My partner is having a sexual identity crisis. What do I do?

As we get older, sometimes our preferences in life change, including sexual identity. While it may not be an area of concern for your relationship, it may be for others. Here's our advice.

Dear Is This Normal, 

My wife has kissed her female friends on the lips briefly a couple of times, and she says that it isn’t at all a sexual or romantic gesture, but that it’s just something that some girl friends sometimes do as a sign of affection. While I believe her, I do find it odd. It’s never a prolonged kiss, just a peck on the lips. Is this normal? 


Is a Kiss Just a Kiss?

Dear Kiss,

I get where you’re coming from! If you’re not someone who typically displays affection (outside of romantic or familial relationships) in this way, I can see how it would be a little odd to see your wife giving a little smooch to a female friend. But affection can be shown in a myriad of ways and in all sorts of relationships. It’s important to remember that affection is not the same as attraction and is not always romantic! For a lot of folks, a quick platonic peck on the lips is similar to a hug or embrace between friends and family – it’s not a sign of sexual identity or orientation. From where I sit, this all sounds completely normal to me (and probably lots of other women and even men). But let’s hash it out, shall we? 

Kissing has sort of become synonymous with romance or attraction, and while it definitely CAN be a sign of these things, it isn’t always. It’s not just about the physical act of the kiss – it’s more about the intent and meaning behind the kiss, you know what I mean? I’m a middle-aged ciswoman, and I wouldn’t think twice about kissing my parents on the lips, or my siblings, or most of my friends and family. In these instances I view it more as a platonic display of affection, whereas a kiss I plant on my partner’s lips has a completely different intent and meaning. Kissing on the lips is also completely normal (and even expected!) in lots of different cultures and countries around the world! It’s not at all uncommon to see this type of platonic affection shown between men and women in other cultures and parts of the world, as common as a hug or a handshake. 

You didn’t mention if this was something your wife has always done with her friends, or if it’s a more recent development. And while I certainly don’t think that changes what it is (a platonic display of affection), if it’s something she’s starting doing more recently, it makes sense that it would throw you for a loop. However, I’d go out on a limb and say this is probably something your wife and her friends have always done (I know that to be the case between my friends and I), and perhaps just recently more openly? Which to me signals that she is comfortable in her relationship with you, and feels that you are comfortable enough in your relationship with her, to do it in front of you. 

Now, this is not to say that people in relationships, even long-term stable relationships, can’t or don’t experience changes in sexual preference. Sexuality can be fluid, and people may discover things about themselves as they get older and become more comfortable with who they are. Mixed orientation marriages are a thing, and many couples with MO relationships live fulfilled and happy lives together if they decide together that preserving their relationship is what they want. Coming to this place, of recognizing that something has changed with your spouse that could potentially change your marriage, is often a long road involving therapy, an epic ton of communication, openness and understanding, and boundaries (if you’ve read this column for any amount of time, you know how big a fan I am of those!). I want to reiterate that I don’t think that is what is going on here, but you are in this marriage and know your wife best, so if this is something you feel might be in transition, opening up that line of communication early and without judgment is key. 

While I do understand not really ‘getting it’ if it’s not something you’re not used to seeing or you don’t have relationships in your life where these kinds of displays of platonic affection are normal, sometimes a kiss really is just a kiss! Not romantic, not sexual – just some love between friends.

Smooches for Everyone,

Is This Normal


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