How/when do you know what style of poly you want or need?

Arc

New member
I had a hard time titling this post - I hope I got the idea across.

My wife recently came out as poly (see my other thread in Introductions for details). She says the type of relationship she is interested in is a FWB-like situation. I am not sure at what point that blurs into 'boyfriend' territory. But she specifically expressed that she is not interested in hook-ups, and (to my immense relief) is not interested in bringing another person into the home, to have a more than two-like living arrangement.

I am struggling a lot with the idea of opening the marriage, but at least conveniently, a FWB-like situation is the ONLY type of situation I can really imagine for myself, too.

What I am wondering - and I know there's no way to know - is what are the odds that she knows what type of relationship she really wants? As in, if we move forward with opening the marriage, is it likely that we will be able to keep the status as FWB, or is that wishful thinking, and should I anticipate the next step, a more intense secondary relationship? A part of me worries that she is (unconsciously) easing me in to poly by keeping it "safe," but will eventually need more and more.

I would love to hear if anyone has any thoughts.
 

icesong

Member
I lived in FWB land for a very very long time. Knight and I were sexually open - hookups, though more of the swinger variety - shading into friends-with-benefits with some people for many years, took a break (for an intense phase in our hobby and for having a kid) and then started dating separately... and found ourselves in love with other people. (Long story that ended a bit badly, but in the long run is much better.)

I don't think it's possible to guarantee one will never catch feelings - emotional plus sexual intimacy often ends that way, although in other cases I've had FWB relationships for years that never even had a chance of turning romantic, the spark wasn't there in that way, no matter how much intimacy of thoughts or of bodies we shared. And certainly one of the biggest causes of drama in swinger communities is when that happens!

That said... I think it's a losing battle to try and predict or control your emotions. What you CAN control is the dynamics of your life - it's perfectly ok to say "I don't want to live with your other partner", for instance, or "I know you love your partner but there's a limit on how much time you can spend out of the house because we have children and other commitments," or even "I need to spend at least X amount of time with you per Y interval in order for our relationship to stay strong." See the difference there?

And it's definitely have a very intense relationship with someone you don't live with - I've loved my Artist for the last five years and really, I don't particularly want to climb the relationship escalator with him. Occasionally I wish we were together a bit more, but you can't miss someone who's always there...
 

kdt26417

Official Greeter
Hi Arc,

Sure, your wife knows what style of poly she wants now, but there's no rule that says she can't change her mind in the future. That's not to say she *will* change her mind, it's possible she'll be able to maintain FWB statuses just fine. It's just hard to know which way things will go, from back here on the starting line. And yes, it's possible that at least on some subconscious level, she is easing you into poly, and that is why she is currently leaning towards FWB. So if I were you, I would try to prepare myself for the possibility that there may be a more intense secondary relationship later on down the road. Understanding that it is a possibility, not a certainty. Heck, it's even possible that she could have a boyfriend, and decide that she wants him to move in with you guys. Hopefully it doesn't come to that, and even if it does, your consent would remain a necessary part of the equation.

Right now, the best you can do is trust that your wife is sincere about what she says she wants *right now* -- unless the uncertainty that I've described here makes you think that you want to put the kibosh on poly. That would be a whole other kettle of fish.

Such are my thoughts,
Kevin T.
 

Magdlyn

Well-known member
When you're first starting to Open a relationship, it can be hard to know the style of dating and relationships you want. What she thinks she wants now could easily change.

When I was first separated from my ex h after 30 years together, I knew I was polyamorous and polysexual and polyromantic. I began to talk to people on a dating site. I believed that after a very long term relationship, I wanted to start out with multiple casual relationships. But the universe had other plans. I met Pixi. She was the first person I met in person. Our first date lasted from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. That was 11 1/2 years ago. We are just so darn suited for each other. <3

I kept dating men (and the occasional other woman). I found I wanted another long-term relationship, a secondary or even a co-primary. Dating was hard though. I ended up with lots of turnover. Lots of 1st, 2nd or 3rd dates that went nowhere, for one reason or another. I did have longer relationships lasting 3 months to 2.5 years. The longer term relationships were very fulfilling (until they weren't!). 3 former bfs moved on in life but are still my very good friends. (I'm still very flirty with one of them, and another one might heat up again after Covid.) Some relationships were romantic, some were kink-based. Sometimes, I was a Domme/Top, sometimes (more recently) I was a sub/bottom.

