You Need Help: You’re Bisexual and Your Girlfriend Wishes You Weren’t

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Welcome to You Need Help! Where you’ve got a problem and yo, we solve it. Or we at least try.

Q: I have been exclusive with my sweet gf for 2 years and lived with her for one. I moved to be in the same city as her because I felt so strongly about our future, came out publicly, and haven’t regretted it for a minute. I was honest with her from the get go about dating and sleeping with men. She is my first same-sex partner, I identify as bi when pressed (hate labels), and never hid that. She has had multiple heartbreaks when lovers left her for men, and she gets upset about my previous experiences. I guess I trust myself more than she does because I know our bond is stronger, our sex life better than anything I’ve encountered before, and she’s the kindest person I know. When I try to talk to her about my sexuality, she reacts badly and hasn’t come around to the idea that someone can be truly and permanently bisexual no matter their current partner. She will only be 100% comfortable with me if I identify as “lesbian” but I don’t want to lie about who I am! (Even if I imagine myself with women from here on out.) Instead, I now just avoid talking about my past so that I don’t hurt her feelings. I don’t want to think that our otherwise stellar relationship is doomed because of this difference in opinion, but don’t know how to move forward as candid conversation isn’t working. I long for her acceptance. I basically hope that her opinion changes with time. Am I in denial? Should I view this as a total dealbreaker? What is a girl to do?

This is a doozy, darlin’ — it’s both something that’s both highly specific to you, your girlfriend and your histories, and a tale as old as time. There’s a short answer to this — it’s not healthy to pressure a partner into an identity that isn’t theirs, and it’s unfair and biphobic to distrust your bisexual partner just because they’re bisexual, no matter what past partners have done. I think you probably already know those things on a base level, though, and you’re still here and still feeling conflicted. So let’s take the long way around to talk about it.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we all carry irrational beliefs around with us, even and especially into relationships. This is just how humans work! We’re all just trying to keep ourselves safe in a variety of ways, and our brains and bodies are doing their best to work towards that goal. Sometimes the things we do to try to keep ourselves safe are a bit mismatched with what the situation actually calls for. Sometimes the way we respond to something to try to keep ourselves safe is actually counterintuitive and makes something worse instead of better, often because we’re reacting to an extreme situation from our past rather than to a more moderate or even totally nonexistent one in our present. The challenge, both in life and in relationships, is to try to be constantly correcting for this, finding a balance between instinct and reality.

This was a long-winded way of saying: everyone has baggage and irrational fears in relationships — everyone! — and figuring out how to deal with them is part of the work. Sometimes, you compromise and agree to treat someone’s warped belief about how the world works as reality, because it turns out to be the easiest way to keep everyone safe and happy. My partner is terrified of flying, just totally 100% cannot do it. Instead, we take long road trips or Amtrak trips to visit family, sometimes up to 24 hours long, even though I am constantly aware that statistically we are actually in more danger in a car or even a train than we would be in the air. It’s stupid, objectively; but I don’t mind.The happiness and peace of mind I get from his peace of mind about the situation outweighs the inconvenience. This is a choice I’ve made, and right now also it’s the choice you’re making. Your girlfriend is wrong, and you know she’s wrong, but you’re agreeing to act as if she isn’t out of a desire to compromise.

Except in your case, it isn’t a compromise! In a compromise, both people are giving something up and both people are getting something. I get the pleasure and relief of knowing that when we spend time with our loved ones, it’s a purely positive experience for us both, not one that’s grounded in terror and resentment for my spouse. What are you getting out of your compromise? From here, it seems like what you’re getting is implicit rather than explicit reminders that your girlfriend doesn’t trust you and rejects part of who you are. And if that were enough for you out of the compromise, if this arrangement was working for you, I don’t think you’d be writing us.

Here’s another story about my relationship (which isn’t, you know, perfect! But it’s the only one I’ve got to reference, really, so here we are). I spent a lot of time growing up living with the constant threat of my father’s scary, violent, arbitrary anger. It could come out of nowhere, a thunderbolt from a cloudless sky — everything seeming fine, then all of the sudden my father refusing to speak to us, his young children, leaving the house for hours and leaving us on our own before finally coming back at night to scream at us for the some minor, randomly chosen thing. As often happens with children who grow up in environments like that, I’m hypervigilant about people being angry at me; so vigilant, in fact, that I can see things that aren’t there. If my partner is in the next room over and hasn’t spoken to me in 15 minutes, I can easily convince myself that it’s not just because he’s reading but because the last thing I said to him was wrong somehow, and he’s stewing and ready to scream at me any second now about how awful I am. This belief, though, is wrong. He doesn’t get upset about infinitesimal things, and when he is upset, that isn’t how he handles it. He’s not my father.

It absolutely makes sense for me to process information this way — in many situations I’ve been in, that instinct would have been correct, and helped me stay safe. But it isn’t correct anymore, and it would be unhealthy — and unfair — to act as if it were. I’m not wrong for feeling the way I do, but if I forced my partner to treat my feelings as reality — if I called him five times a day while he was at work to have him reassure me he wasn’t mad at me, if I forbade him from ever taking time to himself without reminding me it wasn’t about me, or ever being outwardly upset about things like having a bad day at work because it makes me anxious — that would be a terrible relationship for him to be in. I’m not wrong for feeling how I do, but it’s on me to make a plan for how to cope with it: to remind myself to look at the evidence and ask whether there’s any suggestion that I’m actually about to be harmed, to develop my own coping strategies, to be self-aware of my own history and the way I map it onto my present. I can certainly ask my partner for support in this, or to make some concessions to my history that he agrees are both fair and healthy for him, but I can’t ask him to bend over backwards for me because I’m not willing to do the work at all. We can’t justify harmful things we do to others by pointing to the ways they’re related to how we ourselves were harmed — a reason isn’t a justification. Even when bad things have happened to us, and even when those bad things influence how we see the world, we’re still capable of respecting other people’s autonomy, their needs and wants and identity, and treating them as they deserve. To think otherwise is, I think, to insult ourselves a bit.

The difference between these two scenarios, the plane and the imaginary fight I’m afraid of, is what’s being asked of each person; the cost. In the first, I am asked to pay the price of an extra day, day and a half of travel for my partner’s sense of safety and happiness. It’s a price I’m perfectly willing to pay a few times a year. In the second, what would be asked is a constant and profound level of performance during interactions that should normally be totally free and vulnerable — what’s asked is to obscure real and honest parts of one person so that the other never has to experience discomfort or do any inner labor of any difficulty. That’s something that should never be asked of anyone in a healthy relationship, I don’t think. It’s not something that should be asked of you.

Which is another long-winded way of saying: It sucks that your girlfriend has had these negative experiences with other women! It really does! But her ex-girlfriends aren’t every bisexual woman. And more importantly, you aren’t her ex-girlfriends. You’re you. And your girlfriend has a responsibility to deal with the baggage she’s brought into this relationship; while you can certainly support her in doing that, it’s not your job to contort yourself to fit how she’s feeling.

