Grace Ballard, MA, LPC, CST | AASECT Certified Sex Therapist | Colorado, Denver, Boulder

We Are Not Defined by Our Relationships

We Are Not Defined by Our Relationships


You are not defined by the people that you date, nor by the absence of dating, nor by the configuration of your current relationship, nor even by your choice of a long-term partner.  The dynamics of your current relationship do not negate your previous loves.


Similar to this question of “Am I Queer Enough?,” I hear people question their own and others’ identities based on who a person is dating.  For instance, someone identifies as queer and finds themselves in love with a partner who reflects a hetero relationship.  That person may question, am I really queer if I’m committed to this person? What will others think? Does this change who I am?


Conversely, we might stay in a relationship that isn’t fulfilling simply because it reflects our identity in a way that feels congruent.  For example, a toxic relationship lasts way too long because it affirms our queerness.


I’m used to people being surprised by the gender, appearance or practices of my partners, because based on their assumptions, they expected my relationship to look different.  I’ve heard their confusion throughout my life, and this has sometimes confused me as well. People have questioned my sexual orientation or gender identity based on what they perceive and assume about my partners.  It’s a painful and disorienting experience.


As a side note, you can also know that you are attracted to people of a particular gender, even if you’ve never hooked up with them.  Or you can know you’re drawn to a style of relationship or dating, without having experienced it.


In my opinion, you get to define or not define your identity and orientation, on your own time, as best fits you.  There’s nothing to prove.  The more we release our assumptions and expectations, and accept what is, we can relax into our complex and dynamic selves.

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