourself if there's any possibility she'll find out some other way.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:41 PM on April 15, 2007


you must tell her you are bisexual. then be honest with her followup questions.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 5:45 PM on April 15, 2007


Let the past be the past.
posted by hortense at 6:04 PM on April 15, 2007


I once dated this guy. We were together for several years, actually. Throughout, I suspected he had been with a man/men in the past. That notion always irked me because he wouldn't tell me. If he had told me somewhere down the line, months/years AFTER the whole "getting to know you" discussion about sexual histories, I would have felt pretty deceived that he kept that information from me. Not specifically because it was homosexual experience, but because it was something he actively hid from me. As it turns out, he never did reveal any homosexual experiences to me but I am pretty sure he had them. After we broke up, he then went on to date women and then had several relationships with men. He finally married a woman and I'm guessing she knows about the past relationships with men and is fine with it. So, chances are, your gf will be ok with the homosexual experience, but if she is anything like me, not so ok with the fact that you hid it from her for several years.
posted by necessitas at 6:10 PM on April 15, 2007


I definitely, absolutely believe you should tell her. I think a serious relationship, probably leading to marriage, should be based on full disclosure.

Hopefully it won't matter to her. If it does, though, better to find out now than later. Things have their way of coming out. (Ugh, no pun or anything.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 6:13 PM on April 15, 2007


Is there any chance she might find out later? (from one of these guys perhaps?). If the answer is no, then who cares. If she might find out through the rumor mill, it's better to tell her yourself.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:13 PM on April 15, 2007


Tell her. In fact, I think telling her is really a can't-lose proposition. Here's why:

(1) You're doing the right thing by being honest and open about something that, clearly, you are not comfortable keeping quiet about. It is morally admirable for you to share this information.

(2) It will tell you something about your girlfriend. If she were to leave you over something so insignificant, then she's not the right woman for you. If you don't tell her, you will not know this about her.

If you keep quiet about it, you will feel guilty for an indefinite period of time, perhaps forever, and further, you will wonder whether she would still be with you if you told her "everything."

I agree with the following statement made by an earlier commenter.

Gotta tell her. If only for the reason that this is a great barometer for how suitable you and she will be together in the long-long-run. If she freaks out at knowing one of your deep, dark secrets she's probably not the best for you.
posted by jayder at 6:16 PM on April 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


If it were me I would most certainly tell. Especially because it's nagging you so much at this point, it might begin to a lot more in the future. And dropping this kind of bomb after 3 years is tough enough. After 5, 10, 15...wow. I can't imagine how hard that would be, both for you to broach it and she to accept/process it.

The other thing: if I were going to marry someone I would really like to be very close to and open with them. Certainly close enough to know who they really were, what their sexual orientation/preferences really were/are. These desires make up a huge part of who we are, so I can't imagine (for me) keeping that from someone I wanted to be close with/spend my life with. Don't you feel like a huge part of yourself is hidden from her? That was not a rhetorical question. It was honest.
posted by sneakin at 6:19 PM on April 15, 2007


It sounds to me like you don't really talk about personal stuff much -- it's really curious that in three years you've never discussed your sexual or relationship history at all.

Yes, you should tell her, and be prepared for any response.

Personally? I would find it kind of sexy and it would add a certain frisson to the mix... but I would be really, really weirded out that in three years you never mentioned such an important component of your life and personality, or even bold-face lied about it.
posted by loiseau at 6:29 PM on April 15, 2007


Tell her because it's who you are and she should know who you are.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:37 PM on April 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


If the question doesn't come up, let it lie.

How much would you want to tell her? The type of intercourse? The other men's penis size?

Those questions might bubble in the back of her mind, and eventually cause some problems.

