I know they're nice, but they're not for me!
June 6, 2013 11:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm in an amazing relationship, with someone I've known for over two years, and we've been dating for a year-ish. We're both women in our early 20's. I've only dated women up to this point, and been very happy with that. It seems that my brain doesn't want to keep that status quo anymore and is trying to convince me I want to experience being with men.

I don't want to be with men. I don't like men as well as women, I prefer women sexually, and I love my girlfriend an extreme amount. We're very happy and healthy. I like the idea of being with men, and I had a good experience with the one guy I've seen (see next paragraph). I just know I'm happiest with her, and the few benefits of dating guys wouldn't make up for how much I care about her and how happy she makes me.

This doesn't bother me often. But the last time I had these urges, I ended up breaking it off with her abruptly, seeing the guy for a few weeks, and then ending that because it wasn't what I wanted. She took me back. I will not do that again. I don't want to break up ever, but I definitely won't break up with her for a stupid fling.

How do I ignore these feelings? I don't care that I'm sexually attracted to both genders. Not a big deal. The problem is that I start to think about men too much in what-if hypotheticals, and that makes me anxious. That anxiety makes me question the relationship in ways I wouldn't if I were thinking clearly. And then that leads to me distancing myself from my girlfriend. And then it snowballs.

I know I need to talk to someone about this, but I don't want to bring it up with her because of last time. I just need tips on how to rationalize this to myself and convince myself that this is not the end of the world that my brain wants me to think it is. And I do not want to break up with her.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Welcome to monogamy. Where we have crushes every so often that drive us insane and, if we value our relationships, we just silently go a little insane until it passes.

The gender may well be a red herring. If you're attracted to both genders, you're liable to have crushes on both genders. Among the things that work are:

- distancing yourself (entirely if possible) from your crushes
- channeling the warm fuzzy feelings about your crush into treating your partner better
- snapping a rubber band on your wrist every time you start the what-ifs
- time.

Good luck!
posted by like_a_friend at 11:06 AM on June 6, 2013 [14 favorites]

I agree with like_a_friend, I think the gender thing might be a red herring as well You accept you are attracted to both genders -- and you want to be in a monogamous committed relationship. It's a matter of dealing with a crush. Not simple ,but doable.

The only thing has me wondering is this line: The problem is that I start to think about men too much in what-if hypotheticals, and that makes me anxious.

What kind of hypotheticals? As in men in general or one man who happens to turn your crank? -- i.e., what would my life would be like if I were only attracted to men? That's a different issue.
posted by Lescha at 11:15 AM on June 6, 2013

I see that you don't want to, but I think you should probably talk to your girlfriend about it. If you tend to distance yourself from her, or feel really anxious about your crush, she'll probably notice, which might be setting off anxiety for her. You should interrupt the snowballing of anxiety by processing that.

Since you're definitely not wanting to break up ever, why not just talk about it honestly? It might help you both feel more secure in your relationship if you acknowledge that crushes happen and that you aren't slaves to your impulses. You can also find out the degree to which she expects you to hide your attraction to other people (some people never want to know, some people are okay talking about it. You can't know unless you ask.) She may have some similar issue with crushes on people/feeling jealous over something or other that you never would have expected.

If you're long-term, this is one of those things that you eventually have to deal with, but will never want to, like financials/debt/retirement savings or expectations about children. Try to talk about it neutrally and from a position of love and problem-solving, and involve a counselor if that might help. That you're wanting to stay with her is a great thing, and dealing with these feelings before they get to be a huge deal is proof that you're trying to do the right thing.
posted by blnkfrnk at 11:41 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

That anxiety makes me question the relationship in ways I wouldn't if I were thinking clearly. And then that leads to me distancing myself from my girlfriend.

