Ask A Bi Dad: My wife of 30 years didn’t take my coming out well
By Lewis Oakley
February 03, 2023
Photo credit: Pexels/RODNAE Productions
I recently accepted that I am bisexual and opened up about it to my wife of 30 years.
I now feel totally alone. People have told me that the life and identity I once had were a lie. Were they? Have I wasted everybody's lives?
I can't shake the shame that speaking out has caused me. It feels much worse than it did when I was hiding my thoughts and feelings, as at least then I had a "straight" life. Although I am still married and we still live together, my bisexuality is now never mentioned and I have been left feeling like nothing.
My sex life is now non-existent. My only outlets are porn and browsing sex apps. It’s grim.
I cannot be the only person in this position. I don't know what to do.
I've talked with LGBT counselors, but they offer little support. My mental health has suffered and my dark thoughts are troubling and persistent. I have no one to speak to.
Thanks so much for reaching out.
First of all: you are not alone. I’ve been in the bi space for over six years now and the question of how to come out to one’s wife is by far the most common thing I receive requests for advice about. It’s a difficult thing to get right and it so often goes wrong.
Before we begin, let me put my cards on the table. I’ve read your letter about five times and I’ve gotten more angry about it each time. I’ve been supporting men who are dealing with this issue for years now and I’m almost out of patience with women who feel that they have the right to treat bi men this way. Bear that in mind. As a result, my advice might be less empathetic to your wife than it would normally be.
OK, so, first off: as scary as it is and as much as it may seem as though the topic is no longer up for discussion, you’re going to have to talk to her again.
My advice would be to call out the behaviors you are unhappy with, such as the lack of sex and the fact that you came out and that your sexuality has never been mentioned since. Tell her how that makes you feel.
You’re bi, so embrace your culture! Also, I’m sure there are things that she has done over the years that you weren’t happy about, but managed to get over. It’s time to bring those up again. Get everything out into the open.
If I were you, I would tell her that I was angry. You didn’t ask to be born bi, but you are. And the reality of being a bi man is that the majority of women won’t want to date you. So you felt you had to hide it, even from those you love the most. Because society made you feel that something that is natural to you was so taboo, so wrong that it must be hidden and never even alluded to. Then finally, one day, you built up the courage to tell your wife, because you love and respect her and because you are tired of playing a straight character for her. And instead of having any compassion or empathy for you, her husband, she’s taken it terribly.
Maybe if so many women didn’t see male bisexuality as a bad thing, bi men wouldn’t hide it. And maybe if those women weren’t biphobic they wouldn’t feel as if something bad has happened to them when their husbands come out.
If you can, I think it is important to tell her why you made the decisions you made and what your fears were. Let her know that you didn’t do this to lie to or hurt her, that you did it precisely because you wanted to avoid the situation that you are in now.
I obviously don’t know all the specifics of your situation. Have you been with men before? Do you want to try being with men now? Has there been any cheating? If the answer to all these questions is no, then it seems to me that you’re not asking for any material change to your relationship, you simply want her to know the truth and to be able to open up about things to her.
I think it is therefore worth reminding her that she has always been married to a bi man. The only difference is that now she knows about it. When she kissed you on her wedding day, she was kissing a bi man. All those times you had sex, it was with a bi man. All those times she turned to you for support, you were bisexual! You are still you, you haven’t changed.
You asked me if you have wasted everyone’s lives. If they were happy with their lives until the day you told them you were bi, then no! Their ignorance about bisexuality is the problem. You say that people have told you that your life was a lie. But you were bi then, and you’re bi now — so what’s the problem? The only difference is that now your wife knows. Does knowing that you are bi cancel out everything else — did all your memories, holidays, and happy times somehow not happen because you're bi?
Obviously, I’m no licensed expert, so I would encourage you to consider professional couples’ counseling. The path to recovery might be a long one and there are people out there who may be able to help you more than I can.
I would try to make this work, but if it doesn’t, then get out of that marriage. I don’t know your situation, your finances, or your family dynamic, so this may be much easier said than done, but you must have more respect for yourself than to stay in a marriage where you are being punished for being honest about who you are. I know that after such a long marriage the thought of a breakup may cause you a lot of anxiety and fear, but that option needs to be on the table. At the very least, you must be allowed to discuss it.
Marriage is about accepting people, in sickness and in health. If she has stopped accepting you because you chose to open up to her about a secret that has been killing you all these years, how is she going to react if you get ill one day?
You open your letter by saying that you feel alone after coming out. Tell her that. Remind her that you still want to make the marriage work, that you love your life together and that that’s why you felt you could be honest with her. Then see if she wants to work on getting past this or whether you both need to start planning separate futures.
You don’t deserve to feel alone. It’s a brave new world out there. If your wife can’t accept you for who you are, there are an ever increasing number of people who will not only accept you as bi, but celebrate you for it.
What advice would you give to this reader? Give us your take in the comments below.
Bisexual people often have few other bi people to turn to for support or to ask questions. This means we often can’t build on the experience of other bi people and improve things for the next generation. Ask a Bi Dad is aimed at tackling this.
Lewis Oakley is one of the leading bi advocates and writers, campaigning to improve the public’s perception of bisexuality. Recognised by the Pride Power List 2021 and with various award nominations under his belt, Lewis has been successful in making bisexuality national news.
Lewis knows more than most how lonely being bisexual can feel, particularly in those early years. Now, confident in himself, his relationship, and a dad of two, Lewis recognises how rare and lucky he is. This is why he wants to help where he can by answering the questions of bi people from all around the world.
If you have a question that you would like a perspective on, email at [email protected]
*Lewis is not a licenced therapist, and the advice offered in this column is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological, or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.