My husband is a wonderful man, but our relationship is much more one of compatibility, comfort, making sense life-wise than some deeply passionate romance. Neither of us has ever had a relationship where we were all that passionately in love with someone — either romantically or physically. Our sex life was never very exciting, but it really took a nosedive when we started trying to have kids two years ago. (It hasn’t happened and probably won’t happen, so we’ve decided to adopt rather than pursue fertility options). I’ve never particularly loved intercourse (with him or previous partners), especially without a condom, and having to do that on a regular basis kind of makes my skin crawl.
Meanwhile, for the first time in my life I’ve been making a conscious effort to live more authentically, pursuing things I actually love, developing friendships that make me feel accepted for myself, and basically just owning who I am instead of constantly trying to follow the script I thought I should follow. For my whole life I’ve considered myself a huge LGBT ally, but now I find myself more and more a part of the LGBT community in my own right, and, honestly, I have never felt more at home or more myself.
What if I’m actually a lesbian, and, instead of simply being a person who doesn’t tend toward intense romantic emotion, what if that’s the reason I’ve never felt really in love with anyone–and what if I really could have that in my life? On the other hand, what if sex with a woman wouldn’t work for me either? If I were single, the obvious answer would be that I would need to date around a bit and see for myself. But I’m married, and I take that very seriously. Plus, even if I’m bi, I’ll almost definitely stay married.
So what do I do? I expect my husband will be supportive of whatever I need (he may not even be totally surprised), but that makes me want to have some clarity on what I’m asking for before I just drop the “I’m pretty sure I’m not straight, I’m probably bi, but I could just flat-out be a lesbian, and, either way, having sex with you just doesn’t feel right for some reason and we need to fix it before it drives an even bigger wedge into our marriage” bombshell. But I don’t know how to get that clarity without ever having even been with a woman, which makes this a huge catch-22. I suppose cheating is potentially an option, but ethically and practically, since I don’t think adding guilt and secrets into the equation will make it any easier for me to figure out), I don’t think that’s a good idea. — Maybe Bi, Possibly a Lesbian
Yes, you do need to get clarity — for yourself, your marriage, your whole future. And it’s not just clarity on what your “label” is. You say in one breath that even if you’re bi, you’ll almost definitely stay married. And then in the next breath, you say you need to know what you are “rather than keep trying, for your entire life, to play a role that doesn’t seem to fit.” Whether you’re bisexual, lesbian, or simply not sexually attracted to your husband, it’s not the label that matters in terms of playing a role that fits, it’s your lifestyle. The lifestyle you have now includes being married to someone with whom you have zero sexual compatibility. Sex with him makes your skin crawl. I’m not sure how you “fix that,” particularly if this is a result of your sexual identity — which I believe it is — and not simply limited to your feelings for this particular man.
The first step to figuring things out is telling you husband exactly what you’re feeling. You don’t have to have complete — or even very much — clarity to tell your husband how you’re feeling. It’s appropriate to say to him what you’re proposing: that you’re pretty sure you aren’t straight, that you might be bi or might be a lesbian, but that, whatever your identity, what you do know for sure is that sex with him doesn’t feel right. I’d leave it at that instead of focusing on “fixing it before it drives a wedge in your marriage.” If sex with your husband makes your skin crawl, then there’s already a wedge in your marriage. And if the reason sex with him makes your skin crawl is because you’re a lesbian — or even simply not sexually attracted to him — then I’m not sure the marriage can be “fixed,” or why you’d want to fix it in the first place.
I hear what you’re saying about your life script and how falling out of love with someone — and, presumably, having terrible sex — isn’t enough reason for you to end a marriage, but I think you’re selling yourself short. What’s so great about a life script that involves a sexless marriage and a lack of intimacy and passion?
Also, what about your husband’s life script and what he wants for himself? Doesn’t he deserve to decide whether or not to stay in a marriage in which his partner feels zero sexual attraction and compatibility with him? And, given that he’s never felt passionately in love with anyone and is also experiencing what sounds like terrible sex, isn’t it worth considering that he might be in the same boat as you? Maybe HE’s unsure about his sexual identity, too. Maybe you both provided for each other a safe hiding place — a way to follow a status quo life script and present to the world an image of yourself you imagined or hoped for but one that is, ultimately, inauthentic. Maybe he, too, is ready to live a more authentic life. Certainly, regardless of what his sexual identity is, living more authentically includes being with someone with whom he can share intimacy and passion. It doesn’t sound like that person is you.
I don’t know what you and your husband will decide to do with your marriage going forward. One possibility is that you both explore your sexualities within the comfort and security of an open marriage, maintaining that safe place you’ve always provided for each other during an exploration period that could potentially feel tumultuous. Or maybe you keep it closed and do your exploration in a therapist’s office together and individually. Or maybe you simply decide to go your own ways, hopefully amicably and with limited hurt feelings. What I do feel certain about is that you should put thoughts of parenthood on hold until you do have more clarity. No more unprotected sex with you husband, because even if you haven’t gotten pregnant yet and even if unprotected sex with him makes your skin crawl, that doesn’t mean 100% that you can’t get knocked up; it just means it hasn’t happened yet. That last thing you need is a pregnancy on top of all of this.
In summary: Talk to your husband, be honest — authentic! — about how you’re feeling despite not having all the clarity you’d like to have. Be honest about your needs at this moment, even if you aren’t sure whether and when certain needs might change. Ask him what his needs are, and discuss together what you are both able to give each other — what needs you can meet and what you might not be able to meet. And discuss what boundaries you both might need or want at this moment, even if those might need to be changed at some point. Keep the dialogue open and honest and make sure to keep checking in with each other as this process of becoming your true self develops.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.