#1133: Coming out, again and again

Halp, Captain.

I’m a 36 y/o (pronoun indifferent, she/her is fine) in need of advice or maybe just encouragement/permission.

So, the reader’s digest version is that I’ve pretty much always identified as bisexual, but am realizing that i really want to be with women.  So, i guess I’m thinking that I’m actually more like a full on lesbian rather than bi? The wrinkle with this is that i’m coming up on my ten year anniversary to my husband, who is a Good Dude.

Here’s the long version.  In high school I realized I liked girls.  I came out as bi to my parents and my friends, but, really, I was focused on girls, and my friends from that period would probably have described me as a lesbian.  When i pictured the future, I pictured it with a woman. I presented as pretty butch, even experimented with binders and things, although i’ve never really struggled with any sort of gender dysphoria, just sometimes clothes fit better without boobs.  Or so I tell myself, but maybe that’s something else I need to explore.

Anyway, a couple of heartbreaks and dating false starts with women found me in college and desperately lonely.  I had better luck getting romantic attention from men, so i shrugged, said, “well, I did say bi-sexual, didn’t I?” and started looking to men as romantic partners.  I started dating a guy in my art program in college, and found that we had a lot in common, were great friends, and had the same values and goals and stuff. We weren’t a perfect match, but who is, right?  I’ve always struggled with making friends, and here’s this great awesome friend, who I totally love. Then, of course, life happened. Realistically, I was probably about to break things off, but then Hurricane Katrina.  I was living in New Orleans with my parents, we lost our house, i lost my job and ended up resettling in central louisiana for a profoundly miserable year. Eventually, i moved to Illinois and in with my boyfriend who had since graduated and gotten a job teaching art.  What else was I gonna do, right?

First year living together was rough, but things got better and we got our routine down.  It’s a routine that involves me doing a lot of the emotional labor of the relationship, which probably does add a layer to my discontent.  Anyway, eventually we got married, and i had doubts throughout the engagement, but i’ve always been pretty conflict averse and just didn’t know how to exit.  Also, I tend to get stubborn and don’t like to be wrong, and I’m definitely carrying some weird vicarious baggage from my mom’s unhappy marriage and divorce (I wasn’t even born! May parents have been happily married my whole life! How did i get this hangup about how I would definitely never marry the wrong person and repeat my mother’s mistakes. As I write this I now realize that I have some unexplored issues about my mom.  Thanks, sobriety).

So now, here we are, nearly ten years later, and we just bought our house a little over a year ago (which was a huge step for us and something we’ve put a lot of work into together).  In many ways, we are closer than we’ve ever been, we have become better about being honest with each other and about our mental health concerns, and I can honestly say my husband is the best friend i’ve ever had, and has positively impacted my life in many many ways, and in a lot of ways, i’m happier than i’ve been in years, like, ever in my adult life, maybe.  

But:

I finally confronted my problems with alcohol last year and am going on for eight months of sobriety.  Now that i’m not numbing myself, the ways i’ve changed and accommodated myself to fit this relationship have been kind of a gut-punch for me.  My queerness has become kind of a secret (not through any pressure from him, it just feels weird to be advertising all the other people i’m potentially attracted to when i’m married, and i live in a conservative enough community that i don’t want to put him in the position of explaining my sexuality if i’m too “out”).  I also have the typical bi-girl in a hetero relationship feeling like i’m appropriating a label if i proclaim my love for the ladies too vocally. I have a lot of guilt about being able to pass as straight and feel like that excludes me from the lgbt+ community, which was a big part of my life in high school/college.

Bound up in all of this, is that i live quite a distance from my parents in New Orleans, and clearly, if we split, I could move back to Louisiana and be closer to my parents who are beginning to have some age-related health issues.  Also, let’s be honest, if I want to be gay, New Orleans is a pretty good spot for it. Sometimes I think about asking my husband to move back to Louisiana with me, or at least closer, because he has occasionally said things that would imply a willingness to entertain the idea (he’s a plant nerd and the long growing season and weird bugs appeal to us both), but when I picture including him in that life change, it makes me cringe, which is, I guess, a pretty good indication of what I want to change.

So, i’m not miserable.  I have a good life and a good partner.  Leaving would kind of screw him over (i’m the primary breadwinner, he’s struggling with some depression, he’s on my insurance, blah blah shitty us healthcare system, plus, now we have this house to deal with).  We bought our dream home together and he’s put so much work into it. We have a mini-farm full of tiny little fruit trees that he planted for me! We go on weightlifting dates and car shows together! He watches terrible 90s anime with me!  He grows the spiciest peppers evar! He’s dealing with some stuff right now, things will get better!

But, he’s allergic to cats and crowds, he doesn’t like the smell of eggs, we never have sex and when we do it’s pretty lackluster.  We are terrible at talking about our problems. Oh yeah, and he’s Not A Girl.

But what if all of this is just some kind of overboard reaction to relatively new sobriety?  What if it’s the first manic episode of heretofore undiagnosed bipolar disorder? What if I start dating girls and find out I don’t like it?  What if I ruined a good person’s life by not being honest with myself? Do i just have to live with my mistake forever? How miserable do i have to be to make this change?  I know that if I do decide to end this, I will probably be the bad guy, and I will definitely lose most of my friends, so that’s not ideal.

It’s also just embarrassing, because it’s not like I had any trouble embracing my sexuality.  I’ve known I liked girls since I saw Linda Hamilton doing chin-ups in Terminator 2. I think I just lucked into a good enough companion and went, okay, this is fine, I can live with this, and I can, BUT, could I have more?  I don’t want to make a decision right now. I think i need to sit with my epiphany for a bit and make sure that it’s not just a matter of feeling empowered by new sobriety and fitness. Because maybe(?) that will let me confront some of the other things that make me unhappy in my life, and then i will have the confidence to be more vocal about my sexuality and sexual identity, and make some changes within my marriage.  

Anyway, any advice you may have is appreciated, especially any advice from anyone who’s been through a similar situation, whether you left or stayed.  

Sweet Machine on deck, reporting for duty! (It’s been a while, y’all — I missed you!)
LW, I feel for you: you are struggling both with some of the aspects of long-term relationships that people don’t tend to talk about while they’re in them, and you’re struggling with being a bi/queer person in a biphobic culture. This is tricky territory, and it’s okay that you have conflicting impulses.
Let’s start with the most important piece first: Linda Hamilton doing chin-ups.

 

lindahamilton

An extremely buff white woman in a tank top does chin-ups, turning everyone gay.

Okay, got that out of the way.

Another thing to get out of the way: you don’t have to know, exactly, what flavor of queer you are in order to claim your identity. It sounds like you (like so many of us) have felt not-hetero for about as long as you can remember. That’s all the authenticity you need: it has nothing to do with how many girls you got to kiss, or whether you continue to identify as bi or as gay in the future. It’s not something you have to decide once and be done with. Sometimes we have the right words and the right freedom at the right time to say THIS IS ME!, and sometimes we don’t. Being married to a man doesn’t make you straight, and desiring women doesn’t mean you did something wrong by marrying a man — no matter what certain (generally cis, gay, male) pockets of the LGBTQ+ community may shout about. ALSO: fuck anyone who says you’re passing as straight because you’re in a relationship with a man. Unless you’re going around saying HEY Y’ALL I’M STRAIGHT, you are not passing — you are being erased by biphobia. That doesn’t mean you don’t have certain privileges that attain to having a male-presenting partner; however, those privileges are attenuated by the very real risks that bisexual women face which can include increased risk of domestic violence & mental health issues like disordered eating, anxiety, and depression. So if anyone tries to throw that passing privilege at you, ask them why they are so invested in erasing your queer identity.

giphy

The Hulk: I’m always angry.

Ahem.

Here’s what I do hear as the crises in your letter:

  1. You don’t feel rooted in an identity-affirming community.
  2. You are recently sober (CONGRATULATIONS, THIS IS HUGE!), and as a consequence, you are rethinking some of the choices you made at other points in your life and whether you should sustain them now.
  3. You want to leave your husband.

I suspect that #3 is not apparent to you, not in those words. But listen to yourself:

  • am realizing that i really want to be with women
  • It’s a routine that involves me doing a lot of the emotional labor of the relationship, which probably does add a layer to my discontent.
  • i had doubts throughout the engagement, but i’ve always been pretty conflict averse and just didn’t know how to exit. 
  • How did i get this hangup about how I would definitely never marry the wrong person
  • the ways i’ve changed and accommodated myself to fit this relationship have been kind of a gut-punch for me
  • when I picture including him in that life change, it makes me cringe
  • How miserable do i have to be to make this change?

There is an answer to that final question, and it is simple: you don’t have to be miserable at all. You just have to want to make this change. The definitive advice column on this is, of course, Dear Sugar’s “The Truth That Lives There”:  if you haven’t read that before, I suggest you do it right now (and if you have read it before, I suggest you do it again). The central wisdom, the insight that goes against everything we are taught about marriage but is absolutely essential to your autonomy as an individual is this: wanting to leave is enough.

LW, in a way, I’ve been both people in your relationship. I am a bisexual woman, and I was with a good man for 12 years. We too had a good life, with pets and houseplants and friends and routines and so many inside jokes we nearly spoke another language. It was a good relationship for a long time. And then he broke up with me, because he had been unhappy in some of the ways you’re unhappy (imagining a different life, without me in it) and he was denying it in some of the ways you’re denying it (talking himself into ignoring his feelings, worrying about how he was going to hurt me by leaving me). He had been lying about his feelings to me because he had been lying to himself first, and when he broke up with me I felt devastated, blindsided. But the surprise wasn’t the worst part, for me: the worst part was realizing that he had, for a time, thought I was so fragile that I couldn’t live without him, when I quite obviously could. Ignoring what turned out to be a serious fault line in our relationship meant that neither of us was truly free to choose what we wanted. It sucked. It was awful, and I cried a lot. And we both survived, and we both rediscovered parts of ourselves that we had long since agreed to quiet down, salt away for some imaginary future self.

You don’t have to wait for your future self. You can start to make her, right now.

I’m not saying that you have to leave your husband; I can’t make that choice for you. All I’m saying is that it sounds to me like you want to leave your husband, and wanting to leave is enough.

A strange thing sometimes happens when love ends: you recognize yourself again.

Love After Love
by DEREK WALCOTT

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

LW, some time after I had started to love again the stranger who was myself, something surprising happened. Our beloved Captain introduced me to her friend S., who introduced me to her friend A., who was cute as hell and also finding her way again and full of kindness and laughter. That was over two years ago, and now A. and I live together in a house in a city I never imagined myself living in, and I am feeling both gay as in happy and queer as in fuck you.*

You are allowed to change your life. Start treating your queerness as the gift it is: a mandate not to accept the life that seems easiest, the default path through sexuality, romance, and family creation. We queer people are required by our core selves to question the norms of our culture, which means we have the opportunity to invent ourselves and our ways of living. No matter what the outcome for your marriage is, you are not a bad person for having these questions; you are not a bad person for being different from who you were ten years ago; you are not a bad person for wanting women and for loving this man in the way you have. You have more choices than “wait till I’m utterly miserable.” Greet the stranger who has loved you all your life, and listen to what she has to say.

Good luck.

*Magneto was right

205 comments
  1. I just wish I could insert a thousand GIFs of people standing and clapping here. Beautiful answer, Sweet Machine. I hope LR finds her peace.

  2. vivinator said:

    Fantastic advice SweetMachine. I’d also just like to pipe up and say Sheelzebub!!! LW, what if absolutely nothing changed for five years? For ten? For twenty? Is this how you want your life to be for the foreseeable future?

  3. LW, as a bisexual woman in a long-term relationship with a man, permit me to internet yell:
    YOU ARE JUST AS VALID AND QUEER AS ANYONE ELSE.
    You aren’t straight-passing, you aren’t pretending to be queer, and you aren’t lying. You are 1000% the only person who gets to determine your sexuality and the validity of such. And changing answers are fine too ❤

    Side note: this is obviously not a solution for everyone or even most couples, but my partner and I are monogamish, in that we privately-from-IRL-friends date women together, in the most open and communicative way we can (with both each other and our partners). It sounds like there are many other reasons you are unhappy, and dating women as a unit versus being able to pursue a singular relationship with a woman will obviously never compare if the latter is what you want. But I offer this example for you and any other queer women who might find renewed happiness in an existing relationship if one shift was made.

    • Joielle said:

      +1 to your side note! I’m a cis bi woman, married to a cis bi man, and we are also monogamish. Neither of us “date” anyone, exactly, but we’re both free to have friends with benefits, who have mostly been other queer people who are also in monogamish relationships for very similar reasons. It takes a lot of communication and there has been a bit of angst in the past, but overall it works out really well. Of course, not a magic solution, but like you said – if this kind of shift would allow the OP to find renewed happiness, it’s something to think about.

    • Kacienna said:

      Yeah, the fact that I’m asexual is one of the reasons polyamory is a benefit to my marriage. As far as dating women as a unit is concerned, though, it can have some tricky dynamics around making sure the woman outside the marriage is treated as an equal with equally important needs. I image rosessupposes and their partner have thought this through, but if it’s something you’re considering, it might be a good idea to read up on “unicorn hunting” and similar terms on polyamory websites.

      • I was once a single bi woman who very much did NOT want to be a “unicorn” (ugh, i hate the phrase). I think what makes sure we don’t stray into that territory is that we aren’t looking to be fully polyamorous – we are upfront about wanting casual dates with no strings attached for any party. Many women we’ve dated have been in other open poly relationships, or had other casual partners, or just been interested in a one-off threesome, and we were fully aware and fully supportive. Communication has kept it healthy 😀

        • Side note about the phrase “unicorn”: it amuses/severely irks me how quickly and cavalierly the phrase got adopted by people who didn’t take three and a half seconds to think about how it came into parlance in the first place (i.e., single bisexual women will happily devote themselves exclusively to both halves of a mixed-gender couple without in any way “disrupting” that dynamic or having emotional needs of their own are rare to the point of non-existence, so if that’s what you’re demanding in a relationship, good fucking luck to you). Instead we’ve now got people out there wandering around saying, “So we’re looking for a unicorn” without a trace of irony or self-awareness.

          • Traffic_Spiral said:

            Counterpoint: People that say they are looking for a unicorn really are looking for one, and it’s for the best that they can clearly warn everyone around them of their intentions.

          • Working Hypothesis said:

            Mostly, the ones I see who say that at least have figured out that they’re not common… they just think that they are such a rare and special and awesome couple that they DESERVE a magical and mythical lover. 😛

    • purps said:

      Rosessupposes I appreciate all your addenda 🙂 I want to weigh in in a different-boats-float-for-different-folks way as a bisexual person who is also super, super monogamous: I internalized an idea that bisexual people were “supposed to be” nonmonogamous (probably from the eighth boyfriend who wouldn’t shut up about it like it was a party trick) and WOW did that cause a lot of unneeded drama in my life until I realized that what I wanted was an extremely monogamous queer relationship that was so gay it could be seen from space.

      I’m not saying that either way is easier or better, just: it’s hard to know what you want when there are SO MANY competing cultural pressures and messages and so few representations or stories. As for me: I was bisexual from an early age, but as I get older I am gayer and gayer, probably because I am super in love with my wife. (We eloped a week and a half ago! I have a wife!)