You’re hoping that her “opinion” will change; that’s certainly possible, but not if she never tries to change it. The bottom line is, you’ve never given her any reason to think that you’ll cheat on her or leave her, and it’s HER task, not yours, to remind herself of that every single time this comes up for her. It’s normal to feel anxiety and insecurity when you’ve had a traumatic ending to relationships like that, but she has to clock in every day and do the work of seeing it as anxiety and insecurity, not a fact, and to lessen it over time by checking it against how you really are as a partner and seeing how false it is.

You asked if this was a dealbreaker. I don’t know! That’s up to you. And maybe more importantly, up to your girlfriend. I’m not going to tell you to leave her, but I am going to suggest that you at least ask her to step up to the plate about this. If you can’t expect your partner to believe in your basic trustworthiness as a person, what CAN you expect of them? Ask her in a kind, firm way what reasons you, personally, specifically, have ever given her to doubt your faithfulness; what kind of person and girlfriend you’ve shown yourself to be. Tell her that you need her to treat you like that person: the real one, not the one she fears you could be. You’ve spent two years now patiently bearing her displaced distrust of you; it’s time for her to start taking on some of the work herself. You said she “won’t be 100% comfortable with you” until you identify differently and disavow the parts of your life that she wasn’t in. If you had a friend whose partner was still asking them to do penance (for something they hadn’t actually done!) before they would be “100% comfortable” with them — and who, when asked, wasn’t willing to work on changing the part of themselves that needed that from their girlfriend — would you advise them to stay? Why?

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. I like how you framed the situation. Also, that description of your father (and how you tend to interpret other people’s behavior as a result) is uncomfortably familiar to me

  2. Great answer. I go full Bandaid rip and (in the context of monogamy) admit that hey, my vision of successful monogamy is that I’m sometimes going to have attractions/crushes on people other than you, and since I will choose to let them go, whether they are on men/women/any gender, it doesn’t make any difference. I don’t know many people who can legitimately promise no outside attractions ever, and I’d actually rather talk about it and provide support. Someone who can handle me being realistic about what monogamy entails for me can handle bisexuality.

  3. This advice is *so* spot on. All the stuff about the baggage we bring to relationships and what partners should and shouldn’t be asked to do… yep yep yep.

    Insecurity is a bitch – when I was younger I couldn’t bear the thought of past partners or crushes/attractions (I mean ultimately the relationship that provided me with so much angst ended on a betrayal of trust after all) but since then I’ve grown up and been able to feel so much more secure in my self and my relationship. Maybe the OP’s girlfriend will get better with time? Like me? Or like cheese?

  4. Sometimes I read YNH questions and think it’s not super relevant to me/my life… and then I read the advice and learn SO MUCH that is deeply applicable to so many of my life situations. Thank you for this gift of specificity, universality, and damn good advice.

    • I still get steamed thinking about my first girlfriend telling me she never dated women who had dated men, “but you’re different, I can tell you really want it.” Because fuck that times a million.

  5. This is brilliant, thank you! I’ve never considered the actual cost involved in being made to hide your identity in that way before – definitely food for thought.

  6. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for this, Rachel. Thank you.

    I am also feeling massively thankful for my lesbian girlfriend who consistently affirms my sexuality and is always willing to hear me and correct herself when I point out biphobic behavior or comments. I hope the letter writer and her girlfriend are able to find points of mutual understanding that give them both space to learn, grow, and be their whole selves.

  7. My wife and I are both bi, but I used to only identify as lesbian for the longest time because I was worried about what other people would think. Looking back I feel silly, but I know at the time it was a very real fear to me and then there’s the biphobia when people think it’s all right to tease, mock, and/or call you promiscuous. The assumptions are terrible.

    Now I’d rather fight back instead of rolling over and pretending to be something I’m not. Great article, Rachel!

  8. This is just perfect. Rachel, the way you write advice is so tender and also so realtalk. I love it. Follow me around everywhere. Or, I’ll follow you. Compromise.

  9. Rachel! Ugh, this is perfect. It’s something i think about all the time. Not this context specifically, but the context of how much we punish our present partners for the sins of partners / family members / best friends / lifetimes past. it’s so messy and everything you said is so much.

    • But there’s a difference. I did this exact thing to my partner this week, but quickly recognised that my insecurities from being treated with disrespect in previous relationships meant I was finding it difficult to trust him, to allow him to make mistakes, without everything being a cypher of underlying issues, misogyny, or latent emotional abuse.

      Whereas a previous partner would refuse to adjust, or dissect her own behaviour, and instead insist that I was responsible for protecting her from her past experiences, by always behaving in the correct manner towards her.

      We are ultimately not responsible for other people, and they are ultimately not responsible for us. You’re just looking for the ones who are willing to help you rather than helping themselves.

  10. This might be a bit controversial.

    The second to last paragraph is spot on. Stick to your guns and say you refuse to be anything but yourself in this relationship, and that she can take you or leave you, but you love her and it would be stupid of her to leave you when things are good. Tell her she clearly has a hard time trusting you and that you will give her time to heal and settle into the relationship (if you feel like you want to do that rather than leave – because someone not trusting you can easily eat away at the love), but that she needs to be able to trust you and get over her insecurity issues. Personally, I went through abuse as a kid, and I often turn to my partner and check she’s not mad at me – very often, like 5 times an evening now with this trauma phase I’m going through. Healing and feeling safe can take time in different contexts.

    But I’ve also noticed that very young bisexual women are often exploring and the social pressure to leave their lesbian girlfriends is extreme – for instance, parents may be extremely negative about a female partner but very positive about male ones, etc. This social pressure can be a lot to handle and sometimes very young or newly out bisexuals face a wildly different experience in how easy it is to keep one relationship vs. another going – one is socially supported, and the other is stigmatized. It is the same as with an interracial relationship – it’s just harder to do well when people put obstacles in your way, your family hates them, etc. They’re unfair but real obstacles and I think it’s best to acknowledge them and the effect they can have. So I do think that sometimes relationships with baby lesbians, questioning people, young bisexuals, etc are extra rocky because of that, and it can cause a “bisexuals shouldn’t be trusted” mindset that then sticks around into later life, when in reality, it’s a result of navigating sexuality in a violently homophobic culture – and also a misogynistic culture that sees a relationship with a woman as inferior as one with a man.

    After a few years, people tend to figure out who they are and develop coping skills for homophobic culture, and to be able to deal with obstacles. I would be willing to stake my entire future on the fact that my bisexual partner has chosen me and only me, and we’re 5 years strong. She faces homophobia and being unable to have biological kids with me, but she chooses me, even though she doesn’t have to. That is why I hate the “No one would choose to be gay” arguments from people who think they’re helping deal with homophobia – people don’t choose their sexuality, but among bisexual people with options to have more or less stigma, many choose to be with someone they love and stick with them through hell or high water. I feel like the “no one would choose this life” nonsense is ugly and sad and I’m ready to never see it again.

    And my partner has shown me how constantly bisexual people are erased – so we are also in a society that sees bisexual people in long term relationships as either “gay” or “straight” depending on who they are with, so that bisexuals who aren’t sleeping around are rendered invisible. There is nothing wrong with sleeping around, but there is something wrong with erasing the diversity of bisexual people and their real lives, which are often with partners they are loyal to.

