While honesty is the best policy, it can pose a threat to your relationship—especially if you’re coming out to a longterm girlfriend or wife as bisexual. In fact, in her book Women in Relationships with Bisexual Men: Bi Men by Women, Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, PhD, notes that roughly a third of women break up with their (male) partner immediately after they come out as bisexual.
That doesn’t mean you should keep it a secret—it’s part of what makes you you! “It’s difficult to have a wonderful relationship when you are hiding a big piece of who you are,” says Gail Saltz, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine. “You will feel she might not love you if she knew who you truly are, and that creates a wall and insecurity. It is best to find someone who can love you, all of you.”
You have to think about how you come out to your female partner, because it can be the difference between embracing your identity together, and a bitter breakup. Here are five things to keep in mind when you come out to your female partner as bi.
Consider why you want to tell her.
Are you telling her because you want to actually have sex with another man? If that’s the case, you’re not just coming out as bisexual, you’re also telling her you want an open or polyamorous relationship. (That’s another can of worms you’re going to have to tackle.) Or are you telling her because you feel it’s important she knows this aspect of your identity? You still love her and want to continue being monogamous, you just don’t want her to raise an eyebrow when you start watching RuPaul’s Drag Race with a new gaggle of gay friends. Why you’re telling her will impact exactly what you say to her.
“My biggest piece of advice is to figure out beforehand how you feel,” says Caroline Madden, PhD, licensed marriage and family therapist. “Go to therapy … Men like to use their female partners as sounding boards for their emotions. This isn’t something that you bring to your wife and have her help you figure it out. You need to know what you are, what you want, and how this might impact your partner. Try not to be self-absorbed—especially if you are telling your wife. This hugely impacts her.”
Don’t say, “I think I maybe bisexual.” If you seem confused or unsure of yourself, she may use that as an opportunity to question your sexuality. You may receive responses like, “Oh my god, you’re actually just gay!” or “No, you’re just confused.” That’s why you need to say, unequivocally, “I am bisexual. I am attracted to men and women.” (If you’re attracted to gender non-conforming folks, say that, too!)
Explain that your attractions have nothing to do with your feelings for her.
“You should know that your partner is probably going to be upset by the news, and she very well may take it personally, thinking there’s something lacking in her or that she’s not desirable enough for you to want to be with her exclusively,” says Dr. Jane Greer, New York-based marriage and family therapist.
You need to put those worries to rest ASAP. Make it clear that these attractions exist independently of her. You still love her. You still want to be with her. You’re telling her this because you want to be truthful about who you are, so the two of you can have an authentic relationship founded on honesty.
“The best way to discuss this is to be honest and reassuring,” Greer explains. “Say something like, ‘This is about me and my preferences and desires. It’s not a reflection of you and how attractive you are to me. You’re extremely attractive, but for me, the versatility of gender is very appealing and very much a turn on. And that’s completely separate from my feelings for you.’”
Give her time to process.
You can’t expect her to be completely understanding after one talk; this is going to be an ongoing conversation.
“Be prepared for a negative reaction. After all, she has not had time to process.” Saltz says. “Let her ask questions, listen to her, answer them honestly. Then give her time to process this information and come back with questions and thoughts.”
Know you can lose her.
Understand that some women will not be able handle your attraction to other genders, and may not be able to stay secure your relationship. These women will choose to leave.
However, “many women will not only understand, but feel closer to you and support you more for your honesty, transparency, and being who you truly are with them,” Saltz says. “They will be your truest supporters.”