Just Passing Bi?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Question

I thought your take on why so many people believe bisexuals to be less monogamous was thoughtful and interesting. However, as someone who's been in long-term, monogamous relationship with a bisexual man, I think you missed the real reason for these insecurities. I thought I was completely fine with my boyfriend's bisexuality but what started to gnaw at me after a while was the fact that by committing to me he would never be able to enjoy that other side of himself. Sure, I could give him all the vag in the world but I could never satisfy his desire for cock. It creates an insecurity that really is twice as dramatic as a heterosexual couple. Where before I only had to worry about women hitting on my man, now I have to be worried about guys as well. Not to mention that the longer one goes without something, the stronger their desire for it becomes. I'm not saying these fears are rational, but it's where the mind goes sometimes, especially when trust is not a strong part of the relationship.

He can't just turn off his attraction to men—I mean, can he really ignore those feelings forever or as long as we're together? I think it's more about feeling you can never fully satisfy your partner and for many, cheating is the next logical step in that equation.

Cristy

Answer

You bring up a salient point about how, when we pursue a traditional relationship model with an atypical partner, we behave as though we are entitled—obliged, in fact—to feel insecure. Andrea Zanin, who conducts workshops internationally about non-monogamy, speaks to this tendency eloquently: "Most of us are raised within and completely immersed in the institution of heterosexuality. By this I don't mean the sexual orientation per se; I mean the paradigm that has us all believing a certain package deal of sexual and gender-related feelings, identities and behaviours is normal and right. Within that paradigm, the prescribed set of behaviours is more or less as follows: you are appropriately gendered for your sex, feel sexual attraction to people of only one sex/gender (the 'opposite' one), engage in monogamous or serial monogamous partnership with such people, marry, reproduce and so forth. Sometimes we encounter people or situations that fall outside that paradigm but as long as we can normalize them, we can sort of incorporate them into the paradigm so that they remain comfortable for us. So for example, if your guy likes other guys, that can be seen as something that makes him unique or unusual, but you can still be 'fine' with it as long as it doesn't disturb the rest of the package deal. The problem is that sometimes those unique or unusual people or circumstances are just a bit too hard to normalize, for whatever reason, and that causes us a great deal of anxiety."

When you get anxious, you begin predicting outcomes, in this case that your boyfriend will never be satisfied with you and that this dissatisfaction will inevitably lead to cheating. "The paradigm tells us that these outcomes are to be expected, and that you have every right to be upset and insecure and freaked out about that," says Zanin. "These outcomes, within the heterosexual paradigm, are indeed quite scary. However, at the very least they let you stay within the comfortable paradigm and be 'normal,' and you get lots of sympathy for your plight on the part of other people who are also in that paradigm. In other words, having a bisexual boyfriend creates insecurity not just because he might cheat, but because his very existence challenges the safety and rightness of the paradigm you've grown up with and that everyone you know ascribes to."

You yourself admit to being prone to thoughts of cheating, regardless of your partners' orientation. What if, for a moment, you deemed that to be the issue you needed to address? Additionally, what if you didn't automatically use the paradigm of heterosexual monogamy—one that can be really stressful even for those who come into it with perfect qualifications—as the best and only standard by which to judge an intimate relationship?

"What if you broke the mould and did something totally, radically different from what everyone around you is doing?" Zanin asks. "What if there were room for an enormous amount of creativity? What if there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of different paths to happiness, rather than only five or six plus a few 'I don't get it but I'm not going to judge them as long as they do it over there far away from me' exceptions? Making a paradigm shift like this is terrifying, to be sure. It means dropping the 'safety' of having all those decisions pre-made for you, within a certain limited range of acceptable possibilities. It means putting a lot of thought into who you are and what your relationships look like and how you have sex. It means perhaps doing and being things that your parents, your friends and everyone around you might not understand or necessarily approve of. This is a huge challenge, and it's not for everyone. But sometimes when you're faced with a situation like this one, you've got two options: stay in a paradigm where there's a predictable and unpleasant outcome with a lot of people nodding in approval, or jump into a paradigm where you've got no safety net but a tonne of options that are lots of work but that might just make you happy."

Relationships require a lot of consideration and possibility for transformation—as do we, in and of ourselves. "There is no quick fix for deep-seated fears about our own worth and adequacy," Zanin concludes. "That shit requires a lot of in-depth work over a very long time, potentially including the help of a therapist—not because we're broken and need fixing, but because we're hurting and need healing, and that takes time and dedication."

Visit Zanin's blog at www.sexgeek.wordpress.com or check out her next workshop on non-monogamy at www.comeasyouare.com. It may not be your bag, but it'll sure get you thinking about different ways to love. Maybe you'll even be inspired to make one up all your own.