      I also ABSOLUTELY have lived through this terror:

      [i]But what if all of this is just some kind of overboard reaction to relatively new sobriety? What if it’s the first manic episode of heretofore undiagnosed bipolar disorder? What if I start dating girls and find out I don’t like it? What if I ruined a good person’s life by not being honest with myself? Do i just have to live with my mistake forever? How miserable do i have to be to make this change?[/i]

      LW, I went on antidepressants after a long, long struggle with my mental health, and the next thing that happened was that I started dating girls. I was 28, which is not so old, but I lived in a college town and it FELT old. I was convinced that I could be making a mistake, that I might ruin peoples’ lives with my unexamined gayness, that I’d probably… you know… with a girl and then HATE it and then EVERYTHING I THOUGHT ABOUT MYSELF WOULD BE WRONG.

      For one thing, LW, I will say this: a book that really helped was Emily Nagaski’s Come As You Are, because it helped me understand the effect that extreme stress can have on your sex drive. It can be extremely hard to tell how gay you are when you are constantly panicking about being gay, because for some of us panic can shut down sexual and romantic feeling. I had such a confusing time with this that at the age of 28 I had several incidents of kissing a woman and then literally. fleeing. Into the night.

      Did I mention that I am married now? I am married now to someone who I adore. I met her/them while I was still an active gay disaster.

      • Jules the Third (I think) said:

        Congratulations!

      • Maeralin said:

        Congratulations on your big gay elopement!

        • purps said:

          Thank you! It was so big and so gay! I first found the Captain’s blog on my way out of a relationship very like the LW’s (though not a marriage and with no real estate), and here I am out and happy? What even is life.

      • YOU HAVE A WIFE! Congratulations to you both, the way you talk about this is extremely adorable and giving me very gay hearteyes.

        (Holy shit a pigeon just flew really hard into my window. I like to think she wishes you a happy marriage too but she is mildly concussed so maybe not right now)

        • Embertine, you just totally cracked me up.

          Shout out from another queer-as-fuck bi woman happily partnered to my Kinsey-6 wife for, uhhh, what year is it? Right, 27 years now, and we got big-gay-married in her mother’s living room 17 years ago. (And then legally-gay-married about 3 years later, woot!)

      • vanadiumoxide said:

        Halfway through your paragraph about the book, I suddenly started crying?? Not sure what’s up with THAT but I immediately placed a hold on the book at my library to hopefully find out.

        Congrats on marrying your wife!

      • mountains-are-cool said:

        Congratulations on eloping and being married and being happy together with a wife you adore!!!!!!

        Also, Emily Nagaski’s Come As You Are is my favorite book of all time. I have recommended it to friends who have recommended it to friends, one of whom recommended it back to me in turn as we spread it like a plague of understanding women’s sexuality upon the earth. She also has a TED talk – Confidence and Joy and the keys to a great sex life, that makes me cry every time I watch it. It just…strikes a really deep chord with the truths hidden beneath all the bullshit our culture piles on women’s sexuality.

        • M Dubz said:

          Every person should read Come as You Are before embarking on their sexual debut. It is on my reading list for my Future Children.

      • Omigosh congratulations! You have a wife!!!! ❤
        I relate Very Hard to the feeling of "supposed to be" – I internalized so much misogyny/objectification because I thought the only way to be attracted to women was the way that *my* eighth grade boyfriend was attracted to women. Being healthily monogamish took plowing through and sorting out all of that first. But thanks to Team Me, I made it 🙂

      • daremichaelson said:

        Your story is wonderful and I love it. I’m so happy for you!

      • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

        We eloped a week and a half ago! I have a wife!)

        Squee! Congratulations to both of you!

      • FairestCat said:

        Congratulations on your big gay elopement!

      • johann7 said:

        Congratulations, purps!

      • Convallaria majalis said:

        Oh, dear purps, so many congratulations on your awesome big gay elopment! Yay!

      • Private Editor said:

        Eee, congratulations on your fabulous elopement! I wish you many happy years together.

      • Working Hypothesis said:

        HOORAY FOR YOUR BIG GAY ELOPEMENT! I am so happy for you!

      • Congrats!

    • ashbet said:

      I am not monogamish (I identify as polyfidelitous, my adult romantic life has largely consisted of overlapping long-term relationships), but polyamory wound up being the relationship structure that works for me.

      I have a male partner of 14 years, a female partner of 10 years, and while my other longterm (7-year) relationship ended a couple of years ago, I’ve recently started dating an old and dear friend, which has been awesome.

      Definitely not suggesting this as The Answer For Everybody, but polyfidelity wound up being the right fit for my queerness, my chronic illness/immune-compromised status (I didn’t want to be in “open” relationships with a lot of new partners, it’s not physically safe or emotionally rewarding for me), and the fact that I’m a person who loves sex and physical affection, but really dislikes casual sex for myself.

      Not that my relationships are “primarily” sexual, but I want my partners to love and desire me, and vice versa. I want emotional intimacy and companionship and snuggles and long conversations and sharing adventures as well as daily life 🙂

      LW, you may not think this sounds right for you (a lot of people are wired for monogamy, and that isn’t a failing!), but I wanted to say that there are options other than “leave your husband,” “stay and give up on relationships with women,” or “only have casual/monogamish partnerships with women.”

      (Again, no judgment toward anyone with different relationship structures, this is just what has worked for ME.)

      • canadakate said:

        I love your term “polyfidelitous”! That’s exactly the kind of polyamoury I want to practice.

        • Working Hypothesis said:

          In my experience, along with the straight gay continuum and the monogamous polyamorous continuum, there is a third spectrum of orientation which most people don’t notice, but which I’ve labeled inward/outward-looking. Basically, an inward-looking person seeks home and family in a relationship structure: they want steady relationships which usually involve living together, and deep emotional intimacy. A monogamous, inward-looking person would likely date only for the purpose of finding someone to settle down with as life partners (whether married or otherwise); a polyamorous inward-looking person would probably have a polyfidelitous cluster — either a group marriage or parallel relationships which are steady and consistent. Often, even if their partners do not also date each other, they are close friends and do a lot together as a group; they may live together as a family with multiple partners even if those partners are not all romantically involved with each other.

          An outward-looking person tends to live alone and have relationships which come and go from their life without forming a joint life together with any one or more of them. A monogamous, outward-looking person is probably into serial monogamy, with relationships that start, run their course, break up and start a new one without ever getting close enough to influence what they do on the days they don’t have a date. A polyamorous, outward-looking person generally has multiple relationships which aren’t intimate enough to live together, and often with partners who don’t know each other very closely.

          I’m polyamorous/inward-looking, which makes polyfidelity a really good fit for me. I wonder how many of the other polyfidelitous people I encounter are also inward-looking? It just intrigues me.

          • MsMildew said:

            This is super interesting, thank you!
            I think I might nearer the middle of that spectrum than some might, and it’s given me some new things to contemplate.

    • like an angry apple tree said:

      I was just gonna say this: open it. It’s the real default; read some Dan Savage. I know of 2 pseudostraight/bi/pan monogamous people, in the ENtire world, and I am one of them. It is not a big deal to have husband + girlfriend as long as everyone is informed and consenting.

      • Yeah, no.

        Polyamory is no more the default for bisexual people than it is for straight people (or lesbians!) who go for tall and short.

        The LW doesn’t indicate any interest in polyamory.

      • Jadelyn said:

        Can I also add that I am getting seriously “wtf???” vibes from “pseudostraight” in a list with bi/pan? That just strikes me as very, very…off. Especially paired with a recommendation to read Dan Savage, who is fatphobic/biphobic/transphobic/shames rape victims/etc.

        • the whole thing reeks of biphobia, to me; there’s the whole idea that bi+ people are naturally non-monogamous by default embedded in it, which is often used again us. (there’s nothing wrong with non-monogamy; I’m talking specifically about how non-monogamy is used against bi+ people as part of the can’t-decide/greedy/slutty stereotypes about our sexuality, which can make it hard for both non-monogamous and monogamous bi+ people).

    • Aris Merquoni said:

      While I appreciate your side note and am thrilled to see all the happy polyamorous love happening in this thread, there’s a reason that “Relationship broken: Add more people” is such a cautionary note. It’s unfortunately a common trope to paper over holes in one relationship with another, in the same way that monogamous people use external crushes and cheating to blow the lid off of other problems or “give a reason to leave”. Being ethical about seeking that from another relationship doesn’t actually fix the problems in the first relationship.

      Or to put it another way: If the LW’s problem was “I want to be in a relationship with you but I also want to date women,” some form of open relationship would be a good possible solution. But the LW’s problem seems to be, “I don’t want to be in a relationship with you, I want to date women,” which is a problem that opening the relationship will not fix.

      • canadakate said:

        Well said!

      • Clorinda said:

        I think this LW is through with this marriage no matter what other options appeal to her. She wants SO MUCH to leave him … not for another woman in particular, maybe for other women in general, but mostly for her own self. If this man were a woman with the exact same qualities, this writer would be unhappy. If this writer were straight and married to this man, she’d be unhappy.
        She is so unhappy. My heart goes out to her. LW, if you’re reading comments, read your letter as if a friend wrote it to you. What would you tell her?

      • Traffic_Spiral said:

        Yeah, while poly works for some people, LW’s problem of “I’m not attracted to my husband but don’t want to leave him because he’s broke and depressed and can’t survive without me” is not going to be solved by having a girlfriend on the side, and definitely not going to be solved by throwing said gf at your husband and being like “hey new gf, in between dating me, deal with my can’t-do-emotional-labor husband: make all his past problems go away and also deal with the new issues brought up by our open relationship.

        That’s just a recipe for disaster.

        • neverjaunty said:

          This. Polyamory is not a magic solution for being dissatisfied in a relationship. Especially in a relationship that has a lot of underlying issues besides “I like girls too”.

        • Vicki said:

          +1. Polyamory works wonderfully for some of us, but (a) the point is that I actively want to be with all of my partners, and they actively want to be with me, and (b) it requires at least as much communication as is needed to make monogamous relationships work well, because suddenly a lot more things have to be thought about and negotiated. LW is already doing a lot of emotional labor here; adding “I want to have a girlfriend because I’m not happy being monogamous with you” wouldn’t magically reduce that.

        • Working Hypothesis said:

          I agree with this, but I note that occasionally, “Relationship broken: add more people” can work *if* the only significant problem with the relationship is that one or both partners can’t fulfill a specific need in the other, which a different person plausibly could. If there’s enough good in the relationship that they’d be happy together except for this one dealbreaker of a need which isn’t getting met, then it can be hugely effective in taking the pressure off the relationship for that need to be met by a different partner.

          That would (if the LW were okay with polyamory, of course) make this the perfect place for such a solution IF the real problem in this marriage were “I really want to be dating a woman.” But it’s not. The real problem in this marriage is, “I’m not happy living with this person,” and that is not one which can be fixed by adding more people.

    • Turqoise Dragon said:

      Bisexual woman in a long-term, monogamous relationship with a man here. I think even he forgets that I am bi sometimes. Not maliciously, not because it bothers him, just because of how often I choose to express it. But I’m still bi. Always. Every day. Even the days I don’t think about it (toddlers are exhausting). It’s not a game where you level up if you kiss more women, it’s who you are, and only you get to decide what labels apply.

      • during the toddler years i sometimes had to remind myself that i was bi. or you know, was a human and not some kind of perpetual exhaustion machine.

    • A Llama said:

      Holy shiznit this is exactly what I want. This is 1000% the CA question that has been me the most. I want both, the gayness and the strong relationship with the male partner (and not expecting him to be everything I need, because he definitely can’t be). This model of monogamish is what I envision, especially since we had that for a brief, shining moment before the person we were courting (who presented as a girl at the time) gently turned us down for that kind of relationship. Ever since I’ve low-key wanted it again, or to try making out with other people separately. I hope someday I’ll have the emotional energy to try again.

      Basically, yes to your comment, and a huge “I feel you” to the OP. May you get yourself what you need. ❤

  4. LW I want to add go to the therapy you desperately need. You made a life time of choices that were not right for you because you lack a back bone to stand up for yourself. It’s not fair for the people who you lead on fall premises and most importantly it’s not fair for yourself to be miserable.

    Learn to be honest with yourself, stop to reflect for five minutes before making an important life decisions, speak up your doubts, be honest with the people you claim to love…..and most importantly DONT HAVE KIDS WHEN YOU DONT WANT THEM BUT YOU ARE TOO SCARED TO ADMIT IT.

    I am a child of someone who can’t stop to reflect and makes every wrong choice for herself and it’s missrable.

    • GreenDoor said:

      Ruler of cats, this is so not a helpful response. Nowhere does the LW mention debating whether to have children. And this isn’t about her lack of a backbone…this is about someone who has spent a lifetime struggling with many of the stereotypes, quesitons, and pressures that other LGBT people do and someone who is working hard to overcome alcohol addiction. She didn’ tmake “a lifetime of choices that weren’t right” for her. It sounds like they were right at the time…but might not be right at this point in her life. That’s not a lack of a backbone and characterizing her that way is mean, not helpful. None of us is the exact same person we were 10 years ago.

      A little less judgment and a lot less projecting your own childhoold memories here would be way more helpful to the LW and others in a similar boat.

      • JenniferP said:

        Yes, thank you for this. I’m sure it is painful to be parented by people who shouldn’t have been together and didn’t know what they wanted, but that’s not this situation. “But think of the children (who don’t actually exist)” is especially unhelpful right now.

        • In addition to all this, “you lack a back bone to stand up for yourself” is not helpful or even true — the LW has made reasonable choices that are not about being a pushover but about making the best of what life has dealt her (Katrina, anyone?).

          On a side note, I’d like to encourage all of us (myself included) to rethink using “backbone” and “standing up” as metaphors for autonomy and willpower, as they subtly reinforce ableism.

          • Audrey said:

            What about marriage counseling? Not necessarily for OP to save the marriage, but to work on your communication together about this?

            OP has been sober for eight months (less than the recommended amount of time for a new relationship in AA), has a great friendship with her husband, and seems to be just starting to really explore what she wants. A marriage is a partnership, and what if her husband stands in the gap for her in this time of her life?

            What if through counseling, she finds out that husband is fired up about the idea of moving to Louisiana? What if husband is fired up that OP wants to explore their sexuality? What if through counseling OP and husband are able to work out some of that emotional labor stuff and it turns out it was a communication issue? It would suck to throw away a marriage over fixable stuff, and it doesn’t sound like any of what’s in the letter is being communicated to someone who it affects as much as the OP, her husband!

            I’m not saying divorce is the wrong decision, but it is a commitment to each other to be partners in life, and counseling can help to see if any of the issues can be worked out. If they can’t, counseling can also help for OP and husband to end the marriage in a healthy and/or cooperative way.

          • Kelsi said:

            Can’t nest any further but replying to Audrey–

            I don’t think that’s actually helpful in THIS situation. Marriage counseling can be great when both partners want the marriage to work and need help finding strategies to do that.

