Coming Out to Your Partner

Just after the start of the New Year I got an email from a reader in Arizona who wanted some advice. We emailed back and forth several times over the course of a few days. With his permission I decided to type up a blog-friendly version of my part our email conversation in case other guys (or girls, for that matter) are facing similar challenges in their relationships.

 

Omni,

I’m a 24-year-old male and have been in a relationship with my girlfriend for going on two years. I’ve thought I might be bi for a while but only recently accepted it. There’s a new guy in the office and I finally had to admit to myself that he turned me on. Do you think I should tell my girlfriend?
-B.

Hi B.,

Let me start off by saying I’m flattered that you would ask me for advice. You’re in a situation that isn’t always cut and dry, so before I answer your question I’d like to ask you a few questions.

How intense is your attraction for the colleague or any other guys you’ve found attractive? It’s also a question of the type and intensity of the attraction. Do you simply admire his beauty, or do you also want to explore him sexually?

If you are starting to feel that you want to explore sex with him and/or other men, then you have to ask yourself how adamant you are about exploring that aspect of your sexuality. It might sound good in theory but in reality be something that you know you don’t really want to experience. For example, in theory having sex on a long-range flight while everyone else is sleeping would be hot, but I don’t feel any true inclination to put it into practice—it only turns me on in theory.

Or you might really want to follow through and see what it is like to have sex with – or at the very least play around with – a man. It’s at this point that I would really start to consider the need to discuss the situation with my girlfriend.

B., you said that you and your girlfriend are in a monogamous relationship. In this regard the first question is: do you feel you need to stay monogamous or can you envision staying in the relationship and simultaneously exploring?

If you want to stay in the relationship and explore, then this becomes about more than just your sexuality; it is then also about being in a non-monogamous relationship. And these two things are two separate issues that should be dealt with separately. They can be discussed in tandem and each may affect the decision about the other (i.e. maybe you are allowed to sleep outside of your relationship with her but only with a man), but they shouldn’t be taken as a single issue because in theory you could also just discuss non-monogamy from a monosexual perspective.

If you want to break up in order to explore with this colleague or men in general, then you need to be very sure that that’s what you want, and then yes, you need to talk to your girlfriend openly and honestly.

It sounds, though, like you really love your girlfriend and that this is just about acknowledging your attraction for men. Here I would point out that you’re already attracted to other women and don’t sleep with them; it would be no different with men. Then my question to you is, do you tell your girlfriend about other women you find attractive or do you keep that information to yourself?

Ultimately this is about openness in a relationship. You read my blog so you know I’m an advocate of being open about sexuality in general and bisexuality in particular, and in an ideal world my automatic answer would be yes, you should tell her. But I know that in the real world there are other factors to consider.

The thing to think about before you say anything is, are you in a place to accept her reaction no matter what it is? Even if you’re sure she’ll be okay with it, you have to be prepared for the possibility that she can’t accept that part of you and will act accordingly. I’m not trying to scare you off from telling her; I’m just saying that for better or for worse, once you open up and make yourself vulnerable you have to accept that she’s gonna feel whatever way she feels and have to let her be open about her views on the matter.

You’ve got to weigh the risk of your girlfriend not being able to accept what you share about yourself against how much it would mean to you to share that part of yourself with her. Is it one of those things that you’re fine keeping to yourself (such as the other girls you find hot—even the really hot ones you mentioned) since you don’t really want to have sex outside of the relationship and it’s not central to your relationship anyway, or do you feel that it’s something that your partner absolutely needs to know about you? Do you know she’s going to have an issue with it or do you expect her to be more on the cool side?

Think about it for a while. If it turns out not to be a big deal to you, then I say there’s no real reason to mention it—particularly if you think she might not take the news well. On the other hand, if it is a big deal to you or even if you just want to share it for the hell of it or because you’re in a relationship and want to be able to open up to your girlfriend about who you are, then yes, you should definitely tell her. But like I said, only under the proviso that you’re in an emotional place where you can accept her view no matter what it is. Sometimes honesty exacts a heavy price, and you’ve got to be willing to pay.

Then again, omission can also exact such a price, as evidenced in many men in monosexual relationships who feel stuck in the closet with no way out. You’ve just got to figure out which price you’re more comfortable paying, or which price you need to pay to feel comfortable with yourself. Because whether you’re in a relationship or single, you’ve got to be comfortable with who you are for your own sake–and should share with people close to you any aspects of yourself that will give you that sense of comfort.

I know I haven’t really given you a definitive answer one way or the other, but in the end it’s a decision only you can make. Just think about what it is you need for yourself and from her to feel comfortable in your own skin and to be true to yourself, and the answer will find you without a doubt.

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