Being open to poly means being open to many different kinds of relationship, I believe. It doesn't work to prescribe relationships. That's going to lead to disappointment.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I married my fav FWB. I knew I was poly before I had the word "polyamory." My spouse knew this about me when we were dating. It's not like it came out after marriage. We were friends in college because I liked his easy going agreeableness, and that he was smart. I thought he was cute. Later on I thought he could deal with an FWB arrangement without being a pain in the ass about it.

Some of my other FWB got weird -- they could not keep it in the "friends who spend time together, sometimes share sex, no strings" bucket. I found I could, but they couldn't and they'd get all possessive jealous weird and I'd have to end it. Or they would get too boyfriend-y like bringing me roses or wanting to do lavish "romantic" dates and I'd have to end it because they weren't being jealous, but they were wanting it to be more than it was and escalator me.

At the time I used words like "not exclusive" but really I was solo-poly wanting to focus on my degree. I wanted to enjoy dating, sex, companionship, without any big strings on it, being on the relationship escalator, etc. So I asked him, he said yes. We very much enjoyed that time of life and our FWB agreements were few and simple.
  • Safer sex practices / birth control / labs.
  • Date whoever else you want to date.
  • Tell me if another relationship is looking to go lover/went lover. Then I can decide if I still want to be in your network. I'll return the favor.
  • No deep talking to me about the past, your family, or a shared future. This is a relationship of the present, one day at a time.
  • Don't lie to me or cheat on agreements. Either renegotiate or end it clean. It's not supposed to be complicated.
Even with the same person, across the stages of life? You might change models several times. What you want as a young adult will be different than a middle adult, a senior, etc. It is fine to have and state preferences, personal boundaries, soft limits, and hard limits. I think that's part of why DH and I have worked for so long. We talk up front, renegotiate.

Nothing is happening other than talking about poly and thinking about it right? So try not to let worries and fears get the best of you.

You mentioned in another post that you and your wife have some regrets about not talking more before and are having to do some "catch up" with that. Also catching up healing past baggage. Now there's also these new poly talks. That's a lot to cover. So take the time, INVEST the time. Your level of preparedness for open marriage/poly is your responsibility. If you plunge forward into Open Marriage without taking any time to thinking ahead about some things or educating yourself about common pitfalls or problems? Well, bumps in the road are will be harder on you than if you had done some preparation and some educating.

Maybe think about doing the Opening Up worksheets since you can just print them now. And order the book.


  • Maybe do some of those in marker.
  • Green = go. I'm fine with that.
  • Yellow = proceed with caution. I'm ok with that, but I might have wobbles.
  • Red = Stop to check in. It might a soft limit that could change over time or it might be a hard limit. Discussion needed.
  • Black = Hell no. Never!
Spouse could do her set and you compare and talk about it. See what changes over time as you sit with it. Reading a book together doesn't automatically mean you agree to do Open Marriage. But you can agree to talk about it and educate selves.

What I am wondering - and I know there's no way to know - is what are the odds that she knows what type of relationship she really wants? As in, if we move forward with opening the marriage, is it likely that we will be able to keep the status as FWB, or is that wishful thinking, and should I anticipate the next step, a more intense secondary relationship?

I think there IS a way to know. Could ask her "I've been wondering... You told me the ones you don't want. Do you know what type(s) of relationship(s) you might want?" She answers, and then you know. Maybe you read Models of Open Relationships together and use that to help have the conversations.

What does "keep the status as FWB" mean to you? Could you please be willing to clarify? What about FWB is attractive or seems more "deal-able" at this time for you?

Close proximity and sharing sex does brain chemistry things to people.


Me? I would just anticipate. Because I rather think ahead and be emotionally and mentally prepared ahead of time than be caught of guard. I would think "Ok, say there was an FWB. It is now becoming a more intense secondary relationship. What issues or feelings come up for me?"
I would sit with that for a bit and examine what comes up. Any maybe anticipate the step after that too. What if a secondary relationship want to become co-primary? Then what? I would sit with THAT idea and examine what comes up.

