Saturday, October 20, 2007

Email from a female reader with a bisexual ex-boyfriend

Early last week, I got the following email from an Asian female reader:

Dear GB,

My ex-boyfriend and I are 24 years old. We've been together for two years, and we're still very close. We broke up because we couldn't take the stress of a long distance relationship. But I just learned that there was one other reason for the break. Recently, he told me he was bisexual, and it was just this year that he fully accepted his bisexuality.

In the past, he's had crushes on women and has been in relationships with them. However, he told me that he has also been attracted to men since puberty; but he has never acted on them. Even with all the opportunities he has to be with other men, he has never taken advantage of them.

He also says that he still loves me very much, and wants to get married to me, and be a good father. I asked him if he will be completely faithful to me after marriage. He said yes. He also says that he doesn't ever want to act on any of his attractions to other men. I'm inclined to believe him because he's a very disciplined, strong person.

We're able to sexually satisfy each other, so at least I know he still gets aroused by me. He also trusts me completely, and tells me everything he feels.

As much as I want things between us to be okay, I just have 2 niggling thoughts at the back of my head:

1. How can I be sure that he isn't just in a transition phase, and that he's not gay?
2. Can I really trust that he'll be completely faithful to me? I'm worried that I won't be able to satisfy all his desires.

At first I was very shocked at his confession. Being Asian and Catholic, we're not really used to being open about these things. That's why I sympathize about the anguish and despair he must have felt while deciding on his sexuality. And I still love him very much. He's now undergoing counseling with a good therapist.

I hope you can answer these two questions. It will really help. Thanks so much GB! :)

In my experience genuine bisexuals are rare, however this reader's ex-boyfriend certainly might be one. But I'm concerned by the fact that he doesn't want to act on his attractions to other men. It sounds as though he could still be in denial about his sexuality to some extent. At his age, I think it would be healthier to experiment, especially because one of the reader's worries is that he might really be gay. He'll only be in a position to judge whether he is a real bisexual or not once he's experienced the intimate company of both men and women, so I think the reader needs to encourage him to do this. If the "good counsellor" that this guy is seeing has a different view, and for example encourages him to suppress his feelings or pretend that he's straight, then in my opinion the counsellor is doing much more harm than good.

I also think that the Catholic religion is notorious for suppressing people's true sexuality. The anti-gay teachings of the Catholic church, indoctrinated from an early age, have a very strong influence and make everyone want to be straight even if they're not. So as the reader suggests, he could be saying that he's bisexual because he can't yet admit the truth about really being gay. If he resists the idea of experimenting with the gay side of his sexuality, then my guess is that he's really gay rather than bisexual but can't fully admit it to himself yet.

If he's only got very mild attractions to other men, then perhaps he will be able to suppress these feelings forever. More likely though, if he keeps it bottled up inside him, eventually it will reach a point where his feelings for guys erupt in some uncontrollable fashion. Again, I think it's best for him to find out the truth now, rather than make commitments to this reader that he eventually might not be able to keep.

If he decides he's gay, that means by definition that the two of them are not sexually compatible as a couple, so they could remain close friends but shouldn't marry. On the other hand, if they can satisfy each other sexually, then there are further choices to be made in connection with monogamy.

My previous 'Dear GB' posting about bisexuality was fascinating because there was a huge divergence of opinion in the comments. Some comments reckoned that monogamy is possible for bisexuals, others disagreed. But it's clear that male bisexuals can have successful long term relationships with women. There was one woman who sometimes feels that she'd be happy to let her bisexual man sleep with other men. Perhaps the reader here might feel the same way? Probably not because judging from her email, she's looking for a monogamous committment. But I've said many times in this blog that monogamy shouldn't be the issue, the issue is whether a couple are compatible as long term companions and life partners. In the world's main urban centres, sex is very much a commodity, but love is hard to find. Anyway, if the reader were to marry him on the understanding that he's occasionally allowed to sleep with guys, there's a health issue because she needs to be sure that he always has safe sex with other guys, so that he doesn't pass anything on to her.

Again looking at my previous posting about bisexuality, all the bisexuals that left comments have made very adult choices about how to lead their lives. They've experienced sex with both genders, and have subsequently made choices about the gender of their long term partner and whether to be monogamous or not. Until the reader's ex-boyfriend is in the same situation, I don't think he's adult enough to make the choices that he seems to be making. So at present, I think that a relationship with him would be a bad idea.

