On bisexuality: An apology

Plus: I can't get close to him. We've been dating for two months and he still seems distant

Published April 19, 2013 12:00AM (EDT)

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

Dear Reader,

Regarding my last two columns, this one and this one, I seem to have made an error that was offensive to many people who identify as bisexual, and I apologize. I do. I really do. I can really fall in love with my own nonsense sometimes. And to those who have written agreeing with me, I appreciate it, but I think I was wrong.

Here is the flaw in my thinking, courtesy of a kindly scholar of argument:

"Logically, your position relies on a fallacy of amphiboly that confuses two different uses of the term 'two.'  Being attracted to 'two' sexes is not the same thing as wanting 'two' partners. Could a bisexual person be polyamorous?  Sure. But so could a heterosexual person. You say that being lesbian means one wants to be partners with women (etc).  Does that mean that being a lesbian means that one wants to be partners with ALL women?  More than one woman? By extension, does being heterosexual (man wants to be partners with women) mean that a man wants to be partners with ALL women? More than one? Besides, being bisexual doesn't mean that one has 'two' attractions.  It means that one’s preferences don’t necessarily depend on sex.  It’s not that you want to have sex with 'both' men and women.  It’s just as easily that you want to have sex with either a man or a woman."

So, I stand corrected. I thought I was being smart but I was being dumb. (I do think the logical error was actually equivocation and not amphiboly, resting as it does on more than one meaning of the word "two" than on a grammatical ambiguity. But let's not quibble.)

Apparently, what I really favor is plural marriage. And if that's not what I favor, I'm sure someone will let me know.

I do love the phrase "maximum human freedom under the law," though. Don't you? But let's not quibble! I was wrong and I offended people and I apologize.

And now onward. If I receive one more letter with the subject line "You are being an idiot," I promise to take up lepidoptery.

Dear Cary,

I'm a 36-year-old woman dating a man who is 47. He's bright, accomplished, kind and generous. He is creative and inspires me to stay creative. He says he is eager to get married and start a family. I am too. But I sense that it is difficult for him to get close. He lost his older sister and only sibling in a terrible tragedy during a family trip when he was about 10 years old. As they were crossing a river, she slipped and was swept away,  her body never to be found. He describes his family as having been extremely close. His sister's death must have been incredibly painful for him. Losing his best friend and his childhood.

We've been dating for over two months and it's been a slow process getting closer to him. I'm OK with it because my approach is usually to get close fast then I get bored. He's been almost engaged three times, but never followed through with it. When I asked why, he mentioned reasons that had to do with the women, such as not being nice to him or having social anxiety.  He's been in therapy for many years so he is aware of his issues. But I wonder if another layer of the inner work -- being in a relationship -- is something he's not able to do because of the childhood trauma he suffered.  

I'm also dealing with my own inability to get close. I grew up with a father who was verbally abusive and a mother who was sexually abused by her father.

I'd appreciate your advice on how to deal with this.

Thank you,

Hoping to Get Close to Someone Who Might Be Closed Off

Dear Hoping to Get Close,

I suggest two things. One, I suggest that you let go of the assumption that this relationship has to work out. It doesn't. You've only known each other for two months. It's only two months out of your life. You like him but he may not be the one.

Two, ask yourself why you are spending time with him and yet are not satisfied with the way he is. Could that have something to do with what it feels like to love a man who is abusive to you?

If part of you says to stay away, then what part of you is telling you to stay with him? That part of you that is still craving your father's love may have latched on to this man quickly, as you tend to latch on to men quickly. Think about it: He is significantly older, he is accomplished, he is emotionally unavailable. Does that remind you of anyone?

You are you today. You are never going to get what your father didn't give you. That hole in your heart may have to be filled in other ways, with spirituality,  with self-acceptance. Meanwhile, today, you are much larger than your childhood, and there is a part of you that will know about this man, and will know whether you are just trying to get something you will never get, or whether you genuinely like being with him and can fall in love with him as who you are today.

You may want to say to me that it is complicated. And I would not disagree. You have conflicting feelings. But your gut is very smart. Try to give it a say just for a week or so. Put your problem-solving mode aside and just listen to your gut for a while. It may be telling you to stay away from this man because he will hurt you. Whether he wants to or not, because of this inability to express his feelings, if you stay with him, unless you resolve this thing with your father, you may be always wishing for something he will never give you.

By Cary Tennis

MORE FROM Cary Tennis

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Dating Emotion Fathers Feelings Marriage Men Psychotherapy Relationships Romance Since You Asked Verbal Abuse