And then flip it. What if it happened on your side of the equation? You seem to like the idea of a FWB for you. Well, what if you end up with a FWB. Then you and/or FWB wants it to be more like BF/GF. Or even life partners. Then what? Sit with THAT idea and examine what comes up.

A part of me worries that she is (unconsciously) easing me in to poly by keeping it "safe," but will eventually need more and more.

What's horrible about easing into things? You want something more like a cold plunge into the deep end? Some thing crazy town like her bullying or railroading you into opening the marriage?

What is the worry about, really?

You are not obligated as spouse to meet all her needs ever. If she wants more that you are willing and able to do? You can use your voice. You can say "Thanks for telling me. I'm sorry. I am not willing/able to meet those needs."

I wonder if you have having poly hell with the idea of poly? Or struggling with "Am I enough for her" or similar stuff. Are you?

Galagirl
 

vinsanity0

Active member
Hi Arc,

If you are not quite on board yet, I suggest holding off. A lot of couples with one semi-reluctant partner try to limit their relationships to FWB, or even something more casual. They think this will help them preserve their marriage. However, the goal shouldn't be to preserve the old marriage, but start over from a new place.

What happens with trying to limit the form of relationships is that one partner inevitably falls for someone else because there is no way to predict how feelings will grow. When this happens the other partner ends up feeling betrayed because their partner made a promise they couldn't keep. This can lead to big problems.

Can a person know they want only FWB type relationships? Yes. My wife was like that. She didn't want anything that would climb up the relationship escalator. She would make this known to potential partners up front, so it was on them if they wanted it to go farther. I would say she was an exception to the general rule. The key there was she was under no pressure to keep things FWB for my benefit. We were both free to pursue whatever type of relationship we wanted. If she had indeed fallen in love with one of her FWB that would have been fine.

In conclusion I will just say to not agree to poly with conditions such as her only having FWB type relationships.
 

Arc

New member
Nothing is happening other than talking about poly and thinking about it right? So try not to let worries and fears get the best of you.

You mentioned in another post that you and your wife have some regrets about not talking more before and are having to do some "catch up" with that. Also catching up healing past baggage. Now there's also these new poly talks. That's a lot to cover. So take the time, INVEST the time. Your level of preparedness for open marriage/poly is your responsibility. If you plunge forward into Open Marriage without taking any time to thinking ahead about some things or educating yourself about common pitfalls or problems? Well, bumps in the road are will be harder on you than if you had done some preparation and some educating.

Maybe think about doing the Opening Up worksheets since you can just print them now. And order the book.
Yes, we need to invest the time; however, we seem to be incapable of talking reasonably about this issue. It's almost the curse of getting along so well (overall) over 20 years - we don't have practice with big issues. We need to find a poly-friendly couples therapist and are soon to be working on that.

And yes, someone else recommended Opening Up, I just bought it and will read it soon. I'll check out the worksheets, too, as you suggested. I think it will be good to read together. Right now, she's reading Ethical Slut and highlighting the hell out of it. Like a new convert, it all makes so much sense (or would have made more sense 20 years ago when she was single and without kids.)

Also bought a workbook on jealousy in open relationships, which seems good.

I think there IS a way to know. Could ask her "I've been wondering... You told me the ones you don't want. Do you know what type(s) of relationship(s) you might want?" She answers, and then you know. Maybe you read Models of Open Relationships together and use that to help have the conversations.

What does "keep the status as FWB" mean to you? Could you please be willing to clarify? What about FWB is attractive or seems more "deal-able" at this time for you?
Okay, good question. There is a very blurry line between FWB and 'boyfriend', but your FWB list aligns somewhat with mine. What might be different is that I really don't want this stuff to mess with what I really value in my family (not the same as my relationship). I don't want my family dynamic to change (we are 5 people - us with 3 young kids). I like(d) it; it felt safe, nourishing, positive. I don't want anything to fuck with that. So in my mind, a FWB arrangement would be one that doesn't fuck with the positve feeling of family we share, and keeps the family primary. This is for my sake I suppose, but really for what I view as my kids sake (knowing that others have different perspectives on what kids need).

If it veers into "boyfriend" territory, we are talking investing significant time, emotional energy, affection, etc. into a relationship. Gifts; weekend trips; etc. When I envision myself going in that direction (with a girlfriend) I think: this is going to change my family dynamic, and not in the direction I prefer.
Close proximity and sharing sex does brain chemistry things to people.

