Dealing with bisexuality
February 12, 2011 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Being bisexual in a relationship... How do you deal with being attracted to the other sex? How do you know you're supposed to be with the sex you're with?

I'm bi (but I'm not really out to myself or anyone else... a few select individuals know I'm attracted to girls, including my boyfriend... but I am kinda finding it hard to accept fully considering that I feel our society is really bi-phobic, more so than homophobic.. but internalized bi-phobia is a different issue).

So, I like girls. I have been in a relationship with a man for 2 years. I love him. But I am feeling confused... how do I know I shouldn't be with a girl?

If you're bi but have never been with the same sex how do you know you're.. not supposed to be with them or something? I'm worried I am actually supposed to be dating a girl; like that would feel more "right," like maybe I'm actually a lesbian. If my boyfriend and I ever broke up I think I would like to be in a serious relationship with a woman.

Am I just doing the grass is greener thing but with women?

Also I have OCD and thinking I'm gay/thinking my boyfriend isn't right for me is a major theme... but I'm wondering, maybe it's not the disease, maybe the reason these thoughts keep occurring is because they are true.

I dunno, can someone just share experiences of being bi in a relationship with the opposite sex?

Just to clarify I have no intentions of cheating on my boyfriend and we have sorta-kinda an open relationship. But I don't know if I can handle being in a relationship with a man and a woman at the same time.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I am not bisexual, but I think the desire to "explore your options" is not a gender-preference specific topic. Whoever is your partner, whether it is exclusive or open, it's OK to wonder how it would be like to be with other people. It's not about cheating, it's more about curiosity, I think. Sometimes you do arrive at a realization that perhaps your boyfriend is really not for you. And that happens in all kinds of relationships.

When you have these questions, feelings - don't dismiss them or paint them out to be something grander than they are. Instead of wondering what it's like to be in a serious same-gender relationship, try to be in a company of a woman you find attractive and see how it feels. Don't necessarily push yourself to do things you are not ready for, but taking it as a step-by-step process of exploration. Perhaps you will meet a person, maybe a woman, who you will fall head over heels for. But, again, you will fall for that _person_ not their _gender_.
posted by mooselini at 9:07 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've explained it to people as "I love the person, not the gender."

Of course, this is simplistic. Obviously straight and gay people love their partners for who they are, not because of what gender they are. It's more like I don't have a criteria for that, I don't evaluate whether I could be attracted to someone based on their gender identity.

When I've been in relationships with men, as long as I've been happy with said men, I have not worried that I was really supposed to be with a woman. And vice versa, of course.

One thing that does happen, though, is that when I first meet a guy, I have certain thought patterns that are a little like regret. When you're a bisexual woman dating a man, your sexual identity becomes invisible. You are seen by the world as straight. I'm afraid that a little bit of the real me is erased. But if all is well in the relationship, I don't want to leave that person for a woman. There's just a sense of mourning for the real me.

If your problem is that you are wishing that you were with a woman instead of your boyfriend, or are tempted to cheat on your boyfriend with a woman, or regret not being able to be single and play the field - maybe the issue is not your bisexuality, but your desire to be with this person. That said, this particular bisexual is also a diehard monogamist. When I love someone nobody else in the world exists for me. Maybe what you crave is a poly experience, or an open relationship?
posted by Sara C. at 9:15 AM on February 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

So, I like girls. I have been in a relationship with a man for 2 years. I love him. But I am feeling confused... how do I know I shouldn't be with a girl?

My partner and I are both bi. She's a she; I'm a he. Both of us have been in relationships with members of the same sex and both of us have done some variation of polyamory. In the end, we prefer monogamy with each other. Were we to break up, I suspect we would both pursue serious relationships with members of the same sex, but we're both pretty happy with the way things are now.

We've also both been out for a while. We got (and occasionally still get) negative reactions from people who think bisexuals are traitors, or deluded, or tourists, and so on. Being in an opposite sex relationship doesn't help that -- there is no shortage of gays and lesbians who think that bisexuals are only queer when dating members of the same sex, and even then only just, so we don't really "count" as full fledged members of the community. And of course straight people who are comfortable with gays and lesbians can still have their own hang ups peculiar to bisexuals.

All of this lends appeal to "picking a side." If I were with a man, even if I continued to identify as bi, my membership in the queer community would be less impeachable; roughly the same is true for her, though bisexual women face slightly different problems. Being in a same sex relationship makes it easier to "prove" you are a member of the community; a history of relationships with members of the same sex does the same, albeit with less force.

