What do you do about a love triangle?
June 7, 2016 6:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm finding myself in a very complicated love triangle between my partner and our mutual friend (his best friend of many years). My boyfriend and I are in an open sexual relationship, but I believe I'm emotionally cheating on him. I have no idea what to do, or where to even begin in trying to fix this.

My boyfriend (of almost 2 years) and I are in a very loving relationship. I'm 26, and he's 30. I couldn't ask for a better partner. We both have our own demons to deal with. I struggle with anxiety and depression, and he struggles with overeating and his weight. When we started dating, he was a virgin.

The sex has improved drastically, but it's not anything near what I need it to be in order to be satisfied. I also find it difficult to be sexually/physically attracted to my boyfriend the way a partner should be. At my suggestion, we're trying an open relationship. I want him to explore other people and become more confident about himself.

I also admit that I wanted to be able to satisfy my own sexual needs, although I hadn't stepped outside of our relationship until a couple of weeks ago. (We have been open for 6 months, and he has been with other women sexually.) We're quickly realizing that we haven't set nearly enough boundaries or rules.

Here's where things get complicated. His best friend (also my very close friend) came to visit us a few weeks ago. One night, while running an errand alone with the friend, I confessed my feelings for him. I've had this feelings for over a year, I estimate. It turns out he feels the same. We kissed, and then we went back inside to rejoin the party.

The next day, we were all drinking and having a good time. My boyfriend later told me that he'd asked our friend if he'd be interested in having a threesome if I were interested. As it turns out, it didn't matter, because I was the one who initiated it.

The problem is, that night I didn't go to bed with my boyfriend. I slept with our friend in the guest room, just the two of us. The sex was the best I've had in any recent memory. I told my boyfriend it had happened, and there wasn't much of an issue. He wishes I were more upfront about wanting to sleep with his best friend, but that seems to be all.

Sex aside, I'm in love with the friend. I have been for at least a year now. He's in love with me too. So now it's become a complicated love triangle that isn't just about sex. I can't help how I feel about this man, but I also can't control the feelings of extreme guilt, anxiety, and dread I have over allowing any of this to happen.

His friend and I have also been very close over the past year or so as good friends (strictly friends). My boyfriend thinks I'm great for him, because he has a woman he can talk to about the things he doesn't feel comfortable opening up to about with "the guys." I can't cut off our friendship. It would kill me, and it would kill him too.

Moving forward, I don't know what to do. If I tell my boyfriend I'm in love with this guy, it could potentially ruin a decades-long best friendship and hurt a lot of feelings. If I don't tell him, I'm not being the open and honest person I want to be.

What is the right move here?
posted by chocolatespaghetti to Grab Bag (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

First off, you aren't in an open relationship. This necessity of your generation to label things has you all very confused. You are in a dead relationship with someone you should have broken up with months ago, and you are in love with someone new.

You need to break up with the current guy. Don't tell him why, just end it. After a few months, if things continue to be serious with the friend, you can let him know gently. Friendships end. Relationships end. It's just how it is.

I would be hesitant to continue with the new guy. Do you really want to be with someone who would sleep with his best friend's girl? It says a lot of things about him that aren't that good. Just think about it.
posted by myselfasme at 6:59 AM on June 7, 2016 [61 favorites]

It sounds like you've thought this through and know the answers to your questions -- open and honest communication is needed here. It's not going to be pretty, and maybe some connections will be severed. That kind of thing happens sometimes, and it sucks. You will not be able to come through this situation while preserving all the connections between the three of you. All you can do is say what you feel, listen to what others feel, and see how everything turns out. But you must be that open and honest person you want to be -- even if it hurts someone (or everyone, which is a worst-case but still possible scenario here). I'm sorry that you will have to make it through this rough patch ahead, but you'll make it and you'll learn a lot and you'll be ok eventually.