For another opinion, I asked the same Asian bisexual guy that I asked last time. He said:

I don't think I can answer this question in an unbiased manner. I can only say that I applaud the man's honesty, but I do not think that it was the best move if he wants to marry and have a happy relationship with this gal. My experiences with women with issues tell me that women are not very good at handling truths about their partners. While they may accept what has been said to them, they always tend to suffer from "niggling thoughts". And when the couple quarrel, these niggling thoughts surface into explosive accusations and the likes. In the long run, such thoughts erode the quality of the relatoinship. Hmmm ... not a good move at all I think. And somehow, I suspect she will not appreciate my advice to other men in that situation to lie/doublethink.

Do any readers have any other thoughts on this subject?

Update 1-Jun-2011: Relationships with bisexual men: a cautionary tale


Will said...

I wouldn't trust him to enter into a monogamous relationshp at this point in his development. Even before I read your take on the situation, a big red flag went up over his not being willing to give homosex a try. And when he says he'll suppress his attraction to men forever, that gets REALLY scary.

This man has no basis by which to honestly evaluate his situation without having sex with a man. He's a time bomb waiting to go off in this woman's heart and in their relationship.

Paisid said...

i'd be very careful if i were her.

Tales of the City said...

based on my experience of bi men.. they always act on it.. eventually. Maybe at a much later age. Can the lady deal with this later on? Or does she turn a blind eye to this? I know a couple of bi men that do that and their wives turn a blind eye to it as they are good fathers and husbands.. in some ways it even keeps the marriage going strong. That longing for male company never leaves.. so if you stay with him you have to accept that as part of the bargain. I guess he has been honest.. but be careful, sounds like your society has a lot of pressure and he may just need to conform and have a normal life. You need to look at yourself first and see if you can deal with this.

Sir Wobin said...

Being able to talk honestly about the issues is a great first step. Deceit is a very poor platform on which to build a life together. That said, timing is crucial.

Timing for him to figure out his desires and disclose... Timing for them both to decide whether they want a life together etc. Only they can figure this out but let this remain in your thoughts. Bad news seldom gets better with time. Good news frequently deteriorates with time. Talking earlier probably puts you in better standing.

Even if you figure things out now, a life commitment means being able to cope with change together. It's lovely to hear that you satisfy each other now but both of your needs will definitely change over time. That will be true with any partner.

I think this guy has lots going for him that he's able to talk to the reader and deal with very hard issues like this. This isn't just about gay/bi/straight. Some women marry husbands who don't talk much and cheat with other women later on.

Dealing with his feelings with a therapist is nice but there's really no substitute for a good bit of c*ck, as the reader probably well knows. :-)

Soul Seared Dreamer said...

I think if he has been honest with her, she should trust him.

But that said, he is pretty likely to act on it at some point, and at that time, she may get hurt pretty bad.

She should tread carefully. She knows this guy better than anyone here, and she should trust her judgment on him.

GB - you need to change your name to Agony Uncle... its nice to know someone out there cares for other people's problems.

GB said...

Everyone who leaves a comment cares too Soul Seared Dreamer :-).

And just to make us all feel good about that, I was fascinated when someone at work pointed out The Prisioner's Dilemma to me today. If you click on that link, scroll down to "The iterated prisoner's dilemma". It's basically a mathematical demonstration that nice guys win in the end!

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

Personally,I would not trust him. I think, he wants to have kids. Once he is tired of fooling with himself, he would try to leave you and would want to take his kids. It is funny, I might do the same thing as he did.
I am always worried how I have my own kids without going through a lot of hassles. Any suggestions?

Oh, yeah! There is no such thing as bisexuality!!!

Anonymous said...

He is on a long road ahead of him. You will have to deal with his fantasies and desires for men and he will wihthold your needs and maybe resent you for not letting him explore. Strong will has nothing to do with it, these are things that can destroy a person if they deny them. He may seemed pulled together now, but it will eat at him like a cancer. If you truely love him, let him go and fullfill his fantasies.

I rushed into a marriage and had a baby with a man that sweeped me off my feet. I found gay porn and he confessed he had curiousities and then became distant. No one would ever be able to tell if you met him, he is very masculine and had a good job at the time. He just couldn't handle the 'lie' and be faithful to me anymore. We will end up being very good friends, but why submit yourself to this when you can just be friends now. He pretty much told you it would be a lie to be the you husband you probally deserve and want. He will NEVER be that man because it will not complete him. Do you want to be with someone that has to force themselves to live this life?