I’m a bisexual woman and I’m the third wheel to a married bisexual male couple. We’ve been dating for about a year-and-a-half and so far things have been running pretty smoothly. We see each other two or three times a week for dates, group sex, and just regular hanging out. I have casual sex with other people and am available to date, but just haven’t done that with anyone else yet.
Okay, so here’s the issue: Sometimes I feel sort of left out of their dynamic. But like, in a weird way. I don’t want to be married, at least definitely not right now, but I might at some point. I’m not jealous of their relationship, but I sort of feel like an unnecessary extra to them which makes me feel insecure, or like maybe like I shouldn’t be “wasting my time” with a married couple and should be out there finding my “real” partner? It’s weird because I don’t really think that I have to be doing these things, but then part of me does. Is this just another “succumbing to societal pressures” moment or should I remove myself from this three-way and get on my own single freeway?
— Is Three Good Company?
Dear Good Company,
I’ve written a lot about the “Relationship Escalator” this year as alternative relationships are becoming increasingly common. In a nutshell, the Relationship Escalator is what the stereotypical suburbs are made of: boy and girl date, get engaged, get married, have a couple kiddos, and put up that signature white fence. Escalator ride complete.
You can certainly be logically on board with a non-monogamous, escalator-free life and also have a lived experience that’s a little more confusing than that. Relationships are hard work no matter what the style, and primarily dating two people leaves you with little time to seriously date others.
It seems like your current ambivalence is being impacted by uncertainty you’re feeling about your role in their future life. After about a year, the Relationship Escalator really starts rolling in traditional, monogamous relationships and couples might start considering moving in together or getting engaged, etc. So perhaps this clock is ticking in the background, nagging you to get some clarity about what’s to come next with your married men. Perhaps you’re feeling wary that your time is up considering that we have few role models for long-lasting and healthy relationships that involve more than two people…continue reading…
Editor’s Note: This column addresses rape, childhood sexual abuse, PTSD, and sexual orientation as a symptom of trauma.
I’m in my late teens and have identified as gay/queer for the last few years. I have dated/hooked up with a few non-binary folks and trans guys, but they’ve all had vaginas.
Recently I’ve been questioning my orientation. It’s more complicated than simply saying, “Oh hey, I like this (cis) guy, cool.” I was sexually abused as a child. Because of that I have PTSD and an anxiety disorder that makes the idea of being intimate with someone with a penis terrifying — even if I have romantic feelings for them.
I hate the idea that I’m gay because I was raped, but I don’t know if my identifying as gay instead of bisexual or pansexual is because of that. I also sometimes wonder if it’s just my own internalized homophobia (from growing up in a pretty conservative family) and secretly wishing that I was straight.
Do you think it’s worth trying to explore my sexuality further and trying to overcome this fear of intimacy with someone who has a penis? Do you think that’s even possible?
— Hoping to Heal
I’m so sorry that you were forced to endure those experiences and that you’ve been left to foot the bill for someone else’s inexcusable behavior. I strongly suggest you work with a good therapist who can help you navigate the symptoms of your PTSD and anxiety disorder and create a safe environment for you to continue to untangle these questions about your sexuality.
It’s natural to have your connection to penises be a negative one given that, that was a part of your abuser’s anatomy. The things that trigger traumatic reactions are often environmental and can be as simple as a sound, a smell, or a time of year. A significant body part used to inflict harm on you certainly can trigger a negative response in you, and understandably so.
On the other hand, the notion that your sexual identity is a symptom of your abuse is stickier to me…continue reading…
I recently began a polyamorous relationship with my girlfriend. We dated previously, but things didn’t work out due to extenuating circumstances, but we remained friends. We’ve recently gotten back together with a different foundation to the relationship. She had not previously had any interest in non-monogamy, but is now much more open to it. What advice can I pass on to her that may help her better establish her thoughts about the topic and follow through on meeting other people?
— Boyfriend with Benefits
You’re wise to give her the space to decipher her own thoughts about an open relationship at her own pace. You’d be even wiser to not hold the expectation of her going out and meeting other people as an end goal.
Why? Because putting the pressure on our partners to force relationships with other people is generally tied up in other baggage. For example, will it reduce your guilt around seeing other people if she’s doing it, too? Does a tit-for-tat polyamorous agreement really suit everyone involved, or does that create a structure more focused on a scorecard than on the humans in the relationships?
Perhaps your girlfriend’s hesitation to see others is based on her fear of how you’ll take it. To reinforce what you’re saying in theory — that it is truly okay to enjoy other partners and come back to the security your relationship — be sure to maintain your usual level of affection and attention to her if/when she does go out with others.
But first, give your girlfriend some resources to help her sift through her own suitcases. Morethantwo.com is a website packed with poly gold as is their accompanying book More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. I also recommend Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, which is well-suited to new-to-poly readers.
But don’t let yourself off the hook just yet, Boyfriend…continue reading…