Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I REALLY Need To Stop Reading Advice Columns

Remember that time earlier this month when I said I was going to stop reading advice columns? Yeah. Totally didn't stick. So, here's reason number two as to why I should stop reading advice columns - or maybe just this particular advice column:
Dear Annie: After 20 years of marriage, my wife and I separated, with the plan that I would undergo therapy to discover why I had become disconnected from her over the past few years.

We agreed that after eight months or so, we would attend joint counseling sessions to see what had changed.
After six months, I discovered she had had sex with a man and then later with a woman. She stated, "We're separated, so I feel free to date and do not regret it." I consider this adultery. What do you think? — Husband of a Sudden Bisexual

Dear Husband: A married person who has sex outside the marriage has committed adultery. However, a legal separation, as opposed to an informal parting, often gives spouses tacit permission to date others. We assume this was not the case here. But you have a bigger problem. If your wife is bisexual, your marriage may not be reconcilable. If she isn't already in counseling, you should make it a condition of your continued efforts to save the relationship. Provided, of course, you still want to.
Okay, no. Well, some yes. Obviously, this is a couple that needs some counseling and some help at the whole communication thing, since there shouldn't be a Ross and Rachel "we were on a break" situation here. Things like "Can I sleep with other people during this time apart?" should have been dealt with at the start of this whole trial separation thing, and truth be told, the wife probably should have erred on the side of caution with that one unless she was willing to throw her desire to see/sleep with other people out onto the table.

But the "no" part comes in with the bolded type. "If your wife is bisexual, your marriage may not be reconcilable?" What? Are the Annies really and truly suggesting that bisexuals can't be participants in monogamous relationships? Are the Annies truly suggesting that simply because this woman happens to find both men and women attractive, that alone could be something that makes their relationship not work?

Now, it sounds like this particular relationship may be irreconcilable anyway, what with the lack of communication, the feelings of disconnection, and the (legitimate) feelings of betrayal Husband has. The relationship could be irreconcilable anyway, because Wife has discovered she likes sex with women and men not her husband and she likes the feeling of freedom she is experiencing. All of that is possible.

But. Being bisexual is not an irreconcilable issue in a relationship. Much like being straight and being attracted to people who aren't your spouse (or significant other) is also not an irreconcilable issue. As long as you are attracted to your spouse (or significant other), as long as you are committed to your spouse (or significant other), as long as your relationship and your spouse (or significant other) takes precedence, then there is no problem.

The issue with framing bisexuality itself as being a potential irreconcilable difference is that laced in that idea is the expectation that the bisexual must have sexual relationships with both sexes. Not true. Being a bisexual means, quite simply, being attracted to both sexes. And attraction does not equal application. As I've said before,
Bisexuals can engage in fidelity, just like every other person [who] sublimates their attractions once they are in a committed, monogamous relationship does.
Sublimating desires is part of what being in a monogamous, committed relationship entails. It entails that there is a distinct probability you will be attracted to other people, but only acting on the attraction you hold for your chosen partner. It doesn't matter if you're attracted to guys, girls, or both. Because chances are, in the course of your relationship, you're going to feel an attraction to someone not your chosen partner. In short, bad Annies, perpetuating the stereotype of the bisexual! Although they may have meant well, their analysis is based on the idea that bisexuals are, by their very nature, promiscuous. And that is summarily false. Bisexuals are no more promiscuous than homosexuals or heterosexuals. And that's because bisexuals are still, at the end of the day, people. And people tend to occupy a wide range of personalities and behaviors, among them fidelity. That really doesn't have a set sexuality it attaches itself to.

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