Dear Joanna: "My girlfriend is trying to bi-erase me!"

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“My girlfriend insists I’m gay now I’m with her…”

Dear Joanna,

My girlfriend keeps telling me I’m a lesbian, not bisexual, now that I’m with her. At first I thought she was just teasing me but now it seems to be getting more serious. She’s made me change my Facebook profile to say I’m just interested in women. She says if I still identify as bisexual that means I am saying I will run off with someone else. I really love her. Should I just go along with it to keep the peace? I’m quite a shy person and I don’t like confrontation and it’s all really upsetting me.

Frederica.

Hi Frederica,

I’m sorry you’ve found yourself in an upsetting situation. I understand not wanting to get into a fight with the person you love (or anyone) but it’s incredibly important we feel able to express ourselves in a committed relationship. Negative emotions only tend to build up, especially if the situation is on-going. Love isn’t just about how we feel towards our partner or the physical intimacy and romance between us – for a relationship to last, there has to be a level of trust and an ability to communicate the bad as well as the good.

The longer you continue to be silent about this, the more difficult it will be to tell her the truth. If you opt not to tell her, you should avoid confrontation for the time being, but it would mean denying a part of yourself and keeping it from not only her, but the rest of the world, because of her paranoia. Starting on this path can be a slippery slope to inadvertently being in a controlling relationship. This can happen gradually, without either people realising until a bigger incident occurs or until someone else mentions it. The latter is often followed by denial, because no one wants to believe the person they love is controlling, or that they themselves are. It’s possible your girlfriend isn’t aware of how she seems or of how upset you are, and that she’d want things to be different if she did.

""She says that identifying as bi means I'm going to run off with someone else..."

“She says that identifying as bi means I’m planning to run off with someone else…”

By withholding the truth now, you also run the risk of it coming out later on, which may result in more upset or anger than it would currently.

My advice would be to talk to her about it soon. You could wait until she brings it up again if it’s a fairly regular topic of conversation, or brave mentioning it yourself. It doesn’t have to become a screaming match. Discussing a problem in the relationship should be possible without it ending in yelling, though unfortunately this is rather commonplace – try not to be afraid. Arguments don’t usually mean the end of a relationship and, although it’s upsetting for either person to be hurt, it’s often necessary for us to talk about issues in order to resolve them (even if “talk” does become “yell”). Pain caused by an argument will disappear. Pain caused by unresolved problems won’t.

She needs to learn to trust that your sexuality doesn’t make you more likely to cheat, and you have to learn how to express yourself when you’re hurt or angry. Let her know you’re sorry this has her worried and sorry for keeping quiet until now (and that you only did the latter in fear of upsetting her), but that nothing has changed. She needs to know that altering your profile on a social media account and staying silent when she calls you a lesbian doesn’t actually change your bisexuality. That no matter how much she dislikes it, it remains the same. Remind her that people of all sexualities have affairs. Heterosexual women cheat on their boyfriends and husbands; lesbians cheat on their girlfriends and wives – the label isn’t what matters. The fact that you have the ability to love either sex is irrelevant, because the person you love is her.

She needs to trust you – not based on your sexuality (or what she says it is), but on who you are and your love for her. Hopefully talking to her about it will help with this. She may become angry at first, but we can hope she’ll at least understand upon reflection.

Best of luck,

Joanna

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