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Can you really be friends with a polyamorous and flirtatious ex?
July 1, 2012 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Can you really be friends with a polyamorous and flirtatious ex?

About two years ago I met this wonderful, vivacious sexy woman. We hit it off extremely well and quickly became very close friends. We identify on so many levels that it seems like we are soul-mates. Now I am also a woman and have never before identified myself as gay or bisexual. But there was a certain amount of flirtation on her part and one night about a year ago, when I was admittedly a bit drunk, I kissed her. We started a romance shortly thereafter, and I have fallen for her pretty hard. But since becoming lovers with me, she has become involved on and off with two men, which she tends to be very closed about. Her explanation is that she is not gay and is still into men. Well, I am too, and have told her I do not think the issue is what her sexuality is, but whether or not we will be monogamous. I also feel hurt and jealous at times by her behavior, like when she calls one of these men very late at night on one of our "dates." I got upset about it once and she apologized. But another time, admittedly when we had been fighting most of the night, she announced that she knew she would get in to trouble for it, and then proceeded to call one of these men anyway. I got very upset and dropped her at the train station to get home by herself. We didn't talk for a few days but have been patching things up. She says I am overreacting about the calls and being unfair to her to expect her to only be with me. I think her real issue, that she hasn't examined, is that she is polyamorous. I don't think I'm entirely opposed to being polyamorous, but don't like her hurtful way of being so. So I've decided to discontinue our romantic relationship, even though I really think I am in love with her. My question for the MeFi community is how do I discontinue the romantic relationship but still remain close friends with her? I have not had many close friends in my life and consider her friendship to be very important. But I know she will continue to be flirtatious with me. That's just the way she is. I don't want to pine for her or be hurt by her over and over again. Any advice or views?
posted by White Summer to Human Relations (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think you should be friends with her because you are in love with her.
posted by Rubbstone at 8:19 PM on July 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


She's a jerk. Polyamory and open relationships are not cartes blanches to rudely ignore other people's clear boundaries. If you want to be friends with a jerk, then go ahead, I guess, but I fail to see the percentage in it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:23 PM on July 1, 2012 [29 favorites]


Put the friendship on pause, at least, until you are no longer in love with her and are over it. Then you will be in a place where you can be friends with her again.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:24 PM on July 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


how do I discontinue the romantic relationship but still remain close friends with her?

This may not be possible right now. Most people find it impossible to shut off just one bit of emotion while engaging the rest of them.

She's been very rude and unkind to you. She may not fundamentally be a rude or unkind person, but they way she's treating you is not the way one should treat someone you say you care about. Being non-monogamous is not license to behave this way.

I'm sorry this is so hard.
posted by rtha at 8:33 PM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would pull away from her - okay, so what if she's poly, so what if she's your friend, she's behaving appallingly towards you. Unless you establish some real boundaries, she's just going to keep treating you badly. At this point, I really wouldn't consider her to be a great friend because she's knowingly and willingly hurting you so much.
posted by heyjude at 8:34 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


You need, you need, to at the very least, have a long cooling off period.
Not less than 3 months, but even that may be too short.

With that space, you can get over each other, and then resume your friendship. If you are not over each other, it is too soon.

It may hurt to cut off contact with her for an extended period, but you have to ask yourself if she is worth being a friend in the long-term for. And if she is, then it is worth it to establish some healthy boundaries, get over it, and re-engage with a friendship.


You have to be well and truly 'Exes' to have that friendship.
posted by Elysum at 8:35 PM on July 1, 2012


Wha???

Why on earth would you conclude she's polyamorous, when from your description it seems far more likely she doesn't respect or value you the way you deserve to be respected and valued in an intimate relation?

---

Stop making excuses for this person. She's gaslighting you, she disregards your emotional well-being, and frankly, she's just not that into you.

You're wonderful and kind. It shows through in your question. Her? Not so much.

Find someone who isn't so comfortable being "closed" (off to you.)
posted by jbenben at 8:40 PM on July 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure how we're supposed to change something that you can't change and she doesn't want to change (namely her flirtatiousness). It just doesn't sound plausibly like something we can help you with.

Also, did she ever say she wanted to be monogamous with you? Did she ever say she was polyamorous?

It sounds like she just never wanted to settle down with you monogamously and for whatever reason you two are not big on communication and both just avoided or skirted around the topic. In that case, I suggest trying to take a decent amount of time away from her.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:40 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, it sounds like you brought up the monogamy thing so I'm sorry I made it sound like both of you were avoiding it--what I mean is that you don't have the kind of relationship where you're good at negotiating mutually acceptable boundaries, mostly because she has no desire to participate in that negotiation. That's not going to change as your boundaries change to "friend" boundaries, you'll still have the same old communication issue where you bring things up and she does whatever she wants to do.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:43 PM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fucking more than one person at a time is not polyamory.

