Jun 13 2010
One of my most popular posts was a piece entitled “How to talk to your bisexual boyfriend” and it attracts a lot of comments from women seeking to deal with their boyfriend’s bisexuality. I thought it would be interesting to analyse the female reactions to discovering they have a bisexual boyfriend and to see if we can learn anything from it.
I apologise in advance if this article comes across as sexist. I do have a prejudice in so much as I have experienced these situations for myself as a male who has come out as bisexual to several girlfriends. But I do think this perspective and my conclusions will be helpful to women, so if you can get over my wounded male bias and reach the end of the essay, you’ll hopefully find it useful.
Based on the comments my earlier article attracted and on emails I received privately, it would seem that generally speaking you can characterise the sentiments of women who have just discovered their boyfriend is bisexual as some or more of the following.
- They still love their boyfriend
- They are angry/hurt he didn’t reveal his bisexuality sooner.
- They are worried he might decide he is gay.
- They want him to be true to himself.
- They don’t want him to sleep with men on the side. (The monogamy clause).
Lets briefly deal with each and then I’ll take a more holistic discussion of the points.
(1) Women still love their bisexual boyfriends. Good! Happy days! This is an excellent and fortunate place to start. From here all things are possible.
(2) They are angry and or hurt that their boyfriends didn’t reveal their bisexuality sooner in the relationship. On this point I see varying definitions of “sooner” ranging from “before he even asked her out” to “before he asked her to marry her”. What’s more the definition of “sooner” appears to be proportional to the length of the relationship up to the revelation. Men can’t seem to win on this one, because they can never tell their girlfriends they are bisexual soon enough.
Whilst its understandable that women are going to feel hurt, particularly if they have caught their boyfriend being unfaithful. I have never heard from a woman (even one who has not been cheated on) consider all the social barriers, shame and fears a man might have about revealing his bisexuality. In our hetero dominated world, few people outside the LGBT community understand how hard it is to come out. Girls you need to be more understanding about this, especially if you and your boyfriend live in a very heterosexual social environment or have a religiously conservative background.
(3) They worry their boyfriend might decide he is gay. I’ll analyse the motives behind this fear later, but for now, I’ll just say two things, (a) we can blame every gay man that ever tried to be straight for creating this stereotype [Joking] and (b) it singularly fails to understand bisexuality as a distinct orientation to homosexuality.
Its worth noting that for many bisexual men, the last two points (4) & (5) are impossible to reconcile. A point seemingly wasted on some of their girlfriends. Due to the logical inconsistency, I tend to dismiss point (4) as tokenism or at least as being very low on the list of priorities. In fact what is far more over-riding in these circumstances is abandonment issues.
Personally, I find its telling that I have never heard from a woman, who has dumped her boyfriend because she found out he was bisexual. They all want to save the relationship, they often are unsure how to do this or whether the relationship can survive. They are often confused and hurt, but I have not heard from a woman who instantly gave her boyfriend his marching orders just because she found out he liked boys.
So I don’t think women want to leave their boyfriends. More over their objections to him sleeping with men (the monogamy clause) and their fear that he might decide he is gay, are actually two sides of the same coin and centre on their fear that their boyfriend will leave them, not vice versa.
This is what leads me to think that abandonment fears are actually at the heart of the whole issue.
Bisexual men tend to keep their sexuality a secret because they fear their girlfriend will dump them. Something I have seen no evidence of. When they reveal their bisexuality, their girlfriend then fears that their boyfriend will leave them. Again if he is bisexual there is no evidence of this either.
The unfairness about these respective fears is that the male fear of abandonment is falsifiable and can be demonstrably shown to be misplaced, ie: by coming out and discovering that your girlfriend doesn’t actually want to leave you. In contrast the female fear of abandonment is (in the short term at least) unfalsifiable and there is nothing the guy can do to show her it is misplaced.
The problem is that this female fear of abandonment tends to manifest itself with trust issues, resentment and insecurities. These become a destructive force in the relationship before sufficient time has elapsed to allow the abandonment fear to be abated.
One guaranteed cure for female abandonment fears is long-term monogamy. Some women might be able to gradually accept an open relationship whereby they allow their boyfriend to have casual male partners providing of course that they always return to their female partners afterwards. But each takes time to accept and the abandonment fears actively work actively against allowing this to happen.
I seemed to be working towards a conclusion that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. However, I don’t think that’s helpful or proactive in terms of relationship counselling.
The solution as I see it rests with the ability of women to quickly get over any feelings of hurt and anger they are experiencing and to rapidly resolve any abandonment fears they might have. This is easier said than done and places a heavy burden on women, but I do believe that if more women can take a cognitive approach to the situation, better outcomes ie: a loving and trusting relationship will result.
An explanation of how this might work will have to wait for another article, and whether or not you think I’m being fair towards women is also open to debate. However, I think we’ll agree that abandonment fears are a major destructive force in relationships, they cause men to lie and women to lose trust and feel insecure. Getting over abandonment fears is therefore central to a happy relationship.
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