I figured. Thanks for the reference! I'm trying to be realistic about this even though she isn't.
Me? I would just anticipate. Because I rather think ahead and be emotionally and mentally prepared ahead of time than be caught of guard. I would think "Ok, say there was an FWB. It is now becoming a more intense secondary relationship. What issues or feelings come up for me?"
I would sit with that for a bit and examine what comes up. Any maybe anticipate the step after that too. What if a secondary relationship want to become co-primary? Then what? I would sit with THAT idea and examine what comes up.
Okay, thanks - this is what I feel I have to do, too. Issues that might come up: jealousy, annoyance, the feeling of, "this is not what I bargained for".

If it went to co-primary, I would be out of there. We'd be getting a divorce. For once, amid all this process, I feel very clear about that.
And then flip it. What if it happened on your side of the equation? You seem to like the idea of a FWB for you. Well, what if you end up with a FWB. Then you and/or FWB wants it to be more like BF/GF. Or even life partners. Then what? Sit with THAT idea and examine what comes up.
Interestingly, in my process of getting less enmeshed, I've reached out to a few female associates who have become friends, at least nascent friends. Already, I am feeling how we could really become BF/GF. I am even thinking, "Wow, we have a lot more in common than I do with my wife." I want to go hiking and walking with them, hear about their lives, etc. In other words, even without the sex I can see how it could move from FWB to BF/GF pretty quickly (especially now, when I'm particularly annoyed by my wife! :) ) What comes up is, I imagine becoming less focused on my kids, I see my relationship with my wife deteriorate, and eventually maybe just saying, "I don't want to be married to you anymore." Whether that would be a good decision or outcome is very unclear.
What's horrible about easing into things? You want something more like a cold plunge into the deep end? Some thing crazy town like her bullying or railroading you into opening the marriage?

What is the worry about, really?

You are not obligated as spouse to meet all her needs ever. If she wants more that you are willing and able to do? You can use your voice. You can say "Thanks for telling me. I'm sorry. I am not willing/able to meet those needs."
No, nothing is horrible about easing in... I guess I just don't want to get my hopes up for one thing that feels okay, only to find out that that's not where things are going. So while I'm open to the idea of FWB, the idea of a thruple is a no go (no judgement there, just personal preference). I want to know what I'm getting myself into.

About meeting needs - that is interesting and I'll have to think about it. We've been mainly focused on how I can't meet all of her needs for relationship; and she can't meet all my needs for attention, exclusivity, etc. But I think she is really hoping that I will "meet her needs" by agreeing to all this, and being happy with it. I have been using my voice; she resists (it goes against her hopes) but I have been trying to be honest and clear about what I am ready to commit to.
I wonder if you have having poly hell with the idea of poly? Or struggling with "Am I enough for her" or similar stuff. Are you?
Do you mean, am I already in poly hell even though it's so far just an idea? I guess if you mean anticipatory demotion, anticipatory displacement, and anticipatory intrusion, the answer would probably be yes. So all the negatives of poly hell, but we don't even get the benefits of the fun parts!

I think my "Am I enough for her" is definitely an aspect of the jealousy, and one I think I can actually work through.

The harder thing, for me, is accepting the loss of the old arrangement that I felt was fine, and accepting a new arrangement that I have no solid confidence or trust will make me happy (although it might - maybe all I need is to meet the right woman).

 

Arc

New member
Hi Arc,

If you are not quite on board yet, I suggest holding off. A lot of couples with one semi-reluctant partner try to limit their relationships to FWB, or even something more casual. They think this will help them preserve their marriage. However, the goal shouldn't be to preserve the old marriage, but start over from a new place.
I have started to accept that we are starting a new marriage. Unfortunately my wife seems to think it will be the same marriage.
What happens with trying to limit the form of relationships is that one partner inevitably falls for someone else because there is no way to predict how feelings will grow. When this happens the other partner ends up feeling betrayed because their partner made a promise they couldn't keep. This can lead to big problems.
Yeah, that's what I was thinking too.
Can a person know they want only FWB type relationships? Yes. My wife was like that. She didn't want anything that would climb up the relationship escalator. She would make this known to potential partners up front, so it was on them if they wanted it to go farther. I would say she was an exception to the general rule. The key there was she was under no pressure to keep things FWB for my benefit. We were both free to pursue whatever type of relationship we wanted. If she had indeed fallen in love with one of her FWB that would have been fine.
I actually think that, knowing my wife, if anyone is going to be more okay with FWB relationships, it might be her. She's pretty unromantic and practical in a lot of ways. But if she meets that one person, then it's all out the window I'm afraid...

