I’m in my early thirties and have been with my boyfriend for about six years, since we met at work. I got pregnant by accident quite soon after we met and we decided together to go ahead with the pregnancy. I love him to bits and he’s the best Dad to our little girl.
He does most of the cooking at home and lets me lie in at weekends to catch up on sleep, always prioritising my needs above his. We have a healthy sex life and sleep together about twice per week, which has been the standard since we met. We’re not very adventurous but he never complains and it’s become part of my routine, I just don’t think about it.
Recently though, I’ve found myself, for the first time, being attracted to very random women. There’s a woman I see on the train every day who I’ve started to fantasise about a lot. There’s also a friend-of-a-friend of mine who I’ve been out with a couple of times recently and felt a very strong urge to kiss though she’s not gay. I’m engaged enough to know that I can’t ignore these feelings but I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to break up my family and shatter the world of a man I genuinely love so that I can chase a crush or follow a totally selfish path.
I’m not even sure that what I’m experiencing means I’m gay. Part of me feels like this is just some sort of sexual peak and I should ride it out and avoid temptation?
Too Many Feelings, Laois.
I think you and I have very different ideas of ‘riding it out’ but we can come back to that later. First, I’d like to heartily welcome you to your Sexual Awakening. I hope that doesn’t sound Auntyish and patronising, it’s delivered with love and a firm-bosomed hug.
I really wish there were global stats on the number of women who embrace their sexuality later in life and enter a gay, bi or sexually fluid relationship, because the anecdotal evidence is huge. Look at the relatively small celesbian sphere and names like Portia di Rossi, Cynthia Nixon, Maria Bello and Elizabeth Gilbert instantly jump out. Cultural factors, like post-millennials refusing to label their sexuality and a societal shift towards self-acceptance and fulfilment, means that the growing number of ‘late blooming’ lesbians aren’t so much stepping out of the closet, as experiencing a delayed sexual awakening. The family is reared, the husband has served his biological purpose, hormones are fizzing and Queen’s I Want To Break Free is booming.
And although I don’t think you’re there yet, your mail confirms that you are becoming more sexually curious and are feeling confused, which are both classic hallmarks of an erotic rebirth. Alfred Kinsey, a.k.a. ‘the godfather of the sexual revolution,’ unveiled the then radical Kinsey Scale, a spectrum of human sexuality, in 1948. It ranked people on a scale of 0 to 6, 0 being 100% hetero and 6 being resolutely homosexual. Team Kinsey found that most people hovered around the 3 mark, moving fluidly up and down the scale throughout their life as their sexuality developed. Despite being criticised latterly for simplifying complex and very personal dynamics, the Kinsey Scale has been one of the basics of LGB identity since the ‘50’s and is still the most referenced.
This is just a snippet of the boundless research out there to reassure you that sexuality is a developmental process and some people take a little longer to figure themselves out. It doesn’t mean that you have to box yourself as gay, straight, bi, pansexual, demisexual, sapiosexual or otherwise. For now, consider yourself a work in progress, a sexually fluid being. FYI, sapiosexuals are aroused by your hot brain not your body.
You met your boyfriend at a very formative time and instead of exploring the boundaries of your relationship you committed to rearing a child together, which is the absolute opposite journey, albeit as rewarding. Your boyfriend seems happy with the status quo of regular, underwhelming sex and domestic stability. Maybe he senses that you crave change and is keenly trying to keep the show on the road? You say you have huge respect and love for your partner and although this seems to be holding you back, sharing your desires with your boyfriend at this point is a good first step to heighten your intimacy and offer full disclosure on where you’re at. This will hopefully lead to acting out your sexual fantasies with your boyfriend (vivid imagination required) and scratching duty sex off the menu. That may be all you need to do to feel satisfied.
It’s also entirely usual for a woman to be attracted to or fantasise about another woman. It doesn’t mean you have to check in with the LGBT community chiefs and host a coming out party. Most of us have thoughts that arouse us in fantasy but not in real life. The fact is, your feelings of desire for these women may never convert to reality; or conversely, you may reach a point where you have a primal need to physically be with another woman and that will set the course.
Depending on how things go with your boyfriend, how open he is to switching things up and how hungry you are, you could also ask for a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell arrangement, where you both set the rules. This could be an agreement whereby you are allowed to discreetly be with a woman once or several times, if the opportunity arises. Or you could explore an open relationship, where you can both feel out a brave new world with the safety of your primary bond intact. This is a riskier strategy for your boyfriend, for obvious reasons, but again if you set and agree rules from the outset and are truthful and respectful to each other, this might work for you. I love this six-minute clip of from the Atlantic featuring polyamorous couples talking about the virtues of an open relationship. Interestingly, 50% of women in polyamorous relationships are bi-sexual versus 5% of men.
Women’s Anatomy of Arousal, Sheri Winston’s 2009 bestseller, is also worth a read. It explores the nature of sexuality, arousal and the key to fulfilling sexual partnerships, focusing less on sexual identity and more on personal gratification but will be a solid starting block for you.
Whether or not your current relationship survives depends on open and honest communication, your willingness to evolve as a couple and a continued focus on intimacy. If, as you become more sexually confident, you realise that you are no longer attracted to your partner because he is a man then your path will be determined. As Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, said on leaving her husband for the love of her life, her long-time best friend Rayya Elias: “The thing about truth: Once you see it, you cannot unsee it.”
Rhona McAuliffe might not be a trained therapist but she does have very big ears, quite a long nose and a gaping heart. If you have a problem that won’t just go away, she’d love to hear it. Write to Rhona at [email protected]