OTOH, if she asks, I would tell the truth, but keep some boundaries.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 6:39 PM on April 15, 2007


I would think it would be a little odd to not have mentioned this to someone you're thinking about marrying. That said, being like "I'm bi" could be making too big a deal out of it; you're effectively hetero now if you're monogamous. Instead you could be like "Hey I did this stuff in college, thought you should know"
posted by dagnyscott at 6:44 PM on April 15, 2007


Ignorance is bliss. Beyond a couple of generic questions, I never want to know what a girlfriend got up to in her previous relationships. If you can live without telling her, then don't. If you don't think you can live a lifetime with her without telling her, then tell her now, because she's really not going to be happy to hear about it after a year or two of marriage.
posted by kisch mokusch at 6:50 PM on April 15, 2007


you're effectively hetero now if you're monogamous

um, no.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:53 PM on April 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Keep it under your hat. Or wherever.
posted by LarryC at 6:54 PM on April 15, 2007


Yeah; if you're ever going to tell her, tell her now. But personally, I don't think there is anything to be gained and quite a bit to lose.
posted by Justinian at 6:56 PM on April 15, 2007


You think this is the person you'll marry? Then it depends on your definition of marriage. If you think that a marriage is a casual relationship based on mutual distrust and need-to-know limited disclosure that continues until it is mutually convenient to divorce, then don't tell her. However, if you think of marriage as the forging of an absolute partnership with someone who you will want to rely on implicitly for the rest of your life, then obviously you should tell her.

Your call.
posted by alms at 7:00 PM on April 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


Do you think she would choose not to be with someone who has done the things you have done? That is her choice to make, and withholding information by which she would base that decision is manipulation, cold and simple.

If you really love her, you won't trick her into making the decision to marry you.
posted by Willie0248 at 7:02 PM on April 15, 2007


I think she'd have a hard time dealing with this as she's pretty traditional in many respects.

You may want to get a better sense of her feelings about homosexuality before telling her.

She's never expressed anything even remotely anti-gay, but I think it'd be huge bombshell nonetheless.

Yeah. You should probably get a better sense of her feelings about homosexuality before telling her. Bring up the subject in general terms - i.e., "What do you think about letting gay folks marry?" next time you see it on TV or something. Do either of you have gay or bi relatives or friends? That might be another way into the subject. Try to get a better sense of her feelings on the issue first.
posted by mediareport at 7:02 PM on April 15, 2007


I don't know if you should tell her or not. If she leaves you after you tell her, will that be alright with you? What I mean is, is revealing this about yourself worth the price of the relationship? Someone I know well had a very long term relationship with a woman in college. She later fell in love with a pretty socially conservative Christian man, and as they were preparing to get married I asked her if she'd told him. She said no, she had explained the emotional significance of the relationship, but had transposed it to heterosexual. When pressed she was quite clear about her motives: what was important to her wasn't the identity politics of the relationship, it was the same sex relationship when that was going on, and her incipient marriage when she was preparing for that. She knew her fiance wouldn't be able to handle her revelation were she to make one, but she was also mature enough to realize that his not being able to handle it wasn't some kind of definitive statement about his worth as a partner.

I think all unassumed sexual history should be disclosed, (i.e. anything that your partner shouldn't be expected to guess), if for nothing else but safety. It's possible that your past behavior may put you, and also her, into certain risk groups.

This is a bunch of idiotic claptrap. Worse, it smacks of the kind of moralizing bullshit attitude toward sex that tries to remove it from the realm of human interaction (and occasionally medicine) and into the realm of religion and politics. What the fuck does it matter what you've sexually done in the past if you're clean now? What, exactly, is a 'risk group' in this circumstance, some sort of existent sin-based filing system? Because STDs are not ineffable, they're infections that can be tested for and treated, and if you've been tested for them then what matters are your future 'risk groups' and not your past behaviors.
posted by OmieWise at 7:04 PM on April 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, I also meant to say that earlier tonight I happened to watch Sleeping Dogs Lie, a movie written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait about this very subject. Well, the youthful secret in question wasn't a same sex fling, more a canine romp, but it's a decent movie about what can happen when complete honesty is your yardstick. The nice subtle part of the movie is that everyone aside from the lead is basically ignoring the truth about kinds of things just to get through the day. You should watch it.
posted by OmieWise at 7:09 PM on April 15, 2007


If you have to ask "Should I tell..." the answer is almost always "Hell yes!"

Why? Because it's on your conscience. It's on it enough that you're here asking all us bozos what to do and we don't even know you.

And it's not going to go away until you do something about it. It will grow, it will fester. It will reveal its self in all sorts of actions that will make her suspicious specifically because you're trying not to make her suspicious. Or you'll get caught up in one of those "What are you thinking?" "Oh, nothing..." moments that ends in tears. Or whatever, but it's a source of worry, clearly. The only cure for worry is action.

Don't be a wimp, have the conversation. If she loves you she won't care. If she doesn't you are better off apart.

