Relationships

“I Was Happily Married When I Realized I Was Bisexual”

I Was Happily Married — When I Realized I Was Bisexual

The day after my 31st birthday, I came out as bisexual…

…but not to my husband, family or friends. That would happen later. First, I had to come out to myself.

Growing up in a socially conservative religion, I was taught that sex was reserved for monogamously married men and women. “Same-sex attraction” was contrary to God’s plan. I didn’t know any openly LGBTQ people until I was in my teens, and even then, I only knew gay men. I didn’t have any models for what to do with my fascination with women and girls, so I tried to explain my feelings away.

I’m a girl, I told myself, of course I’m curious about other girls! And if I liked looking at them, if I was sometimes mesmerized by breasts and hips, the small of one woman’s back, another woman’s collarbones? Well, I could chalk that up to appraisal, not desire. Women check each other out all the time, I told myself. I want to be like them, not with them. And sure, I thought about kissing my best friend, but that was just hormones misfiring (I blamed a lot on hormones misfiring).

I was convincing. But I couldn’t always drown out the quiet voice in my head that whispered there might be more to this story, that there was something shameful about the way I thought about women. I started having panic attacks in elementary school. Something was wrong with me, and somehow it was my fault.

Boys pushed these anxieties to the back of my mind. I told myself I couldn’t be gay if I liked boys, and I did like them — their mysterious bodies, the ease with which they moved through the world, the bizarre things that fascinated them. I liked how being with them made me think about sex. And I liked being liked by boys, how dating them meant participating in a narrative that everyone in my world could understand, including me. In my early twenties, I married the best of the boys, an attractive engineer with a dry wit who made me laugh until I cried and saved all the receipts from our first year of dating. My feelings for women never went anywhere, but I got better and better at explaining them away.

As I got older, my world expanded. I went to college and graduate school, and I made lots of openly LGBTQ friends. Little by little, I unlearned the homophobic lessons I had been brought up with — at least as they applied to other people. But bisexuality didn’t feel like an identity that was available to me as a newlywed in a heterosexual marriage. Instead, I told myself that my attraction to women was just a side effect of growing more comfortable with my (straight) sexuality — basically a grown-up version of the hormones misfiring story. I was a sexual, progressive person with an open worldview, but I wasn’t bi.

And then I met a girl.

I was traveling solo in England for my friend Liam’s wedding. Before the trip, I had been surprisingly anxious about meeting Liam’s stylish best friend, Miriam. The day of the wedding arrived, and so did Miriam, devastatingly beautiful in a rainbow jumpsuit. I spent the day torn between wanting to talk to her and wanting to hide. Over the next few days I lost my fear, but not my fascination. Miriam was funny and easy to talk to, and I told myself that my intense interest in her was just friendly, just a “girl crush.”

My 31st birthday happened to fall that weekend, and to celebrate, Liam, his new husband, Miriam, and I all drove out to the White Spring, an ancient well with supposed mystical properties in Glastonbury. Visitors are allowed to swim, so we all jumped into the icy water.

Maybe it’s because I was in England for a gay wedding, or because a growing number of my friends — including Miriam — identified as bisexual. Maybe the White Spring really is magical, and I was blessed by that strange, old place. Or maybe I was just sick of lying to myself. Whatever the reason, all at once I couldn’t ignore it anymore: I have an actual crush on Miriam, I thought, because I’m bisexual.

I spent the rest of the day in a haze. I couldn’t take back the thought once I’d had it, but I realized I no longer wanted to. I knew this revelation wouldn’t change some things — it didn’t give me a sudden desire to leave my marriage, for instance. But my sense of myself had changed, and even though I wasn’t sure what that would mean for my life yet, when I looked at my three friends, I knew it would be okay. None of these three beloved people were straight, and they were all happy and confident in their sexualities. I could be like them. I could be myself.

A door cracked open in me that day in Glastonbury, and it’s been letting sunshine into my life ever since. After years of tying myself into knots, I’m trying hard to approach my sexuality with curiosity. I’ve been revisiting movies and TV shows that I loved: all those times I saw Titanic in the theater, was I really just there for Leo, or was I there for Kate? (It was both.) When I find myself interested in someone, whether in real life or on a screen, I pay attention to how I’m feeling: Am I attracted to this person? Do I have a type? It’s like I discovered a whole new color, and now I see it everywhere.

So far, the deepest joy of coming out has been learning to trust that the things that make me me — what I want, who I want — are valuable. And yet I still second guess myself sometimes; after all, I’ve never even kissed a girl. But why should that matter? No one asks straight people to prove that they’re straight — no one would say to a teenage boy, well, you’ve never kissed a girl, so how do you know you like them?

I’m not the only bisexual person who feels this way. Part of the problem is that for a long time the media has dealt with bisexuality exclusively as a joke and a phase — a “layover on the way to Gaytown,” as Carrie Bradshaw said. This is when bisexuality is represented at all, which it usually isn’t (the term for this is bi-erasure, and it contributes to the disproportionately high rates of depression that bi people experience). Thankfully, this is changing as more and more shows introduce bi characters who are at ease with their own sexuality. Two of my favorite shows, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin, each have more than one bisexual character. Darryl even gets a song!

I want to stress that I’m very lucky. I’ve been able to come out slowly — a privilege of being married to a man; no one would know I’m not straight unless I told them — and family members have been supportive, as have my friends. Even coming out to my husband was surprisingly easy. We’ve always been able to talk about crushes, even though we’re monogamous, and his biggest concern was whether I would want to change that. But I don’t: being bisexual doesn’t mean I have to date both men and women, although this is a common misconception.

Instead, I identify with bisexual activist Robyn Ochs’s definition: “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge in myself the potential to be attracted, romantically and/or sexually, to people of more than one sex, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

This isn’t to say I don’t long for what else could be. Don’t we all wonder sometimes about the lives we could be living, the choices we don’t make? But the lingering regrets I have are less about my present, and more about my past. I wish that my childhood self hadn’t internalized all that shame. I wish that I could’ve danced to “This Kiss” with a girl at prom. I wish I’d had first kisses, and first everythings, with both men and women in college. I wish I’d known that what I wanted — all of the things I wanted — mattered.


Dr. Haylie Swenson is a writer, educator and cool aunt living in Austin, with her husband and two cats. She’s currently working on a novel about 19th century Iceland.

P.S. Coming out at work, and 15 great reader comments on sex.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow.)

  1. BB says...

    For those women who are in a hetero relationship with cis men and successfully shared your feelings with your husbands–how did you navigate those conversations?

    I started to open up about the way I’ve felt, how actively I’ve repressed many aspects of my sexuality due to feelings of shame (prob because of how my parents/religious communities talked about sex). Within this context I brought up my attraction to some women as an example of something I might have wanted to actively explore before we got together but also emphasized that I’m very happy with him, only want to be with him, am not interested in acting on this, yada yada yada.

    Well, now he seems pretty freaked out. And I want to figure out a way to be both open about this and reassure him… any advice or resources would be greatly appreciated

  2. TF says...

    As I can see from all of these other comments, I am not alone. Growing up I was taught that if you like boys you’re straight. Although I experimented in college, I never felt comfortable calling myself bi because I was dismissed by so many people as curious or confused. Now I’m very happily engaged to a man, and only recently began telling my closest friends that I identify as bi. It is very scary even to type anonymously. I worry that it will make people question my relationship. I also realize that I need to be open with my partner so I can live fully as myself in our relationship. Telling my parents is an entire other can of worms, that I’m not sure I can handle.
    Thank you for sharing your experience.
    This post means so much to me. Thank you.

