Overcoming an unhealthy crush?
March 3, 2015 4:26 PM   Subscribe

I have a crush on my best friend's boyfriend—and we are all roommates. How can I overcome these feelings when we are in such close proximity?

[Posting this on behalf of a close friend, who does not have an account here.]

This summer, my best friend's (Jane) long-distance boyfriend (Tom) moved in with us. Both Tom and I are very introverted types, so it hasn't been until the last two months that we've begun hanging and getting to know each other one-on-one.

Last week, while quite drunk, we both confessed that we've developed feelings for each other. It's hard to pin down the extent of what I feel, but beyond simply wanting to sleep with him, I'd classify it as a bit stronger than being smitten/a crush, though it is hard to tell where feelings of friendship stop and feelings begin.

We both recognize that it would be a terrible idea to act on these feelings, so have resolved not to let anything physical happen. But I know that sex is only part of the problem, that the real issue is the underlying feelings, and merely not sleeping together doesn't address that. To be transparent, and so it doesn't seem as though this is a long-simmering issue, Tom informed Jane of the situation. Obviously, she is feeling hurt and betrayed, though has reacted in contradictory ways.

I want to overcome my non-platonic feelings for him, and repair my relationship with Jane, but without cutting Tom out of my life. For one, that isn't so feasible, as we live together and can hardly avoid each other completely, and aren't in a position to move out. But also, I do care for him as a friend, and I am one of the few people he can confide in, as we are both struggling to deal with Jane,who needs real, professional help. Since November, she has been in the grip of a deep depression and developed a drinking problem, which has put Tom and Jane's relationship on very shaky ground. (Though even were they to break up, I would not pursue him, because of the effect it would have on the relationship between Jane and I.)

So—what can I do to kill these feelings of lust/romance when I can't just avoid Tom completely?
posted by kaisemic to Human Relations (48 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Move out now. Yes, you must cut Tom out of your life. I'm pretty sure your friendship with Jane is trashed, too. Rule #1 is "Don't Shit Where You Eat." You are actively doing just that. These are the consequences.

Let me hip you to the underlying problem here.... You say Jane has reacted in "contradictory" ways? Your attitude towards your (supposed) friend and roommate is appalling. You're lucky she hasn't flipped out on you and thrown your possessions into the street.

Again, it is your turn to move out. Tom is not a good person, and you are both crapping on Jane, but you really really have to be the one to move out. In the future, sin no more with your friends' boyfriends.

Other people will be more gentle, but they will tell you roughly the same thing. Tom is an awful person who should have never ever admitted to anything. He's not anyone's friend. This is simply awful. You don't want this guy. Jane is dating and awful boy, and her roommate just betrayed her.

Be kind to Jane and move out. She's been hurt enough, don't you think?
posted by jbenben at 4:37 PM on March 3, 2015 [38 favorites]

You really need to find a way to move out. Fixing this in a way that's healthy for all is not really possible with you all living together. You need a find a way to leave, especially since Jane is in a mental health crisis and is developing a substance abuse problem. She's in danger and you're contributing to her being further destabilized.

No more contact with Tom. And, let Jane know that you're very sorry and that you have cut Tom off permanently and completely. Why someone like Tom would move in with his girlfriend, establish an inappropriate relationship with his girlfriend's roomie and then tell girlfriend while she's in the midst of a mental health crisis is beyond me. He's not a good person. Period. You may not be able to see that now, but that's the only way to cut it.

Move out. Do everything you can to leave ASAP.
posted by quince at 4:43 PM on March 3, 2015 [14 favorites]

Also, move out because I'm certain your relationship with Jane's boyfriend isn't helping her if she is having serious mental health issues.

I'm not even sure how you and Tom are twisting that into something benign. Yikes.
posted by jbenben at 4:43 PM on March 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

aren't in a position to move out

Are your feet stuck in dry cement in the kitchen? Of course you can move out. MOVE OUT. Start working today on making that possible, in whatever way you can. Find a subletter, move back in with family briefly, anything.

You need to understand fully and clearly that how Tom acts in a relationship with Jane is pretty much exactly how he would act in a relationship with you. Like a dick. Think he's going to be supportive and stick around if you go through a rough patch? Nooope. Think he'll admit to you he can't bear the weight and needs to bow out as gracefully as possible before things get worse on his end? No again! Think he'll get drunk with a mutual friend, confess emotions he then insists he'll never act on (then why even bring them up??) and then just kind of putz around letting everyone else deal with it? Most likely.
posted by Dynex at 4:45 PM on March 3, 2015 [25 favorites]

This is a terrible idea and you will all regret this. Repeat this as a mantra: There are other fish in the sea. There are other fish in the sea. There are other fish in the sea. There are other fish in the sea. Karma. Karma. Karma. Karma. Karma. There are other fish in the sea.