And that's what's really scaring you isn't it...
posted by Ookseer at 7:15 PM on April 15, 2007 [3 favorites]


As acoutu said, it can affect a person's elligibility to donate blood, for one thing. The poster also never said he was clean. I'm just trying to help; please don't read more into my post than is actually there. I don't know what behavior puts one into different risk groups, but you can be sure my answer has nothing to do with religion or politics.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:17 PM on April 15, 2007


If she asks, tell her. Otherwise, man, what the hell? All the honesty-fetishists are going off of self-help book jacket blurbs on the truth rather than, you know, real world relationships. Ignore 'em.
Eventually, this might come up, but if it does, go for the "no big deal, something I did in college," like you'd explain using ecstasy or a passing stint as a libertarian.
posted by klangklangston at 7:25 PM on April 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


If you think that she might not want to be with you if she knew, you are effectively tricking her into being with you if you don't tell. That's not fair to her, and it says that you don't really trust her and that she can't really trust you.

If you had had one fling with a man a long time ago and never really thought about it again, I might say it would be okay not to tell her. But you seem to consider this part of your sexual identity, part of the way you think about yourself. That means it's important, which means it's important for her to know. Tell her.
posted by decathecting at 7:28 PM on April 15, 2007


I don't know what behavior puts one into different risk groups

Yeah, that was clear, but the poster does seem aware of those facts, and there *are* certain time periods after which testing is as accurate as it is possible to get, gay or not, and he says he'd only had safe sex. If that doesn't take the health issue off the table, I don't know what would.
posted by mediareport at 7:30 PM on April 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


I assume that it's quite normal for people to indulge in various kinds of experimentation before they settle upon what works best for them. I also assume, rightly or wrongly, that most mature people have a similar kind of outlook on these things as I do. It's a part of growing up & finding yourself that plenty of people go through, and I would hope that your girlfriend would see it this way.

If you're lucky, she may respond with a "Phew! I was wondering how & when to tell you about my lesbian flings!", whereupon you will be able to go out for a nice formal dinner & discuss these matters in a rational & dispassionate manner.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:30 PM on April 15, 2007


Yeah, the total-truth-all-the-time is crap.

Should a girlfriend have to reveal an abortion that wasn't your's that she had when she was 15?
posted by YoBananaBoy at 7:31 PM on April 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


I didn't mean that this was sufficient reason to drop a partner. I just meant that it's an important thing to disclose, since it could affect her medical status, especially with regard to donating blood. It is certainly not a scarlet letter or anything of the sort. And, it isn't like having lived in the UK, since that would only pertain to the girlfriend having lived in the UK, not the partner of the girlfriend.

I'd be pretty upset if my partner didn't disclose his full history to me, regardless of the chromosones of those involved. But I grew up in the late 80s, when guidance counsellors drilled into our heads the necessity of having the full history of your partners. I've always wanted that information, so that I can make my own decisions.
posted by acoutu at 7:39 PM on April 15, 2007


I had an ex-boyfriend disclose homosexual experiences to me. At the time, I sort of shrugged and was like, "uh, okay." And that was that. Like you, I thought I was going to marry him at some point, FWIW, though the marriage discussions came later.

Anyway, the main difference between his disclosure and yours is that his was more of an experimentation upon which he determined it wasn't really his thing. There was no indication of bisexual tendencies or attraction to men past the experience. I say that because I think it is important to let your girlfriend know that you are physically attracted to men and think you might be bisexual.

In my view, there are significant implications towards your potential marriage if that's the case, as opposed to a one-or two-off experience that was buried in your past. It's not fair for her to think she's marrying someone who is straight (I'm not saying you have to be 100% straight) when you are labeling yourself bisexual.

If my current SO came to me with something like this, I'm not sure I would care (read: freak out like you're fearing) but I sure as hell would be pissed if I married him and found out later that he was bisexual. To me, withholding information like that would be grounds for a divorce or something crazy like that, just because to me, it would be like I didn't know something fairly major about someone I committed to spending the rest of my life with. You'll notice it's not the sexuality itself that's a dealbreaker, but the withholding of information, but that's just me.