Also, for the future, The Ethical Slut is a good resource for establishing open relationships successfully.
posted by cubby at 7:00 AM on June 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

In an open relationship, you HAVE to have SPECIFIC boundaries at the outset, or this sort of thing could happen. I suspect that your boyfriend's best friend is very much like your boyfriend in all ways except he's someone different, which is often what makes sex that much "better," because people get really bored with the same person a lot of the time. So you're in love with someone who shows a lot of the same traits as your boyfriend, but in a new, exciting package.

I say to break off contact as much as possible with this best friend, as he's just a symptom of your current relationship's problems and will just cause heartache. Also, it's time to talk really specifically about what your relationship's boundaries are.
posted by xingcat at 7:01 AM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Not being attracted to your boyfriend is a problem you need to address outside the scope of this situation with the friend. Do you actually want to be in a relationship with your boyfriend any more? You love someone else more and you're not attracted to him and he doesn't satisfy your needs. These are normal reasons that people break up with people. I'm not saying you should definitely break up with him, but I think you should assess whether or not you actually want to continue the relationship you have with your boyfriend before complicating things with the addition of other people.
posted by phunniemee at 7:01 AM on June 7, 2016 [14 favorites]

I think you should at least consider proposing a committed poly relationship with both of them, since neither guy meets your needs on his own and you are in love with both of them. (You might consider closing your end of the relationship for a bit while you get the hang of managing two lovers, if they go for it.)
Poly is definitely not for everyone (it isn't my bag). But all your other options involve ending your relationship with one or both of them, and the friendships aren't likely to survive as the friendships they look like now. This was probably not the best way to embark on either an open relationship or a new relationship, but that's not something you can change now, and you will have to untangle your regrets from your desires to figure out what you want and what, realistically, you can have.
posted by gingerest at 7:04 AM on June 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

I would try to examine these two things (relationship w/ current boyfriend and relationship w/ new dude) separately at first. Even aside from this new guy, it sounds like things were in serious trouble with your boyfriend. You're not attracted to your boyfriend and the sex isn't doing it for you, so you guys decided to have sex with other people, supposedly to increase HIS confidence?? What. I had to re-read this sentence multiple times because it literally made zero sense to me. The solution to you guys being sexually incompatible is to break up and find partners who are a better match, not to drag things out while having sex with other people, and pretending it's for his own confidence.

I agree with myselfasme -- break up with the boyfriend not because of this new dude but because things are clearly not good between you guys right now. Let him go out in the world and find someone who is genuinely attracted to him FOR HIM, rather than trapping him in a relationship with someone who lacks attraction. (From the other point of view, would you really want to date someone who wrote about you the way you write about your partner?!) Once you make a clean break, you can see how things go with the other guy -- although honestly he may feel less shiny once you have some distance from this whole situation.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:06 AM on June 7, 2016 [11 favorites]

I still love my boyfriend very, very much. I don't consider the relationship dead at all. If I did, I wouldn't feel so broken up about the situation.

The lack of physical attraction and sexual compatibility put a strain on our relationship, but we are very much in love with each other. Besides the sex, everything else is fantastic between the two of us. We support each other emotionally, and I couldn't picture my life without him.
posted by chocolatespaghetti at 7:12 AM on June 7, 2016

How does your boyfriend feel about being in a relationship with someone who is not attracted to him? How does he feel about this going on for, basically, ever? Honestly, some people are okay with that - I can think of various historical literary and artistic couples where that was how it worked and everything was fine.

When you say that he's overweight - is the weight the reason you're less attracted to him? Because if it is, I am not so sure that staying in this relationship is a good thing for him. Fat people get told very often that we are sexually and socially undesirable and that no one can possibly be attracted to us. It's very easy to slip into the mindset of "if I don't stay in this relationship with a person who isn't attracted to me but who loves me, I will be left with nothing at all". If this is a depressed guy with weight issues, you are not necessarily doing him any favors by saying that you love him and can't do without him but are not attracted to him.

Also, FTR, I think a lot of women get into relationships with men they're not physically attracted to because women are so discouraged from figuring out what physical attraction even means to them. And this creates a mess later.