  3. K says...

    A heartfelt thank you for this post. I have been looking for stories like this about bisexuals, stories that mirror my own experience and make me feel less different and alone. Thank you thank you thank you

  4. Ali says...

    When my husband and I had been dating in college, I turned to him one night bearing a major confession:

    “I think I’m bisexual”
    “Are you still into monogamy?”
    “Of course!”
    “Then we are okay – I love you.”

    I felt like I had been struggling with that for years and had only put a label to it in the previous months. It didn’t change anything about our relationship, but I felt like it was finally recognizing a part of myself that I had kept pushing away. Generally, I’ve kept the revelation to myself for the past 7 years since I was in a loving relationship with someone who I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with (and ended up getting engaged then married to). So many people are still trying to figure out how to live in the world of “normal” that was built around us that it’s just nice to hear “you aren’t alone.”

  5. NM says...

    I want to share how much I love this post and how it resonates deeply for me. I also love the comments.
    I did however want to take a moment to address the comments that call on the author or other readers to “check their privilege” as straight presenting women in hetero marriages.
    This concept of checking our privilege is a noble one that calls on us to be more sensitive and responsible members of society.
    But it really harms us when it takes away our ability to process and reflect on our experiences as individuals, off of the world stage.
    For example, I am pissed about the so called “tampon tax” we have in the US. But there are women in the world without proper resources for menstrual hygiene supplies at all.
    I stress about the limited and not so awesome options I have for public school for my children where I live— while there are literally children in cages on the border.
    A gay woman of color in this country likely faces far more hardship than the author does. But her counterpart in some parts of the world faces challenges that are nearly insurmountable— quite likely risking death.
    Holy shit! It is mind boggling— and it is so important to remember all of this!
    But let’s not make it come at the cost of giving ourselves permission to think about our personal lives— and even small steps we can take to make them better, more honest, open, equal and free.
    Because the impact on our own lives, and our communities is important and I’d like to think it ripples out to the larger world too.

    • LS says...

      Thank you! I tried to say something similar in the comments below but you articulated it much more clearly. Thank you thank you thank you.

    • sarah morabito says...

      SO WELL SAID.
      Thank you.

  6. t says...

    I am curious as to how many straight-identifying women on here truly believe that they have never once felt any attraction, curiosity, fantasy, etc towards another woman. I mean if they honestly took away their religious beliefs, the stigma, the family opinions, politics, etc.?

    I am not saying it isn’t possible but if we really stripped away everything and just got primal I think the majority of us would be some form of bi.

  7. Diana says...

    Beautifully written. Thank you. And…my oh the amount of *regret* here and in the comments is heart breaking. I’m a married bi women and exploring my own sexuality for the first time in my 30’s while being married to a straight man. My marriage has only improved, both in terms of communication & sexual intimacy. I know it’s coming from a place of privilege in that I can explore in an ethically non-monogamous way (because I married an open minded person & live in a major progressive city), but life is just so short & precious. It takes hard conversations and logistics are not easy (I have a toddler!) but far easier than living with a deep unmet needs and regret.

  8. Lizzie smith says...

    Ohhhh thank you for this! I’m bisexual, have always been. Was married to a man for 12 years and then, after our marriage ended, met a woman who I am marrying in a couple of months.

    Its complicated and beautiful.

  9. BB says...

    I have been married for 12 years and have found a lot of freedom and peace embracing the idea that now that I’m married, I am no longer open to entertaining thoughts of attraction to anyone else (and can honestly say that my only attraction now is to my spouse). In college I was attracted to and had sexual experiences with both men and women. But once finding and committing to my mate, I have found it unhelpful to revisit those old attractions and decide whether those past experiences or feelings mean that I’m bi and need to define myself to others as such. i don’t understand why private attractions that don’t yield a chance in ones life decisions needs to be shared with family and friends…. an honest question, not a judgement.

    • W says...

      I have this same question. It is exactly what I am struggling with in my comment/question below. So many people say they felt relief in telling their supportive partner about their bisexuality, but I worry that it will cause harm in a relationship I have no desire to disrupt. Especially since I have no intention of becoming non-monogamous or seeking out relationships with women. I’m uncomfortably perched atop the “to-tell or not-to-tell” fence.

    • LS says...

      It mattered to me (even before I opened up my relationship) because it felt like part of my identity that I wanted to be out about. I wanted to go to queer spaces. I wanted to be in queer community. I wanted to acknowledge a part of myself in some way, even if I didn’t end up acting on it (although I did). My identity is not my relationship status. I’m bisexual when I’m with my husband, my girlfriend, and most importantly, alone. I’d be the same amount of bisexual if I was single. And I want to be able to embrace and express that with my partner! So, to me (and I recognize this is not true for everyone) it was important to come out and express and enjoy that part of myself! And find others to connect to in the community.

    • t says...

      I am female, bi and married (to a woman) and I don’t think it would be helpful in any way to disclose to my wife my attraction to other people whether it is a gender or a specific person. She knows I am bi because I was clear about that when I met her but once we committed to being monogamous that is pretty much a non-topic. Just like I don’t want to have her harp on her attractions.

      That being said, it sounds like many people here feel the need to be honest and seen and were not fully aware/open/honest/whatever the situation at the time they met their current partners. It also sounds like many are pursuing some form of open relationships.

      To each their own! And yay for that.

  10. W says...

    A question for anyone who is bisexual and in a monogamous relationship:

    Why did you tell your partner about your bisexuality? Did any of you not tell? Was anyone’s partner not as supportive as all the ones I have read about in the comments so far?

    I am a bisexual woman and have been married to a hetero man for a long time. I have known under the surface that I am bisexual for many years, but have only recently completely admitted to myself that my feelings and urges are real and have a name. But, I haven’t told anyone. Not my husband, not my best friend, not my therapist, not anyone. I am burning up with what feels like a giant secret, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to the point of saying anything, mostly because I am afraid of how it will be received. I am so worried my husband will be hurt or will worry that he isn’t enough or will be constantly doubting my devotion to him. I have no desire to leave, but I also have no idea what to do with these big feelings I have that I can’t act on. It feels like telling will only do harm, but it would be such a relief to not be carrying this secret alone. Or maybe he won’t freak out and all will be well, I have no idea.

    Have any of you dealt with this stuck place? Have any of you decided to keep your secret? Have any of you regretted telling your partner?

    Thanks so much for being out there. This giant comments section is a relief. Seeing over and over that I’m not alone is like a big hug.

    • Not this time says...

      I am in 100% the same place, except that I’ve “casually” let the concept drop to a couple of my closest friends. Never to my husband though; we are in a place right now life/kids/sex-wise where I think he’d ascribe a lot to it that isn’t actually related. I am fascinated by how suddenly I’m seeing talk about this topic EVERYWHERE though. I know for me my fury at men in the last few years made me evaluate stuff a little more honestly than I had in the past, and I wonder if that’s true for other people too. (I swear this week the women’s soccer victory tour has made half of the Internet finally admit to being bisexual, too.)

    • TP K says...

      Hey W

      Your story sounds quite similar to mine, especially the part about
      “known under the surface that I am bisexual for many years, but have only recently completely admitted to myself that my feelings and urges are real and have a name”

      So in the past year, once I admitted to myself this part of who I am, I tried to sort it out on my own, privately. It felt fine to keep it private, but I always had this pressing in the back of my mind that I needed/wanted to share this part of me with my husband. We’ve been together 9 years.

      When I was ready, I told him. I had practiced being honest with myself in this deep way, so I took the risk to practice being this deep and honest with him.

      He wasn’t surprised, and it opened things up so that we became more close and honest with each other. I haven’t told anyone else, because I haven’t felt the need/want to.

      Even if he didn’t take it well, or if our relationship ended over it, I wouldn’t regret sharing who I am with him.

      I think regret comes from not being honest about who we are.

