I guess I am asking for relationship help?
December 5, 2017 4:22 PM   Subscribe

How to be cool with changes in relationships that I'm not cool with... [snowflakes abound inside]

I thought I left high school stuff in high school....

There are three people in my life who I am extremely close with, I have other friends but these 3 are the ones with total trust and access (call them 1, 2 and 3). 1 & 2 are married (m/f/bi/poly/open) and have been my closest friends for 15+ years. 3 is newer, I've known her a couple years now and we have forged something that is not sexual or romantic but is insanely close, ie we both feel closer to each other than we did with our ex-spouses, etc.

1, 2, and 3 have gotten closer as well though their relationship started as a sexual one and has only recently reached an emotional bond. The three of them have had occasional poly issues, issues which I have stepped in to help smooth over from time to time, all good and fine.

Inevitably the three of them have started exploring this emotional bond.

This past weekend for example 1 & 2 took 3 for her first acid trip, this was something 3 and I had discussed more than once as something we want to do together for her first time. They locked themselves away, no contact, radio silence, for 3 days. They had each told me a week earlier that this was the plan and although I was really hurt I said nothing as bringing up my feeling excluded would have totally coloured 3's first trip.

1 & 2 know I am struggling with aspects of this new relationship and unfortunately their response to suspecting I am not happy about the weekend is that I won't hear from them unless I contact them first. I love them but they don't handle conflict well at all. Our norm is near constant daily contact.

3 is more empathetic but also hasn't known me as long, she excitedly contacted me Monday morning wanting to give a report on her magic weekend, I tried to roll with it but she figured out something was up, we're going for a drink tonight to talk.

I can see what is coming, I can see the horizon, I feel excluded and sidelined and insecure. I'm not mad nor do I think I've been wronged, people are people. I am just struggling with constantly obsessively thinking about the situation, the weekend, and what happens next. I usually have great emotional control, something in this situation is overriding that and I spend hours and hours sitting at work staring at a blank screen and trying to think of what I really feel and what I can/should do.

I would really appreciate any feedback, thoughts or suggestions.
posted by Twinge to Human Relations (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

Sounds like you value your closeness with 3 and you sense that her deepening relationship with 1 and 2 will change that. Maybe you want some reassurance that you're still important to her?
posted by bunderful at 4:36 PM on December 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe rather than focusing on what excludes you, ask for some plans that include you either with all three or different combinations of 1, 2, and 3?Poly folks should be used to the idea of balancing relationships and hearing out needs and wants.

Meanwhile, focus on the rest of your life, other friends, hobbies, interests, projects. Feed off of all the other things that make you you and bring you joy.

Stop smoothing over tensions between any combination of 1, 2, and 3. Let them manage their own relationships. Have your own separate relationships with each.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 4:41 PM on December 5, 2017 [10 favorites]

huh. well, I felt moved to type a little in this box, mainly to say, I don't think you're over reacting.. what happened sounds like.. a drag. or something more serious than "a drag." obviously, i can't * really * say, since I don't know you and all I know about the situation is what you wrote, but , based on what you wrote, I can say that in your place, I'd also feel hurt and left out. It all sounds mighty complicated... especially with the polyamorous piece of it being a part of it. I don't have much experience in that department. Seems like whether they (all of them!) are friends or intimate partners (or past intimate partners) or all of the above, with you, regardless you ought to be able to talk about your feelings with them openly. Unless there's something i'm missing or don't know, I wouldn't say that's too much to ask of the sort of close relationships you've described with 1,2,and 3. best of luck..
posted by elgee at 4:42 PM on December 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

They had each told me a week earlier that this was the plan and although I was really hurt I said nothing as bringing up my feeling excluded would have totally coloured 3's first trip.

Here’s one reason you’re having that sense of doom...it sounds like you are entering a pattern where you don’t share your feelings and needs, and then you assume everyone else is deprioritizing them and therefore you are not in the “real” relationship, etc.

It wasn’t thoughtful of your friend to not follow through on the plans but try bringing it up even if it “colours” the trip. It should! You count too.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:53 PM on December 5, 2017 [31 favorites]

It sounds as though you have a pattern of stifling your needs and wants instead of communicating about them. Would it really have ruined 3's first trip if you had expressed your feelings when the "I'm going to do it with 1 and 2!" came up? If it's something that the two of you had talked about, it doesn't seem like it would have been inappropriate to say something when it seemed to be getting hijacked by others. "You're going to do that with 1 and 2? You and I had talked about doing that together, 3, and I was looking forward to it."

The three of them have had occasional poly issues, issues which I have stepped in to help smooth over from time to time, all good and fine.

