April 15, 2011
Q: I just came out to my husband of 17 years and we are both devastated. We’re seeking couple counseling next week. He wants me to be happy. I want to be happy. I don’t know how to label myself. I am attracted to women. Thinking about them is the only way I can satisfy myself. I danced with one over the weekend for the first time and have never felt so natural, so like me. I love my husband. Our sex life is once a week, but I haven’t achieved orgasm with him since the first few months of marriage. I have been attracted to other men in the past. So does this make me bi? If I’m bi, is there a chance I can have a healthy marriage? Will I always feel this deep need to be with a woman, and feel like a part of me is missing if I don’t?
A: First I must say that you are doing all the right things! Going to counseling with your husband is a very important step in trying to decide if your marriage is viable. This is a very brave step. Healthy marriages are unique in their attributes. What makes one couple happy may not make another couple happy. Since both you and your husband are concerned about your happiness, I am taking that to mean you are not happy. Healthy relationships are the product of happy individuals. Your individual happiness is key to any happiness you will have in a relationship. That is without a doubt your first priority. What makes you happy?
It would be highly advantageous for you to go to individual counseling as soon as possible. Or you might suggest that your therapist see you and your husband individually for two sessions and then together for a session. I recommend that couples commit to three months of therapy before they make a decision regarding the future of their relationship. A couple’s willingness to do this is a good predictor of how important the relationship is to them.
As far as your sexual satisfaction, it’s difficult to say exactly why you are not achieving orgasms. There are many reasons that a sexual experience is not fulfilling. Sexual orientation is not necessarily a guarantee that sexual satisfaction will be obtained. There are a number of explanations as to why someone is not enjoying their sexual experiences. If you have ruled out everything medical — illness, hormonal imbalances or medication side effects — then it is most likely either poor technique or a deeper psychological barrier. This is another issue that can be addressed in therapy. Is it because you are not sexually attracted to your husband? Are you feeling guilty over your attraction and desire for women? Not having an orgasm with your husband for 16 years is very sad. But sexual fantasies are not necessarily an indicator of sexual orientation. Often people fantasize about things that are forbidden. You said that you “came out” to your husband but then ask if you are bisexual. Does that mean you came out as bisexual? Bisexuality is a sexual orientation and if you are bisexual then you should be able to have a satisfying, enjoyable sexual relationship with either sex. But then you say you feel a deep need to be with a woman and feel like a part of you is missing. If you are longing to be with a woman and think that is the solution to your emptiness, the only way you can truly answer that question is to have the experience.
You are on the right path. Counseling will open doors for communication and to deciding how you want to structure your marriage or if you need time alone to explore your feelings for women. Coming out is a process. It takes time. It is often much harder when you have been in a long term relationship with someone you care about and know that if you embrace your true sexual orientation that relationship will change. Just know change is not loss. Continue to explore, for that is where your answers will be found. And remember, love yourself first. Good luck.