What to do and what to tell?
March 5, 2018 2:23 PM   Subscribe

Poly-filter. Funny how things change, advice needed. This is a follow-up to a previous question but I will try to word this to avoid mandatory reading of the previous question.

Background: My three closest friends are amazing (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.

My previous question was around the fear that the sexual and emotional relationship that 1, 2 and 3 share apart from myself would result in my being pushed aside.

This has not happened in any way, their relationship has continued at about the same pace and no longer bothers me in any significant way.

What has changed is my relationship with 3. We now hang out nearly every day, are planning a trip together in a couple months all over the middle east, we now sleep together often (mostly platonically) and cuddle/kiss nearly constantly.

I now know that I am romantically in love with 3. She doesn't know. However we tell each other often that we love each other and are deeply in love with each other in ways we cannot define but find amazing and powerful and scary. We discuss our love daily.

Two issues exist as I see it.

1. 1 & 2 have been pretty good about things, 2 is hands off, happy but a unsure what this means. 1 is more demonstrative, he is envious and feels he's been pushed aside by 3 & I.

However 1 & 2 do not know the extent of 3 and my relationship, the sleeping together, the cuddling, the kissing, the trip, etc. How much information do we owe them in this situation?

2. I want to be 3's romantic partner, I want to fully consummate our sexual relationship. I feel 3 does not want this however she admits being confused and overwhelmed (as well as deeply afraid of being hurt again, post divorce). I feel like telling her my true feelings will ruin everything but keeping quiet is becoming an albatross. Help?
posted by Twinge to Human Relations (8 answers total)
 
Can you just clarify, how can she not know about your feelings if you talk about them every day with each other?
posted by tristeza at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Isn't this kind of a moot point until you establish whether you and 3 are on the same page? Whatever you'd tell 1 and 2 about your relationship with 3 would not be correct because you don't actually know the extent of your relationship. I know it's hard to risk rejection, but there's no way around it.
posted by AFABulous at 2:54 PM on March 5, 2018


We say we are in love with each other, we never categorize it as "romantic" love. We admit confusion. She certainly doesn't know that my love is romantic and that my desire is romantic/sexual.
posted by Twinge at 2:54 PM on March 5, 2018


How much information do we owe them in this situation?

Some of this depends on where 1/2/3 are in terms of the defined communication in their relationship. In mine, for example, if my partner was sleeping over with someone and kissing them, that would have gone straight from "You should tell me" to "You should only do this if you no longer want to be in a relationship with me" You are not me, but it's quite likely 3 has had some discussions with 1/2 about the boundaries around their behavior with other people or how much they communicate that.

I do not know what "mostly platonically" means specifically but it seems like a good jumping off point for

1. a discussion with 3 about what she has told 1/2 about your relationship and whether she should be telling them more, and
2. a DTR talk with 3

She certainly doesn't know that my love is romantic and that my desire is romantic/sexual.

It is highly likely that she's at least considered that it might be. Most poly relationships I know that function well have a high degree of not just communication but also care taken with other people who may not be in a relationship with them, to make sure people are on the same page. However some are just mess-filled drama. So you may want to sort out your own feelings first. Do you want to be in a relationship with 3? How about with 1/2? Are you okay with things remaining the way they are? What if 3 doesn't feel the same way but wants to keep smooching on you? What if she wants to stop smooching on you but still take a trip? Because realistically the only reason things are the way they are now is that you're not being honest with 3 about your feelings. Which is totally understandable but probably has to change.
posted by jessamyn at 3:01 PM on March 5, 2018 [8 favorites]


Well, but by common usage, "in love with" means romantic love; that's how it's generally understood. You've probably heard people say things like "I love him, but I'm not in love with him," no? Of course, I can't know what she's thinking, and neither can you, but honestly, I'd be pretty surprised if she didn't understand "I'm in love with you" to mean "I have romantic feelings for you." So this might not come as much of a surprise to her as you imagine it will.
posted by holborne at 3:03 PM on March 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


It sounds like in both aspects of your question you are trying to avoid complete honesty because you think you know (or you fear) that your best friends and your lover would not like the truth, or that they would not react to it in the way would prefer.

It is unclear whether you are also in sex/love relationship with 1 and 2. I don't suppose that matters, because I think that honesty is a virtue in best friend relationships as well as love relationships. Either don't do a thing that might bum your dearest friends/love out, or be honest about it.
posted by sheldman at 3:19 PM on March 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


She doesn't know. However we tell each other often that we love each other and are deeply in love with each other in ways we cannot define but find amazing and powerful and scary. We discuss our love daily.

Then it's all bullshit. If you're lying to her about the whole of your feelings, which you are apparently doing daily, that's not love and that's not in love and she has no idea what relationship she's in so she can't even consent to it, much less discuss it honestly with you. She might be a whole lot less confused if everyone was being honest and communicated openly.

And she, in turn, is likely not being fair with 1 and 2 because I cannot imagine that the agreed-upon boundary is "3 should not tell 1 and 2 about any of the details or even summarized circumstances of her relationships with other people." SHE owes them whatever they agreed on, it seems likely that an overseas vacation with someone - even a friend - would be information not kept secret but who knows. You know, if it's observable that her other partners are uncomfortable with her relationship with you already without even knowing any details...that doesn't even make any sense, this seems like a real house of cards.

It's real likely at least one relationship is going to end if y'all all start being honest here at this late date. But you really cannot ethically continue even speaking to her without being honest with her, and then if you do continue to have a relationship you need to follow her lead on what steps to take in her other relationship(s).

Bottom line, for sure? If she doesn't want a sexual relationship with you, that is never trumped by you wanting a sexual relationship with her and you don't get to have one, but you have to be honest about your motives because she very likely would be making different decisions about where she sleeps if she knew you felt that way and she is owed the opportunity to make that choice. Which you should feel is important too, if you cared about her as a person.

Something that is often a good internal check-in point for humans: if you remain confused about a situation at length, you are either being emotionally manipulated to maintain that confusion or you know deep down you shouldn't be doing it but can't resist some payoff you're getting.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:21 PM on March 5, 2018 [31 favorites]


I now know that I am romantically in love with 3. She doesn't know. However we tell each other often that we love each other and are deeply in love with each other in ways we cannot define but find amazing and powerful and scary. We discuss our love daily.

But you can define it. You just defined it. You're romantically in love with her in the traditional definition of "in love".

In this daily communication about love you need to stop omitting that very salient detail. Like many Poly dramas this Gordian knot is much simpler than it feels. Tell her the truth, the whole truth and see what she makes of that. Do so in a setting were you haven't arranged to sleep in the same place so she has the freedom to do what she needs to without social pressures.

Continuing this quasi-platonic soul bond business is a lie, that's not how you feel, give her that information and let her decide what she then wants from someone who feels the way you feel.
posted by French Fry at 7:57 AM on March 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


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