Become a fan of h2g2
Descriptors for Sexual Minorities | Asexuality | Homosexuality
Heterosexuality | Bisexuality | Polyamory | The Kinsey Scale | The Gender Pronoun Game | Coming Out
Embarrassing Questions About Sexual Orientation | Going Back In - Sexuality U-turns
It may be a fairly rare problem, but nonetheless it is one, which can arise a result of bisexuality and that is reverting from a homosexual to a heterosexual relationship. This can be especially problematic if you have ended up in a serious long-term relationship with your new partner.
Having gone through all the agonies of coming out as bi or maybe even gay you now find yourself in another interesting dilemma. For some time you have been considered by those around you to be in a relationship or relationships with members of the same sex. They have all reacted to that revelation about you in various ways, now however they, and people you may never before have come into contact with have to deal with you as you are now, as someone who has had experiences and same sex relationships but who now is in a heterosexual relationship. Sometimes they may even react with more of a shock about your going back in than in your coming out.
What About Your Old Partner?
Your old partner is likely to respond in one of three ways.
They may be happy that you are happy. As with any break-up this finishing scenario is easier to achieve if there is no acrimony at the time the two of you parted company.
In a bisexual situation it may be that the old partner never quite thought you were truly comfortable in a homosexual relationship in the first place and may just have been experimenting. Or they may have realised that when you really found happiness that it didn't matter what gender your partner would have.
They may, however be angry at you for 'conforming' and entering a heterosexual relationship. Especially if your old partner is particularly militant and doesn't acknowledge that people are on different stages of the Kinsey scale and believe that nobody can be bisexual. They may try to do whatever they can to ruin your new relationship, by 'outing' you1 to your new partner and people closely associated with them and maintain so much pressure in this respect that your relationship may be established and strong enough to cope. You need to be strong enough in yourself to cope with this eventuality as so much pressure could lead to depression or worse if you are not 100 per cent sure of the course your life is now taking.
It is a shame that some people might react in like this but it is in the nature of people. Sadly just as some people believe that nobody is really gay, unfortunately some gay people are also prejudiced in this way.
Thirdly they may feel an even greater sense of rejection, that not only have you turned away from them but also given up hope of ever finding happiness in a relationship with someone of the same sex again. This reaction may be caused by a level of low self-esteem in your old partner. A few reassurances from you2 that there was nothing in your relationship with them which caused you to turn to a heterosexual relationship following your break-up should start to shore up their confidence. Also if you are able try and explain some of the feelings and thoughts you went through to enable you to enter a heterosexual relationship following what you had and hopefully enjoyed in the homosexual relationship you shared. It is good to be able to talk about what there was enjoyable with your ex-partner as they will further experience a boost in confidence as they themselves maybe look for or embark on a new relationship.
What About Your New Partner?
Your new partner will either know about your previous relationships, especially if they have been a friend for a long time, or they will not3. As a result there are different ways you need to approach your going back in with each of them.
If They Knew you Before
If they knew you before they are likely to need a lot of reassurance that you haven't taken the action half-heartedly or on a spur. However as you are very likely not to want to jeopardise such a friendship has probably led you to some serious thinking before even letting your new partner know that there was any interest at all. This careful consideration on your part is likely to some extent to allay their fears, however, especially in the early stages of this new relationship be prepared to give constant reassurance. The fact that this person is very aware of you previous status and willing to enter into a relationship with you is more than likely going to be a good sign that there is potentially a great deal of hope that this relationship will last long-term. As both parties have had to give a great deal of serious consideration to all the possible implications that will arise from it problems as they may arise are more likely to be easily addressed.
Also the fact that your new partner knows about your past makes it easier to handle those questions that undoubtedly will arise as the relationship gets serious. Questions whose answers need to be backed up by experiences gained from previous relationships. There is no need to use a non gender-specific pronoun in this case to hide your past before it is discussed, so therefore this knowledge allows for a far greater degree of freedom and honesty to pervade your time together.
If They Didn't Know You Before
If they didn't know you before you are going to have to broach the subject at some point if, that is, you want it to have any future. Depending on how well you knew the person before you started going out you may already have some idea how they may receive this revelation about yourself. If from your knowledge they are likely to take it well it is best to get to the point as soon as a suitable opportunity presents itself, if none is forthcoming you may have to create one. If you are not sure or feel that you homosexual past is not going to be well received you are going to have to lay some ground-work and get a feeling for the reception you are likely to receive. As far as you can manage maintain a degree of control over how much you are willing to receive so as not to shock your new partner too much or cause unnecessary harm to yourself. The one thing in this situation is that you are going to have to tell them and make sure they have understood. As with all relationships, you really want them to be based on total honesty.
What About the Parents?
Your parents will most likely have given up any hope4 of you producing grandchildren for them5. The fact that you are now informing them that you have found the man or woman of your dreams to settle down with in a heterosexual relationship may now come as a complete surprise to them6.
They may also have overcome the embarrassment of telling family and friends of their child's sexual orientation, and now are not looking forward to the process of retraction. Maiden aunts and grandmothers could be extremely hard to sway away from the view that it's cute that there is a gay member of the family7.
Again this can be tricky, especially if they knew you as a gay or lesbian friend of their offspring. They are bound to be concerned about how genuine your affections are, what brought about this change in your outlook and whether you will turn again to homosexual relationships. As well as the normal qualms any parent has about their child's partner's faithfulness, you bring a whole other dimension with regards to being potentially able to cheat on this new relationship with the whole population of the world8.
Their misgivings may be further enhanced if your new partner sees that you have close friends of the opposite sex. There may of course be fears about sexually transmitted diseases. Reassure them by getting tested to prove that there is no harm you can bring upon their family and continue to practise safer sex9 to show them you are committed to not harming or putting at risk your new partner.