            But having been in a similar situation…there’s not something to work out here. LW has done what she can, but the problem isn’t really that she and her husband need guidance for working together on the marriage. The problem is that LW does not want to be in the relationship anymore, and the solution to that isn’t really “find healthy ways to stay in the relationship.” (For a clue, see LW’s reaction to imagining her husband being willing to make the move with her. She cringes! That’s not a sign that him being willing is going to solve anything)

            Again, having been in a similar situation–the things LW is saying ring VERY specifically true in a lot of ways. Even if my ex had been able and willing to change all the things that were making the relationship miserable for me, I still would have felt trapped because–at the end of the day–I did not want to be in a relationship with him anymore. And my situation may be particularly relevant, since it wasn’t that I had fallen out of love–it was that I was beginning to realize I was aromantic and asexual, and that I had never been in love with him but it was the choice that seemed to make sense back at the time I made it.

          • @Audrey.

            What if OP isn’t happy in this relationship and in this life? What if she finds the idea of taking her husband with her into her next adventure cringe-making? And oh yes most importantly what if she wants to be with a woman?

            What then?

          • Kaos said:

            @Audrey
            “A marriage is a partnership,”

            Partnerships dissolve all the time.

          • Audrey said:

            @forthemyscira and @kaos

            “What then?” End the marriage. I’m not saying that’s the wrong decision or that the OP should stay in a marriage she’s unhappy with. I’m saying that the OP should probably communicate with the person she’s describing as her best friend. Whether that means they go with her into the next stage of life or not is irrelevant.

            Partnerships do dissolve all the time, and that can happen here. The OP should not be cutting off her marriage with no support system and no web of support to catch her though, ESPECIALLY at eight months of sobriety. Leaning into a marriage counselor, family and friends, AA sponsor and/or other support network is CRUCIAL.

          • JenniferP said:

            I would recommend individual counseling even more than marriage counseling at this stage. For the Letter Writer to sort our HER needs in a room with herself and a supportive person without “the relationship” and “saving the relationship” as an audience/goal. Looping her husband in to her thinking is great and necessary. Sorting it out for herself is also important. There’s an order of operations here, and she can take a minute to sort it out for herself!

            Marriage counseling definitely has its uses. When you’re already pretty sure you want to leave someone, it can be an extra ordeal for everyone.

          • Kaos said:

            @Audrey

            I don’t think OP needs marriage counseling as much as she needs individual counseling. The letter screams “I want out of this relationship.” That’s it, that’s all of it. There is no need to try to save the marriage, to make things work, etc.

            OP doesn’t want to be with this guy…maybe not any guy. She needs to get counseling to help her learn the tools for making decisions based on what she wants rather than what she feels she “ought to do” or what others tell her she “should/needs” to do or because those decisions make life better for others at the expense of her own happiness.

        • I brought up the possibility of children because the LW is demonstrating a pattern of behavior that is hurting her self and others in her life. And speaking from experience, if this pattern continues she might reach a point 10years from now raising a child she never wanted because it was too much inconvenient and pressure to speak up.

          Also your tone of “what about the children lol” is very infantilizing and unappreciated. There’s a delicate line between parents still being their own independent identity and creating a loving environment for their children. And sometimes it’s worth pointing out personal flaws that lead to bad househoulds, not mock people for showing concern. Im sure you wouldnt have appreciated hearing “ooooh parents don’t need to think of their children. Your mom is totally justifed in body shaming you”

          • JenniferP said:

            I don’t think people who are thinking about leaving their relationships should have kids. Lock down the contraception situation for sure until you know where you’re going to land!

            I also don’t think anything about having children is even on this LW’s radar (it doesn’t come up anywhere in 1300 words), and your comment was harsh and not helpful. It came across as “well, figure that out or you are going to be a terrible mother (like mine)!” We all can get overly invested in situations here when they ping some part of our history, me as well, and I’m sorry I was harsh in my response to you. I generally value your comments here. But this subthread is not the problem of the thread.

          • Amtelope said:

            These people don’t have kids. There are no children to create a loving environment for. We have zero evidence to conclude that the LW would have a child 10 years from now if this relationship continued. I agree that parents have responsibility for actual children, but not for hypothetical children. There’s no reason the LW needs to consider whether she wants to raise a child with this person if she’s not thinking about raising a child right now at all.

          • Dan said:

            LW took the initiative to get sober after realizing that was something she needed, has maintained that sobriety for eight months, and is actively and thoroughly engaging with her own wants and needs such that she can live the best life she’s capable of leading. That is not “demonstrating a pattern of behavior that is hurting her self and others in her life.”

      • I’m obviously very biased about this topic and it lead to my tone. But the let is hurting herself and others with her behavior. And it’s worse because she’s doing it knowingly. She said it herself she entered a marriage she didnt want to because it was too inconvenient to speak up. That’s very unkind to everyone. Especially the lw herself.

        We all face a lot of pressure and uncertainty in our lives but we are still reponsible to try and reflect on our options, be honest with ourselves, and not lead people under false claims. This goes double when considering having children

        • JenniferP said:

          Ruler Of Cats, I’m sorry I was harsh before, but this thread is not about the Letter Writer becoming a parent. I am going to ask you to come back some other thread, some other day.

        • Marriage does not automatically equal “considering children.” I think you know this, though.

    • This is really fecking harsh. I’m sorry that your childhood was shitty, but accusing someone of not having a backbone instead of, say, having been conditioned their whole life not to trust their own feelings and to put other people first, is really cruel. If this letter is upsetting for you maybe this comment section is not the place to process that.

    • Smellanie17 said:

      Wow I gotta be honest, this really reads like an attack. Your last line makes me think maybe you are personalizing LW’s story and perhaps reading into it just a bit because it triggers some feelings about your mother. That’s not about LW. That’s about you.

    • birdmommy said:

      It sounds like you’re in a lot of pain from the actions (or lack of actions?) from your parent. I’m sorry that you are hurting.

      I think both you and LW deserve to be happy and loved and treated with kindness, not with hostility and judgement.

    • Ruler of cats:

      This response lacks to nuance of understanding what it means to be bi and queer in our current society, it neglects to understand the threats of violence that a queer person grows up with, it undermines the importance of consent to and autonomy, it is victim blaming.

      Your response, most of all- demonstrates that you are projecting your own fear and pain onto a stranger at their expense to assuage your own.

      It is clear you are hurting, but maybe take your own advice and seek some support to unpack it in ways that can bring you peace and healing- because I can promise you that this isn’t it.

      I hope you find what you need, without forcing others stories to conform to your own pain and then beating them up with it.

  5. Raine said:

    LW this line in particular really stood out to me:

    “What if I ruined a good person’s life by not being honest with myself?”

    That’s probably the crux of the issue, everything seems so obvious in hindsight right? You know now you were always more attracted to girls than guys, you feel like you married him out of convenience, you feel like your choices were influenced by your alcohol use, you feel guilty because if you’d sorted yourself out earlier you wouldn’t be facing down this problem now.

    LW these things are only “obvious” now because you have the benefit of life experience and the ability to look back on things. I guarantee you that in the moment NONE of these things were easy or obvious. You were making the choices you thought were best for you given the information you had available at the time. Now you’re older, wiser, and have more information and you’re beating yourself up for it.

    We’re all human, we all make questionable choices. I’d do my entire high school career much much differently if I’d known then what I know now about myself. I wouldn’t have dated the wrong people, I would have gotten therapy, I wouldn’t have flunked out of college. But I didn’t know, or pretended I didn’t know, what I know now and that’s not past me dropping the ball that’s just a function of maturing.

    At the end of the day it isn’t fair to let him keep thinking everything is OK when it isn’t. If you want something to help with the guilt of leaving then remember that BOTH of you deserve to have partners that love you and are compatible with you in all the ways you need them to be, and as long as you stay in this relationship then neither you nor him will be able to have that.

    You should, in no particular order:

    – Consult a therapist if you’re not already. If you are great! See if you can get some guidance for how to navigate the hard conversations coming up on the horizon.

    – Consult a lawyer. You don’t have to commit to anything, sign divorce papers, or start the process. Just get a consultation, go over what financial options there are for you, for him, see what ways there are to make the split easy on the both of you.

    – Talk to him, just be honest and see what he says. His response could be anything from “do you want to open the marriage?” to “I need to be divorced yesterday” but you’re not actually going to know how he’ll handle this until you have that conversation.

    As a queer lady who spent the first 20 or so years of her life convinced with absolute certainty she was straight as a board, I have all the sympathy. Whatever happens know you’ll both get back to OK eventually.

    • Suzers said:

      “that’s not past me dropping the ball that’s just a function of maturing”

      Thank you so much for this. I struggle with those feelings quite a bit, and the way you’ve phrased your response is really practical and positive and lovely.

    • Audrey said:

      “Talk to him, just be honest and see what he says. His response could be anything from “do you want to open the marriage?” to “I need to be divorced yesterday” but you’re not actually going to know how he’ll handle this until you have that conversation.”

      I said someone similar in a thread a ways above, and this is a great wording for what I meant. Husband really needs to be kept in the loop here.

      • neverjaunty said:

        This especially; the LW quite reasonably focused on her feelings right now, and it’s easy to be blindsided when the other people in tough emotional situations don’t react the way we expect (or even, on some level, want them to).

    • Convallaria majalis said:

      Raine, such a great answer – and so very true! I am in the same boat and I have been spending so much time beating myself over and over for decisions which did not work out, but in the end it is completely pointless. Just like you, I did my decisions based on the information I had then and some of them turned out not to be suitable for me. The same has happened to LW.

  6. Michelle said:

    Great, great advice! I am questioning my 20 year marriage (for a different reason that the LW) but I have the same issue (fear): I know if I leave I will be the “bad one” for breaking up a 20 year marriage because I’m unhappy. I came across the Dear Sugar article linked a few weeks ago and it was a revelation and deserves to be shouted from the rooftops and printed everywhere: Wanting to leave is enough.

    Something else I think I read here: If nothing changes, how long are you willing to stay? We all deserve happiness and love and good things and sometimes it takes a long time to find them. It takes failed relationships and disappointments and restarts.

    And since it’s really good advice I’m leaving writing it again: Wanting to leave is ENOUGH.

  7. This is a wonderful answer. When I was 29 I was engaged to my (male) best friend, monogamous and in love with the only woman I’d ever slept with (once, at uni, a decade earlier, she just popped back into my life). My relationship was supportive, kind and wonderful, but something inside me told me it wasn’t quite right. Now I’m a therapist that does DBT I guess I’d call that part of me my ‘wise mind’. I loved him, but not the way either of us deserved. I had a hell of a 6 months, I was finishing my PhD and going to relationship counselling and planning a wedding. In the end I broke off the engagement shortly before we planned to get married because I loved me more than I loved the idea of ‘us’. Despite the connection and compatibility and history between us.
    I moved to Ireland, started a postdoc and came out into a vibrant queer women’s community. I explored my gender, my sexuality, my kinkiness, my non-monogamy. It was glorious and scary. Over the decade that followed I became more myself than I thought possible.
    Books REALLY helped me to figure out who I was. Lisa Diamonds ‘sexual fluidity’ was really important to me. I wish I’d also read Meg John Barker’s Rewriting the Rules. Of course, nothing compares with community, but sitting with the ideas in these books was so helpful for me. Maybe you might find something in them too. Also the concept of ‘self consent’ – working out your own yes and no’s – Which might be harder than you imagine if you have knocked bits off yourself to conform for a while – I’ve written about that on my blog. Much love and I hope you take a brave path whether or not that includes remaining in your marriage.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      Ahh! just starting DBT and feeling like maybe I’m where you were. So glad you found a way forward into such a “you” place!

  8. NewWayHome said:

    Life is short. Be yourself! We are just ourselves and that is ok. I was married for decades to someone who could not (and still can not) live their truth. That life is tragic and soul crushing. We had so much together but it was unsustainable at the core. I will not regain those 30 plus years but for the years I have left I’m trying to live without any secrets without any regrets. You will not believe how energizing and different things can be.

  9. SadieMae said:

    Fellow person in recovery here, LW! Congratulations – 8 months is amazing! I know what you mean about all the feels hitting you when you stop numbing yourself with alcohol. And there’s a reason people say not to make big decisions until the turbulence settles down a little. In general, I agree. And yet your letter speaks to me that, emotionally, you are already gone from this marriage. Your heart has moved on. You’re just figuring out how to move your mind and body along with it.

    I second the recommendations for individual therapy – not to “fix” you or your marriage but to help you gain clarity about what you want and how you want to get there. I second the recommendations to secretly see a lawyer, because even the sweetest and most devoted of spouses sometimes wigs out when faced with a divorce and uses finances to hurt the spouse who is leaving.

    But what shines through your letter for me is that you want to find your real life – your real self – and you know that your husband, no matter how kind or generous or loving, is not the right partner for that life. Talk with a therapist, get your ducks in order financially, talk to friends in your recovery program if you’re in one, and then if you still want to leave – even if it will be hard, even if it will put your husband in a bind RE the house or insurance coverage, even if staying feels safer – still, in Sugar’s wise words: Wanting to leave is enough.

    Wherever your future lives, I know you will make it authentic and wonderful.

  10. peeta8 said:

    Congratulations on your sobriety!!!

    That is huge and (speaking from experience) can open up *so* many suppressed needs and feelings. Whatever you decide, I recommend making sure your sobriety is a priority — e.g. whether or not you relocate, get a good therapist and/or a good support group (or step meeting if you do 12-Step), maybe a queer/women’s sobriety group? Again, congratulations — that is so hard and you did it, you are doing it!

    • Audrey said:

      Yesyesyes to sobriety being priority!

  11. Polyanna said:

    I am in a wonderful relationship with a polyamorous man, who married a bisexual woman. He felt stifled because he felt pulled to be in more than one relationship, and she felt stifled because she’d never explored her bisexuality. After several years of misery, they talked honestly about it, and they decided to open up their marriage. It’s not for everyone, but that’s what they did, and they are much happier for it. But it sounds like LW doesn’t want to be married anymore, and that’s okay too. It is hard to trust your gut after a lifetime of hiding. But honesty with yourself, and then with the people you share your life with, is essential, especially about something this big.

  12. Cat said:

    i hate to be That Guy but… i don’t feel good about the caption of that first gif. no one has ever been “turned gay”. i don’t have to go on, right? it’s clear why that feels icky? can we make that go away please, Captain A?

    otherwise it’s a great answer, of course! it’s especially validating to me as a bi woman who’s been dating a man for 10+ years. i’ve been hit with that “straight passing” BS and it makes me feel awful. thank you Sweet Machine for the affirmation! ❤

    • JenniferP said:

      It’s okay not to like a joke that is obvious hyperbole, but it is also okay for those jokes to exist sometimes. Glad the rest of the answer worked for you.

    • Hi there! I’m a queer woman, and it was my joke, and I stand by it. You don’t have to like my joke!

      • Cat said:

        i know you’re queer, i read the whole answer. i still think “jokes” like that, hyperbolic though they may be, provide fodder for homophobes to throw at queer people, and i make it a point to call it out any time i see it.

        • Fair enough! I respectfully disagree, but I appreciate your take.

