Friends found out about our alternate lifestyle and they want in.
February 4, 2013 1:20 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are open and enjoying playing with couples either together or apart. We have established rules and it seems to be working for us. Recently, friends of ours who are also a couple found out and are incredibly interested in joining in. This past weekend, drinks were had and they initiated some light play and touching (mainly my husband and the other wife). Neither my husband or I are attracted to the couple and we don’t want to engage with them again. Problem? Since Saturday the wife has been messaging my husband none stop. How do we let them down gently without hurting their feelings. Also: the wife is INCREDIBLY sensitive and has a lot of self esteem issues.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have a "no friends" policy? Could you tell them you have a "no friends" policy? Perhaps with a bit of "Even though you're so awesome I couldn't control myself over the weekend..."
posted by Etrigan at 1:23 PM on February 4, 2013 [25 favorites]

You are not responsible for her self-esteem issues. You have to be very clear. We are not interested in being anything more than friends and neighbors. If you want a white lie, say that you try not to engage in sex with people who live close by as you want to avoid any possible awkwardness (too late, I know!).
posted by inturnaround at 1:26 PM on February 4, 2013 [6 favorites]

"We appreciate your interest, but our alternative lifestyle can lead to very volatile situations if people aren't careful, so we have rules to keep us and our relationship safe.

One of our rules is not playing with friends we like socializing with, but we kinda broke that rule this past weekend. (The cost of breaking said rule is having this awkward conversation.)

We like socializing with you, and want to be able to continue to do so, but that means we won't be able to play with you again like we did the other day.

We're sorry to have to let you down like this, but we need to stick with our rules and boundaries."

Except, you know, less stilted.
posted by itesser at 1:28 PM on February 4, 2013 [49 favorites]

This sounds like your husband's problem more than anything-- he could have nipped this in the bud by not being physical with her, but he was. Has the other husband expressed any interest in this? Has the wife approached you at all? If not, this seems like a case of your husband getting hit on by someone who thinks framing this as a couple's thing is less threatening than being honest about her real intentions. If your husband's not interested, he should act accordingly. Framing this as a "we're not interested" rather than an "I'm not interested" might save face and could work, but since it sounds like this woman hasn't done much thinking about the role you and her husband play in this, it might not be enough.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:53 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

"We don't fuck our friends." It works.
posted by amodelcitizen at 2:09 PM on February 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tell them you are too close friends to make this work.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:32 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

It might also help in the future to work out signaling to avoid having this happen again. Was your husband not attracted to her in the moment? If so, why did he go through with it? Was it to avoid hurting her feelings, or did he misread your cues, or what? Either way, it might be important to figure out why it happened so you're not in this mess again.
posted by corb at 3:01 PM on February 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just say "thanks, but we're not interested in pursuing this with you". No alluding to how "difficult" it is to contain yourself, since that may lead to them trying to seduce you. No blaming it on a "no friends" rule because they may pressure you to make an exception.

You aren't obligated to justify your desire not to have this kind of relationship. Someone else's poor self esteem does not obligate you to anything other than politeness and honesty. Adults have to cope with rejection. Be polite but firm and very, very clear. If she/ they choose to take it personally, that's their responsibility to deal with, not yours. You can't control their emotions, just as they can't control yours.

But are you sure your husband isn't interested? Why was he engaging with her if so?
posted by windykites at 3:06 PM on February 4, 2013

Would you feel comfortable giving advice or playing matchmaker? They're possibly throwing themselves at you because they don't know how to get into the lifestyle.

Absolutely have a quick chat about boundaries, and explain your desire to keep your encounters pseudo-anonymous/closeted. But I imagine that you'll find conversation will now drift in that direction, now that the cat is out of the bag. By imagining yourself as the teacher, instead of an equal (thus available) participant, it might be easier to navigate those conversations without making it a continuing rejection.
posted by politikitty at 3:07 PM on February 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

"self esteem issues" is not a never-get-rejected card. you'd be helping her if she could develop thicker skin because she would be more comfortable exploring relationships she's interested in, but does not have the emotional maturity to handle.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:40 PM on February 4, 2013

This is really just the same as any single person who finds themselves having to turn someone down. Typical responses are:

I'm seeing someone else, and want to concentrate on that (Our dance card is full right now)

I don't date friends/co-workers/neighbors (We don't sleep with friends/co-workers/neighbors)

I like you, but not that way (We like you, but not that way)

Too busy (Too busy)

Just because a person (or a couple) decides to have sex with someone, it doesn't mean they are obligated to have sex with anyone who asks; it's never an equal opportunity situation, even if your relationships are outside the paradigm of a two-person-monogamous agreement.

It may negatively impact the friendship, but that's just how it goes. If someone asks a single person out, and that person turns them down, maybe the asker will be hurt, angry, upset or resentful, but that's out of the control of the person who doesn't want to date them, and the same is true here. Be kind but firm, and let the pieces fall where they may, because the alternative is having sex with someone you don't want to have sex with, or engaging in some bizarre interpersonal dynamic wherein you somehow become responsible for them getting what they want, even if it's not with you.

Perhaps there are complicating aspects that have to do with how they "found out" that you may want to examine. If you are discussing it openly and enthusiastically, it may have appeared to be an invitation, and you'll want to be aware of and adjust for this likelihood in the future. If your other sex partners are sending people your way without discussing it with you, you might want to reconsider those arrangements. If your friends just happened to happen on some site or club that you belong to, go back to square one: this doesn't engender in you the obligation to have sex with them, and you shouldn't think twice about just turning them down nicely, no other consideration necessary.

And, of course, you really shouldn't make out with people you aren't attracted to and don't want to lead on. It happens, but wise people learn quickly that this is something to avoid. (Or, as they say: keep an open mind, but not so open your brain falls out; just because you are alternative and open etc., doesn't mean you don't need to exercise restraint and care to avoid confusion, mixed signals, and all the usual friend/sex/relationship dramarama.)
posted by taz at 12:41 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tell them you have a no friends rule. Even if you don't.

AND If you don't have that rule, have it now. Because this is the thin edge of the wedge.

Worrying about hurting someone's feelings because you are friends and aware of their self esteem issues is not an excuse to pussyfoot around and stay in this. It is EXACTLY the reason you need out right now.
posted by French Fry at 8:20 AM on February 5, 2013

Windykites has it above. You just say no in a polite and friendly way. Any explanation or excuse invites a rejoinder which will just get more uncomfortable for you.

In general, coming up with reasons and excuses for not doing something you just plain don't want to do is a Bad Idea, unless they are the actual reason.

So if you told this couple "We're just not that into you", that would be fine, but clearly that would impact your friendship. So "No" is kinder.

Otherwise it's just lying, more or less, and friends don't do that to friends.
posted by unSane at 8:38 AM on February 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

i say don't tell them you have a no friends rule even if you don't because on the off chance that you do hook up with other friends, or you become friends with a couple you've been seeing you will hurt the couple who asked you even worse. it's extending the worst passive aggressive aspects of monogamist relationships to non-monogamist relationships.
posted by cupcake1337 at 10:08 PM on February 14, 2013

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