Bisexual in a straight marriage

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Bi/Bismuth/Bisexual Pin from OhYouFox

I didn’t realize I was bisexual until I was about halfway through college. I called myself an ally, and gladly spent my time learning more about the community and how I could fight for justice. During my junior year, I went to an LGBTA conference, and decided to wander into a session about bisexuality. It suddenly hit me that the session was about me.

Even though I had been immersed in gay culture for that past few years, I couldn’t shake my conservative upbringing. It had been so easy to assume being gay was a choice because I honestly could choose between the two. Walking out of the session, I wanted to cry at how much my old thought patterns still dictated my life.

This was also just over three years into dating the man that is now my husband. It took me a week to talk to him about my epiphany. Coming out to him was as strange as coming out to myself. I ended up speaking in so many circles that it took another conversation about two months later for him to realize that I was actually trying to come out to him. He had questions. I had questions. The biggest question was if I still wanted to be with him, or if coming out was also me realizing that I wanted more dating experience with other women.

Given my current marital status, it’s clear that I decided that I wanted to be with him. Now, almost a year into our marriage, I still don’t know how my identity fits into our life.

We have tried to figure out how to not ignore my sexuality. We make jokes about our various crushes in the movies we see. He is supportive of my lady fantasies. We donate to local LGBT organizations, specifically those involved with youth. I’ve been working to get a GSA network going at the school where I teach. We talk about our gender neutral parenting strategies practically on the daily, just to feel like we’ll be ready for it.

I came out to our immediate family and our closest friends about a year after I came out to my husband. But it’s not something that really gets brought up. I’m with a man, and we look like a very typical heterosexual couple. But despite being as out as I’ll ever be, I feel like a part of me is erased.

The hardest thing is when they forget. I make some offhand remark about how gorgeous Scarlett Johansson is, and they all give me strange looks for a second, before recalling the conversation we had years ago. I knew intellectually that coming out would be a continual process; I just didn’t realize how often I’d have to remind people.

I’ll probably always feel a little like I somehow “cheated” by marrying a man. I’ll always feel like I have no right to complain because of all the privilege my relationship grants. We will always be a work in progress.

In the meantime, I’d ask all of you a little favor for me and all my other bisexual Homies. Don’t assume that every couple that “looks” straight is. Bisexual erasure is a real thing, and until we get to a point in our culture where it doesn’t matter who you like, we’ll always be stuck proving that we belong in the QUILTBAG.

Comments on Bisexual in a straight marriage

  1. Well, if ethical non-monogamy is ever an option for some folks. There’s a crazy amount of good and super-informative podcasts out there, along with their spin-off discussion groups.

    • I agree. My new husband and I have taken a slow, yet very successful path down ethical non-monogamy, and 5 years in I find myself with an incredible non-binary second partner who really compliments the relationship I have with my husband. Conversely, he dates other women (LESSON: stick with poly people (at least at first), it makes things infinitely less complicated than trying to “convert” someone and disappointing both them and yourself in the process). Pacing is important, and we’ve learned that the situation is forever going to move at the pace of the slowest person, and truly accepting that can really help to avoid any resentment in the future.

      Additionally, fairness doesn’t always have to come into play. For years, I had the freedom to date freely (even though i didn’t really) while any outside experiences he had (beyond bar make-outs) were to include me. I felt it was unfair and had a lot of guilt about this, until we redefined what that all meant. Re-framing the freedoms as “gifts” from the other partner helped a lot to alleviate my guilt over not being as “good” at poly, not having as much compersion, not being able to give him the same level of freedom as he offered me so freely and easily.

      I think often in a bi-woman hetero relationship it will be easier to offer the female person freedom to date other female-types, due to the deep issue of competition. We have said many times that it would be a lot easier for me to give my husband freedoms if he were bi himself, and many many apologies have been made for my slow pacing in “gift” giving. Certainly they have been met with love and acceptance and so very little pressure to speed up (he has been urged to push me a LITTLE bit out of my comfort zone, because I know that I won’t likely do it on my own and I truly do want to learn and grow as a poly person), that each time I struggle it makes it clearer and clearer as to why I married him.

      The point of all this rambling is to say that my being bi had probably pushed us even harder to practice poly, and I am thankful to my husband for considering my happiness and wanting me to explore this side of myself, because without him I wouldn’t have found such an amazing partner (who loves my husband so much). Honestly, he knew I loved her before I did. I would come home from dates and he would say “Just tell her you love her already!” while I hid my smile and turned beet red.

