Last week I spoke with a woman who has a question that has been tormenting her:
“Am I a lesbian?”
She’s been happily married to a man for a couple of decades … but she’s also been fantasizing about women that whole time.
She assumed that she was bisexual, but hadn’t had any same-sex experiences to test the theory. For years she was content to sleep with her husband and leave those fantasies in the realm of fantasy.
Then things came crashing down for her recently when the thought of a particular woman set her on fire in a way that a male body never had, even her husband’s.
So she called me: “What if I’m a lesbian? What if I’m not supposed to be married to my husband? Do I have to blow up my whole life in order to figure this out?”
The conversation took me back to my own years of questioning.
For two decades I slept with men and dreamed about women. The idea of kissing a woman’s lips and touching her breasts formed the backbone of most of my fantasies.
I had crushes on women, but never made an effort to follow through on them (to be fair, I didn’t follow through when I was crushing on a man either – any dating I did was strictly because they pursued me.)
Any time a relationship with a man started to get a little serious, I freaked out.
“I can’t commit myself to a man without ever knowing what it’s like to be with a woman!” I shouted inside my head.
For years I called myself bisexual based entirely on my fantasies – but secretly wondered if I was a lesbian.
For much of this time, I lived in rural New Hampshire – a place where the dating pool is neither deep nor wide, especially if you’re looking for same-sex possibilities. But more than that – I was too scared to actually experiment because I was afraid that I’d discover I didn’t like being with women any more than I liked being with men.
Because, though I was loathe to admit it, men’s bodies didn’t turn me on. Certainly nothing like the idea of a woman’s body did. But what if the reality of a woman’s body turned out to be no better? Then I would finally and truly know that I was broken.
Over the last few years, I finally pushed through the fear and had sexual encounters and short relationships with a variety of women.
First, the good news: I love women’s curves – their hips, their breasts, their thighs, their tummies. I am not broken.
The less good news: While my short-term attachments to women were strong, the idea of forming a long-term attachment to any of those women didn’t excite me. It is much easier for me to imagine forming a lifetime attachment to a male than to a female.
All of this was deeply confusing because my desire to find attachment and attraction didn’t line up. Would I ever find a woman that I could attach to and maintain the attachment? Or would I ever find a man that I was wildly attracted to so the attachment felt fulfilling?
Things began to fall into place when I learned that our sexual attractions (whose body we want to touch) and our romantic attachments (who we want to spend our lives with) don’t always fall directly in line with each other. I suppose you could look at this as a cruel quirk of fate, but I actually find it delightfully comforting.
Using myself as an example:
I notice beauty and attractiveness in both men and women (bi-sexual). I am equally happy to engage sexually with someone of any gender who piques my interest (bi-sexual).
But beyond a relatively short time, my investment in the female-female relationship dynamic wanes. It’s not that my appreciation for her as a person disappears. It’s not that my appreciation for her body disappears. But I’m not motivated do the work needed to build the foundation of a lasting bond.
On the other hand, after a similarly short time with the right man, my investment in the male-female relationship dynamic intensifies (hetero-romantic). My appreciation for him as a person increases. My appreciation of his body jumps dramatically. I’m motivated to do the work to build the foundation and solve the problems (hetero-romantic).
So while my attraction is initially strong and eventually declines with women, my attraction with men starts a little lower but builds and remains strong over time.
I have been dating Tom for six months and my appreciation of his presence in my life is constant. Even when we have difficult moments, I have no desire to cut and run. I enjoy his body because it is attached to HIM, rather than enjoying his body because it is a generic male body.
If someone were to ask, I would identify myself as a bi-sexual, predominantly hetero-romantic woman.
Every person will experience this differently. Perhaps you are only attracted to one gender and none of this makes sense to you. That’s okay – I’m sure there are other things that are similarly confusing and disconcerting about sexuality for you and we’ll get to those things in time as well!
But if you find yourself confused about your attraction to multiple genders, you are not alone. I hope this helps to clear up one layer of mystery for you.
If you’d like to figure out your attractions without blowing up YOUR life, send me an email at Leah@GoodGirlsTalkAboutSex.com.