Dear Prudence

I’m in a Happy Relationship With My Boyfriend, but I Still Want to Date Women

Prudie’s column for May 4.

Photo illustration of a woman kissing a woman and a man.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Vasyl Dolmatov and Drazen Zigic/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Prudence,

I am a bisexual woman who came out about nine months after I started dating my current boyfriend. We’ve been together for over two years, I love him dearly, and we live very happily together. He is very supportive of my identity but is not interested in any sort of open relationship. An open relationship is not ideal for me either, but since I didn’t realize my own bisexuality until after I’d fallen in love with him, I’d been thinking about having a sexual experience with a woman while still staying in my relationship. We talked about it together about a year ago, but nothing’s happened.

At this point in time, I am trying to discover more about my queer identity. I have made some close bisexual friends who have welcomed me into the queer women space. They are lovely and supportive but all single. When I have tried to talk to them about my dilemma (a loving and healthy relationship that does not allow me to explore the physical side of my sexual identity), their advice ranges from vaguely sympathetic to unhelpful. I don’t know how to reconcile with this situation. I don’t want to give up my amazing relationship, but I feel weird in queer spaces. I had a crush recently, and it makes me sad to think I would never have the experience of romantically loving a woman. What should I do? I don’t want to look back at my life and feel regret, but I also don’t want to give up a loving relationship for something completely unknown.

—Wanting to Experience My Queer Identity

In terms of finding queer community, I think you’ll be best off looking for support groups, events, and activities that actively serve bisexual women, particular bisexual women married to straight men. Here’s a list of some options, including online-specific discussion groups. Many LGBTQ centers have meetings for bisexual married women looking for support after coming out, so see if there are any local to you. If you’re going to a lot of events geared toward out single women looking to date, cruise, or find a girlfriend while what you’re looking for is support for navigating your thus-far-monogamous relationship with a man, you’re not going to be well-served. I want you to find a lot of support and encouragement, and I also hope you can accept that sometimes you may feel weird in queer spaces. That’s not necessarily anyone’s fault or responsibility to correct. (There’s a difference between discomfort and alienation, so if people are rude or dismissive toward you because of your relationship, you have my full permission to either ignore them or tell them off.)

I do not have any advice for you that will guarantee you will not experience regret. All choices involve some sense of loss, even if it’s only the loss of potential. I can’t promise you that if you break up with your boyfriend to explore your bisexuality that you’ll find a woman you love even more than him. I also can’t promise you that you won’t eventually feel stifled in a monogamous relationship with a straight man. You’ll have to be honest with yourself and with him, and find a balance that works for you. You may decide that as much as you love him, you need to leave this relationship for the unknown. You may find a form of limited openness that works for the two of you in your relationship. You may also find that this openness makes you want more than just occasional one-offs with women. You might break up for unrelated reasons. You might stay together until you die. I’m glad that you’ve developed loving and supportive friendships with bisexual women, even if their advice isn’t always helpful. And I hope you can continue to prioritize those friendships but give yourself permission to say, “I’m not looking for advice right now” to them every once in a while.

Dear Prudence,

I met “Vera” our sophomore year of college, and we became fast friends. I got her through some hard times with a tumultuous relationship and appreciated her generosity (offering me rides home on the weekends without asking for gas money). The problem is that I had many insecurities that led to me not being completely honest about little things, such as telling her the name of a crush, my parents’ and my financial arrangement about school, and other things I felt I would be judged negatively for. Vera eventually found out the truth and took it personally. She started excluding me, turned a lot of our mutual friends (who I introduced her to) against me, and was downright vengeful.

It recently came up again when I self-published a semi-truthful memoir, and she turned around and posted on a public site all her grievances about me. She also outed me for an eating disorder and wrote that I lied about earning an advanced degree (though I have proof that I absolutely earned this degree, so her post was taken down due to libel). She has also made accusations about me to the sister of a former friend who I distanced myself from due to her close friendship with Vera even though she didn’t deserve the way I treated her. The sister sent me a threatening direct message on social media. I have unpublished the memoir and have laid low, but how can I repair this damage? Also, is this dishonesty of my youth that contemptible to cause this type of reaction? How do I handle the fallout from Vera’s attacks?

—Friend Turned Enemy

Let’s start with the small things and work our way up, because there’s a lot going on here. You have every right not to tell your friends about how your parents pay for your education or the name of your current crush. That’s not dishonest or a fundamentally insecure thing to do; it’s a reasonable boundary, and you’re entitled to privacy, even with your friends. The fact that Vera found out you had a crush on someone or that your parents were paying for some portion of your college tuition and took it “personally” doesn’t mean that you were wrong to withhold that information from her. It means she has unreasonable expectations about what other people owe her and then acts out in order to punish them for not doing what she wants. The fact that she was able to turn your friends against you for not sharing your every thought with her suggests that some of your friends are easily influenced by bullies. That’s really sad, and I’m sorry you had to go through that, but just because Vera was angry doesn’t mean that Vera was right. And the fact that she told people about your eating disorder is simply cruel.

Now, as to the “semi-truthful memoir”: Leaving aside issues of subjective interpretation and that no one’s memory is 100 percent accurate, a “semi-truthful memoir” is not really a memoir. I assume you don’t mean “semi-truthful” in the standard “Some names and minor details have been changed to protect the identity of private individuals” sense, but that you wrote a piece of fiction based on your own experiences and passed it off as an autobiography. Withdrawing the memoir from public eye was the right thing to do. If there was anyone you hurt by publishing it—if you have any friends whose behavior you exaggerated or invented in order to make them seem worse than they really are, for example—you should offer them an apology as well as a promise that you will not do this again in the future. But it might be worth spending some time with a competent therapist trying to establish the difference between privacy and dishonesty, between transparency and entitlement, because I’m concerned you’ve been lied to about what, exactly, dishonesty is. It will also help you figure out how to rebuild your social circle, because I don’t think that repairing damage should involve trying to rebuild friendships with Vera or anyone who remains close to her. Vera is not a good friend to you. She does not want good things for you, she does not care about your well-being, and you cannot trust her. The best way to handle the fallout is to figure out what you want from your friendships in the future and develop a really strong sense of the difference between privacy and dishonesty—not by trying to get Vera to be your friend again.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.

Read more advice from How to Do It

“I’m a guy who is single after nearly a decade in a mostly monogamous relationship. I’ve been dating and hooking up a fair bit, ‘making up for lost time,’ etc. Recently, one man who I had dated/slept with a few times reappeared and began pursuing me again. I responded positively at first but found myself not replying to his texts, and eventually he took the hint, but then asked me: ‘Just curious, why aren’t you interested? I thought we really hit it off.’ The truth is, we did. But I have not replied, because I’m embarrassed to have realized the reason is that his dick is smaller than I’m used to. I’ve never thought this would matter that much to me, and I’ve seen so many advice forums reassure smaller guys that anyone who would reject someone for his penis size ‘is an asshole anyway.’ Am I one?