      Gaining my second partner forced me to come out to my family and friends in a way I never thought I’d have to. Up until then my coming out would basically have been telling my family “I have weird sex sometimes, have fun with that information!” Honestly, I hid behind a lot of things to avoid coming out to my family. Getting married to a cis male was exactly the smoke screen I needed to avoid telling them, until I couldn’t avoid it any longer. With our relationship gaining traction just 4 months before my wedding to my husband I had to face this head-on. I didn’t want to alienate her OR my family. Falling in love really took me by surprise but I wanted to respect my partner as a whole person, and our relationship (her primary) as a fully-formed thing, not just “my second partner”. So, here we are…totally out as poly, actually our feature on OBB last week was the final straw in our coming-out process. http://offbeatbride.com/2015/08/falcon-ring-bearer

      Don’t live the next 30 years mourning the side of yourself you discovered “too late.” It’s NEVER too late. Challenge yourself and your partner to be fulfilled, and don’t get too caught up on fairness and guilt, just go at the pace of the slowest person. No decision you make in the path to poly can’t be reversed. You’ll feel more like a team than ever before. Don’t forget to talk. TALK. ALL. THE. TIME. And go slowly.

      xoxo

  2. “It had been so easy to assume being gay was a choice because I honestly could choose between the two.” I’ve never connected bi/pansexuality with the perception that it’s a choice before! That’s really interesting.

    For me, monogamy trumps sexuality. This simplifies things for me a lot. I know everyone doesn’t feel the same way! I tend to just say “Welp, I found my person. Done deal.”

    • I had the exact sentiment when I read that statement too! I’d really like to read an essay about that perspective some time, here or elsewhere in the internets. =0

      • i went off the grid right when this got published, but i’m glad this resonated with you! it was seriously such an a-ha moment for me.

        i’m not sure how much more i can explore because it’s strictly my experience. quite frankly, my upbringing was fairly typical as far as conservative smaller town america goes, so my experience is certainly different from someone coming from a really restrictive background. there was a comment farther up about republicans who are probably bi and confused, and i think it’s the same kind of thing.

        there’s a blogger on the patheos atheist channel that i really like (libby anne of “love, joy, feminism”) that explores some more of these issues. i highly recommend it!

  3. I’ve never heard of bi-erasure until this article- thanks for educating me! I’ve never identified as bisexual, primarily because I don’t know where the line is between “I find attractive people attractive, regardless of gender, and I’ll sleep with any gender with equanimity” and “I’m bisexual”. IS there a line? Where does one find that?

    • i firmly believe you gotta find your own line. i think where i embraced it as an identity is when i realized that when i heard/read homophobic shit, it was effecting me beyond “this hurts my friends”. potentially if i was living in a more lgbt-friendly area, i wouldn’t have really felt the need to carve out an identity about what turns me on in the context of my monogamous relationship with a dude.

  4. I’m a lesbian who lives with her bi girlfriend. She’s dated both men and women before me, for context. She’s the only person I’ve ever dated. (This is for context.)

    I would caution those who commented upthread that lesbians aren’t interested in dating them because they’re married to men. I suspect (though I’m not sure) that their main objection to dating married bi women is that they are married, not that they are bi. Lots of lesbians are strictly monogamous (just like lots of everybody, really) and wouldn’t be interested in dating someone who’s already married. It wouldn’t matter if they were married to a man or a woman.

    And I would reject the idea (alluded to upthread) that bi people do not get a semiautomatic pass to sleep with people of the gender(s) they are not married to. Monogamy is monogamy, regardless of sexual orientation. If you have negotiated non-monogamy, that is something different.

  5. OMG YES. SO MUCH THIS.

    I, too, denied being bisexual for so long. When I finally accepted who I was, my then fiance, now husband was the first person I told . . . and he couldn’t have been less surprised because he knows me so well. I’ve come out to people since then but I feel like I often get dismissed because I am married to a man. I feel like it took me so long to come to accept who I was but it was an almost non-event because of the gender of my partner. Or I’ve been told that bisexuality doesn’t exist or that it doesn’t count because I’m married to a man, as if all bisexuals need to be perpetually in a relationship with a man and a woman at the same time in order to “count.”

    Thank you for posting this. You articulated so much that sits at the back of my mind and it helps a lot to know I’m not the only person who feels like this.

  6. I have a story so similar to all the others in this comment thread- I fell in love with my now husband very young after only having sex with a couple of other men and kissing one lady.

    So, I knew I was Bi but I thought it was irrelevant because we were monogamous and I had no past relationships with women to ‘prove’ it anyway.

    As I became more comfortable in my body and more sexually adventurous me and my husband realised that I was ‘missing out’ on a big part of my sexuality but didn’t really know what to do about it apart from talk.

