I’m 31 and in a relationship with a bisexual man. We’ve had a tempestuous on/off “thing” for the past three years (including a year when I regularly cheated on my then boyfriend) with both of us being unwilling to commit. Five months ago I realised I loved him and wanted a monogamous relationship. He told me he was willing to try and we were happy for three months, but he recently told me he needs to explore his sexuality further – which means sleeping with men. This is something he has done in the past, but he carries an enormous amount of shame about it and feels that the only way to “make peace” with himself is to confront it. I agree with him! But he wants us to stay together while he does this, which I don’t think I can face. I’ve tried to tell him that we should split up, but he insists that his future need to sleep with men doesn’t interfere with his love for me and that he wants to make this relationship work.
This problem first appeared in the Observer.
Your short letter paints a picture of chaotic sexuality and quite an excited, breathless feeling around it all. You say immediately that the relationship started in a ‘tempestuous’ way, involved infidelity and lack of commitment from the outset by mutual agreement. Despite knowing him for three years you only ‘realised’ you loved him five months ago. I wonder what spurred this realisation? My strong suspicion is that he himself may have been pulling away and you panicked, afraid that the addictive push-pull tempest was slipping away from you. However, you don’t say and I’m guessing.
He was ‘willing to try’ monogamy, a phrase which suggests you knew straight away that he was not fully dedicated to this new endeavour. ‘Happy for three months’ sounds terribly sad after such a long connection with this man. You then go on to describe his dilemma, his shame about his bi-sexuality and his wish to engage in more sexual activities with men. You say (with an exclamation mark) that you agree that he should explore this further (the exclamation mark a little too much emphasis – I think you do not agree) but that, this being the case, you want to split up.
And yet you have not split up. You tell us that he wants to keep you and have sex with men at the same time. Your letter seems to be a question about whether or not this would be a good idea, yet you have already told him you want to split up if he’s going to sleep around in the future (or, indeed, now).
There are strange things going on here. There is a huge amount of emphasis on the gender of the people he is attracted to. You state straight away that he is bi-sexual, but the problem seems to be that he wants to have sex with other people – gender notwithstanding. What, I wonder, would be the difference if it was other women he wanted to sleep with? Would this be less acceptable because it would not constitute a shame-filled exploration? The fact is that you both enjoy promiscuity, deception, excitement in uncertainty, but he is a bit more honest about not wanting to give that up.
That you have ‘realised’ (decided) that you are in love with someone whom you know to have issues (including shame) around his sexuality and whom you suggest is more interested in sex with men than women (excluding yourself) points to something quite masochistic and/or self-destructive in you. This letter is all about sex, sexual orientation, extra-relationship sex, infidelity, exploration. There is little here about emotional intimacy, honesty or what might be defined as a full and rewarding relationship that includes sex. It seems to me that, unconsciously, you are not yet ready to settle down for, if you were, you would be attempting a faithful relationship with someone you know to be reliable.
There is a boundarylessness to what you write and no feeling of safety or security.There is too little information to speculate on the reasons for this, but I doubt you come from a stable, two-happy-parents background and you are finding it very difficult, and perhaps frightening, to think about what stability might mean. You perhaps feel on some level that you are not worthy of someone’s genuine commitment. You also seem to be using your sexuality in a way that is designed to keep you in the position of power (a defence against helplessness and possible victimisation if trapped in a monogamous setting?) but that is actually preventing you from working on yourself in a constructive way.
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