There's this weird idea floating around in our culture that it's bad to leave stuff like this unexplored. Like if you're actually bisexual and you've only slept with members of one sex, that makes you somehow prudish or repressed or unadventurous. Like you basically owe it to yourself, once you discover a new fantasy, to embark on a Magical Journey Of Self Discovery in which you explore that fantasy in great intimate blog-post-worthy detail rather than just saying "Huh, that's a fun one, maybe I'll jerk off to it every once in a while" and leaving it alone.

I wonder if that's where some of the anxiety and questioning is coming from. Like you're somehow dropping the ball by letting your commitment to your partner preempt the Magical Journey Of Etcetera.

Because in fact the Magical Journey of messing around with other people's penises for the first time, while fun, is totally optional. And committed monogamy is its own journey which is just as interesting if not more so. You don't get to take both, so why not stick with the one you've already set out to take?
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 12:58 PM on June 6, 2013 [13 favorites]

I know the default answer to many relationship/emotional questions is "therapy," but... therapy? You've said you need to talk about it with someone, and that you basically know that this isn't deep down what you want and you need a way to deal with these feelings. That seems like prime therapy territory to me, and it seems like the kind of thing you would only need a few sessions to work through rather than a long-term relationship. If you have an EAP through your employer, it might even be free -- often they cover some limited number of sessions, and will provide you with a referral. I don't know about you and your GF, but if it were me I would definitely not bring it up with her given your history.
posted by chickenmagazine at 1:08 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

i think you need to talk to your GF about this. HOwever I wouldn't do so until you are certain it is not about 'a guy' and more about your attractions/relationship in general. Otherwise it is easy and convenient to blame the issue on the 'other guy' and not actually address the issue in the context of your needs and the relationship needs.
posted by MT at 1:12 PM on June 6, 2013

While I agree that you should talk it out with your girlfriend, I think you should also be open to the idea that maybe your sexuality and need for long term arrangements are more fluid than what people say is the norm.

There is mounting evidence (sorry couldn't resist), that lesbians are starting to adapt to more open or fluid relationships and experiment more due to a couple of factors, one of those being more acceptance of a gender and sexuality spectrum.

I live in the bay area, california... so my circles do not even blink at these things, but only because many many brave souls paved the way for them to be able to live and be anywhere they want to be on the spectrum.

in other places... your mileage may vary.
posted by bobdow at 2:51 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

The boundaries of your relationship can be whatever you both agree to. It can be "we are monogamous except for the occasional dude"..it can be "orgies but only every other weekend". Neither of these things reflect any lack of love and commitment to each other.

But you can't get there without having the conversation (and probably more than one) and lay out all your cards on the table, and have her do the same.
posted by softlord at 8:00 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

If your relationship is as happy and healthy as you say, you should be able to talk to your girlfriend about it.

As I see it, you don't need to start with a "sit down, we need to talk" talk, but while you're chilling together, going for a walk or something, say, "I've had some weird feelings lately I want to tell you about"

The home remedy of communicating with your partner and sharing honest discussions with them usually does a lot to help process your thoughts. Approach it from a place of acceptable adult struggle, not CRISIS, and you can probably cope and move on without causing drama. In a good relationship, this kind of sharing and maybe problem solving can bring you two closer together. (also, think of it this way: if she were having crushes, doubts, and questions about her identity, would you want to hear about it, or send her into therapy to deal with the 'problem' until it was fixed?)

But, if a couple months of sharing and honesty with your girlfriend makes things worse instead of better and discussing the topic puts strain on your relationship, therapy would be suitable.

And another nod for considering non-monogamy.
posted by itesser at 8:18 AM on June 7, 2013

I'm a little late to the game here, but I think most of the previous responses miss the mark.

I don't think this is about monogamy vs. polyamory, and I don't think the gender is a red herring at all. OP doesn't say that she finds herself having uncontrollable crushes on many people, regardless of gender. She says that she "likes the idea of being with men", and thinks "about men too much in what-if hypotheticals", and it makes her anxious. This is an issue of overthinking and anxiety that can be solved through therapy, and the tips she has asked for - not a problem that can be solved by opening up the relationship or talking with her girlfriend.

