Two men enter, one man leaves
August 14, 2017 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Very recently started dating a man from my friend group. How should I disclose to him that I was sleeping with another member of our group right up until we started dating?

I (32 f) met Kyle (40 m) about 6 months ago as a customer at my job. We had some great conversations, and over the past few months he's become very much a regular there. I started inviting him to things with my friend group about 3 months ago and he easily hit it off with them and has become a solid part of our crowd. A few friends have asked me over the months if I had any romantic interest in him, but I really only saw him as a friend. A few weeks ago, I started noticing how much I missed him when he wasn't around, and started to question my platonic feelings for him. He never hinted at anything beyond platonic feelings for me either, but was also pretty clear that he was very fond of me as a person. We were talking about a movie last week, and I randomly invited him over to watch it. It was our first time hanging out alone, and three movies later, found ourselves kissing. We've hung out every night since and things seem to be going in a really great direction. We're both pretty introverted and have been single for quite a while, but things feel really natural and easy so far and we're both quite excited to see where it leads!

John (36 m) and I have been friends for about 2 years, and I've considered him my best friend for the last year or so. He is married to a fantastic woman who I also consider a good friend. When our friendship intitally started growing closer, I talked to her about it a few times because I didn't want to cause any issues in their marriage. She told me she was thankful he had a friend like me to talk to about interests that we shared that she isn't into and that she wasn't worried at all. A few months later, he disclosed to me that they have an "open-ish" marriage. They don't get involved casually with strangers, and any potential partners need to be vetted by the other person. At the time, I wasn't comfortable getting involved and was concerned about damaging our friendship. John was completely understanding and didn't bring it up again. Three or four months later, something shifted for me, and I told him I was interested in trying things out. As of last week, we'd been sexually involved for about 8 months. I did stop things for a few weeks in April because I felt like I was developing stronger feelings and getting jealous and it didn't feel healthy. He was absolutely respectful of my boundaries, and we were able to maintain a lower level of contact while I got my head back on straight. I have always been clear with him that our situation would have to end if I met someone I was seriously interested in dating. Our friend group knows that we consider each other to be best friends, but no one knows about the rest other than his wife.

Kyle and John have bonded over the months and really enjoy each other. I let John know yesterday that Kyle and I had started seeing each other, and he was enthusiastic and happy for us, while also admitting that it stung a little. I would absolutely love to maintain my friendship with John, but my priority is Kyle at this point. John and I are meeting up tomorrow to talk and figure out how to move forward from here. I trust him completely to be respectful and be a good friend to us both, so I don't really have any concerns there, just figuring out the details of what our friendship looks like now.

The real question is how do I approach this subject with Kyle? We are all low-drama adults with solid communication skills and I think that I have to be honest about my recent history if I want to have a real realtionship with him. I told him today that I had let John know about us, and his response was a kind of jokey "Of course you told him already" but I have never sensed any jealousy from him about how close our friendship is. He also has multiple close female friends, so is comfortable with opposite sex friendships.

I am mostly terrified of bringing it up and having it be a problem, or causing jealousy, but I think I should disclose it as soon as possible. I have no interest in hiding what happened between John and I, just really unsure of the best way to have that conversation. It's especially awkward since John and I were still involved up until last week and only ended things because of Kyle. Is there a script you have used to communicate difficult topics with a new partner? Or is bringing this up a really terrible idea for some reason?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you bring it up in the context of discussing exclusivity? IME, generally when you start seeing someone, anywhere from a few weeks to a couple months in you have a talk about "are we allowed to sleep with others" and "are we going to call each other boyfriend/girlfriend." It seems natural to me to bring this up at that time. "Do you want to be in an exclusive relationship? I was casually seeing someone else with the understanding that I would break it off if I got into a new relationship. So I just want to clarify that I've done that and I'm interested in an exclusive relationship. Are we on the same page? Or do you want to keep seeing other people?" Or something like that. And then hopefully he'll have a more or less positive reaction to that, and you can let him know the guy you were seeing was John.
posted by stockpuppet at 12:51 PM on August 14, 2017 [6 favorites]

I just wanted to say that you absolutely should bring it up, because if you don't, and Kyle finds out later, chances are decent that the relationship will end based on that. You should also tell him the timing of all of this, and any intentions you might have about your relationship with him being an open one. I would also recommend against using the term "seeing," as it is unnecessarily vague.