I suspect, OP, that the desire to have something that would prove you are really queer is what is pressing on you now. So many people questioning the legitimacy of your identity will do that. It's part of what makes coming out--as bi or otherwise--so difficult.

But like I said, we've been out for a while, and are old enough that our cohort doesn't have as many recently out folks looking (or needing) to prove the purity of their queerness by trashing bisexuals. And even then, we're secure enough in our sexualities that we're more likely to roll our eyes at their bigotry than wonder if there is some grain of truth to it.

So yeah, it gets better.

Maybe your OCD is really the issue here. Maybe you're not ready to settle down with one guy. Maybe you would be happier with a woman. Maybe so much so that you'd prefer to identify as a lesbian and date women exclusively. So long as you end up with someone who you love and who loves you, it comes out okay.

And anybody who says different can go jump in a lake.
posted by Marty Marx at 9:51 AM on February 12, 2011 [12 favorites]

I think you need to separate out two issues that you are conflating. 1) How do I deal with being attracted to other people while in a relationship? 2) How do I deal with my lack of confidence in my sexuality/sexuality label? Address them separately and I think you have a better chance of figuring out the answers.
posted by modernnomad at 10:17 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Am I just doing the grass is greener thing but with women?

Probably! I am a bi lady in a committed, monogamous relationship with a man. Being monogamous with him means not being with women, even though sometimes I'm attracted to women; but, it also means never being with a guy with blue eyes, or a tall skinny guy, or a guy with a different job or personality, even though sometimes I might find those things attractive too. That's just how monogamy works, whatever your sexuality. I don't think of it as being "supposed to" be with a particular gender or person -- just, I like this person, and I like being with him monogamously enough to give up the opportunity to be with other kinds of people.

I think it's normal to wonder about this in any relationship, especially at the stage where you start getting serious/long-term. But only you know whether this is the relationship you want to be in, regardless of alternatives.
posted by anotherthink at 10:22 AM on February 12, 2011 [11 favorites]

You should keep in mind that most bisexuals "lean" in one direction or another. It's very, very rare to be absolutely equally attracted to men and women.

It's also very, very common for us bi folk to wind up like "Well, most of the people I'm attracted to are women, but it turns out that the one person I'm the most attracted to is this one specific guy, and that's why I'm with him." (Or vice versa, of course.) Happens all the damn time — just like you'll hear straight women going "Wow, this guy isn't my type at all, he's short and kind of scruffy, but I like him so much better than those tall clean-shaven dudes I normally go for."

So if you find yourself thinking "Gee, most of the people I find sexy are women," that is totally consistent with being bisexual. It does not make you a lesbian. What would make you a lesbian is if you could honestly say, "Every single person I find sexy is a woman. I've never understood the point of having sex with men, it's never been fun for me at all."

I mean, you'll hear a lot of stories from lesbians who dated men before they came out, and the subtext in a lot of those stories is "I was wrong! I was supposed to be dating women! Why didn't I realize it?" But the thing about that is, most women telling those stories will also tell you they never really liked dating men in the first place. At most, you'll hear someone say "Well, emotionally it was really nice being with my ex-boyfriend. I always hated sleeping with him, but I figured it was worth putting up the sex with because he was a really good friend."

So that's the question you've gotta be asking yourself. "Am I having fun in bed with this guy?" If the answer's yes, then don't worry. You're enjoying the relationship you're in, and there's no sense walking away from a perfectly good relationship where you're enjoying yourself. (Look at it this way: if you like having sex with him, then you're bisexual enough to justify being with him.)

On the other hand, if you're not having fun in bed with your boyfriend and you don't find him at all attractive, then you should ditch him whether or not you think you're a lesbian, just because life is too short to stick around having bad sex. Go find someone who does rev your motor, and then return to step one: "Hey, I'm having hot sex with someone I like! Who cares what gender they are?"
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:26 AM on February 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

Ok. you are either in a commited or an open relationship. You are either single and dating a variety of people or you are single and in a monogamous relationship.

If you fell into a monogamous relationship and you don't want to be in one, be honest with yourself first; then go read Miko's breakup thread. Be open, be honest and make a stand. If after being in a relationship for two years you don't feel comfortable talking with your partner about how you feel, well then - that should tell you something.

I'd give you this same advice if you were only interested in only one sex, regardless of preference. Your bisexuality is a red herring.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:38 AM on February 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is a thread about the same thing from the other side, which may make you feel better. Or possibly worse.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:45 AM on February 12, 2011

For me, my bisexuality is more about who I am as a person than what my sexual habits are. I'm attracted to both genders, but my sexual experiences have only been with men. My closest friends are all men, including my husband. We have a sorta-kinda open relationship too, so having a girlfriend isn't completely out of the question. If it happens, great, but if not, ah well.

