Breakups Are Hard— But For Bi People They Can Be Life Changing

By Lewis Oakley

July 28, 2020

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As I write this, watching my pregnant fiancée rubbing her tummy, it’s making me reflect on how different my life could have been. According to Facebook, five years ago today my ex-boyfriend and I had just returned from a trip to LA and were considering moving in together. Needless to say, plans changed and we eventually broke up. But if I were to still be in a relationship with a man, how different would my life be? Would we be engaged? He certainly wouldn’t be pregnant.

Considering there have been times in my life when I was ready to settle down with both men and women, it’s interesting to see that this is ultimately the way my life has unfolded. Some may say I’m overthinking it, but for bi people, breakups are truly life-changing.

When gay or straight people break up, whilst it is hard and distressing, at least they have the luxury of knowing the sex of their next partner. When a bi person has a breakup, it’s not just the end of the relationship but potentially also the end of "that way of life".

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Some may feel they have lost the chance to have biological kids, others may feel they are losing their sense of belonging in queer spaces by no longer having a same-sex partner.

Bi people's futures are impacted by the sex of their partner in a unique way, it decides if we can have biological kids, impacts the amount of homophobia we face and in some countries even determines if we can get married. Outside of those big anchor points, the culture we exist in is often different as well. Being in a relationship with a gay man was very different culturally, from the friends we shared, the venues we frequented, even the films we watched. It’s worlds apart from my life now with a straight woman.

It can be a stressful experience, most people picture what their future happiness looks like. Some see themselves married with kids, others content with a life of independence with no strings, and many other realities in-between. Regardless, knowing how we want to have our lives turn out is really how we judge success and failure. It drives us, makes us put in the effort to get to where we want to go. Single bi people have to do that with a huge question mark over most of their personal future.

No wonder bi people are statistically more susceptible to mental health problems— it’s an unsettling reality.

Worse, the biphobic stigma lingers in the air and it is impossible to pretend it doesn’t impact us. If we are unhappy in a relationship or being single, there is this implication that we "chose" it in a way other people don’t. That we had the option of more than one gender, so how could we possibly be unhappy or miss aspects of our previous life?

I know some people think bisexual people have a game plan, as though we’ve somehow marked a date on a calendar for when we will end our current relationship and settle down with someone of a gender we knew we would choose all along. If they only knew the reality of the stress and repercussions that come with dating a different gender to that of your previous partner. 

Ultimately, this puts massive pressure on breakups, unfortunately, we aren’t exactly sure how much pressure. Some might suggest it could make bi people more likely to try to force bad relationships to work. Do we hang around in bad relationships for longer than we should? Research would seem to suggest so, one study found that bisexual men face unusually high rates of domestic violence, with 37% of them suffering abuse compared to 26% of gay men and 29% of heterosexual men. Violence is also more common against bisexual women than it is for straight women or lesbians. Office of National Statistics figures show 11% of bi women reported abuse by their partner, compared with 8% of lesbians and 6% of straight women. Interestingly, one study found that when bi people were in relationships, they were 19% more distressed than when they were not in relationships. Again, research around bisexuality isn’t as conclusive as we need it to be, and these studies obviously cannot tell the whole story as we don’t know what factors in the relationships lead to this distress.

For me, I can empathise, whilst I wouldn’t say I had anxiety, I think there have been previous relationships I’ve worked harder than others to make work. Not for fear of being alone but for fear of the massive change a relationship would create.

To the bi people out there who are single and anxious about an uncertain future or those in bad relationships terrified to leave, there isn’t much advice or encouragement. All I can say is, this is your path and no one else can do it but you. Yes, being bi means an uncertain future, but embrace the fun and journey of existing in different cultures and new realities. Try not to overthink it and reharmonize with what your hormones have been telling you all along, that it's the personality and character of your partner that’s important. When you find the right person, you’ll feel it, you’ll know and what’s between their legs won’t matter. Once the two of you are together you’ll figure it out and work through any issues and uncertainty. Being bisexual is different and we need to talk about that more, but never be afraid to walk the bi path.

As someone who has been there, done that, and come through the other side, all I can say is that I am happy, content and enjoying my life with a woman who loves me for all of who I am. Yes, the journey can create fear and a tendency to overthink things, but ultimately you have to push through and find your prince or princess. Or even your princes or princesses. 

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