    Then I found the perfect solution over coffee with a friend. I had been mentioning to people (when it came up- which is rare) that I was Bi and when I mentioned it to her she said she was in a similar situation (but with more pre-monogamy lady experience than me) because she is in a committed relationship with her male partner my husband didn’t feel threatened or wierd when I told him that I had propositioned her (in a very clumsy but apparently ‘cute’ way)

    We both went home and checked with our partners and when they have their ‘permission’ we booked a hotel and spent an amazing night together- we now do this a couple of times a year and are still really good friends too.

    If you are a Bi woman and lucky enough to have a friend you are attracted to- come out to her!

    You never know what might happen.

  7. I think people are attracted to specific people, gender doesn’t necessarily enter into it. It is a chemical reaction. I am in a hetero normative relationship, and because we have agreed to be monogamous I don’t drool over other women or men just as I would not want him to drool over other women or men. It is all about what agreement you come to with the partner of your choice. I feel like so many people are so eager to put others and themselves into boxes like “straight” “gay” or “bi” – terms that are just so many qualifiers that limit who a person is and can be. If people didn’t all assume what other people’s sexuality is and try to box up who they are and how they experience the world bi-erasure wouldn’t be a problem.

  8. When I had a relationship with my ex-girlfriend, everyone around me started saying I’m lesbian. Why did they deny my past with men? I am bisexual, regardless of what gender I’m with. I don’t change from straight to lesbian.

  9. Offbeat Editors: Thank you so much for publishing this, it has been really nice to read these stories in the article and comments.

    I dated both men and women (and both at the same time) before finally “settling down” with my straight cis male partner–and now almost everyone who knows us assumes we’re just like any other heteronormative couple.

    As someone else above said, I don’t miss really miss dating women the same way I don’t miss dating any of the other billions of people who are not my partner. However–what I DO miss is feeling like the outward picture of my life better represented my internal life. Dating a man, I feel like other people’s assumptions about us are so wrong, and so confining.

    I’ve been thinking lately though that maybe a lot of “offbeat” people feel this way–or maybe all people. Everyone is constantly making assumptions about everyone else based on the context they see them in, but those assumptions are likely way off the mark! When I show up at my corporate job in a grey suit like anyone else, it’s not just my QUILTBAG membership people don’t know about, it’s a whole lot of my offbeat identity. And I’m starting to realize there’s probably a lot of other grey suits around me who feel the exact same way.

  10. I’m in a similar situation, so thank you SO MUCH for this article! My cis male straight boyfriend and I have talked about the issue which for us is twofold: I’m bi but because we’ve been together since junior high (now 11 years and counting) I could never experience my “bi side”. I’m his first and only girlfriend and he has admitted that he feels insecure about the fact that he has only ever slept with one woman, me. He would never cheat on me but I totally get that! This is why we talked about hiring a professional to broaden our horizon. We’ll still have to talk a lot about what will be okay and what won’t (think safety) but I think it’s a good though expensive solution, especially given that I can be quite jealous and don’t want to introduce anyone into our relationship who might develop feelings. Has anyone had any (positive) experience with this particular solution? I would be very reassured to hear that we are not the only ones considering this.

  11. I am bisexual and it was a slow process for me to realize and accept it about myself throughout my 20s. I have only really dated men, though I’ve had a lot of sexual and pseudo romantic relationships with women. I was married to a man, and ended that relationship, only to fall in love with another man. I fought it for awhile, feeling like I ‘needed’ to go date women to be a ‘real’ bisexual, but I’m not here to check of a list or fit someone elses definitions. Maybe I’ll date women some day, maybe not. In the mean time, I try and find relevant tasteful ways to reference my own sexuality. I feel very privileged to be a white middle class woman in a hetero relationship. I can talk about being bi and no one is going to freak on me about it (I live in the Pacific Northwest). I still sometimes feel like a fraud or that I haven’t earned the title.

  12. I am a bi woman engaged to a dude. We are monogamous and I have no plans to try to change that. So I’m pretty much saying sayonara to the idea of ever being with a woman again. Which is completely fine with me.

    I don’t talk about my sexuality to people. I told my parents I was a lesbian when I was in college because I was head over heels for this woman and I thought that she was The One. She dumped me and I had to figure things out all over again. I initially slapped the lesbian label on myself because I thought it would be easier, since no one I knew really believed that bisexuality was a thing and I didn’t want to have to explain it. I just wanted to be with my girl and be happy. I wish I’d been a little more circumspect about the labeling.

    A few close friends know what’s up because I needed to talk through with them what was going on in my head after the breakup, and upon meeting my now fiance.

