Straight wife, bi husband, maintaining sexual attraction
September 22, 2016 1:40 PM   Subscribe

My husband is bisexual, and recently indicated that his "pendulum" has temporarily swung to being more interested in men. How can I deal with this while being supportive?

I knew my husband was bisexual before we got married. I have absolutely no issues about his past relationships with men, or being attracted to men, or enjoying gay porn as part of his healthy sexual expression. I love him, he loves me, it's all good.

However, earlier this week he told me that lately his sexual "pendulum" has swung over to being more attracted to men than women. I have no doubt that he loves me but ... I'm really struggling with the concept that he's just not as attracted to me right now. He hasn't said as much, but our sex life has been not great lately and combined with our discussion, it's pretty obvious. I'm GGG and open to a threesome with the right guy, but poly is not in the cards for me right now (nor has he suggested it).

So: any advice on how I can keep my self-confidence high and not feel awkward around my husband until he "bi-cycles" back into finding my gender sexually exciting again?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
There are a lot of online support forums for this. Suggestions:

http://www.straightspouse.org/
(and http://www.straightspouse.org/resources-new/online-groups/)
http://www.markbentleycohen.com/how-to-support-your-bisexual-husband-wife-partner/

Above all, open communication with your partner (about your needs, not only his) is essential.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:49 PM on September 22, 2016


Aside from the obvious (talk talk talk talk talk), you should be mindful of the way you're framing this. Your title is about maintaining attraction, which is on him to handle and take the initiative on, and then your question at the end is about self-confidence and feeling awkward, which is mostly a thing only you can control.

But the actual moving pieces of this are almost fingerprint-unique to a relationship because this has to do with so many axes of sex and gender and society and age/generation and previous experiences and misc baggage.

And to a big extent *that* is what you two need to be talking about, and should have been talking about (and also talking about HOW to talk about it) before it reached a "causing actual real world discomfort" stage. (I recoiled when you got to the bit about the three-way, because being bi/pan for me is not that and I've heard that cliche before and I'd be hurt by a partner knowing so little about me that this was considered a first bid in the remediation process. But maybe you know he's into that and that's why you thought of it.)

There may very well be things you can do, as in playing around with the way the two of you interact, that he will find sparkier or whatever, or it may just be that he needs to talk about it and feel like he's expressed those things and just venting will relieve the pressure. But that's for him to tell you, not internet strangers.

But for your own feelings, it may help to go to therapy or do some journaling - so you get to vent too, if you don't think it's productive to do it with him - and figure out what things are important for you to feel to be more secure during these times so you can talk about them. Everybody's sex life is going to have ebbs and flows, life gets in the way in all kinds of ways sometimes, and being armed for that is important and it's okay for you to do that for yourself first and then hope he wants to do that for himself too.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:56 PM on September 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would never do this to my wife. Or, if I did, I would frame it as a problem that I have to solve. I don't understand what bisexuality has to do with it. It doesn't matter what your sexual orientation is, in any marriage there may be periods where there is lack of sexual attraction to the partner you have committed to (I am assuming you did not foresee an open relationship when you got married). It takes a bit of work, but and the work should be done by your husband, not you. Not sure why you have to own this problem.
posted by My Dad at 3:37 PM on September 22, 2016 [120 favorites]


When I first read your question, my first thought was to the effect that "the hundredth steak is unappealing." I apologize if that sounds insulting. I just mean he has longstanding access to sex with a woman and is likely starved for male attention, given his orientation.

In other words, it isn't you. It's just that he is getting enough of one and none of the other and he may need some of the other. It may not have anything to do with him "swinging" more in that direction, if that makes sense.

I'm GGG and open to a threesome with the right guy, but poly is not in the cards for me right now (nor has he suggested it).

I have read pretty widely about human sexuality. Women tend to be more concerned about emotional attachment than sex per se. One article I read years ago indicated that some marriages with a bisexual husband have a quiet agreement that he can have sex with men, but it must be casual sex (and safe sex, obviously), not involving attachment.

