Partner: My Crush Wants to Speak with You About Their Intentions
November 1, 2018 5:27 AM   Subscribe

My partner has a crush on someone, which has been difficult for me. Recently my partner revealed to the subject of her crush the difficulty I've been having with the situation, and now they've offered to speak with me about their intentions. Should I have this conversation with them?

Last month my partner "Jessica" revealed to me that they were having some crush type feelings on somebody, "Mark". For the purposes of this ask.mifi post please presume that due to circumstances Jessica and Mark will be in close contact with each other multiple days a week for the next two years.

Jessica has found success in the past diffusing these types of feelings via befriending the subject of the crush and so has chosen to pursue that path with Mark. I have been finding this difficult at times for a variety of reasons, and have been feeling insecure. I truly believe my partner is acting in good faith, however I have engaged in breach of trust in previous relationships and so this present situation has me pretty shook up as I relive my past infidelities. It's an uncomfortable place to be in but I'm processing and learning about myself, via personal work including counseling. Yes we're in couples counseling too.

However! A further wrinkle has developed:
From what I've been told by Jessica some of her interactions with Mark have mildly crossed Jessica's boundaries. Vague stuff that could perhaps be indicative of a latent romantic interest that Mark has, yet all these behaviors exist within that difficult to parse realm of plausible deniability. "I'm sorry XYZ made you feel uncomfortable. I do it with all my friends."
In order to deal with this head on Jessica had a conversation with Mark this week in which she asked for clarification on his intentions. Mark maintained that he was only interested in platonic friendship with Jessica, but at some point in the conversation Jessica overstepped a relationship boundary we have and revealed to Mark how the situation has been causing problems in our relationship, and that I was having a hard time with her being friends with Mark.

So Mark offers to speak with me about his intentions. However at this point I'm still vacillating daily from feeling intense insecurity to feeling grounded and trusting, and because of this variable emotional state the idea of having this conversation provokes anxiety. I feel trapped, like I can't say yes or no to the conversation.
In my insecure times I feel distrustful. I think that Mark's offer to talk about this with me seems like a way in which he could be attempting to undermine my relationship with Jessica. I don't see a way for me manage the situation without my feelings of distrust now being "Mark and Jessica's Problem Together" that Mark either solved, or did his best at solving if it weren't for me getting in the way.
But even when I'm feeling grounded I'm unsure if it would be wise to engage in this conversation with Mark.

Should I speak with him, and what should I say if I do?
posted by peterpete to Human Relations (61 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The framing of this as about Mark’s intentions seems a bit strange to me (within the context of modern society and a generally feminist approach to life) and would leave me feeling weird. Jessica has agency; romantic or sexual interaction with her isn’t something that Mark can steal while her back is turned or something.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:40 AM on November 1, 2018 [80 favorites]

Assuming this is a monogamous, committed relationship, this is all really bizarre ways of "handling" it. If they're genuinely just friends, this much negotiation isn't really necessary. But then, I also just don't fundamentally believe that befriending a crush would be an effective way to diffuse drama or escalating feelings. Also I'm of the opinion that it's okay for one partner to ask another to step back from a situation if it wigs someone out, particularly if it's not a pre-existing friendship. That they're discussing you as if you're a problem troubles me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:40 AM on November 1, 2018 [74 favorites]

What the fuck? No. The only thing your partner should be doing about these crush feelings is squashing them until they go away. Why the fuck should you be expected to deal with this person who is horning in on your relationship and behaving inappropriately to someone who he knows is partnered? Why is your partner entertaining this at all?

Jessica needs to tell Mark that she is going to have to put some distance between the two of them because it's disrupting her relationship. Mark needs to back the fuck off like yesterday. If they work together, then she needs to adopt a wall of cool professionalism 100% of the time. Pursuing a closer friendship with someone toward whom you have inappropriate feelings is a terrible idea.

You feel insecure because your partner is edging closer and closer toward infidelity and is trying to make you be somehow OK with that by making you talk to the person who they're behaving inappropriately toward. None of this is OK. You don't have to be OK with this. You're within your rights to put your foot down here. You're within your rights to leave the relationship, if that's what you want.

This is madness, please don't let her manipulate you into thinking that you are somehow the one who is in the wrong because you're uncomforable. Jessica and Mark are 100% in the wrong. You should put your foot down and if you get any pushback you should think seriously about whether this is a person who you will be able to feel safe with over the long term.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:41 AM on November 1, 2018 [179 favorites]

No, don't speak with Mark! Your relationship is with Jessica, not Mark. Your trust is in Jessica, not Mark. It's Jessica, not Mark, who has the obligation to make you feel secure and happy in your relationship. Mark is actually irrelevant except for creating a triangle drama.
The person you need to speak to about the fact that this whole thing is simply not working for you and has to change to something you can both feel happy with is Jessica.
posted by nantucket at 5:41 AM on November 1, 2018 [57 favorites]

Mark can't undermine your relationship with Jessica. Only Jessica can. If she didn't make an effort for you all three to get to know one another platonically, then Mark swooping in to reassure you isn't going to reassure you. Jessica may well be able to successfully manage her crush, but she is behaving selfishly *at best* in her attempts to do so.
posted by headnsouth at 5:41 AM on November 1, 2018 [13 favorites]

Is there anything Mark could say to you that would actually make you feel better about this whole situation? Or are you just going to end up feeling weird and gross about the whole interaction?