I think your boyfriend deserves all the information here. It's not fair to him to assume that because he's [we think] cool with a low-sex relationship with someone who is not attracted to his body, he will also be cool with that relationship when his partner is in love with someone else.

The worst option here is where you get emotionally entangled with the friend, withdraw from or change the dynamic with your boyfriend and much later, after everyone is feeling hurt and bad, have a big showdown where all the information is provided.

Also, just because you love someone does not mean that you can or should stay in a relationship with them.
posted by Frowner at 7:22 AM on June 7, 2016 [23 favorites]

Theres really no easy way to solve this situation, lots of honest talks will be required, and its probably going to be really hard and emotional. I know I just said it, and its been said a million times, honesty is key here. Not just about how you are feeling, but what you WANT out of the relationship(s). Once everyone has their wants on the table, a real discussion can begin and you can all start basing your decisions on complete knowledge instead of the hodge-podge of ill-defined boundaries, ethics and loyalty. I would recommend reading the ethical slut as mentioned above as well as 'Opening Up'

Whatever you end up doing, clarity is key. Make you feelings and desires clear, make boundaries clear, if you examine this and ponder the advice you are given and find you arn't as in love as you think, make that clear too.
posted by deadwater at 7:31 AM on June 7, 2016

I agree with scrittore, in that a loving relationship without sex is basically a friendship. There's no reason you can't have a platonic life partner if that's what works for the both of you, but you could both also have a fulfilling romantic relationship with other people. Trying to maintain that connection instead of letting both of you move on to more fulfilling partnerships seems wrong to me.
posted by cabingirl at 7:34 AM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

You can love someone and not be obligated to stay in a relationship with them.

I think that if you stay with this man you are going to hurt him. You find him physically unattractive and it doesn't seem as if that's going to change. If I found out that my partner had suggested opening up our relationship because they found me unattractive and disliked having sex with me, I would be absolutely devastated, and I would wish they had just dumped me before I had to find out that someone I loved had been white-knuckling their way through sex with me while wishing I was hotter and better at sex.

If you are committed to this relationship, I really think you need to close it back up, at least temporarily, and make a serious go at working on your sexual relationship with your boyfriend. If the idea of doing that turns you off to the point where you'd really rather not do it, then please dump the poor guy for his sake.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:35 AM on June 7, 2016 [13 favorites]

Also, consider that you might hold a position of power over your partner. He was a virgin when you got together and sounds like he might have body image issues. Of course he should be as honest as he can be with you, but he may be agreeing with all of this just because he doesn't want to lose you, and not even realize that's what he's doing.
posted by cabingirl at 7:38 AM on June 7, 2016 [24 favorites]

I'm a bit worried about your boyfriend in the long term. Seems to me that your relationship isn't going to last. By dragging it out while you mess around with his best friend, you're teaching him some messed up lessons about love.

My understanding is that open relationships are not a solution to (one-sided) sex problems.

You're also infusing a lot of drama into this: it's a complicated love triangle; it'd kill you to give up this guy. Is it possible the drama is heightening your enjoyment of this?

You've been with your boyfriend 2 years, but in love with someone else for one. When you proposed opening the relationship, did you have the best friend in mind? Were you already hoping for that relationship to become sexual?

I'm not sure you're being entirely honest with yourself or your boyfriend. Maybe he wants an open relationship. Or maybe he lacks boundaries to say no to your request.

In any case, it sounds like you have the power in this relationship. I think your boyfriend is your friend, not the person you want to be your primary relationship.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:06 AM on June 7, 2016 [13 favorites]

"I still love my boyfriend very, very much. I don't consider the relationship dead at all."