Best.
posted by Michele in California at 3:45 PM on September 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


I have read pretty widely about human sexuality. Women tend to be more concerned about emotional attachment than sex per se. One article I read years ago indicated that some marriages with a bisexual husband have a quiet agreement that he can have sex with men, but it must be casual sex (and safe sex, obviously), not involving attachment.

But the OP indicated she's not open to that, and that's fine. There's definitely nothing unreasonable about sticking to an expectation of monogamy.
posted by mister pointy at 3:56 PM on September 22, 2016 [14 favorites]


My Dad: I don't understand what bisexuality has to do with it.

This, 1000% This has nothing to do at all with bisexuality. Your husband doesn't want to be monogamous, which is an entirely different issue.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:04 PM on September 22, 2016 [44 favorites]


Why is he telling you this? Is it to excuse or explain some withdrawal of intimacy or lack of interest? Is he trying to lay the groundwork to ask for some kind of extramarital business to be sanctioned? I'm having a hard time coming up with good reasons to lay this trip on you. I'm with My Dad on this one -- he chose to commit to an opposite-gender relationship, this is his thing to deal with and should not be made into your problem.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:05 PM on September 22, 2016 [35 favorites]


I'm also bisexual and, at least in my experience, this is not really a thing. At best, this is as Lyn Never says, down to the fingerprint uniqueness of each relationship and the way each person understands their own sexuality. At worst, I'm upset that he even said this to you.

My fiancé is male, and I'm female. I am still attracted to women, but just like my attraction to anyone, at this point it's moot because I'm in a permanent monogamous relationship with someone I am in love with and would never in a million years want to hurt. Also, the fact that I am also attracted to women doesn't mean I become less attracted to my partner. (This may be a "fingerprint uniqueness" issue; I don't want to generalize about how sex works for 100% of LGBTQ people.)

Adjusting to invisible/"straight-passing" life has not always been easy for me, but I definitely take it upon myself to manage my own queerness in our relationship. I'm careful to be honest about who I am while also not rejecting my partner. I would be gutted to find out that he felt like my attraction to women made him feel awkward or less confident.

I would probably not opt to have a threesome with my partner and another woman. There are just too many ways someone could get hurt.
posted by Sara C. at 4:17 PM on September 22, 2016 [21 favorites]


I'm also bisexual and, at least in my experience, this is not really a thing.

With the caveat that I haven't (yet) experienced it during a relationship, I will say that I definitely go through periods of being much more attracted to women or much more attracted to men.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:36 PM on September 22, 2016 [12 favorites]


With the caveat that I haven't (yet) experienced it during a relationship, I will say that I definitely go through periods of being much more attracted to women or much more attracted to men.

Ditto. So much ditto. All the cosigning.

As to why the OP's husband has told her this, she said: "He hasn't said as much, but our sex life has been not great lately and combined with our discussion, it's pretty obvious." He could have just sat on this and let the OP cycle through the "oh god it's me what am I doing is my marriage in trouble fuck what do we do." Instead, he used his words and told her what's up and communicated like an adult human being (or at least, started dong so). There's nothing in her question that indicates that he put this on her to fix this or that he doesn't want to be monogamous (she suggested the threesome and indicated that she wasn't up to an open relationship, and did not indicate that he had said those things, so can we stop with the stereotypes about bi men?) She's saying "Okay, great, we have an issue, I'd like figure out what I can do for me while we're working on this, and how do I support him?" That's what partners do for each other, right?

OP, I can't address "how do I keep my confidence up", but as far as relationship maintenance goes: can you work on intimacy to take the pressure off sex for awhile? You said "I love him, he loves me, it's all good", so focus on that for awhile? It sucks, because sex is important, but in the meantime - extra date nights, lots of cuddly movies on the couch, making out and explicitly stating that it doesn't have to lead to sex, holding hands, massage, extra morning cuddles? I'm not your husband, but intimacy for me really helps (and sometimes leads to rekindling sexual interest) and in the meantime saying that your focussing on that and loving each other would take a lot of the pressure off the sex (which may well help it along too).
posted by joycehealy at 5:09 PM on September 22, 2016 [19 favorites]