And because she didn't ask is so not a good excuse.
posted by ml98tu at 7:48 PM on April 15, 2007 [2 favorites]


When I was once wrestling with a similar question ("Do I tell him this seemingly-small-yet-incendiary secret now, and finally be 100 percent honest with someone, or keep it under wraps forever?") this conclusion to an essay from the anthology Committed spoke volumes to me:

I had always been happiest expressing passion during the chase or retrospectively, after a relationship was over. (It was all a little sadistic.) Voicing passion in an ongoing relationship was much harder—it felt too naked. I slowly got better at telling Amanda my feelings, but it was months before I got around to mentioning, over pizza, that I'd been involved with a few of the women she'd met as my friends. Four of them, in fact. I'd kept this explosive detail to myself partly because she was more than a little jealous, and partly because I kept a lot of things to myself, out of long and mistrustful habit. It was only after I said it that I realized—duh!—that if I were her, I'd be furious and hurt.

She was furious and hurt. She said that I'd essentially hung her out to dry in every conversation she'd had with one of those friends. I tried to speed the conversation along ("What a relief to have that out of the way. . .") and then just buttoned up and took the heat. Amanda eventually zeroed in on my mattress as the Indian burial ground of my rootless past. She announced that she could no longer sleep on it—too spooky. I had no great commitment to the mattress, but I felt strongly that being the banter king entailed keeping my own counsel, my own prerogatives, and, if it came to that, my own goddamn mattress. Cunning rejoinders came springing to mind: "Did
you get a new mattress for our relationship?" and "Nobody sleeps on a mattress—shouldn't you be mad at my sheets?" and so on. And so on and on and on.

But all I said, when I finally opened my mouth, was "I told you about this because I love you." And then I went out and bought a new mattress."


It's up to you to decide what to tell her, and what telling her or not telling her means for your relationship. I think honesty is important in any serious relationship, but how deep that honesty goes widely varies.

My personal standards for this are admittedly super-high. I don't feel like I've been completely honest with most people I've dated, for instance, because in each relationship a sort of cruft of tiny "things unsaid" seemed to build up until it ultimately created a distance between us. I have historically had a real problem with opening up to people—this was a problem even when I was engaged. (Hence the past tense—I ultimately got unengaged.)

So in my current relationship, I decided to do it right—by my standards, at least—and reveal the one thing I'd been holding back, even though I knew telling it would greatly upset my s.o. and perhaps even set us back a step or two in terms of trust for a while. I knew that if I ever wanted him to trust me, and if I ever wanted to feel completely immersed in the relationship—not holding him in abeyance in any way—I needed to be completely honest. 'Cause these things feed on each other and fester, and I knew that if I didn't tell him the truth about this one small thing, I'd only use that as justification for not telling the truth down the line. And that's not the way I wanted to live.

I also knew that telling him was a test for him—because we'd both agreed that telling the truth, however upsetting it might be in the short-term, was essential for our relationship to continue. You can't avoid telling hard truths just because they might be upsetting, we agreed. If you ever feel forced to lie about something, he'd said, it's pretty much already over—'cause it means trust has broken down. And I agree with that.

So I reminded him of that by broaching the subject with a question: "I can tell you anything, right?" And then I went from there.

Was it rough for a while? Fuck yeah. But even though our story remains as yet unwritten in its entirety, I know that was the right thing to do.

This is a hard-line approach. It might not be the thing for you. You just have to decide what level of truthfulness you can (or can't) live with, and proceed from there.
posted by limeonaire at 7:59 PM on April 15, 2007 [6 favorites]


Also, this thread addresses a different subject, but has a similar range of answers that might be informative.
posted by limeonaire at 8:08 PM on April 15, 2007


Off topic:

To me, withholding information like that would be grounds for a divorce or something crazy like that, just because to me,
---
So in my current relationship, I decided to do it right—by my standards, at least—and reveal the one thing I'd been holding back, even though I knew telling it would greatly upset my s.o.

I love the honesty we get on AskMe. Thanks for making yourselves vulnerable out here to try and help with the discussion. That is so cool.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 8:16 PM on April 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


You'll notice it's not the sexuality itself that's a dealbreaker, but the withholding of information, but that's just me.

posted by ml98tu at 7:48 PM on April 15 [+]
[!]


Yeabuddy. It's one thing to discover your alternate sexuality years into the relationship and reveal it then, quite another to keep a "long-known" thing hidden, for whatever reason.

