Bisexuality and the Nature of Relationships

couple_packageOne thing is sure: when we bisexuals meet someone, there is a wide range of possibilities for where a relationship can go.

Have you ever considered the possible ways we can relate to each other: family, friend, colleague, partner, lover or acquaintance?   Some of these categories can overlap, either dovetailing nicely or conflicting grossly.  Now, the interesting thing about being bisexual is that it doesn’t place any constraints on who can be a partner.  There are other issues that count more than gender such as common interests, personality, perhaps even age and status.  Even whether one is monogamous, asexual or polyamorous plays into the equation.

As I look back over the years, I see that I often have a penchant for becoming friends with folks before becoming their lover.  This was certainly the case with Tina and Tanya, not their real names.  The time lapse for my becoming romantically involved might seem interminable to some.  In fact, I met Tina while I was in graduate school but it wasn’t until I had returned from Europe and my involvement with Tanya that Tina and I became an item.   In both cases, my partners and I started out as colleagues-Tina was a fellow student and Tanya a fellow academic-before progressing to friendship and beyond.  Even when the ‘beyond’ ended, I’m happy to report that the friendship remained.  There is still a sense of intimacy that remains.  You know the kind, where you can read someone and be there for them because so much has gone before.

Unfortunately, such is not the case for Armand and Steve, again not their real names.  I actually met Armand online—this in only my particular experience by the way—and we began seeing each other with the goal of romance.  Armand, like me, was in education, but I think our political views, among other things, were too divergent.  Armand was rather reserved and I am rather forthright, to say the least.  Going out with Armand was a lesson in the fact that opposites do not attract.  If you’re going to build a fire, you need the right kind of wood and a spark.  We were simply two acquaintances trying to make more out of nothing.

Finally, there is Steve, my conundrum.  I think my relationship with Steve is a case of too much over the line.  He and I met several years ago because of common political interests.  From there, we began to talk about our personal lives, especially when I was really down and out, and then we decided to proceed further.  Now, I see that it would have been better for me if the relationship had remained at the level of friendship.

Yet all of this is supposed to be covered by the single English word love.  Perhaps we bisexuals need to bring back the five Greek words for love that covered everything from the love of parents, to fraternal love, love of friends and passionate love, just to name some of the possibilities.  We need to be able to articulate how we feel about others with precision because nothing is a given, especially how relationships will turn out, and we can’t afford to be suspended in chaos.  Out of the range of possibilities for a relationship, eventually something must solidify.

 

A Bisexual’s Dilemma: Who Can You Bring Home to Mother?

naked-truthAs the days lengthen and weather gets warmer I always start to remember my time in the Peace Corps.  Every year different memories will come wafting to the fore as I gladly anticipate the hotter weather to come in this country.

This year the first memory to come floating back was of a conversation I had with one of my mates as we went out to grab some supper to take back to the hostel/office.  As we stood on the corner with our plates in our hands waiting for the neighborhood women to put their wares out, I brought up the topic of my dating both men and women.

How or why I started talking about it on that dusty street as night began to fall is no longer clear.  What I do remember clearly as we waited to be served was that my dinner companion quite pointedly asked if I felt as free to bring my boyfriends home as I was my girlfriends.

The answer was a resounding, “no.”  I was a bit taken aback, not offended mind you.  It was just my friend the philosopher had asked perhaps one of the most pertinent questions I had ever been asked.  Whatever differences or similarities I found between women and men, I knew full well which of the two I could bring home to meet mother.

When you’re bisexual, that’s an issue because it can lead to a double life and a great deal of internal strife.  I longed to be able to share all of my romantic life with my family but I didn’t feel that I was able to.  No matter how I examined the situation, I always felt that my family had half the story.  In fact they did.  They got the edited version of my life.

Imagine Anna Karenina with only the story of Anna and Vronsky and the one with Kitty and Levin cut out.  It would without a doubt not be the same novel.  Yes, it would be much shorter but also much poorer.  We could not gather the same lessons because we would be missing a critical piece of the whole.

In other words I was suppressing a critical piece of my whole and it was utterly maddening.  How many bisexual men have been in this situation?  When we do this are we really living a double life or half of one?  If we give our girlfriends the “full treatment,” what in earth are we doing to our boyfriends?

Of course biphobia and homophobia sometimes oblige us to keep our mouths shut.  There are, however, limits.  To quote Abraham Lincoln, a house divided against itself cannot stand.  What the then Senate candidate said in reference to politics certainly makes sense to me in terms of psychology.  Living one kind of life with a female partner and another with a male partner makes no sense whatsoever.  There comes a time when we have to speak up and be clear about who we are in order to keep our sanity and to be respectful to all our partners.

So when my 40th birthday rolled around and I was actually in a relationship, I took advantage of the fact my partner was male to be clear with my family that he would be there to celebrate as well.  It wasn’t easy more me to do and probably less easy for my family to absorb.  Nonetheless, I did what needed to be done and my family came through for me.

I have felt a greater sense of wholeness now that I don’t have to do an editing job for those I care about.  Now if on some hot dusty road someone asked me whether I felt as free to bring my boyfriends home as my girlfriends, the answer would be a firm “yes.”