She's not your soulmate or your girlfriend. Maybe she's not even your friend. She's your fuck buddy at best at this point. You are not exclusive and that doesn't mean she's polyamorous. She's someone who wants what she wants and takes it when she can, other people be damned.

So back off. Cut off contact. Fall out of love. Then maybe you can try to build a friendship.
posted by inturnaround at 8:51 PM on July 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


As much as you care about her, this is not the relationship for you. At the very least, you want different things (monogamy vs. polyamory regardless of gender), and, from what you've described, she isn't treating you very well even if you were on the same polyamory page. In this particular situation, I don't think you can end the romantic relationship and remain friends, never mind close friends. It sounds like you need to end things and cease contact entirely for a prolonged period of time (think months or more, not weeks). It will be difficult, you will need time to grieve the relationship, but eventually you will be able to move on with someone else. Then, and only then, you can think about getting back in touch with her and trying to be friends. It may never be possible, but if your needs are being met by other people, it will not matter as much. As wonderful as she may be in some respects, ultimately, you deserve more. Best of luck.
posted by katemcd at 8:54 PM on July 1, 2012


It sounds like you may not be listening to her: [emphasis added]

We started a romance shortly thereafter... But since becoming lovers with me, she has become involved on and off with two men, which she tends to be very closed about. Her explanation is that she is not gay and is still into men. Well, I am too, and have told her I do not think the issue is what her sexuality is, but whether or not we will be monogamous.

I wonder what you would learn if you instead were curious about why she responded that way. What does it mean to her to be "not gay" and "still into men?" Would she identify as bisexual? Or fundamentally, does she does not want to have a "girlfriend?" Would she definitely agree that you two even have a romantic relationship? Or would she say that you two are friends who, yeah, maybe hook up sometimes, while of course she's still looking for men to date because that is her gender of choice?

Saying that she is "not gay" seemingly ignores the possibility of being "bi," so it sounds less like she wants to date people of both genders (your thesis), and more like she wants to be in a relationship with a male.

You are completely justified in feeling hurt and jealous. This sounds painful.

Here is another example of what I'm calling "not listening:"

She says I am overreacting about the calls and being unfair to her to expect her to only be with me. I think her real issue, that she hasn't examined, is that she is polyamorous.

She is saying that it is not fair to expect her not to call them. She thinks you are not justified in being so upset. What DOES she think is fair? What DOES she think is justified? What does she think is going on? Does she just think you guys are just friends who happen to hook up? It sounds like maybe she's saying "you don't have a right to expect me to behave like your romantic partner," and you're replying "la la la la I can't hear you. You must want to have more than one romantic partner" because that's easier.

So I've decided to discontinue our romantic relationship

Yeah! Good move!

My question for the MeFi community is how do I discontinue the romantic relationship but still remain close friends with her?

I'm sorry, but my guess is that this just won't be possible. It's as you predict: she'll be flirtatious and you'll be hurt. I'm sorry this is so hard. It will be painful, but you'll come through it a stronger person.
posted by salvia at 9:58 PM on July 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


Her desire to call up other people around you despite your objections and flirt with you after the end of the romantic relationship is not a side-effect of polyamory. It is a side-effect of being an asshole.

You should not be friends with this woman because this woman is not friends with you. No matter what you think of your friendship with her, if she truly cared about you, even as a friend, she would not have treated you like shit. And she treated you like shit. Your expectation that she'll flirt with you even when she knows it hurts you is further proof that she cares more about playing with your attention than your actual emotional well-being. Being polyamorous does not mean you are incapable of treating other people with respect. Being a cruel, manipulative jerk, however, makes one much less likely to treat other people with the kindness and consideration they deserve.
posted by schroedinger at 11:20 PM on July 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


She calls up other people during her dates with you? She didn't need to be told that was hurtful, she knew it was, that's why she did it. Makes you want her more, right? But to the outside observer it's obvious it should make you want her less (rationally).

This is how horrible people with no redeeming features secure loyalty in the unfortunates who are connected to them. She's not your friend.
posted by tel3path at 1:18 AM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Have the two of you ever actually hashed out exactly what your relationship is?

Like, when you're on a date - does she actually know it's a date? Does she know this is a relationship in whatever form?

These are things to consider, anyway. Now for the actual questions you asked:

My question for the MeFi community is how do I discontinue the romantic relationship but still remain close friends with her? I have not had many close friends in my life and consider her friendship to be very important. But I know she will continue to be flirtatious with me. That's just the way she is. I don't want to pine for her or be hurt by her over and over again. Any advice or views?


