Should I marry a woman when I also like men?
September 28, 2007 6:36 PM   Subscribe

I am a guy who has been dating a wonderful girl for four years. We have been living together for most of that time. We are both out of college and in our mid-20s. Though this is my first relationship I feel like we are perfect for each other. She's had other relationships (long and short-term) and feels the same way. I am thinking of asking her to marry me, except for one thing: I am bisexual and it is difficult to give up men.

As I said, we feel perfect. We settle arguments quickly and without tears. We have similar hobbies, interests, love spending time together, but are OK with each other having alone time. We have similar ideas about kids, family, finances, all of the important topics. I am sure I could spend the rest of my life with her.

The only doubts come because I have never dated or even kissed anyone else, man or woman (I was closeted until right before we began dating). It does not seem smart to make this commitment with so little experience because I have no basis for comparison. Furthermore I would like to explore the side of myself that is attracted to men. Early in the relationship we discussed this, but I have never acted on it because our relationship is so great and though early on she once said she would be OK with me exploring I could tell from looking at her that this would break her heart. Neither of us feel like we could "do" polyamory--she read "The Ethical Slut" for a human sexuality class and has no moral objections but neither of us could emotionally handle it. I do not want to just have anonymous hook-ups anyway, I want to try real dating.

What she and I have feels like true love in every definition of the word. But these doubts exist. I don't want to give up what I have and find out years later after dating others I'm an idiot. I also don't want to give up on men before ever trying them.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Exactly what World Famous said. It's always really annoyed and puzzled me how people often conflate "bisexuality" with polyamory. You're monogamous or you're not, regardless of the gender of your partner(s).
posted by randomstriker at 6:47 PM on September 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Thirding The World Famous. This seems less about bisexuality and more about your unwillingness to do the "forsaking all others" thing.

You've found a wonderful partner. Do you honestly think you'll find something better in a guy? Or in another woman? If you honestly think you will, then go out and find it. But if you want to look just for the sake of looking, well, that just seems silly.
posted by christinetheslp at 6:52 PM on September 28, 2007

agree with all the above.
posted by Bob Dobbs at 7:00 PM on September 28, 2007

yeah, pretty much a no brainer. In general it is wise to not marry the first person you ever have sex with, but that is not hard and fast and if what you got is great it doesn't matter whether you just like women, or women and men, you be thankful you have someone who loves you.
posted by edgeways at 7:01 PM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'll take the other side here; if you feel homosexual desire you've never explored, I call that *very* different from a straight guy saying he doesn't want to give up other women for his current woman. The people saying otherwise are minimizing the experience of homosexual desire without a clue as to how strong your version of that desire is. That's a bad answer.

That said, I don't have a good one. You don't seem willing to commit to her forever, so marriage might not be a smart move. But do you really think you'll be able to find a relationship with a guy that will be better than the great one you have now? Tough question.

Either way, you definitely owe it to her to let her know about your hesitance over your desire for men before asking her to marry you. Talk to her. Be honest. Tell her you love her but are worried this desire will nag at you. Tell her you think "neither of us could emotionally handle" polyamory (or a polyamorous period) and see what she says.
posted by mediareport at 7:02 PM on September 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

+1 basically.

Men or women is neither here nor there. It's about whether you are willing to accept monogamy or she is willing to accept polyamory.
posted by unSane at 7:03 PM on September 28, 2007

Sorry, dude: you're not gonna get a workable 'open relationship' (i.e. you go off and fuck - excuse me, 'really date' - guys in your spare time) out of this one, so don't bother hinting toward it, especially not in a bloody AskMe thread. mediareport has it half-right: if you really want to be dating guys then you ought to be dating guys. But that's an abstract issue, and the fate of your 'perfect' relationship is a concrete one. Can you commit? That comes first, full stop. If this woman is a good match for you lifestylewise, consider your entire lifestyle, then don't toss that away lightly (and your ya-yas constitute 'lightly,' yes). Then again, if you've never really dated anyone else then you have only a partial idea of what you're giving up by choosing monogamy, and that's rough; I'm glad I didn't get into that situation, because variety gives perspective. Once you've found the right person (and you claim to), that can make for a strong bond, but without that perspective you're rolling a d20 (d20-6, really, on account of you're half gay).

At the same time, you can have intimate partnerships with other fellas that don't have a sexual component; you know this, of course. So I'm thinking: your insistence on your own purity notwithstanding, what you're talking about is sex, pure and simple ('I want to explore the side of myself that is attracted to men,' and this isn't just physical? Give me a goddamn break), and you're not the first fella to want to integrate outside-the-box desires into a relationship. I'm with everyone else on that score: talk to your partner, take the 'I'm an asshole' hit (after all, you're the one with the wandering eye here), and get it out in the open. She deserves to know this of all things.

