Alice's Lament
October 21, 2009 7:25 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to start resuming a friendship, but the other person is mistaken about why I backed off. Should I tell him why? It's...complicated.

Call me "Alice."

When I moved into my neighborhood, I met a couple living nearby named Bob and Carol. Shortly after I met them, I found out that they had an...understanding, and Bob and I hooked up a few times, with Carol's blessing. That went on for a few months.

Then Bob introduced me to his friend Ted, and then Ted and I became a VERY close couple, and I broke things off with Bob. But Bob was happy for us, and the four of us hung out together a few times. Bob and Ted also regularly hung out once a week with other guy friends (it was a "weekly poker game" kind of thing).

Then Ted broke up with me after a while, and I was just heartbroken for a month and avoided everyone. But then when I started making forays out into the world again, I got a certain....vibe from Bob, kind of like he wanted to renew the hooking up again. I thought it was in my head, until I had a conversation with Ted and he said that he'd picked up that same vibe from Carol (and Bob actually CONFIRMED Carol wanted to hook up with him). The whole thing felt skeevy to me, so I just kept my distance from Bob and Carol for a while.

That was all well over a year ago. I've seen Bob a few times, and he's commented on my disappearing act a couple times, but he was chalking it up to my holding a grudge for him introducing me to Ted. I told him no, that wasn't it - but I haven't told him why I was (I usually just gave some vague hand-wavy "I just had to work out some feelings about Ted" answer). I still get hints of a "vibe" from Bob now and then, still, so I've still been cautious. I am absolutely not interested in that kind of relationship with Bob any more.

But Ted's moved out of town and still keeps in touch with Bob a lot -- but hasn't been all that much in touch with me. Which I regret. And I'm afraid that that's because I'm giving Bob a bit of a wide berth, and Ted may think I want to avoid him too -- which isn't the case. So I'd like to do a bit of fence-mending with Bob -- not just for that, but also because we are neighbors.

So I have two choices: come clean with Bob about why I actually was avoiding him a while and THEN start gradually hanging out again, or start hanging out and wait to see if I get any vibe any more before I say something (by "vibe" I mean, for example, that he'll suddenly bring up things I said or did during some of our more, er, intimate moments). What would the wisest course be?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total)
i would wait for bob to say something more than platonic (something clear enough that he can't maintain plausible deniability) and then tell him kindly that you don't think that that sort of relationship is what you want with bob but that you enjoy being his friend (so long as this is true). be warm to ted so that he doesn't transfer any aversion for bob onto himself.

are you this concerned about keeping in touch with ted because you still have feelings for him?
posted by anthropomorphic at 7:35 PM on October 21, 2009

Honestly, I think the wisest course would be to steer clear of Bob, Ted, & Carol, and find some new friends. I don't mean that in a snarky way at all. I just think when the whole thing felt skeevy to you, you were accurately assessing the situation. You can be pleasant and neighborly to Bob and Carol when you see them, but it sounds like they may not have the best sense of boundaries, not because of their open relationship, but because Bob thinks it's appropriate to keep referencing your intimate moments in the past, and Carol expressed interest in Ted when she knew you were still recovering from the breakup. I suspect you will be pressured to have different types of interactions than what you are comfortable with, even if your wishes have been clearly stated.

I understand why you would want to be cordial to your neighbors, but I think that's easy enough to do without becoming genuinely close to or overly involved with them again. These days, it's very easy to lose touch with people, even those you really want in your life. If asked where you've been, you explain you've just busy with work, a new boyfriend, whatever, and as long as you are kind enough during your interactions, most people will accept that on its face.

As for Ted, I'm not entirely sure why you want to renew contact, but whether you just want his friendship or would like to rekindle your romance, I would think if he wanted to reconnect, he would have reached out by now even via Facebook or something similar. While you retreated to recover from the breakup, it doesn't sound like you directed any animosity towards Ted, so I don't think a perfectly normal reaction to a breakup would keep him from getting in touch now that some time has passed. I would suggest letting that be and focus on new people and relationships. Easier said than done, I know, but in the end, it would probably be the smartest thing for you to do. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 8:00 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Find new friends.

There's a whole heap of emotional baggage here. Its probably more baggage than you need or can tolerate in a casual friendship. Be neighborly and polite. Catch up with them at the block party, but don't try to make this friendship any more close than it is.
posted by 26.2 at 9:26 PM on October 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

So I have two choices...

