Sarah Weir
May 13, 2015 3:18 pm

Dear Sarah,

I could use some advice. I’m not sure if I should stay with my boyfriend or leave him — for several reasons.

First, he’s openly bisexual and there are times when I imagine us, 10 years from now, getting a divorce because he’s realized that he’s actually gay. I know that’s close-minded and unfair of me — but it’s a real fear. That said, our sex life is good. I will say there are some awkward moments — but nothing that unusual. Another issue for me is that he’s not very affectionate verbally and is terrible at expressing why he loves me. He uses touch more than words to express love. Or that’s what he tells me. He rarely tells me I’m beautiful and he treats me like I’m his “bro.”

Just yesterday I asked him what his favorite thing and least favorite thing about me was. He said he loves how peppy and upbeat I am and that I love him. He said his least favorite thing is when I’m depressed. Not because it hurts him to see me hurting, but because it’s annoying to have to be there for me when he doesn’t want to be. His words.

There is a lot of good in our relationship but I can’t help thinking that he doesn’t really care for me in the way I want to be cared for — and maybe it’s because of his sexual orientation. I don’t know, I might be crazy.

— Spinning in Oregon

Dear Spinning,

Well, there’s a lot going on here, isn’t there? Underlying everything though, it seems to me, is an itchy, jumpy, swirling vortex of insecurity. How do you fix that? Number one, work on your own self-esteem. Number two, work with your boyfriend to improve your communication.

It’s important to note that bisexuality doesn’t mean your boyfriend has a singular sexual preference he’s hiding from you. It means he’s bisexual — sexuality is fluid for so many people and their preferences depend on the person, not the label. It’s normal, natural, and something to embrace about your partner rather than judge (just as with all sexual orientations). 

From what you describe, sex is not the issue — your dynamic is. You and your BF are stuck on this see-saw of you acting needy and him responding by pushing you away and making you feel even more insecure, which results in him being colder and so on and on and on. How do you break out of it into a healthier dynamic that feels more secure? Don’t ask questions like, “What do you like LEAST about me?” That blasts me right back to sixth grade sleepovers when we used to pass around “slam books” — lists of questions, positive and negative, about our looks and behavior for everyone to comment on “anonymously.” Ugh. No matter how complimentary some answers, the bad ones would plunge me into a pit of tween-age self-loathing. Anyway, the point is don’t set yourself up to be knocked down and demoralized.

Is there room for your insecurity to be a legit topic of discussion? Yes. But calmly, not in the heat of the shame-y moment. And preferably after you have spent some time on your own, or with a trusted friend, or a therapist, articulating why you are feeling anxious and shaky. Then, with your boyfriend, you start out by simply saying, “I know have some insecurities.” Since you’ve already agreed to “work on your issues,” set up a date to take a walk somewhere quiet and pretty or a go to a café (as long as it offers some privacy, you don’t want to be in a packed Starbucks) and start the conversation. Being in a public, neutral space can help keep everyone rational and on their best behavior.

If everybody is being honest and owning their own behavior, I suspect you’ll find that some of your self-doubt and worry about your relationship will be legitimate — and some of it just won’t be. You can also hash out the different ways you each communicate your affection (him physically and you verbally) and see if you can find more balance and compromise. Maybe if you asked him less, he could give you more?

Try to dial back on your emotions a little and quiet the chatter in your brain. Relationships do require vulnerability, but you can be soft and strong at the same time.

Love, Sarah

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