      Wishing you all the best as you navigate this stuck spot~ <3

    • C says...

      Oh, W. I do want to give you a big hug. You are not alone. I wish I had insight to share with you – and I hope others do, including maybe the author. I have no experience with this either, so take this advice with a grain of salt. I just think if it feels like you’re burning up with a giant secret, then that means you *should* say something.

      Maybe start with your therapist first? If you tell your best friend before your husband, then it might come out that you told a friend before him, and that might feel like a betrayal (and worse – he might assume you have feelings for your best friend).

      More than anything, I just hope that you give as much credence and respect to your own feelings as you are to his. Sending you love!

    • t says...

      Hi W, I am bi and married to a woman. My wife knew about my sexuality from the get-go but she is of the opinion that being bi is on the road to being gay. So in her mind I am now gay (we have been married for 10 years). As we have a monogamous relationship and don’t plan on changing that I don’t feel the need to remind her that I am bi rather than gay. The only real time it would come into play again in my life is if I were to find myself singe (widowed or divorced).

      I find the queer community is not super accepting of those who identify as bi (at least it wasn’t when I was dating 15 years ago); hopefully that has changed.

      Truly I think we are all on the spectrum of sexuality and as our society becomes more and more accepting we will find that all humans have various attractions to various people with various gender identities.

    • alex says...

      i love the comments section here. i am a woman married to a man and recently realized i am bi. my husband knows i have been with women in the past (we were friends before dating and in came up). i used to just say “i have slept with women,” but i am definitely attracted to women (also doesn’t mean i don’t want to remain monogamous!). years ago, maybe 10, i was having drinks with a friend, who had seen me kiss a woman while out a few weeks before. she asked if i had ever been with woman and i said yes. she then sheepishly admitted she thinks about it every now and then but had never even “kissed a girl,” and wondered if i would be willing to give her the experience. big NO from me! just because i have slept with women doesn’t mean i want to sleep with every woman!
      short story, i am married to a man. i am attracted to both men and women but up until now was a afraid to call myself bi. and no i do not want to sleep with you.

  11. L says...

    There was an article on CoJ a while back describing how love is like light, but when I met my (now) partner it was like a spotlight shining on her and I couldn’t look away, we’ve been together for a few months now and the spotlight is still there but it’s amazing to experience how she lights up the world around us.
    She’s the first woman I’ve dated, I am very out as bi and I am incredibly happy.

    • D. says...

      This was so lovely, the way you described it.

  12. Ashley says...

    THANK YOU FOR THIS SO MUCH! I feel like I could have written this myself. I’m happily married to a man and love the family and life we’ve made together. But exploring my own sexuality and coming to terms with the whole part of who I am is so important–it reframes so many of my experiences growing up.

  13. Kay says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article. It’s an incredible thing, to read a piece of writing and feel seen.

    I’m in my early 30s, happily married to a wonderful man, and pregnant with our first child. Up until about a year ago, I’d had girl crushes and a few casual experiences with women, but never dated a woman or been in love with a woman, so I always identified (to myself and outwardly), as straight.

    And then I met a girl.

    I’m incredibly lucky that my husband is a liberal, open-minded feminist who believes in ethical non-monogamy, and has allowed me to explore a different side of myself, with her. It’s been complicated at times, and quite frankly still is, but I loved when you said ‘it’s like I discovered a new color.’ That’s so spot on.

    Loving a woman has changed me for the better. Being able to explore and experience and embrace the full range of my sexuality has changed me for the better. Many people in my life don’t really ‘get it,’ so hearing stories like yours and those of other bisexual/pansexual/queer people is comforting and beautiful.

    Wishing everyone out there the self-awareness and acceptance to believe that what you want – all of the things you want – matter. Thank you again for your words.

    • L says...

      Oh wow. Thank you so much for sharing. I feel seen now, too.

    • LS says...

      Love this, thank you for sharing

  14. Jamie says...

    Beautifully written and I might have to share this with those family members who insist I fit into a “label.”

  15. CEW says...

    Thank you for this! I am bisexual and also married to a man, and bi-erasure is so, so real. Plus this pervasive idea that all bisexual folks are polyamorous or just plain cheaters. Wrong.

    It also took me a long time to come out to myself, and I identify with some of your experiences.. “Women check each other out all the time!” Thankfully I was able to process my feelings in my early twenties and date both men and women until I found The One in my husband. :)

  16. Wow, this is so well written and so candid. Beautiful piece

    – Grace

  17. Jenny says...

    Coming in rather late to say how much I appreciate the acceptance of having, embracing, and articulating sexual desires while remaining in a monogamous marriage. I was very nearly wrecked by a person who took every desire to a physical conclusion — as if it were dishonorable not to — and then lied about it in the context of what I thought was a monogamous relationship. Even now, I sometimes berate myself for being too conventional/traditional/religious/unadventurous/desire-denying/boring because I couldn’t tolerate the infidelity. It’s gratifying and reassuring to see people embracing the fact that desire can be both real and governed. There is no “duty” to validate a desire through a sexual encounter.

  18. Jessica says...

    I think your criticism is misplaced. She identifies as bi not gay. She explicitly stated she is happy in her marriage and loves her husband. Her regret is not that she married a man but that she didn’t explore her full identity when she was younger. This is not so different then someone marrying their first relationship at a young age and then lamenting the other relationships that were not explored as a result even though they are happy in their marriage. Similarly, marrying a man as a bi women is not a betrayal. It’s a bit absurd to expect all bi people to marry their same sex. How does that make sense? That’s almost like imposing the label gay in her, which I’d not how she identifies. As a bi woman, she’s attracted to both sexes, so she has the right to settle down with the soul she connects with, of either gender. Respectfully, I appreciate your point of view, but i don’t feel it fairly respects the feelings and choices of the writer. Who one chooses to love is x deeply personal decision which should not carry with it external pressure. That is as equally harmful as the pressure she felt growing up to not acknowledge her bisexuality.

    • Deeann says...

      Well, obviously the moderator must have deleted the comment you’re replying to. I tried to post a dissenting comment here, too, and it was deleted. You’re only allowed to agree with the writer around here.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh that’s not true at all, deeann! we welcome respectful discourse and debate, and you will see that many, many posts (including this one) have debates about every topic under the sun, and we really encourage and appreciate people having different opinions and learning from each other. but the original comment felt overly harsh and attacking, and we don’t accept comments like that. hope that makes sense. thank you!

    • Deeann says...

      Thank you for the response, Joanna. I do understand and respect your guidelines for this space. I am a big fan of your blog (my favorites are Beauty Uniforms—yea! A new one today) and the home tours. Thanks again for responding and clarifying.

  19. Nina says...

    This is lovely. I appreciate the insight. My son (at age 10) told me he likes boys and girls – I was like ok. Honestly, bi-sexuality had confused me. But, he’s my boy and his orientation has been clear to me since he was very young. He loves everyone. I think it’s still a tad confusing for him and concerning to me because we live in the South and often, nothing but hetero cis is accepted, but all his life we’ve had friends of every gender/race/color/sexual orientation/religion and I’ve tried to help him see how more alike we are than different. As long as we aren’t hurting people and they aren’t hurting us, let’s all get along and help each other live our best life.

    So glad you’ve been able to see and accept yourself. Thanks for sharing.

    • emily says...

      Nina! No kid would come to you with that if he weren’t completely sure you had his back. You seem like a pretty cool parent, and he seems like a pretty cool kid. Glad you’re here making the South a more welcoming place for authentic people of every stripe!

    • A.E. says...

      Nina, queer person here! I wish there were more parents like you. I struggled for years with how to come out to my parents, and it created so much distance between us. Keep on doing the good work & filling your home and life with love.