        • LD said:

          Counterpoint: Some of us queer people are “turned gay”, in that we are not gay for the entirety of our life, and that’s OK. Because there’s nothing wrong with being gay, and that fact doesn’t rest upon whether or not being gay is something we can choose or change, but rather on that fact that informed consensual relations between adults are OK.

      • Literally The Worst said:

        I just wanted to say that Linda Hamilton doing chin-ups in T2 is also the thing that made me realize I am gay. I tell everyone.

  13. Amy said:

    LW, it actually sounds to me like you know what you want. You’re ready to enter a new stage in your life. You want to express yourself more visibly as queer. You want to have sexual and/or romantic relationships with women. And you want to leave your husband–the idea of bringing him along with you into this new stage makes you cringe a little inside, it doesn’t get much clearer than that.

    It sounds like what’s holding you back is largely two things: 1) the investment you’ve already made in your marriage (time, money, emotion), and 2) not wanting to screw your husband over.

    For the first–have you heard of sunk cost fallacy? It’s a thing we all do sometimes, where we look at how much we’ve already invested in something and go “This isn’t working for me…but I’ve already put so much into it, it would be a waste to not see it through.” This is a fallacy because ‘seeing it through’ doesn’t generally fix the thing–it just means continuing to spend our resources on something that continues to not work for us. For example, I see this in how you’re talking about your house. You invested a lot of time into saving up for this house, a lot of money into purchasing it, and a decent bit of emotion considering you call it your ‘dream house’. But it isn’t working for you–it isn’t where you want to be, and most importantly, it comes with the wrong life partner for you. No matter how many good points it has, no matter how much you’ve put into it…if it’s not working and it’s not likely to start working anytime soon, it’s time to move towards letting it go.

    The second is harder, because it sounds like you genuinely do care about your husband. It’s just that the way you care about him (platonic friend) doesn’t match the configuration of your current relationship (romantic/sexual life partner). You want to make sure he’s medically and emotionally OK, to the extent that you’re able…but being married to him doesn’t work for you. Assuming he’s a caring person who wants the best for you, I think you need to suck it up and Talk About Your Problems with him. Tell him what you’ve told us–the major change you’ve made around alcohol has led you to examine other parts of your life as well, and you’re realizing that you’re not happy in your marriage. You’re realizing that you really want to be with a woman. It’s not that he’s done anything wrong–on the contrary, you care a lot about him as a person–but you’re not in love with him anymore. You’re trying to figure out how to both make sure he’s OK and honor your own needs. Once he’s up to speed (and has some time to absorb the info and process his feelings on it), you guys can hopefully talk together to figure out the best path forward; he might have ideas you haven’t considered, or be open to possible solutions that you rejected out of hand.

    Worth noting: these conversations might be easier to address with a couples therapist, not with the goal of ‘saving’ your relationship, but with the goal of guiding it through this shift in a loving and steady way.

    • “Once he’s up to speed (and has some time to absorb the info and process his feelings on it), you guys can hopefully talk together to figure out the best path forward; he might have ideas you haven’t considered, or be open to possible solutions that you rejected out of hand.”

      Maybe this is just me, but those lines made me cringe because they remind me of a (non-married) LTR I was in where I kind of convinced myself I needed my boyfriend’s permission/approval/agreement to break up with him, and in retrospect trying to get him to agree that it was best for me that I break up with him, was not kind.

      I went to couple’s counseling with him. It was not particularly helpful.

      • It’s not just you.

        The LW wants romance and sex with women, and not with her husband.

        A lot of people are telling her to get his buy in. That’s not helpful.

      • Amy said:

        I definitely didn’t mean that she needs permission to break up with him! I was thinking more…LW sounds really concerned about how he’ll navigate things like health insurance if she leaves him, and talking those things out together might be an opportunity to for her to address those concerns productively, instead of them becoming a roadblock that in her mind is preventing her from leaving.

        • Thanks for the clarification.

          Many years ago, and two years after they separated a friend’s first husband got really annoyed that she actually filed for divorce because “I need some dental work” (not new issues).

          While I now understand your point, I disagree.

          My observation (and experience) is that the Not-Yet-Divorced former partner will take this as negotiation not a declaration.

          • Amy said:

            That’s definitely possible–some people will pull that nonsense, even if LW makes it very clear that the discussion is “how to get us both through this safe and sound” and not “convince me to stay married to you”. LW might need to shut that down if she chooses to have this kind of conversation.

            To me, though, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bad option. It really comes down to what would be less difficult for LW–setting aside her concerns and breaking up without having that conversation, or shutting it down if they have the conversation and her husband tries to push it into “Well we should just not divorce even though you’re unhappy” territory. It sounds like the former is feeling a bit paralyzing to her, so she might prefer the latter–but you’re definitely right to point out the possible consequences, so she can weigh them.

        • RunForChocolate said:

          Years ago when my marriage was dissolving, I found a great couples counselor who helped us move towards the realization that we needed to divorce, and helped us to move to that decision in a respectful and amicable fashion. I think we were able to maintain a friendly and productive co-parenting relationship in the five years since then, at least partly due to that counselor’s helpful guidance during pretty stressful times.

          I’m not suggesting that LW absolutely *should* find couples counseling – only she knows what she wants and needs, and can have an idea of how helpful this might be. But if she could find a counselor who isn’t committed to the idea of saving the marriage but rather is committed to the idea of helping both parties figure out what they need and how to get there in as least damaging a way as possible, then it might be helpful along the way.

          Also, as has been mentioned, individual counseling can be SO helpful.

  14. As an aside, I feel so grateful for Dear Sugar’s ‘The Truth That Lives There’. We are so lucky to live in a time that gives words to that truth.

  15. Jen said:

    So, a lot of people seem to be commenting to reaffirm LW’s right to identify as bi, and I can certianly appreciate support in claiming bi identity in an incredibly bi-phobic world, but these responses seem to me to be erasing the LW’s self-stated lesbianism. If this is what you are feeling, don’t be afraid to claim it. Having been with a man or married doesn’t make you any less of a bisexual or queer if that is how you feel, but it also doesn’t make you any less of a lesbian if that is what the whisper in your heart is telling you.

    I was in a very similiar situation, identifying as bi, but ending up in a long-term relationship with a man who was an incredibly good person and my best friend because it was just easier to find men who validated by need for affection during a hard time in my life. But ultimately I realised I didn’t have the deep romantic and sexual desire for him that I though I might be capable of. The breakup sucked but as soon as I started dating women it was like a whole deeper level of sex and love and connection opened up. I realised I could be with him *despite* his manhood not because of it, and my authentic desire was 100% oriented towards women. I can’t imagine ever being with a man again and I feel incredibly validated by the identity of lesbian. I could have written your letter almost word-for-word at the time.

    My main advice would be to be careful of falling for women if/when you do start dating them. I chose kind wonderful men to partner with because my judgement wasn’t clouded by that desire. When I started dating women I was so overwhelmed by the feelings of it that I dated really poor choices and toxic partners at first. Now, years later, I’m with someone who fullfills me in all ways and is a beautiful wonderful woman and I am fulfilled in ways I never thought possible.

    Good luck on your journey and know that your orientation and gender are yours to define – let them set you free don’t let them trap you. I hope you find happiness in whatever form that takes for you. You are very much not alone on this journey.

  16. Serena said:

    I think I needed this answer myself, although the situation isn’t exactly the same.

    LW, I… Well, let’s just say I’m in my late 20s, probably transgender, and wondering why it’s taken me so long to recognize that part of myself or do anything with it. The idea that this is definitely part of who I am isn’t even all that solid for me yet, and the idea of being vocal about any of it is still somewhere close to terrifying. For me, there’s a lot of “but my life isn’t that bad, right?” and “what if I pursue this and end up making things worse somehow?” going through my head, and it looks like you’re dealing with some similar questions?

    I’m still in the middle of the story myself, I think, and I don’t know if this is a thing that would help you (or even if it’s a thing that’s helping me!), but the one thing I always try to remind myself of is that I don’t need to be absolutely certain. The words that I on some level understood, but didn’t fully have, before reading this answer myself: wanting it is enough. The paragraph of “what ifs” that you wrote, that I could have written (with a different focus in my case), is there. But having those questions doesn’t have to be a reason not to do what we think is best, and trust that we can make things work out in the end.

    • ET said:

      Just reaching out as a trans person who only started to figure that out in my mid-20’s to say that I also struggled with a lot of those same questions. Like “I’ve survived okay so far with my assigned gender at birth, so shouldn’t I just keep doing that?” and “what if I transition and it doesn’t actually make me feel as much better as I hope it will?” and “it will confuse and inconvenience people if I start switching names and pronouns and stuff, so wouldn’t it be better to just not do that and keep living as I am?” and “this is going to make life more complicated for me… will I regret that?” And some of those questions are more worth considering than others, but I’ll say, I’ve gone forward with the medical and social changes I wanted and none of the negative consequences came even close to how much better I feel. The only way I overcame those fears was to remind myself that a) remaining as the gender I was assigned at birth is not somehow more moral or more admirable than transitioning, and b) living life means making decisions which means there is always the risk that I will regret something, but that’s okay. Every single positive change I’ve made in my life came with the possibility of regret: choosing a school, choosing a job, choosing a major, choosing to drop out of a school, choosing a partner, choosing a place to live, choosing a cat to adopt, etc. Of course it’s worth considering the consequences of these things carefully. But also it’s good to remember that it’s okay to try something that we feel is right for us, even if we don’t know for 100% sure what is going to happen. It might be wonderful. It might suck and then we can change our mind and do something else. Or it might be somewhere in between and we can learn and grow from the new situation we’re in and develop ourselves around it and become our best selves within the situation we’ve chosen. And when I thought of it that way, at least for me, it became less scary to take that step and say “yes, I am giving myself permission to start identifying as the gender I feel I am, to change my name, to make medical changes. And I’m going to see how I feel and figure things out as I go along, and if I feel this isn’t right for me, I’ll give myself permission to take another risk and stop my transition. What I am not going to do is let my fear paralyze me from trying something that I feel is really right for me.”

      I dunno if any of that is useful or resonates with you, but I hope it at least helps you feel not-alone!

      • > Every single positive change I’ve made in my life came with the possibility of regret

        There’s a term for this that might be helpful to you: Opportunity cost. It recognizes the fact that making a choice to do a thing means we’re also choosing not to do other things. This example really oversimplifies but I think makes it clear: “If I go to X event on Tuesday evening, I won’t be able to go to Y event that is at the same time”.

      • I’ve just read your comment, and though the situation I’m in has nothing to do with yours (being boringly about moving 700 miles to a place I’ve loved down to my bones for the past 20 years), you’ve helped me clarify my feelings of “we just need to jump and worry about the landing afterwards” that have been hovering for the last couple of years. I’m not a risk taker by nature, the opposite in fact, but the feeling of “if we don’t do it now we won’t ever do it” has been growing stronger and stronger and you’ve really helped me realise what I was worrying about. So thank you for your words of wisdom, and I’m so, so glad that your transition has been the life-affirming decision you hoped it would be.

        • ET said:

          I’m very glad it was helpful to you! Best of luck moving forward!

      • MsMildew said:

        Your comment is helpful to me too, even though my situation also vastly differs. I will still be making a major life decision, and it will make my life more complicated, it will be scary, I will be figuring it out as I go along.

        And I’m almost in a (logistical) place where I can actually start making the plans & moving forward, so this is timely too.

        I really appreciate the insight you have shared, thank you for your comment.

    • like an angry apple tree said:

      Hey, if you have not read /My New Gender Workbook/ by Kate Bornstein, I recommend it! It covers so much ground in figuring things out.

      The results for me were cis, unfortunately for my fairly bad levels of dysphoria – but the book was rec’d to me as definitive, and I’d pass that rec along. It’s really in depth.

      • Aris Merquoni said:

        The results for me were cis, unfortunately for my fairly bad levels of dysphoria

        Hey, I just want to stop in and say, you can still be some flavor of trans or genderqueer even if an “expert” tells you that you’re cis. Plenty of experts have been wrong about trans people before, even trans experts. The only expert on you is you.

        • A Ginger said:

          Well said! You are you, whatever that means for YOU. Nobody else’s labels need apply.

        • sorbus said:

          Yeah, as another trans person I’m going to say that if you feel disappointed and trapped by the idea that you have to be cis, and wish you could identify as trans/non-binary/agender/etc (and this is a persistent thing, not just a temporary feeling of exclusion at e.g. trans spaces existing), you’re probably not cis. Took me way too long to figure that one out myself.

          • bat lord said:

            Seconding what sorbus said.

      • skinnyhobbit said:

        Hey hey Dara Hoffman Fox is a nonbinary person and gender therapist. They’ve written a self help book “You and Your Gender Identity: A Guide to Discovery”. I’m working through it.

      • MaureenC said:

        If you end up deciding “no, still cis, still dysphoric”–why not change the aspects you’re dysphoric about? You might not be able to get insurance to pay (except if you have really bad back pain or terrible periods or something that doctors can point to as a physical thing). But at least you can see if you can conceivably save up to pay out of pocket. You do not need a Certificate of Sufficient Need from the body positivity movement to remodel your meat.

      • SarahTheEntwife said:

        I have much respect for Kate Bornstein, but I really didn’t like that book. All of the options in the surveys and things seem to boil down to “masculine man”, “feminine woman” and “radical! gender! outlaw!”. It didn’t seem to have room for my probably-agender-ness of “well, I usually pee sitting down because it’s easier, but peeing standing is sometimes useful for camping and stuff” or “I would like to present more androgynously, but that would require effort so my gender presentation varies seasonally between sundresses and flannel”.

        • Kacienna said:

          Completely irrelevant, but flannel over sundresses is also a ton of fun!

          • SarahTheEntwife said:

            Yes!

  17. Gabrielle said:

    This advice is so relatable and good. Thanks Sweet Machine! LA, a thought experiment that’s sometimes helped me clarify big complicated situations like this with a lot of moving parts is to sit down somewhere and try to answer the following questions:

    1. THINK BIG PICTURE What would the ideal, magic dreamland resolution to this look like? If you could wave a wand in this scenario and have everything be perfect, do you share a swelling music goodbye hug with your now ex-husband, who smiles understandingly, and go off to the city? Are you continuing to share your life with this man, but are now in a companionate marriage and exploring your sexuality with others? The marriage you have now, but with greater acknowledgement and room made for you to express your queerness? Be really honest and non judgemental with yourself here! You are just trying to get more information about your desires, not making a plan.