    But I still have to admit that the fact that my partner had been with a woman before me made it easier to trust that I wasn’t an experiment for her; I have been someone’s “experiment” before and it’s not a fun experience. You can be steadily bi without relationship experience, but at the “I wonder if I’d…..” or “I’ve always thought about….” stage, I’d be more wary. But beyond that, when someone knows who they are and can cope with homophobia, sexuality has nothing to do with cheating or not cheating – that just comes down to whether someone is the cheating type. And cheating is pretty common among straight and gay people too, I’m sorry to say.

    • I hadn’t thought of this before, but all of this is so true. Thank you for writing it all out (I’m also queer/ bisexual and I identify more with queer than bi, in part because of stigma and I know that’s terrible).

    • thanks for talking about this hannah! i’m really glad that you and your gf are so happy and that your relationship is so solid! i do want to expand on/unpack one thing here, just to clarify for other readers — you’re totally right that a complex vortex of social pressures, stigmas and traumas, things like “the social pressure to leave lesbian girlfriends is extreme – for instance, parents may be extremely negative about a female partner but very positive about male ones, etc.” can lead to bi women not staying with female partners, or bi women dating other women for the first time to leave their first gf feeling as though they were an “experiment,” and that can be a really harmful experience and it sucks. i do also however want to point out that these situations and reactions, things like leaving women to return to the closet or staying in the closet during a relationship to hurtful effect, aren’t unique to bi women, and can be enacted by any same-gender-attracted women, including lesbians. i say this not to point fingers — these social contexts are really painful, for everyone who has to experience them! they’re not to be trivialized! — but to expand on the counterpoint to what you’re saying about visibility. it’s true that bi women are often erased/made invisible in mainstream/general queer contexts, and conversely it’s also true that we are often made hypervisible or entirely representative of “bad” or “deviant” or “undesirable” aspects of queer community or behavior, and i just want to make sure that we acknowledge that when we discuss those behaviors so as not to perpetuate them!

      • Rachel, thanks for your comment, which is true. You’re right, it isn’t just bisexual women who struggle with social pressure, the closet, etc (and I tried to include them – though not very well, maybe – by saying “baby lesbians, questioning people, young bisexuals”, but you did it better). I agree that it certainly isn’t just bisexual women who navigate these things and who sometimes end up buckling under the stigma and pressure. Sometimes I wonder what our relationships would look like if we had all the support and cheering on and celebrating of our relationships that straight people do (though not every straight couple, since some straight relationships are still stigmatized).

    • Hannah, thank you for the comment about how “no one would choose this” is horrible and wrong. I can’t even talk about it because it’s too fraught. But I did choose it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Thank you for seeing my heart.

    • Hannah, thank you so much for saying this! You said everything I wanted to say far more eloquently than I could’ve.

    • I think so much of this is spot-on for so many relationships and it’s important to talk about — but at the same time, this specific question doesn’t seem to include any of those elements, which is part of why Rachel’s able to give advice on it by comparing it to very different situations involving irrational fears. I think if this girl said that her parents were pressuring her to have a boyfriend and never wanted to meet her girlfriend or that she wouldn’t move in with her b/c she didn’t want to be perceived as being in a gay relationship or that she wouldn’t admit to co-workers she was dating a girl — the advice would’ve been a little bit different. Because as far as we know from the question, the girlfriend’s fears aren’t particularly rational. Adding any of those elements to the mix would push the scale a little bit farther towards the girlfriend’s fears having roots in something real besides past partners who have no bearing on the present.

    • “I feel like the “no one would choose this life” nonsense is ugly and sad and I’m ready to never see it again.”

      I don’t know. Yes, the argument is terribly reductive, but considering the history of anti-LGBT sentiment, I think it had its place. I’d like to think we’ve moved past it by now, but we should recognize that it was useful in combating homophobia when it was first introduced. Religious homophobia used to be based on the idea that LGB people were choosing to be in open rebellion to God. And it’s why ex-gay therapy was such a huge thing. People gradually abandoned that when it became clear that LGB people weren’t choosing their sexual orientation. Ex-gay is still a thing, but it’s much less of a thing, and conversion therapy has been banned for minors in several states (and one group was convicted of consumer fraud) as a result of growing acceptance that it’s not a choice and that trying to change something that isn’t a choice has led to immeasurable harm. I really don’t think mainstream acceptance of sexual minorities would have happened at such an unprecedented rate if we hadn’t pushed the “born this way” rhetoric. And I’m saying that as someone who has been hurt by the corollary to this rhetoric.

  11. Great advice. I’ve put up with a couple of situations similar to this before. And it’s never fun. For me, they pretty much always ended, because I can’t really change who I am, and I definitely can’t change my past.

    • Is it, though? Is it okay to love everything about someone except their identity, and then try to force them to change their identity because you don’t like it? That sounds like bigotry, to me. I get really tired of biphobia. I don’t think it needs to be sanctioned. It’s not okay for my partner to not be okay with my identity. If my partner left me because they wanted to date someone straight instead of a bisexual person, that would be pretty hurtful and bigoted behaviour. Behaviour not based on fact, but on prejudice and oppressive mindsets. I don’t think that’s okay.

      • There are a variety of traits and characteristics i enjoy sharing and/or look for in a partner. For example, I don’t date men and prefer to date someone who is nonreligious like myself. Romantic preference is distinct from suppressing or trying to change someone imo

      • Granted it’s not the exact same thing, but if you identified as polyamorous and someone didn’t want to date you because they would prefer someone who loves monogamy, would you feel hurt?

        • You’re right, it’s not the exact same… at all. If a polyamorous person wanted to engage in a polyamorous relationship, but their partner wanted a monogamous relationship then obviously it’s not going to work. Those are mutually exclusive possibilities that would impact the structure of the relationship. In the exact same way that a person who wanted to have kids could not be in a relationship with someone who does not want kids.

          In order to be comparable to being bisexual the situation would be more like: if a person who had previously engaged in polyamorous relationships was willing to enter into a monogamous relationship and the strictly monogamous person rejected them for having been in polyamorous relationships previously. As the hypothetical polyamorous person in that situation, you’re damn straight I would feel hurt. You are essentially saying that you do not trust that I can be faithful to you, even though I have said that in fact I can be. If 2 people have agreed to be in a monogamous relationship, the fact that one has the capability to be in polyamorous relationships and one does not is irrelevant. Those 2 identities do not alter the structure of the relationship; they are not mutually exclusive. If 2 people have agreed to be in a women/women relationship, the fact that one is lesbian and one is bisexual is irrelevant. These 2 identities do not alter the structure of the relationship; they are not mutually exclusive.

          And this is coming from a bi woman in a relationship with a bi woman. I’ll admit that I have to deal with internalized biphobia. But it’s on me to deal with those insecurities and to trust my girlfriend when she says that she loves me and wants to spend her life with me.

          • EXACTLY!

            It’s very simple really. If you reject a whole group of people on the one shared characteristic of that group, you’re being prejudiced. People have the right to be prejudiced, but they really need to stop trying to make it into ‘oh it’s just a harmless preference’ because it really is not.

