So Confused Right Now.
May 18, 2012 8:46 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with being a platonic relationship?

Basically, I have had strong feeling for my partner's sister since shortly after we met a decade ago. I was sure these feelings were mutual but I was too scared to act on them in case I was in the wrong and a whole can of worms was opened.

Anyway, about 6 months ago, things seemed to be getting heavy between us and I finally came clean to her and whilst she saw me as a sister the emotional connection kept getting stronger and stronger between us and there has been plenty of non-sexual flirting going on.

Last night however, I risked a sexual comment which might as well have been me molesting her grandmother's corpse. She told me outright not to say things like that again. That she loved me but she'd feel uncomfortable around me if I said things and after quite a discussion it seemed that our relationship is truly platonic; everything is there but the sexual stuff.

A great deal of the trouble stems from her step-dad who, whilst she says he didn't molest her, he lusted after her since she was 13 years old and that me saying what I did acted as a trigger.

I have never been in such a strong emotional relationship with someone before, let alone one that didn't lead onto something more physical, so just how do I deal with this?
posted by DuchessProzac to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you still with your partner? Because this is... distasteful at best to read and I can only imagine how your partner's sister feels. You clearly are transgressing boundaries and you need to stop.
posted by zia at 8:51 AM on May 18, 2012 [12 favorites]

I have had strong feeling for my partner's sister since shortly after we met a decade ago.

What? You've got the hots for your partner's sister? I hope you mean your business partner, but it doesn't seem like it.

...there has been plenty of non-sexual flirting going on.

I don't know what this means.

...molesting her grandmother's corpse.

Can you clarify everything about your post please? It sounds like you are unsure whether or not to pursue an affair with someone who is not interested in you sexually, and that this person is the sister of your current partner. Is that right?
posted by General Tonic at 9:15 AM on May 18, 2012

You back the fuck off.
posted by lydhre at 9:16 AM on May 18, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: This all sounds super messy, even if you're in an open relationship with your partner (or even if your relationship with your partner is romantic but not sexual right now, or something). It's unfortunate if you really like this woman, but consider that you're asking her and your partner to be okay with sleeping with/being romantic with the same person - that's a bit of a head trip in this culture. Even if your partner's sister is attracted to you, it's probably in her head as "gee, sibling's partner sure is cute! sibling is lucky! we might flirt a little casually but just in fun as long as it doesn't bother anyone!"

Strong feelings on your part can occlude stuff like this.

You deal with it by finding a new crush object, would be my suggestion. Repeat to yourself until you believe it "nothing is going to happen between us, she's cute and I like her but it would be too messy". Then don't indulge yourself in romantic fantasy about her - don't daydream or wish; when you find yourself thinking of her, move on to thinking about something else, like your new crush object. Believe me, you will get over this; I've been astounded by my ability to crush out hugely on someone and then decathect totally over time.

Also, if folks get scoldy about the sister thing...well, feelings are weird, emotions are strong - don't feel terrible about yourself or anything, but accept that this is not to be. (It would be awfully weird! It would be like you were in Game of Thrones or something.)
posted by Frowner at 9:28 AM on May 18, 2012

Best answer: It seems like the feelings are not mutual. They seem that way to you because you want to see them that way. That's what hope and wishful thinking do to our perceptions: our beliefs are reinforced by the tiniest thing we could interpret as encouragement, and when we are given huge glaring STOP signs, we ignore them or rationalize them away.

You've talked to her about this twice. She told you six months ago that she sees you as a sister. This was her way of handling an awkward conversation while still trying to be nice about it.

Last night you talked about this again and once again she told you the same thing.

What you see as non-sexual flirting, she sees as having a fun time together, and she'd like to believe that you see it the same way.

Does your partner know about this? Are your relationship boundaries such that it would be okay to confess romantic feelings for your partner's sister? If so, does your partner know that you've done so, twice?

Anyway, to answer your question: You deal with it by accepting that what you have here is a friendship, and that any other aspects of this appear to exist only on your side of it. If your relationship with your partner is such that you could tell them about this, then you probably should. Spend less time around the sister if you can.

I don't know. Details aside, what you've got here is an unrequited crush. You need to stop making that your crush's problem and start making it yours. Based only on the information you've provided, it seems like you might be crossing some lines in some uncomfortable ways. If having a crush for ten years is really putting this much of a hitch in your step, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to maybe talk to a therapist if your insurance covers it; it feels like there's more to this than just a strong attraction to a particular person. Good luck.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:32 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your behavior is completely inappropriate now that you know your sister-in-law was likely emotionally abused as a child.

