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Advice – I am in love with two people.

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Anonymous writes…

“I’m a 25F who is in an 8yr relationship with a 28M (J). We live 3 hours away from each other and are happy with making the distance work, I love him and happily see a future with him. He’s amazing and I can’t imagine my life without him. He’s my first and only relationship since I was 17.

However, for the last 4 years, I’ve been in contact with someone that I met through Xbox (B) and although we haven’t met and he’s older, I’ve always felt drawn to him. Over the years, we bonded closely and call each other family. We tell each other so much personal stuff about our selves and we’ve always promised to be there for each other. J knows about him and the closeness.

Recently, he opened up to me that he felt more about me, that he loved me as more than a friend but he’s hid it for years and tried to bury his feelings. I realized that I felt the same, that I was doing the same in burying my feelings by telling myself that I was in a relationship and that B was just a friend. So basically, him being honest made me stop denying the truth of my feelings to myself.

He told me that he wanted more but only if it was what I wanted as well. I thought about it and I realized my predicament. My heart longs for both of them. I don’t just want sex (although that is part of it), I want to be there for both of them and be the person that fulfills them. I think about both of them throughout the day and when something is wrong, they’re both who I want to turn to for comfort. They make me happy and they’re the two most important people to me. The biggest problem for me is that I don’t want to hurt or lose either of them. That kills me to think about. I told B this and he said he appreciates my honesty and doesn’t want to lose me either.

I also live a few hours away from B, we’ve always said that we’d happily meet one day and I trust him with my safety. I’ve always felt like I would be safe with him, he’s caring and protective over me. Except I feel like I wouldn’t be able to meet him without something happening and I couldn’t do that to J, plus that’s not the kind of person I want to be.

After much agonizing and being scared of hurting my relationship with J, I told him the truth of my feelings for B. I told him through tears that I love him and I don’t want to lose him or what we have, but I also love B and felt that if it wasn’t for my feelings for J, I’d want to be with him. I was so scared of hurting him and having him hate me, but he calmly told me that I didn’t need to worry, that my feelings were natural, especially with how close I was to B, he also reassured me that feeling this way didn’t make me a cheat and he wasn’t hurt because I did the right thing in telling him and not going behind his back. He also told me that he doesn’t want me to lose B because he’s always known that he meant a lot to me, even if he didn’t know the full extent and he’s seen how upset I’ve been during times of misunderstandings with B, when I was scared I’d lose him.

There’s a weight that was lifted in being honest with both men. But at the same time, I’m still longing for both of them. Every time something is wrong with either of them, I want to get on the first train and rush to their side, I want to make both of them happy in a relationship way and be there for them with my whole heart during hardships.

I honestly don’t know what to do. I feel like I took a step in the right direction in being honest with both and I’ve told them both to be honest with me about how they feel, even if it’s painful and to ask me any questions. But it hurts so much. I don’t feel like my feelings for B takes anything away from how I feel about J either. It’s ‘as well as’ rather than ‘instead of’, if that makes sense. But it hurts so much being torn between them.

Please, if anyone has any advice or suggestions, I’d be deeply grateful. Just please no judgement, all I want is to find a way to make both J and B happy and not hurt them. Thank you in advance.”

Dear Anonymous,

It seems very apparent from your post (“I want to make both of them happy in a relationship way”) that you want to pursue romantic relationships with both B and J. It is very clear that B too wants a relationship with you (“He told me that he wanted more but only if that was what I wanted as well”). It sounds like J already recognizes B’s importance in your life as well (“He also told me he doesn’t want me to lose B because he’s always know that [B] meant a lot to me…”).

So let’s roll this back and figure out what our intentions and goals are here.

J’s intention and feelings are the easiest to read. J recognizes the importance of B’s connection with you. Based on how he has communicated with you, it sounds like J possesses a pretty high emotional intelligence to empathize with your confusion and pain. He validates your feelings and mindfully occupies the space you’ve created for him in your eight year relationship. I can see why you are so deeply in love with this man.

