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Wife Says She May be Attracted to Women

QUESTION: My wife has met a bisexual woman in a bi-curious chat room and feels she has a lot in common with her. She told me that she's not sure if she's lesbian or bi-sexual, and she couldn't explain her feelings. We have had trouble in our marriage and I have been sleeping on the couch. My wife means the world to me, and I don't want to lose her. What can I do to save our marriage?

Whether or not your wife is bisexual, your marriage is in dire need of a major overhaul! Seek a competent couples' counselor who can help you explore marital issues before it is too late. And request that your wife stop her emotional affair at this time and redirect her energies to the marriage.

A lack of communication between the two of you is most definitely part of the problem. Clearly, your wife has been experiencing pain and loneliness in your relationship, while you have not. Yet, she had not shared this with you previous to linking up with someone she finds "special." Searching the Internet for greater intimate companionship is a sign that something was lacking for her between the two of you. Not sleeping in bed with your wife may be a metaphor for other ways the relationship is not hitting on all cylinders.

How did sleeping separately come about? Was this a joint decision or not? How does this affect your sex life? Was it a decision you discussed or one that "just happened?" What is your sexual history together? What does your wife's Internet companion symbolize with respect to what is missing in your relationship? Clearly, they are not having sex, so this is not the only reason your wife is emotionally straying from the marriage. These are some of the questions you might begin to ask in order to trace the development your marital schism and how you so completely missed communicating with one another.

If you made the choice to sleep on the couch, why did you retreat from the relationship at a time when it most needed your attention? Would your retreat be expressing anger or fear of intimacy? Why wouldn't it occur to you that this could cause your wife loneliness?

Your wife's potential bisexuality has provided a window of opportunity for discussing the ways your relationship is not fulfilling to her. But the lack of communication present in your marriage foreshadows future difficulties in any partnership, male or female. The ways you have both avoided addressing intimate issues in your relationship should be thoroughly explored before engaging in emotional affairs that threaten your marriage -- not only to give your marriage a fair chance, but to minimize the possibility that your wife will jump from the frying pan into the fire. Ask your wife to refrain from continuing any outside relationships that feel romantic for now, and focus on your marriage. No marriage can ever compete with the fresh passion of a new romance, and certainly you cannot compete with a woman!

A romantic triangle does not contain true intimacy, because it is based on the fact of the other relationship with which it is compared. It is the case that, in most triangles, the new relationship can feel wonderful, even "perfect," but it's not truly intimate because all of the negative feelings are directed towards the spouse. Therefore, the new relationship contains only the positive feelings of closeness, but does not deal with real-life situations that require partners to regulate closeness and distance in a marriage, based on differences as well as likenesses.

The triangle is usually an unrealistic and unstable condition. The new relationship does not stand on its own, but often depends upon the old relationship as a depository for unhappiness. Do not allow your marriage to become the dumping grounds for this new relationship. Negotiation of needs is often aborted in the marriage when an affair begins. Yet this negotiation is an essential part of the maturation of any relationship. Avoiding the "growing pains" in a marriage will only result in a return to the same problem when a future relationship reaches this same developmental phase.

In reality, the "new love" relationship may not have any more possibility of processing negative feelings than did the previous partnership. You have now established that the marriage is lacking in some way. This is the good news. But continuing a romantic triangle will not give your wife a real opportunity to know what a relationship between two people can yield. And it is likely that your wife will not be able to work on recovering the marriage if her romantic feelings are engaged elsewhere!

Continue to discuss and explore all aspects of your relationship, including your wife's potential bisexuality. She may desire to enter her own therapy to understand the true nature of her sexuality and how she wants to express it. But be aware of the possibility that a focus on bisexuality alone could distract you from dealing with what happened in your marriage. In the long run, it's usually prudent to finish one thing before starting another.

Seek to thoroughly reach an understanding of your marriage and what each of you contributed to the current trouble in the relationship. This journey will likely cause you to develop the communication skills that were previously lacking and are essential to the success of any future partnership either of you may have. This process holds the promise of recovering the marriage, or maintaining a friendship if the two of you part. Either way, you gain something for the future. Slowing things down now, can help you both avoid regrets later.

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.

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