If you end up acting on your feelings it will be a terrible idea FOR YOU because:

1. He will be a bad person. If he cheats on her how can you ever trust him?
2. You live together. Terrible way to start a relationship.
3. She will bad talk both of you to everyone.

Just say no to this drama. You are introverted so I KNOW how "special connections" must feel so rare and precious and this must feel unfair. But life is long, even for introverts. There are other fish in the sea. And you will meet them. In fact, it's a GREAT idea to make active efforts to go fishing for other men and hook one of them ASAP. Gets you out of the house, gets your feelings directed elsewhere.
posted by quincunx at 4:50 PM on March 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I agree with everyone above. You need to move out. This won't end well for anyone involved if you all continue to live together, but your friendship may be able to be salvaged if you do the right thing and get away from this guy.
posted by xingcat at 4:52 PM on March 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

You want to stay extra close platonic friends with Tom so the two of you can talk about how fucked up Jane is and confide your deepest special feelings to each other but you totally keep it platonic and she will totally be cool with this? Not even a little bit realistic.

1. Never talk to Tom again unless you would repeat the conversation to Jane.
2. Go to Al-Anon.
3. Tell Tom to go to a different Al-Anon group.
4. Be friends for Jane, instead of being a backstabbing source of uncertainty and difficulty while she is already messed up.
5. If at all possible, yes you should absolutely move out.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:54 PM on March 3, 2015 [30 favorites]

Man, this is not a 'crush' as described in your above-the-fold description. This is... you having deep conversations with your best friend's boyfriend while she's crushingly depressed and then her boyfriend telling her about it (which was a really bad idea frankly), and now you think this is a situation where all three of you can peacefully live together? Girl. One of you is going to wind up murdered if you all stay in that house.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:00 PM on March 3, 2015 [32 favorites]

In my experience, having the conversation of "wow we are both so into each other but nothing can happen because it would hurt someone we both love" just makes it more likely that something physical will happen. It practically guarantees it.

Move out ASAP.
posted by sallybrown at 5:02 PM on March 3, 2015 [42 favorites]

Wow. I feel so sorry for anyone unlucky enough to be your "best friend".

"I want to overcome my non-platonic feelings for him, and repair my relationship with Jane, but without cutting Tom out of my life."

You can't have everything you want in life. This is a situation where you do have to choose one person over another. I don't know what being a best friend means to you, but in my world that's a title given to someone who's earned it over some years. Yet you seem to be willing to throw that away over some guy you think you might just want to sleep with. Not only that... a guy who's speaking badly about your best friend, wanting to cheat on your best friend and using you as a vehicle for that. You know what I would do if some guy tried this with me against my best friend? Tell him to go fuck himself and then go warn her that she can do a hellava lot better than that dirtbag.

When I look back on some of the feelings I've had for 'inappropriate' people, I realize that in all those cases I was really looking to fill a hole inside me that I didn't realize was there at the time; and I was trying to fill that hole with things that were unhealthy and unreliable. I think you might be going through the same thing right now. I would ask you to look for more healthy ways to fill that void and part of that means you need to avoid contact with Tom. You need to decide here who's more important to you. Your best friend or some d- bag that's trying to cheat and goes around to other girls talking badly about his girlfriend. I lived in an apartment for years with 3 other roommates and I was able to avoid all of them because I was always either out or in my room. There were a couple of roommates where for 2 years straight my only conversation with them was "Hello" and "See ya". So I know it can be done.
posted by manderin at 5:05 PM on March 3, 2015 [26 favorites]

Karma doesn't exist, and it sounds like Jane needs help with alcohol issues, not you. That being said, sallybrown is right. Once things like that are said, it makes it so much easier to follow through on. If you value these relationships at any level, I would move out as soon as possible.
posted by josher71 at 5:06 PM on March 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just for Jane's sake, I am going to offer up one more insight, and then I am out....

Look. I see how this has been painted as "Us against Jane's Problems" but that is a false fictional narrative. Even though you live with them, I'm willing to bet you don't really see what is happening in the dynamic between Jane and Tom. I'm willing to bet, though, that Tom has spun it to you so that he appears sympathetic and in need of your special support.

There is nothing sympathetic about a guy that gets drunk while his GF is struggling with alcohol and confesses feelings for the GF's roommate/friend. Ditto, there is nothing sympathetic about a guy that spends efforts developing feelings for his GF's roommate/friend while his GF might need psychiatric help....

