Imagine this scenario. You’re a woman, happily married to a great guy and have a couple of wonderful children, and you realize that you’re attracted to women. The realization comes out of nowhere, but as you think back you realize that you’ve probably always been attracted to both men and woman, but picked the straight, monogamous path simply because it was all you ever really knew or all that was expected.
So, what do you do? Happily married, monogamous and outwardly straight… and sitting on this new awareness of yourself.
A friend is dealing with exactly this now, and I’ve been at a loss as to how to advise her.
My first dilemma is the very basic question around bisexuality and monogamy. If you are bisexual can you be both true to your sexuality by choosing to be monogamous and, thus by definition, with only a man or a woman. Or does bisexuality ‘demand’ sexual exploration with both men and women. I asked a good friend who is both bisexual and monogamous with a man what she thought. Her answer was unequivocal – you can be bisexual and never play sexually with someone of the same sex. As she put it “my bisexuality is who I lust after, but its not who I have have sex with”. So, just as straight women feel attracted to many men but most choose to be sexual with only one (at a time), a bisexual woman can be attracted to many men and women but choose to only have sex with one, be it man or woman.
So, that seemed clear — you can be monogamous and bisexual at the same time. But that doesn’t mean you should be. Once you discover your bisexuality it must be incredibly tempting to want to explore that side of yourself.
So back to the woman who suddenly realized her bisexuality but doesn’t want to blow up the great relationship she has with her husband and kids, what should she do?
Probably the first step is so she the realization with her husband. He needs to know this and needs to know that she’s struggling with it, And he also needs to know (assuming its true) that she doesn’t want to destroy their relationship.
The second step, I think, is for her to be harshly honest with herself about the compromises she may need to make to get what she wants but also do what is considerate for her family. In an age of sexual self actualization (which I love) its easy to believe we should do whatever we need to do to express out true self sexually. But what is this comes at the expense of other elements of her life that she values and loves – her marriages, her family… Sometimes self actualization requires prioritizing things beyond the immediate.
Finally… baby steps. My strongest advice, after speaking with friends who had been through similar discoveries about themselves, is to start slow. There are lots of low emotional risk ways to play with your bisexuality – a strip club, a sex worker, an erotic massage. These offer ways of getting a little sexual indulgence without putting emotions (hers or her husband’s) too much on the line.
This happens all the time – we discover something new about our sexuality and we want live that new reality about ourselves. Thats great and important. But there are others in our lives that we must consider too.