My first instinct was to say "no no no, nothing good can come of this" and I think it holds up unless you genuinely think it would help how you feel in some way. If you'd only be doing it because Mark wants to or because Jessica wants to but you don't actually want to and it's not going to make you feel any better (or might make you feel worse), decline without remorse.
posted by terretu at 5:42 AM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

Not to be glib, but boundaries aren't really supposed to be things you spend your time skating as close to as possible without technically crossing the line.
posted by pipeski at 5:42 AM on November 1, 2018 [164 favorites]

Jesus fucking Christ NO, you should not have a chat with mark about his intentions. His intentions are irrelevant. His intention could be to 100% seduce and bed your girlfriend and his intentions are still irrelevant. Jessica is a grown-ass woman with agency and dominion and it is HER JOB to protect her primary relationship.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:44 AM on November 1, 2018 [77 favorites]

I'm glad you're both in couples counseling; bring this up in your next session, or return to it again, if it's already been broached. And by "this" I don't mean just the question of whether to have that talk with Mark (your gut is telling you no, so don't), but also the way both you and Jessica are choosing to address this situation and how it's impacting your relationship. I agree with other commenters that it's weird for Jessica/Mark to frame this as being about Mark's intentions; if this framing is coming from them and not you, then them doing so is misguided at best, and evasive/sneaky at worst.
posted by obliterati at 5:49 AM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Speaking as someone who has struggled with inappropriate crushes at work while partnered, it is entirely possible to work closely with someone in a professional way and let the crush diffuse over time. But in my case the other person was not aware (or at least I didn’t tell them) and was not brought into the middle of my relationship with my partner.

Same partner was the “right up to the boundary” type referred to above and when we broke up I found out about all the stuff he’d done over the years that he considered to be “in bounds” and let me tell you, it wasn’t. So letting her manage this on her own is fraught, too.

Jessica needs to decide if she respects your relationship enough to do what you need her to do, which sounds like it’s “be cordial but distant with Mark and talk about nothing more consequential than the weather” until this all blows over.
posted by cabingirl at 5:54 AM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

"I do it with all my friends" is the worst reason to make someone uncomfortable. The fact that she likes him back is not insignificant.

Talking to mark will just give them justification for doing even more uncomfortable stuff.

I would make it clear to Jessica that this situation, on the trajectory it's currently in, is not a sustainable model for your relationship.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:02 AM on November 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

Mark may think he only wants a platonic friendship, or he may just be saying that. Either way, I wouldn't believe him. At the very least, he's enjoying the fact that Jessica has feelings for him and he's stoking the fire. If he wasn't, he would not want to meet you. I can't imagine anyone would want to deal with this kind of drama for any other reason than their judgment was clouded by romantic or sexual feelings. I think he wants to have this talk with you in order to size you up, get a feel for how strict your boundaries are, how far he can push things before you put your foot down.

I would not have this conversation. The only conversations needed: one between you and Jessica and one between you two and your counselor.
posted by blackzinfandel at 6:03 AM on November 1, 2018 [12 favorites]

As-is, this is way too much drama.

Your relationship is with her, not him, and frankly his intentions are irrelevant. He could want to marry her, or he could just want a close buddy, who cares. What matters is how Jennifer handles the situation, either by prioritizing you and establishing clear boundaries, or by stoking the drama and enjoying the attention.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:12 AM on November 1, 2018 [7 favorites]

You should not speak with Mark until and unless you are sure that it's what you want to do, because you have a conversation that you want to have with him. It's not something you should feel pushed to do because he's offering it. This isn't about Mark; it's about you and Jessica and your relationships and boundaries. I would suggest you continue to discuss this with your couples therapist and in the meanwhile, Jessica should stop making Mark part of the conversation you and she are having. If he brings it up again, she can just say that she doesn't want to talk about her relationship with him any further, and redirect the conversation back to work or their shared hobby or whatever the reason is that they're in this much contact.

For whatever it's worth, my own take on a similar situation has been that while crushes are fine and natural, I personally have a problem when the partner and the crushee start discussing the crush. As you noted, it sets up a certain "partner and crush have a joint problem to solve, and that problem is the other partner" dynamic, which hasn't been healthy for anyone the times I've seen it in action in a monogamous relationship. (I've been a couple of different points of that triangle, none of them good.) I don't think it's an unreasonable boundary, I'm sorry yours was broken, but I think you need to take that up with Jessica, not Mark.
posted by Stacey at 6:13 AM on November 1, 2018 [10 favorites]

How in the hell are Mark's "intentions" relevant? This is bizarre. You aren't Jessica's father, Mark is not her boyfriend, it is not the 1800s, it isn't Mark's job to appease you because Jessica broke an existing boundary about your relationship, Mark and Jessica should not be acting in cahoots, this is all kinds of weird.

I think you are right to see this as undermining your relationship and I think you should remember that it is perfectly reasonable not to want to talk to him about your relationship with your spouse.

Two opposite actions- talking or not talking to Mark- could both apparently cause the same effect (undermining your relationship, possible infidelity). That means that your choice here isn't actually responsible for the outcome. Base your decision on other factors.
posted by windykites at 6:14 AM on November 1, 2018 [21 favorites]

Mark and Jessica both seem to be dealing with the crush by channelling all their crush-related thoughts and feelings and time into some sort of meta-discussion about the crush. There's still the same about of crush-y energy sloshing about.

This wouldn't sit right with me from a partner, and you're not obliged to pretend it sits right with you either if it doesn't. At the very least, you are certainly not obliged to participate by getting drawn into discussions with Mark about the whole thing.
posted by Catseye at 6:18 AM on November 1, 2018 [23 favorites]

No. Jessica should not have told Mark this stuff. I'm familiar with the "befriend someone to make the crush feelings manageable" bit because I've sometimes found that it works for me. The key bit is that you tell no one, because talking about it reinscribes the feelings. And you only do it if you are dead certain that you won't be pining around the place.

