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Can you question your sexuality while in a relationship? I asked 4 people who did

PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESS BROHIER

WORDS BY EVANGELINE POLYMENEAS

“If I love my boyfriend am I meant to be having these feelings?”

While it’s completely normal to question your sexuality, it can be a lot more complicated for those who start to question it while in a monogamous relationship. Sexuality is usually portrayed as a journey taken on one’s own; after you ‘find yourself’, you find a partner (supposedly). But what happens if you already have a partner, but you’re not so sure about your sexuality?

In monogamous relationships, you’re expected to be loyal to your partner, romantically and sexually. I’ve always wondered whether it’s possible to question your sexuality and work out what it is you want if you’re ‘not meant’ to be having sexual thoughts or feelings about anyone else. Is your sexuality suddenly meaningless when you commit to a person, or is it something that will always be a part of you?


For more on relationships, head to our Life section.


Can you question your sexuality while in a monogamous relationship, or are you sort of…. cheating? Curious to hear firsthand from people who’ve done so, I asked four people who have done just this. From talking to them, I’ve learnt that while sexuality is personal, it’s also something you share with your partner, so communicating with them about where you’re at should be a priority.

Questioning your sexuality doesn’t mean that you’re questioning the relationship. You can be in the healthiest, happiest relationship of your life and still question your sexuality – as long as you’re being true to yourself, the people that love you will support you. 

Alex, 24

Alex had been in a relationship with a man for two years. They even had a deposit on a house together. It wasn’t until she started noticing that her TikTok For You Page had turned into what she referred to as “lesbian TikTok”, that she started to wonder whether the world she thought she had always belonged to was the world she was really meant to be in.

While Alex was “alone with her thoughts and feelings” during the COVID lockdown, she started to reflect on what TikTok was showing her. If the algorithm said she was lesbian, was she? “It was a confusing time,” Alex explained. “I felt super guilty and in a lot of turmoil internally, I kept thinking, are these feelings what I should be feeling? And, if I love [my boyfriend] am I meant to be having these feelings?”

Despite her brother being gay, Alex thought being straight was the norm, regardless of the signs that maybe she wasn’t. “I thought not liking dick and being grossed out by it was normal,” she said. When Alex would get drunk, she would kiss girls but always thought that was normal.

“[TikTok] kind of sparked the ‘uh huh’ moment,” she told me. While still in her relationship, Alex came out as bi-sexual. “When I came out, I had a little tear and said ‘I think I’m bi but that’s okay, everything’s fine, don’t worry’ but I think I said that because I didn’t want to anger or upset him, because of the type of relationship it was.

“I guess he took that, put it in a box and stuck it away.” Alex went on to say that she didn’t want to make her sexuality a threat to the relationship. When Alex finally came to terms with the fact she was lesbian she knew she had to end the relationship with her boyfriend at the time.

“It was either me and him to the end, or nothing at all. Like anything like that, I just couldn’t see the ability to explore with him still by my side,” Alex said. “At the point when I did fully come out to him, I didn’t really want him by my side anymore, but I was in denial about it.”

I asked Alex if she felt like she was cheating on her partner when she began to question her sexuality. “I think at the end of the day, we are all human beings, we are all sexual creatures and I think that it’s normal and healthy to be attracted to people.

“But I think there is a difference between your own thoughts and internalising it and then actually doing it,” she said. “I think actually acting on those thoughts is what is classed as being disloyal.

“Having [sexual feelings towards others] is completely normal and everyone gets them. You see a hot person on TV, or you fantasise about people… you’re allowed to do that, it’s your own head. I mean as long as you’re not actively looking or actively seeking it out, it’s fine.”

Olivia*, 22 

Olivia had been dating her boyfriend for almost five years. Prior to her relationship, she had been “bi-curious” but never really dipped her toes in the water. Throughout her relationship, she questioned her sexuality, but it never really impacted her and her partner until January last year.

When Olivia started to express to her boyfriend that she was questioning her sexuality, he told her that he was accepting and would be okay with her experimenting. “There was always a safe space to discuss it with him. I never felt like I couldn’t talk to him about it, I just didn’t because there were other people around me with more perspective on what I was going through.”