You have plenty of choices. I think you should run.

This seems like way more drama than a friendship needs to be. Unless Bob is the most awesome dude in the world, i'd look for new friends. I mean: a) he's your ex's friend b) you've slept with him c) you know his partner. That's pretty fucking awkward.
posted by chunking express at 9:35 AM on October 22, 2009

Having been around some folks who've been into open relationships and that sort of thing... I can tell you are getting confused here.

Bob is not a nice person. This is different from accepting or rejecting the lifestyle choices of these folks. Bob (it seems from what you've written) is using this lifestyle thing as a distraction from the fact that he's inappropriate towards you. Whether he is into open relationships or not, it's uncool for him to make "digs" about where you've been when you haven't been spending enmeshed time with Bob & Carol and their drama.

If your first instinct was to find these comments insulting - that's good! He was insulting you, and with a purpose...

You've pulled away from these folks and from Bob. That's cool. Yet when you run into Bob, he makes comments about intimate things in a way that violates your boundaries, which causes you to feel insecure or guilty during your chats with him. In these moments, he assumes the power and control. The cumulative result of all these short interactions over the past year is that Bob finally has you double-guessing yourself and wondering if you should mend fences, etc. This is just as Bob intended. You're being set-up. Don't fall for it.

Furthermore, if I read your post correctly... You only have Bob's word that Ted has stayed in better contact with Bob, rather than with you. This may not be true. Bob may be "playing up" the frequency and quality of his contact with Ted to make you feel jealous.

Now. Let's talk about Ted.

I'm not sure what his actual situation was/is with Bob and Carol, but I bet "messy" and convoluted" would be accurate descriptors. In any event, Ted broke up with you before he moved. It might be worth considering that Ted moved, in part, to get some distance between himself and the drama of "Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice." Especially if moving away coincided with other goals he was/is pursuing. Either way, Ted broke up with you. And he moved away. That's pretty final, right? Please accept this ending and look towards your own bright future.

I'm sad to tell you, but "staying in contact" with an ex usually doesn't always work out. Especially when folks have been sharing partners with each other. For now, Ted is in touch with you as much as he feels comfortable. Accept this as it is.

Somewhere down the road, you might bump into Ted. A renewed friendship might spring up between you, or it might not. Ted may remain friends with Bob into the future, or he might not.

What is clear is that you (a) pulled away from these folks last year for a reason, and (b) you are better off far far away from this drama. Fuck Bob and whatever Bob wants. Don't pine for Ted, he's not in the picture anymore in any real sense.

I think you should change your environment. I think you should move to a new neighborhood. Definitely get out more and hang out with new folks. Don't visit bars or restaurants where you might run into Bob or Carol. Join a hiking club, a cycling club - just do group activities where you are going to meet new people. Don't tell your new people about "Bob, Carol, Ted, and Alice." See a therapist if you further need to discuss or understand these relationships and how they effected your life:)

Oh. And if you see Bob on the street... pretend to get a call on your cell phone, wave at him with a big smile on your face, and then KEEP WALKING!
posted by jbenben at 11:34 AM on October 22, 2009

From a recent ask you might find relevant to your situation....

" Some people like to psychologically/emotionally involve a third party in their "thing." It has to do with exhibitionism, drama hunger, and who knows what else... you were set up as an audience, prop, and faux romantic nemesis because it made their relationship more exciting to them. They'll probably be bored silly without someone to play that role, or something similar, so they will acquire new ones as long as they last. Write them off and consider yourself well out of it and freshly educated... and as x46 mentions, don't be drawn in by future dramas. People like this will try to go back to past victims after the waters have settled a bit, and newer marks get wise and drop them.
posted by taz at 11:58 PM on October 20 [18 favorites -] [!] "
posted by jbenben at 11:46 AM on October 22, 2009

So you made friends with swingers. You swung with them. And NOW you're skeeved out that they want to swing again?

Come on. If you are a big enough girl to hook up with a married man with his wife's blessing, then you are a big enough girl to say, "Bob, I cherish our friendship, but I'm not interested in a physical relationship with you. Can we just be friends?"
posted by greekphilosophy at 4:04 PM on October 22, 2009

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