Everything you describe in your post is a really, really bad way to handle relationships. I gather that everyone is grad-school age, so it's understandable, but now is the time to move past all this.

1. If you don't have an open relationship, you don't willingly put yourself in situations that create romantic complications.

2. If you don't have an open relationship and you develop a crush on someone, your goal has to be to minimize the crush's effect on your relationship. People handle this in different ways, but "talk about it to my partner a lot, spend a lot of time with my crush and tell my crush" isn't it.

3. Unless there is a moral imperative or you enjoy a high-drama lifestyle (and some people do!), you should always strive to deal with people in ways that minimize anger, jealousy, confusion, misunderstandings and deeply fraught conversations. Like, I have gotten through my entire adult life so far with zero weird, TMI-based conversations with partners' passing crushes.

An observation: I've spent much of my life on the edges of queer and bohemian circles where people pretty routinely have multiple partners, talk about strong feelings, etc. (I'm pretty uptight myself, actually.) A common pattern is for someone to insist that this time is different, this obviously unworkable scheme will work for them and as long as everyone has fifty million really intense conversations it will all work out because people should just talk this stuff out, man. Reader, those situations are always, always shitshows.

Jealously, anger, miscommunication, emotional fatigue and the temptation to do the self-serving thing even when it seems like it will end badly are all real things, and they are all really powerful. Any time someone comes to you and says, "I would like to do this optional extremely emotionally tricky thing for which there are no patterns in our culture and which will benefit me while putting an emotional burden on you; you should do it because working through your feelings is great!" you should absolutely refuse, because it is a recipe for disaster.
posted by Frowner at 6:22 AM on November 1, 2018 [99 favorites]

Lots of good thoughts above that i 100% agree with. I'll add that Jessica's boundaries can take a long walk off a short pier. What are YOUR boundaries for your partner? This would be waaaayyyyy past mine. Hell, having a partner who has so many crushes they have a well developed strategy for dealing with them probably is too. I think your next stop is "tell mark to go fuck himself. Please evaluate your participation in OUR relationship".

I mean for real, sincerely, if ever dtmfa applied I'd say you're at about an 7 out of 10 on my scale. Sorry you're dealing with this.
posted by chasles at 6:23 AM on November 1, 2018 [13 favorites]

Going a bit off Catseye's answer : there is a whole lot of talking away feelings of discomfort here. From Mark to Jessica and from Jessica to you and from Mark to you through Jessica. Now Mark wants to "explain" things to you so you'll go along with things.
Explaining to someone why they shouldn't be uncomfortable about something is a big red flag. You know that little voice saying "no way" in your gut, the one that prompted you to write this question? Just listen to it.
posted by nantucket at 6:26 AM on November 1, 2018 [11 favorites]

Jessica should not have told Mark this stuff.

Exactly this. At the point at which Jessica and Mark are having conversations about you and about their relationship they're already into "emotional affair" territory and it's okay if you are not comfortable with this (but also okay if you are, relationships are different). Jessica should, to my mind, be talking to you about what you want and how to honor the relationship you guys have, whatever it is, in light of how she's trying to manage her feelings about Mark. And if you say "Hey I'm not comfortable with that" absent some anxiety disorder (different question) she should work with you on this.

Put another way, it doesn't matter what Mark's intentions are because you are not in a relationship with Mark. it's okay for Jessica' intentions AND actions to be the subject of your discussions here. And I agree, it's a great topic for couple's counseling because I am fairly certain a couple's counselor would also support this viewpoint. If the only thing keeping her from having a full-blown affair is "Mark doesn't want to" frankly, that's not enough.
posted by jessamyn at 6:49 AM on November 1, 2018 [12 favorites]

I'll be a bit of a contrarian here because it feels like we're leaning hard into one area. We know Jessica has a crush. We know Mark did something a bit out of line (though exactly what is unclear), but he maintains he just wants to be friends and wants to meet you.

I've been in both your shoes and Mark's shoes. Yes to all of the above about Jessica and you, but I don't think it would be a bad thing if you and him meet. I've felt insecure about my partner's relationships with other people, but when I meet them, I realize that I had nothing to worry about. And vice-versa, I've talked with my friend's partners about our friendship, and they've realized that I truly just want to be friends.

I think you're hyping Mark up to be a villain trying to sabotage your relationship, when I think it's likely he just wants to clear up any confusion. At the very least, grabbing a drink with him will give you more information to help you assess what's truly going on.

Your relationship with Jessica is the focus of this thread, as it should be, but I'm reserving judgement on Mark until we know a bit more.
posted by matrixclown at 6:55 AM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

Crushes do happen, but there are ethical ways to handle them and Jessica is not managing that:

1. Generally speaking, it's not a great idea to get closer.
2. If you are "walking a line" you are behaving badly. If you have a crush it's actually important to behave way further away from the line than you normally would.
3. Jessica talking to Mark and teaming up with him to manage you is not appropriate nor a good sign.
4. Mark's bizarre offer shows Mark isn't going to handle this well either.

