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.
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.