Also, maybe don't expend your energy on helping them manage their relationship. Especially since you seem to feel that it's having a negative effect on your relationship with 3.

unfortunately their response to suspecting I am not happy about the weekend is that I won't hear from them unless I contact them first.

Please consider how much of the labor of managing the friendship is falling on you, compared to how much they're doing. Are they contributing to the relationship, or is it all about you helping them manage their stuff while they thoughtlessly (at best) or deliberately (at worst) usurp experiences that you and 3 had intended to have together?
posted by Lexica at 5:05 PM on December 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

Why do you devote so much time and energy into helping 1&2 with their poly? That sounds.. Draining

And yeah, with 123 all in NRE with each other, you will be less of a priority to them for a few months.

Why are you so obsessed? You know what's coming- 123 get super lovey dovey and you get sidelined some,

123 break up and you have to choose sides,

123 break up peacefully and you console everybody separately,

Or you make efforts to ensure that you communicate your wants, needs, and boundaries
posted by Jacen at 5:16 PM on December 5, 2017 [7 favorites]

when it seemed to be getting hijacked by others. "You're going to do that with 1 and 2? You and I had talked about doing that together, 3, and I was looking forward to it."

yeah but they still can drop acid together, that possibility of that shared experience has not been taken away. it wasn't: 3 is doing this thing with other people and I want her to do it with me. (she still can.) or even: 3 and I were going to have this new experience together, so that we could both share the discovery of something new to both of us. it was: she's having her first time with them and I wanted her first time to be with me.

the jealousy and the sense of being left out is just as real but expressing it feels less acceptable, because it is.

& I think one thing to do before discussing this is sort out whether you feel badly about being excluded because all three of these people are giving their romantic friendships a slightly higher priority than their platonic friendship with you, or whether you feel badly because you wish you were romantically involved with one or two or three of them. I do not mean that the second possibility is likely, but it may occur to any of them to wonder. if they misunderstand you in this way, it might contribute to them avoiding you, thinking it'll spare your feelings, whereas if they believe it is purely about friendship, they might be more inclusive.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:25 PM on December 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

All this hurts to read. Too much is familiar to me. The hurt you're feeling is real and legitimate. Your support network is shifting and therefore not really there when you need it the most. I'm in a poly network and live with a (poly) couple, so I'm pretty familiar with casually being on the outside of relationships happening very close to me.

1) recognize, honor, and reflect on the love you have for your friends. All the jealousy and hurt you feel come from a place of love--try not to lose sight of that.

2) acknowledge that things have changed and will never go back to the simple set-up you had before. They have a relationship that you are not a part of, no matter how close you are to any and all of the parties involved. You're an outsider for this particular entanglement. You have to take a step back.

3) write an exhaustive list of what you're afraid of (in this situation). Really explore what aspects of your life and identity feel threatened.

4) this is where I'd spend a lot of time crying.

5) Now that you see some of the problem space (from step 3), start brainstorming solutions. Think about what you want and put it into words. Some of these will be things you ask for from 123, some of them will be things you ask from yourself, and a few will come from other people.

6) Talk to 123 about how you feel, but don't make it their job to comfort you about it. They're not doing anything wrong by having a relationship together. You can be honest about your feelings and still take responsibility for managing them on your own/with other parts of your support network. Step 5 was about putting things into words so when they say, "what can we do to help you to still feel like a part of our lives?", you have suggestions at hand. Be prepared to compromise.

7) Invest in yourself as though 123 weren't in the picture. They may not be in your picture much until the NRE wears off. Get support from other friends, spend a lot of time on self care. Maybe pick up a new hobby to distract yourself, and have a cool new different thing to talk about when you see 123.

8) When one of them "forgets" a verbal agreement they had with you, speak up! Don't be a doormat. Tell your friends what's important to you. If they don't respect and react to that, they're crummy friends.

Good luck! Your acid trip with 3 will be fantastic and special when the two of you make that happen.
posted by itesser at 6:24 PM on December 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

1 & 2 know I am struggling with aspects of this new relationship and unfortunately their response to suspecting I am not happy about the weekend is that I won't hear from them unless I contact them first.

So don't. Sounds like just chilling until they come around and apologize sounds fine. Unless that is they don't care, in which case, they are double bitches.

3 doesn't belong to you, sure, but hasn't done a great job keeping a sort-of promise that they made to you. Not the best. Selfish. So now you know they aren't made of rainbows. But you can still be their friend I guess.