    2. THINK LITTLE PICTURE If some of these threads are untangled, does the situation become more manageable? There’s a lot of stuff you’re working through in this letter. Your sexuality and its history! The house! His mental health stuff! Biphobia! Recent sobriety (huge congrats!). Your aging parents! Hurricane freaking Katrina! All these things are interwoven of course, they are the stuff of your life. But if it’s too much to look at at once, you could try addressing things a little more seperately.
    For example!
    – Sexuality: Whether you stay married to this guy or not, you do absolutely like girls and at one point had much more of a queer identity/community in your life. Can you get some of that going on again? If you are living in a conservative place without much of one, or if it’s riddled with biphobia, how about participating online if you aren’t already? Would you like to change your look or gender expression to be more comfortable or better reflect your identity? Would your husband be comfortable with any of these things happening (that’s good information!)?
    – Concerns that recent sobriety may be skewing your judgement in some way: I am not an addictions counsellor or former addict, so I don’t know if this is a thing! Do you have an addictions counsellor or supportive sobriety community to talk about this stuff with? You mention in your letter that feeling all the feelings without numbing them is a lot lately, which is completely understandable! Do other people at this point in their sobriety journey express similar things? How did/do they deal with it?
    -His mental health: you describe yourself as a primary bread winner at this point while he deals with some depression stuff, and the general prime emotional labourer of the relationship. This would be difficult even if nothing else was going on, and you are handling it like a boss on top of everything. Is he dealing with this depression stuff mostly with mental health professionals/community, or are you doing a lot of wife-therapist-emotional-support stuff? Do you have time and space for your own self work in this? Are there times you might need to disengage/set boundaries/plan outings for yourself and a journal or trusted friend?

    None of these individual things will address some of the huge questions in your letter: should I stay married to my husband? If I leave, will I regret it? If I stay, will I regret that? But they may give you some more insight to work with, or help you winnow down through some of the layers to make your decision. Either way, I think you are being so brave and great to be working through all of this. With all this stuff you’ve been through, please be gentle with yourself and know you deserve to be happy.

    • I don’t really want to come down on Team Stay And Try To Make It Work, but LW if you’re Trying To Stay And Make It Work For Now I will point out that some queer communities/groups/whatever are actually pretty welcoming towards bi (/queer/maybe-lesbian) people in opposite-sex relationships. I found one anyways. And it sounds like you’re yearning hard for queer community right now.

      • “Opposite sex” seriously makes me cringe. More than two genders!

        • MsMildew said:

          And even if there *were* only two genders, they wouldn’t be “opposite”!

    • apricity said:

      I agree so hard with this comment.

    • Alba said:

      This is such good advice. I really love the combination of big picture dream and small picture steps (especially with how clearly and pragmatically you put won the possible small steps!), and I think I’ll start using that model for other things in my life. Thank you!

      • Gabrielle said:

        Aw, thank you! Honestly, this is just my way of talking myself away from or down what I’d call the Decision Cliff. You know, if life was a movie then here’s LW’s big defining choice, and at the end she either leaves or stays and we feel how we’re going to feel about that. And there’s a thousand lululemon bags telling you to do! Things! That! Scare! You! Jump off the Decision Cliff! Fly! And people like me, prodded to the edge of a Highly Significant Life Defining Choice like that are always going to freeze on the edge, freaking out.

        But, Ok, life is not a movie. However this thing shakes out, the credits do not roll and LW’s story is not Liberated/Selfish Potential Lesbian Escapes/Destroys Stultifying/Loving Marriage, or Repressed/Loyal Queer Languishes/Finds Comfort in Hetero-seeming Marriage, or whatever other tropes apply. And decisions don’t work like that either! Like even if LW decides today to end this marriage and leave for the city, she is presumably not just getting into a cab and doing it, a thousand thousand petty and boring little choices need to get made to make that happen, ie. calling the insurance ie. handholds down a Decision Cliff, ie. YOU NEVER HAVE TO JUST THROW YOURSELF OFF A CLIFF, DAMN THE LULULEMON BAGS. 😂

        For me, big picture/little picture thinking both helps me to zero in on the specifics of my situation, diffusing some cultural meta narrative pressure none of us need (“Will leaving ruin my partner’s life and make me an Evil Gay?” No! This isn’t bad fiction! “Will staying ruin my life and make me a Tragic Gay?” No! This isn’t bad fiction!), and helps me focus on the thousands of smaller decision I gotta make to maintain/improve my life. Like it’s ok to put a big Marriage: y/n? up on a mental whiteboard somewhere and be working on that for a while, or break it down in a big web and look at the individual parts, or make a vision board that’s just babes doing pull-ups with MORE THAT HOW scrawled on it! Our lives are so much more weirder and more wonderful and also more dull then we have been led to believe. 🙄

    • MsMildew said:

      I have a big complicated situation with lots of moving parts, made even more chaotic by my major executive function issues. Your comment is timely and very helpful. Thank you so much.

  18. Feotakahari said:

    A person in my broader Internet circle recently railed against divorce and “oathbreakers.” I want to thank you for that Dear Sugar link, and if I thought it made a difference, I would throw it in his face.

    • daremichaelson said:

      Oh, yikes.

      • Oathbreakers, beware! Lest ye spend the afterlife in a dark scary tunnel waiting for some white dude to show up and save you.

    • Cascadian said:

      Some dudes think marriage license = bill of sale.

      • MsMildew said:

        Well, at one time, it pretty much did, and apparently some dudes don’t think times have changed.

    • RunForChocolate said:

      Oh lordy, recently on a corner of Reddit I foolishly engaged for several back-and-forths with a dude who believed that nothing – not abuse, nothing – justified divorce. It made my stomach turn into a pit of flaming acid but I held my ground and took some consolation from the fact that my comments were upvoted and his were downvoted. There are some real jerks out there but I keep the hope alive that there are also many respectful, compassionate people. And sometimes it can help, being the voice of reason, if only so the masses of invisible lurkers don’t think the jerks are the only ones out there.

      • MsMildew said:

        I wonder if he would feel divorce was justified if it was *him* being abused, cheated on, etc in the marriage, or if he just held to the good ol’ double standard.

  19. Lumen said:

    Beautiful answer, Sweet Machine.

    LW, sending you all the support and Jedi Hugs and whathaveyou that you can handle. I am a bisexual woman who was in a marriage to a man, and got divorced (partly because we both needed to be able to find people we really wanted to be with, not a relationship that in many ways happened ‘because what else are you going to do, right?’). I just want you to know you’re not alone. And you are ultimately responsible for your own happiness (before you take on responsibility for other people’s happiness). You deserve to be happy; we’re just told that our happiness should come last.

    I wish the best for you! And congratulations on your sobriety!

  20. Lily said:

    more or less lesbian here. When I started dating BF I made it clear from the beginning that I wouldn’t want a closed relationship. Then I met my girlfriend. And then at some point I went from “pansexual” to “let’s be serious, I’m way more into girls” to “probably lesbian, but I really like this guy”.

    I’m polyam and still with both of them, several years later. It’s not that I want to leave him, but occasionally it feels very strange that he is a guy. Now sometimes I say “I’m into women and won’t date men anymore. BF is grandfathered in though”. It works for me. But it only works because 1. I can be with a woman and 2. I can have sex with men and it feels nice. I’m just not romantically interested in them.

    • Irina said:

      “Probably lesbian, but I really like this guy” is how I think of myself now. I do like the guy so much that we’re still married (25 years last month) and likely to stay so, but if I’m ever widowed I’ll consider women only. (And we’re both so utterly monogamous that dating and/or branching out isn’t on the agenda)

  21. queenbeemimi said:

    LW, you say you’ve got your dream house, but it strikes me that you do not. Your letter hints at a much different, much scarier dream– a dream where you live in New Orleans, openly practicing your queerness, not married anymore.

    Maybe this house was your dream, once, but your dream has changed. You no longer share a dream with your husband, if you ever really did. It doesn’t make you a bad person that you settled for a happy-enough life you thought you wanted with a person you truly cared for. You are allowed to reneg on a promise, even this one, if it isn’t working.

    I know it will hurt, and I do encourage sharing this with a therapist, even if you aren’t ready to lave your husband yet. You need someone outside this relationship who can help you parse out what’s best for you, and help you find the tools you’ll need to build the life you want for yourself. Find someone queer-affirming, and start building your new dream house.

    We’re all rooting for you.

  22. Dear LW,

    I think therapy is great, so I encourage you to see a therapist to work on accepting that you did the best you could with the choices you had.

    But as for the future: I’m with Sweet Machine. You sound unhappy in your marriage and as though what you want is out.

    That’s Ok. Yes, you’re new(ish)ly sober. Yes your husband is a great guy. You’re allowed to want life in Louisiana, near your family, near other lesbians, sans your husband.

    Good luck. Jedi hugs if you want them.

  23. Eye said:

    Hi LW! Bisexual woman with some stuff to add.

    1.) Regardless of whether you are lesbian or bi, you are a wlw (woman-loving-woman). (Going with “woman” here b/c wlw emphasizes your attraction to women while sidestepping the bi/lesbian question for a sec.)

    2.) You are a wlw regardless of the gender of any person you’re in a relationship with, even if they’re a man.

    3.) You’d be a wlw even if you were in no relationship.

    4.) You’d be a wlw even if you had never even kissed another woman.

    5.) While I can’t be sure because I’m not inside your head, it sounds a lot to me like you are not attracted to men at all, whether in general or your husband in specific, i.e., you’re probably lesbian. I’m a masc-of-center wlw (and increasingly butch in terms of how I present myself and navigate my relationships with other women), who all else being equal would rather date women b/c even the best guy comes with a lot of Patriarchal Baggage. Even so, even though I experience those frustrations when dating men, I still feel attraction to them in ways that you don’t seem to feel for your husband.

    6.) Do you remember hearing a few years ago about that Mormon couple where the husband was gay but they claimed to be happy and have a fulfilling marriage? They recently published a follow-up to that original essay revealing that they’d eventually figured out that they were both massively in denial about how happy and fulfilled they were, and that even though they were best friends and still wanted to keep their lives connected, it was massively unfair to BOTH of them to stay in a relationship where the wife couldn’t be loved by her husband the way she deserved, and he couldn’t love his wife the way he deserved. Being married to your best friend is amazing, but if you are in fact a lesbian, it’s never going to genuinely work long-term, and you both deserve better. Here’s the full piece: http://joshweed.com/2018/01/turning-unicorn-bat-post-announce-end-marriage/

    Also, as mostly an aside, I do disagree with what Cap seems to be suggesting, that passing privileges aren’t a thing at all. They are not remotely the same thing as ACTUAL, full-on privilege, but marginalized people who can pass at least some of the time should still make sure we’re aware of the ways in which our invisibility can protect us. Invisibility isn’t a privilege, and it can be very damaging on a personal level, BUT it’s infinitely easier and less dangerous to live with than hypervisibility. (This doesn’t mean that LGBT people who are assumed to be cishet aren’t still 100% queer, that we aren’t massively affected by homophobia and/or transphobia, or that passing is relevant in all or even most discussions. I just think it’s something that we can’t completely discount, because there are times when it’s relevant, in terms of someone’s lived experience, personal stake in discussions, perspective, etc.)

    • Sweet Machine actually said pretty much the same as you: “…you are not passing — you are being erased by biphobia. That doesn’t mean you don’t have certain privileges that attain to having a male-presenting partner; however, those privileges are attenuated by the very real risks that bisexual women face…”

      • Eye said:

        Nah, I would say that Sweet Machine said something more in line with what Cap did, whereas I emphasized that bi people in seemingly hetero relationships do in fact have passing “privileges.” In fact, I’d say I even more strongly disagree with SM than with Cap; it’s not an either/or situation of erasure or passing, but rather the general assumption that everyone is straight until proven otherwise that *enables* this sort of passing.

        That’s why “privilege” gets quotes–it’s not actually a privilege to have people assume you’re straight… But it *does* unarguably grant additional protection when they do. And when marginalized people forget that, you get the sort of really gross bullshit like bi people enviously bemoaning the “visibility” of trans women. That why I think it’s vital to strive to acknowledge the reality that’s between “passing ‘privileges’ don’t exist, and all [LGBT or whatever other marginalized group] experiences are equivalent” and “having people assume you aren’t [LGBT] is a concrete privilege you have over people who are identifiably [LGBT]”–neither of those conceptions is accurate, and both of them are harmful.

        What passing “privileges” *don’t* do, of course, is fix anything about the way that bi people who are women (and presumably also woman-aligned NB folks and people perceived as women who aren’t) face *obscenely* more IPV from their partners–and not just men partners–than lesbian or straight women. But that’s a separate issue entirely. It’s not some sort of “determine how oppressed you are” calculation, where you add “less queerbashing by strangers” to “more abuse by partners” and come out with “medium oppressed”; it’s about acknowledging the relative power dynamics and danger *in specific settings*, and then taking those differences for members of our community into account when considering our relative experiences with them, how to approach fixing them, etc.

      • Thanks, Martooth, for reinforcing a) what I said and b) that I’m not the Captain.

    • …you know, there’s something that doesn’t sit right at all with me with assigning something who tells us they’re pronoun indifferent a gender without consent or any acknowledgement they identify with that gender.

      • TO_Ont said:

        You mean the LW?

        “I’m a 36 y/o (pronoun indifferent, she/her is fine)”

        The LW was the one who suggested ‘she’.

        • Pronouns are not genders. Nonbinary people can use he or she. Some lesbians use “he/him”.

          LW also said: “I presented as pretty butch, even experimented with binders and things, although i’ve never really struggled with any sort of gender dysphoria, just sometimes clothes fit better without boobs. Or so I tell myself, but maybe that’s something else I need to explore.”

          You do not need dysphoria to be trans.

          I’m not saying the LW isn’t a woman if that’s what they identify as, but why are we deciding that, “I’m not sure” = cisgender woman????

    • TZ said:

      Passing is both a privilege and a violence. In my experience, it makes the logistics of life a little easier at an extremely, extremely high mental and emotional cost.

  24. jd said:

    Hi LW, here’s a blog post that you may or may not want to read. It’s from a Mormon couple who became famous for the husband being an out gay man who was resolved to thrive and be happy with his wife in a heterosexual marriage. They started blogging about their experiences and “successes” (not mean-spirited, but definitely in heavy denial) and caught public attention.

    Well, fast forward a bit and last year they posted an update from both of them acknowledging that while they love each other a lot and will continue to be part of each other’s lives, they’ve both realized that they have been doing a disservice to themselves and their relationships by assuming that their love and affection for each other could compensate for their incompatible sexual orientations toward each other, because it was leaving her feeling lonely and rejected and him feeling hopeless and broken. They’ve apologized to the LGBTQ community for the things they’ve said in the past and how their “example” was weaponized by some and gave false hope to others. They’ve talked about how the husband realized that his position was coming from a deep and unexamined self-hatred and belief that he didn’t deserve real happiness. This is their post announcing their divorce.

    It’s a really beautifully written post by two people being courageously honest and accountable with themselves and the world. It covers a lot of ground, and for me at least I start to cry in two or three places, just from resonating with what he says about being a queer person (the wife also writes part of the post and talks about what it means for her to be in a relationship with someone who is unable to desire her in an affirming way, and that’s also pretty hard to read), even though I’ve never been in the same position that you or he has been in. So for you I imagine it might be a brutal read. But I also found it really affirming as well.

    http://joshweed.com/2018/01/turning-unicorn-bat-post-announce-end-marriage/

    • jd said:

      Oh dang, I forgot to say, please be aware that the content under the link describes homophobic and transphobic attitudes in society, internalized homophobia and self-hatred, and also talks about suicidal feelings. Read with care. ❤

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Man, I remember reading about the Weeds a few years back and I was all set to make a snarky comment about how clinging to each other and saying “we’re so happy! we’re desperately happy!” like you’re in a 1930s melodrama doesn’t actually mean you are happy, but then I read the post and it really is heartbreaking.