It possible to love someone and be fundamentally incompatible with him. You are not attracted to your boyfriend. That's not a big deal to you, since you're getting sex and affection from another person who you are attracted to, but I'm guessing it's pretty soul-crushing to your boyfriend. Do you think he deserves nothing more than the scraps you are willing to give him? Or does he deserve to be with someone who both loves and desires him?
posted by scantee at 8:19 AM on June 7, 2016 [24 favorites]

The lack of physical attraction and sexual compatibility put a strain on our relationship, but we are very much in love with each other. Besides the sex, everything else is fantastic between the two of us. We support each other emotionally, and I couldn't picture my life without him.

Agreeing with others that what you're describing is a best friend, not a boyfriend.

Just sexual attraction without the awesome friendship is a bootycall/fuck buddy.
Just the awesome friendship without the sexual attraction is a best friend.

It is time to end it, for your own sake and for your "boyfriend"'s sake.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:32 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

if your love for your boyfriend is as strong as you say, you would let him find a relationship with someone who is attracted to him and satisfied with him. i'm not opposed to open relationships at all, but this is a bad reason to have one. you aren't being kind to him and you know that. show him you love him by letting him go.
posted by nadawi at 8:44 AM on June 7, 2016 [6 favorites]

His best friend (also my very close friend) came to visit us a few weeks ago.

The problem is, that night I didn't go to bed with my boyfriend. I slept with our friend in the guest room, just the two of us.

You do not explicitly say it, but the above lines imply that the best friend lives some distance away and has to travel and spend the night to see you two at all. While your BF and his best friend have known each other a decade, I am assuming you met the best friend through the bf and have not known him nearly so long.

It takes 15 to 20 hours a week to establish and maintain genuine intimacy. I am guessing that you do not see the friend anywhere near that much. Without real intimacy, this is not love. At best, it is infatuation.

While it can be fairly easy to have big feels for a third party where you get to tap into their closeness (ie the closeness of the two friends) through your closeness to one of them, it is illusory. It feels really good because you get a lot of the positives without the fights, drama, etc that are typically involved in establishing real trust. Real trust only occurs when the relationship has been tested and proven to be solid under pressure.

You know the saying: Easy come, easy go.

When you get those positive feels without the stress and pain involved in sticking loyally together in the face of difficulties, the relationship is unlikely to survive the slightest friction. I had a similar relationship end very suddenly and totally because I honestly answered a question he asked. I never heard from him ever again. I pined for him for years because what I had known of him had so many positives, so few negatives. But the relationship did not have a solid foundation. It was bowled over by a feather.

I am guessing you are failing to recognize that your positive feelings for the best friend are very much riding on the coattails of their friendship. The odds are poor that if you left the bf and got with his best friend that it would lead to happily ever after. The odds of that are always poor, but, in this case, I suspect that your connection to this man so heavily hinges on the existing friendship that if you tried to do that, you would soon find there is no there there.

As for what to do: Start a journal and begin reading a great deal about human sexuality, affairs, polyamory, etc. This isn't that complicated. You think it is because you are kind of naive. Before you say anything more about it to either of these men, you need to get your head on straight.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 8:49 AM on June 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

So now it's become a complicated love triangle that isn't just about sex.

you aren't being honest and i can't tell if it's just with us and your boyfriend, or if you're also lying to yourself. i think you know that you pushed for an open relationship specifically to sleep with your boyfriend's best friend who you have pined over for more than half of your relationship. you likely hoped that your boyfriend taking part in the open relationship before you got a chance to sleep with the person you did this for would absolve your guilt about it, but as you can see that didn't work. your disloyalty to your relationship began before you opened it and you can't just rewrite the history to pretend like this love triangle is new, instead of foundational to your relationship with your boyfriend and your so called close friendship with his best friend.
posted by nadawi at 9:32 AM on June 7, 2016 [40 favorites]

This is a problem with the poly option - sometimes it's really tempting to use it to hang onto someone you really shouldn't be with, and sometimes it's really tempting to use it to avoid having to fix problems in your primary relationship.

There's nothing inherently wrong with an open relationship, or even sleeping with your partners best friend who you have feelings for. But there is something wrong with opening your relationship as a way to fix a problem, rather than working on that problem. You should have started by working on why you're not attracted to your partner, rather than just going off and trying to sleep with other people.

