Originally published in the Pittsburgh City Paper.
I’m a 30-something woman who recently came out as bisexual after years of dating only men. But now I’m wondering how to deal with this new identity, as I’m currently married to a wonderful man. I’ve spoken with my husband about wanting to be with a woman, and he’s open to it, but I’m not sure how to proceed. Are there ways to explore this while still setting certain parameters to ensure no one gets hurt? How do I even get started?
In my mid-twenties, I was in graduate school and a monogamous marriage. Over a few cocktails one evening, a close friend of mine, who was also married to a man, casually dropped into the conversation that she would happily have sex with me. I laughed it off because I wasn’t yet ready to confront that desire, or what it meant in the context of my marriage. But I thought of it so often that by the time I was in my early 30s, I was able to admit that my interest in women was more than just a passing thought, and that it was something that I needed to explore. More to the point, I was finally able to admit that I am bisexual.
When I was 31, I met a woman in her late 30s online who was also married and also had never been with another woman, but had been incubating her desires to do so for as long as I had. We developed a deep and romantic friendship, where we also learned through play and experimentation how to give and receive pleasure outside of the context of our male partners. This relationship lasted a year, and only ended because she and her family moved for a job.
I tell this story, in part, to let you know that you are not alone. I also didn’t have sexual or romantic relationships with women until I was in my 30s, and I explored those relationships and ethical non-monogamy more broadly within the context of marriage. And perhaps because we often attract folks who are similar to us, many — though by no means all — of those relationships were with other married or partnered women. There are a lot of bisexual and queer women, in other words, who will not only understand what you want, but who will be interested in something similar.
You will not be able to find them, however, unless you take some risks by putting yourself out there. Online dating apps are the best place to meet folks interested in non-monogamous relationships. In my experience, OkCupid is particularly good because it allows you to be really explicit about your current relationship status and what you are looking for. But Tinder and Feeld (an app specific to open relationships) are also good places to look. And if you are looking for something on the kink end of things, FetLife may also be a good option.
It is a good impulse to want to protect both your husband and possible future partners from hurt, but ultimately you can’t control that. You can be honest and upfront in new relationships about what your limits are (and as a married person, you have some), and you can work to effectively communicate with your husband so that he doesn’t feel left out or left behind. But ultimately, relationships are sometimes painful. Being open to processing feelings and issuing reassurances to everyone involved is part of negotiating non-monogamous relationships, and sometimes it’s hard. But often it brings beautiful things into your life that are worth the effort.
Good luck, I hope this is the beginning of many beautiful relationships and sexual adventures!