Possibly opening up-- Need advice
Hi, newbie here. I'm 21. My boyfriend and I have been together for four years. We've also lived together in our own apartment for two years. Though we're young, we're both very serious about each other. I am realistic and know that the chances of us lasting forever are very slim, but nonetheless I love this guy like nothing else and I'd like to see us last as long as possible.
Well, onward to the problems. Sorry if this is long. :p About three years ago I met this guy, J, through a friend. J is the most awkward guy I know. He is also still a virgin at 25 (partly by choice, as he's had offers.) Despite all of his awkwardness, J is a very intelligent and nice guy, so I happily started talking to him. I saw him purely as a friend.
Well, two years ago, when F and I got our own apartment, things started to change. J started coming over our apartment fairly regularly. After a while I started developing feelings for J. Sometimes when he was over I would cuddle with J in a semi-romantic way—if F minded, he didn't say anything. I eventually told F that I liked J. He said that it had been obvious, and that he didn't mind since J was harmless.
Fast forwarding a bit. . . Due to work, J eventually stopped coming over as much. Because of this, I started spending as much time as I could with J when he did come over (he usually came with other friends.) We hugged a lot, cuddled a lot. It became obvious to other people that I liked J. People started confronting F, asking if he had any problems with it. They also started confronting J, asking if we were having an affair. At first, F thought it was funny that people were worried. But eventually, he started feeling very self-conscious, and felt as though people were undermining our relationship. Since F likes J a lot as a friend, he never became angry at J. Still, it was around then that F started looking uncomfortable whenever I so much as mentioned J.
Well, last month, there was a development. For you see, though I like J romantically (and had told him so), he had never said he liked me. I had always assumed that he was just hugging me and such because he was lonely. He never implied having any feelings for me—in fact, he always went on about this one girl that he liked. Then, all of the sudden, J admitted to me that he likes me. I was actually quite surprised.
I told F soon after. He was immediately anxious. He told me that he would prefer that things stay as they are—that he doesn't want J and I to become “physical.” I understand his wishes completely, but to be honest, it's going to be so hard to keep. I have liked J for a year and a half now. The tension is unbelievable. J is also now one of my closest friends, and I can't bare the thought of cutting him out of my life. I don't want to cheat, but I can see myself slipping in a moment of weakness. I've admitted this to F.
I asked F if he would consider letting me date J. He said that he wasn't sure how he felt about it. That he felt a bit uncomfortable with the idea of me being physical with J, and that he was nervous that he wouldn't feel as special anymore. I assured him that he would always special to me. I also told him that I wouldn't mind if he started looking around or fooling around with others. He told me that this wasn't too realistic since he “wouldn't be able to find anyone” which I don't necessarily agree with--I know it's often harder for men to find people, but F used to be hit on constantly.
So, I set up a talk with J for two days from now. I'm going to ask him what he wants out of me. Based off of what he says, I will discuss what to do with F. I am very afraid. There is a good chance I will lose either one of my most important friends or my boyfriend. There is also a chance I will come away with two partners.
I wonder if people have any advice for me on three fronts-- 1.) do you think there is anything I should say / ask when I see J? 2.) what can I do to make F more comfortable if we do decide to open our relationship? 3.) if J doesn't want anything more from me but I can see myself trying to go for more, what should I do? Should I just cut off relations with J? Or is the fact that I'm tempted to cheat a sign that I should end things with F?
It's not necessarily impossible to have something permanent at 21, but you and F have been together for four years. In that time, surely you both grew and changed. (If you were this with-it at 17, I am officially jealous! I was a total trainwreck!) Maybe it's time for you two to think about who you are now and the ways you differ from when you were 17? Figuring out you're potentially poly is a big change, and yeah, he's going to be uncomfortable, but if it's a change he can't handle, well, you are both young. There is still loads of time to find someone who is truly compatible.
So if you're poly and you don't see that changing, J doesn't actually matter. What matters is what you want for your own life.
2. go slow, read some books on open relationships, have J read here and on other forums if he is not really sure how it would work, or has questions that need answering
It bears repeating - go slow, as in even if you get the go ahead to be intimate with J, that doesn't mean you need to jump into bed, even though a year and a half of liking him must seem like forever. Be prepared to deal with NRE and other pitfalls people with newly opened relationships face.
3. Well if J doesn't want more and you think you'll try to cheat, I wouldn't put myself in situations when I was alone with him/drink around him until I felt I had that under control. Assuming that you would feel horrible guilt for the rest of your life if you hurt F when he (as far as I can tell) hasn't hurt you or gotten much in the way of angry, mean or jealous about your feelings.
Is it a sign you should break up with F? Have you been emotionally attracted to other people too? If nothing happens with J are you uncertain if you will find yourself attracted to somebody else down the line and face the same questions? Really it comes down to if you and F can decide if you need monogamy or non-monogamy for yourselves. If you're not sure there probably isn't harm trying to work it out until one of you knows what you want. If you want different things, then I'd say it's probably less hurtful in the long run to break up before you do something you'd regret.
It sounds like you and F have really good lines of communication open. If he is as forthcoming as you are about how he feels I really envy you guys!
I agree with what has been said... You're all young and rapid change happens all the time, especially in the teen years and early 20s. Not that it doesn't continue to happen, but it's common to completely change opinions or outlooks when you're first emerging from your parents' home(s) and venturing out on your own. This is a perfect opportunity for you and F to figure out if your relationship really is a life-long (or as close to it as is possible) one or not.
As for your questions...
I think just letting J know what you're feeling, what F thinks/feels towards it all, and what YOU would like is important. Asking him to respond to these three things will help you know where he is at. You also have to make sure you are clear about what you would like to happen ideally as opposed to what can happen realistically - especially if it means the difference between you being with F and you not being with F. If F's opinion is going to affect what you do with J (as it sounds like it will), I would encourage you and F to figure stuff out as much as possible before delving too deep with J.
Making F more comfortable really depends on him. You are already discussing everything which is going to continue to be important. Before doing ANYTHING further, take some time to read, let him process, and talk about what you (either or both of you) perceive as potential issues. Discussing any boundaries the two of you feel you need would help make sure everyone is on the same page. He has already admitted that the idea of you being physical with someone bothers him, so obviously jumping into having sex with J would NOT be making F comfortable with the shift. Easing into it by having you and F going on a date and ending the evening with a kiss and seeing how everyone feels afterward would be a good first step, I think. It sounds like F is interested in having an open relationship to some extent but has some natural concerns. Help him work through those while you both learn about various types of relationships and figure out what works for you. J has been around for a year and a half, I'm sure he can handle a little bit more time - especially if there is progress being made.
If J doesn't want anything else from you, why are you concerned you would "go for more?" I would think he would also care about your relationship with F since they are friends and would not put you in the situation to cheat unless you led him to believe that it was okay for things to happen between you two. Do you not trust that J or you would have that self control? If you doubt your control or his, I would definitely say you would need to not be alone with J. And I agree with Anne that alcohol or other things that lower inhibition need to be avoided.
I don't think being tempted to cheat is a reason to dump J. I think it is a definite sign that some examination and possible renegotiation needs to happen, but that doesn't mean the relationship has to end unless you find that the relationship (and J) aren't able to adapt to your new desires/needs.
So far it sounds like you're doing great - getting everything out in the open and trying to figure out what it is you're wanting. Just avoid any hasty actions that could jeopardize any of the relationship in play here (you and F, you and J, F and J's friendship) so that the minimal amount of anxiety occurs.
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