I would also venture to say that the thoughts are more likely fueled by heterosexual conditioning than anything else.

Despite many advances in the acceptance of lesbian and gay relationships, heterosexual relationships between two cisgendered people are still considered the holy grail of relationships. It is easy for heterosexual couples to commit to each other and not wonder if they are "missing something" because they are entering a relationship that pretty much everyone has stamped with their seal of approval. Non-heteronormative couples don't have that luxury. There is always going to be someone who does not approve of their relationship, or is not celebrating their coupledom, or is actively opposing their love. It can leave a perfectly good relationship open to all sorts of doubting and questioning.

To top it off, girls are trained to love the idea of being with a man at a very young age, through disney movies, chick flicks, and pretty much everything on TV - and it can be REALLY hard to shake that conditioning.

Whatever the source or reason, having these thoughts is not the end of the world. You can work through them, and your (what sounds like a wonderful) relationship will be ok. To give you good tips on how to get yourself out of this mental space, it would be helpful to know what the specific "what-ifs" are that you run through your head. In lieu of knowing those, maybe you'll relate to my what-ifs, because I am a queer woman, and I've been exactly where you are.

Whenever I've played the what-if game, it is not that I think I will be more physically, emotionally, or mentally attracted to a man per se - it's that I see certain superficial elements that a relationship with a man would offer. Celebration, unlimited support, a free pass for PDA, couples' invites to every event, the ability to freely discuss my relationship in any context. A relationship with a man has been instilled in my head as special, and worthy, with the potential to elevate my status in the world in the way that a relationship with a woman wouldn't. And to a large extent, society has convinced me that a man has something to offer that a woman doesn't.

But the truth is, they DON'T. Every person offers something different in a relationship, and gender has very little to do with it.

Perhaps this is not a concern for you, but the one big thing that I have always felt a man could offer that a woman couldn't offer me is the ability to impregnate me. (No...it's not the existence of a penis. Plenty of things better than that.) The ideal of having a child that is related to both partners is even more sought after than the hetero relationship itself. And sometimes it can be tempting to think of leaving my queer lifestyle to seek out that grail. But that presupposes that I find the right man, we agree to have kids, we get married, we both have genes we want to pass on, neither of us is infertile, and that we don't get divorced. Those are a LOT of what-ifs, when I have a perfectly amazing relationship right now. And honestly, with all those what-ifs, I'd be better off hand-picking a donor than waiting for all of those things to line up. Plenty of straight women have a hard enough time getting all those ducks in order. As a child of divorced parents, I am happy my parents had me, but I am happy that they are no longer married and it wouldn't have bothered me one bit if they'd never been together at all.

My point is, the things that you might gain from being with a man as opposed to a woman are extremely superficial, and as long as you are a strong soul, you don't need those things. And you already know you don't want them! "the few benefits of dating guys wouldn't make up for how much I care about her and how happy she makes me." If you are happy with her, you can rest assured that you have it really good. So long as you are satisfied by your current partner, being with a man (or anyone else for that matter) has no promise of being better. In fact, leaving a good relationship only ensures that you will be less likely to find satisfaction.

So how do you ignore these feelings and prevent snowballing? Focus on the present, and listen to yourself:
I'm in an amazing relationship
I love my girlfriend an extreme amount
We're very happy and healthy
I'm happiest with her

To top it off:
I don't like men as well as women
I prefer women sexually
And, you tried the experiment of dating a guy, and you already know it wasn't what you wanted.

You know you are in a great relationship that you want to be in, and I strongly believe you can work through the what-ifs and the anxiety. Please get a mod to repost a throwaway email for you (or memail me) if you'd like more tips on how to get yourself out of this headspace. I have much experience with this territory, and I'd be happy to talk more.
posted by emoemu at 2:05 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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