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Advice – I started hooking up with a couple out of impulse, and I’m starting to catch feelings.

About 5 months ago my girlfriend of 4 years and I [28F] separated after some unexpected infidelity on her part. I was devastated but got myself back together with help of friends and family. I wasn’t AT ALL ready to date and I’m still not. I was however feeling very impulsive after the break up and had a few hook ups that I’m not too proud of.

In the midst of these sexual exploits, I also started hooking up with a “seeking couple”. I cannot express enough how out of character this is for me, but I had a great time. We all hit it off right away and became fast friends. My impulsive sexual behavior came to a halt, but I kept seeing them and continue to do so at present day.

The two of them have even alerted me to some shitty behavior from my ex after I recently opened up to them about my break up. Basically, they are just pretty chill people and we get along really well.

Flash forward to present day- one half of the couple [28f] has admitted she has feelings for me. The other half [29M] is fully aware and encouraging of this. I can’t say the feelings aren’t mutual. I even really like the male counterpart despite being super gay. We play video games and hang out and its honestly all just easy and feels good.

I am however really panicked I’m going to get into this too deep. I’m debating breaking it off with them and just refocusing my time and energy on myself (not that I’m not still doing that). I’m also afraid to lose something really special we might be developing.

Does anyone else have experience with this sort of thing?! I am FREAKED and don’t know what to do.

At Sign Work, Reddit.

Dear At Sign Work,

It sounds like you are experiencing an intense bout of relationship anxiety that stem from multiple sources. Your anxiety can come from your previous relationship trauma as you heal from the traumatic and unexpected end to your previous long-term relationship. Your anxiety can also come from the uncertainty regarding the future and where this newfound relationship might lead. And it can also come from as well as the internalized stigma regarding the non-traditional aspect of your non-monogamous arrangement. Let’s unpack each of those.

While each person has a different recovery timeframe, five months is not an appropriate time for you to mourn and heal from the end of your four-year relationship. Many of us recovering from breakups channel our frustration and confusion at the end of a relationship in different ways. And it sounds like you could have channelled a part of your pain from your breakup into forging and exploring new sexual connections.

Moran et al (2020) found support for the hypothesis that many women feel bad about themselves after engaging in breakup/rebound sex. That seems to mirror your own experience with sexual exploration following the end of your relationship with your ex girlfriend, manifesting in regret for the past hookups. And in that phase of promiscuity, your stress was not allowed to complete its cycle to resolution.

That leads to the very next point about the uncertainty of the current relationship.

One of the reasons why you are debating breaking things off with this couple is because of your unresolved trauma from your previous relationship is manifesting through relationship anxiety regarding your current relationship. You’ve been so hurt and betrayed from someone you had feelings for, so you feel anxious about the feelings you are starting to develop. Because you did not have full control in the end of your previous relationship, you seek to have better control over the current relationship, which is through breaking up.

Based on what you have shared, I gather that this was a very fast and hot connection that materialized very quickly. One of the things about immediate connections is that they often have rushed foundation. I think the significant part of the draw of this relationship for you was how easygoing and free this connection felt to make. And the very airiness of it is now manifesting as an uncertainty as the innate insecurity dances with the developing feelings.

This isn’t to say that you all need to sit down and have a Very Serious Discussion tonight. Since you already know that the feelings are shared between you and the female-half of the couple, you can start the discussion by talking out loud about what those feelings mean to each of you. You don’t necessarily need to settle on a label, but at least having some base level of expectation would be a good way to facilitate the talk.

Then there is the added wrinkle of the internalized stigma around non-monogamy.

I’m not sure if you have had any previous experience with non-monogamy. But there are a lot of internalized stigma around non-monogamy that many non-mono newbies shed as they explore what it is like to date multiple folks and to date folks who might also be dating multiple folks.

One of those internalized stigmas non-mono newbies learn to manage is guilt and shame about the number of partners. Sometimes, that internalized stigma can look a lot like that internal voice that says you can’t be open about the relationships you are a part of. Sometimes, that can sound like sex shaming. Each person’s social programming might look a little different, but each of those toxic foundations needs to be reworked or renovated.

It is okay to feel scared and anxious about the unknown. Part of what makes life so grand is in its unpredictability. No one could have truly anticipated how 2020 would have turned out. But we all learned to adapt through the constant stream of changes. For you, that meant an expansive sexual exploration that led to the current couple you are seeing.

The last thought I will leave you with. As a polyamorous individual, I always thought the implication that you have to be single in order to focus on yourself to be very strange, because it also implies that you don’t truly grow when you’re in relationships. You can definitely grow, change, and develop in many different areas of your life regardless of your relationship status. So learn to accept and enjoy this moment of your life. In the immortal words of Britta Perry,

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. If you liked my advice for this post, please follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can also subscribe below to get alerted when my next advice column is published!

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