Second thoughts aren't wisest, no more than first ideas are best. They happen, and you mull them over. Ultimately you're gonna have to look at yourself in the mirror every day, and that's it. Little else matters. That means being true to what you want out of life - not just whom you wanted when you clicked 'Send' today.
posted by waxbanks at 7:35 PM on September 28, 2007 [5 favorites]

well, then it sounds like you are not ready to get married. a commitment to marriage doesn't mean the death of curiosity and attraction to other partners, just a commitment to not acting on it (or whatever agreement you come to with your spouse).

if you aren't able to either "ethically cheat" with her permission (or she can't bring herself to give that permission), or cut off the possibility of ever dating men, then you shouldn't get married.

it's hard to walk away from a good person--i really sympathize. have you discussed taking a don't-ask-don't-tell break for six months or something?

otherwise, the sooner you call it off, the sooner she will be able to find someone who is able to commit to her in a way that will bring her joy and comfort.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:49 PM on September 28, 2007

I agree with a lot of the comments that have already been made, but I also know that a lot of men who end up identifying as gay go through a "bisexual" phase. I really do believe in bisexuals, but it's very important in your situation to be sure of which you are. You talk about how compatible you are with your girlfriend, but are you attracted to her? Very much so? Personally, I think that's the most important question in this situation.
posted by lgyre at 7:54 PM on September 28, 2007

Neither of us feel like we could "do" polyamory [...] I do not want to just have anonymous hook-ups anyway, I want to try real dating.

Poly is not anonymous hook-ups. This is very nearly categorical. I know of almost no people within the poly community who would define anonymous hookups as a poly activity. The Ethical Slut is certainly not the end all and be all of poly relationships, but it's good enough.

That said, this doesn't really change how emotionally equipped you and your partner are to handle poly. A lot of people just aren't. It sounds like she isn't, and it more weakly sounds like you aren't. If you , in fact, are, you'd hardly be the first mono-poly couple to try to work things out on a basis that satisfies both people.

There are two things which are critical to the working of a polyamorous relationship, and I think they're worthwhile even if you are, in the end, monogamous:
1. Each person needs to know themselves. They need to know what they want out of the relationship, what their hopes, desires, needs, and hangups are, whether rational or irrational.
2. Each person needs to be open and honest about these things.

Poly, at it's best, is characterized by the sweeping away of all of the pre-defined relationship structures on offer by society at large, all the conventions and expectations that people don't talk about, don't even think about, but take for granted. Then, through honesty and openness, the individuals build their own shared set of conventions and expectations, tailored to fit who they are. It's absolutely fine to do this and then arrive at something that looks rather like what society had to offer in the first place. It happens.

Which is a long way of saying: we can't answer this for you. You need to explore yourself, and you need to talk things over with your partner. Whatever the outcome, it's a worthwhile thing to do. You want to marry the girl. Open yourself up to her first. See where it goes.
posted by Arturus at 8:00 PM on September 28, 2007 [3 favorites]

I also disagree with the comments about polyamory. I don't think this is about polyamory at all; it's about sexual orientation. I think you need to follow through with your sexual interest in men to find out where it might lead you. I realize this might cause problems in your relationship, but at the same time, does your girlfriend really want you to decide 10 years and 2 kids down the road that, oops, you really DO want to sleep with men?

I don't think you're ready to make a lifetime commitment, and there's nothing wrong with that. Finding out who you are before making that pledge is the best thing you can do both for yourself and for your partner.

PS I'm a lesbian.
posted by stonefruit at 8:09 PM on September 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Why the hurry to get married? You're young. Wait and see how it goes. Two or five years down the line, see whether you're still together, whether you're still feeling like you're missing out, or whether at that point you can't imagine your life without her.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:10 PM on September 28, 2007

I can't help but notice that among the virtues of your relationship you extol, you don't say anything about your sexual relationship or physical attraction to your wife. If you are truly sexually satisfied in your relationship with your wife, I think indeed you have to consider the loss of potential experiences to be a fact of choosing monogamy. But if your concern is driven by a persistent undercurrent of sexual dissatisfaction - then as others have suggested I think you have to consider whether you are not predominantly gay. I've known a couple of gay men who were perfectly capable of having what they characterized as more or less enjoyable sexual relations with women. It just didn't really do it for them. What they really wanted were men.
posted by nanojath at 9:08 PM on September 28, 2007

The World Famous: This is stupid. It's like a non-bisexual man saying he doesn't want to give up on every hot woman in the world other than his wife until he has tried them.

