What to do when in love with two people?
July 7, 2011 1:24 PM   Subscribe

What to do when in love with two people? (Sex talk so possibly NSFW)

So, the story goes...

About 3 years ago, I started dating my now-husband, "D". He was the first person I ever had sex with so when I realized I had strong feelings for someone I am friends with, "J", I buried the feelings for the friend decided to stay with D. I am happy with my decision but as you will read, I am torn.

My relationship with my husband is great and I love him very much. Since he had been with other people before we started dating, he told me that if I wanted to be with other people, it was fine by him. About 6 months ago I had sex with a friend's ex-boyfriend, and we kept things very quiet. We have been talking about hooking up again but with schedules and my guilty feelings (in the first week after the fact,) we haven't done so at this point. I feel a lot better about everything now, and I feel that it was a good choice for me because I felt that I was "un-wanted" because I had never been with anyone before D.

J and I go back pretty far. We were friends but he made his feelings more clear after I had already gotten seriously involved with D. We've been flirtatious with each other and just recently, he told me that he wanted to hook up. I am contemplating telling him about the deal I have with my husband but I'm afraid that the feelings we've always had may have an impact on my marriage.

On the other hand, I do want to be with J, even if it is just for simple fact that I want to have just time for us to act upon our feelings and just go for it.

Any advice for a confused girl?
posted by shortbus to Human Relations (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I'm not sure I see what the problem is. Your husband says he's okay with you seeing other people. So why not talk to your husband, tell him you want to start seeing J, and have an amazing life with two people in it?
posted by Jairus at 1:29 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm confused. Your husband didn't say you could see people AFTER you were married, right?

If he did, I agree with Jairus. If he didn't, and you're cheating on him (which your post leads me to believe, since you say you've kept your affair quiet), you need to have a talk with your husband.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:32 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

i think you need to run your feelings for J by your husband first. "you can have sex outside of the relationship" is different than "you can have sex with someone that you feel strongly enough about that you worry for our marriage" - he might be ok with either scenario, but you have to ask him to find out.
posted by nadawi at 1:34 PM on July 7, 2011 [18 favorites]

oh, and if you want to have the sex and not let your husband in on your feelings because you're afraid he wouldn't consent, then if you have the sex, you are infringing on the inherent trust in your relationship. a lie by omission is still a lie.
posted by nadawi at 1:35 PM on July 7, 2011 [9 favorites]

When you and your husband decided to have an open relationship what were the parameters set? Did you just agree to fuck other people or date them too? Are you supposed to discuss the people you see with each other?

If you didn't have this conversation you both fucked up and you need to come clean about what you have been doing, decide what is appropriate behavior for the two of you, and how you will proceed in the future. That conversation should inform what you do about J.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:39 PM on July 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

Well, while it seems easy to say 'go for it' (many people only wish their 'problem' involved their spouse encouraging an open relationship), well, you seem to be torn and guilty, which is not a good sign. If you do this, realize that open relationships don't succeed automatically, and you'll have to put in effort to keep your relationship(s) in balance. It would take work, attention, communication, and a lot of (painful at times) yet complete honesty with yourself and your partner(s).

Are you up for that?

Hooking up with someone who's an easy set-up for 'complicated' is, as you suspect, complicated, if your background idea of a relationship is ultimately monogamous, and even if it's not. Is J into polyamory or simply looking to 'hook up' and leave the fall-out unattended to? This too is a factor.

Ultimately, once you have sex with someone you may love, for many women and (you seem to suspect) yourself, things get complicated beyond the physical and fast. This doesn't have to hurt your marriage, but only if all your ducks are in a row, in that regard. That is, is your husband ok with a relationship beyond the physical? It seems unclear from your question.

However... be wary of using sex as a stepping stone to self-esteem; while it may work in the short-term (and 'feel good'), it's a set-up for a dependence on such reassurance from the outside in the longer-term. Just because it feels better doesn't mean it is better. Just throwing that out there. Not saying it's wrong, but that it leaves your sexual self-esteem open to other people to mess with, people who're not your committed partner besides.

Anyway. Tread carefully, for sure. If you feel things escalating, talk-talk-talk to your husband, and make ground rules beforehand. For example, a rule may be that if he at any point wants you to quit, point blank, you quit (for instance), as he's your primary commitment. Or it may be that if you develop feelings that interfere with your marriage, you two take a break. Or what have you. Anything you three can agree on is good, though the priority for agreement is always within the married couple; J kind of has to simply acknowledge the set-up as is.

