“So basically my wife has been bisexual her entire life. We have had discussions in the past about being poly and have agreed we both are and she would love to do it. But she physically can’t get herself to because of her extremely religious and conservative family and she says she likely never will be able to.
This has gone on for 3 years. Recently she has brought it up in a more serious tone the last month saying she will be upset if she goes through life not living it how she wants to and being as happy as she can be. She still says she will never be able to do it because of the judgment and fear of other people knowing. She has cried about it multiple times recently.
I have no issues with it or what people think and just straight up don’t care.
Do you guys have any advice on what to do here? Anything I can say to her? People with similar experiences?”
Hot & Buttery Cop Porn, /r/polyamory.
Dear Hot & Buttery Cop Porn,
Coming out can be a very intense and delicate process. One of my partners – also bisexual and polyamorous – once equated the process of coming out felt more like a continuous process, that it was an ongoing development to seek radical acceptance from people who formerly knew her as a straight, monogamous woman.
Your wife could be contending with the same hesitation regarding coming out to her very religious and conservative family. It’ll be really difficult for her to explain her bisexuality to her family without also coming out as polyamorous, and vice versa. When each of those bi-closet and the poly-closet seem so heavy to open, it is sometimes easier to just live a life compartmentalized in smaller, bite-sized chunks that others might better understand, even if it isn’t the full picture. As her husband, you have been lucky to be there to accept and understand that both her bisexuality and polyamorous identities are essential to who she is. That is a privilege that she feels intensely guilty about in regards to her family.
Based on what you have shared, I get the sense that your wife is very close to her family. And even though they live a very different life than your wife is living, your wife would still like to remain close to her family. For her, that price of admission to be close to her family is that she sort of has to live her life in a lie. And it is a continuous upkeep and maintenance to manage her true identity as a bisexual and polyamorous woman separate from fake identity as a straight and monogamous woman she retains for her family. It is an incredibly burdensome weight for her to carry, but one she is opting to carry anyway.
So to go back and answer your question on what you can do for her. If you and your wife live in a conservative area or even possibly with your in-laws, then moving out of that area to look for a more open-minded community is your next most obvious step. Doing so will help her realize that she can choose to seek acceptance elsewhere, in a more queer- and poly-friendly environments.
You can continue to be the safe space she needs you to be – where she can true to her bisexual and polyamorous identities. That means repeated reassurances that she can freely explore her sexuality and relationship orientation in the confines of your own home without any worries of any repercussion. Three years is a long time just in your marriage to be openly struggling with core facets of her identity. So give her time to be who she needs to be. Sometimes, the words don’t necessitate an action plan. Sometimes, she just needs to vent about how frustrating and difficult it is for her to live in denial. So commiserate with her and empathize by seeing how difficult it really is for her and reiterate your commitment to being a safe space for her to be her true self with you.
If it feels too exhausting for you to be her sole queer-friendly space, then she might benefit from seeing a queer- or poly-friendly therapist who can help her be more accepting of her true identities.
This past weekend, I attended a poetry show by Andrea Gibson. And Andrea talked a lot about how queer communities are so used to rebuilding their family around people who can accept them for who they are. Most queerfolks are ostracized upon coming out. It is why the suicide rates are higher in LGBTQ folks, sometimes 1.5 to 3 times higher than that of het folks. What I am trying to say is that we all live in a society where external pressures constantly mold and shape the queerfolks – mono-normativity and hetero-normativity, by name – to ask us to live a lie on behalf of their ease. And it is a constant struggle to have to defend who we are, sometimes even against our own inner tapes informing us so. So please understand that sometimes, your wife just needs a firm branch on which to rest her tired bird wings.
So be the tree your wife needs you to be.
Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.
I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!