Health & Wellness

Is my girlfriend gay?

Q. I've been dating a young lady for several months. She told me she finds herself attracted to women at times and even had an intimate relationship with a lesbian for about two months. She says that she doesn't feel drawn to women and prefers men, but there are times where she finds certain women attractive. I asked her if she would engage with a woman who was persistent enough in trying to get her attention. She said if she were single and the women was bisexual, she would consider it.

This bothered me and caused me to question how serious or committed I should be with her. I can't help but feel that she could be latently bisexual even though she said she did it just to see. But the fact that she would do it again if the other person pursued her says something. What is your analysis of this?

A. You say it would bother you if your girlfriend were to get romantically involved with a woman. So I would ask: Would it bother you if your girlfriend were to get romantically involved with a man?

If you really are serious about her and committed to her, you would not want her getting romantically involved with anyone else.

So I think you are confusing several issues here. You are making a distinction between gay and straight. Instead, you should be making a distinction between single and coupled. You are also confusing your hypothetical question with reality.

When you asked your hypothetical question, your girlfriend said that if she were single and attracted to a woman who pursued her, she might date her. Well, if she were single and attracted to a man who pursued her, she might date him, too.

So it sounds like you are nervous about the idea that women — and men — might be your competition. But she’s not single. If you are really a committed couple, you don’t have competition.

Many people feel some sort of attraction to members of the same sex. The categories of straight, bisexual and gay fall along a continuum.

A recent study shows that bisexuality for women is not a stepping-stone toward lesbianism. There is a group of women who have an attraction to both sexes, and it stays that way their entire lives. (The research was only about women, not men.) So it’s a myth that women who have some attraction to women, as well as to men, will necessarily end up gay. They are on the continuum of bisexuality and will remain so.

Your girlfriend is telling you her predominant attraction is to men and her preference is to be heterosexual. That is a believable statement.

There are, of course, women who are gay but feel so uncomfortable with their sexuality, or who so desire a conventional lifestyle, that they try to live as heterosexuals. But she is not saying this. She has answered your question, and is open enough with herself and with you to tell you her real sexual feelings. You might say that it’s a real advantage to your relationship to have somebody so comfortable and uninhibited in her own skin.

If you are serious about this girlfriend, ideally you will be her last romantic partner. If she is attracted to you, she is attracted to all of you — mind and body.

If you are not serious about her, it shouldn’t matter whom she dates after you split up.

So the bigger question is whether you have future plans to be monogamous and how you might make that happen, irrespective of who else she might be attracted to.

Even the best of monogamous plans fail, however, so just as you wouldn’t leave her with a male buddy in high-risk situations (alone, at night, with alcohol, for long periods of time, during weekends in Las Vegas), you might not want to leave her alone with an attractive female buddy in such situations, either.

Dr. Gail’s Bottom Line: Bisexuality does not make someone a potentially less monogamous partner.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to TODAY. Her latest book is “Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie.” She is also the author of “Amazing You! Getting Smart About Your Private Parts,” which helps parents deal with preschoolers’ questions about sex and reproduction. Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It is now available in a paperback version. For more information, you can visit her Web site, .