I hope the counselling helps but I think you should consider that this may not go the way you hope.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:57 AM on November 1, 2018 [9 favorites]

mark is a creep and whatever it is he does with "all his friends" -- hugging her? calling her sweetheart? it does make some difference just how intimate or bad the thing was -- imposing on a woman because all my OTHER friends let me do it, mom is the best and whiniest way to lose a friend for good. what his other friends let him do is not her fucking problem.

or shouldn't be. jessica's willingness to make mark's problems her problems is not good. and you are right that the situation is leaning towards becoming her and mark together placating you rather than you and her together putting mark in his place.

being willing and eager to meet you would be a good sign on its own but disclosing his intentions is a fucking weird way to frame it. if he intends to harm Jessica that's an offense against her, not you. if you're worried about infidelity, her intentions are the ones that are your business. if her having a crush means she's powerless if he tries to seduce her, she's all fucked up and needs to stay away from him. but it doesn't mean that, it never does. you can't and shouldn't forbid her the friendship, but she should have the basic mental maturity to realize it is a bad friendship with a not right guy.

perhaps the only excuse for her disclosures about you to Mark would be if she was so uncomfortable with his behavior that she knew he wouldn't take a No from her alone, only a "oh you know I'D love to, but my partner won't like it." the way teens get out of being peer-pressured into drinking too much by saying their parents will kill them. you say whatever you have to say in the moment to get out of there. but it doesn't sound like that was the reason, or she'd be done with him. I wouldn't be afraid she'd sleep with him, but I'd be afraid that having already overstepped your agreement and told him intimate partner information, the next step is disclosing her own crush on him, to him. if she hasn't already.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:03 AM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

Consider asking Jessica to stop discussing her feelings with Mark. Period. That's a good way to make everything more fraught, doomed and otherwise teenage-gothy-y. Help her extricate herself.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:09 AM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

This all sounds super sketchy.

First of all, why on earth would she tell this guy that she has a crush on him? It’s perfectly normal to have crushes. What is not normal is telling the subjects of your crushes about said crushes when you're with someone else. That alone is clearly the laying of groundwork for possible future infidelity.

Further, the fact that she even asked him what his intentions are is a red flag. She should not need to know. She should not be giving him any signals that she’s open to anything with him and therefore should not need clarification on what his intentions are. The only thing he should know is that she’s taken, full stop. And if she’s not, you need to hear that from her. The conversation you need to have is with her and you need to lay down some rules, i.e. she should not in any way shape or form be developing a friendship with this guy. If she cared about you and wanted your relationship to continue, she would agree to this.

Finally, why is she trying to outsource this all to Mark while also making you feel somehow responsible? Sounds like a pretty shit way to treat the person you’re with. I’m not advising you to end this relationship, but just know that this is not how a healthy relationship is supposed to work.
posted by fso at 7:10 AM on November 1, 2018 [13 favorites]

This would only be in the neighborhood of appropriate (or the right thing to do) if you and Jessica were non-monogamous and were negotiating her (and by extension your) beyond-friendship relationship boundaries with Mark.

But Mark's an asshole, and even in poly relationships "don't have relationships with assholes" is an important guideline.

Jessica's already poisoned the Mark well and she needs to distance herself now. She clearly cannot be friends with him appropriately, and it's on her to recognize and self-regulate, which it sure appears she is refusing to do by bringing this to you rather than telling him "no, sorry, I fucked up, we can't be friends" (or "no, sorry, you're a manipulative asshole and we can't be friends"). The conclusion I would take is that she does, in fact, want things to go further with Mark and if you have this little talk with him it may be that you find this out then. Which is not how it works, Jessica.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:16 AM on November 1, 2018 [20 favorites]

What's the point of even having a conversation with Mark about his intentions? If his intention is to cultivate a romantic or sexual relationship with Jessica, he'd be motivated to lie to you in order to make it all easier. If his intentions are pure as the driven snow, there's still the obvious fact that you can only take his word for it, and there's no reason at all to trust him even if he hadn't already pushed some of Jessica's boundaries.

There's no value in having this conversation, and little likelihood you'll feel reassured afterward, or even that you should.
posted by Gelatin at 7:34 AM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'll be another contrarian. You have Jessica's version of events, and her description of why Mark wants to meet you. Mark might see meeting you as a way of bringing Jessica's crush on him to an end, and of doing that without hurting her (since he's got to work with her for a couple of years).
You've still got a problem – a partner who crushes, fantasizes, and discusses inappropriate things with her crush. Only you know how important it is for you to get your relationship with Jessica to a better place.
Presumably you could get in touch with Mark yourself i.e. not through Jessica.
posted by sianifach at 7:38 AM on November 1, 2018 [11 favorites]

You are a grown ass adult and you are not going to walk yourself into an episode of Jerry Springer. Not today, Satan.
posted by ftm at 7:44 AM on November 1, 2018 [61 favorites]

I really feel like what Jessica is doing is angling for a way to cheat on you without being held accountable for her own actions.
posted by sarcasticah at 7:54 AM on November 1, 2018 [22 favorites]

No -- there is WAY too much boundary-crossing, over-sharing... going on here. Don't add to that. Your relationship is with Jessica. Your problem is with Jessica.
posted by sm1tten at 8:08 AM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

Jessica has failed to set boundaries with Mark after he's crossed them, and crossed a boundary in your relationship with him. He is a threat to your relationship regardless of his intentions because Jessica is behaving badly. You need to talk to HER about what she's going to do to solve the problem, and if she doesn't come up with a good answer, you need to think about how the parameters of your relationship with Jessica should change.
posted by metasarah at 8:09 AM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

First of all, why on earth would she tell this guy that she has a crush on him? It’s perfectly normal to have crushes. What is not normal is telling the subjects of your crushes about said crushes when you're with someone else.

Well, OK, not exactly. In fact, advice columnists are known for telling people in this situation to tell all the involved parties (partner, crush) about said crush, in order to diffuse the sort of "ooh, secret sneaky will-we-won't-we does he even like me" energy that gives crushes so much of their power.

