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This question has been edited for length.
I met an amazing person — I’ll call her Kitty — in school and we were instant friends. At first I thought she was really into me, but then I found out she was engaged so I smothered my potential romantic feelings and pursued a friendship with Kitty. Kitty was there for me when a crush I had on another girl didn’t work out, but as our “friendship” (with sexual undertones) progressed she began getting jealous, to the point where she furiously left school in tears. We talked it out, got closer, and I agreed to be a bridesmaid at her wedding.
Kitty often says her fiancé and I are ‘the same person’ except for our different genders. She enjoys my company, confides in me, arranges her life and schedule to enable us seeing each other frequently. I’ve slept over a few times and often she’d snuggle with me instead of her fiancé, even saying she can’t sleep the same without me. We play fight, wrestle, cuddle and hold hands, even if her fiancé is there. This seems awkward to me but he seems totally indifferent. She’s more affectionate when he’s not around. She says her fiancé said it was okay to kiss me but declined her request to have “one night” with me.
We openly discuss sexual matters, share the same sexual preferences, and she got me a dildo for Christmas and tells me she thinks of me when using hers and says her sex life with her fiancé is unsatisfying.
The weird/tangible sexual aspect is strong, but so is the weird/tangible romantic part. We wanna be together all the time, I’ve spent weekends just tagging along as she runs errands, and over the holidays she told me she wished I could be there with her family and even seemed to resent having to spend her anniversary day with her fiancé.
Which brings me to New Years, when she talked me into taking a trip with her. She invited her fiancé, but didn’t press him as tenaciously as she did with me, and he declined — much to my immense, guilty relief.
The trip was both heaven and hell. I’d restrained my feelings beforehand due to her ENGAGEMENT, but away from home, we let our barriers down. She’d text or skype him occasionally, but considering it was their first time apart in four years, it wasn’t much. Even around her friends, she was affectionate with me, and on New Year’s Eve, at a swanky hotel by the ocean, she said farewell to her friends and said she was relieved that it was just us again. We took a walk holding hands, had a great dinner at her favorite restaurant, snuggled and fell asleep before midnight, watching our show on Netflix.
New Year’s Day the sexual tension was especially high: we cuddled and teased and almost went all the way. She pulled away, which I assumed was ’cause of her fiancé, but I did question what the hell I’m doing as I’ve done many times since meeting Kitty. During the flight home we admitted that morning had been on our minds all day, and she said that she regrets stopping but told me it was ’cause she knew I wanted breakfast and didn’t want to miss the ferry. We spent the rest of the trip kissing, talking and enjoying each other.
When we landed the full extent of the trouble I’m in hit me. My heart burned when she kissed her fiancé. I wanted to throw up. I held myself together in the airport on our way home, but I don’t doubt she knew something was up. At home, I fell apart. Wallowed in misery and heartbreak, got two hours sleep. Kitty texted saying she was sad, missed me and hadn’t gotten much sleep either, since she’s spoiled by my cuddles. I foolishly agreed to go with her and her fiancé to the mall.
When they picked me up, I’m sure she realized immediately that something was amiss. I diverted attention ’cause I don’t wanna cause drama, but Kitty was worried and kept asking me why I was sad. It was torture to lie and divert to her face. She sent her fiancé off to do his own errands and I was able to pull some of myself together when it was just us. She confessed that cuddling him didn’t compare to cuddling me, but she’d never dare tell him. At her place afterwards, where I went to help her with school stuff, she kept saying stuff like “don’t leave me.” She must know to some extent what I’m feeling. She invited me to stay the night Sunday to attend orientation together, and I hesitated and fumbled for an excuse but failed, I gave in and agreed. I’m excited to spend more time with her, but I know it’s just gonna cut me deeper.
The sleepover is tonight and she’s texted me asking if I still wanna be a bridesmaid, which has pushed me to reach out to you. I don’t think I can be her bridesmaid and watch her marry someone who I think is a great person but not great enough. But I told her I would be. How can I say that I can’t without it blowing up? I don’t wanna be a home-wrecker and don’t want her to know my real feelings and risk having my heart torn out as she inevitably chooses him over me. But I also selfishly want her to tear her life apart and choose me. I want to be her number one, ’cause she’s mine.
I feel like she’s got genuine feelings for me, but are they strong enough to win over her supposed “true love”? I don’t know. I can’t help but make a pros and cons list of me vs. the fiancé, and who wins depends on my mood. She wants a child with her fiancé, which she’s openly discussed with both of us and made a tentative plan, and she’s told me she’d want me to be in her kid’s life. She doesn’t know the thought of her having a child with him nauseates me.
I know the best thing for me to do is to leave and look for someone who wants only me, fully, but I can’t. I want to tell her everything I told you and more, but I fear the fallout. I don’t want to be the asshole who makes an ultimatum, but at the same time, I feel that she’s definitely played a huge part in creating this situation. I don’t know if she’s aware how she’s playing with my heart. I’m scared I might just be a “lesbian experience” for her, but her actions and her eyes tells me that it’s more than that.
I realize I’m strongly at fault for failing to reinforce boundaries, but I’ve fallen for her and my heart’s being torn apart. I think we’d make an incredible couple and have a solid, supportive relationship.