  20. MK says...

    I am married to a wonderful bisexual man. He came out to me when we started dating. We present as a straight couple and I’m sure a lot of people believe he is straight. We don’t sweat correcting people- if it comes up, fine. We’ve been together ten years and I’m happy that bi folks are more visible now. I am very proud to be married to one.

    • t says...

      That is awesome MK. I have read a bunch of comments about supportive husbands but unfortunately there is a stigma attached to bi men more so than bi women. I am so glad you aren’t wrapped up in that BS.

  21. AJ says...

    Haylie, I can relate to so much of this. I came out fairly recently, in my late-30s, and I had many many men in my life before that. It was only when i finally allowed it to fully surface that I realised just how much the confusion and shame I’d squashed to the back of my mind had actually affected me, so so much. I almost married a man – it didn’t happen. And now I’ve let myself do what I always longed to do – be with a woman – oh my goodness, am I glad the universe knew my path better than I thought I did. Despite having enjoyed sex with men, I now feel gay, rather than bisexual. But then again, do labels really matter, is it really black and white? It makes me so happy to hear when other people had their realisation, and finally reached the point of being fully them and free. It is the best thing :) so congratulations and thanks for sharing xx

    • Sasha L says...

      I would love a world where labels like these just don’t matter any more too. Just seeing a person as a person, and people are completely free to be who they are and love who they love and it just wouldn’t matter.

  22. Bogga says...

    Same here I still remember my mum watching me suspiciously when I gave a third glance towards a girl I found attractive when I was in my teens. Gay was also portrait as something foreign something that exists but has nothing to do with you. I too have been with men for most of my life and even at some point started to dislike women perhaps because I could never be with one. And then after 10 years of stable fairly good heterosexual relationship encouraged by lesbians I met in my life by neighbours lesbians too by gay friends I realised that I am too bisexual. I asked my partner once while drunk to try with a woman got a green light but felt strange about it. I opened up more freely to my dear friend and started to be nice and even flirty towards women. I like it a lot but I’ve not moved anywhere from this that. Still deeply sadden by being in a strange position. I recently lost my libido at age of 32 and feel lost. I can day dream and imagine being with a women and thinking life would be easier that way. I get angry and frustrated by men and never look at them anymore as sexual objects. Clearly I have no idea where I’m and how to move forward or get out of this. Interestingly recently i also started to sense that gay women I meet can feel without words that I am too an interested party. Very interesting and frustrating time of my life must say…:(

  23. Ellie says...

    The older I’ve become, the more aware I’ve become that hardly ANYONE is 100% in either direction of the gay/straight scale. It’s a spectrum. I don’t need a label, but the quote from Robyn Ochs pretty much sums up where I’m at. I’m happily married to a man, and plan to remain that way forever, but if something ever did happen, then I would not rule out a future relationship with a female.

    • Ellie says...

      Hmm I just re-read my comment and feel that my phrase “I don’t need a label” was throwaway and not well thought out, and I apologise for any hurt that it causes. I guess what I mean is that, for myself, I don’t find it beneficial to say I’m straight/bi/queer. I understand that for others, being able to stand up and say “THIS words, THIS phrase, THIS is me, and I’m proud of that!” is a really empowering thing, and I applaud that and support it 100%. Again, sorry for the lack of thought, I’m at work and really just wanted to voice total support for the author and all the awesome commenters here.

    • Sasha L says...

      Totally agree Ellie.

    • Absolutely relate to this sentiment, Ellie. I believe almost everyone is somewhere along the spectrum of sexuality and not definitively at one end or the other. Part of that is because no one is attracted to EVERY PERSON among the gender of folks they typically are attracted to. Labels may work for some people, but are inherently flawed! For example, I’m married to a (mostly) openly bi-sexual man, though he has never been with a man sexually. He just knows he has a very specific “type” when it comes to his attraction to both men and women, and he feels comfortable identifying as “bi-sexual” because that attraction feels evenly balanced for him. For me, I’m primarily attracted to men, and while I would technically refer to myself as “straight” if asked, that isn’t entirely true because I *am* attracted to women — though a very particular type. I think this is true for most people! Labels certainly serve a purpose, but I do think they hinder so many people’s abilities to embrace their own unique sexual and romantic attractions.

  24. Nina says...

    What a joy to read! Not the part about internalising shame but the part about not having to fit into a certain box and that your romantic relationships don’t always determine whether you’re straight/gay/queer.

  25. Brittany says...

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. ❤️

  26. MC says...

    Wow, I’ve felt so alone in a similar experience (though I am not married) for the last year, reading this post and comments felt so relieving. There are so many of us! It’s hard coming out at 30 when you feel like everyone else figured out their identity in college. I’m a 10 year reader- thanks COJ for consistently generating stories that have made me feel at home on this site through many life stages and identities.

  27. t says...

    TBH I have a hard time with sexual identities in general. I think if you were to take the stigma out of sexuality we would all be labeled as bi (or human). As a woman (who identifies as bi) married to a woman (who identifies as gay but fantasizes about men) I truly feel that we are all bi, hetero, gay, a-sexual, etc at different points in our lives. I wish we wouldn’t have such a need for labels. for the time being at least labels help our (mine and my wife’s) children explain to their friends their family dynamic and for that at least I am grateful (even if those labels aren’t exactly accurate).

    • Ellie says...

      Yes! Resounding agreement! You worded my thoughts perfectly! I have similar feelings about these labels but when I tried to verbalise it, it came off sounding like I was above it, and that’s not what I meant. Thank you!

    • Denise says...

      I had this conversation yesterday. I am in a non-monogamous relationship with a man who’s primary relationship is with another woman. I am dating another man who is non-monogamous and both he and his wife identify as bi. I call myself “bi-curious” because I’ve never had a bi experience, but I’m changing that to bisexual. Because I am. And I believe a lot of people who do not identify as gay fall along the bisexual spectrum. If we could all just accept our feelings, and not judge others for their own, the world would be a much better place, and we could focus on solving the real issues rather getting in a tither about sexuality.

    • Jane Ardizzone says...

      I don’t think it’s true that all people are bi. I am a 43 year old woman and I have never been sexually attracted to a woman. I have never felt that nervous, breath-taking feeling that overtakes me when I am attracted to a man, around any woman.

    • D. says...

      While I do feel that everyone’s sexuality falls somewhere on a spectrum, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that everyone is bi. At each end of the spectrum is a place where the attraction only flows to one gender. Like, you, I agree that a lot of people would identify as partially or fully bi if the stigma was removed. However, we erase the validity of people who are truly and fully attracted to the opposite sex if we take away the idea that sexuality is a spectrum.

  28. c says...

    Well I’m crying. How does CoJ always manage to find these undiscussed things and bring them into the light? No wonder this community is so wonderful and always makes me feel seen.

    I’m not really ready to talk about it all, but thank you Haylie for writing and sharing your experience, and to so many of you commenting with similar experiences. Feeling less alone is an essential human experience.

  29. AR says...

    Oh, hi. Are you in my head? I recently celebrated my first year of marriage to a wonderful man, turned 30, and admitted to myself that I’m queer only just last week. The feeling is releasing something within I didn’t know was there. I’ve always thought I was just insecure and jealous of other women’s looks – but it took snarky twitter and pieces like this for me to realize I was ATTRACTED TO THEM! ::MIND BLOWN::

    I was raised in a progressive home, but moved from a large, liberal city to a rural one when I was in middle school. I think that conservative environment added to my internalized shame around being attracted to women. Parents can only do so much to protect their kids. But, hey, I’m still unpacking it all. All I know is I could never figure out how to date when I was young, and was always afraid of being seen as gay or butch. Your last bit about wishing you had realized it sooner really resonates.

