Hello and happy Friday! Here's a question from a reader:
A: This is a great question because it’s not even really about bisexuality, it’s about jealousy and insecurity, which are universally relatable topics!
First things first: bisexual women are much more likely ever to have been in a consensually non-monogamous relationship than they are ever to “cheat” (22% versus 12%.) And to the extent that a bisexual person might be unfaithful in a monogamous relationship, I think it could be because of their partner’s mistrust, judgment, or shaming. If a bi person “craves” something they can’t get in their current relationship, maybe that something isn’t a different set of genitals but rather a partner who doesn’t fear, judge, or shame them. It is a longstanding myth (PDF – that paper is from way back 1997) – that bi folks are more promiscuous, less trustworthy, and more likely to date other people or to cheat, but it is only a myth. Living in a world that perceives them as less trustworthy than others, not to mention in a world that often refuses to accept them as “real,” with both gay and lesbian communities and straight communities refusing to welcome them as part of the community, has a serious impact on bi folks’ wellbeing (especially discrimination from straight folks). They have higher rates of anxiety and depression, dangerous drinking, and other drug misuse, most likely as a result of the “minority stress” they experience.
At the same time, straight men are significantly more upset about sexual infidelity, compared to emotional infidelity, than any other group. So it’s pretty predictable that a straight guy in a relationship with a bisexual woman would worry about sexual infidelity.
So your worry makes sense. But the solution is not to “just don’t worry about it because there’s nothing to worry about.” The solution, instead, is to dive deep into your own ideas about gender, sexuality, and monogamy. You already know that sex is not a drive, which is great, because it empowers you to let go of the idea that anybody has an innate and irresistible push toward sex and if they don’t pursue it something bad will happen to them.
I want to you try changing the language you apply to the worry. What if it’s not a worry about your partner craving sex with women, but about your partner craving anything at all that you can’t provide?
What if the question, deep in your heart and mind, is, “What if I’m not enough for her?”
Right next to this question lives the profound question, “Can I trust her?”
There are two main reasons people struggle to trust a partner. First, maybe the partner has shown themselves to be untrustworthy in the past, in which case it makes sense to need time to reestablish the trust after a betrayal—but that doesn’t sound like the case here.
Second, maybe the partner who struggles to trust has been betrayed before and so hesitates to risk being betrayed again OR they feel enough self-doubt that some part of them doubts they are worth being faithful to.
If I had to guess, I’d say your doubts and fears are driven by worry that you are “not enough” for her. My worst fear for you is that your anxiety about her sexuality will push her away from you, and you’ll prove yourself “right.” To avoid that outcome, look closely at your fears, not about her, but about yourself. What does your partner need from you that you’re afraid might not be enough? Don't think about body parts, think about unconditional love and support, compassion, kindness, undefended connection, and sexual curiosity, a desire to explore with her in the wilds of both of your sexual imaginations. She’s more likely to stay with someone who trusts and loves her without reservation.
And look, this is a big complicated question with this little short answer; obviously it can’t be all you need. I highly recommend therapy—basically I recommend therapy to anyone with such an intense level of distress that they write to me about relationship problems based on sexuality. So don’t just take my word for it.
Ask yourself. Ask a therapist.
What an incredible surprise this was! Thank you so much to whoever made it happen. (Come As You Are is mentioned in season 3, episode 3.)
EMILY NAGOSKI is the award-winning author of the New York Times bestselling Come As You Are and The Come As You Are Workbook, and coauthor, with her sister, Amelia, of New York Times bestseller Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. She earned an M.S. in counseling and a Ph.D. in health behavior, both from Indiana University, with clinical and research training at the Kinsey Institute. Now she combines sex education and stress education to teach women to live with confidence and joy inside their bodies. She lives in Massachusetts with two dogs, a cat, and a cartoonist.