I say get yourself into counseling to see what's really up. You don't say how long this question's been bugging you (maybe since you started looking for rings?) But something about honesty and rejection on both your parts seems to be in play here. If she asks why you want to see a shrink now (and by dog, get a licensed MFC, at the very least), then maybe invite her to a session after you've had a few.
posted by lysdexic at 8:31 PM on April 15, 2007


Overall, I'm with kisch mokusch & klangklangklangston.

It's something that happened in the past, and apparently has no relevance to your commitment to this girl. The honesty-fetishists are going way overboard.

Back in the real world, along with kisch, I have almost zero desire to hear the sexual history of any partner, beyond their broad general story, or the occasional salubrious tidbit.

People change & go through different phases depending on where their head is at each particular point in time. Sometimes these kinds of phases, if you heard or told about them, could change how you view your partner, or vice versa, when the most important issue at hand is who you (plural) are now, and what your future commitment to each other is.

(obviously, this is assuming a clean bill of sexual health)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:51 PM on April 15, 2007 [1 favorite]


he says he'd only had safe sex
Ahh, I never saw that until you pointed it out. Those small fonts always get me.
posted by monkeymadness at 8:56 PM on April 15, 2007


I've been the longterm girlfriend who was informed a year into the relationship that my longterm boyfriend had several encounters (with other men in our social group) prior to our relationship. I felt pissed that he kept this information from me and wondered what else he was withholding. Part of me was mad that he withheld this secret from me because he thought I couldn't handle it. This revelation was one factor that led to the messy end of our relationship.

If he had disclosed this information early in the relationship, it wouldn't have bothered me...I most likely would have thought it was kind of hawt.

If you are going to disclose this information, make sure she can go off by herself to think for awhile. My ex dropped this information on me on vacation while camping out in the middle of nowhere.

On a positive side, many years later, we are friends.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:58 PM on April 15, 2007


For fun, compare the answers here to the answers in the "Should I tell my potential partners that I have androgen insensitivity syndrome" thread! Hooray.

Virtually everybody keeps secrets, anonymous. Really. If you're cool with it, it's not a huge deal. But as I said before, if you can't handle this as a secret, you better tell now before it gets bigger.
posted by Justinian at 10:21 PM on April 15, 2007


I tried to put myself in your girlfriend's shoes while thinking about the answer to this one and to be brutally honest, if you tell her, she's probably always going to secretly wonder if you're really gay and she's just your beard. On the other hand, if she finds out later either by accident or from you, it'll be even more suspicious that you didn't tell her right away. I say take a chance and tell her. If she can handle it great, if she can't that's a chance you have to take. And if that's the case, I seriously suggest the next time you're in a relationship not waiting 3 years to reveal being a bisexual.
posted by katyggls at 2:51 AM on April 16, 2007


I think the real answer is that you should have told her at the beginning, but you didn't, and telling her late is worse than not telling her at all. The consequences of telling her now, I think, would be pretty drastic -- I'd be surprised if the relationship survived, and if it did, this kind of revelation will leave a wound forever. When I was young I was a fervent advocate of "honesty at all costs," but now I understand that the costs can be more than it is worth.

Do you have a priest, or a therapist, or an old-growth grove of trees, to whom you could make this kind of confession? I think you need to say it, and say it in front of someone (or in front of nature, if you are more inclined that way), but I don't think you need to say it to your girlfriend. (Obviously, if there are any possible health issues, she should be told immediately, but you seem to be on top of that. And if any of the men you slept with are in your social circles, then you need to be 1000% certain that there will never be an embarrassing public revelation that would be devastating to her.)
posted by Forktine at 3:21 AM on April 16, 2007


Would you tell your girlfriend about the time you cheated on a test in fifth grade? What about that dog you weren't particularly nice to in third grade? That time you picked up a quarter off the floor, even though you are pretty sure that it was your brother's? The fact that you find her second-best friend kind of hot? Or her third-best friend ugly?

The list of "secrets" is as long as your entire life. The importance of this particular secret is about as big as you fear she'll make it out to be. Exactly how long is this list of confessional trivia supposed to be, anyway?
posted by adipocere at 5:43 AM on April 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


If your girlfriend was white, and you'd had two black girlfriends in the past, would you feel the need to tell her that? If not, what is it about sexual gender preference that is markedly different from sexual race preference, for you?
posted by 23skidoo at 5:54 AM on April 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


In my experience, women who discover their husbands are bi after getting married to them are majorly pissed off. They feel deceived about something very fundamental.

