So your partner isn't straight...
an opinion piece
written by an anonymous contributor
Relationships are a choice; a decision made between people wanting to be together. For a lot of people, hearing that your partner doesn’t share your sexual orientation might be daunting and finding out they fancy people that aren’t of your gender can raise questions. If you’re reading this, I hope by the end of it you will find some of those questions answered so you can continue to be the kick-ass person your romantic partner chooses to be with! That’s the important thing in all of this: your romantic partner is choosing to be with YOU. Hopefully, when you’ve had time to consider why you may have these questions, concerns, even anxieties, you can come out of this feeling even better about the relationship you’re in.
Full disclosure: I’m a straight, cis-gendered guy in a relationship with a bisexual woman, and have previously dated people who didn’t identify as straight. I’m being upfront about this as my experiences may not mirror your own exactly, but hopefully some of the advice I’m offering could be applied to help you out if you’re in a hetero-normative relationship with someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, or if you’re part of a LGBTQ+ couple with a partner who is attracted to multiple genders beyond just your own. Maybe you’re the partner who has recently ‘come out’ and you’re showing this to your romantic partner to try and answer their questions. Either way: I write this as someone who wants everyone to pursue happiness without letting doubts and insecurities ruin the party!
Disclaimer: For the purposes of this article I will be writing advice as if the audience is a hetero-normative, monogamous couple but please don’t think I’m not considering other experiences exist in this. I’ve also made the assumption you both want to be together going forward, and you’re both typically respectful of each other’s boundaries.
So my romantic partner isn’t straight… How should I feel about that?
To quote a TV show: “You can’t control how you feel, only what you do about it” (House M.D. for those who are curious). Let’s start with one of these “take a deep breath” moments: they’re not rejecting you. Read that over a few times until it sinks in, as it's important. This is probably the most important thing in this whole article for you to realise and accept.
By disclosing to you their orientation, your romantic partner has chosen to trust you… and that’s actually really cool. Trust is a building block of any healthy relationship. The disclosure itself isn’t negative or hostile. They’ve spoken to you one of their most intimate truths – which isn’t easy for some people to do. Take your time and don’t get scared simply because you may not fully understand things yet. If you need to reread that deep breath line again, go for it.
How can I support my partner with this realisation? (Especially if you’re the first person they’ve told)
Thank them for being honest with you. They’re the same person you were interested in before they told you, and they’re the same person after - they’ve simply invested a bit more of their trust in you. Your partner is probably relieved to have told you something personal (that may have been weighing on their mind), or feeling grateful that you’ve not instantly become a raging ball of insecurity and made it all about you! Remember to keep their privacy – outing someone isn’t cool. It's their decision to tell other people.
Can I talk to other people about this?
Having a soundboard and a support structure in your life is a good thing. However, you will need to discuss this with your partner first, and get very clear permission. Depending on how 'out' they are about their sexual orientation, they may not feel comfortable with it being disclosed to people beyond just you. If they do give you permission to discuss their sexual orientation, make sure you speak to people who you can 100% trust to be discrete and not mention it to anyone else. If in any doubt, keep it strictly to yourself. Your partner's well being, trust and safety are important. There are also lots of forums and resources online where you can ask questions anonymously.
But what if I’m anxious about all of this?
That’s totally fine – no seriously, it really is okay! It’s not unusual to feel anxious about something so important. Take a moment to look at things from this perspective: you’re in a relationship with someone you value. A small amount of nerves or even a little anxiety can be helpful if it keeps you in check so you keep treating yourself and your partner respectfully. The key is to keep it healthy. Don’t let those healthy nerves or anxiety (those small, reflective questions) become unhealthy anxieties (paranoia, jealousy etc).
You can assess whether your anxiety is becoming unhealthy by asking yourself these questions:
Do you value your romantic partner? Yes? Great.
Do you want to keep being in a mutually respectful relationship together? Yes? Even better!
Do you feel the need to make your partner change going forward in order to manage your anxiety? Slow down there. That’s jealousy talking, and jealousy isn’t cute. Take your time because there are better ways to deal with this, ways that mean you can look yourself in the mirror in 5 years’ time and feel proud.
If you’re feeling a pang of jealousy coming on, consider where it might be coming from and talk to your partner about it. Communication and boundaries are key in any relationship. By talking, you and your partner can support each other. It’s great to want to talk, but always remember that both of your feelings are important and you both need to be in the right frame of mind for it to be a productive talk. Make the time to talk through what you’re both experiencing and feeling.
But doesn’t this mean they’re going to run off with some else because I’m not that gender?
Big fat nooooope here. Right at the start of this we reflected on the fact that your partner is choosing to be with you, and that still holds true. Just because they aren’t straight, the disclosure of their sexual identity doesn’t mean they are any more likely to step out on you. If your partner respected the boundaries of your relationship previously then there is nothing new to fear now.
Think about it this way for a moment: If you were in a relationship with a straight person and worried your partner was going to cheat every time they hung out with someone of a different gender without you, you’d probably have to admit you had some major insecurities going on, right? If you let insecurities like this take hold, they will kill the relationship you value, push your partner away from you, or change your relationship into something you don’t want.
It’s ok to discuss your feelings both positive and negative, and this applies to your insecurities too. Ultimately though, it comes down to you to reflect on why you feel the way you do and what you can do about it yourself to become an even better person.
What does this definitely NOT mean for your relationship, or How to not be “That Person”?
I have to be blunt here: your romantic partners sexual identity isn’t something for you to control or fetishise. Treat their sexual identity like you would anything else about them: it's part of who they are, not something they’re doing for your enjoyment.
Ultimately: Don’t be a creep. Their sexual identity is also not there to fulfil your fantasies and this does not mean they suddenly want a threesome. They might! But not being straight does not necessarily mean that they will. Don’t assume your partner is asking you to change yourself or the relationship you both share.
But you’re not ‘that person’ right? So we’re cool!
But what if my romantic partner does want to explore their sexuality with other people of a gender I’m not, or even date them too?
Oooooh boy. This is a big topic. And honestly there isn’t a straight-forward answer. Consider carefully what you want. If you choose to part ways, do it with dignity and respect (for yourself and for them). Non-monogamy isn’t for everyone and there is zero shame in admitting that. If you do choose to explore an open relationship make sure it’s a joint choice and set mutually agreed boundaries. Check in with each other as things can change over time – what someone is cool with now might be different in a few months. Read up on ethical non-monogamy and talk it out in full. If you can’t sit down for a respectful conversation together, then you probably aren’t ready for it just yet.
What do I do next?
Take time to remind yourself that you’re with someone you like, who thinks you’re great too – sit with the feeling for a few minutes. It’s a great feeling, right?
Focus on the feeling.
Every time you get a bit anxious, remind yourself that you’ve got that feeling too. This feeling is what’s going to get you through those occasional bouts of nerves and will keep you feeling grounded and positive.
How do we move forward from here as a couple?
One day at a time, just like every other romantic relationship.
Nothing has negatively changed between you – you’ve just deepened your trust in each other.
You’re still two people, choosing to be together. Your partner is still the same wonderful person you wanted to be with 5 minutes before they told you their sexual orientation. Keep being great to each other. Keep talking to each other. And be happy together!