    Everyone else in my life just rolled with it when I brought a man home, and probably assume that me being a lesbian was a phase that’s over now. I’ll probably never correct them on that, although I am pretty much constantly engaged in a debate with myself over whether or not I should. Ultimately though I think my sexuality has very little to do with other people and if I pass for straight because I’m with a man, well that’s something I guess I can live with.

    My fiance knows though. He knows that I am attracted to very few people in the world. Some men, some women. And that I have zero interest in anything outside our relationship. And this seems to work well for me and for us.

  13. My husband and I are both Bisexual and we both did not get to experience that part of our sexuality before we got together. He was born in Russia and moved here when he was about 14. He became involved in JROTC a few years later and went on to attend the Naval Academy. Not exactly the greatest environments to test out your sexuality. I was just painfully shy and was barely even able to hold it together enough to date men when we met.

    Now that we are older and more comfortable with ourselves it is something we have begun to discuss exploring. It is scary and exciting. It is nice to know we are not alone.

  14. I feel this so much, Im panromantic gray asexual in a cis m/f relationship with a heterosexual partner. Ive been told that I cant be ace if Im in a relationship or that I cant be pan. Ive been told Im just bi with a low sex drive most recently

  15. I could have written this, almost down to the letter. This is my life. It’s so relieving to know someone out there is living this too! ❤️❤️ Great article.

  16. Dear lovely cis/mainly monogamous bi ladies in a straight relationship, I love you all, I really do, but please be gentle with those with whom you try to express your “bisexual” side. As a bi (but mainly lesbian) woman, I’ve been on the receiving end of “experimental” sex and kissing on the part of bi women in straight relationships who wanted to try it with me, or reaffirm a previous lesbian side prior to their straight relationship. Accepting my responsibility not to get hurt, I said yes, but no emotional attachment, sex only. The hurt came when THEY got emotionally attached, told me of their feelings for me, they wanted more than sex, they flirted with me and courted me, dated me, they loved their husbands but wanted to “explore” this sensation of emotions which they could only get with another woman and not with guys. And no, they didn’t want to hurt me, but in the process of this “exploration”, I got hurt anyway. Whether it was the casual mention of their cosy domestic life, while telling me that I gave them the excitement they craved, or the quickly hung-up phone calls, or the cancelled plans because their partner came first….ladies, don’t confuse being queer with polyamory. You don’t HAVE to sleep with a woman to express your bi side any more than I have to sleep with a guy to express mine while I’m with my girlfriend, or sleep with another woman if I was wholly gay. If you decide to be polyamorous that is totally fine, but is a whole other story and requires careful planning and consideration for the other people, and much more work than a monogamous relationship. It can be done but don’t think of it as the easy solution. Not meaning to preach, just saying how very delicate and easy this is to get wrong…thanks.

  17. I have been going through these frustrations lately even though my life is amazing. I feel like a spoiled brat in a way. I enjoy where I work, am happily married and have a beautiful little one. But I have felt so lost within myself. I constantly find myself daydreaming of kissing a woman but never have played on those feelings. I have only been with men and never really saw a choice of having both genders. The only lesbians I have ever met dressed like guys and I always felt an attraction to more girly girls. I always stuck to one side because I thought it was was how it works. It sounds stupid and naive but I just grew up thinking that way.
    Lately I’ve been online trying to see why I am so frustrated and I found these blogs explaining everything everyone is going through and I am coming to the realization that I am absolutely bi and don’t have anyone to talk to about it. I find so much solace here. I haven’t told my husband of these fantasies nor my friends whom I have known since we were kids. I think they would understand but I am so painfully shy that I just hold crap in and suffer in silence. I feel guilty because my husband is such a great person but I can’t find the courage to tell him.
    I am lost and am slowly trying to find my way while living in the day to day. I can’t help but feel this urge to connect with a woman on a more personal level and feel that kind of kiss.

    • So tough! In my experience sharing my orientation openly has actually helped the urges and attraction to be put in place and put into perspective. Having it locked away, as if it were shameful, makes it all the more alluring.

      I guess it comes down to how much you trust your partner. For me, hiding something like that from the person I love so deeply would not have been a good option. Living openly is so much more comfortable than living in shame.

      Perhaps, if it is part of your sexual fantasy life and something you’re not planning on acting on, you could share it with him that way rather coming out and trying to define a fluid sexuality? Introduce it to him as a sexual fantasy rather than a life changing realization? I know my husband loves it when I whisper about threesome fantasy situations.