My real surmising here is that Tom is a Toxic Dude who has taken a vulnerable Jane and gaslighted her while preying on you, and just generally causing drama in your home and relationships.

You're not blameless, but you're not sleeping with Jane. It doesn't sound like you've been intentionally gaslighting Jane, but if you look back on the past few months, I bet you can identify situations where Jane blew up and acted out, and your participation in the situation was a factor.

Get thee to Craigslist. Advertise your room for rent. GTFO of this situation ASAP!!
posted by jbenben at 5:08 PM on March 3, 2015 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: The person on whose behalf I was posting has provided what she feels may be clarifying detail.

"Moving out is not feasible, at this point in time at least, as we are all 21-23 year old college students and do not have the resources to leave.

Jane and Tom are in an open relationship, so he informed her due to a desire to be truthful. She had asked him point-blank if he were interested in anyone, as she had just revealed that she had broken their "rules" and been secretly sleeping with a co-worker whom she has feelings for

Jane has reacted contradictory in that she swings day to day between being hurt, and actually encouraging us to explore our feelings toward each other; she has always considered herself a 'free spirit' and says we should try to 'transcend possessiveness' and 'boundaries', despite our still feeling it would be a bad idea. At times she is almost aggressive in trying to persuade me it is a good idea, before returning back to not wanting anything to happen."
posted by kaisemic at 5:11 PM on March 3, 2015

I don't know how you think this is workable, at all. You do have to move out, no question.

I wouldn't be optimistic about repairing the relationship with Jane, either. (My experience, years ago: my roommate and close friend's idiot boyfriend decided he had he liked me, despite my interactions with him being limited to hello/polite conversation/goodbye. He confessed his feelings to my friend. Who was pissed, understandably. I tried to smooth things over, but it didn't take. So even though this idiot's crush was completely unilateral, I lost a friend. I guess some people might handle their best friend, in your case, actively perpetuating a thing with their partner, but I don't think I know any of them.)

on preview: hot mess. Generate the resources and leave.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:12 PM on March 3, 2015

Jane and Tom are both drama llamas and bad news. Move out and make new friends and find dates elsewhere. Talk to the housing authority and request a room change.
posted by quincunx at 5:13 PM on March 3, 2015 [13 favorites]

I get that it's not convenient to move out, but the only way to actually avoid a million pounds of just really sticky, awful drama is to get out of there.

Cheating is rarely ever really an accident. It's a million little decisions to bypass boundaries and put yourself in progressively more compromising positions. If you want to NOT be a part of that girl's misery then man the fuck up and start making choices that will make it harder, not easier, to cheat. Seriously- who's idea was it to get drunk and confess squishy feelings to each other? How was that going to be anything but seriously dangerous?

Move out.
posted by Blisterlips at 5:13 PM on March 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Oh my god after reading your update-

Nope nope nope. You see how this all got super complicated? That right there is too much trouble and it's no goddamned good. Man up, figure it out and move out before it turns into the reason why you fail a class or end up on your moms couch or some other awful terrible.
posted by Blisterlips at 5:18 PM on March 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

You're getting some overly harsh answers here, but they are basically right: in this situation, you can't really continue to have a friendship with both of them. Yes, move out if you can - it will make things much less dramatic, and much easier. If moving out is absolutely infeasible for some reason, then try to avoid him - hole up in your room, try to be out of the house a lot.

So—what can I do to kill these feelings of lust/romance when I can't just avoid Tom completely?

Think about your long history of friendship with Jane, think about how you and Tom are hurting her when she is in a vulnerable place, think about how cheating is truly a lame, cliched thing, not an exciting romance. You're eventually going to be Future You, looking back on how you handled this situation. Act in such a way as to make Future You proud (or at least not totally ashamed).

You sound young and like you are trying to do the right thing. But you are being naive (and maybe lying to yourself a little) about how this will likely play out if you all stay in close proximity like this. You can maybe salvage your relationship with Jane if you get out of the situation now and make it clear through your actions that you are choosing to be a good friend to her over the allure of a drama-filled crush situation. And maaaaaaaaaaybe years down the line after it all shakes out you can even be friends with Tom again. Maybe. But probably not.
posted by aka burlap at 5:19 PM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, your life will improve in ways you can't even imagine as soon as you move out.

There is a lot of stuff going on here that is just not necessary and is distracting you from having a good, drama-free time with your life.

So you can't move out? Start saving to move out, and spend every waking moment out of the house. Get a hobby. Get three hobbies. Get a new friend. Start volunteering somewhere. Get busy.

And then move out as soon as you can.