HOWEVER, the point is to do so in a light way that completely forecloses the further exploration of the crush. It is unclear if Jessica has done this, or has instead made big dramatic declarations leaving a bunch of room, etc.

Advice columnists (and MeFites) also like to advise letting your partner get to know/become friends with your crush object so that everything is all aboveboard and sneaking around becomes too hard and unappealing.

My read on the situation is that Jessica is trying (but not succeeding) to do the thing where she transforms her crush into a normal flawed boring human by bringing him into her normal, un-fantasy-goggled world. And she might not be succeeding, in part, because Mark kinda sounds like a freakin weirdo. Maybe the dudes she tried this with before were less mutually interested, and so she never had to navigate them overstepping boundaries. Who knows.

I think your move here is to, as others have said, reiterate that Mark no longer has a part in all this because her "plans" to defuse the crush are not working, and she needs a new strategy that you and she work out together.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:31 AM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

I don't like the way you are being treated here. Still, in your shoes I would probably agree to meet with Mark to try to find out what he thinks is going on. You and Jessica need to clear things up between you, and having Mark be an unknown quantity is not going to help with that. I would come into it very open-ended, like, "So why was this meeting suggested?"

If you don't talk to him, I'd be concerned that Jessica would keep claiming stuff about her friendship with Mark that might or might not be true for whatever reason. Sadly I suspect it is on that level, that she is not being straightforward with you, either on purpose or because she is unclear in her own mind.
posted by BibiRose at 8:37 AM on November 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

I am really against meeting with Mark often do we "meet" with people in our social lives to negotiate stuff? You hold meetings with the principal, or your boss, or your neighborhood group, etc. You might meet with an ex or someone you feel has wronged you. "Meeting" with Mark to discuss his "intentions" gives this so much more weight than makes sense, and indeed this whole situation is about giving things more weight than makes sense.

Mark isn't Romeo, Jessica isn't Juliet. This isn't written in the stars, or in a bodice-ripper romance where the characters are so consumed by their feelings that they can't use their heads.

You and Jessica need to establish how much you want to hear about her crushes and what you're comfortable with in terms of her hanging out with them. She needs to dial things back with Mark. There is absolutely no need for you to have a man-off with him about Jessica.

You clearly understand how stupid and awkward such a thing would be, because you can't even imagine how it would go. How would it go?

You: Hi, Mark, I'm Jessica's boyfriend peterpete. Thanks for meeting with me today!

Mark: Glad to, Mark. I just wanted to tell you that I'm not trying to fuck your girlfriend.

You: Good to know! Since that required exactly one sentence, let's fall into an awkward, oversharing conversation about how we know Jessica, what kind of person we think she is and the precise emotional details of our relationships with her.

Mark: That sounds like a terrible idea - let's do it!

I mean seriously, there is no conversation to be had here.
posted by Frowner at 8:56 AM on November 1, 2018 [84 favorites]

I basically agree with all the WTF? here, but would like to point out one additional angle I don't think I've seen. You may be feeling that you are not entitled to enforce your boundaries, at least to some degree, because of your past infidelities. It doesn't work like that. You don't "lose rights" with respect to what you can ask of your partner because you did something wrong in the past (though you may lose trust from your partner in terms of what you can do). You are fully entitled to be uncomfortable here and to ask your partner to get her shit together emotionally herself, because this behavior is well past its sell-by date.
posted by praemunire at 8:57 AM on November 1, 2018 [25 favorites]

OK, hold the phone. Jessica didn't tell Mark she had a crush on him. From Mark's perspective, they're starting to be friends, he crossed a line but in a way that he does with all his friends (not that that makes it ok!), and as part of that conversation, she said that her partner was starting to have a problem with their friendship. In that set of facts, even Metafilter has advised people to get the parties together to diffuse the situation.

My point is, the problem here is 90 percent Jessica (and 10 percent Mark's habits with his friends).

I think the message to Jessica needs to be: your actions are making this worse, not better. You say you can befriend him as a way of diffusing this, but you have already crossed a boundary in a way that is making things weird. What are you going to do now to make things less weird? And how should we handle Mark's invitation? I don't want Mark to have a lasting sense that I'm against him, but you and I both know that the real issue here isn't his intentions but that you are handling your feelings in a way that I* feel (*you along with everyone on the Internet, but you don't have to say that part) is risky, and that we can both see has already caused you to violate a boundary.

In other words, your feelings are very understandable, and I'd try to put the responsibility back on Jessica to get you out of this awkward request.
posted by salvia at 9:00 AM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

I have never seen anyone advise anyone with a crush to air that crush, if the intent is to get over it. The advice is to air the crush if you want to date the object of the crush, and want to see if they feel that way too.

That's what I think Jessica did here; and Mark is LOVING it. Do you honestly think he'd want to intensify this drama by getting into some sort of negotiation with you two if he weren't interested in Jessica that way? Imagine Jessica was [insert extremely unattractive and unlikeable person], do you think he'd be arranging to meet with her boyfriend in that case?
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:02 AM on November 1, 2018 [5 favorites]

You've already gotten lots of "nope" and you probably don't need to hear more "nope," but just in case:

I'm polyamorous and I would still think it was bad news if this happened in my life.

"Meeting to discuss intentions" is bad news. Pushing your partner's boundaries and then drawing her into an extended intimate conversation about it instead of saying "sorry" is bad news. This guy trying to worm his way out of trouble by saying "All my friends do [boundary crossing behavior]" is bad news.

Sounds like Jessica has also done some things that are out of line because you're monogamous. So, okay, you two need to deal with that. Couples therapy is great and you should do it.

