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Complexities to Coming Out in a Straight Relationship

Robyn Exton

Dec 02, 2021

Complexities to Coming Out in a Straight Relationship

When people think about coming out, the possibility of coming out in a straight relationship often doesn’t cross people’s minds. But it’s a reality for more people than you might think. Even if you love your partner and want to continue being with them, you may discover that you’re somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

It can be a complex situation to navigate, but in many cases, you can come out the other side as a stronger couple with a deeper understanding of one another.

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How Do I Come Out to my Straight Partner?

Coming out is a personal, individual journey for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community. How you choose to come out is up to you, and should be based on what feels right to you and for your relationship. Whether you choose a unique way to come out or just have an open conversation with your partner, it’s your decision and it’s completely valid.

Coming out to your straight partner can seem scary, but it can also open up and deepen your connection. While no one has to come out, being open and authentic can create a new level of trust with your partner and it gives them the opportunity to step up and support you in your coming out journey.

Why Is It Important?

Coming out is always important because it allows you to be your authentic self and not feel you’re hiding a part of yourself from the world. For any relationship to be successful, your partner needs to understand who you are at the deepest level. That can’t happen if you’re keeping your sexuality or gender identity from them.

You deserve to be your whole self and to be loved for exactly who you are. Coming out is really letting people in to see the real you. It’s scary to be vulnerable with people, but it’s often a huge relief to stop hiding such an important part of yourself.

What to Expect

Different people will react in different ways, and the identity you’re coming out as may have an effect on their reaction. If you’re coming out as bisexual or pansexual, it may be more straightforward, because it’s clear you’re still attracted to them. But coming out as a different gender identity, as asexual, or as a different romantic attraction can be more confusing. 

Their reaction will vary depending on who your straight partner is, and you will likely need to give them some time to process the information. But equally, you need to think about what you expect from them going forward. How do you want to express your new identity? Will it change the dynamic of the relationship? What do you want from them going forward?

Sexual Fluidity

Lots of people’s sexuality is fluid and changes over time and that can feel uncertain and confusing, but it’s one of the beautiful complexities of human attraction. If this applies to you, be sure to reassure your partner that you’re still attracted to them and don’t see that changing.

Again, setting your expectations is important. Think about what you want and how you expect your relationship to change, so that you can communicate your needs and your partner understands what to expect as your relationship progresses.

Common Challenges

Challenges straight couples face when one comes out varies – mostly depending on the identity you’re coming out as. If you’re coming out as trans or non-binary, one of the key challenges is helping your partner to understand what your gender identity means for their sexuality. If they have always been straight, the idea that they’re dating someone the same gender as them or someone non-binary can be confusing.

Whatever your identity, coming out will introduce a queer aspect to the relationship, which can be scary or confusing for your straight partner to get their head around. But it’s important to remember and to remind them that whether the relationship is ‘queer’ or not, it’s still the same relationship. All relationships are unique and specific to the individuals involved. Don’t feel the need to label it right away. And reassure your partner that however they choose to label their sexuality going forward, you support them.

How To Have Hard Conversations

These conversations can be difficult, but they’re important to have. To create the ideal environment, make sure you’re in a private place and there’s no pressure. You don’t want there to be any distractions or time constraints that might put unnecessary pressure on the situation. You both need time and space to communicate and work through your feelings.

Also, you need to be understanding if your partner is a little surprised and needs some time to process the information. They may need some time alone to digest the news, think about how it affects them and your relationship, and come back to you with their thoughts and questions afterward. Hard conversations are often not a single conversation – they’re a series of conversations over time with space to think in between. Allow your partner the time and space they need and don’t take it personally.

When to Press Pause

Sometimes, you or your partner might want to press pause on the relationship. Taking some alone time after you come out may not be enough in some instances. This might seem like a daunting prospect because, of course, you care about your partner and don’t want to lose them.

But one or both of you may want to take time away from the relationship to reassess your feelings, do some soul-searching and think about what you want before you dive back in. Don’t be scared about this – think about it as an opportunity for both of you to grow and take steps towards what you really want, whether that’s together or apart.

You and Your Partner May Grow Closer

Oftentimes, coming out to your partner will actually make you feel closer to each other. Understanding yourself in a deeper way and letting your partner understand you on a deeper level can naturally deepen the relationship as well.

People can feel anxious about the idea of reassessing a relationship because they’re worried that it will lead to their partner having doubts. But reassessing is healthy. If you both think about your relationship and push through, both being more authentically yourselves, you can recommit to each other. This only makes your bond stronger.

Don’t Stress Right Away

There are a lot of unknowns when you come out in a straight relationship. How will they react? How will your relationship change? What does the future look like for you? But stressing about it won’t help anything. 

You deserve to be able to live as your authentic self, and your partner should support you in that. There are two possible outcomes: either your relationship becomes stronger because of it, or you get to go on without hiding your true self. Both have definite positives, so try to focus on those.

Inspiring Others

Visibility is so important in the LGBTQ+ community. Many queer people grew up without knowing other queer people or seeing themselves represented in the media. By just embarking on this journey and coming out in a straight relationship, you can lead by example and help others who may be going through the same thing. 

You’re not alone in this. And when you’re out the other side, you can show others that they’re not alone either.

Sexual Infidelity

Some people are concerned that their coming out may lead to sexual infidelity or their partner cheating. You and your partner need to actively communicate about your boundaries and be open with one another about how you’re feeling. 

If you have changed the way you view and label your sexuality, you may want some space to explore that. Some couples make their relationship open, even just in the short term, to give each partner the chance to experiment and develop a better understanding of their sexual orientation, without having to break up. This can be beneficial to a relationship, but be sure to be clear about your boundaries and if your feelings change at any point.

Couples Therapy

If you come out and you’re finding it hard to handle or work through as a couple, you may want to consider couples therapy. It’s very common for couples to struggle with communication, and having a safe space to be open about your feelings and discuss them freely can be helpful.

It can also be illuminating to have a third party help you to understand your relationship better. Sometimes, you and your partner are just too close to the relationship to see things clearly. A therapist can help you to gain a better understanding of your relationship, and what it might look like after you’ve come out.

Learn More with HER

If you’ve recently come out, talking to other LGBTQ+ people about their own journeys and identities can help to make you feel less alone and shine light on your own identity and relationship. On HER, you can easily connect with other LGBTQ+ people like you to chat, to date, or to find new friends. There will be people on HER who have been through what you’re going through and can help you navigate it. Whatever you’re looking for, you can find it on HER.

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Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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