Call it a clash of personality types or whatever, but this is one of those things that's going to keep happening until you walk away and get a little space from all this. Once your romantic feelings pass then maybe you could try being friends, but basically it's a doomed effort to try to stay friends if one party wants something the other doesn't.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:54 AM on July 2, 2012


This exact thing happened to a good friend of mine a while back. I'm sorry to say, but a solid year of no contact (during which my friend started dating someone else) was what was needed for her to make the friendship possible again.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:00 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you all for the thoughtful responses. You have definitely given me a lot to think about and a new perspective on my friend. I agree that cutting off contact is needed.
posted by White Summer at 7:40 AM on July 2, 2012


This is a person who is not acting like a friend. Act appropriately. Gay, straight, "not gay" whatever she is, it is wrong for her to act out and hurt you in that way.

My question for the MeFi community is how do I discontinue the romantic relationship but still remain close friends with her? I have not had many close friends in my life and consider her friendship to be very important. But I know she will continue to be flirtatious with me. That's just the way she is. I don't want to pine for her or be hurt by her over and over again. Any advice or views?

If it were me, I'd break up right now and make it a clean "no friends" break. This isn't a friend.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:47 AM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have not had many close friends in my life and consider her friendship to be very important. But I know she will continue to be flirtatious with me. That's just the way she is. I don't want to pine for her or be hurt by her over and over again. Any advice or views?

Friends don't flirt with friends who are painfully infatuated with them. Part of being a functional adult is not flirting with inappropriate targets -- subordinates and superiors at work, for instance, or the partners of jealous friends. If she is a good friend and a good person, she ought to be willing to stop flirting with you.

As a queer poly woman myself, I don't think the fundamental problem is that she's poly (if she is); I think she's romantically and relationally heterosexual. One thing that can happen when romantically and relationally heterosexual women get sexually involved with other women is that they don't really internalize the idea that the other woman may be feeling romantic relationship feelings while the more-heterosexual woman is just feeling fun sexytimes.

It sounds to me like your friend may be a bit oblivious to the sincerity of your romantic feelings for her, whether or not you've had a "we're in a relationship" conversation, because, despite being sexually involved with you, she's kind of heterosexist. That doesn't mean she's a bad person -- we all internalize societal programming to one degree or another. The question is, does she care about you enough to change her behavior and challenge her programming?

If she cares more about you as a friend, a lover and a human being, she can change her behavior to be less painful to you. It may not be enough -- sometimes people just need no-contact. But she can stop flirting, she can consciously start to make the same kinds of choices about touching/innuendo/eyelash-batting that she makes with a male friend she's trying to put off. She can refrain from calling paramours when you're out together in your newly platonic friendship.

But ultimately, you can't stay friends with her if she's not willing to be a friend to you, which means treating your unrequited romantic feelings with gentleness and consideration.
posted by endless_forms at 7:55 AM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Right now I dont think this: discontinue the romantic relationship but still remain close friends with her is possible. Because she will:continue to be flirtatious with me and you will be lured back into having romantic feelings for her. She will continue to act as she does, as that's: just the way she is. And this will leave you in a position where you will both: pine for her or be hurt by her over and over again.

I don't think the issue is whether she's polyamorous, it's whether she can be a good friend/lover. It doesn't sound like she can. She's hurting you, she knows it, and she's not apologising. She doesn't want to only be with you, and her way of doing this doesn't sit well with you. She is not willing to compromise. There's no where to go with this.
posted by sm1tten at 8:38 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Distance without contact, until your love has given up. Might take a long time. She'll still exist whenever you're ready for friendship only.

But she's also kinda a jerk.
posted by ead at 6:28 PM on July 2, 2012


At MeFi's suggestion, I am updating this post. I really developed a new perspective based on the responses I received. It took a while, but I have finally reached the point where I am disentangling myself and my life from this woman. Although she continues to reach out to me on a daily basis, I am resisting the urge to respond. It has been very painful; I miss what we had (or I thought we had) very much. I seriously doubt we will be friends down the road. Although the story is more complicated than my original post, I've concluded that she was just using me and our relationship for her own purposes (and yes, that includes "lending" her quite a bit of money). And that's actually something that's really hard to admit to myself or anyone else and I feel pretty foolish. But I will certainly recover from this as a stronger, although probably more cynical, person. Anyway, I thank the MeFi community for helping me out.
posted by White Summer at 7:40 PM on August 4, 2012


Sorry to hear about the situation, but I'm glad you're working to move on. as you say, it'll make you stronger.
posted by salvia at 5:51 PM on August 5, 2012


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