Drama can be so enticing. It can have a gravitational pull. Situations like the one you describe have the capacity to suck people in and seduce them. Something about a dramatic situation almost feels and seems great. It's not great. Beyond being just not worth your time or distracting, drama of this nature has the capacity to simply destroy things in ways that you never thought possible.

I was once in a similar situation and seriously without a doubt the biggest regret I have in life, the worst mistake I ever made, was sticking around with my version of "Tom." If I could go back in time and not make that mistake my life would have been vastly easier, in ways I can't even really begin to describe.

But even if your situation here with Tom isn't as hands-down honest-to-god fucking insane as the situation I had with my version of "Tom" -- even if it's just a waste of your time and makes you feel kind of bad? Even if it ends up not being the worst regret of your life? It will still suck and be not good. So yeah: volunteer. Get hobbies. Get really fucking busy really fast. Start going to therapy - it will keep you busy and help you get to know yourself better. Start doing something time consuming. Do more stuff alone in your room. Be polite to Tom and be polite to Jane but get OUT of that house as much as possible while you still live there, and start putting plans into motion to move out.

Best of luck.
posted by sockermom at 5:21 PM on March 3, 2015 [8 favorites]

Oh, posted before I saw your update. Upon reading it: this is a recipe for drama! Open relationships are fine, but they require a lot of self-awareness and emotional stability and maturity to work well. This thing started in drama and it will end in drama! Jane's encouragement of you two makes the situation even more of a tangled, dramatic, terrible idea.

Don't pursue things with Tom. You guys - all three of you - are not in a mature enough place to make this work right now.
posted by aka burlap at 5:21 PM on March 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Move out. This would be my advice even if this were just a regular old crush that you weren't all talking about and that wasn't messing with your best friend's head.

Here is how you move out without resources (except time and maybe $40 for pizza).

Step 1: Start browsing Craigslist for roommate wanted ads. Print out any ads for places that would cost about what you are paying now or less. Call those people and ask about moving in.

Step 2. Tell Jane and Tom you are moving out and will find another roommate for them. Place an ad on Craigslist looking for a subletter if you are on the lease, or a roommate otherwise.

Step 3: Start visiting those people looking for roommates. Check out the places. Give them a chance to check you out. Do not move in with a couple. (Seriously, this is not my advice because of your current situation, it would be my advice to anyone). Ask one set of these people if you can move in. Repeat until you find a place.

Step 4: Take calls from people who want to sublet. Find some poor dupe who is willing to move in with a couple. Make sure they're not sketchy. Sublet to them.

Step 5: Have a bunch of friends (possibly not Jane (who owes you nothing) and Tom (whom you should steer clear of) ) come over and help you carry your stuff from Jane and Tom's place to your new place. Buy them pizza (ok, that requires a resource, I guess).

Living somewhere else can cost as little as living where you are now. No resources is not a barrier to moving.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:21 PM on March 3, 2015 [25 favorites]

Oh, and let me add: That he says they're in an open relationship (yet somehow, mysteriously, she's upset) is a giant red flag coming out of Tom's ass and if you don't see that, then in future please question your judgement mightily before evaluating potential relationships or partners.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:23 PM on March 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Upon reading your update: I didn't even realize that the situation was what it is. That is really not good.

Get busy, get out, stop dealing with these people. Your life is waiting for you. This is a black hole that can only drag you in to places you really don't want to go.
posted by sockermom at 5:24 PM on March 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Just be more critical of him. Also, knowing that he's having sex with her and that he doesn't like you enough to go cold on her should be enough.

You're probably really into the idea of him. Remind yourself of that.
posted by discopolo at 5:28 PM on March 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

MOVE OUT! I've been in a situation that was very different but involved having crush on my roommate. So many complicated factors meant we would never work out. I moved the hell out of there the second I could because I couldn't deal with him being there all the time (at my house- my sanctuary off all places) and it was driving me nuts. This was an intense crush coming off a severe dry spell. You have the added mix of his girlfriend there (!) No good can come out of you living there. You have NO IDEA how much your brain chemistry will settle down once you get the heck out of there and can see this situation for what it really is. Oh, after you move out- do not contact the crush any other way. I made this same mistake with aforementioned crush and it took me much longer to get him out of my system. Go no contact.

And why can't you move out? I moved out in the middle of my first year living away from my parents in a new town with the only people I knew being my roommates. I used craigslist to much success and found someone to sublet my room without losing a dime. Even if you do lose some money, in my opinion it is so worth it for your peace of mind
posted by eq21 at 5:31 PM on March 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

My real surmising here is that Tom is a Toxic Dude who has taken a vulnerable Jane and gaslighted her while preying on you, and just generally causing drama in your home and relationships.