    Anyways, thanks for writing this. It means so much. Slowly, I feel the knot in my stomach unwind. Will be coming out to my husband soon, so wish me luck :)

    • Yulia says...

      May the knot in your stomach loosen when you speak your truth. Good luck. :)

    • Kayla says...

      Good luck! I found that once my partner knew (and reacted lovingly and supportively), I felt even more connected and attracted to him! Hoping you have the same experience.

  30. Leah says...

    At the age of 30 after being married to my husband for nine years, I just came out as bisexual to friends last month. I’m in a similar situation, having been raised in a homophobic religious tradition that didn’t even give me the context for working through sexual attraction and identity. I’ve known I was bi for several years, and I told my husband a couple years ago, but like you mention, I’m still hiding a bit under the “privilege” of being seen as straight due to my (healthy and great) marriage. I still haven’t told my family.

  31. Jessica says...

    A good marriage can flex – a lot! This reminds me of Jennifer Finney Boylan’s “She’s Not There,” which is a magical, wonderful read and waaaaaay ahead of its time. She recently had an Insta post about “30 years together: 12 as husband and wife, 18 as wife and wife” and it was just the cutest thing.

    (Full disclosure: Boylan was my freshman English prof at Colby and I’m a stan)

  32. Anonygirl says...

    I feel very seen right now. I have been struggling with my sexuality for the last several months. I’m in my mid-30s so this is all sorts of confusing and stressful for me. Reading Haylie’s essay and the comments has brought me a level of comfort I haven’t felt in a while.

  33. LJ says...

    I resonate this this post so much. I just came out to friends & family as bisexual a week ago and had come out to my husband a year prior. It is so freeing to no longer hide this part of my identity and to finally be authentically me. Sending love to my fellow commenters, wherever you are in your journey!

  34. Matt says...

    Just thought I’d check in and say…whoa, this essay totally calls me out…except for the fact that I’m a bi man. I’m coming to some very very late reckonings with my orientation after stuffing them down far too long (I’m 50). The funny/sad thing is–I was dating both men and women when I met my wife back when I was 27–and she was aware of this at the time. So this thing I’m going through now? It’s not exactly a revelation so much as a rediscovery. I’m seeing that color again, that color I forgot, and it’s so, so beautiful. 🌈

    Not long after my wife-to-be and I began dating, I packed my bisexuality in a box and put it up on a high shelf in the attic, or at least that’s how it feels now. It was easy enough to do at the time. I wanted to keep peace in our budding relationship, and besides, bi men don’t really exist, right? That was the broken conventional wisdom then, and it’s probably still commonly said now. You’re either on the bus or off it…there’s no in-between. And if I had to choose, it was easy enough to pick the path of least resistance. And so it went. For decades.

    But that box rattled around up there over the years, and as of late began to make too much noise to ignore. So, a month ago, while on a trip to Japan, I told my wife I wanted to recognize my bisexuality. Don’t need to “act” on it 🙄…just want to…be it…officially, if that makes sense. I found myself having to say “Hey, I’m still the same man you married…this has always been me. I’ve been here for you, and I’ll still be here for you.” I’d like to think that if I can be more honest about who/what I am, that should be better for both of us.

    However, as you might imagine, it’s turning out to be quite the process. We’ll see how it goes.

    • Kelly says...

      I’m cheering for you, Matt!

  35. Kelly says...

    Hi Haylie! I loved your piece on vaginismus too.

    I’m also a bisexual cis lady married to a straight cis guy. I was raised Catholic, and I didn’t realize I was bi until two years into dating my now-husband. We’re monogamous too. It’s easy to feel invisible in those situations, and it’s so rewarding to get to explore desire and community with curiosity and joy, and probe the edges of your self-knowledge.

    May I suggest romance novels? There are plenty now with either lesbian characters, or women loving women, or even just openly bi women in relationships with men. Some of my favorite authors are Cat Sebastian, Olivia Wilde, Alyssa Cole, and Rachel Spangler. It’s a lovely way to see queer love writ large.

    This one by Courtney Milan, with a 73-year-old heroine, is a lovely intro. https://www.amazon.com/Mrs-Martins-Incomparable-Adventure-Worth-ebook/dp/B07P4DPLX7/ref=sr_1_2?

  36. Natasha says...

    What a great, great article! So insightful and perfectly poignant, this article was so needed at this time! I feel we are more enlightened than ever when it comes to sexual orientations, but bisexuality still seems like a gray area for many.
    The line that hit me the most was: “I wish I’d known that what I wanted — all of the things I wanted — mattered.”
    That was really painful to read. I sincerely hope no one ever has to grow up with such a longing pain, of wishing their desires mattered, ever again. And it is so amazing and wonderful the writer came to this epiphany so young!

  37. Hannah says...

    Yayyyy!! Love all of the bi folx in the comments! I see, love, and celebrate you all as a fellow bi person!

  38. Jules says...

    I’m bisexual, and I’ve been in a monogamous relationship with my wife for more than 20 years. I’m thrilled by the uptick of bi visibility in recent years, and people’s growing understanding of the fluidity of desire. But I take issue with using the term “coming out” in the context of a committed heterosexual relationship. Coming out as queer is an act of survival, and of visibility, and I (and my wife, and our two children) have to do it every day. It’s not the same as sharing your sexual attractions and desires with your heterosexual partner. Of course, this sharing is an essential and important thing to do, but it isn’t the same as coming out as queer. Another commenter referred to the “eye-rolling of the queer community” when she talked about being bi, and I think this is one of those situations where it’s essential to look at your privilege as a straight-passing person and to acknowledge and accept that the revelation of personal sexual desire isn’t the same as coming out into the vulnerabilities, struggles, losses, and dangers of a queer life.

    • Cay says...

      Just because someone’s journey is different from yours does not give you the right to minimize their experience. Her identity is just as strong as yours, even with a cis male partner. To her, this was “coming out.” It was an act of bravery, fighting against the way she had been raised. She conquered the barriers that prevented her from understanding the very core of her being.

      You also do not know where this author is headed in the future. Life happens and takes many unexpected twists and turns.

      The idea that someone is not living a “queer life” because of who they chose as their partner is not fair, and it minimizes the experiences of bi people. There are tiers of privilege as a queer person, as there are anywhere, but that does not mean you can eradicate someone’s personal experience because you believe yours has been more profound.

    • K says...

      This is an incredibly thoughtful statement and I hope other commenters recognize it as such!

    • Hi & Bi! says...

      @Jules +100

    • Kelly says...

      Of course there is privilege in being straight passing, just as there’s privilege in being relatively femme vs. being easily clocked as queer. But it’s no less a queer life. This is the erasure that bisexual people have to deal with, though it’s easy to internalize. I get it, I’ve been there. The idea that I “wasn’t queer enough” kept me in the closet for nearly as many years as homophobia did.

      I am queer. I am a queer person with queer desires. I’ve loved all genders since I was a child. But I’ve had sex with one person, and that person is a cisman. I pass as straight in many settings. I’m not any less bi for it, and nor is anyone. Identity is powerful and representation matters. Maybe if we’d seen stories like this younger, before we met and married men, the author and I would pass your litmus test. Maybe someone is reading this now and will realize that powerful attraction to men, a dating history with men, doesn’t mean the door is closed on other experiences.

    • t says...

      Kelly and Cay I don’t think Jules is trying to “minimize” the author’s experience but rather just explain that there is a difference with coming out once (or three times to ones self, ones family and ones friends) than coming out every moment in every day.

      You may not realize how subtly taxing it is on those of us who are outwardly queer because we look it or are seen constantly with our queer families (as in we are coming out every moment of every day that we are outside of our homes).

      I equate it to me whining about the inequalities of women to a woman of color. yeahh, I just need to shut up and acknowledge her greater struggle.