          • I completely concur with your hypothetical being more analogous. However, you made an illogical conclusion when you stated that the hypothetical monogamous person must have decided to not be in a relationship with the sometimes polyamorous person. In fact, the person could have completely believed in the commitment and capabilities but simply felt there was a somewhat related difference in personality or worldview that made the relationship compatibility less than ideal. I disagree that identity does not factor into relationship dynamic. In fact, I think the complexity of individual identity is one of the more compelling factors in a relationship. The structure may not be effected but the dynamic is. It’s definitely not to say that it necessarily increases or decreases compatibility. Relationships and identity are so individual-based, it’s really up to the parties to be open, honest and as articulate as possible, and obviously if they stay together, supportive.

          • in general, i’m positing that everyone is different- for some sexual identity may not be important or really bear on the desirability or dynamic of the relationship. for others, it may be more important for reasons unrelated to not believing or trusting someone.

          • I don’t think my conclusion was illogical. Your original comment was “Also, it’s okay if you want to date someone who identifies in a similar manner as you”. You were the one that boiled it down to identity and I was reacting to that. If you want to backpedal and say that it’s not the identity that is necessarily the deal breaker, but rather the way the identity impacts someone’s worldview then I feel like that is a different discussion. And I absolutely agree that our identities are going to shape us and possibly affect our compatibility with others. Now I don’t know how you identify or what your experiences are… But like I said, I’m dating a bi woman. And I’ve been the bi woman dating a lesbian who couldn’t handle my sexuality. The issue isn’t “golly, our identities have put us on different paths through life and as a result we struggle to see eye to eye.” The issue is (generally) “You have been with men or at least have attraction to men. Society says that men are superior and women are inferior. What if I’m not enough and you leave me?” The issue is not the bisexual person’s worldview, it’s the fear/insecurities that their identity makes the lesbian feel. And I totally understand that. But it is up to us to check our own baggage and not put it on our partners. Like you said, it’s up to both parties to be open and honest. Sometimes that means saying “Hey, your sexuality makes me feel vulnerable. But I love you and I’m trying to work through it.” Not “Hey, your sexuality makes me feel vulnerable. If you love me, you’ll change it so I don’t have to deal with it” Which is what seems to be the case for the original question asker.

          • I agree there is often larger societal issues at play and inaccurate generalizations, PTsd, etc. For me personally, I found its more about something to have in common or not. Since I consider my sexuality to be a pretty big part of me, especially pertaining to relationships, it’s for me kind of a big thing to have in common or not, roughly speaking, since everyone’s different.

          • I can also see how many people are like it doesn’t matter, and actually have the compulsion that it shouldn’t.

          • I just really struggle with this concept of lesbianism being “something to have in common or not”.

            I ended up in a relationship with a lesbian who didn’t accept my bisexuality because we didn’t explicitly state our identities (she was aware that I had slept with a guy). What we did express was our common interest to enter into a relationship with a woman. And I thought that was the important thing to have in common. If lesbians and bisexuals are so at odds and don’t have enough in common, then why is it that she didn’t immediately recognize me as a bisexual? Why did my sexuality only become a problem once the label was spoken (months into the relationship)?

            Furthermore, even if you are dating another self identified lesbian you aren’t going to be attracted to ever other woman that she is attracted to. In fact, you might have wildly opposite attractions. So why on earth does it matter if your partner finds some men attractive? She isn’t forcing you to also find those men attractive.

            Do you only date women who have 100% overlap in music tastes? What if you like the same genre, but you aren’t really into a couple of the specific bands she likes?

            So again, what is it that lesbians have in common that is so important? Aside from being attracted to women, and not attracted to men. In your earlier post you tried to call me out when I focused strictly on identity, and said it was more compatibility/worldview that mattered. But when you say it’s “something to have in common or not” I don’t see how you could be talking about anything else but identity. My ex didn’t have a problem with my worldview, she had a problem with my label/identity.

            Like Laura said, people have the right to be prejudiced, but don’t go around saying it’s just a harmless preference. It may seem fairly harmless to you if you just avoid certain relationships. But it’s certainly harmful when it enters into an established relationship. I was made to feel absolutely ashamed of who I am. And clearly the question asker isn’t ok with her situation either. So many people have the compulsion that it shouldn’t matter because there is nothing wrong with bisexual people and we’re tired of being discriminated against. We’re not straight enough for the straights and we’re not gay enough for the gays.

          • Very well stated Sam, I completely agree.

            The only thing ALL bisexuals have in common is that they can be sexually and/or romantically attracted to more than one gender. Anything else is personal. Attraction is a matter of the mind. Attraction says nothing about experience. You can be bisexual and never been in any sort of relationship with men, or with women, or with either.

            And when I date a woman, we have in common that we like dating women. Why is it important if I in my past had relationships and/or sex with men? Plenty of lesbians have had sex and/or relationships with men, do you refuse to date them too?

        • Is this an issue of identity, or of expected behavior?

          Are we talking about a situation where hypothetical polyamorous me wants to date a monogamous person, and they can’t agree on an idea of what their relationship would look like where both of them could be comfortable? Hypothetical polyamorous me can’t have the freedom to pursue other relationships while their hypothetical crush gets to have the security of knowing this is the one and only romantic relationship either party is involved in. That’s not possible. Of course it would be a good idea for those people not to date each other.

          Or are we talking about a situation where hypothetical polyamorous me is fine with this relationship being closed, or their hypothetical monogamous crush is fine with this relationship being open, or they can come to some sort of arrangement about this without anyone feeling like something unpleasant is being asked of them, but one of these people doesn’t trust the other to keep that arrangement? That’s not as cut and dry, but it’s sort of understandable.

          Or are we talking about a situation where hypothetical polyamorous me has a crush on someone who could happily be in a polyamorous relationship or a monogamous relationship, and hypothetical polyamorous me decides this means their crush can’t be trusted to really want a polyamorous relationship, or that their crush’s experience of being polyamorous is so different from their own experience of being polyamorous that they could never really understand what hypothetical polyamorous me has been through?

          Because that would be kind of stupid. Maybe hypothetical polyamorous me has had an especially rough time with the expectation that they’re supposed to be monogamous, in a way that intersected with their complete inability to do monogamy. Maybe their own experience involves feeling like they’re polyamorous because they can’t be monogamous, and someone who could choose to seek out more socially-endorsed relationships if they really wanted to would have a completely different experience – but they might not have.

          What experiences are classed as similar, and what experiences are classed as too different? Is a person who calls herself a lesbian always more similar to another person who calls herself a lesbian than to a person who calls herself bisexual? Imagine a lesbian who’s known she was a lesbian since she was a small child and who’s never dated men. Her homophobic parents tried to change her and punished her for liking girls. Her shitty, conservative small town was an actively hostile environment. She’s very conscious of sexism and doesn’t particularly trust men. Now, imagine she’s in a room with four other people. The first is a lesbian who grew up in a relatively liberal area with a completely supportive family. The second is a bi woman who was disowned by her father when she refused to break up with her girlfriend. The third is a lesbian who always got along a little better with men, and who had pretty positive experiences dating guys before she realized she just wasn’t really excited about it the way she was with women. The fourth is a bi woman who’s an ardent feminist and who dates men sometimes, but who vastly prefers dating women and nonbinary people because she’s hesitant about entering romantic relationships with a man/woman dynamic. Which of these people have experiences that might feel similar to that of our first lesbian? Can you tell who’s similar and who’s different based on orientation alone? (And yes, lesbians with similar experiences and bi women with completely different experiences exist, and none of this is meant to be a value judgment on any sort of queer experience.)