But Mark is just a wheedling creep by any set of standards. Don't dignify his shit with a discussion.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:04 AM on November 1, 2018 [10 favorites]

We don't know what Mark thinks of this situation, much less what kind of person he is. We only know what Jessica has said about it.

Mark could be an oily triangulating creep or he could be a guy minding his own business who thinks he's been invited to a colleague's home for dinner.

OP, I suggest you not find out which because Mark doesn't need to come over. It's Jessica you need to have a talk with.
posted by tel3path at 9:09 AM on November 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

No way.

If you meet with Mark under these circumstances, you’re legitimizing the idea that he has some kind of place in your relationship with Jessica. Unless you and your partner have some kind of pre-arrangement to the contrary, she is the only person you should be talking to about her behaviour, and the only one whose intentions have to concern you.

Mark can “intend” whatever he wants, but as the very first answer pointed out, Jessica has agency and nothing will happen without her wanting it (assuming the guy is not some kind of rapist, of course). It’s not like he’s going to trick her into cheating on you.
posted by rpfields at 9:15 AM on November 1, 2018 [12 favorites]

This is weird, it has all been covered. I would add that the reason you are reliving your past infidelities is that you can see how Jessica's behavior can so easily be constured as inviting tempation in instead of doing the things that prevent infidelity - she should be distancing from the crush, shutting down opportunities for creating triangles and certainly not disclosing your feelings to Mark. She should be keeping the relationship with you healthy and focusing her attention there instead of spending time wondering what Mark's intentions are and noting how her increased friendliness with him is backfiring. Maybe you can share in counselling the ways you protect your relationship with Jessica and how you perceive her as not reciprocating in this situation.

Meeting Mark to hang out because he wants to be friends with you is one thing, meeting to discuss intentions is inappropriate. No guy who isn't interested in stirring up drama would be interested in doing that. It sounds like he is aware that Jessica has a crush on him but it's not super clear from what was written, I'm inferring that from your reference to "problems in our relationship". I would not be cool with my boyfriend mentioning "problems in our relationship" to someone he has a crush on because it immediately creates a sense of intimacy between them and isolates you.

I think it's more than ok to say "thanks but no thanks, Jessica please tell me how you're going to show me that you're more comitted to our relationship than you are to Mark or any other people we're going to encounter who will create drama in our lives". You are not being out of line or controlling. If you meet Mark through a work function be as friendly as you would be with an ex who you are no longer friends with or any acquaintance of an acquaintance.
posted by lafemma at 9:16 AM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

If anything, your past infidelity qualifies you to realistically evaluate the risk. It doesn't disqualify you from deserving a respectful relationship.

The way she talks about this stuff smacks of over-intellectualized, over-therapized language glossing over good ol' fashioned lust and drama. Don't let it dazzle you. It's not as healthy as it's being presented, and if you're getting a near-universal NOPE response on this forum, that's...really something.
posted by kapers at 9:23 AM on November 1, 2018 [11 favorites]

Others have brought up all the good viewpoints, so I'll just add some general advice:

YOU ARE ENTITLED TO MAKE YOUR OWN BOUNDARIES. You alone set the parameters of your participation in a relationship. There is no high court of relationship stuff you should accept or reject. If your partner is making you uncomfortable with ANY action or lack of action, you get to put your foot down. It doesn't matter what others think or what society thinks of your boundaries. Of course, she doesn't have to accept your boundaries, in which case one or both of you walk.

So don't get too deep in the weeds about "is this okay" or "is this too much". YOU KNOW WHAT IS NOT OKAY FOR YOU.
posted by FakeFreyja at 9:24 AM on November 1, 2018 [11 favorites]

Echoing all the WTF and Nopes in this post.

Also, just to point out an example of a boundary I have with my partner: I would not like to hear about any of his crushes, nor would I ever tell him any of mine, just because like, wth, no one needs to know some stupid animal feeling, and why on earth should I / him give this any attention or feeling (jealousy, etc) whatsoever.

Instead we chat about the things that do matter to us: office politics, how we feel about our careers, how we feel about our future, what does X new even does for our lives going forward.

It is okay to have boundaries.
posted by moiraine at 9:45 AM on November 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yes we're in couples counseling too.

Cool, I would tackle head-on the possibility that Jessica has just plain checked out of this relationship and this is her way of fumbling for an exit.

You really don't have to do a lot of tea leaf reading when a partner starts spending a hell of a lot of time with another person, tells them about their relationship problems, starts having "oops, boundaries somehow got crossed" moments, etc

Mark is irrelevant here, really. Of course you should not talk to Mark, that is a ridiculous idea. The Marks of the world are always symptoms, not causes.

If you guys do get your relationship back on track, Mark should be a brief and easily-dispatched part of that conversation.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:43 AM on November 1, 2018 [18 favorites]

This reads to me like Jessica teaming up with Mark to solve a problem: you.
posted by rhizome at 11:14 AM on November 1, 2018 [14 favorites]

Adding to the 'hell no's', 'nopes', 'wtf's'.

And nthing, the problem here is Jessica:

Jessica overstepped a relationship boundary we have and revealed to Mark how the situation has been causing problems in our relationship, and that I was having a hard time with her being friends with Mark.

That is flirting. IMO.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:57 PM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

As a normal human being (and let's pretend I'm single in this scenario). If a married work colleague said to me, "Do you want to have an affair with me, cause I'm not sure if you do. I have a crush on you, and my husband is concerned", my response would not be "Let's meet your husband and hash it all out!"

My response would be: "Hm, best we don't hang out anymore. Hope your marriage is okay." And then that's the end of the friendship and hang outs. As a normal human being, the 100% last thing I want to do is insert myself into someone's marriage in any way - let alone a WORK COLLEAGUE'S MARRIAGE.