At best, if you want to pursue your SIL, why don't you break up with your partner?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:33 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's what generally works for me in dealing with an unrequited crush:

1: I quietly set up ground rules for myself that minimize the chances of mixed signals. I'll hang out as part of a group rather than one-on-one. If we meet one-on-one, do it in public rather than at home. There are certain areas of conversation that I'll do with lovers but not friends, so I'll avoid them. Handshakes and or hugs when greeting, parting, or comforting, but not much beyond that.

2: I imagine the consequences of opening that big can of worms and ask myself, "Is it really worth it?" Almost always the answer is "no, it's not."

It takes some time to get over the crush, but it usually happens and the relationship is usually better for it.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:21 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

You are having some kind of mental block. This is your partner's sister, and she does not want any kind of sexual connection with you. The way is clear: You cut it out and do what you need to do in order to move on.

One of the hardest things to learn in life is that we can't always have what we want, even if we want it very strongly. With physical objects, like fancy cars, it's pretty obvious -- either you have $100,000 to blow on a car or not. But with things that are more intangible, like desired relationships, it's sometimes harder for the people involved to realize that no, they really can't have this. It feels so unfair!

It sucks for you but you need to stop doing things with this woman that foster a sense of intimacy on your part. If that means, for example, having fewer heart-to-hearts? It hurts, but it might be best. Or hanging out her in public places, so you don't feel like you're in a setting where sexual activity is a possibility (even unconsciously)? Maybe you should do that.

I'm not going to comment on your partner, because I don't know what that situation is, but I do want to say that open relationship or not, pursuing a partner's sibling is pretty much on the extreme end of an open love philosophy, and I wouldn't trust 98.9% of the population to be able to handle that.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:35 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

You've been fooling yourself for a while. Maybe you need to hear it more gently, or maybe you need a wake up call: your attitude towards this woman is delusional. She told you she sees you as a sister. Take her at her word.
posted by Xianny at 10:38 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Basically, I have had strong feeling for my partner's sister since shortly after we met a decade ago.

So...this got glossed over mighty quickly in your post. I first thing you should be asking yourself is: why?*

*Unless you meant "business partner," of course. Which, you could have, though most people with business partners learn, fairly quickly, to insert "business" before "partner," because not doing so interject a lot of confusion into their conversations.
posted by vivid postcard at 11:43 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

how do I deal with this?

Which this? There's a lot going on in your question that isn't really a question. You expressed sometihng. She didn't reciprocate. You said said something she didn't like. She told you not to do it again. Maybe follow her lead/advice and back off, way off.
posted by sm1tten at 12:43 PM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Back off. She's uninterested and you're taken.
posted by lotusmish at 2:10 PM on May 18, 2012

Presuming that by "partner" you mean "romantic partner" rather than "business partner" or the Garfunkel to your Simon--

There is no way this is going to end with you and this woman in a happy, healthy romantic relationship together. Absolutely no way. Not after ten years of knowing each other as sisters-in-law. If you have an open or non-monogamous relationship with your partner, they're still not going to be comfortable with you having their sister as another love. If you break up with your partner, their sister is highly unlikely to risk her relationship with them in order to be with you. It's not going to happen.

So how do you make your peace with that? Therapy might help, introspection might help. The book How to Break Your Addiction to a Person, by Howard Halpern, is pretty heterocentric and it is focused primarily on people who have been in a romantic relationship, but there still might be some useful insights for you there. The Power of a Partner by Richard Pimental-Habib, is more focused on same-sex relationships, but it has less emphasis on relationships that have ended or never begun.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:47 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you believe it's possible to have a strong relationship with someone that isn't sexual? Some people honestly don't believe that's a thing, it usually falls under the "men can't have female friends" trope.

I'm not certain what advice comes after that. I personally have many strong relationships that aren't sexual (with the gender I usually find attractive) and know it's possible, but I also know from conversations where I've been told I'm just fooling myself that informing someone it does happen ain't worth crap.

What I've figured out is that if you believe it's not possible, then it isn't. For you. If you can't see this relationship being strong and fulfilling without a sexual component, then it never will be.

So, better communication with current partner, avoidance of partner's sister, never bringing this up again to the partner's sister because she can't make it any more clear to you she isn't interested without involving the police at this point, and maybe some calm meditation to help your hurricane of feelings settle a bit.
posted by Dynex at 8:00 PM on May 18, 2012

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