In conclusion I will just say to not agree to poly with conditions such as her only having FWB type relationships.
Yes I wasn't going to insist on conditions (that would inevitably be challenged). I was more just wondering what I might expect...
 

Arc

New member
Hi Arc,

Sure, your wife knows what style of poly she wants now, but there's no rule that says she can't change her mind in the future. That's not to say she *will* change her mind, it's possible she'll be able to maintain FWB statuses just fine. It's just hard to know which way things will go, from back here on the starting line. And yes, it's possible that at least on some subconscious level, she is easing you into poly, and that is why she is currently leaning towards FWB. So if I were you, I would try to prepare myself for the possibility that there may be a more intense secondary relationship later on down the road. Understanding that it is a possibility, not a certainty. Heck, it's even possible that she could have a boyfriend, and decide that she wants him to move in with you guys. Hopefully it doesn't come to that, and even if it does, your consent would remain a necessary part of the equation.

Right now, the best you can do is trust that your wife is sincere about what she says she wants *right now* -- unless the uncertainty that I've described here makes you think that you want to put the kibosh on poly. That would be a whole other kettle of fish.

Such are my thoughts,
Kevin T.
Thanks, Kevin! Sigh... you're basically telling me what I already knew, but needed to hear from others.

The moving in part is actually pretty clear to me. There's no question, I'd just say nope. I actually don't think she's likely to want that either; she'd be more inclined to get a divorce.

I think she is sincere in what she says she wants - which is something like a boyfriendy FWB, if that makes sense.
 

Arc

New member
I lived in FWB land for a very very long time. Knight and I were sexually open - hookups, though more of the swinger variety - shading into friends-with-benefits with some people for many years, took a break (for an intense phase in our hobby and for having a kid) and then started dating separately... and found ourselves in love with other people. (Long story that ended a bit badly, but in the long run is much better.)

I don't think it's possible to guarantee one will never catch feelings - emotional plus sexual intimacy often ends that way, although in other cases I've had FWB relationships for years that never even had a chance of turning romantic, the spark wasn't there in that way, no matter how much intimacy of thoughts or of bodies we shared. And certainly one of the biggest causes of drama in swinger communities is when that happens!

That said... I think it's a losing battle to try and predict or control your emotions. What you CAN control is the dynamics of your life - it's perfectly ok to say "I don't want to live with your other partner", for instance, or "I know you love your partner but there's a limit on how much time you can spend out of the house because we have children and other commitments," or even "I need to spend at least X amount of time with you per Y interval in order for our relationship to stay strong." See the difference there?

And it's definitely have a very intense relationship with someone you don't live with - I've loved my Artist for the last five years and really, I don't particularly want to climb the relationship escalator with him. Occasionally I wish we were together a bit more, but you can't miss someone who's always there...
Thanks, Icesong. Your input is helpful, and I have to remind myself that I can set those limits about what I'm able to tolerate. When it keeps coming back to her feeling "caged" in monogamy, it feels like any limit I put based on my own confort, even within a poly context, will still lead to a "you can't cage me" response. But I trust from your and others' responses that I have a right to express what I need too.
 

GalaGirl

Well-known member
I have started to accept that we are starting a new marriage. Unfortunately my wife seems to think it will be the same marriage.

Good. Glad you see that. It's not "Just like before. Just adding new people."

It's emotionally like breaking up the old marriage. Then coming together again in a new model. Which may or may not work out.

There's going to be feelings of loss/grief for the old model, the old idea of what the future was supposed to be like. Like in any other break up.

There's going to be feelings of unease and uncertain just like with any other new undertaking or change. The transition time is weird. The old normal is gone, the new normal isn't here yet. (It's NORMAL to feel weird.)

And at this point, you aren't sure you even want to go there towards open marriage. Esp. with a partner who swings from only seeing the "sunshine parts" to "you can't cage me!" to "I give up! Wish I never brought it up in the first place!" Like moody all over the place. Not unusual if she's been gunnysacking a long time and you don't have a lot of experience in this marriage handling big/tough issues.