B’s intention and feelings are also fairly straight forward as well. He clearly has some really intense feelings for you that he’s been trying to do his best to set boundaries around. He is assessing possibility of developing a relationship with you as a result of those requited feelings albeit carefully since he doesn’t know what that configuration looks like quite yet.

Your intention and feelings are a bit more intertwined. I can see that you care deeply about both of these people. As someone who is polyamorous, I can tell you I personally identify very closely with what you say about each love being additive (“as well as”) rather than subtractive (“instead of”). Each of my partners adds to the whole picture of love instead of detracting from the other. The intensity of your feelings are really interesting, but not quite as surprising as your pain. You say that you’re torn between the two of them. My question to you is, why do you feel like you have to be torn in two? Why not cherish the love you feel and set proper boundaries to reflect the changing nature of your relationships?

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I think the direction of my advice depends heavily on what you want to do with these feelings. Do you want to stick to your existing monogamous agreement with J while maintaining your connection with B in a more platonic manner? Or do you want to explore a romantic connection with B while you also maintain a relationship with J?

If it is the former, you are going to have to have some really difficult discussions with yourself and with B about what kind of boundaries you’ll need to set so that these feelings can be compartmentalized and set aside for the sake of your monogamous relationship with J. I disagree with the others that this constitutes an infidelitous behavior because you’ve been very upfront with everyone about your feelings. You haven’t hid any details and instead courageously faced them head on without any reservations. Those boundaries could look like these:

  • Not playing games together one-on-one.
  • Refraining from discussing emotionally sensitive topics.
  • Creating some distance from each other while you and B can dissipate your respective feelings for each other.
  • Carefully approaching each of your engagements.

You should remember that your friendship got you here, and romantic feelings were just natural happenstance. You don’t always have to do something about your feelings. They’re just feelings. They are pretty good indicators of your emotional state, but not always the most accurate. So openly discuss those boundaries with B and establish those boundaries for the sake of your friendship with each other & the sake of your monogamous relationship with J.

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On the other hand, if you decide that you want to pursue relationships with both B and J, then there are different discussions and questions to be had.

First is to sit down with J and determine what kind of adjustments you and J will need to make to your previously monogamous commitments to make space for your possible relationship with B. What do those commitments mean to you? What kind of mutual agreements will you and J need to set for this non-monogamous relationship to work? How will J manage his jealousy and insecurity as you explore a sexual/emotional connection with B? Would you be okay if J too decides he wants to pursue a relationship with someone else as well? How emotional do you think you’ll be attached to B once you start exploring that connection?

If both you and J are on the same page about non-monogamy, then it is time to sit with B and discuss what kind of adjustments you and B will need to make to your previously platonic connection to create space for your possible relationship with B to thrive. What kind of agreements will you need to establish to make sure that your relationship with B is safe for everyone? How will B manage his jealous and insecurity as you continue to build your life with J? Would you be okay if B decides to date others who are more local to his location as well? How emotional does B think he’ll be attached to you once you and B start exploring that connection?

These will lead to some really incredibly vulnerable topics and discussions. I’m afraid that is par for the course when it comes to opening up for the first time. You’re just realizing that the world isn’t as black and white as you once thought it was, but that there are a lot of grey area in between that you now need new words to describe.

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Some of the pain you are experiencing right now will probably arrive in the form of guilt (“I can’t believe I am allowing myself to feel feelings for more than one person.”), confusion (“What does these feelings all mean? Does this mean I am polyamorous?”, and self-doubt (“I feel like I am hurting myself and J and B.”). Recognize that some of those pains come from perpetuated ideas about monogamy that we’ve been taught since early age. It isn’t unnatural or unethical to have feelings for others. It’s not like committing to a monogamous relationship immediately changes your brain chemistry to not feel feelings. Monogamous agreements just make us better at setting boundaries to make sure the feelings don’t develop. But consider that almost a quarter of all relationships experience varying degrees of infidelity, often times for no reason at all other than empowerment.

I’m excited for your next steps. You’ve been doing some incredible work to analyze and be true to your own feelings. And I know you’ll handle your next steps with the same level of honesty and respect no matter what you decide.

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

I want to hear your thoughts and feedback! Please feel free to send me your questions and comments at teatimetomato@gmail.com.

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