“I [26M] have been dating my gf (Rachel) [24F] for a year, everything is going great, no problems between us. To be absolutely clear if I decide to meet Phoebe [26F] I will tell my GF before the meeting. I told Phoebe I have a Gf but I would love to have Phoebe as a friend. But my question is should I meet Phoebe or am I just inviting problems into my relationship?
A month before I started dating Rachel I was dating Phoebe for 4 months and the only reason we broke up was because she moved back to her home town after completing her PhD. Now Phoebe is back in town starting her career and reached out asking to meet up and catch up. I told her I have a gf but I’d be willing to meet as friends. Truth is we were really into each other but only broke up because of her move. If I’m being totally honest, there are still some residual feelings there but I have no intention to act on them. I have few female friends and Phoebe was one of the few women I really enjoyed hanging out with so I would like to pursue a friendship with her but I’m afraid doing this while those lingering emotions are there would be cheating/wrong.”
Dear More Bison,
I don’t think it would be considered infidelitous to have feelings for others. It would be infidelitous and unethical to indulge on those feelings.
Crushes happen all the time. So we have to do our best to establish and withhold our personal boundaries to make sure we are not breaking any agreements with our partners.
As for you, you will need to determine what those boundaries look and feel like. It sounds like you do have your head on straight, in that you recognize the value of her friendship while you are also cognizant of possible residual feelings. And those residual feelings are also natural. For you, those boundaries could look like “I will not spend any extended one-on-one time with Phoebe, especially if her or my personal feelings start to interfere in our friendship.” Remember that these boundaries have to be self-enforceable with your own buy-in. Only you can hold yourself accountable.
As for Rachel, you do have a personal history with Phoebe that I think Rachel will probably need to know about, and there is a strong possibility that she could feel insecure/jealous about this meeting. While it is not your responsibility to resolve Rachel’s insecurity, you have to do your best to remain compassionate, communicative, and clear about how you expect to only remain as friends with Phoebe. If you’ve established any personal boundaries around your friendship with Phoebe, communicating those boundaries would be greatly helpful for Rachel to know about as well: not because those directly affect her, but because they’ll reflect more about your good character and give further evidence to her trust place upon you.
As for Phoebe, you’ve already done your best to clarify intentions with Phoebe. You did a great job in lay out what your expectations are here: platonic friends. Just keep reiterating and contextualizing what this new connection will mean to both of you going forward. If you’ve established any boundaries up ahead, then it would be a really great time to communicate those boundaries with Phoebe as well.
Even if you were able to reconnect with past romantic connections in a more platonic light, this will be a new endeavor for you since it’ll be with Phoebe. If at any point if you or Phoebe does not feel comfortable with just maintaining this friendship, it is completely within reason to suspend or even end your connection until things settle down a bit more. It’s really easy to get in the habit of letting your emotional bull run wild, so make sure that your enclosures are strong and fundamentally sound.
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