          It’s just, if similarity is really that important to you, it’s easier finding that by talking to people rather than pre-emptively weeding out all the bisexuals. There are likely several other things going on.

    • But she’s already dating someone who identifies differently than her, and it’s not ok to try and change someone to fit your needs or prejudices.

      • ^ that’s really the only point to make about THIS particular question.

        There’s a lot of discussion going on in here about biphobia and what it means, because maybe it’s something we haven’t rightly tackled. Points:

        Laura made a good point: “The only thing ALL bisexuals have in common is that they can be sexually and/or romantically attracted to more than one gender. Anything else is personal.”

        As in, someone who identifies as bisexual may be a total 50/50, maybe they slept with one gender in the past and now only exclusively sleep with the other but still identify as bisexual, maybe they sometimes are attracted to another gender and have great fantasies that include all kinds of people and honor that idea of attraction with the identification that allows them to feel it. Whether or not a person acts on all levels of attraction is a personal decision – that’s where you might start having the conversation about monogamy and what it means between two people.

        Sam’s said: ‘The issue is (generally) “You have been with men or at least have attraction to men. Society says that men are superior and women are inferior. What if I’m not enough and you leave me?”’

        I think that’s part of it. I don’t think I understand the totality of it, though. What is it, truly, that makes bisexuality the target of all the fear? Because if it’s only this, it doesn’t include the possible issue of biphobia against bisexual men in the gay or straight communities (and I actually have no idea if it’s similar, as bad, differently perceived, etc.). Is it just about the perceived ability that a bisexual person can ‘choose’ to live in one identity and not the other?

        Is biphobia also about the idea that bisexuality expresses in multiple genders and fear that denial of one side for a long time will lead your bisexual partner to want to suddenly going on a sleeping binge with the other? As a bisexual woman who has more than one partner in more than one gender, I’m probably your worst nightmare because I am someone who is really really unhappy if asked to choose one or the other for the rest of forever. That does not mean other bisexual people feel that way, or even that I will feel that way forever. As most everyone has pointed out… it’s really about communication, lots and lots of it, and if your bisexual partner has agreed to your monogamous relationship then this is what the whole question is about: is it still okay to just feel distrustful based on a perception and not a reality?

        Or does it just boil down to the idea that a monosexual person finds the genitalia of the gender they are not attracted to kind of icky and also finds it icky if their partner express liking those genitalia or has touched them in the past, so now they’re kind of tainted, like they touched something undesirable? ‘Cause that’s probably the least rational of all things, and might be why many people are finding it downright insulting that someone could prefer to not be with them on this principle alone

        • Thanks for the naming :)

          Well, you know, there are plenty of lesbians who have slept with men. Either as experiment, either as thinking they were straight or bisexual. So, if it is just because the genitals are icky (which I have to agree with hahahaha), they would have to refuse to date non-gold star lesbians too. But they don’t (most of them, some of them do). So that’s not the answer.

          I got told by a lesbian that, as lesbians, they don’t want to be involved with men, they don’t even want to be reminded of men. So, she said, it’s basically doing us a favor not dating us, because we would not ever be able to share our past with men with them.
          She was a lesbian. She was also formerly married to a man and had had two kids with him.
          So, how is SHE preventing not to get involved with men? Did she remove the ex husband AND her kids out of her life to never be reminded of her past with a man? Because every time the kids are around, they’re screaming the message ‘you’ve been with a man!!’.
          So basically she is lying through her teeth about that.

          And so far I have not been able to talk about this with lesbians. There are lesbians who are fine with bisexuals, they don’t know why other lesbians are not. And the lesbians who are not fine with it are hiding behind ridiculous arguments like the one above and similar things, or behind the ‘you can’t tell me who to date, how dare you try and force me to date you’or ‘this is just a preference, nothing personal’. They are simply not open for a debate about this, at all, ever.

          So we can guess a lot.

          My personal guess is that yeah, it’s got a lot to do with being scared to fail in comparison with men. It makes them insecure, and instead of researching that insecurity and addressing it, they blame the people making them insecure and hide behind arguments and anger.

    • Well this is irrelevant to this situation–unless you’re suggesting the gf is justified in trying to get the writer to change her identification, which would be very shitty.

  12. Thank you so much for writing this, your advice is spot on. As someone who identifies as bi but definitely places about a 5.5 on the Kinsey scale, my experiences with the lesbian community have been complicated. While 99% of the time I am “presenting” as gay, my bisexuality is still a very integral part of who I am.

    I think what a lot of lesbians don’t understand is that “preferring” lesbians over bisexuals is not comparable to preferring eye colour or height, but that it is part of biphobia that is hugely emotionally exhausting. And it’s easy enough for a bisexual like myself to scoff at giving biphobic people (men, women, or nb people!) the time of day, but in reality there are levels of biphobia and the feelings you can have for people are complicated.

    My heart goes out to the person who submitted this message. There is no easy answer, and I hope they know that it is NOT their responsibility to teach their partner why bisexuality is valid. I know from experience that it’s too much to ask of anyone, and that her biphobia is something she needs to work on herself.

    • I agree that preferring to date a fellow lesbian over a bisexual is more complex than preferring eye color or height, but I disagree that it’s necessarily biphobic. I think that in a lot of ways, it’s akin to wanting to date someone who also really, really likes a specific football team. It means that you have more in common. As a lesbian, there are just simply things I don’t understand when my friends/”activity partners” who are bisexual talk about being bisexual. And, there are things they don’t understand about my lesbianness.
      In some ways, it’s like a person of color preferring to date someone of their ethnic background. My last relationship was with someone who was mixed Asian/white, while I’m mixed with other things. Sometimes she said some really ignorant stuff about my background, sometimes there were just things she didn’t get and it would’ve been nice if she did, sometimes it’s just nice to be with someone with similar experiences in that way. And, vice versa. I mean, I didn’t have a lot of the experiences she did as a mixed Asian/white person (the fetishes, having a white dad often mistaken as her husband or adopted dad, etc). And that bothered her sometimes, that I couldn’t understand what that was like on the same level that she did.
      Basically, I agree that in this person’s situation, she shouldn’t stand for her partner being dickish about her bisexuality. But, I think her partner can absolutely prefer to date a lesbian. The issue is that she’s not currently doing so, this is the person she fell in love with, she knows this, and so she needs to either 1) get over it/shut up about it, or 2) they need to break up.

      • Why do you think as a bisexual I’d be so different from a lesbian that being a bisexual would automatically make me so much different and that not dating me because I am bisexual would be reasonable?

        From where I stand, I am no different. The ONLY difference is my sexual and romantic attractions. It doesn’t say anything about how I lived my life, what kind of person I am, what I like or dislike. Being bisexual doesn’t necessarily mean that I had relationships with men, or that I had relationships with women. I might be a bisexual who is primarily attracted to women. But without talking to me, you don’t know.

        So from where I stand, I get rejected even as an option to talk to not because of my person, but because of my one shared characteristic with the group of bisexuals.

        And from where I stand that still amounts to prejudice and bigotry. People have the right to be that, but it’s really not a ‘harmless preference’ in any way.

