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I’m in my early 20s and met my boyfriend of three months on an online dating service. We fell in love within the first two weeks of our relationship and have recently started to discuss our respective pasts. Before we met in person, my boyfriend told me he believed he was bisexual but had never had any experiences with other men. At the time I told him that didn’t bother me at all, and it honestly didn’t. Then, after our first month of dating, he revealed to me that he had been to a gay bathhouse, but only once and just to see what it was like because he was curious. He mentioned that he had an encounter with a man flirting with him (while they were both naked in the pool), but when I asked if anything else happened he said no.
At the time, I didn’t react to this admission the way that I should have, which SHOULD have been in a caring, supportive way considering he was telling me something I could tell he hadn’t shared with anyone else. Instead, I was a little bit distant because I felt awkward about what he had said, and I know I made him feel bad about it. It really hurt me to hurt him, and I apologized profusely afterwards, telling him that I was just being stupid and he did forgive me.
Fast forward to about a week ago and my boyfriend told me, hesitantly, that there was more to the story. He had never revealed it before, but he went to the bathhouse on numerous occasions (at least five times) and had two separate sexual encounters with men. He described briefly what happened, and I was extremely overwhelmed. Despite wanting to be accepting, open, and totally fine with what he was telling me, there was just a part of me that didn’t know how to process what he said. Once again I was distant, and really hurt him with my behavior. I even told him that thinking about him with another man disgusted me.
Later that night we nearly broke up because of me; I told him that he deserved someone who could accept him completely. After a long conversation, I realized that I want to be that person more than anything because I really do love him. But, do you think it will be possible for me to fully accept what happened in that past, or does he really deserve someone who can accept him immediately? Is there some way for me to fully change the prejudices I might have, but don’t want? — In Love with a Bi-Man
What concerns me about your letter, ILWABM, isn’t so much that you’re in love with someone you cannot currently accept — we’ll get to that part in a minute — it’s that you seem so sure you’re to blame for whatever relationship issues you’ve had so far — that it’s your fault you broke up and that you didn’t have the kind of reaction to your boyfriend’s admission that you “should” have had. Yes, in a perfect world, you would have reacted compassionately and without judgment, but let’s not forget that your boyfriend lied you to. You were led to believe one thing — that while your boyfriend had bisexual thoughts, he had never acted on them — and then a bomb was dropped: contrary to his earlier story, you boyfriend had indeed had an “encounter” with a man at a gay bathhouse. And then a few weeks later: oh, oops, it seems he neglected to tell you that that single encounter was actually at least five trips to the gay bathhouse and at least two gay encounters with other patrons there. And you’re blaming yourself for reacting less than perfectly? Tell me, at one point was your boyfriend behaving with your best interest in mind? The part where in lied to you twice or the part where he led you to believe one thing for nearly three months before admitting the truth?
I don’t mean to imply your boyfriend is a terrible person here. Obviously, his sexuality is something he’s been grappling with and probably hasn’t fully come to accept himself. I do feel compassion for him and for people in his shoes, but I want to point out that you are not a bad person for believing his lies or for reacting to the truth in a less than compassionate way. Before you even met in person, your boyfriend told you pointblank that he “believed” he was bisexual but that he’d never had any sexual experiences with a man. His bisexuality must have been an important enough facet of his life to at least hint at the truth. But why not tell you the whole truth? Because he didn’t want to scare you off. He knew — rightly so — that his sexuality was something not everyone would be able to accept and that it may cost him a date with you, someone whom he’d begun clicking with online, so he decided to only hint at the truth, get a sense of how open-minded you were by your reaction and then perhaps tell you the full truth later on, after you were invested and had built up some trust between the two of you.
In that sense, he was testing you — seeing how open and trustworthy you were. It’s ironic, isn’t it? That he used a lie to test your trustworthiness? It’s also ironic that it’s your reaction to a lie that has you questioning how good of a girlfriend you are while not even seeming to question his intentions or how good of a boyfriend he’s been to you. Someone who was looking out for your best interests may have thought to tell you information about himself that could greatly change your impression of him and your investment in a future together, say, before you fell in love.
But now you have fallen in love and you know the truth about him and you’re left wondering if you can accept his past. I can’t answer that though, of course. Only you can. What I can say is that it is far, far more important that you look ahead rather than behind. Can you trust this man? Can you trust him with your heart? Can you believe he will be truthful with you and faithful to you and put you first? Do you believe he has fully accepted his bisexuality (which surely involved telling you the truth about his past)? And if not, what do you think he may need to do to get there? Because as important as it is for you to accept him, it’s much more important that he accepts himself. If he doesn’t, you have big problems on your hands. If he closets a part of himself because he’s ashamed, how will that closeted self affect your relationship? (Because it will).
Before you can decide whether you’re in this — really in this — you need to have some more long conversations with your boyfriend and get some clarity. You need to know for yourself what — if any — role his bisexuality may play in your relationship. It may be that he simply doesn’t know yet, in which case, you have to decide for yourself how willing you are to travel into the unknown with him (keeping in mind that all relationships involve some element of unknown). And if he’s able to tell you clearly that his bisexuality will not affect your relationship any more than his raging heterosexuality would, you have to decide if you believe him. If you don’t, then there probably isn’t any point to keep seeing each other, because what do you have if you don’t have trust and acceptance?
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