A generally good rule of thumb is what I call sexual reverse Keynesianism. You open your relationship up when it is doing well, because it can stand it - and you close it when it is doing poorly, because it can't. It sounds like you need to close your relationship to work on it - and if you're unwilling to do that, it's worth pondering why?

Another possibility is that you want to be with your partner, but you don't want him to be your primary partner anymore. It's worth thinking about that - what would your ideal life look like? What is the path you see?
posted by corb at 9:41 AM on June 7, 2016 [12 favorites]

nadawi's absolutely nailed it here, for me.

open relationship != a licence to fuck whoever you want, whenever you want. you knew this would be bad for your relationship, and you went ahead and did it anyway. I can't see a way out of this that doesn't go down in flames for at least one of you.

That said, this doesn't make you a terrible person - open relationships are hard and often your first one crashes and burns (mine did!). Learn from this and do better next time.
posted by corvine at 9:42 AM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I appreciate the (sometimes somewhat tough) love and all the responses from you. I'm realizing that I clearly have a lot to reflect on. This has not been easy.

I don't want to leave my boyfriend. I know some of you have suggested that staying with him would be unfair to him. I don't think this is something that can't be fixed. I don't think I'm a bad person for staying with him or that I do not deserve him, or that we can't fix our relationship.

I think that we could focus on getting healthy together, and it would help both of our self-esteem, as well as our sex life. That is what we're hoping anyway.
posted by chocolatespaghetti at 10:10 AM on June 7, 2016

Okay, you don't want to leave him - but do you want him as a primary partner? If he and his best friend both had a major crisis, who would you in your heart want to tend to? Who do you want to live with? Who gets vetoes that get heeded? Whose wishes fall higher?
posted by corb at 10:21 AM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Does "getting healthy" mean "we both lose weight"? I do not think this is a fix for your problems, not least because losing weight is difficult - what happens when one or both of you can't? And also, look, I'm a fat and funny-looking person - a relationship where my partner said "I am having trouble being attracted to you and have fallen in love with someone else, let's fix this by losing weight so that I can be attracted to you" would not be doing me any favors.
posted by Frowner at 10:23 AM on June 7, 2016 [33 favorites]

It seems like you're using your boyfriend because he loves you and would do anything to make you happy. You made your relationship open because you want to have sex with other people. Everything you've written shows you're acting selfishly. It's fine to want a fantastic sex life. That's the whole point of a health fulfilling relationship, but you shouldn't be behaving this way while dating your boyfriend. You're ignoring peoples advice because it doesn't line up with your desire to have your cake and eat it. You need to be honest, stop making excuses, and make a decision. Your relationship isn't open, you're cheating on your boyfriend. And with his best friend. And if anything, it's worse that he knows what you're up to because he trusts that it isn't emotional. That's heartbreaking to me. I feel for him.
posted by shesbenevolent at 10:41 AM on June 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't want to leave my boyfriend. I know some of you have suggested that staying with him would be unfair to him. I don't think this is something that can't be fixed. I don't think I'm a bad person for staying with him or that I do not deserve him, or that we can't fix our relationship.

I think this statement reflects something you're not quite getting about what people are trying to say.

A relationship can be a bad fit without one of the people being a bad person, or not deserving the other one. Two perfectly awesome people can be a bad match for a relationship.

I'm not even saying "you must dump him now," but you need to figure out what you mean when you say "fixed." What would it mean for this relationship to be fixed? Would it mean your boyfriend losing a bunch of weight? Ask yourself: would you have any interest in remaining with your boyfriend and being sexually active with him if you knew he would never lose a pound ever again in his life? If the answer is no, then you're setting him up for far worse issues with body shaming than he already has.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:57 AM on June 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

If I don't tell him, I'm not being the open and honest person I want to be.