I do not normally post three times in a thread and will bow out after this one, but this needed to be repeated for emphasis. Tom is not a good guy. When I lived out this story? First Tom ruined Jane's life, and then he ruined mine, and then he ruined someone else's, and right now as far as I can tell he's taking a little breather on the side of the road on his path of destruction, but I know he'll find another person to prey on... That is what people like this do. They are not good people. They will take everything you've got and they'll squeeze it out of you until you're looking in the mirror and for some reason Jane is looking back at you and something clicks in to place and you figure it all out. And then you've got to climb out of it.

Save yourself the pain and misery and don't start digging the grave. Just walk away from this. This is not your row to hoe.
posted by sockermom at 5:35 PM on March 3, 2015 [11 favorites]

More to my comment

Until you move out, stay away from the house all day. During aforementioned crush I would stay at school all day and stay at the library late. I would come home to get ready for bed. Somehow we still ended up chatting, but just try to avoid him. Wear headphones, do your things when you know he is not around. Cook a bunch of food and eat leftovers to avoid the common areas.
posted by eq21 at 5:38 PM on March 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

All true. You might need to rent a van, though, but that's easily less than $100 (one weekend of going out), unless you have a whole apartment's worth of furniture, which I guess you probably don't. You won't need a deposit to live with roommates, either. So, max $140.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:45 PM on March 3, 2015

So, let me see if I have this right:

Sometime last summer, Tom moves in with two gals, one of which he is sleeping with. In November, his lover develops a deep depression. Then sometime in January, he starts bonding deeply with the other roommate. And you see nothing suspicious here?

Was Jane some fucked up psych job before her BF moved in with him and another gal? If not, hey, correlation doesn't prove causation but it sure looks damn suspicious.

There are genuinely polyamorous people out there who just really love (as in deeply care about) more than one person at a time while also being sexually intimate with them. This neurotic damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't crap is not it.

Re "can't" move out:

There is no clear cut dividing line between "can't" and "don't want to." When people feel strongly motivated and are thus willing to pay a higher price, suddenly, what they said could not be done becomes do-able. It may not be convenient. It may not be easy. It may not be what you really want to do. It may not be something that can happen immediately. But when you say "I am crushing on this roommate and I CAN'T move out," you are essentially looking for an excuse to, oopsy, wind up in bed together. If you stay, that is practically guaranteed to happen. If you think the responses to this Ask have been harsh, I suggest you not post a follow-up when that inevitable scenario turns into ridiculous drama.

If it helps any: I once knew a guy who lived with two gals and finally had to lie to one of them to get her to put something in writing in order to protect him because he became a prisoner of the situation. They were threatening to ruin his public reputation and career if he left either of them. It became a real nightmare for him. Maybe that little tidbit will help you decide that moving out isn't as impossible as you think it is.
posted by Michele in California at 5:49 PM on March 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Wow, people are being harsh. Hey, you've done very little wrong here! You want to do right by your friend! You can't help what you feel!

But the fact that you're getting such an onslaught of answers telling you to move should tell you something. And that's that it's Really Hard to kill these feelings. Especially because you both care about Jane, and so it's really easy to bond over how difficult she's being and how mental illness sucks and how nice it is to have someone who Understands.

So. Knowing that you're trying to take on a Herculean task, I agree that if you can find a way to move out, DO. If you can find a way to suddenly be really, really busy and being out of the house as much as possible, DO. If there's someone, Anyone on whom you might have the slightest crush who's NOT Tom? Feed it! I don't care if it's your TA or professor or someone else really inappropriate - the chances of it turning in to a shitstorm are much less likely.

If Tom asks you what's up? Just tell him you're busy, you care about Jane, and you need to focus on other stuff now. If Jane asks you what's up? Tell her you're busy, you care about her too much to be able to handle being poly with Tom, and you need to focus on other stuff now. If Jane bottoms out? Tell Tom where the campus mental health resources are, and how they can help her.

Basically, if you don't feel able to move out, Pretend you've moved out by being there as little as possible. Oh, and go to that Al-Anon meeting, you'll recognize your good company.

Last, but oh-so-not-least - If Tom suddenly neeeeeds you because Jane is have a crisis? Tell him you're really, really sorry, but you can't help right now, and then direct the both of them to campus mental health services. Or an ER. You are not a professional, and there are professionals who can help.