Although Olivia was in a safe and accepting relationship, she decided to seek support from other queer people around her. “I have friends around me who identify as lesbian or bi or pansexual,” she told me. After over a year of discovering, Olivia realised that she is bisexual. That realisation and also a feeling that they had each lost who they were as individuals, is what ultimately led to her and her boyfriend’s breakup.

“We felt as though we couldn’t grow as individuals while we were in the relationship because we didn’t know who the fuck we were,” Olivia revealed. She went on to say that her ex put it well when he said, “I am a good friend, a good son, a good boyfriend, a good neighbour, a good employee but I don’t know who I am for myself. I just don’t know, and I want to figure it out.”

As someone who hasn’t questioned their sexuality, I wanted to learn whether or not you can be sexually fulfilled in a relationship while you are questioning your sexuality. Essentially, if you are questioning what you’re attracted to, can you find sexual fulfilment? I asked Olivia.

“I’m not going to lie there were moments, not during sex, but after, when I thought ‘I just feel like a female would be able to do this better’ or ‘I wonder what it would feel like to be with a female sexually’. But there was never a time when I would think, ‘Fuck, I’m missing out on something’,” she explained.

“I feel like everyone is a bit sexually unfulfilled, no matter what is going on, because there are always going to be sexual experiences you haven’t experienced. You haven’t sexually outdone yourself at the age of 22, you haven’t met the peak of your sexual experiences at this young age, surely not.”

So, can it work? “I think it comes down to who the two people are in the relationship. If you have one party, who for example, is always jealous, paranoid, insecure or needs a lot of reassurance in the relationship, then it might not work.”

“I think you have to be a very open-minded and progressive person if you’re going to be comfortable with your partner going out and experimenting while still being in a relationship with them and there not being this tension or this wondering of whether they are enough,” she said. “They aren’t your average Tinder match.”

Adele, 21

Adele started dating her girlfriend when she was 16. She thought she was lesbian and lived her life as such. But when she started developing sexual feelings for male celebrities, she felt confused. Gay and straight was all Adele thought there was, and when she didn’t feel like she fit into either of those boxes she started questioning who she was. Many relationships later, Adele refuses to commit to a binary label, deciding instead to identify as queer. “I date whoever I want,” she explained.

“It’s totally normal to question this sort of stuff and it can happen at any point in your life. Sexuality is fluid. It doesn’t mean that you’re lying or that you’re deceitful,” Adele said.

“The way I think about it is, your sexuality is to some extent who you are, and your relationship is an expression of your sexuality. I guess it’s a question of whether your relationship is able to make space for that and allow you to feel safe to explore your sexuality in that relationship or whether you have to leave your relationship to explore it.

“As much as it is individual, you are with somebody else and they are going to have their own reaction and their own experience… and they also need to feel comfortable and safe, because a lot of people would find that triggering to deal with, whether it’s the fear of being left or the fear of you not finding them attractive anymore.

“Being queer, you’re not always going to be safe to talk about your sexuality. If you feel like that is the case with your partner, find another community that you can explore this sort of stuff with, whether it’s online, or with friends or family. Not everyone has the privilege to question their sexuality in a relationship, so if communication isn’t possible, find support.”

Patrick, 28

Patrick grew up believing he was straight, but when other people started questioning his sexuality, he couldn’t help but wonder if they were right. During his first long-term relationship with a woman, Patrick came to terms with his bisexuality.

“The biggest concern I had was wondering if [my partner] was going to take me being bisexual as me being gay and not take it as what I was saying I am. I didn’t want them to think that I had no attraction to them because I liked men too,” Patrick told me.

Patrick has often hidden his sexuality in relationships, for fear of coming across as less masculine. “Society has this perception that if you so much as take away your straightness, you are no longer masculine,” he said.

“It’s kind of sad, isn’t it? When you get into a relationship, you kind of hope that you’re in a relationship with a person because you do trust them and you’re on the same page as them, but ultimately that might not always be the case. Only three out of my five partners have known [about my sexuality] because I didn’t trust the other two enough to let them in, because I didn’t think they would still see me as masculine.

“I understand that people think that if you’re questioning your sexuality, you’re compromising your relationships, but it’s not as black and white as that. I don’t think sexuality is something that should come into contention in a relationship because you’re dating the person, you’re not dating their sexuality or their sexual history.”

Interested in learning more about sexuality? Visit here.

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