Need advice -- primary partner seeing close friend

jaying

New member
Hi, I was hoping that some more experienced people could give some sage advice to a novice. Everyone involved is 21, so not the brightest, but trying our best.

I've been with my primary partner for almost three years now. We established an open relationship pretty early on and it's been smooth sailing. We both went abroad for schooling this year to separate countries (me alone and him with a close friend of ours), and have had multiple flings and dates with other people that haven't rocked the boat in the slightest. I am always happy to hear about his dates and new crushes, mainly proud that he's branching out.

My issue is he recently confessed to me that he's had feelings for the friend who has been with him for the past year, and very recently (days ago) acted on it. They are in a romantic relationship now. We spoke about it; I let him know I was feeling quite blindsided with him having kept this crush to himself for the past year, and he apologized. He said that the reason he kept it to himself was he felt it was a much trickier thing to navigate than outsider dating. He also felt that it was a betrayal of our relationship to even be thinking about it. We talked about the situation in quite a bit of depth, and I let him know I was okay with them continuing, but I needed to take some time to myself to sort through my emotions about it.

It honestly has been making me feel so insecure and jealous. The element of secrecy and lack of communication is what has mainly been so tough. If I was aware of his feelings for them from the get-go, I can easily see myself being fine and even quite happy for this development. I would have had time to acclimate to the idea of it, and we could have had ample talks about it. Now hearing about it in past tense, I have been feeling my trust in him is fractured. Embarrassingly, this is a situation borne from irresponsibility. We both should have talked about our boundaries and feelings about what was "okay" for us to do much sooner before this happened. I am doing my best to get us caught up and more prepared now that our open relationship has taken a more...complex? form than just casual dates with outsiders, with books and the promise of more communication. But I'm at a loss for how to move on with this. I really want to get over my negative feelings and just be supportive of them (because quite honestly they're a great match-up) but just thinking about it makes me nauseous at the moment. I am having a hard time telling which of my emotions are more monkey-brain lashing-outs and which are "valid", as I have my own issues to work on.

I did my best to summarize, but if there's any information that is missing I will do my best to provide it (though with time zones I may be slow on the draw.) Thank you very much I appreciate any advice or help you all can give.
 
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How "recently" did your partner tell you he was into this other person? If it's just been days, it's understandable you're just getting used to it. Just feel your feelings.

Your partner didn't have intent to harm you. You two just hadn't hammered out the actual parameters of your open relationship. It sounds like you thought only crushes and casual sex could happen. But in honesty, when one is having sex and fun with others, love can develop. It's the most natural thing in the world. In fact, swingers have to do certain techniques to PREVENT love from happening.

Under the open relationship umbrella are swinging and polyamory. With swinging, only casual sex and friendship are allowed. Couples remain couples. One-on-one dating isn't allowed.

In polyamory, couples date independently, and loving more than one partner is the whole point.

I'd recommend getting the book Opening Up, by Taormino, to learn more about how to approach polyamory and how to negotiate your arrangements.
 
Hi Jaying, thanks for sharing and sorry to hear how you’re feeling. Polyamory can be hard to negotiate so the foundations have to be built on a commitment to honesty and communication. Your boyfriend has been dishonest by not communicating about his feelings for his friend. Especially as it had occurred to him that it was a betrayal and still kept silent. It is no wonder that you feel hurt and betrayed. “What else has he been hiding?” is a common feeling.

However, none of us get it right all the time and, as you pointed out, everyone is 21. ‘Life’ does take time and experience - some that really hurts. We are all just ‘people in progress’ at any age but what really matters when things do go wrong is the commitment each person has ‘in the now’ to work on putting things right again.

If your boyfriend really cares he will be willing to be completely open now; will seek to reassure you of his love; carve out special time with you; recognise your need to sometimes withdraw; treat you with tenderness; be patient about your need to talk and revisit the topic; and be very clear about/ respect boundaries going forward with both you and his new friend. Hopefully, given time to heal and adjust, you can both grow closer in this new phase of better communication.

However, if he gaslights you; negates or belittles how you feel; only prioritises the new friend; flaunts his NRE; refuses to let you talk and process why happened; or there are other red flags… then he may not have the capacity for self-reflection, growth or the ability to attain the maturity needed for you to be happy and fulfilled within this relationship. In which case, look after yourself and move on.

Life is too short to waste but sometimes learning through pain is just part of it. Lao Tsu said ‘The finest gold is melted in the hottest flame’. Only you will know if Boyfriend is worth your efforts. Wishing you love, luck and insight x
 
Hello jaying,

It sounds like your close friend is on your messy list, of people your primary partner should not date. Explain to your primary partner that dating your close friend is making a mess, and that he must stop.

Things would not have come down to this, if your primary partner would have communicated with you, and been transparent with you, from the very beginning. As it is, you are feeling a sense of betrayal, even if that's not what your partner meant you to feel.

If you can get feeling better about this, then your partner can continue his involvement with your friend. But I don't know what the secret is to feeling better about this, other than to give it time, and let your bad feelings run their course. You can keep posting in this thread, and get more feedback from the various members here, and that will help. But things won't get better overnight.