Wow. No, it's totally not like that. This is about this fellow's very self-identity and sexual orientation, so your broad brush is IMO very insensitive to how confusing it must be to be in his position.
posted by loiseau at 9:23 PM on September 28, 2007 [4 favorites]

I'm with mediareport on this one. It's not as easy as just committing to one person regardless of gender. Bisexuality does not mean you like everyone the same and could be just as happy with one gender as with another.

I'm always amazed at how many people with "alternative" sexuality still try to fit who they are and what they do (or want to do) within the confinements of traditional arrangements such as marriage. Clearly, your shit is more complicated than that and should be treated as such. Being with a woman doesn't automatically mean getting married, no matter how much pressure you may feel from others to do so. Just like being gay doesn't necessarily mean lots of anonymous hookups. Marriage was never intended for the situation you are in, aside from the legal protections it would infer. Think about that.
posted by hermitosis at 9:49 PM on September 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

You've only had sex with one person, and you are not even sure if they are the right gender.

You are nowhere near being close to even considering marriage.

Please, please, whether it be this girl or someone else, please explore the homosexual side of your personality BEFORE you walk down the aisle.

As someone said before, 10 years and 2 kids later is precisely the WRONG time to be figuring this out.

I would suggest a relationship sabbatical. During this time, BOTH of you should date other people (different genders for you) and have some comparative data to back your decision up with.

I know a girl who was being driven insane with curiosity and desire for other women. Problem was, she was married with children. She was ready to end her marriage over it because the husband would not even consider allowing her to "try it", and she reached the point of being unable to contain her desire.

So, she has a secret tryst with a willing (girl) friend... and she hated it.

I'm not suggesting you would have the same experience, just that this is important, and worth exploring BEFORE you commit to marriage.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:39 PM on September 28, 2007 [2 favorites]

Is marriage something you really, really, really want? The unfortunate fact of the matter is that there's no such thing as a bisexual marriage. You've got your straight ones, and you've got your gay ones. If that's not something you can accept, marriage is not for you.

If you left this woman for these hypothetical men you say are "difficult to give up" (despite the fact that you haven't got any actual men to actually give up) how long do you think it would take before you found one who was as perfectly compatible with you as that woman?

What kind of bothers me about your question, though, is this: What about other women? You've never had sex with another woman (have you had sex with this one?), and yet you don't seem to have the slightest inkling that you might want to. Nope, it's just men, men, men for you.

Someone upthread mentioned a "bisexual phase." This is a real phenomenon. It's not a phase of a person's sexuality, though; that person is not really bisexual. It's a phase of their self-acceptance: That person is gay.

I believe in bisexuality, Anonymous, because I happen to be bisexual. I'm just thinking maybe you aren't.
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:46 PM on September 28, 2007 [3 favorites]

(That said, I really want to emphasize that second paragraph of my comment. You seem to have something good going. Are you really willing to throw that way?)
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:55 PM on September 28, 2007

way = away
posted by Reggie Digest at 10:56 PM on September 28, 2007

has no moral objections but neither of us could emotionally handle it.

The fact that you are aware of this is a good thing.

Build on that.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:00 PM on September 28, 2007

Seconding Reggie Digest. A "bisexual" is somebody who CAN be sexually attracted to either gender. A "bisexual" can at least in principle be faithful to either a man or a woman. A man who "needs" sex with men but is in love with a woman is a gay man in love with a woman. It happens.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:42 PM on September 28, 2007

I don't want to give up what I have and find out years later after dating others I'm an idiot. I also don't want to give up on men before ever trying them.

This is really telling for me. On the one hand you have an actual person whom you allegedly know really well and believe you can be committed to. On the other you have generic, untested, untried "men". And yet you're still torn.

Mate, you are just not ready to make this kind of commitment.

I got engaged when I was 22. Not to the first woman I ever slept with, but not with a huge experience of proper relationships either. We were married when I was 23. We had a child when I was 25. By 32 I was divorced. A large, unavoidable factor in that for me and my ex-wife was our limited sexual experience with other people. At 30 I was a confident adult who could go out and pull, my ex likewise. Looking back, we both missed out on a lot locking on to each other so young. There were other very important reasons why we came to grief (it's never just one thing), but this was a significant factor. I'm sure there are people who marry young and stay successfully married without these kinds of regrets, but we were not those people, and from what you have written, I don't think you are either.

