Boyfriend is bi??

Gracie
asks:
My boyfriend of a year and a half recently confessed to me that he is bisexual. It's only been two days, so I'm still soaking it in and accepting it. I am the only person he has told. None of his family knows, because they are very religious and would likely be unsupportive. His sexuality, in no way, changes my feelings for him... like I told him, I fell in love with WHO he is, not WHAT he is. Regardless, I'm having a super hard time coming to terms with things. He's been very unaffectionate in our relationship, especially in public. I trust that he loves me, and just displays it in a different fashion than most, but his recent coming out has made some emotions surface that I wasn't previously aware of, such as: Is he not sexually attracted to me and that explains his lack of affection? It's only been two days, and we still have yet to talk about it more, but I am just so confused and curious. Also, he is very paranoid that I don't love him anymore. If he doesn't like affection, what would be a good way to reassure him that I am still in love with him?
s.e. smith replies:

Hi Gracie!

What an honor to be trusted with your boyfriend's first coming out conversation; picking the first person to talk to out loud about your sexuality can be very scary. It sounds like he loves and trusts you, but this revelation is raising some questions for you, which is understandable! When we learn new things about the people we love, curiosity and concern can come up alongside love and affection — and we have a guide on supporting friends and family as they're coming out.

But you want to know how this affects your relationship, and the answer to that is in one word: Communication. 

If you have questions, only your boyfriend can answer them — and if he has questions for you, you're the only one who can respond to them. You might want to think about setting aside some dedicated non-date time for a conversation that will give you both an opportunity to be a little open and vulnerable in a space where you can support each other.

Maybe you want to take a picnic to a park, or meet up in a coffeehouse with a cozy corner where you can talk undisturbed. Set an intention beforehand. "State of the relationship" conversations can make people feel nervous, so it's a good idea to stress ahead of time that this isn't about wanting to break up, at all — you just want to explore how things are changing between you.

You may already be aware that bisexual people sometimes encounter gross attitudes in response to their sexuality. Your boyfriend might already be hearing things like: "So does this mean you're actually gay?" "How do you know you're bi if you've never had sex with another guy?" "Does this mean you date two people at once?" Be sensitive to that as you think about how you want this conversation to go, because some people do break up with partners because they're bisexual, so your boyfriend may be afraid of that.

So you're ready to have a conversation. Before you go into it, try practicing some questions that will open up discussion and hopefully move you closer to where you need to go beforehand. You have two big questions, about how to express your love for him and why he feels less physically affectionate than you'd like, so think about how to answer those questions. Some ideas:

  • "I sometimes feel like you aren't very physically affectionate, and that's often how I demonstrate love and commitment to the people in my life. Do you want to talk about some of the reasons you might feel uncomfortable? Are there ways we could be affectionate that would make you more comfortable, like maybe a hand squeeze to say hello instead of hugging or holding hands?"
  • "I love and care about you very much, but I sense that you're feeling unsure. How can I better support you?"
  • "Are you worried about how your family or other friends might react when you come out to them? Would you like me to accompany you?"

This is also a good time to think about "ring theory," a concept people sometimes sum up as "support in, dump out."

The idea is that everyone who's experiencing a major life event sits at the middle of a ring of people — close friends, partners, family. That includes you! But around your ring is another ring: More peripheral acquaintances, and your own friends and family. Around them is another ring, and so on.

The person in very center needs some love and support — so pour that love inwards. If you have some emotional processing to do, turn to someone in an outer circle to talk to. That intense conversation with your boyfriend about your relationship is one you need to have with him as part of your supportive efforts. But questions about bisexuality in general might be better addressed to someone outside, to take some of the load off him while he adjusts to this big change, and to do your best not to ask him things that might leave him feeling unsupported or freaked out, even if that's not your intent.

You boyfriend may be feeling overwhelmed, confused, unsure, worried, anxious, or any number of other things as he comes to terms with his sexuality and learns more about how it affects his relationships. Creating time and space for him to talk about these feelings may bring you closer together, help him understand the depth of your affection, and give you some perspective on how he expresses affection.

And let me tell you something: You got this, okay? You're doing all the right things by loving your boyfriend for the great guy that he is, thinking about how to support him, and being aware of some of the issues he's facing and thinking about. I wish you the very best with your conversation with him, and much happiness together!