PPS - But where is the part where you and Tom get to have the awesome affair you would most like to come out of this? Maybe in a few years, when Jane's gotten help and they've broken up and almost become friends again, you could think about dating. Don't try until then, and realistically? You're not going to want to try by then, almost guaranteed. Just know that in the meantime the internet isn't forbidding your love - we're just trying to protect you from awful drama for the next semester, and then some.
posted by ldthomps at 5:58 PM on March 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

Since Jane is a free spirit by her own admission, I think you should fuck Tom. You're in your early 20s for Christ sake! Not sure why all posters make it sound as though this is the worst decision you both could make.
posted by Kwadeng at 7:13 PM on March 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

How to get over Tom:

Recognize that he is a fucked up, evil little shit who would tell his severely depressed girlfriend that he wants to sleep with her best friend.

There, that is it, if that isn't a deal breaker then your friend's standards are way too low.
posted by myselfasme at 7:15 PM on March 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

So—what can I do to kill these feelings of lust/romance when I can't just avoid Tom completely?

There's no magic button, no ONE TRUE METHOD for this situation. The only thing that works is time and that'll take a while. Keep busy doing stuff, dive into hobbies/school/work/whatever. Anything that keeps you outta the house for long stretches.

It's good that you've already made up your mind about not sleeping with Tom, even if he and Jane break up. That's a wise decision and helps your friendship with Jane, which probably needs all the help it can get at this point.

It's also nice that that you want to be friends with Tom at this point, but you really need to put yourself first and back off a bit. Trying to be his friend will only cause you exquisite pain and trust me, you're going to have plenty enough pain in life, so avoid it when you can. Let your feelings lessen for him and then you two can be closer friends.

Also, there's no reason you can't go on dates. Change up your routine, to get out of this funk.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:37 PM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

What a question, and what a pile-on! I agree with everyone else in a lot of ways, but I'll answer differently for the sake of meeting OP where she's at.

A key question here is whether Jane and Tom are truly in an open relationship entered into without power disparities, or not. If they aren't, then what everyone else says applies, and you two are massively betraying Jane. If they are, then why not just get it on with Tom? I mean, if you're really into all this drama, and she encourages you half the time, and you're into him, then why not just get to it? Talk to her, see if she was being serious in encouraging it, offer to help her work through her jealousies, talk to him, etc. That's what open relationships are about, right?

No? Then that should provide your answer -- it's not you abstaining out of pity or loyalty. It's that either you don't want the drama, or that it truly doesn't feel right to you, or that he doesn't want the drama, or he doesn't want to get with you. If it's you saying no, then at least now you know why, and that should help. If it's him saying no, then you move on in all the ways people normally do -- sad movies, getting themselves to flirt with other people, and so forth. You could even flip to page 83 in the drama playbook and bring someone home to hook up there and see how the others respond to that.

I'm being a little jokey about all this, but it's because I've been there; I'm not judging you. The reason that everyone here is responding the way they are is (a) out of concern that Jane might really be getting hurt, but also (b) that this shit goes nowhere and eventually gets really old. Sometimes in life, it's fun to have intense closeness with people with no risk of it actually going anywhere. But at a certain point, you get really, really over it.

Anyhow, one thing you said is that you value these people's friendships. The only way to preserve that friendship is to get your head on straight and fly right (/mixed metaphors). All of you sound kinda vulnerable to me. If you go with the flow, you'll keep participating in this codependent, hurtful mess out of your own desire for connection. You'll end up hurting yourself or them or both. If you disentangle yourself, you'll have more of a chance of being able to be a true friend to them, someone they can lean on when their own desire for a calmer, less complicated life kicks in.

The other thing about this drama is that it wastes your time. The early twenties are an interesting time. You could do some other really interesting stuff right now. You probably are, but could you be doing it more fully? It's a good time to take some risk, move to the city you always wanted to try living in, start a brewery out of a storage unit, start a pie-making company, et cetera. Not something random, but that thing that's your dream that you don't think is possible but wonder what if it were. As I said, I've done the whole everyone-is-dating-everyone social setting thing, and in retrospect it was a lot of noise and distraction going nowhere. The people who came out of it looking the best were the people who had a strong code of ethics and who moved on to something they seriously cared about sooner. You've got time now to do some stuff, so distract yourself from this crush by finding something more compelling to you, that represents the dreams closest to your heart and lets you keep focus on them.

Tl;Dr start sleeping with someone else and see if you could get your thrills from other sorts of drama and risk, ones that might prove worth it in retrospect because they more closely relate to building the life you want.
posted by salvia at 7:45 PM on March 3, 2015 [13 favorites]

I second eq21: literally avoid being at home or outside of your bedroom as much as you possibly can for as long as you're there. If you absolutely can't move out, then do your best to avoid them both and not be seen.

