Relationships: How men and women think of love

ELLE Canada explores how different (and similar) men and women can be in romantic relationships.

Nov 14, 2012
By
Michele Sponagle
Photography
Richard Bernardin
Relationships: How men and women think of love

I've looked at love from both sides now. No, really. To me, this is not just a line from a Joni Mitchell song. It's my life. As a bisexual woman, I've dated, dumped, loved and lost men and women. I think it gives me a unique perspective on each gender - their strengths, their weaknesses and the minefields you can step on when you're in a relationship with a him or a her.

The majority of my life has been spent with men. I've had long-term, live-in relationships with two of them - and I was content with the status quo until I accidentally fell madly in love with a woman 12 years ago.

We became fast friends, and she knew more about who I really was than anyone on the planet. We were in perfect sync, something I'd never experienced with a guy. To say that Sara,* a pretty blond writer, and I had passion is an understatement.

If I could have unzipped her skin and crawled in to get closer to her, I would have. But a flame that burns this hot is bound to burn up everything in its path.

She left her husband (oops, didn't I mention that?) and moved from Philadelphia to be closer to me. Once on her own, though, she wanted to explore single life as a lesbian, and we fought as I tried to pull her to me and she battled for space.

After two years, our relationship was done. The experience floored me and turned my world upside down. Imagine having your entire sense of self thrown into a blender. It sent me scrambling to figure out who and what I was. I didn't identify with most lesbians. I still loved men and being with them in every sense. But I also knew now how wonderfully fulfilling being with a woman could be.

I really didn't know much about bisexuality. I thought it was just a term for fence-sitters: people who were greedy and wanted to keep their options for love and sex wide open.

I was lucky enough to find a great therapist who specialized in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. He helped me understand and accept that I had the capacity to love a man or a woman.

What this meant in terms of how to live my life was more complicated. Over the next few years, I looked for a woman with whom I could feel the same way I had with Sara.

I dated a steady stream of women. I found it easy to woo them, and, at first, I flexed my new-found superpower to the max. Eventually I met Stacey, who started out as a friend and then became my common-law partner for eight years. It was pleasant and safe but unpassionate.

Find out how men and women are different in relationships on the next page...

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