I don't think I'm a bad person for staying with him or that I do not deserve him,

Just as you know that you want to be an open and honest person, your boyfriend deserves to be WITH an open and honest person. You have to tell him. You have to accept that the price may be that he demands you cut off your friendship with Other Guy, which would be pretty reasonable.

A strong relationship is never based on hiding or lying. It would have been best to admit you had strong feelings for Friend to your boyfriend, before you acted, but that ship has sailed. The only thing you can do, if you respect and love your boyfriend and think he deserves a healthy trusting relationship, is tell him.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:59 AM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think that we could focus on getting healthy together, and it would help both of our self-esteem, as well as our sex life. That is what we're hoping anyway.

Approaching a relationship not in an "as is" state is very rarely a good idea, and approaching a relationship as "it will be fine once one/both of us lose weight" is even worse. You are risking having him feel like your love is dependent upon his ability to lose weight, that his relationship with you is dependent upon his ability to lose weight. Major major body issues and and self esteem problems lie that way. And then what happens if he does "get healthy" and then you still aren't sexually attracted to him? Which is entirely possible, btw.

My long time belief is that if you are good with your relationship as it is, right now, this very second, then it isn't right because there is a very good chance the required changes aren't going to happen, or if they do happen they won't last. Your relationship is not good as it is, right now.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:03 AM on June 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I get you on the open relationship thing, but then you said "his best friend".



Granted this may be different for your boyfriend, but when most people say "open relationship" they mean open to finding new people who aren't otherwise a major part of your social group already. Let alone being one member of the couple's best friend.

I think if you guys had been open for your whole relationship, and he was more sexually experienced, and the reason you were doing it wasn't "I'm not sexually attracted to my boyfriend", and you guys had amazing boundaries in place, this would still not be the best idea. But the fact that none of this is true? Nope.

Not to mention, your situation isn't one of a "love triangle" or a "threesome" kind of thing. You're in love with your boyfriend's best friend and aren't interested in your boyfriend anymore. Don't use the open nature of your relationship to hide what's really going on.

And I say this as someone who is marrying the close friend of an ex. Speaking of which, I'll give you advice based on my experience, if what you actually want is to not be with your boyfriend anymore and instead be with best friend guy.

Step 1: Break up with your boyfriend.

Step 2: Back the fuck off. For a long time. I had the benefit of not being the dumper in my situation, and the relationship not ending directly because I was attracted to my boyfriend's friend. I went through the typical grieving period for a relationship, and then I waited another year to make any sort of move on the friend. Now-fiance and I were friends during that year, but more in the sense that we hung out one on one very occasionally and in a non-sexual manner.

Step 3: Proceed with caution.

Step 4: Be careful of your ex's feelings.

Step 5: There are no guarantees that any of this will work, or that it won't ruin multiple relationships in the process.
posted by Sara C. at 11:06 AM on June 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

I don't want to leave my boyfriend. I know some of you have suggested that staying with him would be unfair to him.

Well, yeah, because it is. I'm an overweight guy of an attractiveness best described as 'niche,' and if my hypothetical boyfriend wasn't physically attracted to me, and wanted an open relationship so he could bang my best friend, I'd be single right quick.

Honestly, what the others have said is true: you have a really amazingly super close friend with whom you are not sexually compatible. For his sake, you need to look beyond what you want, and what is best for him. Which is the chance to be with someone who loves and values and desires him as he is, without pinning hope on someday he'll change and it'll all suddenly be okay.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:09 AM on June 7, 2016 [11 favorites]

This is actually really, super, incredibly simple: you tell your boyfriend all of this.

That's it. Be honest with your boyfriend.

If you want to be with him, tell him that. But if you also think you're in love with his best friend, and have been for a year, you also need to tell him that. If you're not sexually attracted to him, and hope that an open relationship will both let you get off and make him more attractive to you because sleeping with other women will improve his confidence, tell him that. Hell, if you're not sexually attracted to him and you think it's because he's overweight, tell him that.

I'm not sure how much you've told your boyfriend, but if you aren't honest with him about these issues, then you're treating him like shit. And good people don't treat people they care about like shit; they don't even treat people they don't care about like shit!