        • jd said:

          Lolly, the wife in the couple, has recently posted an update as well, sharing more about what she’s going through and how she feels about herself, her family, her life, her marriage, and her ongoing relationship with her ex/best friend. It’s a good read too, and she’s really direct about the homophobia that is playing out around their divorce (which is part of why even though she’s hurting, she also understands that her ex-husband’s struggles and their impact on her aren’t a result of him being a bad person, but of them living in a busted society):

          “Josh is a 38-year-old man who is just now allowing himself to experience the same feelings of romance that a straight junior high kid feels entitled to experience. And yet, the way people are responding to our divorce is proof that he is much more the victim of this set-up than I am. Who is everyone instantly blaming? The gay guy. Who does everyone try to support and run to the aid of? The straight spouse. I’d ask you all to consider, why is that the most common response? Josh and I are both still taking care of our girls full-time. Nobody in this situation has been abandoned. Why, when it comes to support, do the people around us flock around me, worry about me, feel outraged for me, look for someone to blame (usually Josh) for what is happening to me etc.? Why not the gay person who has been through way more than I have over the course of his life, and who is losing so much more than I will ever lose by simply being who he is? Why aren’t people incensed or deeply worried for and defensive of him?”

          LW, if you read these, I hope they will help you internalized the knowledge that this is not your fault. You are not a bad person. You are doing the best you can under very difficult circumstances.

          http://joshweed.com/2018/06/dear-family-and-friends-a-letter-about-my-divorce-written-on-my-16th-wedding-anniversary-by-lolly/

  25. purps said:

    LW, I commented upthread and I also want to say down here:

    1) I found it helpful to erase “passing” from my internal vocabulary and replace it with “closeted”. The damage it did me feels a lot more like being closeted. In my case I came out a bunch but people kept helpfully re-closeting me. That wasn’t my fault even when it felt like my fault.
    2) I found therapy very helpful, but I did need a queer-identified therapist in order to make any headway. I’m cis but I’ve had a really good run of decent therapists from people who are registered with WPATH.

    This feels hard because it’s hard. You aren’t a bad person for figuring it out as you go. And congratulations on your sobriety!

    • Raptor said:

      This whole letter and thread has been really hard for me to read. Closeted is right. And I don’t feel like I even deserve to come out of the closet anymore.

      • Aris Merquoni said:

        You totally deserve to come out. You also deserve to be safe. Whatever choices you make to keep yourself safe are valid, but you deserve a world in which being out of the closet is totally safe and joyful and celebrated.

      • Vicki said:

        Being out isn’t something you have to earn, because you don’t owe it to anyone to stay in the closet. There are reasons not to come out, like physical safety or not wanting to give up certain relationships, and “if my family know they won’t talk to me anymore” is a real thing for some people, but it doesn’t mean you owe it to anyone else to let them think you’re heterosexual and/or cisgender. If you’re LGBTQ+ and want to come out, that’s sufficient to deserve being out here.

      • Raptor said:

        I can’t even word right now, honestly, I’m so upset. I’ve been out, but have just slowly meandered my way right back in.

        Unlike the LW, I do love and want to stay with my husband, but I feel like an entire world has just been severed from me.

        It’s shitty and painful to hear your family and friends say homophobic things, but it’s shitty and painful in a way I could process. (Note, I wasn’t really in physical danger or danger of homelessness, so different story from those who have experienced that.)

        Moving from my small, fundamentalist Christian town to a large, liberal city and being out and single and having some truly cruel things said to me by lesbians in my circle was shitty and painful in a very unique way. So much worse because I wasn’t expecting it, I guess, like being bit by a rattlesnake in an office building or something. Technically safer than the middle of the desert, but I know the sheer WTF would get to me?

        My Darth Vader exgf actually said some very abusively biphobic things to me when she wanted to get me down, but it happened a number of times with women I barely knew.

        And yeah, I met a dude that I like very much. I sometimes feel like I just want to go out and be gay, but I feel like I’d have to lie about him, and I’m not willing to do that. Like, I can understand usually not bringing him along to LGBTQ events and spaces, that makes sense, but I literally feel like I’d have to lie about him existing.

        Right now, I’m not out to anyone in my part of the office. I’m out to like one gay man and one straight one, none of the women, and not the other two gay men.

        My friends who have known me a long time know because they actually remember my exgirlfriends, but it never really comes up with new friends. I don’t think any friends I’ve met in the last 5 years know, except one gal who mentioned she is bi.

        Sorry, I know that’s long and rambling and probably didn’t make sense and is a tangent from the LW. And maybe I’m just a coward. But I feel like I’m too queer for my straight friends and not queer enough for my queer friends and it’s hurting me.

        • cleo said:

          Jedi Hugs if you want them!

          I’ve been where you are and it sucks! Your last sentence really resonated with me.

          I’m a bi woman and I’ve been married to my cishet male partner for 17 years – a few years ago I realized that my bi identity had been erased and it hurt.

          Finding bi / pan / fluid community has been the thing that helped me – both online and in person.

        • TZ said:

          Biphobia in the queer community makes me SO MAD.

          You deserve affirming communtiy. If you are too queer for your straight friends and too straight for your gay/lesbian friends, I hope you find a third group of friends. ❤

        • It’s hard! I’m so disconnected from the local LGBTQ folks where I am because of the combination of biphobia and the non-biphobic parts of the community being centered around the late-night drag scene on weeknights (I have two kids to get off to school at 7am; I can’t go to a drag show that starts at midnight on Tuesday).

          I spend a lot of time on /r/bisexual …

        • Oranges said:

          Yeah, the biphobia in the queer space must die a horrible death in the middle of our sun. Ditto for the trans.

          Humans are not digital. We are analog! We are complicated and come in so many different shades of so many different colors.

          You know how we classify animals as mammals has changed as more and more animals were discovered that seemed like they should be mammals but had some odd biological quirk (see monotreme mammals). Nature does NOT like rigid definitions and tries to break them ALL.

  26. Clover said:

    In the aftermath of the breakup of my marriage, I did a lot of reading and a lot of therapy, and the insight that resonated with me the most was this: most humans are hardwired to crave both authenticity and attachment. And when those needs come into conflict–be authentic to yourself or feel connected to your loved ones, pick one!–it’s among the most painful and difficult situations a person can face.

    I chose authenticity and left my marriage. It was hard. I hurt a good man, and his good kid (from his first marriage), and his good parents and friends and siblings. I left pain in my wake and I know it and I’ll have to live with that forever.

    But we’re all still standing. I have found real, beautiful, authentic love and it blows my mind every single day. And if I lost that love I’d be okay, because I know who I am and I love and forgive myself, and I would be enough on my own.

    I heard through the grapevine that my ex has a new girlfriend. I am glad. I hope it goes well. He’s a good man and deserves love, just as I’m a good woman and deserve love. We ALL deserve love.

    LW, you deserve it. From yourself. From someone who sees you clearly and wants exactly who you are and exactly what you have to offer. Go. You know in your heart it’s what you need to do.

  27. enmalkm said:

    To address one of your concerns, if you decide that leaving your husband is the way to go, there are lots of ways to do it that wouldn’t destroy him financially/logistically if he’s dependent on you. Depending on your circumstances, some options might include negotiating spousal support payments, splitting equity in the house in some way that would allow him to stay there, paying for his health insurance for some period of time, or even separate but stay married to keep him on your insurance. Obviously you’d want to talk about it with a lawyer/mediator/financial adviser, but you don’t have to resign yourself to either living a lie or screwing over your partner of 10 years.

    • V said:

      YES this.

  28. Nanani said:

    LW, if there is any blame here, it is on society and its constant pushing of the default, which is heteronormative, on everyone. You are not a bad person for going along with the script that’s been shouted at you from every direction for your entire life.

  29. Kaos said:

    Warning: This has turned out to be a pretty long comment, so yanno, heads up…

    Hard agree with CA here LW. You want to leave your husband. You want a different life.

    Talk to him…more than once ideally. Lay your thoughts/feelings on the line (because…respect) and find out where he’s at.

    Is he cool being BFFs sharing a life but everyone gets to be in other relationships? Is he a “I need a one man … and man only … woman” guy? Etc…?

    Then make your choices based on what *you* want for *your* life. It’s good, honorable, and noble to think about others’ feelings/experiences. Particularly good when our own actions/choices affect them on a fundamental level.

    However…you get one life. There is no “do over.” You must live your authentic self, with or without him/someone/anyone else in order to be true to yourself.

    Otherwise what’s the point?

    Personal: Me-asexual but not aromantic. Married 12 years (14 together) to male version of myself.

    We are totally BFFs and this is the best relationship I’ve
    had including my first husbsnd (aka my “partner in crime”) who I was married to for 19 years until he died.

    Current husband and I, lke all couples have had ups/downs/rocky moments where one or the other (or both lol) have thought “fk it…I’m so done here.” Obviously so far that’s just been the manifestation of frustration/anger/annoyance.

    But…id it ever *did* come to the point of “time to bounce…” I would never deny my authentic self for any guy** ever, ever, EVER again. Been there, done that. Scars to prove it.

    **For any “person” actually but I’m a pretty cliché hetero,cis, middle aged, white woman and at 55 years old I don’t see a sudden attraction to women on my horizon. Never say never though I guess. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  30. anthy himemya said:

    The rule in recovery about not making big decisions or new relationships when newly sober is not necessarily so that you don’t make mistakes – it’s so that you don’t throw yourself into extremely stressful situations that endanger your sobriety. I’m a little concerned that under 1 year sober might not be the right time to divorce, sell a house, move, and start a new life. Those are all extremely stressful things! The most stressful things!

    Which is not to say that you shouldn’t do those things, but there might be some good, bolstering-team-you things to first. Therapy, whether one-on-one or couples counseling, might be a good next step. We think of couples counselors as being for saving relationships, but they can be just as helpful in facilitating an amicable breakup. Also are there any lgbt resources near where you are now? Being closeted sounds like a big source of stress right now and maybe finding someone to talk to about it in the short term would be helpful. Is there maybe a lgbt AA group within reach? Some of those people might have very similar stories to yours. Talking to a lawyer preliminarily about the divorce-with-a-house situation could be a good exploratory step and their advice could save you some headaches later. Re-establishing contact with friends and family members who can support you when you’re ready to make the change is also key.

    These are more preparing-to-leave type things than instead-of-leaving things – from the sound of your letter, you know you need to leave. But you can do it as a process, and there is support you can put in place for yourself so that it will be less painful for everyone. And most importantly of all, it’s to make sure you’re taking care of yourself and staying sober.

  31. piny1 said:

    Not to start shit on your post, but one of the studies you link to actually found that lesbians were more likely than bisexual women to face discrimination in a range of contexts – including work, education, and healthcare. They report less discrimination in family contexts. In most contexts, they are not less likely to experience discrimination; they are significantly less likely to report problems like self-harm and depression.

    That is a disparity that requires a lot more unpacking than the conclusion that lesbians are better off than bisexual women. Although the authors do conclude that anti-bisexual prejudice is a likely cause, they don’t rule out other explanations – like, for example, the fact that lesbians have a long and very well-documented history of receiving really shitty healthcare, including mental healthcare and any healthcare sensitive to stuff like sexual and romantic partnerships. The consequences of this inequality include stuff like documented higher rates of hysterectomy for lesbians, which is partly the result of inferior and insensitive gynecological care and partly the result of medical professionals seeing lesbians as un-women who might as well be wombless and probably also related to longstanding homophobic definitions of motherhood.

    For all of these reasons, the disparity in reporting may not track with a disparity in likelihood. There are many examples of similar underreporting issues among other marginalized groups of women, and they often are specific to stereotypes about those groups. Stereotypes about lesbians include stereotypes about emotional insensitivity, “male”-identified behavior, aggression, violence, and “toughness;” internalized homophobia could very well push lesbian women away from certain interpretations of mental health-related complaints. To take just one example, eating disorders are linked to a great many ideas about sexism and beauty culture and heteronormativity; it seems pretty likely that homophobia – like racism, classism, and other prejudices – would shape lesbian attitudes towards eating disorders. All of this applies just as well to problems like domestic violence, sexual assault, emotional abuse, and substance abuse.

    This is not to understate the impact of biphobia, which is absolutely a serious problem that deserves specific attention. But if I read a study that found that bisexual women were way more likely to report positive mental health outcomes than lesbians, I’d take it with a grain of salt. I’m skeptical of this study’s conclusion that bisexual women are less likely to face discrimination in e.g. office environments. Is this a reflection of acceptance or erasure? There’s some evidence that lesbians might actually benefit from heterosexist ideas about motherhood and consequent assumptions that they can be trusted not to have kids; if my employer promotes me on the basis that my sexual orientation renders me sterile, have I experienced discrimination?

    And with all of that in mind, maybe it isn’t such a good idea to lump lesbians and straight women into a category, “monosexual,” that erases the massive disparities between lesbians and heterosexual women and posits some level of privilege that lesbians enjoy by virtue of not wanting to partner sexually or romantically with men? I think we deserve more nuance.

    • Hi there. I appreciate your comment, though I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to the LW’s situation. You’re right that there’s a lot of nuance to consider in terms of how people of various identities are affected by cultural norms. However, there are risks and nuances that are specific to bisexual women, and the LW is clearly not feeling like she is able to express her queer identity, whether she continues to identify as bi or begins to identify as a lesbian. Many, many bisexual women (especially those partnered with cis men) feel invisible within both queer and straight communities, and I linked to information about bisexual women’s mental health because I want the LW to know she is not alone, and she is not making up the struggle she faces.

      I am not a social scientist, just a reasonably well-read bisexual! I think it’s important to acknowledge that the LW has been living as a bisexual woman in a non-supportive community.

      • purps said:

        Sweet Machine, I appreciate this. I found it enormously validating when I found research that indicated that other bisexual people self-reported such serious mental health struggles. I had somehow internalized the idea that bisexuality was supposed to be the “easy setting”, and felt like surely I was stealing The Struggle from people who were more authentically gay and had worse problems… (never mind that I am, at this point, not very interested in men anymore, which is certainly fairly gay of me). But at the time, it was one more way to beat myself up for being Wrong and Bad and destined to Never Be Happy.

        Once I got off tumblr, basically, and started having these conversations in real life, I realized that many, many people with many, many different experiences were struggling with different versions of the same feelings. That included some people who I thought of as Really Qualified to Be Gay Properly – I found out that a lot of people had similar feelings of confusion and self-recrimination and thoughts of not being real enough and not belonging. I kind of wonder if the affective experience is a shared thing among people subject to homophobia, even if the reasons we’d _give_ for the feelings are different.

      • piny1 said:

        You’re right, this was long and not helpful to the LW. I should have just told you that I thought some of the things you said were homophobic. You spent several years inveighing against lazy-ass junk science pop commentary, including the very real damage done by people misrepresenting social science data to confirm glib generalizations. So I’m sorry, but I think this is actually also important.

        You linked to inaccurate information about queer women’s mental health – including at least one article that straight up misrepresents the impact of homophobia, even as it mentions (and curiously does not link to) a study that finds significantly more discrimination reported by lesbians in many contexts including healthcare even as it points to higher reported mental health problems among bisexual women. You are perpetuating a misrepresentation that is homophobic in effect even if it is not homophobic in intent.