Be prepared to answer honestly any questions your partner's parents may ask you, however silly they may seem to you. If you have a problem with this, put yourself in their position. It is much more usual for their child to bring home someone to meet them who has a history of heterosexual relationships, and this is usually dealt with by a 'be careful' speech. You, however, are most likely bringing a whole range of scenarios which they may never have thought that their child was likely to encounter, especially not at such close quarters. Be patient with them, they are merely seeking the re-assurance which you may already have given your partner, and they may have passed on to their parents, but parents want to hear these things first hand.
What About Your Friends?
This group is the one you hope will be the most supportive of your new relationship, but give them a chance to get over the initial shock. If your friends are a cross section of homosexuals and heterosexuals you should be okay. However if you have found yourself in a completely gay enclave be prepared for at least a little back biting10. Don't forget out of all the people you are in contact with these are the ones that you can choose. You may be amazed to find out how supportive this bunch can in fact be, and it may be the reactions of your gay friends that surprise you the most11. Generally you have nothing to fear with your friends about going back in, after all, the ones you still have around have already dealt well with your coming out and will continue to offer you advice and friendship to ensure your happiness.
What About Your Work Colleagues?
This is a very hard group to deal with at the best of times. Despite legislation being there to protect you from outward signs of discrimination you cannot control what goes on in their minds.
As you will have found out if and when you 'came out' to your colleagues, some had no problems with you being gay and others found it a real struggle to carry on as before. Expect the same when you announce your 'going back in'. Those who previously reacted favourably are more likely to be the open-minded ones and realise that bi-sexuality exists and that no-one can be pigeon-holed indefinately. However, anyone who was not so supportive previously is not necessarily going to be appeased by you now being in a heterosexual relationship. They may view it as a sign of indecisiveness on your part, as a tactic by you to gain favour or promotion by 'returning to the norm' or as mere capitulation to the pressure that others have put on you. Of course none of these are a true reflection. You have made a thoughtful decision and have continued as you always have done to find your own path. You will have a hard time trying to convince some people of this as they are too deep set in their thinking, so just be prepared to defend your stance as best you can and get on with being a consciencous member of the workforce, after all that is what you are there for.
What About the Relationship?
Depending on the starting point, the relationship will find its own speed to being an honest, sharing relationship. The fact that you are likely to have put as much thought into starting this relationship as your first with a member of the same sex, means that you are committed to seeing it succeed. You partner once they have found out about your past and have come to accept that this relationship is genuine will also be committed to making it work. So hopefully because of all the thought that has gone into making and keeping this relationship an honest one, it stands a good chance of being a good one.
Obvious points that will need to be discussed are who knows what, how much do others know12 and other issues in your past. Issues on which the two of you may need to work are how to stimulate and satisfy each other sexually. You may even end up feeling like a virgin again. There are other issues not encountered in same-sex relationships that you will encounter, such as your partner's clothing. However the learning process can be fun, as long as it is treated as just a time of experiencing new things. Having a partner who is understanding is a great help. This added need to understand the entire gender and not just the person can also be a great way to strengthen the relationship.
As long as you maintain open lines of communication and are prepared to ask and answer each other questions there should be no problems encountered in settling into your new relationship. You cannot really brush over the past, so you may as well try not to hide it but get on with life as it is now.
What About You?
You have decided to make a stand for something that most people are not able to empathise with. You may feel you are the only one who has ever gone through this. Hopefully after reading this you'll realise you are not alone. However you will have done a lot of soul searching to get to a point where you can pursue this relationship with someone of the opposite sex. The choice you have just made may have ramifications further on in your life, you cannot tell. The most important outcome of the decision you have made in going back in is for your new partner. The person who now fills most of your waking thoughts and most of your dreams at night. Be confident that you have made the right choice: not for them, but for yourself. Live each day re-assured that what you did you have done for all the right reasons. Nobody has the right to tell you otherwise. Life is always full of surprises and for some of those who know you, you have just sprung another one into their path.
So How Should You Respond?
If someone you know decides to go back in, how would you handle it? What would you say? Are you prepared for such an event? Here are some examples of things you may want to say and other's you most definitely should not. Plus there are a few scenarios which depend very much on your relationship with the person in question. It is not an exhaustive list so if you have any other ideas why not post them below. Most of these are gained from the author's personal experiences.
Responses to Avoid
Not surprisingly, some of the same reactions to someone coming out appear again when they go back in.
'Are you sure you know what you're doing?'
'But... but... but... but... but...' (At least regain your thoughts before saying this.)
'It's not just a phase is it?'
Other calamitous sayings can spill out of your mouth if you are not careful, such as,:
'I knew you liked boys/girls (delete as applicable) all along'
'So it was all a sham then?' (this can be particularly hurtful as the person is obviously going through enough mental anguish as it is, without you piling on more.)
'But I thought you were gay?' (classic retort here is, 'So did I, strange that.'
Some Pretty Good Responses
Some people have the ability to say the right thing. The best responses in this situation are carefully thought out which relate to that particular individual:
'As long as you are happy, I'm pleased for you.'
'Typical you, always full of surprises, good luck.'
'We knew all along you two should be together.' (However, you might wish these people had told you about it sooner at the time.)
Some responses can be taken well... or not, depending on the kind of relationship you have with that person. A bantering one might produce something like this:
'I knew only a good (man/woman) could make this happen, and the person who has you now is exceptional!'
Be aware - if someone has been prepared to come out to you and is now telling you that they are going back in, it means they trust you and want your support. So they are quite willing to wait for you to form a sensible answer and won't mind a few seconds of silent contemplation. If you value the friendship as much as they obviously do, take your time, think of them and find something to say to build them up. It's what they really want. After all they have done all the thinking, they now just want to get on with living.