Radical honesty is the way to go here, with the understanding that not everyone would be comfortable with the situation as you described it. Some might judge others for that feeling, but judgment isn't going to change it. You seem completely comfortable with all of it. If Kyle isn't, then he might not be right for you. That doesn't make him a bad person or less. It just means he feels differently.

It may also be that he already knows and is comfortable. Again, no way to know but to sit down and explain it in a level headed way, like you did here.
posted by cnc at 12:58 PM on August 14, 2017 [8 favorites]

I think you should totally bring it up, and if you feel like it's too early to talk about exclusivity with Kyle, it's ok to have this be a separate conversation. "Hey so there's something I feel like it would be wrong for me not to mention --" is all you need for an intro. Particularly since you ARE excited about Kyle and you probably do want to be clear that the situation you were in before is not one you are interested in repeating.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:50 PM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

One thing to consider is that telling Kyle that you were sleeping with John will effectively 'out' John and his wife re. their open relationship - are you sure they are both happy with that?
posted by amerrydance at 2:08 PM on August 14, 2017 [11 favorites]

Our friend group knows that we consider each other to be best friends, but no one knows about the rest other than his wife.

Seconding amerrydance. I personally think the guy you're seeing doesn't need to know it was specifically the husband you were sleeping with. It's unnecessary information. Be an adult and enjoy your relationship and keep the other stuff to yourself. I think it would hurt and end the relationship and cause issues with the other couple. Its better to just be with the guy and move forward. Count this as part of your past. Are you going to tell the new guy each individual person you've slept with and introduce him to them? Do you want their friendship to be awkward? I think this is a good situation to choose privacy and tact.
posted by lunastellasol at 2:32 PM on August 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

I guess I don't really understand why you would have to divulge details about who you have been intimate with in the past, even the near-past, when you and Kyle were just friends. I'd just have a discussion about exclusivity and maybe mention that you had stopped having intimate relations with others once you and Kyle got together because you were having feelings and that you'd like to formalize exclusivity.

I'd also be SUPER grossed out if John thought it was OK to mention to Kyle that you and he had been in a sexual relationship before you got together with Kyle. I suppose stuff like that happens all the time, but I'd cut anyone loose who thought it was OK to discuss me in such a manner in the context of being dude friends. No need to hide anything, but you're also not obligated to disclose who you have been in relationships with, even if it's in the same friend group. I don't understand why it would be any of Kyle's business or why he would care - it all happened before you two got involved.
posted by quince at 2:35 PM on August 14, 2017 [10 favorites]

I honestly don't see why you need to bring this up with Kyle, or for that matter why it would be a big deal if you did. "I had sex with other people before we started dating" isn't really earth shattering stuff, it's pretty normal. "I was having sex with other people a week before we started dating and also it was with someone you know" is a bit more of an eyebrow raiser but you still haven't done anything actually wrong. You can't cheat on someone retroactively. It's debatable whether you can even cheat on Kyle now, given that you haven't agreed to be monogamous yet.

I would give zero shits if a partner disclosed something like this to me. If anything I'd want to know why they had been so worried, and I'd want to reassure them that they needn't have been and that what they did was fine and normal.