Also, I'm kind of suspecting Jane is not in a good frame of mind to figure out whether or not she's down with polyamory, and if she keeps giving you conflicting messages, you will probably end up in heap big trouble if you go anywhere near Tom because wah jealousy FEELINGS will win out there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:09 PM on March 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

They don't have an open relationship. Not with each other, anyway - they have a relationship with drama. If that is the relationship you also want to have, then stay where you are. If not, then move heaven and earth to move out; if that really isn't possible (and you know, I was nearly trapped in a potentially bad housing situation when I was in college, and I went to my dean and said "I can't do this, because reasons," and he said "Okay," and helped me get out of it) then you need to treat the place as somewhere you sleep and store your stuff and that's it.

I saw the update about how you're college students and I was like I KNEW IT. Because I too was once a college student. The drama seems natural and inevitable, like weather. It doesn't have to be that. It really doesn't,
posted by rtha at 8:17 PM on March 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

"Moving out is not feasible, at this point in time at least, as we are all 21-23 year old college students and do not have the resources to leave."

That isn't even remotely a good enough reason to not be able to move out. "If I move out I might lose custody of the kids during the divorce" is a reason. "We're poor and in school and young" is the opposite of a reason. You are in a better position to move out right now then you will be for the rest of your life.

Seriously, if your roommates were taking a daily poop on your bed, you'd probably be able to move out right? Quickly too I bet.

Also, I'd bet a lot that the reason Jane is flip flopping between wanting you two to get it on and being upset by it is that Tom is putting pressure on her to be ok with it, and she's trying to be the Cool Girlfriend, but it's actually really hurting her. I had a couple try to get me involved back in school, and while the guy was all lit up about it the girlfriend wouldn't make eye contact with me. I avoided both of them like they had the plague.
posted by Dynex at 9:01 PM on March 3, 2015 [10 favorites]

Your update makes me more certain you should move out, not less.

Unless you don't actually care about your self-described "best friend", in which case, feel free to continue living there, but be aware it's virtually certain to destroy your relationships with both of these people if you do stay.
posted by zug at 9:18 PM on March 3, 2015

I suggest you find a fellow student to swap rooms. Someone should be willing to move into a single out of a double.
posted by bq at 9:44 PM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

"Moving out is not feasible, at this point in time at least, as we are all 21-23 year old college students and do not have the resources to leave."

This is not true. If you have the resources to live in one place, you have the resources to live somewhere else. Pretending that you have no choice is just your way of not doing what you know you should, but don't want to, do. You should stay away from Tom.

Start by being honest with yourself. Sometimes it's hard because you really want to believe the story you like best.

Jane doesn't need you to make more trouble for her. You should move out and leave them to it. Sounds like at least two of you love drama.
posted by stellathon at 9:50 PM on March 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

To your friend: Someone has to move out. At least if you do it, then you're in control of what you do. And yeah avoid Tom.
posted by carter at 11:58 PM on March 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you stay, you will end up in a triad with Jane and Tom, most likely literally having threesomes with them. Your friendship with Jane and her jealousy and the fact you all live together basically guarantee that you will not be having the nice coupley relationship with Tom that you envisage.

You go off for couple time with Tom - he won't want to leave Jane out because she will be sitting in their room getting drunk and crying. So she'll be invited in. She's a free spirit, why are you being so uptight? Can't you see how upset Jane is? How can you exclude her like this? Tom loves both of you equally, how can you ask him to choose? That may even be what Tom is angling for in the first place.

None of you sound mature enough to handle a triad without it collapsing into some horrible mess, and do you really think your relationship with Jane will survive you sleeping with her? Of course it won't. To be honest your relationship with both of them is probably shot by this point, but you need to get out of this situation. I moved out of a crap housing situation as a student, it can be done. Move back into a dorm if you have to.
posted by tinkletown at 1:10 AM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Since November, she has been in the grip of a deep depression and developed a drinking problem, which has put Tom and Jane's relationship on very shaky ground.

And so he turns around and gets drunk with you and you wind up discussing your feelings! I think he and Jane were having a threesome already, and alcohol was/is the third party.

I get that you're all students, and drinking and messy relationships are sort of the norm in college, but so are mental health problems and they are not to be dismissed lightly. This couple seems really toxic and codependent and I agree with everyone that you need to get away from them. And also, just try not to have relationship discussions when one or both of you is fucked up.
posted by BibiRose at 8:19 AM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

I will second the possibility of just sleep with Tom already, but add that you should be prepared for it to be followed by a shit show of ginormous proportions, possibly sufficient to cause you to decide that sleeping on a park bench would be preferable to staying there. If you do this, make damn sure to NOT get pregnant and to use protection from STD's.

