Today’s Ask the Editors question deals with doubt, identity, and the B-word.
My relationship with my boyfriend has always been slightly atypical. When we first got together around a year ago I identified as asexual (I am a biological and cisgendered woman). I told him early on in the relationship and although I was okay with cuddling and such that I didn’t enjoy kissing and wasn’t sure if I ever would. He was surprisingly supportive and agreed to continue dating me although our relationship was somewhat platonic. After a few months he did seem to want to clarify how sexual our relationship could be and after many discussions about it we, very slowly, began to have a sexual relationship. I’ve gotten to the point where I enjoy kissing and all kinds of sex, feel attraction towards him and thus no longer identify as asexual. This all happened about six months ago.
Now we are at a good place in our relationship, are contemplating moving in together, talk openly about where we want to raise children, and I am feeling very fulfilled. I do always want to have a closer relationship with him and we recently had a discussion about sharing more with each other. He later told me, through a text, that he is bisexual. This was not shocking to me and my first reaction was that it didn’t matter and didn’t change anything, but after spending time with the thought of him being bisexual I’ve begun to analyze the little things in our relationship. Was he okay with my asexuality because he wasn’t that attracted to me as a woman? Has he ever dated/slept with another man? Will he want to explore that if he hasn’t? Why am I just finding out about this now? Is that why he has a huge movie poster with a half naked man on his wall?
I have not seen him since he told me through text (we both work and I’m in college full time) so we have not discussed it in person yet. I suppose I need advice as to what I say to him and how supportive I need to be but also how this is going to change our relationship. I’m just feeling confused and have no idea how to approach this.
Meghan Young Krogh: Only you can know what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not, but it sounds like you have a good thing with this guy. He’s a person you have, so far, felt really comfortable with and have been able to explore more of your own scope of sexuality with. It sounds like he feels the same about you. You are balking at what sounds like concerns about his level of attraction to you and possibly at his sexual history. I can answer one of those for you: he’s attracted to you, a lot. That much is clear from your history together.
As far as your own comfort with his history, that’s for you to decide. In a perfectly fair world, you’d be just as patient and comfortable with his identity as he has been with yours. In a realistic world, that might not be the case, and your discomfort won’t make you a bad person if you decide you’re not up for this journey. But be honest: does his bisexuality make a difference in your life together? Or are you really afraid that bisexual also means polyamorous? I guess I’d hope that, first, you are willing to hear him out and listen to his thoughts and feelings with openness and care. Second, I hope that you are willing to talk to a counselor together to help work through some difficult questions about identity (and please note that I don’t think he needs counseling to “fix” his identity, nor you yours). But finally, I hope you’ll both be honest with one another. At the very least, you’ve learned a lot about yourself with this guy. At the best possible outcome, you have a life partner here. Nothing in between those two points can be all bad.
Sally Lawton: I kept reading this thinking there was going to be a big “but,” but there never really was. From what you’ve described, you’ve got a relationship where you are incredibly open and honest with each other. I hope that you will give him the same openness and willingness to accept who he is that he gave you. Like Meghan said, if you are worried what bisexual actually means, I would put that out of mind until he actually gets a chance to talk to you and lay his cards on the table. He is clearly attracted to you and cares about you a great deal.
SaraB: In reality, being in a committed, monogamous relationship with someone who is bisexual is no different from being in a relationship with someone who is only attracted to one gender. If he commits to be with you, and only you, that doesn’t come with the caveat of “Unless it’s another guy.” It may be that he didn’t tell you till now because he didn’t think it had any bearing on your relationship, but then after talking about sharing more, he decided to share.
You said you weren’t surprised and your gut reaction was that this news didn’t change anything between you. Your gut is usually more accurate than all the little doubts that creep up afterward. If you are having trouble figuring out what to say or what to ask, just ask yourself how you would feel if he asked you _____. If you would feel comfortable answering it, and if you feel like you need to know the answer before your relationship goes any further, then ask. If you would find the question offensive, then let it go. Nothing has changed about your past relationship just because you now know that he thinks some guys are hot.
Slay Belle: While I know the questions you’re raised here are natural reactions to your boyfriend’s revelation, I think it might be helpful to recognize that his bi-sexuality is not a moral, sexual, or emotional judgement on you or your relationship with him.
From what you described of your relationship, it sounds like he is a supportive, empathetic and caring man. Like Sara, I’d say if your initial reaction to the news was not one of surprise or alarm, then you should trust it.
queSarahSarah: I agree with what all the other ladies have said: communication is the key. It sounds like you have pretty good communication already, so just keep doing what you’re doing. Sometimes it’s hard to not listen to that little voice in the back of your head that whispers horrible fears about what your relationship means or doesn’t mean, even though it usually contradicts everything you know to be true. Do your best to quiet that voice and try not to freak yourself out too much until you get a chance to talk.