A few days ago I was in the library, pawing around the Social/Social Science section, looking for books about prostitutes (hey, we’ve all got our vices) when I came across Living Two Lives: Married to a Man & In Love with a Woman by Joanne Fleisher. It was the 6th book I picked up that day – I already had 2 checked out, bringing me to my 8 item limit. It was, of course, the first book I opened when I got home. I finished it in two days.
I’m so glad to see examples of other women going through what I have been through since I fell in love with a woman, even if most of them were deciding whether to divorce their husbands and come out as lesbians or sacrifice to keep their families together. I am not facing either of these dilemmas, but the book was still highly relevant to me. I recommend it for any other woman truly discovering her attraction to women while married to a man, even if she already had some inkling that she wasn’t straight before falling in love.
In the beginning of my relationship with my husband I came out as bisexual. I even went so far as to tell my partner, my friends and some family, but I didn’t have conviction. I wasn’t sure of myself or my sexual identity and it was easy enough to let the questions fall to the side as I built my life with my partner. I fell in love and coupled with women in my dream life while maintaining a straight monogamous relationship with my partner as we moved from boyfriend and girlfriend to husband and wife. I became unsure of my sexuality. Was I really bisexual, or just being silly?
Once we opened our marriage, I only saw men. I didn’t feel a strong emotional connection with any of them, but I was quite happy to have additional sexual partners as long as the emotional connection was positive. I still never considered seeing women.
That all changed when a friend asked me to go to a lesbian bar with her. I said sure, out of curiosity and a sense of adventure. I never imagined I would fall in love with someone I met there that very night. In fact, as I talked to the woman who is now my fiancé, I kept thinking “how am I going to tell her I’m not gay?” I should have been asking “how can I come to terms once and for all with the fact that I’m not straight?”
Since that experience I have thoroughly questioned my own sexuality. Am I straight? Am I lesbian? Am I bisexual? What about other labels? What do I do about the fact that I hate the label bisexual and would prefer to be gay or straight?
And then there is the shame. The shame of being bisexual (my internalized homophobia is only against those who “can’t choose a side”… y’know, the people like me).
And the guilt. The guilt of loving two people. The guilt of wanting to spend time with both people and feeling I should be spending time with the other person. The guilt of preferring one partner in some arenas. The guilt of fundamentally changing my family life, forever. The guilt of needing so much more than I’m allowed.
Living Two Lives let me see that my journey through this is not unique. Many women have come to love a woman while married to a man. They have questioned their sexual identity and felt the overwhelming guilt of their actions to live an authentic life. They even touched on a woman who loved and sexually responded to her husband and girlfriend. I think she may have even been open about it with both partners. A polyamorous woman, though Fleisher didn’t call her such.
I’m glad I found this book and I hope it helps other women married to men who happen to fall in love with a woman through their journey. I feel for all those women going through this right now, especially the ones who have to raze their lives to continue forward. I count myself supremely lucky that my husband embraced polyamory. Because of him, I never had to make the choice between my desire for men and my desire for women; between the man I love and the woman I love.