I am also going to quote a bisexual (male) friend of mine, whose words also proved to be true: "If you think men are any less fucked up and emotional in relationships than women are, you are in for a big disappointment." There are different kinds of problems with men, but there are still problems and they are still work.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:00 AM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Can you really go the rest of your life without exploring this rather significant factor of your sexuality? Won't you always wonder? What happens when you meet a man that you really connect with on a physical and emotional level that you have to say no to because you don't want to disrupt the lives of your wife and kids?

If you leave your gf, you could end up alone. You could get your heart broken more than once. You could regret that you gave up a really great relationship. You may never meet your male soulmate. But at least you'll *know* what you gave up, which you never will if you get married now.

I'd rather regret something I did than something I always wanted to do but was too scared to try.
posted by happyturtle at 2:54 AM on September 29, 2007

I think the orientation may be just a condensation point for the issue of limited experience in general. That and the general male (although if women do this, they play it fairly close to the chest) wondering if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence (not the orientation fence, any fence).

A friend of mine, this one straight, ended up marrying the only girl he ever kissed/dated/slept with. He had a few physical "types" of women to whom he was attracted, his wife was one, but he had at least a couple more, and ever after he's evinced an obvious curiosity whenever such specimens of the other might catch his eye.

Years later, the sex in the marriage has gone (unsurprisingly) downhill, and he's wonders even more what he's missing. It kind of eats at him. In a larger sense, he is at a loss with the mechanics of relationships - he only knows about his relationship, and often suspects that how his wife told him it should work is just a way to sell him a bill of goods.

Frankly, it sounds like you don't have enough life experience under your belt to get married, no matter what your orientation. It will continue to bother you. Men conveniently represent "the other," but I suspect you'd be well-served by taking some kind of break and dating both men and women. Hopefully, you can bring back to your current relationship a well-rounded perspective, new experience, and (play safely) no STDs.

Presumably, your girlfriend has had relationships before you. Not only will you feel inexperienced in comparison, she'll probably feel the same way about you in time. Were I her, I'd give you the boot until you brought back some notches on the belt, good stories, and the kind of confidence that results from having worldly experience.
posted by adipocere at 3:54 AM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Mid-20s is kind of young for anyone to get married.

It's easier said than done but I think you both need to take a break and go exploring as safely as you can. After at least a year or so of trying different flavors, if it's still her that you love and are most attracted to, go ahead and marry her. But I think you owe it to her and yourself to figure this out. And kudos to you for being honest with her.
posted by Jess the Mess at 5:57 AM on September 29, 2007

It's not a stupid question, as World Famous seems to think it is. Not acting on your desire for other women is completely different from your desire for men because your desire for women will be met by YOUR WIFE! So you still may have a deep desire to be with a man that is not being met by anyone. Dan Savage would say you need to have an understanding with your wife that it's OK for you to occasionally have sex with men. I don't necessarily agree with him and I often find his advice outlandish and impractical. Still, I can see why you're deeply troubled by your situation. Maybe you'll need to tell your wife that you're completely in love with her and committed to your relationship, but that you can't promise you'll never want to sleep with a man. Not everyone can accept something like that, but if there's a lot of honesty and trust in your relationship, it just might work.

That being said, you'd be doing both you and her a disservice by not exploring your homosexual urges before you get married.
posted by HotPatatta at 7:51 AM on September 29, 2007

Furthermore I would like to explore the side of myself that is attracted to men.

This statement alone tells me you're not ready for a long-term commitment with this woman.
posted by jayder at 8:58 AM on September 29, 2007

You are absolutely not ready for anything close to marriage. You should suck it up and tell her everything you told us. Then go from there. You said you told her about your homosexual attrations to men early on, but have you told her lately? If that was four years ago then its time you got her up to speed. Dont propose to her without going over this at length. Youre going to ruin her life as well as yours with your secrecy and untamed, and frankly, selfish libido.

I am thinking of asking her to marry me, except for one thing: I am bisexual and it is difficult to give up men.

How this is different from someone else replacing men with "blondes," or "one night stands" is beyond me.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:34 AM on September 29, 2007

I am struck by how contrastingly libertine and prudish these responses are: "go sleep with men" and "selfish libido." Odd, that.

I am more bothered by your use of the word "perfect" in regards to relationship. It means there is a whole set of assumptions about relationships that seems untenable to me. You make the perfect relationship, you don't find it. And that involves tons of sacrifice.

Let me say that guys who have been married for a long time and have wandering eyes are not necessarily looking for sex but what they see as a release from the tedium and reality of their everyday life. So at some point it is not so much about hiding the hot dog as it is other issues.