Sympathetically,
Kevin T.
 
Hi Jaying, thanks for sharing and sorry to hear how you’re feeling. Polyamory can be hard to negotiate so the foundations have to be built on a commitment to honesty and communication. Your boyfriend has been dishonest by not communicating about his feelings for his friend. Especially as it had occurred to him that it was a betrayal and still kept silent. It is no wonder that you feel hurt and betrayed. “What else has he been hiding?” is a common feeling.

However, none of us get it right all the time and, as you pointed out, everyone is 21. ‘Life’ does take time and experience - some that really hurts. We are all just ‘people in progress’ at any age but what really matters when things do go wrong is the commitment each person has ‘in the now’ to work on putting things right again.

If your boyfriend really cares he will be willing to be completely open now; will seek to reassure you of his love; carve out special time with you; recognise your need to sometimes withdraw; treat you with tenderness; be patient about your need to talk and revisit the topic; and be very clear about/ respect boundaries going forward with both you and his new friend. Hopefully, given time to heal and adjust, you can both grow closer in this new phase of better communication.

However, if he gaslights you; negates or belittles how you feel; only prioritises the new friend; flaunts his NRE; refuses to let you talk and process why happened; or there are other red flags… then he may not have the capacity for self-reflection, growth or the ability to attain the maturity needed for you to be happy and fulfilled within this relationship. In which case, look after yourself and move on.

Life is too short to waste but sometimes learning through pain is just part of it. Lao Tsu said ‘The finest gold is melted in the hottest flame’. Only you will know if Boyfriend is worth your efforts. Wishing you love, luck and insight x
Thank you for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate it.

Yes, I have been dealing with feelings of betrayal, and I was worried it was a form of coveting or jealousy, but I remembered when he first told me my initial reaction was happiness for them until I learned more and the shock wore off. My hurt is definitely not centered on their new relationship, but the hiding from my partner, being left out of the decision. The lack of communication when he had so many opportunities to bring it up. I could tell that hurt was getting compounded hearing about them having a honeymoon exploring the country together (while I'm alone here to deal with the fallout and throwing a pity party). I have asked that he keep these dates to himself for the time being. I want to recenter and ground myself first, then work on adjusting to this change. I really care about the relationship, and I hope he does too. Only time will tell; I will surely be looking for effort from him going forward. I know I will definitely be trying my best to "learn through the pain" and adjust myself.

Thank you for your well wishes.
 
Hello jaying,

It sounds like your close friend is on your messy list, of people your primary partner should not date. Explain to your primary partner that dating your close friend is making a mess, and that he must stop.

Things would not have come down to this, if your primary partner would have communicated with you, and been transparent with you, from the very beginning. As it is, you are feeling a sense of betrayal, even if that's not what your partner meant you to feel.

If you can get feeling better about this, then your partner can continue his involvement with your friend. But I don't know what the secret is to feeling better about this, other than to give it time, and let your bad feelings run their course. You can keep posting in this thread, and get more feedback from the various members here, and that will help. But things won't get better overnight.

Sympathetically,
Kevin T.
Hello,

Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I did hear back from my partner and my friend that they are "going back to a friendship for the time being." I don't know if that makes a difference for me now, but I do appreciate the effort. It is likely the best for every party involved; I agree it's quite a mess.

I appreciate your honesty. Time will definitely be the best help. Getting advice from the community I hadn't really interacted with before has also helped. I am glad I found this forum.

Thank you again.
 
How "recently" did your partner tell you he was into this other person? If it's just been days, it's understandable you're just getting used to it. Just feel your feelings.

Your partner didn't have intent to harm you. You two just hadn't hammered out the actual parameters of your open relationship. It sounds like you thought only crushes and casual sex could happen. But in honesty, when one is having sex and fun with others, love can develop. It's the most natural thing in the world. In fact, swingers have to do certain techniques to PREVENT love from happening.

Under the open relationship umbrella are swinging and polyamory. With swinging, only casual sex and friendship are allowed. Couples remain couples. One-on-one dating isn't allowed.

In polyamory, couples date independently, and loving more than one partner is the whole point.

I'd recommend getting the book Opening Up, by Taormino, to learn more about how to approach polyamory and how to negotiate your arrangements.
Hello,

Thank you for your reply. It was only a few days ago, so I'm definitely still in the emotional thick of it. I apologize if I was unclear in the post, this is a close friend we've both known for years. I am hurt about the secrecy involved with his crush/starting his new relationship, not that he had one. I was very encouraging of him finding non-casual love with the others he had dated (so initiating our baby steps from "swinging" to "polyamory"). I hope that makes sense.

We are going to talk about arrangements in more depth soon, and I will definitely check out this book. I am quickly running through the recommended stack. Thank you again.
 
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Yes, I have been dealing with feelings of betrayal, and I was worried it was a form of coveting or jealousy, but I remembered when he first told me my initial reaction was happiness for them until I learned more and the shock wore off. My hurt is definitely not centered on their new relationship, but the hiding from my partner, being left out of the decision.
So when he did get around to telling you, he still didn’t tell you the whole truth straightaway?