        “Are bisexual women worse off than lesbians?” is maybe an open question; “Is it fair to summarize a study wherein lesbians report more discrimination as demonstrating that lesbians have it better?” is definitely not. Neither is “Can you actually say that a group of people who report more discrimination in healthcare settings are better off vis-a-vis mental health?”

        It is indeed important to acknowledge that the LW is a bisexual women who has been living in an unsupportive community, and that she must contend with biphobia specifically. But I think you can do that without throwing other queer women under the bus.

        Also, “monosexual” is a really fucked up term implying a lot of really fucked up things, including the idea that lesbianism is the “easy setting” and comparable to heterosexuality. It isn’t helpful to anyone to use it. So please don’t.

        • Dude, what things in particular do you think Sweet Machine said that are homophobic? And which studies are you referencing? The linked Pride article covers several topics, and links to different articles, sources, and studies. I can’t track what you’re complaining about.

          • piny1 said:

            Can you not track what I’m complaining about because you can’t figure out which study I’m referencing after reading all of the sources for that article, or because you didn’t read those sources? That article is at best glib and at worst intentionally misleading. And I think it is intentionally misleading – I think there’s a reason the author didn’t bother to actually link to the publicly-available study they claimed showed that bisexual women are worse off vis-a-vis mental health. To clarify:

            It is homophobic to gloss a study that says that lesbians report more discrimination as “bisexuals are worse off than lesbians.”
            It is homophobic to gloss a study that says that lesbians report more discrimination in healthcare settings as “bisexuals are worse off vis-a-vis mental health than lesbians.”
            It is homophobic to gloss a study that says that lesbians report more discrimination in healthcare settings and also report lower incidence of mental health problems (e.g. self harm, eating disorders) as, “lesbians must actually be less likely to suffer from mental health problems.”
            It is homophobic to refer to lesbians and straight women as “monosexual.”

            All of these assertions minimize the impact of homophobia as well as the ways in which homophobia and misogyny interact. “Monosexual” implies that lesbians and straight women are comparable, and if you can’t understand why I find that homophobic then I’m not sure there’s any point in arguing further.

            They also demonstrate a really problematic (read: also effectively homophobic) lack of skepticism towards social science data on lesbians and other groups of queer women, including an unwillingness to grapple with some pretty basic questions like, “Hey, if you are more likely to experience hatred and disgust from doctors, are you maybe less likely to view your problems in medical terms?” and also, “So we’ve got a group of people who report more discrimination but also fewer mental health problems – does that support the researchers’ contention that fewer mental health problems indicate higher or improved social status?”

            Sweet Machine was very clear in her rejection of glib, reductive ideas about biphobia, like the idea that bisexual women benefit from the assumption that they are straight. She is very aware of the harm done by that kind of lazy thinking. She should be as critical and as self-aware when she encounters ideas like “monosexual” and shitty homophobic question-begging like this. I think she’d be pretty annoyed if I linked to that same study, the one finding that bisexual women report lower rates of discrimination (but higher rates of mental health problems!), as evidence that bisexual women are better off. I think that would provoke reams of nuance from her. She should not do the same thing to lesbians. Especially since you really don’t have to make that claim in order to make the basic point that biphobia is a big problem, one that creates a great deal of strain, isolation, and self-doubt.

          • JenniferP said:

            Piny, noted.
            I’m going to remove the link.
            But also, you are soapboxing and it sounds like an article on your platform discussing the problems with the studies at the link is probably where you should take this next.

          • I (as a lesbian) don’t find the term ‘monosexuals’ is homophobic. It’s delineating the differences between people who are attracted to one gender, and people who are attracted to more than one gender. It’s relevant in the discussion of bi erasure, as well as the exclusion of bisexual/pansexual people from queer spaces. It’s a useful term. In some ways, my rules of attraction *are* more like a straight woman’s than they are like a bi woman’s. I know who I’m likely to be attracted to, I know how to navigate that in a social context, and no one is surprised by whomever I bring to the company party.

            Yes, the article linked was glib; it was aimed at a general audience, in an attempt to draw attention to a problem. The tone was breezy and light. It’s not aimed at Queer Theory majors and working activists, who breathe this stuff. That’s okay; we need more than one approach, just like we need more than one kind of feminism.

            And yes, when you are arguing about studies and their conclusions, it’s helpful to say which studies you are referencing. The MAPS report, the study by the London group, something else entirely, what?

        • First response got eaten by the internet. Trying again: in no other context as far as I’m aware is creating A and Not A categories considered bad on grounds of Not-A being heterogenous. “Monosexual” doesn’t imply “lesbian is basically the same as straight woman”.

          Also…I think you’re sort of arguing against something that nobody was arguing for. If Sweet Machine said “Bisexuals objectively experience more discrimination in all areas of life then lesbians, here are studies that show this” then yeah that’d be a problem. But. What she said sounded to me something like “there’s this idea that bisexual women (esp ones partnered to men) have it easier in all regards then lesbian women and are therefor not “really” queer, but it’s worth questioning that idea, here are some studies”, to someone who is feeling nervous about publicly identifying as queer because she’s with a guy. Now, if you want to argue that being in an opposite sex relationship makes someone inherently not queer, go ahead and say it and we’ll all pile on you I’m sure. But if what you’re arguing is that lesbians face more discrimination than straight women, I think literally no one (no one here –it’s a well moderated site) is disagreeing with that.

          I don’t want to argue whether lesbians or bisexual women have it objectively worse. I mean, my guess is there isn’t really a way to objectively rank that? but even if it could be determined that lesbians have it overall worse than bisexual women it would still be ok for bisexual women to talk about the problems that we specifically face. And I do think that there are some specific challenges that bisexuals experience that neither lesbians nor gay men experience. I think that is justification enough to have the word “monosexual” and to bring up studies that suggest that bisexuals may have it worse in specific ways even if there could be some methodology issues or other concerns about the conclusions. Like if the studies are clearly 100% bogus that’s one thing, but if they make assumptions that might be incorrect…well, doesn’t everything? I think there’s maybe a space for that, but the space isn’t here, because the point wasn’t “let’s figure out EXACTLY who has it worse and by how much,” the point is “you can be in an opposite-sex relationship and also be queer.”

          I think there’s an idea that gay men and lesbians are the “real” queers and everyone else are sort of imposters who don’t have it that badly, and that many bisexuals internalize that idea really, really hard, and that that idea is worth challenging. Both the imposter part AND the “don’t have it that badly” part.

        • Also. FFS. Why is it that WHENEVER bisexuals try to talk about the problems we face we’re always doing something wrong? “The word bisexual is transphobic because it implies there are only two genders.” (And all the other words we have to describe sexual orientation fully embrace gender diversity?) “When bisexuals say they like the person and not the plumbing, that implies the rest of us only like our partners for their genitals!” (No…we’re just trying to explain that for some of us gender isn’t really a factor in who we chose as partners, which is hard for most people (including bisexuals! really!) to get their heads around because for most people, straight and gay, gender is a complete dealbreaker.) (That’s from Dan Savage btw, more than once.) “The word monosexual is homophobic!” (Really?) It’s like we can’t even talk about our existence without someone accusing us of oppressing or insulting them. Sorry let me just go and scrutinize every single thing I might say about my sexual orientation before saying it so that it doesn’t offend anyone. Oh wait, I can’t! I guess I’ll just shut up and let everyone think I’m straight then. That’s so much better.

          • in case my other comment doesn’t get through, making A and Not A categories doesn’t imply Not A is a homogenous grouping. So “monosexual” does not equate lesbian with straight and is NOT homophobic. If anyone can come up with another Not A category that’s considered problematic on this reasoning please let me know because I can’t think of any.

  32. Alison said:

    Thirty years sober here and I have to chime in with a few things. In AA we’re told basically not to make any changes in the first year and boy does that sound like a major change. I would advise you to take it slowly but I have no idea what that looks like. Also the first couple years of sobriety for me were rough. My emotions were all over that place. My experience with myself (not saying this is you but it’s worth looking at) is that while drinking I tended to get myself to a good place and blow it up and start again. It was a good reason to go on a good long binge. Then I would decide I needed to fix my life and I would do it all over again. Please put your sobriety first.

  33. Hey, LW. I am also a Bi Queerdo and I opened up my heteronormative marriage to be as Bi as possible and it worked. It was scary and hard but it worked. I opened up for a lot of reasons, not just so I could be Bi as f*ck, Open/Polyam is not for everyone, and I agree with SM’s stellar advice and that there is a lot more going on in this marriage which points to it’s most likely important for both of you that it end. I am not here to tell you where or how to leap. I’m just here to tell you just leap. Just leap toward being as much of yourself as fully and honestly as you can. Leap toward loving yourself with as much ferocity and commitment and intensity as you want to be loved by others and give your big beautiful Queer heart the room it needs to stretch and grow and love and change. Leap. Your community is out here waiting and there’s happiness in your future that you convinced yourself you were never going to get to have. Leap, my darling human. Believe me, it is worth it.

  34. Ros said:

    From the perspective of a bi woman in a relationship with a man: there are ways to be affirmed in that identity. For example: when it comes up, my husband is usually the one who will be like “well, my wife is bi, soooooo… not straight.” We’re a monogamous couple, with Extremely Different Tastes in Women, but he’ll point out a woman he thinks I’ll find attractive (not in a creepy way!). He has never pushed for threesomes in a way that made me uncomfortable. Like, he accepts that it’s a fact of my life, and actively and vocally supports it without fetishizing. It’s delightful, and supportive as hell, and affirms that being with a guy (or, well, with This Guy) is right FOR ME. IF (and, I want to be clear: big if. BIG IF. Based on the answer to your original post, and all the comments above, SUPER BIG IF, ok. but in case.) you feel like being affirmed in your sexuality would help matters, maybe think on if any of what I’m saying would make a difference? And if not, well, data point for how you feel/what you want/what will make you happy!

    That said… him being a good person doesn’t mean that he’s a good person FOR YOU, or that the relationship you’re in is a good relationship. If you feel like you’ve been slowly curling up in a ball and snipping off bits and pieces in order to fit, and then wondering why you’re not happy, well… it’s because you’re not flourishing. What would it take for you to flourish? For you to give yourself the space to grow? It’s not necessarily another relationship (with a woman or otherwise, though that is DEFINITELY a factor), but… what if you take more space? Explore your hobbies and your life outside of who you are in this relationship? Grow separate interests? Does your spouse/friend ADD to that growth, or take away from it? And, if they DO add to it… do you want them next to you as you experience new things?

    • Working Hypothesis said:

      I really like your advice in the second paragraph. LW, it sounds as if, *aside* from wanting out of your marriage, there are a lot of other things you want — or might want, given time and space to let yourself unfold and explore — and it would be well worth doing a lot of thinking and trying and exploring of other things you want or might want, separate from the whole question of “With whom (either individually or as a category) do I want to be romantically involved!” I hope you give yourself opportunities to figure out loads of the other things you want, because that is so important to your growth into a you whom you will enjoy being.

  35. Mkp said:

    Oh man I was very similar to you a year and a half ago. Bi, married, miserable and changing the shape of myself and deciding that because I had done it deliberately and on purpose that it was fine! “Wanting to leave” is absolutely enough. It might be a pain and it will likely be expensive but a year from now you could be in an entirely different life and breathing the free air of someone who knows what she needs and respects herself for having gone and gotten it. Having a place to move to (New Orleans/near your fam!) will likely make this step easier because it will create defined boundaries. Not having to see my ex around made it much easier to get a fresh start. For me, it helped that I could go crash with my parents and all the logistics of getting divorced could wait as long as I needed them to.

  36. I feel like sometimes there’s a lot of pressure for us queer folks to know our identity and not ever question it.

    And I think, for some of us, that’s absolutely the reality! Plenty of people have felt very strongly what their identity is from childhood and it doesn’t really waver. And I think because of that, and because “It’s just a phase” has been used to diminish and question queer identities, there’s an assumption that all LGBTQA+ folks know their identities young and it never changes in any way.

    I think that sometimes does harm to the many people whose identities unfold over time, or who aren’t sure where they fall in the spectrum. I’m a lesbian so I’m sure bi folks can chime in–but I would imagine that it must feel extra confusing as a person who has identified as bisexual, because there’s already lots of extra pressure and erasure going on.

  37. runforthehills said:

    I’m cis and straight as the day is long, so I can’t comment on the sexual orientation issues. But I can comment on leaving a marriage that is superficially ideal but internally empty. I was married for 13 years to a lovely man who is a genuinely great human being. I never really knew what romantic love was, and got engaged very young. Part of me did not want to get married to him because I felt like there should have been some sort of spark, but I couldn’t come up with a logical reason why I shouldn’t (NB post therapy: this is NOT a good reason to proceed with a wedding). Sparks are adolescent nonsense, right? So we got married, and year after year, we were superficially perfect while I wondered why I felt empty inside. I realized, just like you, that when I thought about moving somewhere else I really didn’t want him with me. I was sent abroad for a year without him and…I didn’t really want him to visit me and intrude on the amazing, joyous (and entirely chaste) life I had built overseas. It was a wake up call that sent me to intensive therapy. When I came back, I separated and filed for divorce. From a lovely man, who is a genuinely great human being, who treated me well the entire time.

    Reader, it sucked. His heart was broken. He certainly didn’t deserve it. I should have listened to my own doubts when I was engaged. That was my error and I own it. But I couldn’t spend the rest of my life in an empty marriage wondering if the rest of my life will be like this. The fallout was personally awful and I took full responsibility for the whole thing. But once I got through the hard, nauseating, “I am a terrible, awful person to destroy the life of someone I care about” phase, I felt…free. I rediscovered joy. It was 100% the right decision to make at the time, given that no one has a time machine that would let me go back and erase my original error.

    OP, listen to what you truly want, buckle in for a rough ride, and go find your wings.

    (PS: In my late 30s after the dust had settled I finally discovered what romantic love feels like. True quote: “Now I get why poets like writing about this stuff.”)

  38. Indie said:

    You’re not ‘ruining his life’ by being honest. This is information about his life that he could do with hearing. It’s not a ‘shall I keep him?’ unilateral decision; it’s something that you can definitely discuss with your best friend. If you were the one wondering where the sex went, if you could be described by your life partner as, as though persuading himself, ‘a good one’ , if life plans with you were making him cringe; wouldn’t you be willing to tactfully be clued in and join the decision? Look at it this way; he cant raise this topic for you but you can for him.

  39. ConfusedNewReader said:

    New readers may be confused by the intro (what is “SweetMachine?” I thought it was the Captain being cute or using some inside lingo) and the lack of a signature. I did not realize it was not the Captain writing until the life details ended up not jiving with what I know of the Captain’s background.

    All this is to say that it may be helpful to preface the response with an explanation that this is not coming from the Captain directly.

  40. myzania said:

    Loving this comment thread. I am also bi, a cis woman, dating a man. Still working through things a bit. Jedi hugs to the LW. Second the use of the sheezlebub principle.
    I have the Come As You Are book at home. Plan to start reading it tonight.