I'm being tongue in cheek. If it's not high school, it doesn't have to be high school I guess. This situation sounds designed by the universe, to be torturous to exactly one person, you. It "seems so unfair from the outside to be upset" (I'd be thinking if I were in your situation, or at least as generous a person as you), but it does sound like it warrants a rearrangement in how things are going. I'd look outside this little quadrangle for companionship at this point, personally. At least temporarily. That's fair. Make new friends and keep the old, etc.

If you want to be extra brave you could talk to them but I'd be leery about being heard too under these circumstances.
posted by karmachameleon at 7:21 PM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

"huh. well, I felt moved to type a little in this box, mainly to say, I don't think you're over reacting.. what happened sounds like... a drag."

Frankly, drag is more fun. Please stop helping the drama queens (1&2) manage their drama. DO NOT DUMP ON 3 TONIGHT!

Do tell 3 you're glad it was magical (you are) and you wished you had spoken up sooner because you wanted to be included (you did.)

Be nice. Get new interests besides 1,2, and 3. That's it.
posted by jbenben at 7:58 PM on December 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

I just want to validate that it makes sense that you'd be feeling left out. Feeling left out sucks and can be really, really hard. Of course it's tempting to help them troubleshoot, because being privy to all of that is a different way of being on the inside. I don't know if you should resist it or to see if there's a way for you to be, like, an asexual fourth person in the gang. (Is there such a thing?) Since you're feeling so bummed at being left out, I find myself wondering if it's unavoidable, though maybe it is.
posted by salvia at 8:59 PM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your friends are not terrible, but they're not excellent, it just sounds like they're kinda self-absorbed. Stay cool with them, but also try to meet different people and make new friends.
posted by ovvl at 9:32 PM on December 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

The better I've gotten at relationships, the more I see that problems and conflicts very often come from people in the relationship(s) not being honest about what they want or need, either with themselves or with each other.

This often comes from a very loving place of trying to protect people from, for instance, my unreasonable desires or expectations. But here's the thing about feelings: even if they are unreasonable, they still exist, and pretending they don't or are different from what they are almost always leads to hurt and confusion. It causes you to lie and pretend to be ok with things you're not ok with. And it doesn't give people the chance to show up with their best selves. AND it makes room for people to hurt you without knowing they are doing that, which then can lead to pretty ugly fountains after the fact with lots of finger pointing and blame and very little love and compassion.

And I think your feeling about this are reasonable.

Long term,I think you would do well to practice respecting and being honest about your feelings, starting with just recognizing then in yourself and not trying to talk yourself out of them. It would have been reasonable for you to ask this group to include you or do other caretaking of their relationships with you around this event. I say this having been through a VERY SIMILAR situation with my bf and a couple of mutual friends of ours. I was so hurt that they would consider doing something meaningful and fun without me! And over a year later,I still think that was a reasonable way to feel.

Going forward, I would try to have gentle, honest conversations with the folks about your feelings, without blame but with honestly, and talk about how you all want to do things in the future. Key features should be honesty and compassion. Going slowly is important also. Feelings live in the body, and like the body, they take time to shift. Think of this like emotional yoga: practice slowly, if it hurts, back off, listen to the signals your body is sending you and respect them. Be in it for the long run.
posted by spindrifter at 2:49 AM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone. Every one of your responses had something useful, sometimes to an almost eerie degree.

Dinner with 3 tonight was transplendent, feeling 100% heard and understood is intoxicating (she's really the easiest hurdle in this situation and still no word from 1 & 2 but things are at least moving towards something now)
posted by Twinge at 5:21 AM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would have tried to invite myself. Not forcefully, but I would have asked "Can I come?"
posted by xammerboy at 8:42 AM on December 6, 2017

Something to consider: are you yourself poly? Because your degree of closeness with everyone in this situation approaches poly relationship level, even if it's not sexual or romantic. The way you discuss things in the friendship sounds very much like you're playing a metamour role even if it's not "official", as does how you're expecting to handle this situation and the amount of emotional labor you're performing for your friends. If you're okay with that, that's totally fine, but you may want to consider reading up on poly to decide whether or not this is something you want to do or if new boundaries would serve you better. And either way, you should discuss not just your particular situation, but your actual role in general with your friends. Because right now it sounds like you're trying to keep things stable in their relationship with each other while effacing your own needs-- which makes sense to me if you are emotionally invested in their relationships with each other on a metamour level (even a platonic one), but you don't feel like you have the "status" to ask for what you need because you're not a partner. Which is very understandable, but unsustainable long-term if you want to continue this degree of closeness.

If you identify as monogamous and aren't interested in poly, this is potentially a situation set up for heartbreak if you anticipate your feelings for 3 continuing to develop. Just something to think about.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:32 AM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

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