Third: you want respondents to tell you something that you want to hear. Identify what you want that answer to be and think about what that is, and what it really means.
posted by craniac at 9:46 AM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

You don't say anything about how amazingly satisfying your sex life is with your girlfriend. That strikes me as a problem.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:38 AM on September 29, 2007

I'm a bisexual female, engaged, never been with a woman [briefly dated a few]. I've dated and slept with other men.

I have some vague curiosity about what sex with a woman would be like, but like you, I don't want to just "hook up" with someone, and neither of us want to deal with the emotional messiness of polyamory.

It would never have occurred to me to ask this question before accepting his marriage proposal. I don't think it ever occurred to me at any point in the relationship. If my curiosity had been that strong, I'm certain I would not be engaged. Yes, I'm still attracted to women. There are other men that seem attractive to me too. I absolutely don't feel as if I'm missing out on anything, though.

Of course, this is my experience, not yours, but you need to be bluntly honest with yourself and your girlfriend. You shouldn't feel like you'll have to white-knuckle your way through monogamy.
posted by desjardins at 11:28 AM on September 29, 2007

Don't get married, stay in the relationship, return without expectations to the issue of poly down the road, ignore everyone who seems to be implying that there's no such thing as bisexuality, then read hermitos' comment again.
posted by regicide is good for you at 2:23 PM on September 29, 2007

Ok, well, technically, do that last part first
posted by regicide is good for you at 2:24 PM on September 29, 2007

Did I miss some sort of meme that turned 'poly' into shorthand for 'all non-monogamy?' It's really, really not.

There are three problems here:
- Your inexperience with relationships in general.
- Your bisexuality.
- The pedestal on which you have put your relationship with your girlfriend, which, as a mortal, she is going to have a difficult time maintaining.

Why are you considering marriage? A lot of people think that making it legal will legitimize their relationship, make it "real" and more grown-up, guard against the other person leaving, and make it easier to resist temptation. Those can all be true to an extent -- they're also terrible reasons to get married. Marriage should be a reflection of the trust and commitment that's already there, not a law to follow.

Think about the position you put her in by proposing. Instead of just enjoying the relationship, she'll be forced to make decisions and predictions about aspects of you that you don't even know enough about. Not fair. If she decides to marry you and you eventually leave her for a man, shouldn't she have known better? If you leave her for another woman, it is doubly-cruel because she spent her time worrying about whether you fully understand your bisexuality?

Are you scared that you will lose her if you don't get married? Honey, that's a risk that we take when we enter into relationships with people. Certainly bisexuals can be monogamous (myself included), but it's by choice, not by sheer force of will.

Stay in the relationship. See what happens and what you both want. Put off marriage.
posted by desuetude at 2:46 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh and incidentally:

Mid-20's is not 'kind of young' for someone to get married. What matters is relationship experience, life stability, the authenticity with which you approach life questions. You might be ready to find your life partner in your 20's; if you've already found her and know it, what's the point holding off? You can spend a few years 'exploring' and guarantee that This Thing is gonna go away, or you can commit to it, and start carrying out the mechanics of commitment. One of which is honesty about sex - so go for it.

The respondents in this thread talking about 'go on a relationship sabbatical' are like people saying 'you can't write a novel unless you use index cards with stickers denoting their thematic connections.' That's a bit of a jump; try talking to her first.

(Second whoever said upthread that this has nothing to do with polyamory. Of course it doesn't.)
posted by waxbanks at 8:53 PM on September 29, 2007

A friend of mine lives in an upscale residential area where--in a two block radius--3 different marriages have broken up in recent years due to sexual orientation issues (i.e. one partner felt an overwhelming need to be in a same-sex relationship instead). In every case, the couple had been married over 10+ years, with 2-3 children; these weren't exactly loveless, sexless partnerships. There is something to be said for exploring where you truly fall on the bisexual--->gay spectrum in your 20s, instead of having to come out to a surprised, saddened spouse at 35 or 40 or 50.

I don't know you at all, and IANB (I Am Not Bisexual), so I don't know how relevant this is. I do want to bring it up because I don't know very many people who have had to painfully and reluctantly break up a family because they've been tormented by the fact that they really should have been married to, say, a redhead, or an Asian, instead of a blond(e)--or they really just want to play the field. I don't buy the analogy that some are making that "finding it very difficult to give up men" is just like finding it difficult to give up sleeping around with other women. One is a fidelity issue, the other is an orientation question that you may not have enough experience to answer at this stage of your life..
posted by sock it to me monkey at 12:25 AM on September 30, 2007

You shouldn't cuz in the long run you know you are wanting to go and get urself involve with a guy and end up hurting that girl. Believe me not good of an experience for her that will be if you marry her.
posted by marielos88 at 12:38 PM on April 7, 2008

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