(I've also had good experiences with threesomes and horrible experiences with threesomes. You're going to get 20 opinions out of 15 people about whether that's going to go well. So like Lyn Never said, talk talk talk talk talk. But if you're both good to go on that front and can find someone safe and interested and sane and low drama - we do exist! - then it might be a good way to blow off some steam. Good luck to you guys!)
posted by joycehealy at 5:12 PM on September 22, 2016


I'm a bisexual man. I've been married twice; I've had monogamous as well as polyamorous relationships. In my experience the pendulum model is an oversimplification. It's normal for any two long-term partners to have ebbs and flows in the intensity of their sexual desire. It's normal for people in monogamous relationships to continue noticing and experiencing feelings of desire for other people. It's also normal, when someone is feeling unsatisfied, to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. And, yes, I have certainly felt more desire for masculine sexual energy at some times, while being drawn toward feminine energy at others - though this is not exactly the same thing as being attracted to people with male bodies versus people with female bodies.

It's not clear from your question what your husband wants or how he hopes to resolve this situation. You mention the idea of a threesome but say that he hasn't suggested polyamory. Has he suggested anything? Is he relating the fact that he is feeling desire for something male in his sex life as a problem he wants to solve, or is he just... being matter-of-fact about what's going on in his head (and gonads) right now? It's possible that he's mentioned this pendulum thing because he wants to negotiate an opportunity to have sex with a man, but it's also possible that he's simply trying to reassure you that it's not you, it's him, and that he sees this ebb in your sexual chemistry as a temporary situation which will resolve itself in time.

I spent several years in a monogamous marriage with a straight woman, and being bi just wasn't an obstacle. The fact that I wasn't having sex with men didn't feel any different than the fact that I wasn't having sex with women who weren't her. She knew I was bi - sometimes we'd sit at a sidewalk café and ogle passing men together - and she was happy to try bringing some masculine energy into the mix via role-playing, strap-ons, etc. Not the same but it did help scratch the itch. Basically it was just the fact that we'd made a commitment to each other, and we cared enough about each other to stick with it, and that meant we were going to explore our sexual energy with each other and not with anyone else, and that's just how it was.

In general the thing to do with relationship issues is to talk about them, so I guess my advice would be to talk more with your husband about what he's thinking, how bisexuality works for him, and what sort of love and partnership he is hoping you can give him right now. I'd hope he's also looking for ways he can reassure you that he loves you and remains committed to you despite this ebb in your sex life. My guess is that this is not really a problem about bisexuality, but part of having a long relationship with the same person, where you're more into each other's bodies at some times than others, but you do your best to keep on loving each other and being good to each other regardless.
posted by crotchety old git at 5:21 PM on September 22, 2016 [33 favorites]


RE keeping your self confidence high: in large part this may depend on what you and he like in bed, on what's been making it less great lately, and how comfortable you two are talking about sex. Assuming he isn't feeling attracted to you right now (and that's a big assumption; just because he's more into men lately doesn't mean he's not into YOU, and you should talk to him to clarify that), what specific things would make you feel best in bed? Instead of sticking with your usual routine, would it be fun to do stuff that you don't usually do because you're more into it than he is? Are there things you might both enjoy more given the situation? Would you enjoy sex while watching porn that you both enjoy? Would you (plural) enjoy pegging or other types of sex that feel more queer to him?

Outside of sex, are there things that make you feel especially loved and appreciated that he might be able to step up?

Solely for yourself, would it feel fun to dress up and take sexy photos of yourself, or get a boudoir photoshoot?
posted by metasarah at 5:37 PM on September 22, 2016


I'm bi and have been monogamishly married for 22 years.

I don't know about cycling through periods of greater or lesser attraction to men vs. women because when I married my husband, part of our view of marriage was committing to a joint sex life. Attraction probably has waxed and waned on both ends, but I wouldn't have told my husband "I'm not feeling as attracted to people my height this year" (we're about the same height) because...that's something he can't change, and it's not really helpful or kind to get into that.

(I do share about my attraction for and love of others when it's ok, meaning, not in contrast to any little blips between us, but I guess I am not committed to a radical honesty that would make my life partner feel lousy in that way. Saying "it's not sexy when I have to do all the chores" is fair game.)