Poor judgment doesn't even begin to describe it, from both parties. I mean, outside of marriage, spending close 1-1 time with someone you're sexually attracted to is fucking madness.

I feel like your past baggage is obscuring how completely beyond the norm (and pale) this is. I don't have a jealous bone in my body, but were I you, I'd be telling my wife the relationship with Mark is 100% done, and not to see him, work with him, do anything with him. This is clearly an emotional affair, and personally I feel like it's edging towards a physical one.

With this meeting, your wife is asking you to sign off on her spending heaps of time with someone who:
a) she is attracted to
b) she has told about her attraction (warning, warning!)
c) has already been inappropriate professionally and socially with her

Why in the ever-loving fuck would you agree to any of that???
posted by smoke at 3:20 PM on November 1, 2018 [14 favorites]

Yeah, you’re in couples counselling?

Sounds like there might be more than meets the eye and this “chat” is to put you off the scent.

Having gone on holiday with my husband and our mutual friend who was in fact his boyfriend, ask me how I know.
posted by Middlemarch at 3:53 PM on November 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm trying to find any possible scenarios for a conversation with Mark that make things better.

"Hi; I'm Mark; your girlfriend is hot but honestly, bro, we're just friends (well, maybe coworkers too) and it's gonna stay that way." Would you believe this? I wouldn't believe this. Even if I did, this is exactly where you are now - nothing gets better because you hear this from Mark instead of Jessica.

"Hi; I'm Mark; I totally don't have designs on your girlfriend because, dude, she's kinda ugly." Not better.

"I'm Mark, and you seem like a stand-up guy, so I'll let you know that I don't poach other guy's girls." Urk; that's worse.

"I'm Mark, and as you can see, I do fake-flirting with everyone in a twenty foot radius, but now that I know it bugs you, I'll try to stop with Jessica. Fair warning, though; I kinda flirt like breathing, so my idea of 'stop' may still cause some tensions." Might be better? Ish? ...Seems awkward, though.

"Hi; I'm Mark, and maybe you and I will hit things off so well that we can discuss a polyamorous setup." Well, I guess technically that's an improvement on the growing stress in the relationship, but... if this isn't on your list of acceptable fixes, there's no point in having a meeting where it's the best possible outcome.

I'd suggest saying "no" to a meeting with Mark unless you can come up with at least two reasonably viable outcomes that actually improve the situation. Otherwise, as mentioned, your relationship is with Jessica; Mark's intentions and interests only matter if Jessica's letting them matter.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:10 PM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Mark offering to speak with you makes no sense at all to me and makes me suspicious.

Speaking as someone who has been a Mark, in that I met someone I felt attracted to and flirted with and then later realized she had a partner, I cooled off on her. But sometime later after she confessed that she had a crush on me and we had a few conversations of her complaining about her boyfriend and clearly trying to get me to say and do things that would fill whatever she thought she was missing, my reaction was not HEY LET ME TALK TO YOUR PARTNER.

It was hey you're in a committed relationship and its clear to me we can't be friends without some flirting or boundary pushing going on so let's not be friends anymore because 1) I don't want to be the reason you break up with your partner and 2) you've kind of revealed yourself in how you view committed relationships and its gross as hell.

I have a hard time seeing Mark as a decent person with good intentions if he's doing anything else but acting as a cold distant fish to her.
posted by Karaage at 6:24 PM on November 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

at some point in the conversation Jessica overstepped a relationship boundary we have and revealed to Mark how the situation has been causing problems in our relationship

You need to decide what the consequence is going to be for Jessica crossing your boundary. Personally I'd feel pretty seriously violated by that but that doesn't mean you have to feel that way, you feel how you feel.

Mark sounds kinda creepy frankly, and that he wants to meet with you to discuss his "intentions" with another person who ought to be able to make some decisions for herself sounds really, really creepy. You aren't required to facilitate Mark being more creepy than he already is. He's not offering to meet you for your benefit but for his.

Someone who has good "intentions" here (ugh, it's not as though people who are friends even phrase things in that way, "intentions") would react to this by backing off the friendship, spending less time together, not having emotionally intimate conversations about their relationship issues, etc. It seems like Mark doesn't care much about Jessica to disregard how her relationship with you is going.

It also has shades of Mark opening some sort of negotiation, as if he's going to tell you his "intentions" and the two of you are going to come to some sort of agreement about how he's going to treat Jessica. Which seems to me as the sort of thing Jessica ought to have some say in. Don't give any legitimacy to the idea of Mark making some sort of agreement with you about another adult human being by even agreeing to meet him.

Jessica and Mark will be in close contact with each other multiple days a week for the next two years.
"I'm sorry XYZ made you feel uncomfortable. I do it with all my friends."

It sounds like there is some sort of work, family, church, school, or organizational situation that's causing these two to be together. Jessica needs to back off this friendship where Mark does this stuff with his friends and go back to having a professional (or whatever) relationship with Mark. She tried to be friends with him and found out he doesn't make a good friend. Whatever is going on here, it's likely to torpedo whatever thing Jessica is involved with that's got her being around Mark so often. Presumably this is something important to Jessica that she would like to not torpedo, but that's pretty much something she needs to decide for herself here.

You can't actually make Jessica do anything, so if she wants to torpedo her work/school/whatever situation and her relationship with you at the same time it's pretty much out of your hands.
posted by yohko at 6:58 PM on November 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

Mark offering to talk to you sounds patronizing and belittling. Makes him look better to her. Ugh.
posted by MountainDaisy at 7:22 PM on November 1, 2018 [10 favorites]

I've been in your shoes. My "Jessica" shared with "Mark" private details of our relationship problems. This "Mark" wanted to reassure me he wasn't like all the previous "Marks" that my wife was "friends" with. I agreed to the meeting.

