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How I Express My Bisexuality in a Heterosexual Relationship

How I Express My Bisexuality in a Heterosexual Relationship

Getty Images for London Pride | Tristan Fewings

I came out as bisexual during the pandemic, around the same time I left the Christian church. Until I was 24, I suppressed my sexual identity out of fear of being judged and rejected for liking both men and women. Christianity saved my life when I was younger but filled me with shame as I got older. So after years of praying to be different, I started to accept myself as I am.

In 2021, I had just started talking to my current partner, a man, when I told him I wasn’t ready to be serious with him yet because of my interest in women. It was important to me to give as much space as needed to the new and exciting venture of not hiding who I am and only dating men.

He understood and supported my decision, while also suggesting the idea of ​​an open relationship. That way we wouldn’t have to throw away what we had, but I would still have the space to explore my sexuality in the way I wanted. I had never considered an open relationship because of my personal insecurities about being second best. But with clear boundaries, I decided to give it a try.

In the beginning, I went on a few dates with women I met online and had a few sexual encounters with those I felt most connected to. Most of the encounters felt scary at first, but natural and exciting once the nerves subsided. With each one, I never had to wonder if I was bisexual. Instead, the only thing I questioned was why I had waited so long to do something that made me feel more alive, free, and embodied than ever.

Being in a heterosexual and monogamous relationship, I had difficulty feeling accepted for my sexuality.

My partner and I talked about every interaction with women, and it didn’t interfere with our relationship for months. However, I could tell he was starting to feel left out when he mentioned that it might be nice to eventually share in the sexual interactions I had with women outside of our relationship.

One of the boundaries I set early on was that I wanted my explorations with women to be individual endeavors and without my partner. But when I realized that might not be sustainable, I decided to dedicate myself solely to him—out of respect for my partner, but also as a way to protect my own needs.

I had no doubt that he was who I wanted to be with long-term, and I was ready to start our next chapter as a couple. But that also meant navigating the issue of expressing my queerness in our relationship.

It wasn’t until I stopped dating women that I began to wonder if I was bisexual and just going through a phase. Now that I was in a heterosexual and monogamous relationship, I had trouble feeling validated about my sexuality.

I wondered: Am I even considered part of the queer community?

I struggled with this feeling until a queer friend assured me that nothing could and would ever take away from me the way I chose to identify. “Your sexuality is valid, period,” they said.

But I needed help figuring out how to express myself as a bisexual woman in a heterosexual relationship. Over time, I’ve adopted a few practices that allow me to do so in a healthy way.

The biggest change I’ve made is dressing in a way that’s authentic to me. I recently found myself in the men’s section of Target looking for a comfortable pair of cotton shorts to wear in the summer. When I put them on in the fitting room, I smiled and didn’t have to think twice about buying them. I’ve never felt more like myself.

Having struggled with eating disorders in the past, I spent several years hyper-focused on my image and dressed in a way I thought was expected of me. I wore heavy makeup, skinny jeans, button-downs, strappy sandals.

As I’ve become more and more myself, I’ve found that I much prefer minimal makeup, baggy pants, a baggy T-shirt, and Birkenstocks or Vans. That doesn’t mean I won’t wear a dress or curl my hair every now and then; it means I’ve let go of the pressure to look the way I think others want me to look. My little hoop earrings, my arm tattoos, and my natural hair in a half-ponytail or bun are all small changes to my appearance that I’ve felt like huge milestones toward accepting my identity.

Today I am proud to be a bisexual woman in a heterosexual relationship.

While fully embracing my identity, I’ve also sought to learn from those who identify similarly to me. In my heterosexual relationship, I’ve made it a priority to diversify my social media feed by following more queer voices and paying attention to how I can better support myself and others in the queer community. These voices have inspired me to attend my city’s annual Pride march, fly a Pride flag outside our home, and connect with other queer people and allies.

Coming out as bisexual also meant talking to my family about it more often. I have two younger siblings, and it was important to me to come out to them and continue to share how I was dealing with my sexuality. Last summer, my sister and I were camping, comfortably slouched in our sleeping bags, when I told her I liked a girl and was taking her out on a date. I read her our text exchanges, embarrassingly excited, like a schoolgirl blushing at the sight of her first crush. That moment opened new doors in our relationship, and I hope it instilled in my sister the confidence that she could always be honest with me, too.

My journey from suppressing my sexuality to expressing it has also inspired me to share my story with people near and far. Through writing, I have been able to reach an even wider audience than just my friends and family; it is the best medium I have found to do something that I hope will help others feel confident in being themselves.

And ultimately, it all comes down to my partner. From the very beginning, he let me know that it was safe to share my truth with him, no matter how scary it might seem. And unlike some of my exes, he never tried to control what I did or how I dressed. All he asked was for me to take care of myself in the way I needed to, and to communicate with him along the way.

Without his unconditional love and support by my side, it’s hard to say where I would be. Today, I am proud to be a bisexual woman in a heterosexual relationship. I know there are more things that define me, but this piece, in particular, is at the core of who I am and how I see the world. It has made me trust my intuition more, be more compassionate towards others, and be a better friend to myself. And no one can or ever will take that away from me.

My sexual orientation is important, period.

Carly Newberg is a queer writer and inclusive yoga teacher based in the Pacific Northwest who is passionate about healing emotional wounds and becoming more authentic versions of ourselves. She graduated from Portland State University in 2019 with a degree in sports science and communication. Carly has written for numerous online publications, including PS, Yoga Journal, Insider, Well+Good, and Dame.