    • Stevie says...

      Jules I have to second your thoughts. I can’t really imagine what it’s like to for Dr. S to be bi and straight married- the invisibility must be hard. At the same time are folks in this situation, and claiming queerness, truly striving to understand their het privilege? There seems to be more cyshet monogamous married folk claiming queerness. It just feels like if you are going to identify as queer in a cyshet marrriage and you did some deep soul searching about your desires you should do just as much soul searching about your het privilege. Think deeply and really write about those privilege pieces-don’t just give them a nod in the third to last paragraph. Being bi is one thing. Being in a monogamous straight marriage and bi is another- and opens up a whole can of worms regarding how you might write and talk about your queerness.

    • Sadie says...

      I’ve struggled with holding on to my queer identity when I have been in relationships with cis men… I totally hear what Jules is saying RE the privilege of passing as straight. And also, like all passing, it comes with pain too (lost community, lost self).

      What makes me bristle, is that MY identity is erased by a man (or my identity is affirmed by a woman / nb person).

      It reminds me of the Expatriation Act in 1907 when the US changed the law so that if a woman married a foreigner she would LOSE her US citizenship (whereas men could confer their US citizenship to a spouse).

    • Megan says...

      Appreciate this comment, Jules. I feel similarly about media and people who say “Love is Love.” It’s not, for reasons you put so clearly.

    • LS says...

      Hi! I think this is a really interesting comment and I have a lot of feelings about it.

      Context: I’m a bi person with a male partner of 15 years and a female partner of 2 years. Although I have known I was bi since elementary school, I first came out to my husband when I was 27 and then came out to family/friends/publicly at 29.

      I hear you on straight passing privilege and I agree. I feel less safe with my girlfriend than with my husband. My husband and I have never been threatened. We, generally speaking, just do not have to worry about our physical or emotional safety when out in public, when traveling, etc. All of those things are riskier when my girlfriend and I do those things. Although to be honest, both my GF and I are relatively cis/straight presenting and if we weren’t cuddling/kissing/holding hands, we typically present as friends/sisters (don’t even get me started on the assumptions people make).

      I was talking to my girlfriend last night about this (who identifies as 100% gay), and she commented that because of her presentation, she also has straight passing privilege when she is alone and not with me. And that she values it because it makes her feel safer. So it’s not just cis bisexual women in heterosexual marriages that have straight passing privilege.

      I also want to echo Stevie’s thoughts below that sure, people with straight passing privilege should deeply examine their privilege. But again, lots of queer people may have straight passing privilege for a variety of reasons in a variety of situations. So I don’t think we should dump this all on bisexual women (or men). Plus, I believe that examining systemic issues can really only come after you’ve come to terms with your personal stuff, and that takes time. You have to understand yourself before you can see yourself in the larger context of the world.

      Additionally, before I was in a relationship with my girlfriend and had an external marker of my queerness, I genuinely did not know what to do as far as coming out. Being out felt vital to me, including taking on the struggles, vulnerabilities, losses and dangers of a queer life. But I genuinely did not know how to do this in a cis-hetero appearing marriage, other than verbalizing it in every conversation, which sometimes I was happy to do but sometimes felt difficult/awkward just as far as conversational flow. I 100% think that all queer folks with straight passing privilege should examine that and take it into account, but I also think it partly stems from societal assumptions about people based on looks/relationship status, and that the individual is not 100% responsible for that.

      Also, I genuinely am tired of being told, and hearing my other bisexual female friends get told, that their experience is somehow less queer. And that somehow bisexual people do not face the same dangers or vulnerabilities as other queer identities.

      Some statistics:
      – Bisexual folks compromise half of the LGB population in the US. Bisexual folks often deal with bias from both sides of the spectrum, straight folks and queer folks invalidating their sexualities or their experiences.
      – 14% of americans believe that bisexuality is not a legitimate orientation
      – 44% of bisexual youth report they know an adult in their family that they could turn to when they are sad, compared to 54% of gay and lesbian youth
      – Only 28% of bisexual people said that all or most of the important people in their life know they are bisexual, compared to 77% of gay men and 71% of lesbians.
      – 40% of bisexual youth seriously consider suicide compared to 30% of gay and lesbian students and 12% of het students
      – bisexual people have a higher prevalence of some negative health outcomes compared to het, lesbian and gay people including cardiovascular disease, smoking, substance use, some cancers and STIs.
      – bisexual people face higher rates of intimate partner violence; 46% of bisexual women have been raped versus 17% of het women and 13% of lesbian women.

      More here: http://www.lgbtmap.org/file/invisible-majority.pdf

      While I am ALWAYS in favor of examining privilege and I think all of us should do that for all of the identities that we hold (race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc), I don’t understand the framing that some only specifically bi women in cis-het marriages should do so.

    • Elaine says...

      LS, thank you so much for articulating what I want to say, so much better than I can say it. While straight-passing is a form of privilege, to be sure, being hidden has incredible tolls. Coming out is coming out, regardless of other factors. In our desire to be aware of intersectionality, let’s not deny people’s lived experiences or play oppression olympics.

  39. Name withheld says...

    This resonates a lot. I had a brief relationship with a woman during a gap year and chalked it up to experiment. My husband knows that about me, and that I’ve been attracted to women, but I don’t think either of us see my full self in that way, at least not yet. So, thank you for sharing that reminder that it’s never too late to be your most complete self.

  40. Stacey says...

    Thank you for writing this! I’ve been married to a man for 11 years, and only just realized this year that I’m bi. I too grew up in a conservative religious environment, and despite the fact that I’ve been an ally for quite a while now, it’s still taken years to unlearn what I thought was the truth about myself. Realizing and accepting that I’m bi has made me feel like a new person, like I’m just getting to know myself for the first time. It’s been so freeing to finally allow myself to feel attracted to women without feeling bad about it. I’ve only come out to one person (my husband, who was so cool about it when we were out to dinner one night and I spontaneously said “I’m bi” apropos of nothing), but I feel so good about having it be a spoken fact that I let out into the world. I’m not going to leave my husband or pursue relationships with women, but I’m happy that this facet of myself has finally been acknowledged.

  41. Marie says...

    I feel very similar. I’m 31 and haven’t officially recognized myself as bi, but have discussed my attraction to women with my husband. Who knows, if he dies early (hopefully not!!) and I get past my religious knee-jerk reaction to homosexuality, maybe my next marriage will be to a woman. I like that idea :)

  42. Mae says...

    I’m a bisexual woman married to a man too. Just like being attracted to men doesn’t mean I’m likely to go have sex with other men, being attracted to women doesn’t mean I want to leave my husband for a woman. I’m not interested in an open relationship, but being in a relationship with a woman is probably always an experience I’ll regret not having.

  43. eb says...

    Thank you for this.
    I’m a bisexual woman married to a man – and although I have had relationships with women in the past – I often find that my identity as bisexual is erased. I find that if I mention being bisexual I am often met with eye rolls within the strait community and within LGBTQ community – as if that was just experimenting and not a real and evolving identity. If not met with eye rolls I am often explaining what commitment means and why it is offensive to assume that I would not be able to commit to one person.

    So thank you for speaking up – and telling a story that we don’t hear very often.

  44. SB says...

    “Don’t we all wonder sometimes about the lives we could be living, the choices we don’t make?”
    Yes, yes, yes times one million. And I don’t think that takes anything away from the lives we are living and the choices we have made.

  45. DC says...

    This was the first CoJ post where I scrolled down to read the comments even before I read the essay, because I was so excited to see others saying exactly what I felt just reading the title: same here, same here, same here. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  46. Elle says...