The fact that you're asking this question about whether to tell your boyfriend the truth about what's going on in your supposedly open relationship should give you pause. If you want to have a good relationship with your boyfriend, you can't keep secrets like this from him. You'll be stressed about lying to him, and that will damage the relationship over time. He'll find out about this eventually, and if you haven't told him, the fact that you've been lying to him will drop a nuclear bomb on your relationship. You may be worried about how he'll react now, but at least there it's an open question. Then you can discuss whether you can get on the same page about what you want.

But you can't lie to him just because you fear that he might not be cool with this, which will force you to make a hard decision or allow him to make a fully informed decision. I have no doubt that you already know that. (And yes, it is lying to him: you're specifically not telling him information that you think he will care about, because you are concerned that he will care about it.)
posted by J. Wilson at 11:28 AM on June 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

I don't think I'm a bad person for staying with him or that I do not deserve him, or that we can't fix our relationship.

Yeah, I'm sorry--I'm sure you're a good person, but you're doing a bad thing. You're being deeply unfair and unkind to your boyfriend and trying to excuse it on technicalities. You know this or you wouldn't feel so guilty and compelled to try and hang on to the relationship--it would mean admitting you did a bad thing. As they say in the movies, deserve's got nothing to do with it.

Good people can do a bad thing, especially in relationships, oh my god, because people are complicated and attraction is weird.

You only stop being a good person when you refuse to admit, apologize for, and stop doing the bad thing.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:45 AM on June 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

Some of the problem here, I think, is that you yourself are in a really hurting position that has been really hard, and it sounds like you've been in a hard place for a long time - so it's hard to listen about what's hard on other people. If you've never been sexually attracted to your boyfriend, then you've been in a place without physical attraction for about two years. That's a hard place to be.

There are good-person reasons for why you might be in a relationship with someone you're not sexually attracted to. Maybe your sexual wiring often leads you to guys that don't treat you well, and you're trying to focus on other important things. Maybe you have been treated badly in the past by people who weren't super attracted to you and wanted to be fair. Maybe you're a woman, who is often told that getting into relationships for sexual attraction reasons is a bad idea. We don't know, and honestly, we don't need to know. I'm sure you got into the relationship for reasons that seemed good to you at the time and with the best of intentions.

But at the same time, if you haven't been clear about your lack of attraction to your boyfriend, ever, then you have already been lying to him for a long time, by not communicating a really important part of the truth of your relationship. That doesn't make you a bad person! It makes you a person who doesn't want to hurt someone you care about. This is an incredibly hurtful thing to say, and it's important to note that even if you find the magical way to say it, your boyfriend is going to be deeply hurt. There is no way to get out of that. Even if your boyfriend becomes sexually attractive tomorrow, you will still have lied to him about an important part of your first relationship part.

This really isn't about the best friend. It feels like it's about the best friend, because you've been attracted to him for a year, and you're SO CLOSE to having everything, because you sort of have permission but sort of don't have permission and it all seems so possible. But it's not about the best friend - it's about you trying to find some kind of hack that makes your current relationship setup work. You're not a bad person for trying to make that work - even if you asked to open the relationship when you kind of knew who you would want to open it with if you could, you're still not a bad person. These are really strong urges and it's totally normal for your brain to try to make things work in a way that you won't have to give them up. But it's important to be really clear to yourself that this is a hack to make things work that is a hack, not a Good Idea.
posted by corb at 12:14 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I agree with nadawi that you are not being honest. My guess is you started dating your boyfriend, met his best friend, and then maintained your relationship and pushed for an open relationship because of your attraction to the best friend. If you think that's not right, are you certain you're being honest with yourself?

I think you are using your boyfriend, whom you claim to love, to get with his best friend, but not being honest with your boyfriend about that. You are messing with your boyfriend's feelings and with one of the most important relationships in his life, all while you know you were his first intimate relationship. This is a terrible thing to do.