But dang! It's not fun to deal with for you. Esp on top of doing your own emotional management around all this. :(

I hope a counselor helps you both.

Do you mean, am I already in poly hell even though it's so far just an idea? I guess if you mean anticipatory demotion, anticipatory displacement, and anticipatory intrusion, the answer would probably be yes. So all the negatives of poly hell, but we don't even get the benefits of the fun parts!

Yes, that is what I meant. Anticipatory demotion, et al.

But I think she is really hoping that I will "meet her needs" by agreeing to all this, and being happy with it. I have been using my voice; she resists (it goes against her hopes) but I have been trying to be honest and clear about what I am ready to commit to.

GOOD! She might not like you being up front and honest. But that's what's needed here. Cards plain on the table!

You sound like as you work to detangle and un-enmesh yourself from wife's emotions, you are doing better at using your voice and laying some of your personal boundaries down. Good for you!

Interestingly, in my process of getting less enmeshed, I've reached out to a few female associates who have become friends, at least nascent friends. Already, I am feeling how we could really become BF/GF. I am even thinking, "Wow, we have a lot more in common than I do with my wife." I want to go hiking and walking with them, hear about their lives, etc. In other words, even without the sex I can see how it could move from FWB to BF/GF pretty quickly (especially now, when I'm particularly annoyed by my wife! :) )

Well, there is that possibility. That you meet someone you are more compatible with.

The harder thing, for me, is accepting the loss of the old arrangement that I felt was fine, and accepting a new arrangement that I have no solid confidence or trust will make me happy (although it might - maybe all I need is to meet the right woman).

Maybe you mean "accepting the old arrangement wasn't actually fine like I thought it was." Since you and wife were not really talking about anything deep for 20 years and wife has been bottling stuff up inside.

As for debating trying a new open marriage arrangement -- well, it's the great unknown. It's appropriate at this juncture to have no solid confidence about it. It's not like you have experience doing open marriage before to be able to guess/gauge how that will go for you this time.

I have to remind myself that I can set those limits about what I'm able to tolerate. When it keeps coming back to her feeling "caged" in monogamy, it feels like any limit I put based on my own confort, even within a poly context, will still lead to a "you can't cage me" response. But I trust from your and others' responses that I have a right to express what I need too.

You have every right to set your personal limits/boundaries. You have a right to express where you stand on things.

It's not like she can be a mind reader. For people to know, you HAVE to communicate.

If she goes into the "you can't cage me" response you can keep it simple and say "That's right. I can't. Nor am I trying to."

Galagirl
 

icesong

Member
Thanks, Icesong. Your input is helpful, and I have to remind myself that I can set those limits about what I'm able to tolerate. When it keeps coming back to her feeling "caged" in monogamy, it feels like any limit I put based on my own confort, even within a poly context, will still lead to a "you can't cage me" response.
I'm curious, if only because I've talked myself about feeling caged sometimes - do you and your wife have kids? if yes, how old? and how is the childcare etc split between you? and are you both equally happy or unhappy in your careers?

I ask you this not because I'm trying to be nosy, I promise, but the times I've felt "caged" by my life tend to be when my child has been in a particularly difficult and high need phase AND I've been frustrated by not having success in my career equal to the success the Knight currently enjoys. Those two things combined, at least in my case, made me feel like I was living a life I didn't want that was sucking all of the shiny out of me. And monogamy would have exacerbated that, had I been mono at the time, and it would have been very easy to blame feelings that were caused by other things ON that monogamy.

Possibly I'm projecting, but it can't hurt to think about.

But I trust from your and others' responses that I have a right to express what I need too.
You 100% do! A lot of people find it useful to think of it in terms of rules vs boundaries - to elaborate on what I said before, you're not telling her what she should do, so much as saying what you WILL do in certain circumstances. In some cases this feels semantic - "I will leave this relationship if my partner has sex with someone else" vs telling the partner "You _can't_ have sex with someone else because you're in this relationship" - the outcome is the same, but the expression is wildly different in that the first version makes it so that each person has their own set of choices to make, as opposed to the second version where one partner is dictating to the other what to do. Just the difference in words can change a situation from cage to crossroads...
 
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