    Wow. Thank you for this article. I have been thinking about this a lot over the last year. I was attracted to a girl in middle school, but thought I just wanted to be her (I also had no concept of a different form of sexuality other than gay men). And last year I met a woman at an adult summer camp and developed a huge crush on her. I was really confused with what to make of my feelings. I hadn’t really thought that I could call myself bisexual (until now) since I am (a) happily married to a man and have been for many years and (b) have never had a sexual/romantic experience with a woman. This article gives me a new framing for my feelings and also encouragement to process this a bit more and tell my husband.

    I also really regret that I didn’t give myself that freedom when I was younger. So happy for younger generations that they have more models for how relationships can look.

  47. Jean says...

    Thank you CoJ for writing of the many, many life perspectives in a way that is relatable and understandable. Life is not “one box” fits all.

  48. Lauren E. says...

    Oh I love this so much. Sexuality is so much more fluid than most people believe or allow themselves to believe.

  49. Ash says...

    “…all those times I saw Titanic in the theater, was I really just there for Leo, or was I there for Kate? (It was both.)” Welp, no sentence has ever fully captured my soul so well before.

    This whole essay is wonderfully written. I’ve always struggled with (well, still struggling with) the “do I want to be her or do I want to be with her” thoughts bouncing around my head. I haven’t figured it out, yet. Maybe someday I will. *insert shoulder shrug here*

  50. Anna says...

    Yes! Same. This was very affirming to read. Thank you, COJ and Haylie!

    Question for the group…

    I feel like my sexual orientation shifts on a predictable basis throughout my menstrual cycle. From when I start my period to when I ovulate, I am very into men. I look at them, think about them and hound my husband for sex. But then, something shifts. Once I ovulate and move toward my period, I find myself thinking more about / more attracted to women.

    I have PMDD so I already feel like two different people throughout my cycle, but this orientation “flip” thing REALLY makes it confusing to understand who “I” am.

    So curious if anyone else experiences this?

    • Char says...

      Wow Anna, this is super fascinating. I’ve never considered that before!

    • SM says...

      I am so happy to see this comment. This exact same thing happens to me every month! I don’t know who to talk about it with. I’m wondering if it has anything to do with hormone levels?

    • c says...

      WHAT. I am shocked that someone else goes through something similar. I have an IUD and have been on birth control for a long time, so I don’t really have a period. But I have always felt that my attraction to men and women is cyclical, and sometimes seems to line up with other signs of my cycle (ie sore boobs from PMS). It’s always made me wonder if the two were related.

      I always have used these waxing and waning of feelings as justifications for how straight I am, too. Unfortunately.

      Even though it’s hard for me to say if it’s totally tied to my ovulation and periods, I hope you feel less alone.

    • Elaine says...

      YES! I only realised this when tracking my cycles over the last few months – it is now completely predictable! How awesome that this may be a thing!

    • Anna says...

      Thank you, ladies! This is really affirming. I’ve never been able to find research or science that supports this, but if four other COJ readers say it’s a thing, I believe it’s a thing! What a wild ride womanhood can be. :)

    • W says...

      Me too. I’m bisexual all the time, but my attraction to men and women very often follows the cyclical pattern you describe. So, that makes at least five of us with this hormonal phenomenon.

  51. Liz S says...

    I’ve always thought that we’re all on the spectrum someplace.

  52. Jessie says...

    Thank you so so so much for writing this! I am an openly bisexual woman marrying a man in a month, and it is just so lovely to hear from other bi women in the same position.
    I too came out only after I started dating my now fiance 8 years ago (he is also the man I lost my virginity to), and he was the first and most supportive person I came out to! But because of that, I haven’t actually been with a woman, and I have a lot of regret about that. I actually wrote a storytelling piece called “Are You Bi-ing This” where I dissect this same feeling. And I came to the same conclusion: I don’t have to be with women to prove that I want to.
    Because I have so many feelings around this, I actually started seeing a sex therapist! It’s so exciting to have a safe space to talk about this, because I have a lot of fears and anxieties tied to my sexuality.
    My fiance and I also are working towards having an “open relationship.” But the tales of open marriages are not great, and we are both afraid of harming our primary relationship in the process. (Another reason for the sex therapist.)
    But I think we need to start having these conversations more candidly. Some bi folks are totally happy in monogamy, but I feel I have different needs, and my partner can’t meet all of them. That’s totally okay! We know that that’s true emotionally, so why can’t we discuss that it can also be true sexually?
    It’s a scary thing to navigate. And I feel so lucky to navigate it with such a supportive partner. Thanks again for sharing, and good luck to all bi folks!

    • LBD says...

      Hi Jessie!
      I recognized myself in your comment and particularly the facts that you consider yourself as bi and are curious about having an open relationship. I am bi, have been with my male partner for the last 12 years and have explored the highs and lows of being in an open relationship for the past 8 years. Of course it can be challenging, but as a bi woman, I have found in it a way to really explore and understand who I am, and it has of course benefit my primary relationship. My only advices, if you are curious, would be to read the book « The Ethical Sluts » (a very very good book/guide written by two experienced sex therapist), to find ways to communicate all of your feelings to your partner, find ways to be open about his… and go to couple’s therapy :). In my experience, going to couple’s therapy has helped us to understand some of our limits or difficult experiences, thus helping us both to move forward. Hope this helps!

  53. Collette says...

    Yessss, yes yes yes yes yes. Navigating this now and while I’m happily married to an incredible dude, I’m completely into this woman in my life and I think about her all the dang time and I can’ t help but hope she feels the same way about me. Ugh, I’d forgotten how intense a crush feels.

  54. Sanna Nilsson says...

    I bisexual and I am married to a man. I have never been with a woman and I considered myself heterosexual until after I married my husband. This post is so close to my life.

    Even now I question myself if I should be allowed to call myself bisexual when I’ve never been with a woman.

  55. Rosie says...

    “And I liked being liked by boys, how dating them meant participating in a narrative that everyone in my world could understand, including me.”
    This perfectly articulates how I struggled with being a lesbian in high school. Being liked by boys was so refreshingly normal when I felt so abnormal among my friends that I actually dated boys seriously just so I could fly under the radar. I pushed aside the feelings of being uncomfortable sleeping with boys and the fact that I got nothing out of it by telling myself that teenage boys are just bad at sex and it had nothing to do with me. I felt like I knew what I was supposed to do if I was dating a boy, but I had no idea where I would even start if I walked away from what was expected of me. I floated back and forth between complete denial and being completely aware, but trying so damn hard not to be.

  56. Cecilia says...

    I just want to say thank you so much to Cup of Jo and Dr. Swenson for sharing this today. I’m 21 and happily married, but recently came to the same bisexual revelation. It shocked a lot of people (including myself) and many asked me if it meant a divorce or if this meant there were problems in my marriage. However, I quickly realized that it doesn’t have to mean anything else. I’m completely over the moon that I found my the love of my life at such a young age, but I simply recognized that if he had been born a woman with the same personality/our timing/etc. – I would’ve married her. I’m so happy to have seen such a relatable, amazing, and vulnerable post.

  57. A says...

    So much relating to this essay! Wowza. I’ve experienced varying attractions to women off and on my whole life. Some felt more like your standard girl crushes, a couple felt much more intense and compelling. Also, when I was pregnant with my son I had amazingly vivid erotic fantasies about women.
    I never acted on my desires – mostly out of fear of judgement from my gay friends after hearing them talk about other straight girls using gay women as indulgent experiments. Now I’m very happily married to a man and we’ve talked about my attraction to women openly. I have no desire or need to explore outside my marriage right now. But I do understand the past regrets – I should have kissed that girl at that party!!!

  58. riye says...