  18. Let me start by saying thank you so much for sharing this is my story but only in reverse. Took me 2 years to figure out my new husband is bisexual with a lot of kink while I have always been vanilla. I have learned to embrace his desires and allow him to be his self while it seems like I spend my time learning and reading to educate myself to be in his world. If there is any advice you could give me I would deeply appreciate it. I know I have desires to cross over too always have but nobody to talk to about till now. I think he doesn’t know how to talk to me about it so we keep it inside and suffer from the silence.

  19. I’m a 30 year old female in a very committed relationship with a male, but I’ve only recently realized that I am bisexual. I’ve had moments of being attracted to women in the past and fantasized but have never had a sexual encounter with a woman. This year, a new coworker started at my job, she is a lesbian, and as soon as I laid eyes on her it’s like the whole room ignited for me. Rockets went off everywhere. We became friends and hung out and I developed a crush. Shortly after, I think she realized I had a crush and completely stopped speaking to me because I’m not her type even though I would have never made any kind of move on her, as I am not a cheater. I figured crushes come and go and there was no need to make a big deal of it, it would pass and then I’d just have a new friend. In retrospect I’m realizing that my feelings were very hurt and that I can’t be sure that the attraction to her would have gone away if she hadn’t cut me off. So maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Ever since then, I’ve been meeting more women that I am very sexually attracted to (or perhaps more aware of and honest about that attraction) and honestly I want to act on it, but I won’t. I love my boyfriend too much to hurt him. But I can’t talk to him about this though, because he does have some insecurity issues from a past relationship where his ex cheated; I don’t want to make him feel like I’m going to do the same. So I’m in a situation where I have to suppress those urges and I don’t want to, but I want him too. I guess I’ll keep that part of me in my fantasies.

    • I pushed aside my feelings this way for a long time. Suffered through intense, unspoken crushes and resisted opportunities to cheat. My curiosity only intensified to the point where I couldn’t ignore them. Part of me wishes I would have told my fiance how I was feeling earlier on, so we could work through it all together. The longer I waited to confront and be honest about my feelings, the more I was hiding things, losing myself, unhappy and creating a divide and mistrust between my fiance and I.

  20. Thank you for this article and thanks to so many of the commenters. I’m a bi girl who has mostly been in relationships with men and have felt like my sexuality has been invisible for years, even to the people closest to me. I’m feeling a lot of envy of those bi people who have commented about their straight spouses being wonderfully supportive of their sexuality. In my last two relationships my male partners were not supportive at all of my bisexuality. The first, my now-ex-husband, would make bigoted comments against gays just to “bug” me. My last boyfriend was absolutely convinced that me being bisexual meant I could never be monogamous and could never be satisfied with him alone. Absolutely not true, and it hurt so much not to be fully accepted by the people I loved most. I am so tired of the belief that bi can’t mean monogamous. And I will never ever be with someone who does not accept this part of me.

  21. By the time I graduated high school, I learned through experience that I was polyamorous, gender-fluid and bisexual. Fast forward to today, I have been monogamous with a cis-gendered straight man for 4 years. (Weird, I know, honestly, I never expected it.)
    We have talked about my identity, but still, neither of us knows what role my sexuality and gender identity plays in our relationship. We have joked and argued about opening our bedroom doors. We’ve come to an understanding of right place, right time. I’ll let you know if/when that happens. For now, we both have crushes on Scarlett Johansson.

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  24. I too am facing an internal divide: a commitment to real love, family, loyalty, and a hope for a deeper relationship /vs/ finding my true self and propensity to experience a more profound existence given my late-found love and strong sexual attraction to women. I’ve found myself torn for months after accepting my sexuality, being in a committed, monogamous relationship with a cis-man. We have a beautiful 2 year old son. Our relationship was rocky before I came out to my fiance a few months ago. Since then, other issues between us get pushed aside – my sexuality is now the scapegoat. Sad and angry discussions are now the daily norm. I want to stay and work and suffer until I am certain that I’m finished with our relationship, yet still a hypothetical voice is telling me (screaming at times) that this is not where I’m supposed to be. I can’t let go of a hope that our deepest divides could somehow be resolved and bring us closer, but can I really be my true self with a man? No easy answer. I feel pressured to feel a certain way, to identify with stories of late-life lesbians leaving their relationships and becoming happier down the line. However, I don’t want to deny the complexity of my true feelings: torn in two.

    • Sounds like it is definitely time for couples and or individual counseling. I would bet both of you have some really deep feelings and beliefs that aren’t getting expressed or acknowledged. Living personally divided is horrible, it is time to do the work to feel your whole person.

      I wish you all the best and happy healing whatever you choose!

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