I might not say anything though if I were you, to avoid outing John and his wife. That would actually be my greater concern, in this situation.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:07 PM on August 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would absolutely want to know this if I were Kyle, especially if I'm starting to become friends with the other person. You don't want to make partner "the fool" among the three of you. If I find out about this years down the road, it would seriously affect my trust with my partner as well as the other person if we became friends. This would be way less of an issue if it wasn't an ongoing friend, but as he is one of your best friends, I think honesty is the best way to start.

I also agree that outing John and his wife is a concern. I would suggest talking to John about your interest in disclosing the information first and making sure he is okay with it.
posted by monologish at 5:11 PM on August 14, 2017 [5 favorites]

It might be a really good idea to talk to the wife about this.
posted by lunastellasol at 5:36 PM on August 14, 2017

Nowhere does the OP say that she has direct knowledge of John's wife's knowledge of her sleeping with John. Therefore the outing may not be of an 'open' marriage ... I also note that the relationship has been a secret one, which may or may not be consistent with the 'open marriage', but is certainly consistent with an affair.

I heartily endorse lunastellasol's suggestion, and for the OP to be prepared for a response that is different from what John's story suggests.

Having said that, I see no reason to say anything to anyone. Sleeping with someone in the recent past, sleeping with someone that a prospective partner might know, should be 'no big deal' and if it is I would consider it a red flag.
posted by GeeEmm at 7:23 PM on August 14, 2017 [4 favorites]

I think you're way overthinking this. You were sleeping with someone, and then stopped to date someone else?

I give you permission to not disclose.
posted by gregr at 7:48 PM on August 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

We are all low-drama adults with solid communication skills and I think that I have to be honest about my recent history if I want to have a real realtionship with him.

I am mostly terrified of bringing it up and having it be a problem, or causing jealousy, but I think I should disclose it as soon as possible.

I see that you feel strongly about this, but I really don't understand why you think this needs to be disclosed. It's not dishonest to be private about prior sex partners.
posted by desuetude at 9:30 PM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I hadn't considered that John and his wife might not be okay with you telling Kyle this. Will Kyle spread it around to the whole friend group? Would John rather that you tell Kyle, or would he be like "I'd rather you not name me specifically, it would make the situation in our friend group too weird"?

I think if he really doesn't want you to name him, it's probably okay not to. I do think Kyle has a right to know that you recently had another sexual partner, but I'm not sure he has an absolute right to know exactly who you've slept with, even in this situation. This is assuming you are 1000% dedicated to never again doing anything with John and are really going to "walk the straight and narrow" in your new relationship with Kyle. It seems to me in that case that Kyle not knowing is probably not really going to hurt him.

That said, I would quickly work to separate yourself from John and NOT continue to be "best friends" as that's just asking for messy emotional scenes. Distancing yourself from John as a friend seems crucially necessary to me, unless Kyle is the least jealous man in the world- you admit you at one point that you had not-casual feelings about John and perhaps he had some slight amount of possessiveness over you as well. I could be wrong but I doubt continuing to be best friends with John is really sustainable in any case.
posted by stockpuppet at 7:50 AM on August 15, 2017

Do you actually know from her that the wife knows about this?

If so, if for some reason you feel compelled to tell Kyle, you need to make sure that's cool with her and John, and I don't actually see any reason you shouldn't leave it vague or unsaid.

If not, you may very well have been in an extramarital affair with John. A lot more married dudes say they are in "open relationships" than actually are.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:33 PM on August 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I posted above, but I wanted to chime in to be more direct in saying that if I started dating someone who had been sleeping with one of my friends the week (or days?) before dating me, neither person ever told me for "privacy reasons," and I found out later, it would very much appear to have been hidden intentionally, and would completely break trust in both relationships.

The whole idea is to avoid hurting people. In this situation, it's not a laundry list of sexual history. The timing and the interpersonal relationships matter. It's a matter of basic consideration for another person's feelings, and if there's nothing wrong with what happened, then there's nothing to worry about in discussing it openly. If that makes me closed-minded, repressed or whatever, I'm comfortable with that.
posted by cnc at 3:19 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

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