        • Exactly–the sexuality is different. Which, yeah, impacts our lives. Otherwise, this website wouldn’t be here. Our sexualities impact our lives in some pretty big ways. My life would’ve looked different if I were bisexual. It just would.
          Feel free to disagree, but I stand by my point. But, I really hate the idea that lesbians are somehow at all privileged over bisexual women in any way. I think that’s ridiculous/harmful. So, that influences my opinion substantially.

          • But if you don’t talk with me, you won’t know in which way it makes me different. JUST the mention of me being bisexual simply is not enough to know whether there is a difference between us that would be insurmountable. As said: I may or may not have had relationships with men or with women, or with neither, or with both. So my experience and the way I deal with that says a lot more about me than the label of bisexuality does. Yet the label is what gets me rejected. How can that be right?

          • The bit of privilege you have as a lesbian over bisexual AFAB people is community that belongs to you for true that you can feel without hesitation is yours. Autostraddle is an exception to the rule in my experience.

            Bisexual people belong no where, we don’t have a community of our 100% own. We exist in the margins of the gay or straight communities.
            Or in some rare cases like Autostraddle get to be a part of the fold whether we’re with a woman, man or whatever.

            Some bisexual women can nearly seamlessly fit into the straight world, but some of us cannot and also do not identify as women either.
            I’ve been a liminal being since like kindergarten so I can cope with how I do not fit in, some of us really can’t.
            Thus one of many reasons we have higher rates of mental health problems than the LG.

            I’m going to try real hard not get personal with one of the things that influences my opinion substantially because I’m not trying to start an argument or make you feel attacked. I just want to give you some perspective to consider.

            I did a GSA thing once and it was all be one person bisexual women. All of us including the lone lesbian had been sexually assaulted in some form or another.
            The fucking disturbing thing I will never forget is that was the…I don’t know how to phrase it well…concept? Concept of those who perpetrated the abuse on some of us was that we must want sex things all of the time because bisexuality = hypersexuality.
            I never assumed to be alone in being perceived with that incorrect perception by the person who violated me.

            No assault counts more than another assault and yeah I know some people view anyone they can identify as woman as “totally wanting it” because hole matches peg. Or something like that.
            Just have you ever had someone treat you like a greedy whore who must want sex things all of the time based on your sexual identity?

            Maybe I’m going too far on this or something, but if you can take first half of this missive into consideration. The bit about bisexual women having no community of their own and have to try and nestle themselves in either the lesbian community or the straight world and how that world isn’t always a fit.
            Then I will consider my time not wasted typing all this.

        • This is why I identify as queer. Honestly I feel like my history and range of preferences are not my date’s (or the general public’s) business until that moment if and when I want to connect with a person on a deeper level. On a first date, if I’m clearly interested in my date, that’s really all she needs to know until I’ve felt out the situation well enough to trust her.

          • And still we run the risk of meeting lesbians who honestly don’t think we could possibly have enough in common to date. What IS that?

  13. This is fantastic advice. I’m gay but have dated a bisexual woman, and am now dating another bisexual woman, so I’ve never had a problem with how they identify. However, your broader advice about accepting someone’s baggage was really powerful and hit me since I’ve been doing a lot of introspective analysis, figuring out how to be better about accepting things that are out of my control with my new person compared to my past relationships. Thank you for your infinite wisdom, Rachel, as always.

  14. Did you realize you gave an impromptu economics lesson on opportunity cost with you example of taking long trips? If not, I need a break from studying and this article definitely made me think about other stuff.

    I am guilty of biphobic thinking because of how I was raised and my own issues like my low self esteem. My parents always said there was no such thing as a bisexual. You are either straight , gay or a whore. They no longer say this after I came out but the damage was done. Once I accepted myself as a possible lesbian I hated that girls that I did like would jut play games and go for guys instead. But thats no excuse, I am just trying to explain hiw we don’t realize that we can be acting irrational beliefs or thoughts. For example, I was a self hating lesbian for a long time and bullied a boy for acting very feminine eventhough I was being bullied too but in my head I was better than the gay kid because bulling them meant I wasn’t a sinner. That is how powerful our experiences can be. They teach us how to react and think even though we know it is wrong inside. Sometimes it is not enough to focus on coping skills and why we have trust issues. It takes a very good hard look at the ugly side we all try to hide and start picking away at the damage. Starting the process to retrain what you believe and think is a difficult thing to do and it can’t be done half heartedly. It took me a long time t accept that bisexuality does exist and no they are not whores or manipulators of any kind. I can’t put my insecurities on others like that and it is no ones job to accommodate to my insecurity in a relationship. That is my issue.

    I guess what I am trying to say is that her girlfriend needs to deal with her own shit. People get attracted to others, deal with it. Would she be just as insecure if her exes and bisexual girlfriend left her for another woman? More than likely.

    If you can’t handle the identity of their person you are dating, you have not yet reached the maturity level to date her yet. You do NOT appreciate the person that she is nor can you handle the general concept of her sexual pleasure. Making someone silent about who they are is a form of control and trying to impose a new identity so that she doesn’t desire others, especially men, is treating like an object.

  15. “It absolutely makes sense for me to process information this way — in many situations I’ve been in, that instinct would have been correct, and helped me stay safe. But it isn’t correct anymore, and it would be unhealthy — and unfair — to act as if it were.” If my incredibly emotionally stable roomate were not asleep right now, I’d go thank him for making this quote so true for me. It really is not correct anymore, which is so great.

  16. Rachel, I think this is the most wonderful advice in an advice column I have ever read.
    I, like you, am dealing with a past that made me cow before other people’s harshness and what you write about that is stunning and beautiful and very true.
    I also am dealing with a wife who has trust issues because of cheating ex girlfriends (not necessarily connected to me being bisexual but since it’s trust issues, and I can fall for either gender (or none at all), I’m to be trusted with nobody) and I am dealing with it exactly the way you are advising the writer of the letter.

    Mind you, it takes time. Depending on age and stubbornness and other characteristics, it can take a long time. But it slowly gets better.

  17. Rachel this is so real and so good and I felt like your voice was just a spiritual guidance in a 15 day retreat even tho thats not what’s actually happening IRL

  18. I just want to add a comment for any bi girls out there who may be reading this letter and feeling discouraged…. I know that some lesbians are like this–insecure for reasons of their own. But not all of us are! I have been with my queer/bi girlfriend for nearly three years now, and it is the happiest, healthiest, most wonderful relationship I have ever been in! I have zero doubts about her, about her sexuality, or about her being the one for me. When appropriate, I go out of my way to correct people who assume that she’s a lesbian; it’s so important to me that her identity not be marginalized or thrown by the wayside just because she’s in a ‘lesbian’ relationship. I don’t feel threatened by her sexuality. If anything, I feel even more amazing about our commitment because she chose ME out of TWICE the available options! That’s all. Hugs. :)

    • Speaking as this lovely lady’s GF, I can verify every word is true! My love battles bi-phobia more ferociously than I do!

      Everybody has a past, everyone has had bad experiences, everyone has been hurt, but when your love looks at you and swears that you, and you alone, are her future and you can’t find it in yourself to trust that? That is on you, 100%, full stop. No matter where she is on the kinsey scale, no matter what your experience, either you trust the love you have or you are going to lose that love. My love knows I’m all hers. She trusts me, and that is neither despite or because of my orientation, it’s b/c she loves me.

