While it’s completely normal to question your sexuality, this can be disorientating for someone who almost exclusively felt attracted toward a person of the opposite sex (identifying as heterosexual), or the same gender (for an individual who identifies as gay or lesbian). In other words, women that have been in happy lesbian relationships may be thrown off when they start feeling attracted to their best male bud. And guys in heterosexual relationships can become confused when they begin craving intimate experiences with other men. In short, sexuality is complicated and no one has to feel confined to identify as any one thing.
For people in committed relationships, finding out your partner is questioning their sexuality can be shocking news. Initially, some variation of, “I’m not good enough for them,” or “They’re going to break-up with me,” may go through your head. I’m here to tell you that you might feel confused, and those feelings are valid, however, you owe it to yourself and your relationship to treat your partner with dignity and respect.
Your partner discovering their attraction to another gender does not mean your relationship is over. You can work through this together if that’s something you both agree on. But, the last thing you want to do is shut down the possibility of continuing this relationship before having a conversation with them first.
The most important thing to remember is that sexuality is not black or white, there’s a whole spectrum between heterosexual, gay and lesbian individuals. Now, let’s take this a bit at a time to learn how to start a healthy conversation with your partner as they start to discover who they are.
Create a Space of Emotional Safety
In the beginning, how you should approach this situation is by slowing things down, have patience and curiosity. Since you really do care for your partner, you’ll want to support them and see what it’s like for them to experience this. Even if you’ve questioned your own sexuality in the past, everyone goes through this experience differently and it’s best to take care of your own emotions while letting them explore themselves at their own pace. Create a space of emotional safety and non-judgment to give your partner the ability to open up to you. Emotional safety is an opportunity to utilize active listening skills by really trying to understand what they are going through. Allow your partner to speak to you without interruption while acknowledging their feelings. This safe space will allow you both to be open to learning more about each other.
Avoid Putting a Label on It
During the process of your partner’s self-exploration, you might feel an urge to help define your partner’s sexuality, such as claiming that they may be bisexual or pansexual, but this could add unnecessary pressure for them to “figure it out.” Whether it’s you or one of their friends trying to define their sexuality, it’s important to understand that you shouldn’t have to give it a title because sexuality can be fluid and it doesn’t always fit into a particular category. Love is love either way.Sexuality can be fluid and it doesn’t always fit into a particular category. Love is love either way. Click To Tweet
Mirror What You Hear
Absorb the information your partner is telling you and reflect it back to them to be sure you heard them correctly. This shows them that you’re open and actively listening to what they have to say and you have a vested interest in trying to understand their point of view. In conversation, this might look like this, “What I heard is this – that you’re questioning your sexuality and that you’re feeling scared, excited, etc.”
Tell Them How You Feel
Based on what your partner is telling you, how do you feel? Explain this feeling to them to help them also understand the emotions you’re going through at the time. For example, “What I feel is this – love, fear, joy, sadness, optimism, etc.” This is a good opportunity to use the 8 basic emotions to describe how you feel. Your partner can describe how they are feeling in this manner as well.
Tell Them What You’re Thinking
After describing how you feel, follow up with your thoughts about the situation, then a preference to set clear expectations on what you hope to gain or learn. For example, your thoughts might be, “What I think about that is X, and I still care for you and want to work things out.” Then the preference could be, “I hope we can discuss this more, use this opportunity to learn more about each other, and possibly seek a couples therapist together.”
Decide Whether You Can Move Forward Together
If the questioning partner feels that they’re missing out on a whole different life with the other gender than you may need to step away from the relationship or decide whether being in an open relationship is an option. Before a couple decides whether or not they can move forward together, they’ll need to consider the following:
- Looking at each other as individuals, you’ll need to analyze your own needs and wants. What preferences do you have in your partner?
- Does this relationship satisfy you, your values, and what you want in life?
- Is sexual intimacy something that the partner feels is lacking? Does your partner feel they’d gain more intimacy being with the other gender?
It is important to realize that no relationship is perfect. Let these points guide you in your decision, but don’t feel like this is a checklist you have to fulfill its entirety of.
Just remember, if your significant other decides to part ways to explore their sexuality further, the thing about unconditional love is that you’ll support them and their happiness no matter what, even if it results in doing what’s best for them. Communication is key in a healthy relationship, especially by talking about each other’s thoughts, feelings, and expectations through active listening. You, the supportive partner, should have resources and your own support system outside of the relationship – possibly your own therapy too if you’re comfortable in doing so. Visit your local LGBT Center for more information as they will have resources as well for both of you.