I’m a straight male. My ex is bi. She has a lot of shame about her sexuality. She said I was the only person she ever felt safe enough with to discuss it. She won't even talk to her therapist about it. She only recently admitted to herself that she’s bi and has never had a relationship with a woman.

There was a period when she really struggled with the shame. Since I was the only one she felt comfortable talking to about it with, it became a common topic of discussion. I asked if she thought she could find an LGBTQ support group, but she said no. I was happy to listen to her, but I knew that I could never understand what she was processing. One night, I asked if she felt that being in a relationship was stifling her ability to process her coming out. I know it’s possible for a bi person to be open, shame-free and to have only had heterosexual encounters. Given that we were monogamous and moving quickly I wanted to see if she felt this was best for her. She said the relationship wasn’t stifling her but wondered if I felt that way since she had been talking about it more. She said she would feel the same way.

I didn’t mention it again and tried to remain supportive. After we broke up she admitted that she was hurt when I asked if being in a relationship was stifling her. She said she only told me that she would feel the same way to “soothe” my insecurities about her leaving me for a woman. She said it wasn’t why we broke up but that she thought about it often and was upset that I took her vulnerabilities and made them about my insecurities.

I wasn’t worried that she’d leave me for a woman. I was, however, worried that she was struggling with shame and coming out. If she thought dating women might help her come to terms with her sexuality, I would have wanted her to have the opportunity. I would have also wanted to end the relationship before we became more emotionally invested. I obviously would have been hurt, but I thought I was doing the right thing by checking in to see how she felt before our relationship progressed. Now I feel guilty for adding to her shame. She opened up to me about something she couldn’t discuss with anyone else. Was I wrong or a jerk? Is it biphobic or inappropriate to ask someone you’re dating if they think exploring their sexuality would help them process their struggles? Was I a jerk for not realizing how my question might hurt her?

Questionably Biphobic

Get down off the cross, QB. You did the right thing. There would be a lot fewer failed marriages/relationships/FWBs/threesomes/TPE arrangements if all partners were this thoughtful and honest early in their relationships. You were already monogamous, you were headed towards a more serious commitment, and you asked if she was satisfied and if, at this stage of her coming out process, whether a committed, sexually-exclusive relationship was the right choice for her. That's not biphobic. That's wise.

Then again, QB, you are asking a person routinely labeled as biphobic—so, hey, what do I know? But that said...

As I pointed out on the Twitter: I'm constantly encouraging bi people to come out. You were doing the same, QB. Your girlfriend's exploration of her bisexual identity was going to be limited to theory, as you were in a monogamous relationship. Being monogamously committed to a same- or opposite-sex partner doesn't make someone any less bi, of course; I was gay before I sucked my first dick. But honestly? After I came out—just to myself—I was pretty anxious to get that first dick in my mouth. It stands to reason that a recently out bisexual person might be just as anxious to have their first same-sex experience.

But just as I was legitimately gay before I sucked my first dick (where are you know, Joe O.?), there are lots of legitimately bisexual people out there who've never had a same-sex encounter. Still, it wasn't biphobic to check in about this issue—you were being supportive of her process and protective of your own feelings. Both legit impulses, QB, and not mutually exclusive. All you're guilty of, QB, is wanting your girlfriend to be exactly who she is—bisexual—and if she needed to have sex with women or date women, you wanted to support her choice, even if it meant losing her. That wasn't you making it about your insecurities, QB, that was you being selflessly considerate.

And lastly, QB, you were worried your girlfriend was struggling with shame and coming out because she was struggling with shame and coming out. Hopefully, you can both be on good terms moving forward and the two of you can find new relationships that better suit your wants and needs.

And straight, bi, or pan, your next girlfriend will be lucky to have you.

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