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How to make your marriage work when you're bisexual

Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, is a clinical therapist, and the author of three books, among them, Love Lessons from Bad Breakups and The Complete Marriage Counsler. She gives love advice on programs including Today and HuffPost Live, conduct...

Bisexual marriages can work — whether you’re monogamous, non-exclusive or somewhere in between

Anna Paquin and Evan Rachel Wood are just two of the many female celebrities who have declared themselves happily bisexual. Wood is divorced (her sexuality apparently had nothing to do with the split) and Paquin remains married to True Blood co-star Stephen Moyer with whom she has children.

Bisexuality is not a barrier to a successful marriage if you follow these rules.

1. Fully share your needs and wishes

Samantha (names in this article are changed) explained during a session, “Tom and I married 10 years ago. We were both 21, right out of college. I didn’t acknowledge to myself that I was bi until we’d been married five years.”

She couldn’t find the words to share this awakening with her husband, so they grew emotionally distant. He kept asking what was wrong but afraid her news would drive him away, she kept saying, ‘I’m fine.’”

During the session she told him what was in her heart. He asked, “Do you want to leave me?” She answered, “No, I love and lust after you as always. This is just something new that has opened up.”

More: When it's actually OK to seek sex outside your marriage

Once everything was out in the open the two could begin to figure out how her revelation might affect their marriage. They pledged honesty and clarity to one another from that day forth, a pledge that seems more sacred to them than their wedding vows years earlier.

2. Agree on clearly defined boundaries

Are you monogamous? Non-exclusive? Will you do threesomes together? Marriage between a bisexual woman and a heterosexual man can of course run the gamut. It’s up to the couple involved. But the couple involved must be clear with one another.

Amy and Josh, married four years, wound up on my couch after they had a boundary misunderstanding. Amy, 26, said sheepishly, “I thought we agreed it was okay to not be exclusive so I slept with a woman, then came home and told him about it.”

The problem: Josh’s understanding was that the two would agree beforehand on prospective extramarital activities.

More: What to do when one partner wants an open marriage

After several months of weekly sessions, Josh regained trust in his wife and the two forged a new agreement: Before doing anything that might possibly be viewed as outside accepted parameters, permission first had to be granted. For instance, Josh was willing to allow his wife to have sex with another woman but he drew the line at Amy and a partner physically sleeping together. The same rule applied if Josh wanted to be with another woman — sex, not snooze time.

Clarity is the most important factor to remember here.

3. Don’t suppress your bi-nature for your spouse

When Karen and Bob married four years ago, he knew she was bi. She agreed to be monogamous. Since she loved him and believed in fidelity it didn’t seem too great a sacrifice. However, they ran into trouble when she tired, as she put it, “pretending she was straight.”

She told her husband during our second session, “I feel like I am squelching who I am because it makes you uncomfortable. I’ve agreed not to sleep with anyone else — male or female — and I’m not going back on my word, but I need you to have more sensitivity toward who I am.”

More: My husband sleeps with other women and I'm OK with it

Gradually the two reached a compromise — Karen, 36, makes random “fun” pronouncements: “I’m wearing a dress and leggings today because I’m bisexual!”

More importantly the two now discuss her sexuality when out with couple friends. Not as a come-on (remember, they’re monogamous!) but because neither Karen nor Bob feel shame about the fluidity of her sexual identity.

Karen said at our last session together, “We realize now that both of us need to be free to express all of who we are. That’s what comfort in marriage must be about!”

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