    • Purps said:

      I now feel like I’ve started an Emily Nagoski avalanche so I want to disclaimer that it’s not a particularly queer-centric book and some of the gay bits are little anvilicious, but if you have the experience of having a sexuality that only shows up in the corner of your eye, kind of, and tends to disappear if you look right at it, it can be very clarifying

  41. goddessoftransitory said:

    Dear Sugar’s column is the truth and nothing but. This bit particularly:

    Divorcing him is the most excruciating decision I’ve ever made. But it was the wisest one, too. And I wasn’t the only one whose life is better for it. He deserved the love of a woman who didn’t have the word go whispering like a deranged ghost in her ear.

    When you stay and you know it’s a lie, even when you don’t want it to be, when you would sell your soul to be telling the truth but you aren’t, not the real truth? It’s cruel to the person you’re trying to be kind to.

    Breakups are never fun. Truly necessary things often aren’t. But fun and calm and contentment can’t always be on the cards: sometimes there’s a cyclone coming and there’s nothing to do but ride it to a new land.

  42. Convallaria majalis said:

    Dear LW, first of all I wanted to congratulate you on your sobriety. What a wonderful achievement! Right now you seem to be concentrating on doing things which are good for you and that is a fantastic thing. Please, keep doing this!

    Just like The Captain earlier on in the comments I, too, would recommend finding yourself a therapist if you have not done that already. With the sobriety you are now finding new sides in yourself and new thoughts and ideas and a trained professional might be just what you need in this situation to help you figure things out – and also to help you to ease you blaming yourself on the decisions which did not turn out so well. You have done the best you could in the past.

    From your letter I understood that you like some aspects of your life: the new dream house, the companionship you have with your husband… I wonder if I understood correctly: you feel very happy of some things but other things make you miserable, mainly the queerness you do not get to explore? Perhaps there are other things there, too; a therapist might be of great help for you to untangle your thoughts.

    I am myself somewhat asexual and genderfluid and after stumbling from a long relationship to another I finally found a man who seems to love the person who I am. I have also been looking back at my life and blaming myself for making all those wrong decisions but many good things came out of those choises, too. I am sure you, too, have learned a lot of yourself during the years.

    I have also struggled with the question whether or not I get to rightfully identify as queer because I do – but I also feel like I am passing as a cis heterosexual woman. I have no idea whether I am heterosexual or not; there have been so few people I have been sexually interested in during my life. When I was a teenager I had a big crush on a beautiful woman but nothing came out of it though I still remember her eyes and have loved grey eyes ever since. The idea that I get to define my own identity is so relieving. I hope so much that in the future you will get to be just as gay as you want, whatever the shape your life will take.

    In my circle of friends there have been dozens of people in the same boat as you: bi women who have married men and later on found out that they would really love to have a relationship with a woman/women. Several of them are now living in a happy polyamorous relationship, some have opened up their relationship and some have divorced and later on married another woman. People and their situation in life are so different that only you (hopefully with the help of an empathetic professional) will be able to figure out what is the right option for you but there are alternatives. Of course I have the privilege of living in a big liberal Scandinavian city and so do most of my friends so the things most of my queer friends receive from their friends are hugs, love and rainbows instead of judgement.

    I do wish I get to visit New Orleans one day; from all the stories and photos I gather it is a wonderful city with a remarkable history and super interesting plant and animal life.

    You will figure this out, dear LW though it might take some time. Best of luck and lots of love!

  43. Not Goldilocks said:

    I don’t have the recovery and orientation complications, but thoughts about other possible lives and other possible loves mingled with desire to cause no harm/embarrassment and hesitancy to make high stakes gambles is familiar. I suspect it is to many married people. I’ve never been able to wrap my head around “wanting to leave is enough.” It definitely was not in the world I came from, and does not appear to be in the world I am in now as a financially dependent, getting-old, long-married mother.

    Even the idea that breaking up when you’re not feeling it is kind to one’s partner is hard to swallow: while faking it is not healthy or sustainable, it is also possible that even with the truth, your partner prefers to have you around anyway for the security, accumulated life together, social reasons, finances, refusal/inability to grasp your perspective and pain. And if you find that’s the case, and your life isn’t horrible, and you feel responsible and obligated, not to mention uncertain or pessimistic about alternatives…well, you can end up continuing to think “this is fine, I can live with this” for the rest of your life.

    I don’t know what you or I should do, LW, but there’s a perspective from someone who has stayed thus far.

    • TZ said:

      “Wanting to leave is enough” is a perspective that seeks to envision a life beyond “this is fine, I can live with this” . That is a pretty heart-breaking tone for a life in the opinion of many of us that think wanting to leave is enough. Wanting to live your truth is enough. Wanting to embrace a better life is enough.

      I find it interesting that we have a horde of comments talking about how in hindsight, leaving was hard but the incredibly right choice for them. We have a few advising options for staying and saying they have been ‘happy enough’ staying. But I’m yet to see a single person here say “I left to live my authentic truth and I regret it.”

      I have lived and worked in the queer community for a long time, and I very, very, very rarely hear that story. And I think that’s worth paying attention to.

      • Not Goldilocks said:

        Not arguing with any of that, to be sure. My upbringing being so opposed to those notions, it is with amazement that I hear of people who find authenticity, fulfillment, and love after giving up “this is fine” and do so without guilt or regret. I’ve often wished I could envision such for myself, but reality has always looked like my choices are between “fine” and “way worse,” not “fine” and “wonderful.” I think that’s been true for plenty of spouses through history. To believe that happy authenticity, a better life, and new love are likely outcomes of divorce is enviable confidence that I lack.

        My experience with people who went with “wanting to leave,” is mostly that they caused ripples of unintended destruction, long-lasting heartbreak, financial devastation, regret, and bitterness for themselves and others. Some seem pleased with their choice, but the rest of the family suffers in a way that seems disproportionate to the difference between “fine” and “great” for the one who left.

        The article mentioned elsewhere in the comments about the woman who was a teen in the 80s, felt that finding a not horrible husband was as good as it got for anyone, and came out after decades of marriage sounded like my reasoning as an 80s teen, too.

        I’m guessing orientation adds a unique dimension to the urgency for authenticity and can increase acceptance of the inevitability of divorce from others; the people I have seen end up thinking, “It was hard, but worthwhile” and kept the good wishes of others were the ones who were coming out.

    • Emmers said:

      Not Goldilocks, I think that “and so, I will stay” is a perfectly fine response to the Sheelzebub Principle. It’s not a rhetorical question with a foregone conclusion.

      Be well.

  44. catherine said:

    I noticed that line about manic and thought nono! I can say that you don’t sound manic. Manic involves way way less agonising about others and consequences (in full blown mania, zero shits of the present, real, empathetic kind are given), and way way more flights of impulse and urgency happen – You sound fine on that count. You have enough to sort through without second guessing that! Sounds like a dose of emotions not being blunted by booze rather than mania. All over the place, excited, pressured, scared, but that’s normal in such a big time of change. Bipolar does have mood swings and a lot of rumination but yeah, so does a big life change. Of course I’m not a clinician and this is one letter from you – still, maybe set that am I bipolar idea aside and focus on sorting this through – caveat — if you feel depressed and its worrying you, seek help. If you split to Vegas tomorrow and marry a showgirl you just meet – yeah, probably manic! Anyhow, good luck 🙂

  45. Funnyletter Who Hates Jokes said:

    I have just accidentally unpacked a lot of my feelings about Magneto on accident via internet meme. He’s always been my favorite.

  46. Just a Random Lurker said:

    Hey, so it kinds sounds to me like you’re questioning your sexuality and what being bi means to you/if you’re really attracted to men. And you should just know that however it turns out, it’s okay. It made me think of this article from a lesbian who divorced her husband and came out: https://www.autostraddle.com/how-i-left-your-father-a-lesbians-guide-to-divorce-135730/.

    The article writer seems to in many ways in in a very different place than you, but hopefully it’ll be an interesting perspective to read and if you go down to the bottom I think some of the advice is applicable whether you turn out to be lesbian/still bi/queer/etc and other advice probably doesn’t apply to your situation.

  47. Len F said:

    “we never have sex and when we do it’s pretty lackluster”

    To be perfectly honest, sexual incompatibility sounds like a valid enough reason to end a relationship all by itself, regardless of whether the members of the relationship are straight or queer.

    At least, that’s what my inner Dan Savage is telling me.

  48. Myrtle said:

    LW, Congratulations on your eight months! Zowee! A lot of things can change in that first year. That’s the reason some 12-step programs advise the newly sober to look around and get used to what being you feels like. And for some of us, alcohol is a helluva drug and a wall-to-wall carpet over our truths. My experience is this takes time to sort out. Let this happen. Get yourself in excellent physical shape- the right amount of sleep, the right amount of water, keep it simple. Along with this, find some guides that will help you be you. I’ve been far more successful finding a good therapist than finding a sponsor. Somebody not socially close to you needs to hear your story. And you will surely benefit from hearing yourself speak your truth. I’m a journaler who’s found it helpful to write NO MORE OF THIS LIFE in ballpoint pen with arrows drawn around it, and then look at how it dug deep into pages around it.

    My ex was a male whose friends would come up to me (cis w) and say, “We’re so surprised he married you- we thought he was gay!” He was pretty closeted, but I realized he wasn’t living his best life with me. When we were intimate I could feel him pretending I was someone else and it was awful. What I came to realize was that he was someone else’s person and I wanted him to go as far towards that as he could.

    The home you two created together sounds lovely. So was ours. But someone else lives in mine now. It turns our we restored and landscaped and painted it for another family to enjoy. The world is full of beautiful things. Home and Family are jewels in life. My wish for you is that you have yours.

  49. thelonelyolive said:

    *What if I ruined a good person’s life by not being honest with myself? Do i just have to live with my mistake forever?*

    FWIW, this is something my partner struggles with a lot, and one of the most important concepts most people aren’t taught is “Just because I would do it differently/could do better now, doesn’t mean I did the wrong thing then.” Like, that is growing up. That is life experience. You did the best you could with what you had at the time. Now you have more, and you can do even better. Changing something now isn’t an admission of previous failure. It’s okay to *wish* you had known then what you know now, but *you couldn’t have.* You don’t have to pay forever for the fact that once you knew less about yourself and the world than you do now.

  50. By the way, LW, in case it helps you figure things out – your romantic and sexual orientations don’t have to line up. You can be bisexual and homoromantic. You could be biromantic and homosexual. There’s no rule there that says you have to be both bisexual and biromantic or heterosexual and heteroromantic or whatever.

    Might not be the case for you, but if you’re struggling with “why do I feel romance-type feelings for these poeple, but not pants-type feelings”, it doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that you are in no way obligated to “match”.

  51. Irina said:

    I found out, when all the different labels suddenly seemed to exist, that I’m biromantic and demisexual. Had thought I was just bi (or, well, “probably lesbian except for this one awesome guy”) until then.

  52. EmilyTremendous said:

    Wonderful advice.
    Can I please write a song based on your last sentence? It really rings true with stuff I’ve been discussing in therapy lately.

    • JenniferP said:

      As long as you let me know about the song when you’ve recorded it?

  53. Swistle said:

    The whole letter sounded to me like “Tell me it’s okay to leave him” and “Here is all the evidence I’m hoping adds up to make a case to leave him.” I think you want to leave him. I’m sorry because I know that’s going to be so hard when he’s Done Nothing Wrong and so forth. But I am also all Wild And Precious Life about this topic, especially when it’s other people and seems so clear and simple from a distance.

    • Swistle said:

      Er, my last sentence seems unclear to me. I mean that when I see a letter like yours, I think of Mary Oliver’s line about what will you do with your one wild and precious life, and then it seems so pointless to me to stay in a situation where you are unhappy, when you only have this one life to do all the things you want to do and live the life you want to live. That is, I am in favor of you leaving, and risking, and trying, and seeing, even though I understand that’s super easy for me to say from this distance and super hard to do from your actual living-that-life proximity.

  54. trixtah said:

    LW, I could have had your life. I am a pretty butch queer woman who came out at the age of 17. I’ve never been in a relationship with a man – not even a real friendship – and not have I ever wanted to.

    However, in my teens, and up until about the age of twenty, I quite regularly shagged guys – in fact, the last time I shagged a guy was about 15 years ago (I’ve been out for 32 years). Sex with guys has always been fine for me, when there was nothing better around, even though it’s never been earth-shattering.

    I work in a profession that is about 80-90% male. I like electronic music that is pretty much the preserve of nerd-boys (I found myself at a music event recently-ish, where I was the only obvious female on the dance floor). I get on with guys in many ways (even though I’m really quite misandrist most of the time).

    There was a time when I assumed the default was to get married to a guy and go through life having terrible crushes on my female friends. I didn’t, because I lived in a fairly large city and met lots of cool queer people at the right time, including the one who bashed me over the head with the clue-hammer, declared that I was SUCH a dyke and ended up seducing me. I would probably have got there anyway, but I could very easily see myself drifting into a serious thing with the boyfriend I had at the time, and doing the “default” until I got a wake-up call later on – 5 or 10 years later, who knows? I cannot comprehend the serious conservativeness of many small American communities that I read about, so I can only imagine that the force of the “default” is that much more powerful.

    And you have invested a LOT to make this relationship work. Throwing away that work will be hard. Throwing away the achievement of making something work, especially when you felt fundamentally at odds with it, is hard. Throwing away the tacit or explicit approval of friends and family for making this “successful” relationship will be hard.

    But it’s like a piece of art or craft that has been put together beautifully, with care and skill, and yet it’s still not a great price of art. It could be a beautifully knitted jumper, but you’re allergic to wool, it’s too short in the arms, and the colour looks hideous on you. For a thing that you’ve made like that, it’s ok to throw it out or give it away. You can appreciate the fact that you learned a lot making it, and you have some great skills and knowledge now, but what you made isn’t right for you.

    I would say, get the hell out of Dodge, and get to a larger community where you can explore what you really need. New Orleans sounds great. As for the beautiful little place you’ve made with your husband, that is truly difficult, but I think it’s better to deal with it now rather than letting it drift on (I get why you wanted to achieve owning property, even though it raised the stakes on leaving the relationship). Continuing on would mean growing resentment and perhaps even a big blow-up if you find someone else you’re truly attracted to. And for him, since you evidently care about him, it’s better to give him the opportunity to perhaps find someone that truly finds him attractive.

    Good luck with figuring out the logistics. In an ideal world, he’d be able to get together the money to buy out your share. But don’t let the potential property hassle, and the fact you need to admit to him that you’ve allowed this to go on too long, hold you back from getting somewhere that would be best for you.

  55. Dear Sweet Machine and Captain Awkward,
    Thank you for this letter. I’m a long time reader, but this post struck me slightly differently and made me realize that I needed to leave my partner because I had lost so much of myself over the years. That Dear Sugar article was exactly what I needed to read right now, alone on a friend’s couch at 4 in the morning after having left him.

    • Wow. Love and best of luck to you.

  56. Zara Gordon said:

    I’ve been in this situation! I know how hard it is, it can get better though. It wont be easy but, trust me, it will be a relief. Be honest and let yourself out of this miserable situation. And in doing so, let him out of it aswell. Give him the chance to find someone who is perfect for him. Good luck ❤

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