Feel free to message me if you want to talk more.
posted by luckynerd at 11:49 AM on February 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have no intentions of cheating on my boyfriend and we have sorta-kinda an open relationship

I think you might want to define "open relationship" a little better, for yourself and for him.
posted by zadcat at 1:11 PM on February 12, 2011

Just to contrast with nebulawindphone, I know plenty of women who used to date guys, liked it just fine, but liked women so much better when they started dating them (I am one of these women). Someone upthread poined out that many bisexual folks lean one way or another--I think this is true, but that there is no rule that says you should only define yourself as someone who only dates women only IF you don't like dudes that much. You can like dudes just fine but decide that you ultimately only want to date women. Or vice versa. And then you can call yourself whatever you want. There is no "right," here.

Some of this stuff is all about your nature and your fantasies, but the rest of it is about you making decisions about who you want to be with. It will make you crazy to try to define some essential truth about your sexuality. I know a few queer people who are what they are--bisexual or gay or whatever--and have known it since they were three. But a lot of us make it up as we go.

I think that nanukthedog is totally right about your bisexuality being a red herring, though. All of this stuff about your sexuality is not even worth focusing on until you've settled yourself about your current relationship--focus on that, get yourself clear with what it is to you and what it is in your life, and questions about your sexuality will be handled in their own time. It's like, get your house straightened out before you start inviting the ladies over, you know?

I do speak from experience similar to yours, minus the OCD. I probably could've written this post about 11 years ago. In the end, I left that guy, but not at all because I was gay--it was a few years later when I started dating women.
posted by hought20 at 2:29 PM on February 12, 2011

My recent answer to something a little in the same vein, here.

It really really is all about the person you are with and the quality of the relationship when you are, uh, omni-sexual or however you want to define that.

True story, FWIW. Just before or after I got married I had a very vivid dream where I went out to dinner with someone exceptionally attractive (to me) who was transgender. It was no one I knew or had dated, just a representation of an ideal I suppose. Date was lovely. Towards the end of dinner I explained very nicely to this person how we wouldn't be meeting again, it was over between us. I was very much at peace by the end of that dream

I woke up and thought that was a pretty neat way for my subconscious to have handled the whole settling down with one person forever and ever issue! My husband is absolutely amazing and I could not want a better partner for me. The whole "what packaging am I really attracted to?" question ended when I met a great person I was uber compatible with.

So, again, I think when you are in the right relationship the outside doesn't count as much as the inside and the overall quality of the relationship. It's just nice to be open to more options than folks who think they are limited by height/gender/hair color/etc., as you search out and find the person for you!

posted by jbenben at 2:50 PM on February 12, 2011

It's totally absurd to think that someone should be with one gender as opposed to another. It's about people loving people. As someone who identifies as pansexual (bisexual but also taking into account people who are inter-sexed or transgendered), I don't have to date all the men in the world to find out that my fiance is the right guy for me, and it would follow that I do not have to date all of the women in the world either. Either you are ready to be serious and/or settle down with someone or you aren't. It doesn't really have much to do with the gender of the people that you are attracted to but rather your level of attraction. If you feel some powerful urge to be unfaithful or play the field more with either men or women, then right now is not the right time for you to be in a serious relationship. I've always felt that being bisexual is awesome because it infinitely opens up possibilities for potential partners. I don't think being bisexual means you have to put up walls and be on one side or the other of a fence.

I am in a committed long-term relationship with a man, and yet I feel inside myself that I am bisexual because I am still attracted to/have sexual fantasies about women. I don't need to be dating a woman to know that I am attracted to women. You are no less bisexual for being with a man. What you need to be asking yourself is if you are content in your relationship or if you are not done exploring your sexuality with other people yet.
posted by delicate_dahlias at 6:47 PM on February 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

All monogamous relationships involve making a choice to be with one person rather than billions of other people.

It's not really that different whether it's 3.5 billion other people or 7 billion other people.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:45 AM on February 13, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm a bisexual woman married to a straight man. Like you, I haven't had any actual sexual experience with women, but I find them sexy. I find other men sexy too sometimes, but that has no bearing on my feelings for my partner or my commitment to the relationship. I am sure he sometimes wonders what it would be like to be with someone taller or curvier, but he chooses to be with me, and we've chosen to be monogamous.

I think you need to stop looking at it as "Would I be better off with someone other than my partner?" and start looking at it as "Would I be better off without my partner in my life?" My personal answer to that is always a resounding NO.
posted by desjardins at 3:07 PM on February 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

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