There's a lot of good advice Dan Savage has given on this subject, so if you browse some back-issues of his column online, you may find further help. A lot of this stuff I said is actually a summary of that (plus some personal opinion, of course).
posted by reenka at 1:43 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Obviously I don't know all the details but I feel like it's a bit suspect that J made his feelings known when he presumably knew you were quite involved with D. I would proceed cautiously because it doesn't seem like he is showing respect for your relationship, now marriage.
posted by mlle valentine at 1:45 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: My husband told me before we got married that I was allowed to see other people. He knows, and is friends with the guy I hooked up with. When I said we kept it quiet, I meant that only my hubby, my hook-up, my best friends and my mom know about it.

I never know how to word these posts right, but I hope that clears some things up.
posted by shortbus at 1:47 PM on July 7, 2011

You don't sound like someone ready to be married. These are the types of dilemmas commitment-phobes with live-in partners go through.

I think you should follow through on your feelings with J in whatever way is most ethical.

It's not just sex with a wide variety of folks you are still keen on exploring, it's intimate relationships, too. I'm not sure that surpressing your desires is going to do you any good, so you may as well go for it.


I kinda doubt you'll end up married to the same guy down the road unless you guys are successful at polyamory. Don't be surprised at where you end up romantically as things progress is all I'm saying.
posted by jbenben at 1:49 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just a thought that you may want to make this anonymous.
posted by shortyJBot at 1:49 PM on July 7, 2011

My husband told me before we got married that I was allowed to see other people. He knows, and is friends with the guy I hooked up with. When I said we kept it quiet, I meant that only my hubby, my hook-up, my best friends and my mom know about it.

I never know how to word these posts right, but I hope that clears some things up.

OK, so your husband knows, but you feel guilty. Why?

It sounds like you want to have a monogamous relationship but don't know how to deal with the freedom.

Simple, either continue, learn to manage the guilt, or break it off with J and maybe consider full-on monogamy.

side note--that's a lot of people in on knowing. Just a heads up on people who might not understand.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:51 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ask yourself where do you want this to end up. If you and J act on this and find that your feelings for him are somehow stronger than your feelings for your husband, are you prepared to leave him? This is a possibility even if you say "no" now, but it's something to consider.

Something else to consider, probably much more strongly, is what if you and J act on it, and though it's fun for you, it becomes something much more meaningful for him and he wants you to leave your husband, and you don't want to do so, and then you end up breaking J's heart.

On one hand, you hold all the cards in this situation. But as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. If you take these actions, you've got to be prepared for the consequences. Think it through. Relationships should totally be able to stand some sexual exploration, but that doesn't mean that they will.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:58 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

This reads to me so much like you trying to feel okay with having settled for someone while wanting to young and date and experience relationships.

I feel like J isn't respectful of your marriage with his propositions. I also get the feeling you don't really know what you want. Open relationships are a lot of work, and require a ton of communication to have a chance. If you want to be with J, you need to be honest about what that means. Also, have you and your husband discussed exactly what the parameters of the openness of your relationship are?
posted by Zophi at 2:00 PM on July 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

Unless you have fully considered and explored whether you and your husband both want to be in a polyamorous relationship, then you really REALLY ought to limit your extramarital dalliances to people whom you are attracted to but don't have any durable feelings for.

Seriously, it's one thing to round out your lack of experience with fun times here and there, and a whole other thing to roll out the whole "I'm in love with two people!" scenario. I seriously doubt it's what your husband had in mind. I sort of adore him for being okay with you getting to have some fun with other guys, and I'm sure because of who it was he didn't feel threatened.

J, however, is someone for whom you have strong feelings, and with whom you go "way back." Any observant partner would probably feel threatened by this.
posted by hermitosis at 2:02 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, a marriage means that you've decided -- you've chosen the person that you are making a go at life with. It sounds to me like your marriage may have been a way of locking down that whole "love/security/companionship" thing early on, while still feeling free to pursue other options. Don't make your husband regret the (enormous!) amount of trust he put in you when he suggested you feel free to experiment sexually.
posted by hermitosis at 2:05 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

You and your husband need to have a talk about the parameters of your marriage. You're 19 years old and you've been with him for three years, its really understandable why you feel that you might be missing out on things.

But it concerns me that you say you love J, he hasn't shown good judgement by savings his feelings till after you and D were serious, there is a big difference between feeling you've missed out on sexual experiences and wanting to love and have a romantic relationship with different people. I think you need to know, and it would be easier for you, how your husband feels about these different scenarios. Either are ok if you can handle them and he's ok with it but not necessarily easy and an arrangement where you're married but romantically and/or sexually involved with other people may not be the best thing for you.