The very first thing "Jessica" and "Mark" did when the three of us met was to share a long, intimate hug.

I DTMFA'd a few months later.
posted by Arctic Circle at 9:57 PM on November 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Ugh. The first rule of crush club is you don't talk about crush club. As soon as she spoke to Mark, as soon as he responded, as soon as they opened that door to acknowledge the crush, Jessica and Mark created a dynamic that leaves you out, normalizes their relationship, and puts the burden of "handling" it on you. Nothing about that is helpful in terms of what is supposed to be maintaining a partnership. She needs to back off and turn her energies toward YOUR relationship. All this feels like a smoke screen anyway. If she is that invested in some other relationship, then there are deeper issues. Counseling will hopefully reveal that. Best of luck to you.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:35 AM on November 2, 2018 [6 favorites]

I was thinking about this overnight. Based on my experience of humans, I think there's a strong possibility that Jessica is committed to your relationship, has no plans on actually cheating and isn't trying to undercut you by having these inappropriate conversations - she's just getting something out of the drama and attention that fills a void for her, and she's not admitting to herself that this is what she's doing and that it's causing problems.

Some things for her to ask herself or to bring up in counseling might be: Is she having a lot of stress in another area of her life? Does she have some kind of anxiety about the actual work/school/whatever situation? What does she get out of these interactions? Is she bored at work or feeling like home life is just boring chores? (She has a youngish child, right, and a terrible ex?) What other sources of self-worth, attention and interest can she introduce to her life?

It also might be worth looking at whether this is part of some life-long pattern - not a life-long pattern of, like, cheating, but a pattern of self-sabotage. If she carefully considers her past, including her childhood and previous relationships, does she have a habit of feeling like she's "the bad one" or "the irresponsible one" (even if her actions don't match this)? Does she have a habit of managing negative feelings by creating drama to distract herself?

If she had a childhood where she was abused or powerless, or if she is deeply traumatized by her relationship with her ex, she might have some need to keep recreating situations in which she is powerless/bad/upset/stressed because that's what feels normal to her. People can have these patterns totally without recognizing them, and they can run pretty deep.

She doesn't have to be a cheatin' villain to be creating this painful, infidelity-adjacent situation, and it may be that there is a way to resolve the underlying issues that push her to this obviously foolish behavior.
posted by Frowner at 7:18 AM on November 2, 2018 [9 favorites]

"my girlfriend lit the house on fire, she wants me to talk to the fire and try to understand it's intentions"

send this drama lama down the road. you don't need any of this, this isn't something I would want or accept in my life, even in a non-monogamous relationship, this is a tiger trap of awkwardness.
posted by French Fry at 11:26 AM on November 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hello everybody. Thank you so much for your input. I appreciate the thought and effort that everyone put into their replies.

The amount of insight some of you have into other peoples situations is just staggering. How some of you guessed details that I didn't even bring up is truly amazing.

I feel a few posters got off topic w/r/t Jessica managing her crush via friendship, as it was more so background info for my ask’s question. I felt very activated by insecurity when reading some of those replies and wasn’t able to manage my ask as well as I would have liked by requesting folks to keep on topic. However I still got something from many of those slightly off topic replies too, so thank you.

I’ve been processing all of this over the last couple days and have made my decision that it would not be good to have this meeting because of 1) feminism, 2) including an untrusted third party in the relationship’s issues would not be comfortable for my boundaries, 3) the meeting would be pointless due to someone with romantic intentions having the same response someone with platonic intentions.

I wrote those points in more detailed form in an email and sent it to Jessica today, and she cleared up some of the questions I had. I was operating from the mindset that Mark had requested this meeting, however Jessica told me today that he had actually only offered it as something he’d be willing to do but “wasn’t sure if it would help” (a mild difference). She feels that because it was just an offer it is therefore not necessary to follow up with Mark about it. To be honest as I type that out it feels a bit… off.


One of the biggest and most helpful things that people did for me in their replies was encourage me to stand up for my boundaries of what is right for me. Thank you. I now understand for maybe the first time that despite having made mistakes in the past I am still entitled to advocate for myself and set my own boundaries of how I expect to be treated.

I'm going to mark this as resolved on November 3. If you have any questions feel free to MiFi mail me.

I love you all. This is an amazing community. I'm deeply honored. Thank you.
posted by peterpete at 2:47 PM on November 2, 2018 [13 favorites]

Had a situation not entirely different than this, many years ago. I met my “Mark” to chat.

Long story short, the reason Mark was willing to go out on a limb and speak with me was because HE WAS ALREADY INVESTED IN THE RELATIONSHIP to an inappropriate degree.

In a later conversation he suggested I become more “open minded” about the ways people can experience one another.

So I hit him.
posted by Construction Concern at 5:36 PM on November 2, 2018 [13 favorites]

Peterpete, I feel like you're being way too accommodating about this.

At this point, at the very least protect your own sanity and tell Jessica it's her responsibility to make sure her friendships don't interfere with the relationship. Otherwise, it's also her responsibility to make sure she ends the relationship if she can't respect your boundaries.

I would also add that she does not need to burden you with every stupid little detail of this drama. This is all her shitshow to resolve. Honestly I would give her a reasonable deadline and tell her to either have that shit sorted or end things.

You are being a little dormatty, imo.
posted by Tarumba at 7:46 AM on November 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

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