You also, in another post, said this was a mutual close friend of some years. Have you spoken to the friend at all? If you were also close it must feel like a double betrayal. Or was it his friend but you knew them?
The lack of communication when he had so many opportunities to bring it up.
Yes that makes it so much more ‘deliberate’ especially as you were talking about other dates.
I could tell that hurt was getting compounded hearing about them having a honeymoon exploring the country together (while I'm alone here to deal with the fallout and throwing a pity party). I have asked that he keep these dates to himself for the time being.
Ouch. Make it absolutely clear to him that ‘not wanting to know now’ is not the same as a DADT policy. Don’t let him use your current, very legitimate request not to rub salt in the wound as an excuse for why he didn’t tell you in the first place.
I want to recenter and ground myself first, then work on adjusting to this change.
You come across as thoughtful, mature and clear about yourself (albeit the current mess). Your priority to look after yourself just now is spot on.
I really care about the relationship, and I hope he does too. Only time will tell; I will surely be looking for effort from him going forward.
I hope he values you and puts the work in.
I know I will definitely be trying my best to "learn through the pain" and adjust myself..
It will pass x
 
So when he did get around to telling you, he still didn’t tell you the whole truth straightaway?

You also, in another post, said this was a mutual close friend of some years. Have you spoken to the friend at all? If you were also close it must feel like a double betrayal. Or was it his friend but you knew them?

Yes that makes it so much more ‘deliberate’ especially as you were talking about other dates.

Ouch. Make it absolutely clear to him that ‘not wanting to know now’ is not the same as a DADT policy. Don’t let him use your current, very legitimate request not to rub salt in the wound as an excuse for why he didn’t tell you in the first place.

You come across as thoughtful, mature and clear about yourself (albeit the current mess). Your priority to look after yourself just now is spot on.

I hope he values you and puts the work in.

It will pass x
Ah, he did tell me off the bat, it was just over the course of that whole first conversation; so as I found out later in that short time.

Yes! We are all a part of a very close friend group, mutual friends not much variance in intimacy level between us. We've been living together in a shared house for varying degrees of time before just the three of us (out of five) left the country. They're like family to me. I have not spoken to this friend yet, I'm still not sure what I want to say.

I will definitely clarify that. It isn't a boundary I would want forever, before finding this out I was badgering the both of them for pictures and updates from their trip.

Thank you very much. It better pass! Haha.

(Note: Sorry for all edits, my mistakes become obvious once they're published)
 
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So, do you think you'll get to the point of being, "yay, this is the natural evolution of how close we already were as friends"?

Honestly, if you and her are already tight, it seems like a lovely way to form a V with metas that actively support each other.
 
So, do you think you'll get to the point of being, "yay, this is the natural evolution of how close we already were as friends"?

Honestly, if you and her are already tight, it seems like a lovely way to form a V with metas that actively support each other.
Haha. So much of my frustration right now is I would have been so on board with it if it wasn't handled this way. There is no way for me to predict if that future is possible right now. My worry is that we put in the work to move past this, and no matter how much talking and time passes, I still feel unsure about them. I don't want that to be the case; I do agree that it would be lovely. I just struggle to see it right now.
 
what should they have done differently, to your mind?
 
Is this a rule you've had in place for hooking up with random new connections? Or if not a rule, what's been your "best practice model" before now?
 
Is this a rule you've had in place for hooking up with random new connections? Or if not a rule, what's been your "best practice model" before now?
Sorry for the late reply! I went to bed 😅. Yeah, we didn't have any written rules, but constant communication and checking in were our best practices. He said he knew it was "wrong" to not tell me and isn't sure why he didn't.
 
Hi, I just wanted to give an update.

My partner and I spoke for a very long time about it two nights ago and got out all our feelings. I am starting to see a way through this much more clearly. And I feel hopeful. It is unfortunate this is happening when we're both abroad, as I have a feeling the best thing for all two/three of us would be many in-person talks over tea, but I think we can wait. They're pausing their romantic relationship for now, which, in all honesty, I was equal parts sad and relieved to hear. Right now, I have asked for a few weeks of communication break to work through my feelings, and I think it's helping. There's less of a feeling that the world is coming to an end when I can remind myself I'm okay on my own, too.

Thank you very much to everyone who helped me sort through my thoughts and advised me during all of this. I appreciate you all.
 
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Hi jaying,

Thanks for that update, it sounds like things are overall improving, that is good to hear. I'm glad Polyamory.com could be of some help to you, and I hope you'll keep us posted as your situation evolves, and let us know of any new questions that pop up for you.

Regards,
Kevin T.
 
He said he knew it was "wrong" to not tell me and isn't sure why he didn't.
Hey Jaying,

Just a thought, but perhaps revealing he had considered a mutual close friend as a potential partner, then to find out his feelings were not reciprocated, could have left him feeling awkward. After all, it is a lot easier to get blown out by a stranger than a mutual friend. In the same boat, regarding keeping QT in the matter, I would have done the same. After all, to me, romantic attraction is a sliding scale, not always in both directions. For example, once I revealed to a housemate I had feelings for a mutual friend (her close friend), only to find out her friend had just started seeing another friend. Awkward!
 
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