There are a couple of ways of handling this. My style is to tell right away. (I am bi. I even tell people I’m not engaged to, like my boss, co-workers, friends. This makes it a total non-issue.)

The fact that you haven’t told in three years suggests to me that you don’t fall comfortably in this category. The other approach is of course not to tell. When asked directly, deny deny deny.

Think Joey Soprano. He screws around on his wife and engages in lots of illegal activities. His wife is not stupid, but really doesn’t want to know the details. If confronted she would have to think about leaving the marriage, which she really really doesn’t want to do. So Joey protects her (oh, and himself of course) and it works for her. More or less.

Myself, I don’t use Joey Soprano as my role model. But it’s out there, and some people swear by it. I suggest you determine whether your fiancée wants to know though, before deciding to “protect” her. As in hypothetical conversations. “If I were having an affair, would you want to know?” If she says she wouldn’t, then don’t tell her about your sexual history either.
posted by kika at 6:12 AM on April 16, 2007


I've been thinking about this some more and I think there are two "secrets" here.

1 - Your experiences. Honestly, if these were just experiences, I agree with some of the folks above and say let it go.

2 - Your sexuality. This is a bigger secret, and this is the one that I think you should be sharing, regardless of any experiences prior to now. This is the one that is more likely to upset her and to affect your potential marriage, not the first one IMO.

So, I think perhaps you should try a two-tiered approach. First, you can tell her about the experiences to gauge her reaction. If she reacts favorably, a little while later you might want to bring up the fact that you remain attracted to men. If she freaks out when you tell her about the experiences, then you at least have that reaction to determine if you want to tell her you're bi or not. I know it may sound a little deceitful, but it may be a lot easier for everyone than one big conversation. It gives her time to process and you guys time to work on each issue before moving on to the next one. If you do decide to tell her and you really want this to work, you may want to consider enlisting the services of a therapist.

Good luck.
posted by ml98tu at 6:30 AM on April 16, 2007


Tony Soprano.
posted by electroboy at 7:04 AM on April 16, 2007


Thanks, Electroboy. I suspected Joey wasn’t right but I couldn’t think what was. Two syllables and the right vowels... but no cigar.
posted by kika at 7:07 AM on April 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


better tell, it sounds like you really want to and not doing so could eat you alive and cause you to become less favorable for other reasons, such as aggravated, impatient, annoyed, guilty, depressed etc etc, which of course can damage a relationship before anyone even brings up the deep dark secret....

it's not like you did anything wrong, so you should feel confident in who you are and what you've done when you do tell

and if she's mad or freaked out at least she'll appreciate you telling her....but make sure you word it right and tell her everything you want to tell her right then and there, don't be wishy washy about your concepts of bisexuality etc...be spot on with your feels so she can gain a clear understanding of what you're saying, which will be critical if she's to come to terms with it in a healthy way

also, if there is any chance any of these good friends that you slept with might ever tell her or somehow tell someone that tells her, you better be the one to tell first!

And finally, there was a thread here a few weeks back from someone who had hundreds of partners before her current bf who she loves very much, and there was a big debate there about disclosure of the past and how it fits into relationships...

in that discussion far more people leaned toward not telling, but her actions were just actions and were in the past, which is different from your actions coming from a status, ie bisexuality, which will obviously not ever go away, at least theoretically

so i 'spose i can see why this is leaning toward telling her, and I think that might be best, again, given that you seem to really want to....

just get it out there
posted by Salvatorparadise at 9:55 AM on April 16, 2007


Tell her. You're only 22. If she freaks out about it, dump her.

If you don't tell her, the desire to tell her could sit there and fester in your brain for who knows how long.

It was before you met her, and perhaps she'll just chalk it up to 'teenage experimentation' anyway.
posted by drstein at 3:03 PM on April 16, 2007


What if she's a homophobe or doesn't believe in bisexuality? Don't you want to know how she really feels about you? Or will you always havemto adjust the image you are projecting to suit what you think she'll like?
posted by onepapertiger at 5:03 PM on April 16, 2007


Tell her if/when it comes up in a way consistent with natural conversation, indicating that you find it a basic and unspectacular part of your history.

Don't make it some creepy "we need to talk" skeletons in the closet sort of thing.

