21 and bi: Should I marry?

I want to travel and have other partners. But I'm engaged to the man I love

Published April 12, 2013 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Hi Cary,

I'm a 21-year-old woman, and I've been engaged since 18. (We're not really religious or anything, so that's not a factor.) When we decided to get married, for me it was kind of on a whim. I was young and didn't really get what it means to make a lifetime commitment. So now we live together and plan to get married later this year. I love him more than anything. He's my best friend and knows me better than anyone else. We get along great and rarely fight. He would make an incredible husband. But at the same time, I don't feel ready to make a lifetime commitment.

I feel I haven't had enough time to experience life independently and develop myself. I know that he doesn't feel the same way. He's very serious about getting married and seems to have no second thoughts. We're the same age. To make things more complicated, he recently lost a parent and lost his job, and he's going through a hard time, and I love him and want to support him, not make things worse. I don't know what to do.

I'm bisexual, and I've barely had any sexual experience with women (or anyone else for that matter). I want to live abroad for a few years. I don't want to buy a house or have kids any time soon. I don't want to move to the suburbs. I love him so much, but I feel like I should leave him. What do you think? Is this just normal cold feet? How can you leave someone you love more than anything? I really need some advice; I need to figure this out before the wedding.

Thanks so much, Cary

Bisexual Bride

Dear Bisexual Bride,

If there ever was a rational argument for polyamory and plural marriage it is bisexuality. If we accept bisexuality as an innocent state of being, as we accept other kinds of sexual orientation, and if we wish for every individual to fulfill his and her natural gift of sexuality, then what other conclusion can be reached? If you are bisexual, you cannot be fulfilled by just one person, right? Because one person cannot be two genders, right? To have a fulfilling sex life, you will need a second intimate partner of your own gender. So how can marriage accommodate this? Theoretically, this seems to indicate that plural marriage should be legal.

This of course raises many interesting and thorny questions. This article, while clearly not in favor of such a thing, does a good job of displaying the thorns. Here, by contrast, two bisexual people consider the interesting question of whether to wait for full marriage equality -- i.e., until bisexuals are granted marriage rights -- before marrying. No matter what your opinion, the logic of it is clear.

Your bisexuality is not the only issue dividing you and your fiancé. You have different goals and desires. Is he interested in living abroad for a few years? Does he want to live in the suburbs? You need to sort these things out or you will be trapped in an unhappy marriage.

This is really hard stuff. But you are lucky to be 21 in the year 2013. What happened frequently in our parents' lives is that they did not have time to ponder such difficult and important questions. Nor did such questions really exist openly in the culture. They did not have the choices, legal and cultural, that abound today. So I hope you can take advantage of your opportunity to think this through and make the right choice.

Things don't just work out on their own. We hope they will but they won't. If we fall in love with people who have completely different life plans, then one life plan always must give way. Which one? Whose life? These are the hard questions of marriage.

So take some time. Find a supportive setting in which you can ponder these questions.

This may help: Ask yourself, really quickly, What is non-negotiable? Is it your bisexuality? Is it your desire to travel and live abroad? Is it your love of your husband? Quick, before thinking too hard about which one it should be, ask yourself which one it is. Which one rises to the top?

When we ask ourselves this question, one dream, one desire, will usually rise to the top. Give that your most serious thought. That may be your most urgent calling in life. You can meet other needs in time.  But do not make a choice that rules out the others; you need all these things to have a balanced life.

Now here is a personal plea: With your choice, if you struggle to express your full being within your marriage, you can not only give yourself the best chance of being happy within that marriage but actually help change the institution of marriage itself. In the old model, you would have to repress a genuine, alive, vibrant part of yourself in order to uphold a social construct. I hope you do not follow that model.

But as I say, this is going to be hard work. Take the time to think it through and come to a decision that makes sense for you. You may need to extricate yourself from your routine for a few days and find a setting in which you can face these questions and gather the strength to make the right choice. I hope you do.

It's going to be an interesting century.

By Cary Tennis

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