'Friends With Benefits'
First of all, I know that this topic may not fit in as part of polyamory for some folks, but I could really use some advice, and this was the best place I could think of to seek it.
I'll start by introducing myself: I'm Nej, a 24-year-old Polyamorous Pansexual quiet sort of geek, but very friendly and loyal once you get to know me :)
A bit of background: I just recently got out of a long-term (read: 5+ year) relationship. It was my first relationship, and monogamous, during which I came to the realization that I was poly, and my partner ultimately decided she couldn't deal with that, which ended up being the dealbreaker for the relationship. These days I'm feeling kinda lonely and having a bit of difficulty finding things with which to fill my time.
Anyways, even though I don't have any romantic relationships on the horizon currently, I seem to have acquired a friends with benefits-type situation. Actually, the 'friends' and 'benefits' happened pretty much simultaneously, which was kind of nice - since friends with benefits is in itself the foundation of the friendship, there's no risk of ruining the friendship by introducing sex into it.
Anyway, the problem part is that I think I might be falling for him, and he has hinted in the past that he would be open to more if the possibility arose. What's the problem, you ask? Well, he's in a relationship. And his girlfriend has allowed sex outside of their relationship, but disallowed outside romantic relationships. Now, guy and I already share quite a bit of affection with each other in addition to the sexual aspect of our friendship, so I had already been questioning if this was pushing the girlfriend's boundaries, but we talked and he says it's fine, so I'm inclined to trust him on that one.
How should I handle this? I really value what we have now, and don't want to jeopardize it, but neither do I want to be dishonest with him or with myself.
Thanks in advance!
Honesty and self-honesty are so incredibly important! I'm glad you have that going for you already.
In poly terms, I guess the guy and his girlfriend are the primary couple and you are a secondary relationship? I'm in a similar relationship, though in my case polyamory is well-accepted by both members of the married couple, and so is the idea of caring deeply for the secondary partners.
So. You might consider your role.
Do you want to be a considerate and supportive secondary? Do you accept that your friend's well-being and happiness depends to a large degree on his primary relationship, and that the boundaries of this relationship are mostly set by he and his girlfriend?
If those things are true, then it may be that one of your self-commandments is to do nothing that undermines or stresses the primary relationship. In that case you are friends-with-benefits with the guy and you can explore friendship deeply, but you will probably not expect the relationship to become "romantic."
(That said, I am not sure where you stop saying "friends" and start saying "lovers.")
I'm familiar with this situation, since I'm in a similar variant. I find a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that I am in some way helpful to the married couple I feel such affection for.
Do you want to gently facilitate opening this couple up to a wider understanding of the possibilities of loving more than one person at a time -- ie, polyamory? Do you think that you, as a secondary, can do that without doing harm?
If so, you may want to get to know the GF. One of the things which I've seen in my short time on this board is a great deal of angst developing around the unknown: when a spouse or GF knows nothing about the secondary partner then all kinds of fears and worries grow. When they meet and the wife finds that the GF is a really kind person with a quirky sense of humor and a loud laugh, all of a sudden those fears evaporate.
So get to know her. Become friends if that is possible.
What other possibilities can you imagine for your role? I mean, being realistic and honest with yourself. I know almost nothing about your situation, so I'll leave this to you.
I suppose the main thing is to be conscious and aware. I think, actually, that you're already accomplishing that -- what you've written makes me see you as thoughtful and careful not to do harm. Good for you!
Thanks so much for your quick reply! I found it to be very insightful and helpful.
I think that in terms of the two roles you described, I am straddling the fence between Column A and Column B. I respect their relationship and don't want to do anything to antagonize it. I also would like to meet the girlfriend, both because she simply sounds like a nice girl and I am curious, and the fact that she doesn't even know that I exist makes me a bit anxious. I would feel better knowing from the source that what me and the guy have is not crossing any boundaries of their relationship. I would also be interested in seeing if meeting me might help to allay some of her fears and reservations re: polyamory. What I know about their agreement is not much: I know that it is a 'tell, if asked' situation where she does not even know if or when he is having sex with others unless she specifically asks about it. I also know that her reluctance to accept the possibility of outside romantic partners is due to a fear of 'being replaced'. This being said, I don't want to actively try to persuade her, but simply be there and be open and friendly to try to show that I am not a threat; I cannot make anyone's mind up for them and to try to do so may do more harm than good, is my thought.
Also, what you said about wondering when the line is crossed between 'friends' and 'lovers' is something I've been wondering about myself. Him and I are already pursuing an unconventional relationship style, so I'm wondering if just saying 'I want a romantic relationship' in general terms might not make sense in this case, and that I should think through what, specifically I want from the relationship, whether or not I am getting those things already, and if I can be happy without those things which I am not getting. Do you think I'm on the right track?
I forgot to mention that he has not given me any sign of wanting to introduce me to his girlfriend. I have asked him about it, but he didn't really give me an answer. :/
One thing to be aware of is that many polys (though not all, by any means) consider don't ask don't tell (DADT) policies to be a red flag. It's easy for the person 'not telling' to actually be cheating with no such agreement, and the other partner has no way of confirming or denying that a DADT agreement is in place because he/she can't meet the 'not asking' partner.