Your attitude towards your own history will serve as a cue to her and how she should respond. If she is a normal liberal but you are embarrassed or scared, she will trust your instincts that you did something bad and that will affect her response (tension, suspicion, fear, etc), but if you consider your history cool, and act proud and light-hearted about your sexuality, you will set the tone of the conversation. (done correctly the conversation willl include surprise, laughter, and maybe a little arousal)

Anyway if you really aren't 100% hetero, it would be odd if there was never a natural segue into this conversation. You've never commented on some male's looks? Seems like that would lead to natural discussion.
posted by dgaicun at 12:44 AM on April 17, 2007


From where I stand, the real question would be -- do you need to tell her. Like in do you need her to know this about you.

There is an aspect in relationships which is about being accepted as you are. And you can't be accepted if you are not known/seen in your wholeness, because the other person can only love what you share with them.

If you feel this is what you need, then there is one more question -- how much do you accept this side of yourself? If it's no big deal to you, then it may be no big deal for her. If you freak out it is possible that you will include some of your tension with the communication.

There are so many ways to share this in a playful, easy, kind-to-yourself-as-you-are way.
posted by andreinla at 12:00 PM on April 17, 2007


okay, insert long, deep breath here... this is something that's taken me being very darn close to twice the OPs age to figure out:

as a caring, loving partner, I have absolutely NO RIGHT to that part of his past which pre-dates our relationship. NONE, period.

got that? everyone on the same page here?

now, mind you, i'm also saying this as someone who insists on a clean bill of sexual health and doing-the-mutual-testing thing prior to hopping in the sack with someone. but then, at my age, i'm not hopping in the sack with just anybody... which possibly bears mentioning. cos i'm as good, giving and game as the next girl, and i honestly don't care what's in his closet, so long as it's not cooties.

to be honest, the answer to your question also really, really depends on the sort of communication you two share.

OK, another deep breath here.

When Not To Volunteer Potentially Uncomfortable Topics: I don't care if you've been together three days, three months, three years or three decades - if you're involved with the sort of person(ality) who's uncomfortable with bringing up this kind of topic (and that's not necessarily a bad thing), then just randomly sitting them down to have the big tell-all.... well, There Be Dragons. i can only speak to my past experience, but I've definitely been in the "TMI-ogodiREALLYdonwannahearthis!!!" camp myself.

When TO Talk About Potentially Uncomfortable Topics: Certainly if and when you are ever asked, and especially if it's something you feel is important to your relationship and/or your growth as a couple... but the big qualifier here for the OP (I feel) is if his girl asks AND has the emotional goods to deal with the answers

by that, meaning: if she couches it as a hurled insult at the end of an argument? Hell. NO. context, in this case, is everything.

i only say this because i, personally, was the sort of vindictive, immature 21-year-old who'd have pulled just this sort of emotional sabotage, then taken the answer and gone off the deep end on the AAAAAAGH!!! MY BOYFRIEND IS GAY AND I'M JUST HIS FAG-HAG CLOSET WAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!! *sobsobsob, cue major drama and breaking shit*. thank god i grew up or bought a clue somewhere along the way.

My current guy is both very open, and (oddly) somewhat curious about my past; this is a first for me in mumblemumble decades of sexual relationships, because certainly in the past, I've always been pretty much a don't-ask-don't-volunteer kind of girl. My SO asks me all sorts of questions about things i enjoy, stuff i've done, and whether i've had xyz kind of relations. The difference is all in HOW he does the asking, though. e.g.: recently he asked me if i'd ever been with another woman, and if so, what the attraction was. This all flowed from a natural progression of discussion about what's sexy and attractive. Also, my SO happens to be the sort who has a very natural, non-judgemental and intellectual curiosity about sexual and interpersonal relationships of ALL kinds. It's just his way. yes i'm damned lucky. no, you can't have him.

in my case, i am straight with him, both because I know he can handle it, AND because it's important to our growth to understand each other as sexual beings. i mean, that's what adults ideally SHOULD do: communicate openly and understandingly about possibly-uncomfortable topics. in my case we trust each other, are committed to one another, and very much on the same page about what we find sexy and attracting.

He's also not the sort who'd go all off on some adolescent ZOMG!!!111 WHEE MY GF IS BI LETZ HOOK UP A 3SOME!!! orgy on craigslist. because believe me, i think we both know that if he pulled that, I'd be history.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:35 PM on April 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


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