  19. 1) Rachel! There is so much great advice in here. It’s just such a well-composed response.
    2) As a queer (bisexual) woman in a relationship with a straight man, I can say that he has this same fear.
    3) I am polyamorous and when my partners worry that this will make me more likely to leave them I have to remind them that monogamous relationships carry the same risk. There is this fear that polyamory (and bisexuality) somehow makes someone less faithful or less able to be faithful. That stereotype is harmful and not true.
    4) I would recommend reading “The Ethical Slut” which is not just a great resource for non-monogamous people, but a great resource for anyone in any type of relationship period. Really, go check it out. There is a ton of great stuff in there about trust and jealousy and fear and owning your identity. I think it could be a good source of comfort for you in this time.

    Best of luck to you!

  20. Oh, I forgot to highlight my favorite part! “…to be self-aware of my own history and the way I map it onto my present” This is so beautifully worded and incredibly true.

  21. As a lesbian in a relationship with a bi girl who used to be insecure but now isn’t, I agree that this is good advice! here are my top 3 tips of how I got over it:
    1. talking openly and honestly with my gf
    2. talking to every other bi friend I know and trust
    3. finding out about other positive lesbian-bi experiences by reading/watching things online, particularly this video and Rose and Rosie in general


  22. When I came out to my wife 10 years ago about my bisexuality it saved our marriage. I was 1 night’s sleep away from being asked to leave. I told her everything about my past, nothing was left out. Whatever she asked me I answered truthfully. Over the next few days to weeks she asked me the same questions but worded differently to see if there were inconsistent answers but they were always the truth. Everything fell into place about me for her. She knows I would not cheat on her but she knows that there are some guys that really do it for me as there are some women that do it for me, just like there are guys that do it for her.

  23. Wow. I really like how you discussed the negotiations we go through and what is far far too much to ask. Asking someone to erase a behaviour for the relationship is one thing, but asking them to erase their past, or their identity now, that’s mountains on mountains.

    “what would be asked is a constant and profound level of performance during interactions that should normally be totally free and vulnerable — what’s asked is to obscure real and honest parts of one person so that the other never has to experience discomfort or do any inner labor of any difficulty. That’s something that should never be asked of anyone in a healthy relationship, I don’t think. It’s not something that should be asked of you.”

    Your dad. Far out. Felt that. It’s painful how experiences and relationships in our pasts colour so strongly how we interact, fear, love and move our bodies for those we love now.

    This hits on so many levels, but especially as a non-monogamous Gqueer person by soul, who in my relationships thus far has felt that ‘commonsense/simply expected’ pressure to fix my gender and each relationship as if: now I’ve met you, it should be enough and we should act as if that past doesn’t exist because it makes you distrust me.

    And the thing is, when you love someone so much you really do want to give up parts of yourself. You think you can. You think it won’t hurt you. But it does. And relationships end, and people fall out of love or in love or want something else, and that just happens. It’s awful that society makes it so hard to be queer. And so hard that whole phobias exist around bisexuality, around ambiguity. But that is neither fixed, nor your relationship fixed, by asking someone to give up their identity.

    I hope these guys get some type of a learning happy ending.

  24. What does it mean for a woman to leave her girlfriend for a man? Well, what does it mean for a person to leave their partner for another person? Plenty of people aren’t great about ending relationships they’re kind of done with – they think maybe it’ll get better, or they’ll find the energy to try to improve things eventually, and breaking up seems so drastic, what with all the questions and hurt feelings. It’s not the best thing to do, but it’s all too common to put off getting out of a relationship until there’s a pressing reason not to be in one. Nobody leaves their partner if they really wanted to be in that relationship in the first place.

    Does it feel different to be left for a man than to be left for a woman? To a lot of people, absolutely. We live in a culture that says man/woman relationships are real and good and that woman/woman relationships are maybe sometimes okay because they’re not that different from man/woman relationships, and they’re great as a sexy adventure, you know, if you’re both hot. Even if a bi woman who left a woman for a man thinks of it as “my heart wasn’t really in it with Jane anymore, and when I met John, that gave me the incentive to break it off”, her lesbian ex-girlfriend might feel like she left to go be in a more socially acceptable, “realer” relationship, and isn’t it nice some people have that option? And meanwhile if the dissatisfied bi woman had instead met Jolene, her lesbian ex-girlfriend would be dealing with being left for another woman, but that possibility isn’t what comes to mind. Of course she was left for a man. How could anything else have ever happened?

    And sometimes when people are young and figuring themselves out and subject to their families’ homophobia, they do end up making decisions that harm the women they’re dating. As Hannah said, sometimes man/woman relationships are easier to be in, when there’s a lot of pressure – though that isn’t a problem exclusive to bisexual people either. There are gay people who are pressured out of being in woman/woman relationships, and sometimes into being in man/woman ones. There are people who experiment when they’re questioning and decide after they’ve kissed a girl that they’re not all that fond of kissing girls. They’re not always dishonest about it, and they don’t always identify as bisexual, and it’s perfectly common to kiss someone and then decide you’re not all that fond of kissing them (though it always hurts to be the person someone decides they’d rather not kiss), but somehow it always comes back to bisexuals anyway, doesn’t it?

    This is not to say that everyone needs to be comfortable dating everyone. Sometimes you have bad experiences, and you know they’re not representative, but they still affect what you are and aren’t comfortable doing, and that’s okay. If you prefer not to date someone who, say, hasn’t had a relationship with a woman before, or who can’t or won’t come out, or who isn’t sure what they’re looking for, that’s fine. To rule out all bi people on principle is… well, you have the right to do it, but it’s kinda not great. And to rule out all bi people on principle and then date a bi person anyway, and then insist that bi person not be bi… that’s really not great. Your girlfriend is being a shit.

    You say you’re trying not to talk about being bi so not to hurt her feelings, but she’s obviously hurting your feelings by trying to police your orientation. It’s not just an issue of orientation, it’s an issue of her trying to change you and you trying not to draw attention to parts of yourself that she doesn’t approve of. Yes, this is absolutely a dealbreaker. If you want to go, you have every right to. If you’d rather not go but you can’t deal with this and you don’t have the energy to try to fix it, it’s absolutely okay if going is the lesser of two evils. If you do want to stay, and you do want to try to fix it, it’s time to have an honest conversation with her about how this is hurting you, and how it’s gotten to the point where you’re thinking about leaving – not because you can’t maintain a relationship with a woman, but because you can’t maintain a relationship with someone who doesn’t respect you. It doesn’t matter if she can’t understand being bi – maybe you can’t understand being straight or gay, and yet you’re not telling her that her orientation is impossible. You’re out, you’ve been in this relationship for two years, you’re obviously taking it seriously, and being open to different genders in dating doesn’t mean you’re going to ditch her for a man the moment it’s convenient. And if you want to leave, you will leave, and not wait for the next person to come along first, whatever their gender.

    If you want to be sympathetic to her insecurities, go ahead, but don’t let her insecurities decide what you’re allowed to be. Talk them out, address how these things aren’t going to happen with you, whatever you like. But if she continues not to get it, then this isn’t the right person for you to be with. There are plenty of fish in the sea who aren’t going to insist on you hiding a fundamental part of yourself for their comfort.