Open relationships are hard. It isn't just youthful fun. People who see themselves as youthful free spirits and open to trying stuff are usually not really ready for the serious consequences that can grow out of these types of choices.

My emotional wiring is reasonably compatible with having an open relationship, but my medical condition precludes having that makes sense. So my goal is to find someone with whom I can be happily monogamous (or just keep sleeping alone, as I have been doing for nearly a decade now). However, I have had enough experience with trying to make such things work that I know that a) it's very hard work and b) an awful lot of people throwing about pretty words like "free spirit" and "polyamory" are just looking to put icing on a cowpie. They aren't free spirits and they have no capacity to love multiple people. They don't even know how to love ONE person, much less several. Slapping some icing on a cowpie doesn't make it taste any less like shit. All it does is sometimes fool other people long enough to get them to take a bite.

If you really, really want to take a walk on the wild side or make the polyamorous thing work, I am happy to talk with you about how to do that well and with as little drama as possible. This is not that. This is nothing but trouble. The fact that you do not want to move out and you think you can just stop crushing on Tom -- oh, god. You are so in over your head. A crush is hard to kill even when you aren't living with the guy.

I realize people here have been very harsh. I sincerely believe they are just concerned for you and they feel you are in way over your head and the only good answer here is to get the hell out as quickly as you can arrange. Many of them have a lot of experience with such things and know whereof they speak. But the AskMe format is geared more towards answering the question than about telling you how and why we know this to be true. I am very concerned that the way this Ask has been answered will not get through to you. In some sense, I have been down that road and I am familiar with the pitfalls. I don't think people are just beating on you. I think some folks here have BTDT, got the t-shirt and that's how they know that this just screams Nothing But Trouble.

With your roommate drinking and suffering depression and flip-flopping from encouraging you to sleep with Tom to telling you she has been betrayed, the fact that you are young and in college and so on, well I think some very real possible outcomes include unwanted pregnancy and/or STD's and/or ending up in the ER because one of them physically assaults you either for having sex with Tom or for not having sex with Tom. (I used to pay accident claims for a living. I processed one very memorable one where her previous man and her new man got into a confrontation and one of them landed in the ER with multiple gunshot wounds. Physical assault is not some crazy exaggeration or something that never happens when sex gets involved.)

If you actually want to finish college and have a nice life instead of having your life completely derailed by what is still preventable drama, please, please take the answers here seriously.

I think people are concerned because this situation is one that can turn into something that seriously just ruins your life for years to come. And the only hope we have of stopping that is to somehow get through to you in this ask. We don't know who you are. We have no second shot at it. And I think that combination of seeing the potential for this to turn really, really, really ugly and the fact that this is our only shot at preventing such ugliness is fueling the harshness of the answers. I think that is unfortunate because I think it makes it less likely you will actually listen, not more likely.

Best of luck, whatever you decide to do.
posted by Michele in California at 11:50 AM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have experience with open relationships and I wouldn't touch this with a 10 foot pole. However, if I were 21 in your position, I'd bang Tom and then leave at the first sign of a shit storm (sorry but this person isn't your "best friend" no matter what you say, why pretend). Life's short, none of you are anywhere near mature enough for this, prepare your parachute and get a good story out of it since you all seem to love the drama anyways.

Either way, get the fuck out as soon as possible. What a mess.
posted by bradbane at 3:24 PM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Holy hell. What is wrong with Tom that makes him so much better for Jane as a long-distance boyfriend than as a live-in boyfriend? I mean, Tom moves in with you two women over the summer and suddenly your lives go to shit: by November, Jane is in the grip of the worst depression and has become an alcoholic right before your eyes. And you're having another friend write to AskMe for you because Tom is also trying to get you, the best friend, to fuck him and you're this close to falling for his little emo pick-up artistry. WTF, Tom?

Lusting after Tom but never, ever acting on it is seriously going to be so much more satisfying to you than caving in to his desires to fuck both of his female roommates.

Find a new place to live, and a bunch of new friends who don't act like this. You are completely mistaken that Tom is a friend.
posted by hush at 4:02 AM on March 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Can I just say, if I were Jane I'd be in the depths of depression too??? I mean my god her bf and best friend are in the process of betraying her. What in gods name do you expect her to be, cheery? Lord.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 7:12 AM on March 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Missed the follow up post. So yep, agreed with everyone, move the hell out of there. Toxic site.
posted by lillian.elmtree at 7:20 AM on March 7, 2015

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