That your friend-with-benefits seems reluctant to let you meet his girlfriend makes me concerned. What I'd recommend to him if I were in your shoes would be a large group outing-- all three of you, and a bunch of college friends: bowling, a diner, maybe just a movie or board game night at home. That way you can find some time to sit near her and chitchat, and she can get to know you as a person. Like Eugene said, it's much easier to swallow the idea of something when you can attach a face to the situation, and it could be that that's all she needs.
All that aside, I have a question for you. Is the relationship, as it currently exists, meeting your needs? Does it seem to be meeting the needs of the others involved? It might be that the current, ambiguous situation is viable, and that's a possibility that's at least worth contemplating a moment. Getting into polyamory for me has been about giving up the binaries and labels in thinking about people: gay/bi/straight, dating/friends, primary/secondary/tertiary. Relationship styles that are new (for me) are part of the fun. ;)
Good luck, and thanks for sharing! Keep posting on here-- we're here for you.
You are kind of asking us questions about your happiness that you should be asking yourself.
1 - first, since you can't get confirmation, do you trust this guy is telling the truth about DADT. Maybe this is something as simple as a confirmation email to the gf?
2 - are you comfortable, being poly, and having sex with someone who is in a DADT relationship.
If something isn't making you happy, you have every right to ask for it and work on a compromise. If no compromise is available than you need to decide how important it is for you :)
I won't say what you are doing is wrong, I am open and poly...I have an open relationship and believe I can love other people at the same time, but don't believe I will love everyone I become involved with. :)...
Well what he has with his girlfriend is not poly in my belief. It is open however. That could be a problem. It doesn't sound like she is willing to face all the emotion and inward discovering that poly entail. Of course I'm sure she has had to face some in order to get as far as being open.
I haven't really gotten how that all works when someone thinks that if they don't know what their partner is doing then they won't be replaced. I would replace a partner much more quickly if I wasn't letting them in on what I hold near and dear. The closeness and connection wouldn't be there and for me that is a deal breaker.
I have a bit of a red flag about the guy. I get a bit wary about people who just say, "don't worry about it." it kind of makes me think that they think they can control their feelings and mine in doing so. It spells disaster to me as at sometime, if that is the case, then that energy needs releasing. No one can control anyone or their own feelings in situations you speak of forever. At least as far as my experience has been.
I think that it might be best to tell him how you feel and go from there. He might not want to jeopardise what he has with her just because you love him. He might think this deal he has is better than admitting loving you. Or on the other hand perhaps you are the one that will be worth it enough to make some changes to his primary relationship. You won't know until you start honestly communicating.
It seems to be treading dangerous waters to have a sexual relationship with a friend who is not "allowed" to fall in love with you. It's very difficult to control whether you fall in love with someone, and most people are not up to the task. It requires years of training to control your emotions and most people who claim to be doing so are actually just lying to themselves, until one day it explodes in a big mess.
If I were to have a sexual relationship with someone where I did not want it to become romantic (and thank goodness I don't have to do that), I would personally keep it on a strictly sex-only basis. I can't imagine spending social time with someone I'm sexually involved with and not having romantic feelings develop. When you start to blur the boundaries between friends and lovers, it's far to easy for someone to cross the boundary without intending it.
While I do agree with the others that there are some red flags about him claiming to have a DADT policy with no way for you to confirm it, it's ultimately your decision whether you want to believe him and whether you're prepared to handle the consequences if it turns out he's lying.
Wow, so many interesting and varied responses. Thanks so much!
To those who expressed concern about DADT in general...in theory I'm okay with it. In reality, well...it just makes me worried that me and the guy might be doing things that his girlfriend wouldn't be comfortable with, but none of the parties know this because of the non-existent communication. I worry that one day everything will come into the light and cause one mess or another. Ultimately, though, it is on him to know what the agreement with his girlfriend entails, and whether or not DADT is working for their relationship. So until I definitively learn otherwise, I am working under the assumption that he is indeed being honest and faithful.
More and more I'm thinking that I want to try to get him to, if not outright introduce his girlfriend to me, then to at least tell her about what is going on. I might start casually by asking him to show me the pictures of her that he said he was going to, and go from there. I'm interested to see if knowing that she is aware of the situation and is still okay with it might be enough to ease this feeling of dissatisfaction I'm starting to feel.
Other than that...the relationship does seem to be meeting my needs, I think. I'm getting affection, intimacy, emotional support, and companionship. What I'm not getting boils down to mostly time commitment and official 'couple status'. The status part I could care less about, because the relationship itself is more important to me than how it's defined. As for the lack of time commitment...it bothers me to an extent until I realize that it goes both ways, and that I would be expected to commit some of my time as well. Having just gotten out of a long relationship and going through the process of rediscovering myself, I'm not sure I would want social demands put on me at this point.
I guess I'm answering my own questions after all, which I knew I would have to do in the end. :rolleyes:
But just putting my thoughts out there and reading everyone's responses has really helped me to start to bring my feelings to the surface and organize them a little bit. So thank you everyone!
I will see if I can't gently nudge this guy towards talking to his girlfriend about our situation. If anything comes of it, I'll be sure to come back here and let you guys know. :)
edit: I forgot that I wanted to address this comment by redpepper:
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