it sounds like you have potential for a beautiful thing. What concerns me about your story is Erika. It sounds like she is going through some rough transitions in life right now and is searching for some support and comfort. You are giving her that, but it sounds like there might be some confusion possibly between support and comfort and a life long partner. She could very well be on the rebound with you. Proving to herself her worth by getting involved with your after her break up and the down fall of the school/work situation... looking to you to make her strong, rather than within herself... perhaps she even thought that the only way she was worthy of love was to offer herself to you for more intimacy rather than finding what she needed from within. Maybe she wanted that warm fuzzy feeling of love with someone she trusted and that was it... hard to say.
The thing with love and sex I find is that it is like heroin. It makes you feel good. One feels really crappy and like there is no end to the crappy and so they get in a situation where by they feel pleasure in order to feel joy again. That isn't a bad thing, but something to be aware of and very careful not to misinterpret.
I have an ex girlfriend who is a huge part of my life and we are very close. We ended our relationship a number of years ago because she is not poly and was struggling to be with me. We have a solid friendship/family bond and I continue to love her dearly. To me she is still someone I am in love with, but to her I am not.
There was a time where she dated and eventually lived with a woman that cheated on her and treated her very badly. She moved out with nothing to start again and was badly damaged by this woman. She hasn't been with someone since and that was three years ago.
During a time after she moved elsewhere, got some belongings again and carried on, there was a lull before making her own plans and readjusting her goals for the future. She was confused and betrayed and her self esteem was low. She needed love and nurturing. I would go and visit her in her city during this time and we would sleep together in the same bed and I would lavish her with as much love as I could muster. We have always been snugglers... there was one night that we became closer than usual and out of both of our confusion between supportive love and nurturing and sexual love we began going down a path that would mean huge changes in our lives. Fortunately we stopped before having sex.
I am so grateful that we didn't have sex and re-establish that kind of bond. Sex for me is the biggest bond. There is nothing casual or friendly or nurturing in the way that she needed... it is something I do that is completely vulnerable and is my sacred temple. Nurturing love is for me to give to others, it comes from a different place. There are only a select few that I am willing to share my vulnerable give and take sexuality with... her and I have, but to share that with her and her with me in that moment was inappropriate and a detriment to what I was trying to accomplish and what she needed to receive from me... she feels the same way, it would mean a tidal wave of emotions that were not appropriate for that time in our lives. Who knows the changes that she would of made to accommodate the new re-kindled energy between us at a time when she should of been concentrating on herself and her future.... derailing her from the path that was best for both of us.
I wonder if some of this story relates to yours...
if it does... now what? What do you do now that you have crossed that line? I think if I were in your position I would be backing right off and be a pillar of strength for her while she gets back on her feet. I would be strong in my integrity and firm in my conviction that you will always be her loving friend and that you are also a loving boyfriend to Jill and that when she has her life on track and is feeling her OWN strength, rather than relying on yours, that there might be a chance to have a happy, healthy "vee" poly relationship develop, but for now you will simply be a strong friend.
I think if I were in your shoes I would do this because I really do love her and want her in my life for a very long time... rather than try and force that love into a hole that doesn't fit at the moment simply because I want it to work.
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