How to Support Your Bi Partner
December 27, 2020
Photo credit: Unsplash/Travis Grossen
This guide is for you, non-bi people in a relationship with someone who is bi. It may be that you are a straight person with a bi person, and so are seen by society as being a "straight couple," though you are not because one person in the relationship is bi, and therefore the couple is not "straight." Or it may be that you are a gay man or lesbian woman in a relationship with a bi person of the same sex, and so society views you as a "gay couple" or "lesbian couple," which, again, you are not.
There is also the question of whether one or both of you are monogamous or polyamorous. Though there is a misconception on the part of non-bi people that bi people are all polyamorous, that is not the case. Some bi people are polyamorous; some bi people are monogamous. Some straight people are polyamorous; some straight people are monogamous. Some lesbian and gay people are polyamorous; some lesbian and gay people are monogamous. Some people across all sexualities are celibate. (Yes, bi people can be celibate and still be bi. It’s not a paradox because bisexuality is not just about sex or behavior, but also about attraction and identity.)
This may all seem like common sense, but the number of people who think that bi necessarily means "down to f*ck" is still too many. Yes, some bi people are down to f*ck, but some are not. Anyway, I digress.
So, whilst each set of circumstances (whether you are in a monogamous relationship or you are both polyamorous; whether you are a straight person with a bi partner, or a lesbian/gay person with a bi partner) has its own learning curves, there are some things you can do, as a non-bi person, to support your bi partner, regardless of other factors:
This is the first step in understanding. If you have only just met the bi person you are dating, you might not have delved into the nuances of their sexuality just yet. But you should not assume that this bi person will be up for threesomes just because they are bi. They might want a threesome. But it isn’t a given. They might be strictly monogamous. You need to find out, before the relationship goes any further, whether you are both monogamous or polyamorous, or there will be misunderstanding and heartache later on. Of course, this should be the process for people entering any relationship, even if both parties are straight or both are gay/lesbian. It’s not just a bi thing.
I’m lucky in the fact that my now-fiancé never made any assumptions. Before I met him, though, there were a number of straight men I met who would assume that my bisexuality meant that they could live out their fantasies of a man-woman-woman threesome. Whether I was or wasn’t into threesomes was never a question to them but something they thought they already knew without even asking. But my fiancé never assumed because we talk about everything with respect and understanding, as two mature adults should.
Don’t fetishize our sexuality
Again, this one is similar to the first point. Remember that we are just people, like you, and our bisexuality does not make us a kink or a fetish or any kind of fantasy. If you are dating a bi person just because they are bi, whereas you are not bi, you might want to ask yourself if you are fetishizing them based on an idea you have of bisexuality that is not necessarily the case.
We are not a monolith, and our personalities, levels of attraction, libidos, romantic or sexual desires, sex drives, and preferences are as unique and varied as those of straight or lesbian/gay people. Don’t assume that we are sex machines, sex-obsessed, down to f*ck at all times, attracted to everyone we meet, or up for fulfilling whatever idea you have of bisexuality based on porn. We might be up for that. But we might also not. And it’s nothing to do with the fact that we are bi; everyone is different.
Don’t straight — or gay-wash us
Monogamous couples are seen as straight or gay/lesbian even when there is one bi person in the couple, and this contributes to bi-erasure, biphobia, and straight — or gay-washing. Since the couple is monogamous, people on the outside forget that one person in the couple is actually bi because they are restricted to their one partner. This is a problem in itself, as many of us bi people, myself included, do not want to be seen as straight or anything non-bi. I want to be seen as bi only.
Just because I am in a monogamous relationship with my fiancé, who is a man, and I am a woman, does not mean I am suddenly straight. But society forgets that, and I’m sure there are people who think I am now straight because I am a woman and my partner is a man. This. Is. Bi. Erasure.
Even worse than the possibility of people on the outside of the relationship thinking that the bi person in a monogamous relationship is no longer bi is the fact that over time, the non-bi partner might forget, too.
Luckily, this hasn’t happened to me, as my fiancé respects and honors my bisexuality and never assumes that I have suddenly turned straight because I am with him and only him.
But I have seen instances of other couples where the non-bi person forgets their monogamous partner’s bisexuality and even refers to their own relationship as a "straight," "gay," or "lesbian" relationship. This bi-erasure can be harmful to the bi person’s mental health and sense of self. We want you to respect us, and we want you to recognize our validity.
Be proud of us, and defend us in front of biphobes, whether we are there or not
With understanding comes respect, and with respect comes pride. If you are in any way ashamed of the fact that your partner is bi, then you should not be in a relationship with a bi person. If you hear or see any biphobia from anyone, including your family and friends, you should be calling out that biphobia, whether or not your bi partner is there.
After all, if you respect them, then you respect them at all times, regardless of how uncomfortable your family or friends might feel if you called them out.
Speak out. Educate. Defend. (And this very much applies to not only straight but also lesbian and gay people, since we bis sadly still suffer from biphobia from within the LGBTI community as well as in the straight world.)
Make your bi partner feel valid, and show them that you care
This one may seem self-explanatory, but actually, it’s worth mentioning that it’s often the "little things" that can bring so much happiness.
For example, the fact that my fiancé, a straight man, has proudly come to Pride festivals with me and has always been supportive of who I am, as well as an ally to the LGBTI community, is what makes me feel so lucky to have him as my soul mate.
He just understands me and never tries to hide any aspect about me from anyone. And little presents and instances of affirmation mean so much to me. For example, he bought me some rainbow-colored shoelaces recently, and that was one of the most thoughtful presents I have ever received from anybody because its message is clear: "I see you, I understand you, and I love you for who you are." These gestures of love are always so wonderful. I always feel that he respects and honors who I am, and I never have to hide any aspect of myself from him.
So, there we are. It isn’t difficult to support your bi partner as a non-bi person. Just support them, respect them, don’t make any assumptions about them, don’t fetishize them, and be proud of who they are. That’s all it is. And that’s all that any person in any relationship should be doing anyway.