I think you need to do some soul searching about what you want from a marriage and what you're willing to put into it. I also think that you need to address the issues with your self esteem. Perhaps therapy so you would have someone who is there just for you to sort out what you want.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 2:38 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

What were your motivations for having sex with J? When you thought 'this will hurt husband' and then you thought 'naw, I'm gonna do it', what did you justify it with? That's the crux of your answer/problem.
posted by k8t at 2:39 PM on July 7, 2011

When you and D were dating seriously, J told you he had feelings for you. Now you're married, and as far as he knows, monogamous, and he's nonetheless offering to "hook up" with you. By repeatedly attempting to insert himself into your life romantically, J is showing that he doesn't respect you, your husband, your choices, or your friendship. I'm going to be blunt: he comes off like a total asshole. NSA sex is not going to be possible with him, because he doesn't just want to fuck you, he wants to "win" you.

I mean, do you want to be won? Does that sound like a fun, exciting time to you, to have two guys lay their hearts on the line to compete for your love? I'm kind of sensing that your lack of romantic experience is leading you to interpret this situation as romantic and thrilling and an affirmation of your worth as a desirable woman. You want to experience some drama, and that's legitimate. J wants drama too.

The most responsible course of action is to lay all your cards on the table with D, maybe show him this thread, and ask him to consider allowing you to pursue things with J. He's clearly the most mature player in this drama, and the person who is likely to be hurt worst by your poor judgement, so it's his call, if you want to be smart.
posted by milk white peacock at 2:42 PM on July 7, 2011 [14 favorites]

What Zophi and milk white peacock said.

I highly recommend that you read The Ethical Slut, and follow to the letter the guidelines about setting up boundaries in a polyamorous relationship.

I would advise you to stay away from J, no matter what you and your husband decide about the rules of your extra-marital relationships. He is, as milk white peacock said, coming off like a total asshole.
posted by Specklet at 3:38 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think this whole situation sounds rather unhealthy. It sounds like your husband has a cuckold fetish; the fact that he had been with other people prior to marrying you is a really weird, illogical reason to condone your screwing around. You're saying you enjoyed hooking up with another guy because it helped alleviate your feelings of being unwanted. And then J is propositioning you even though he has no idea about your deal with your husband. The whole thing gives me the creepy crawlies. I would recommend you cut things off with J, and reevaluate your relationship with your husband.
posted by jayder at 7:27 PM on July 7, 2011

Well, I've been married and dated other people seriously at the same time, so I think I have a decent amount of perspective about this.

It is not a good sign that this person wants you to cheat on your husband with him. I am all for ethical non-monogamy, but the ethical part is important.

You really don't want to be in an ongoing relationship with someone who doesn't care about your marriage or your husband's feelings. It can be difficult to balance two emotionally intimate relationships and a certain amount of generosity and compassion is necessary from everyone. "Hey, cheat with me" does not sound generous or compassionate towards your husband.

He might also be wanting to hook up with a married person specifically to avoid emotional entanglement or commitment. That could lead to a lot of emotional heartache for you in the long run (and for your husband as well, as he is likely to be there to pick up the pieces if this man breaks your heart.)

Consider not only the wisdom of having two emotionally intimate relationships, but the wisdom of having an emotionally intimate relationship with this specific man.

I've never read The Ethical Slut, but I will say that Opening Up is enormously practical, has great checklists for boundaries, and is open to various types of non-monogamy. It also discusses closing previously open relationships.

Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:22 PM on July 7, 2011

This sounds really unhealthy. Specifically and/or especially the thing with J in particular.

You're really inexperienced and, it sounds, not ready to be married. But you are. Here's the thing: everyone in a monogamous relationship has to miss out on people they want to bone and not act upon those feelings.

Do you think you're in love with J? Do you think he's in love with you? (It does not sound like he is.) Think about that.

Do you want your marriage with D to work? Think about that.

Do you want your marriage to be monogamous? Not just in this moment when you want to fuck J, but in general and moving forward? Think about that, too.

The notion that you should have sex with someone else for the sake of having had sex with someone else, wise or unwise, is over and done. Anything else in the future will be a different sort of animal.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:02 PM on July 7, 2011

I should address a few other things as well--

The feelings you have for J and your relationship with J absolutely will have an impact on your marriage. There is no "if". Marriages grow and change along with the people in them, and this would be a pretty big change for you, so it will be a change for your marriage.

You also seem to feel like pursuing this relationship would make you feel more free. In my experience, it is absolutely not freeing to have two serious relationships at once, especially when both people are only with you. There can be a lot of good things about it, but it is not freeing in the least. It is actually quite restrictive because you always have to constrain your behavior to fit within your agreements with your husband, you have to find time for both of them, you have to balance your husband's need for information with your need for privacy.,,it's a lot to think about.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:42 PM on July 7, 2011

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