Anyways...what I'm saying really is, you're both a woman and his wife and I would focus more on reconnecting and doing things together to ignite that spark than on who else he could or could not be bonking. If he wants to mourn his choice -- and it was his! -- to end his pursuit of men, that's ok. But that really is a separate thing than the effort to find that spark with you, his chosen mate.

It is loving of you to seek to support him in his journey, go you. But it is never your job to make up for being a woman, or to mitigate the consequences of his choice to marry you. If you decide to go for a threesome or whatever, great, but be sure it is something you both want. A threesome won't fundamentally change that you are not a guy and while sure, it might re-start his engine for you it might also be really awkward or boring! It's just a night. your sex life is your lifetime, so please let him know what YOU want & need and work together on that!
posted by warriorqueen at 5:44 PM on September 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm also bisexual and, at least in my experience, this is not really a thing.

And in mine it is, which is because it's a great big wide world of experiences out there. But it certainly does not mean, as some have suggested, I or any other bi/pan person is "not interested in being monogamous" and OP's husband has said nothing of the sort, so that brush needs to go right back into the drawer. Being bisexual does not mean unable to be monogamous, or unable to be honest, or unable to uphold the agreed-upon terms of their relationship if monogamy is that agreement.

I don't know if all other people get to have relationships where the level of attraction (or interest in sex) remains precisely the same 24/7/365 over a lifetime, maybe more people do than I thought. Not everyone gets to, though, and it could be related to health or life-improving/saving medication or working two jobs or living with toddlers/parents/roommates or just having fluctuations in the old sexual mojo-feelins and/or gender type arenas and that is totally 100% okay if it happens. You just have to work with your partner about how important it may or may not be, and what is or isn't a workable solution. Nobody's promised or owed a lifetime of performance on demand, and my heart kind of breaks sometimes in these discussions because what if your spouse gets sick or hurt and can't live up to your requirements anymore, do you just bin them for it?

It could just be that, whatever, he's kinda feeling boymode right now and it's not going to last all that long and in the grand scheme of things a month or two of not feelin' it as much as usual isn't that big a deal. It certainly does not automatically guarantee he's going to (or WANTS to even think about wanting to) cheat on you. You talk about it and figure out whether it's even a big problem before you nuke it from orbit.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:05 PM on September 22, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm GGG and open to a threesome with the right guy, but poly is not in the cards for me right now (nor has he suggested it).

You're jumping to all sorts of conclusions here, and so are many of the people responding to this question. It's possible he was just, idk, making conversation. I'm a bisexual woman who has made comments like this to my husband in the past and it has nothing to do with wanting to open up our marriage (I don't), have threesomes (no thank you), or never wanting sex with my husband again (erm, nope). You need to have an honest conversation with him about whether he wants to have sex with other people, and if he says no, believe him. The idea that bi people have to have sex with people of both genders or that they're automatically on the road to gaysville is rooted in biphobia and is pretty toxic.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:20 PM on September 22, 2016 [4 favorites]


any advice on how I can keep my self-confidence high and not feel awkward around my husband until he "bi-cycles" back into finding my gender sexually exciting again?

It's not clear in what context your husband brought up his pendulum changing -- it might have been something he was idly noticing about himself, and not really have anything to do with not finding you in particular exciting.

If he was saying it because he noticed that attractive men on TV and such were catching his eye more than women recently, that doesn't say anything about how much he is currently attracted to YOU. Whether or not he'd be more interested in Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie probably doesn't have much bearing on your life.

Now if he's not attracted to you, that could be an issue, but that's not what your question was.
posted by yohko at 6:45 PM on September 22, 2016


Nobody's promised or owed a lifetime of performance on demand, and my heart kind of breaks sometimes in these discussions because what if your spouse gets sick or hurt and can't live up to your requirements anymore, do you just bin them for it?

No, but that's different from one's spouse saying they have lust in their heart, just not for you.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:02 PM on September 22, 2016 [15 favorites]


I definitely have that pendulum thing (maybe it's more of a... Ouija board of attraction??) but my sexual orientation is not the responsibility or fault of my partner's. It's on me to communicate what I do or do not want at any given time.

