Integrity First

Dear Dr. Hurd,

I am a straight male who is attracted to a woman who is bisexual. She is also attracted to me. I want a committed, monogamous relationship, but am uneasy about making such a commitment with her because I feel she will always want a woman, too. I know little about the general psychology of a bisexual. Can you give me some advice?

Dr. Hurd replies:

Your reservations are likely right. A truly bisexual woman will always want a woman as well as a man. In my experience, however, most people who label themselves ‘bisexual’ are really homosexual. The label, while not a deliberate lie, often serves as a transitional, subconscious means of ultimately helping them accept their homosexuality.

I do know of a few cases where an individual is, in fact, truly bisexual. If that is the case, then you should ask yourself if you can accept the fact that your partner (and perhaps your future spouse) can also be fulfilled by a woman. Does it threaten you, annoy you, turn you off, or make you insecure — or can you live with it? Is she trustworthy, and does she have integrity? Or is she capable of sneaking off with somebody else — man or woman?

This kind of situation is not necessarily a catastrophe, and isn’t as different as you might think. For everyone, gay or straight, it’s not necessarily the case that their final choice of partner can meet every single need they have. Many relationships face this pressure and rise to the occasion in spite of it.

In order to avoid being a transitional ‘phase’ if your girlfriend is actually moving towards homosexuality, I suggest you do what everyone ought to do anyway: Take the time to get to know her. Let the relationship develop over a period of several years, not just a few months. Don’t rush into any major commitments. Take it slowly.

Don’t waste your time worrying about ‘the psychology of a bisexual.’ Instead, worry about HER psychology: her character, her values and her interests. Worry about whether she’s a good match for you. Her sexuality is secondary to whether she’s the kind of person who will cheat on you. Above all, don’t settle-in for a life with her unless or until she demonstrates, for a long period of time, that she’s a trustworthy person and genuinely wants to spend her life with you.

Of course, it’s always better to be with someone who’s certain of his or her sexual orientation, assuming that it’s considered out of context and isolated from all other things that make a romantic partner desirable. But if this woman is special enough, she might actually be the one for you. She might be a better partner than another individual who, while less complicated in that one respect, is not as well matched in values, honesty, tastes and interests.

As with any life-decision, open your eyes, consider the risks, and if it’s worth it to you, then go for it. Your own inner security is important in a situation like this. In other words, you have to believe you’re attractive and desirable enough to be a viable alternative to another man — or another woman. Yes, that’s a big deal, but if you think about it, the situation is the same for everybody. If you’re married to a heterosexual woman, how do you know that you’ll not lose her to another man? If you’re secure with yourself, then you’re confident that what you have to offer is sufficient to help her resist temptation. If you’re secure about her integrity, then you’re confident she won’t go off with somebody else without any warning.

Variations in sexuality are far less understood than conventional opinion and even medical opinion (note the word, ‘opinion’) on the subject suggests. It’s much more reliable to look at someone’s character and the kinds of choices they make under pressure. These sorts of things tell you much more than anything else about someone as a potential partner or spouse.

All that being said, you might say to yourself, ‘Why make life more complicated than it has to be? I shouldn’t waste time on a confused woman, and instead find someone who knows what she wants.’ That makes perfect sense. But you have to decide for yourself if this woman is, in fact, confused, or if you really are what she wants. After all, if she wants to be committed to one person, it’s going to be either a man or a woman. That sounds simplistic, but she plainly knows this. If you’re the one that she’s thinking of settling down with, then try to find out what makes her feel that you’re the one. Plenty of women who aren’t confused about their sexual orientation are confused about the kind of man (or woman) they want. That’s why it’s so important to first try to understand why your partner loves you. In the process of finding that out, you’ll better understand everything about her.