    • I agree that being left for another person (or not chosen over another person) SHOULD seemingly feel all the same, (regardless of gender/sex).

      However, I do also find that for some reason it often doesn’t.

      Maybe it’s some primal instinct for those primarily / emotionally into women where men are read as “opposition” on a primate level (think about a lot of the animal kingdom), and women are not.
      Or internalized heterophobia ??? (Big hangups steaming from long history of human/animal gender/sex inequality bullshit).

  25. This is wonderful, thank you, Rachel.

    A lot of this rang true for me, although I am applying it to a slightly different scenario in which I have mental illness which implicates my partner (of one year) and his behaviour. I also have trauma in my past which I am only slowly coming to terms with it and trying to figure out what it means in my life now.

    My partner and I have compromised about how he can support me in this. Some of that involves him modifying his behaviour and reassuring me about things that upset me. He has at first resisted some of this and I am still pretty uncomfortable about asking for it because I tend to self-subjugate and put his comfort first. I really have no idea what I want and need a lot of the time because I am both avoiding my own anxiety (which implicates his freedoms) and putting his needs and desires before my own.

    I guess what I’m stuck on is how much it is fair to ask a partner for in supporting you through serious things that are not to do with them? I have to say that I see a huge difference between the denial of a partner’s bisexual identity and your own struggle, Rachel, to come to terms with a frightening father. This is because in the first case, you are denying your partner their identity. In the second, I think you are asking them to sacrifice something, sure, but are you hurting their freedom in a comparable way? I hate to think that I am doing this to my partner.

    Obviously, the case of mental illness is different again, and I guess that is a huge thing I am struggling with, as well. How long can you expect a partner to hang around when you are so sick?

    Thanks again for this and to everyone who has commented. It really got me thinking.xox

    • How long can you expect a partner to hang around when you are so sick?

      You’re a person. You obviously have likable qualities, or someone wouldn’t be dating you. Your needs don’t sound that unreasonable, or that different from the sorts of things many people without any mental illnesses would ask from a partner. Everyone is inconvenient. Everyone needs reassurance sometimes. Every relationship with another human being sometimes involves doing things you wouldn’t do on your own and reacting to emotions you don’t understand and effort. If your partner wants to be in a relationship with anyone, he’ll have to deal with dating a person who has needs, and sometimes those needs will be annoying. You stop when you’d rather not be there, and even if a mentally ill person is involved, that doesn’t make it their fault. Maybe you dump your mentally ill partner because you’re a shitty, shallow asshole who can’t deal with anything not being about you for more than ten seconds at a time. Maybe you dump your mentally ill partner because the accommodations they’re asking for are really unreasonable. Maybe you dump your mentally ill partner because you want kids and they don’t, or because they want to move to Florida and you would literally rather die, or because you want to get married someday and you can’t see yourself marrying someone with no impulse to travel. Maybe your mentally ill partner dumps you.

      You say you tend to self-subjugate, and it feels like your conception of the issues in your relationship might be partly that. Your needs are the only needs that might not be okay; you’re the one so sick no one could stand you. In reality, maybe he’ll have needs you’re uncomfortable trying to meet! Maybe you’ll be the one who decides you can’t stand him! Maybe you’ll both keep liking each other and being willing to compromise, and nobody will leave, and nobody will be left.

      And your worth doesn’t depend on this person continuing to like you, either way.

    • @kalamc sounds like what my relationship is stuck on right now, except I’m in your partner’s position and I’m not sure my partner is willing to compromise/let me change. But I think it’s important to give them the benefit of the doubt that they care about you and want to help and don’t think of you as a burden; it is really hard to help when someone’s not telling you what that help looks like, though. I’m not sure I have any answers but feel free to message me if you want to chat!

  26. This is beautiful advice, because there’s an important conversation in there about how much room you choose to give someone who treats you a certain way because of their past: “We can’t justify harmful things we do to others by pointing to the ways they’re related to how we ourselves were harmed — a reason isn’t a justification.” We all want to be gentle with someone who has been through something harmful and work toward a common ground. But to assume you have to let it hurt you continuously just isn’t healthy, and that’s why it’s important to give yourself boundaries with your energy and your feelings. We are all capable of making a conscious choice about our behavior every day – that’s emotional maturity and self-awareness, and part of building healthy relationships with other people. Understanding the reason for the behavior is just step one in making new choices about how you show up for people you care about and who care about you.

  27. Reading over all of this again and I have a few more thoughts on biphobia and stuff.

    Look, relationships are difficult and messy and complicated. And when humans encounter something so vital to their health or safety or happiness and yet with such an unpredictable outcome, we often apply dogma to help us feel safe. To me, that’s what religion is — applying an overlay of rules and ‘order’ to a disorderly, scary world, so that we feel safe enough to move through that world on a daily basis. It’s a coping mechanism that has helped (and harmed) us for millennia.

    So: in relationships — especially modern ones, where a premium is placed on personal happiness and following one’s heart — sometimes, people cheat. Sometimes they stop loving you. Sometimes they leave. We are always growing and changing, and sometimes the people we become are no longer compatible. Etc. And it always sucks. It’s never not a horrible time.

    It’s almost just a given that we all have to pick up the pieces and stitch our hearts back together every 2.5 or 5 or 12 or 30 years. How fucking scary is that?

    Most of us don’t want that. If we could, if we can, we want that thing that lasts forever, that person that grows and changes with us, that person who will be our family, that mythical unicorn of a partner. So we try. Oh, how we try. And to strive for that security, we invent dogma, we apply rules. Some of those, we pick up from pop culture or media or our friends or the other people around us, but the most powerful ones come from personal experience.

    We date a narcissist, and they can’t make room for us in their life, and we make a rule: never again. Or we date a musician, and it’s a whole mess, and we make another rule. Surely every musician isn’t like the one we dated, but we want to be safe, and that’s how we do it.

    And maybe we’ve dated a bi girl, and she’s left us (because people leave sometimes!) Or she’s cheated (because people cheat sometimes!) But we have to apply the rule somehow, and our culture — tv, message boards, our friends — are telling us it’s because she’s bi. We don’t have any other universal trait to pin it on. Even though her bisexual identity is no more to blame than her red hair or the fact that she had braces in seventh grade.

    So we make the rule.

    Or maybe it hasn’t even happened to us, but it’s happened to an ex, or a friend of a friend. But we apply the rule anyway. Because we just so desperately want to be safe.

    I get it. We all want to love and be loved. But while some dogma is based on fact, much is based on myth, false correlations, prejudices, or misunderstandings. And I don’t think any of us will be truly open to enduring love until we shake off that prejudice and allow our hearts to love in a world where we take each person for who they are, not what we might assume about them.

    I don’t worry about our community. We are amazing people. We do so much. I know that we can do this too.

  28. Started reading this thinking ‘well not immediately personally pertinent’ and finished thinking ‘ok. LOTS actually to mull over’. Thank you!

  29. Can relate to the hypervigilance that comes with growing up in that environment. It’s definitely showed up all over my relationships from friends to roommates to partners. Still working on it, but it helps to be self aware and have understanding people around.

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