    Two close women friends just came out to me as bisexual and listening to them talk about their tentative courtship (both have only been with men) and fumbling relationship warmed my heart. They are looking for more than romance at this point in their lives–they want family and companionship as well. I’m really happy that they found each other.

  59. Allison says...

    Thank you for this one. As a bisexual woman, it has always been the case that my sexuality is observed from the outside based on who I am with. When I used to date men and walk down the street hand in hand, I was viewed as straight and when I married my wife, I got cast in the lens of being a lesbian. There is no photo to capture the image of what it means to be bisexual, so thank you for these words that help make this precious way of moving through the world more visible.

    • Rosie says...

      That’s interesting. I have a couple of bisexual friends who have ended up in same-sex relationships and when this came up at a dinner party recently they both agreed that while they are still technically attracted to both sexes they consider themselves to be in a lesbian relationship and their bisexuality is abstract and irrelevant so long as they remain in a committed relationship. To paraphrase, my friend said something along the lines of “I’m a lesbian until I decide to date men again. Being bisexual isn’t my identity when I am with someone.”

    • BC says...

      Yes exactly. I am bisexual and married to a woman. it bothers her a bit still (ten+ years later) that I identify as bisexual but I just gently remind her that I am her wife and thus in a lesbian relationship (by action not by identity).

      There are some moments I fantasize about getting railed by some burly guy again but I couldn’t imagine not being married to my wife (or giving up sex with her).

      Anyway, it is all interesting and I am just grateful that I am able to live authentically.

  60. CE says...

    I recently came out to myself and my husband as bisexual. I am 30. This article could have been written by me. Loved reading it.

  61. Allison says...

    Same

  62. This is such a beautiful, generous essay. Thank you for sharing this. It’s so rare to find a coming out story that isn’t about a total upheaval of one’s life and relationships, but instead about how coming out can and should be: affirming, freeing, brave, and bringing people closer. I found these moments particularly inspiring, #relationshipgoals: “But my sense of myself had changed, and even though I wasn’t sure what that would mean for my life yet, when I looked at my three friends, I knew it would be okay.” & “Even coming out to my husband was surprisingly easy. We’ve always been able to talk about crushes, even though we’re monogamous, and his biggest concern was whether I would want to change that.”

  63. Sally says...

    Thank you thank you thank you for this!

  64. R says...

    As a woman who used to be married to a man and is now very happily/unexpectedly dating a woman, I was so excited to see this essay here! I really related to this part in particular: “And if I liked looking at them, if I was sometimes mesmerized by breasts and hips, the small of one woman’s back, another woman’s collarbones? Well, I could chalk that up to appraisal, not desire.”

    Since coming out, I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that it’s really hard to recognize attraction and desire in a culture that objectifies women constantly (and doesn’t *really* talk about bisexuality or how you ~know~ in a meaningful or thoughtful way). When we are taught to view all women as sex objects, it’s pretty difficult to realize that you’re actually *attracted* to women. And I wonder how many more women would get the chance to have first kisses and first everythings if we weren’t constantly presented with images of women as sex objects (or competition) / taught that “appraisal” is the lens through which we should view women’s bodies.

    • Jenny says...

      This is such a thought provoking comment! Also, sexual orientation and gender identity are two different buckets, but being intimate with women has changed my relationship to my performance of womanhood and how I think about myself. Really wanting the jiggle of a thigh, feeling electrified by a butt with cellulite, experiencing little back rolls as soft and devastatingly cute… it’s opened a door to how much male gaze has taught me to hate myself.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Jenny, I love your comment.

    • liz says...

      Love both of R’s and Jenny’s comments here… y’all put things I’ve been feeling into words better than I could have, so thank you : )

    • Big Dyke Energy says...

      Wow, R, this is incredibly perceptive! I can’t say I’ve ever thought about same sex attraction through this lens before, but you’re shining a light on it in this way that just feels so obvious now in retrospect? Love this.

  65. LBD says...

    Oh, Cup of Jo, again. Thank you so much.

  66. Ros says...

    “Don’t we all wonder sometimes about the lives we could be living, the choices we don’t make?”

    Yes. And I think that’s true for everyone, bisexual or not – the “what if” game is fantastic first-person fanfiction. :)

    As a fellow bi person – having an accepting spouse is really key. My spouse has very few insecurities (… given my very extensive romantic history, that’s probably fortunate), and will point out people (men and women) that he thinks I’ll find attractive, and I’ll point out women I think he’ll find attractive, even if we’re in a monogamous relationship and generally happy with how that’s working out for us. If I had to hide that… man, life would be boooooring.

  67. Lisa says...

    Great post – it really made me recognize my own preconceived notions. I was expecting the end to be that she left her husband, but the line “being bisexual doesn’t mean I have to date both men and women” – was super insightful. Why would I think that just because she has come out as bisexual that it would mean she would leave her husband to date a woman? Thanks for making me think and check myself :)

  68. Hannah says...

    This is my first time commenting, because I just have to say-reading this feels relieving, like I was just dipped in cooling, soothing waters of the White Spring myself.

    As a bisexual woman in a long term, monogomous, heterosexual relationship, this is the first time I’ve seen a story that reflects my own. So often stories of women discovering their bisexuality come with a narrative of complete upheaval-leaving their relationship, changing their identity, etc. I’ve never wanted any of this, but always felt guilty, like I was doing it wrong because I didn’t want to uproot everything good in my life.

    This calmer, quieter deepening of the self is the first time I’ve ever seen the story of my true desire-to know and love and care for myself better, and to help those who love me (including my amazing male partner!) to do the same.

    • Lauren says...

      As they say, So. Much. This. 😂

      At most times in history, our wildest dreams are taken to be just that: dreams. Something to think about, or write about, or talk about with friends–not something to actually plan around.

      Our desires and imaginations are limitless, so it goes without saying that we can all imagine situations that are way better than the ones we’re in. No matter how hot a partner is, they could always be hotter–and smarter, funnier, more loving, sexier, richer, more inspiring. Take any one of those traits, identify one in a stranger, and boom: clearly you’re not being true to yourself if you don’t break up with your partner and go after them. 🙄

      It reminds me of the concept of passion-based dream jobs: even for people living in New York City, according to government statistics the ten most common occupations are:

      1. Retail Salesperson
      2. Office Clerk
      3. Janitor or Cleaner
      4. Secretary or Administrative Assistant
      5. Cashier
      6. Registered Nurse
      7. Food preparer or server
      9. Waiter or Waitress
      10. Customer Service Representative

      How many of those could conceivably be “dream jobs”? Nurse or chef, I guess. There just isn’t room for very many people to have a dream job! Those positions are so scarce that if you have one that you don’t need, it could be said that you’re taking it away from someone else who wants it more! Yet somehow, most people are still available to enjoy their lives. 😉

    • Cecilia says...

      This post also encouraged me to comment for the first time. I love how you described it as dipping into the cooling waters. That’s exactly how I felt reading this and immediately sent a link to my husband. It’s also wonderfully relieving and encouraging to read the comments and see so many others in my position.

    • Callahan Peel says...

      I am also first-time commenter in the same boat. Reading this article was peaceful, and reading your comment only deepened my sense of peace. It can be difficult grappling with feelings and understanding your true self when your current situation is so opposite of what other’s expectations are.

      I wasn’t oppressed when I came out as bisexual, I received a overwhelmingly positive reaction. But when, soon after, I entered into a loving heterosexual relationship, suddenly others starting doubting my identity. It was quite hurtful and confusing to have people say that I wasn’t “bisexual enough” because I had a male partner.

      Over time I’ve learned that what matters is my inner dialogue and my journey to self discovery. I am still with the man years later and find that our relationship is much better, because I know and embrace who I am. I am thankful for platforms like this that open up the dialogue.

  69. MJ says...

    ❤️