Break up with your boyfriend, because he deserves better. Try to pursue the best friend if you want, it's your life, but if he's of any quality as a friend to your boyfriend, he will shoot this down. In the future, try a little harder not to use people.
posted by sallybrown at 2:02 PM on June 7, 2016

If you're not leaving your boyfriend then you must break up with the best friend. I cannot overstate how potentially dangerous it is for all involved.

If you do break up with your boyfriend take a long break before entering into a relationship with his friend.
posted by xammerboy at 2:38 PM on June 7, 2016

I think you're confused about love and openness and all that and it makes sense that you are as you're relatively young.

I'm pretty poly-wired and I've also been married 22 years to my monogamously-wired husband, so I've been walking various lines for a long time and there are a few things I can share.

One is that honesty before action is important. I haven't always managed that every time, but the time I didn't it was awful. Don't say you're interested in one thing (threesome) and do another. The issue here isn't does your boyfriend forgive you for it. The issue is that you did not know how much damage you would do and you went ahead anyway. Part of being in almost any ethical relationship is not letting your impulses overshadow your responsibilities as a partner. Love is not just about feeling fond of your boyfriend, it's about how you put him at the centre of your life by considering his happiness critical to your own.

You did not do this and it's like a muscle, if you don't do that now, eventually you will probably give into your impulses in a way that will really, really hurt him and damage your partnership.

Second, if your relationship is not healthy at its core, polyamory won't help. Yours is not, if you are waiting for your partner to magically get better in bed or to get healthy. Or if you have not been honest for a year -and- acted on the feelings you did not share. It's possible that you could mutually agree that your relationship isn't a good sexual outlet, but you unilaterally looking for him to get better at sex is unhealthy.

Third, being in an open relationship requires more care about who you partner with, not less. You are not just risking your heart, but your boyfriend's friendship and the friend's connections to you both. Again, be more careful. The fact that you called this a love triangle shows you kind of know already that it's tangled up.

My advice is to break up with your boyfriend because I really think your actions -- sending him out for experience to help /your/ sex life etc. -- have a language which says you are not really operating like someone in a committed partnership should.
posted by warriorqueen at 3:20 PM on June 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

From reading your phrasing of this, it's filled with SO MUCH drama:

I'm finding myself in a very complicated love triangle between my partner and our mutual friend

You're not magically finding yourself in this situation. Take responsibility. You put yourself in this situation. Own it. It's NOT a complicated love triangle. You're cheating on your boyfriend with his best friend. None of this is complicated.

I can't cut off our friendship. It would kill me, and it would kill him too.

This is untrue and again, awfully dramatic. Of course you can cut off the friendship and you'd both survive.

What is the right move here?

People are telling you the right move and you're dismissing their advice.

I think that we could focus on getting healthy together, and it would help both of our self-esteem, as well as our sex life. That is what we're hoping anyway.

Well then, what's your question here? If you're asking how to keep them both it seems like you already have this plan.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:32 PM on June 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

To answer your question again: The right move is to break up with your boyfriend and not continue anything with his best friend.
posted by miles1972 at 9:27 PM on June 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

You don't have to be sexually attracted to someone to be in a relationship with them. That's bullshit.

No one here has the right to determine whether your relationship is "right" or "a real romantic relationship." That's your call, not theirs.

You should give your boyfriend all the information he needs to make a decision about whether to remain in this relationship. That's the next step
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:06 AM on June 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

The right move is to break up with the boyfriend completely.

Also, you contradicted yourself inside of two paragraphs at the end. The entire nature of your current "open" relationship is predicated on your personal sexual dissatisfaction, yet you claim that the "love triangle that isn't just about sex". It's absolutely about sex; I don't know how you can claim otherwise.

Lying to him is bad, but you sound like you are lying to yourself, which is just as bad, if not worse.

Be honest with yourself and be honest with your boyfriend. You should move on and allow him to do the same.
posted by PsuDab93 at 10:56 AM on June 8, 2016

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