Bisexual and Bitter

Friday, June 13, 2008

Question

I am going to be 35 next month, and it seems to me that if the next decade of my life does not include a meaningful relationship, there's nothing in the future to make me happy or hopeful. I have had three deep relationships with women I truly loved. The sex I had with each of them was mutually fulfilling. But after about six months, I found that I was craving sex with another man. In the first relationship, I resisted as long as I could until a chance encounter with a gay friend went further than I anticipated. She eventually caught me cheating on her and left me. I was truthful with my second girlfriend about what had happened, and she did her best to meet all of my sexual needs, but the same urge reasserted itself. Eventually I went to her asked for permission to go outside the relationship. She initially said yes then realized she could not live that way, and that love went out of my life, breaking my heart for the second time.

With my last female lover, I found someone truly adventurous and wild, and we tried to have a threesome with another man who said he was bisexual. But I found that she became the object of his attention in bed, and this wasn't what I needed. We separated because she was afraid that I would have unsafe sex if I went looking for man-to-man sex on my own. She became very anxious that I would give her a sexually-transmitted disease.

I seem to be a true bisexual. When I am not in love with a woman, my life is bleak. I need that passion and romance. But it's not enough. I have a conservative job and don't think I can seek out a triad, with a lover of each sex. But there is something that calls to me about sex with another man, and I just can't live without that either. I find that right now I am having a lot of gay sex, but it isn't satisfying romantically. I've never been in love with another man, and I don't think I could ever do that. Is this going to be what the rest of my life is like? I don't want to hurt another devoted lover and destroy her trust. When that happens, a little bit of me is destroyed as well.

Answer

People usually assume that a bisexual is a person who has equal sexual and romantic interest in both men and women. (There are other stereotypes as well, but let's just deal with this one for the moment.) The truth is that most men, not just those who call themselves bisexual, have some level of erotic response to both sexes. This is true of a significant number of women as well. It takes a lot of self-searching and honesty to own the label of bisexual. But, as your letter demonstrates, creating a life that honors this identity is no easy task. It is especially challenging to have a sexual orientation that's viewed as unconventional when, in other aspects of your personality, you conform to society's expectations.

Do you fall in love with women rather than men because of the priority you place on appearing to be just like everyone else? It's much easier to tell other people about a "heterosexual" love affair than a same-sex partner. The ability to be public about that romance also makes the whole relationship easier. Do you feel guilty about your lust for other men? If so, does this guilt limit your emotional response to other men?

Please don't react with anger and disregard what I am saying. Bear in mind that I have only a short e-mail to go on, so I don't know your whole history or character. It is certainly possible that you can feel great about your trysts with both men and women, and have a romantic response to one gender only. I know bisexuals who are in the opposite position—their heart connections are same-sex, but the opposite-sex encounters are casual and for sexual gratification only. I wouldn't accuse them of being heterophobic! But if you have never seen a decent, loving man-to-man relationship, the lack of such models can influence what you believe to be possible for yourself. If you are not very active in the gay community, I would advise you to check it out in more detail, to see if more education will change your self-image and plans for your life.

In addition, pursue membership in the bisexual community. Go on-line and join some groups. See if there are any organizations in your area. A bisexual woman is more likely to understand (maybe even value) your sexual orientation than a straight one.

Another stereotype is that all bisexuals are promiscuous and have sex with anything that moves. But I know of bisexual people who are in monogamous relationships. But I doubt that such an arrangement would make you happy. Even if you don't need to fall in love with another man, you need one-to-one time with other guys. Do you think you could handle an open relationship? Read Dossie Easton's book The Ethical Slut before you make up your mind.

There are many, many different kinds of long-term relationships. The monogamous, opposite-sex dyad is just one variation. In order for a relationship to last, it has to satisfy the basic needs of both partners. Your sexuality is probably not going to change. And why should it? The ability to appreciate both genders is an amazing gift, even a potentially sacred one. Be completely honest with future partners, as long as you can trust their discretion, and see what you can negotiate. You may be surprised to find how much joy life can hold when you let go of a model that doesn't fit and try to be your highest self instead of some canned paradigm from a 1950s situation comedy.