This post is a multi-part email conversation I had with a young woman. I thought about combining this into the single question, single answer format but it seems to work as is. I'm interested in your reaction to this:
About eight years ago, I met the most kindred spirit I have ever met. She and I were both in our last year of our undergrads in psychology and we instantly bonded. We did "hook up" a few times and I think I was somewhat in love with her. I think we are both bi but I've never really defined myself sexually.
She and I had a huge falling out about six years ago and we had not spoken since until October 2006. We have since reconnected and that bond is still there.
I however, have a very serious boyfriend with whom I am living now. He and I have been together two years and our relationship has been wonderful. I am quite sure he is going to propose to me soon. He is aware of my past bi-sexual experiences and we have a very honest and healthy relationship.
My problem? This friend stayed with us this past weekend and I still have very obvious sexual feelings for her. I realized I am still very much in love with her and have no idea what to do with my feelings. I can't get her out of my head.
What do I do?
Signed, Confused and Unsure
Dear Confused and Unsure,
You are confused between love and that initial rush of excitement that comes from newness and variety. You have a significant relationship with your boyfriend that you have developed over some time. I don't hear you express any dissatisfaction with that relationship so I assume the only fly in the ointment is the reappearance of this distraction, this kindred spirit.
You couldn't possibly know if you love her. You haven't had enough time together recently to establish that. So when you say "I am still very much in love with her," what you really mean is that you are in the midst of that rush of infatuation. This is your libido talking, not your cranium or your heart.
Let's play what if. What if you had just spent the same amount of time with her that you have spent with your boyfriend. You would have gone past the infatuation excitement and settled down into everyday life. You would have discovered that she is just a normal person, just as you discovered that about your boyfriend and he about you. You would have settled into a more mature relationship, like you currently have with your boyfriend -- good, but not as madly exciting. When you did spend time together with her years ago, it ended up not working out.
This is not a fair comparison between the girl and your boyfriend because you are comparing two different stages. Do you remember the rush of excitement when you first met him?
It sounds to me like you are being swayed by all that adrenaline and lust. My advice is not to give into those urges in the short term. It would be the same kind of betrayal to your boyfriend as if you met a new guy and hopped in the sack with him just because you felt the excited urge to do so. You are in a committed monogamous relationship, so act like it.
If time moves on and your feelings persist, then you might have to reconsider. If he asks you to marry him in the meantime and your attraction for another person causes you to hesitate, you might not be ready to be married ... to anybody. Or he might not be the right guy.
But you don't know that right now. Just because your libido speaks up over another person, and someone so different at that, doesn't mean he isn't the right guy. It might just mean you have an adventuresome streak, or that you haven't really figured out what it means to be truly committed to a relationship. Even people who have been married thirty years find themselves sexually attracted to other people. Commitment means you don't act on those urges.
All the best,
Thank you so much for your well thought-out response. It was quite upfront and honest which is maybe just what I needed.
I agree with you on most of your points but feel slight hesitation when referring to this woman as someone I simply lust after. You are right, if I spent the same time with her as I have spent with my boyfriend, I would indeed fall out of the excitement stage at some point and fall into routine and pure commitment.
I guess my hesitation comes from my bisexuality - that is, I just realized that I am indeed attracted to both men and women and am not sure what I can do about it. I do love my boyfriend and would never be unfaithful to him but there must be other women out there that want a husband and children and to spend the rest of their lives with their families but still have urges to be with women.
I am not looking for permission to cheat on my boyfriend, nor do I question my wanting to be with him. I am completely open and honest with him and am wondering if I should share my thoughts with him. He knows I've been with both women and men. It's just that this one particular woman is someone that has haunted me my whole life. She and I get along so well and I just feel I need to be honest with my feelings to both my partner and her, though I may be wrong in wanting this.
Signed, Still Confused and Unsure.
Dear Still Confused,
I don't recommend sharing this with your boyfriend. How would you feel if he said to you, "I just wanted you to know -- that girl who lives down the hall is really hot and she has me all worked into a lather. I have these strong urges to be with her and I'm not sure what to do about it. I just thought I'd let you know that."
No. Doesn't work. It's okay to have the urges (I think everyone has them), but your partner should be able to trust that you will resist them.
If you become convinced that your feelings for another person mean you don't want to be with your boyfriend, THAT is when you open up about it and be honest. But that isn't the case here. You are feeling what I believe to be transient attractions. Those are best kept to yourself, otherwise you will hurt him and your relationship for no purpose.
That's not keeping a secret. It is protecting your loved one from a harmful message, which he has no need to know.
I don't think the fact that she is female is relevant. If we assume you are bi-sexual, or at the least comfortable with closeness with both genders, then what difference does the gender of the third party make? It still boils down an attraction to a third party. If left alone, it is harmless. If acted upon, it is a betrayal of your commitment.
Some women might have urges related only to men, while you might have urges related to both genders. That doesn't change what your response should be.
I've always said, if the attraction is that strong, break up first, THEN take up with someone else, not the other way around. But only IF the attraction is that strong.
Hi again Andrew,
LOL - Okay - the way you presented that makes complete sense. I am trying to imagine if he came to me about an attraction to a man and you are right, it (the person's sex) wouldn't make a difference to me - his attraction would simply make me question our relationship and his intentions.
I guess the confusion for me lies in the fact that most straight men fantasize over two women being together and my boyfriend has even told me that if I want to be with a woman, then it would be okay with him. So from my perspective, I was given an "allowance" to feel this way and even to act on these feelings.
I agree with Kinsey's scale - the sexuality continuum - and feel that I've never classified myself thereby rendering me confused at this point in my life where I feel absolute defined attraction for both my boyfriend and my female friend.
But really, what you say makes complete sense to me and I feel I just have to see where my feelings go and stay true to myself and not hurt anyone in the process. I am committed to my boyfriend and would never jeopardize our relationship for anything.
Signed, Confused but Committed
Dear Confused but Committed,
That's an interesting wrinkle, but I would be very cautious of taking him at his word.
Have you ever seen the movie Indecent Proposal with Robert Redford? A couple is offered a million dollars if she will spend one night with the rich guy. The couple discusses it, she does it, with her husband's blessing, but she can never forgive him for valuing the money more than her, and he can never forgive her for the indiscretion, no matter the benefit.
Your boyfriend might say he wouldn't mind if you hooked up with someone else, but that is no guarantee he wouldn't mind if it ever happened. Most people are simply wired to want monogamy, whether it's training or biology I don't know, but the arrival of a rival almost always spells the beginning of the end, regardless of the flavor of the rival.
All the best,
Okay, so what does everyone else think? Does the gender of the third party make any difference when it comes to commitment? What if he says it's okay with him? Do you agree with me that jagged rocks usually lie just beneath the surface of that particular pool?