A growing number of spouses are in some way part of the LGBTQ+ community yet find a great deal of satisfaction in staying with their opposite-sex partner. In these Mixed Orientation relationships, love, history, families and shared emotional intimacy are profound stabilizing forces, staples of family life. Coming out doesn’t mean that one member of the couple has to walk away.
In fact, the fear of coming out keeps many LGBTQ+ spouses trapped in silence for months and even decades. They consider if they can really uproot their lives and change the relational context for everyone in their family. Many coming out spouses wager with themselves, a perpetual internal debate that feels like a nagging worry and anxiety more than decision-making.
I totally get it. Coming out feels like the wrecking ball that will shatter the stability and longevity holding your relationship intact. Revealing such a deep and personal secret—one that may instantly complicate a heterosexual marriage—can be petrifying.
Those deafening fears can be turned down. First, we need to talk about emotional intimacy and the role it plays in relationships and desire.
Bedrock of Relationships
Emotional intimacy is a major, silent player in your life. As you’ve bonded to your partner you have shared a common history sprinkled with beautiful memories and relational milestones. Over the years you’ve shared parts of who you are, your deepest secrets. Unbeknown to you, your partner has sat in the front row with a perfect view of your personality, your strengths and your insecurities. They know you from the inside out. Needless to say, sharing a longstanding history with a partner solidifies security and belonging, aspects of your life with which you are hardly willing to part, I’d imagine.
Emotional intimacy, in this light, drives unconditional love. In loving relationships, our partners know us in every way and stay by our sides with grace, compassion and love. This kind of love is a message spoken over a lifetime of actions not just with words. It is a powerful and perpetual message of security that many coming out spouses feel like they’ll either be forced to abandon or relinquish.
As coming out spouses toil over the fear of losing the security of their marriages, I always recommend a healthy daily dose of vulnerability.
Vulnerability isn’t just about passing meaningful words back and forth; it is a process that stabilizes our attachments. As you build a secure attachment with your spouse, there is very little that can deconstruct it. Vulnerability is the mortar that will keep your emotional bricks in place. Vulnerability stabilizes the walls that create your relational home. As it were, vulnerability will stabilize the cohesion of your relationships, no matter what direction it might head.
A Way Forward
As you’ve come to know your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, you may now be very familiar with what our body wants, in both your sexual orientation and gender identity. Desire, it seems, is your new guiding force. The awareness of your body’s yearnings, which may seem more profound in the coming out stage of life than in any other, are all too conspicuous. They are blaring in your ears and shining in your face.
This is good news for the coming out spouse. Your awareness can be converted not only into language that will help your partner understand and empathize with your story as a sexual or gender minority, but it will also forge a path toward, you guessed it, deeper emotional intimacy.
Understanding your desires will give you the ability to integrate your desires into your daily life, romantic gestures and sexual moments because they are part of your ongoing conversation and new daily routine.
By desires, I mean those that lead to actions and that relate to basic emotional needs. For example, underneath the behavior of sex lies the desire for physical satisfaction, connectedness, thrill, passion and maybe even emotional bonding.
Taking time to identify what desires underscore the behaviors for which you crave will help you and your opposite-sex partner meet your needs, and hopefully theirs. Talking about your desires will shift the way you relate to each other, with the potential to bring a refreshing whoosh of satisfaction to your marriage.
As mixed orientation couples begin talking about what they crave inside the home, under the sheets and within their relational dynamic, they have the power to initiate change. Many mixed orientation couples find that sharing their desires—with a new sense of vulnerability, honesty and openness—rejuvenates a faltering relational dynamic or dry sex life. They begin having fun, in and out of the bedroom.
Nurturing emotional intimacy can help stabilize many mixed orientation marriages, particularly those with one partner capable of bisexuality. Mixed orientation marriages don’t work for everyone, let me be honest. Putting pressure on yourself to maintain a mixed orientation marriage can be debilitating and straining if both partners aren’t truly committed to helping it thrive. But when it works, it really works.
Whether or not you know if you want to make a mixed orientation relationship work, emotional intimacy will help you find your answer. It will unearth deep truths that need to be aired, help you discover desires to guide your heart and body and will help your partner track your internal journey. As both you and your partner walk side by side, you’ll feel rooted and connected, especially when emotional intimacy is your trusted tool.
Be honest about who you are and what you desire. Share it boldly with your partner. Doing so will help you create the life that will leave you truly satisfied.