The whole threesome tangent is troubling - please dont assume that would fix anything, and it's just kind of an icky stereotype about bisexual people. Being bi has no concrete connection to being poly or vice versa. That your mind is going there makes me think that there are disconnects in your relationship that aren't related to sex, because bringing in another person (even just for casual sex) means bringing in a whole other person's... person-ness, all those variables. What's going on that makes you think that might be better than the stress you're currently dealing with?

In terms of staying confident, I suggest focusing on yourself. If your husband isn't sexually satisfying you, don't depend on him! Mix it up when you're pleasuring yourself, get some new and different accessories, try a different space or time of day or whatever will make you feel excited and refreshed. Masturbation isn't sex with a partner, but it is a form of self care, and can be very inspiring to one's partner (if you want to let him know about it.)
posted by Mizu at 7:15 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's nice that he's talking to you about where his attraction and sexual energy is going. To stay connected, maybe build on that, keep going down that pathway. (Are you open to role play or even just painting a verbal picture? "Here I am, your hunky guy, with my rippling six-pack guy abs. What a workout. I'm just back from the gym, glistening with steam as I step out of the shower" or whatever he goes for?)

In terms of feeling confident and not awkward, the question that arises for me is, how much of your confidence and comfort depends upon being actively desired? If it's "a lot," then I guess let me just suggest that it doesn't necessarily have to be that way, if that's helpful. Or, is it that you are thinking that he's actively repulsed? If that's the concern, maybe see if he can offer some reassurance there? It's quite possible that his current hottest fantasy is in a masculine direction but that he still very much likes being close to you and seeing you every day.
posted by salvia at 8:00 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Just want to say that it's entirely possible (maybe even probable - afaik there are no real studies on this stuff) that this has nothing to do with you. My sexual orientation has gone through some very strange seasons in the past few years due to the hormones of my various pregnancies. Men have fluctuating hormone levels too, and your husband may be at the mercy of chemicals in his brain he isn't even aware of. In which case you have nothing to feel unconfident about, any more than he should feel unsexy or awkward if you're less interested in sex at some times of the month.
posted by the marble index at 11:27 PM on September 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


You know...this probably wouldn't bother you if the sex were good. But ut isn't.
I think now that he's been honest, you, too need to be honest about what you need from him sexually and how you can both get there.
posted by Omnomnom at 5:03 AM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


So: any advice on how I can keep my self-confidence high and not feel awkward around my husband until he "bi-cycles" back into finding my gender sexually exciting again?

Nthing talking to him about where he's out and what he's feeling. You don't say how long y'all have been married and you're talking as if this is a new thing for him, so definitely talk about it, with an eye on how to deal with this in the future.

In the meantime, try to flirt more with other men, to be reminded that you're still attractive and desirable.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:34 AM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ugh. I am bi, and will go through periods of "crushes" outside of our relationship. This is just like any other sexual interest outside of a relationship. If he ignores it, it will pass. I made a commitment and I don't follow up on feelings that would harm my relationship. I just don't. I have ended friendships because I developed a crush. The answer is to just say no. It is his problem, not yours.
It seems that both of you are not 100% satisfied, and maybe you should take some private time together. Do something fun and different. But it's not your responsibility to organize/plan this. He needs to put in some effort, too.

There's a ton of things you can do to rekindle the fire, so to speak. People have been worrying over this exact situation for centuries.
posted by domo at 9:53 AM on September 23, 2016


You know...this probably wouldn't bother you if the sex were good. But ut isn't.

100% this. You feel understandably threatened. I think you need to have a very frank conversation because you're left wondering what he meant and what he wants, and that is completely unfair to you. Think carefully about what you want, and what you can tolerate, completely separately from what you think he might want. What would make this 100% okay with you? You don't get to demand that of him, but you can and should express that to him. Likewise he needs to tell you what would make this situation 100% for him, and then you have it all on the table so you can compromise. Absolutely nothing good can happen until you're both open and honest.
posted by AFABulous at 12:13 PM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Your husband is full of shit and wants your tacit/outright approval to cheat. You may very well have discussed/been aware of his bisexuality before getting married, but unless you also discussed (and agreed on) non-monogamy, then this is solely his problem to resolve and is not within the scope of your arrangement.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:04 PM on September 25, 2016


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