What the hell do I do, Autostraddle? What could possibly be Kitty’s deal, she has a fiancé she should be madly in love with so why does she say the things she says? Should I be a selfish jerk and confess in the hopes that she may be feeling the same things but was also too afraid that I didn’t reciprocate? I’ve made many hints and comments that it’s not me that will suffer any true repercussions from our dalliances as I’m single and she’s not. It doesn’t seem to affect her much.
Thank you so much for your time and patience if you managed to read all of this hot mess. It was actually cathartic just putting a good chunk of my dilemma to words and it’s ridiculously long so I apologize for that.
Thank you again,
Severely Confused and Torn
OH GIRL. I’ve been in similar places to where you are and damn it’s the worst — been that girl swallowing her feelings in the backseat, angrily scrawling in your journal about how this can’t really be fair, can it, agreeing to be something that needs nothing? But who are you to complain, really, considering the shaky ethics of the situation to begin with? I mean, you agreed to it, in theory, but is “letting your heart fall into somebody’s hands” a thing anybody really agrees to? Especially when she’s such a good catcher? It’s the worst, and I don’t blame you for needing some help navigating this!
Before we continue, a few things: I’m gonna call your friend “Belinda” because I hate cats and I’m gonna call you Harriet, like everybody’s #1 Girl Spy. I’m gonna call her fiancé Tim, because OBVIOUSLY.
Babe, you are in 1-2 of the following situations:
- A hot mess
- A lesbian romantic comedy movie where the girl leaves her fiancé for her lady-lover at the end and they kiss in a traffic jam or hold hands in a European meadow
- A critically-acclaimed and profoundly depressing lesbian movie where the girl gets married at the end and her lady-lover moves to another country, drinks excessively or shows up at her wedding to cry softly while everybody dances the Hora
Should you be Belinda’s bridesmaid? No, you should not. For starters, Belinda shouldn’t have any bridesmaids because she shouldn’t be getting married at all, but also you’d probably have a better time at an MRA conference or running naked through O’Hare to catch a tightly-timed connecting flight. Spare yourself. DO NOT ATTEND THIS WEDDING, LET ALONE PARTICIPATE IN IT.
Harriet, you cannot feel guilty for wanting Belinda all to yourself, especially when she’s made it clear she wants you all to herself by getting jealous over a girl you didn’t even actually go out with. This entire relationship has happened on her terms. She decides when she wants to see you, she decides whether or not she’ll be alone with you — over time, this will slowly erode your confidence and sense of self (not to mention screwing with your other commitments like school, work, and friendships), and something needs to change or you need to get out, stat. She’s free to tell you how she feels about you within the context of her being in another relationship, but you have no such freedom. Belinda’s behavior isn’t fair to you… and it’s definitely not fair to Tim, either. If at any point you’re doing something Tim wouldn’t approve of, which it seems like you are, this isn’t fair to him. (Although I’m super confused about what his deal is, in general?)
I read this question and came away from it feeling like Belinda was being a bit selfish and manipulative, but then I had a friend read it, and she came away feeling like Belinda was often acting out of clumsy, desperate confusion (but agreed that most of Belinda’s actions have been really unfair). I guess that’s the limit of advice questions — we don’t know her or where she’s coming from, or if her treatment of you is because of confusion about her sexual orientation or relationship style — Have you made her realize she might be gay? That she might be bisexual? That she might be poly? — or if gender or relationship style isn’t relevant to her at all. All we can do is project. I’m sure everybody reading this question will interpret it differently too, and have their own advice to give you.
That being said, there is definitely some responsibility you should take for this: people will push you exactly as hard as you let them, and if you never press back, they might truly not know how badly you wish you could resist. She has asked how you feel, and you haven’t told her the truth — although asking you in front of Tim is no better than not asking at all. You’ve never told Belinda that this situation isn’t working for you, you’ve only passive-aggressively indicated, sometimes, that it makes you a little upset and sad. It seems like when she senses you pulling away, she panics and finds a way to get you closer. I know you’ve refrained from telling her the truth because you’re afraid of losing her, but the current situation isn’t sustainable, and the longer it goes on, the harder it’ll be on you when/if it ends. This needs to blow up and run its course.
You’ve gotta talk to her about this, and you need to do it in person at a time and place where Tim is not present. Don’t tell her “we need to talk,” because telling somebody “we need to talk” is the best way to totally freak them out and/or send them into a pre-conversation tailspin. Just get together normally… and then start talking. I suggest you open the conversation by playing the song “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” and doing the dance from the music video, and then talk about your feelings NO BUT SERIOUSLY — tell her that you can’t be her bridesmaid because you have feelings for her. Nobody wants a crying bridesmaid in their wedding pictures, after all.
Ask her how she feels about you and how she feels about the current situation you’re in — is it working for her? If so, why? Where do you fit in? You have a right to know the answers to these questions, even if the answers break your heart.
There are the five ways this conversation should end, which I’m about to tell you, and I’m telling you these ways ’cause I fear the most likely result is that this conversation will not truly end, it will just be both of you sharing your feelings and not making a plan to do anything about them, and then things will just continue as they have been, but with more room for you to express your pain and discomfort as it happens. It’s perfectly fair for her to want some time to think about it, but set a deadline for when you have to face the facts together, again.
So, those five ways:
- She admits she has feelings for you, but doesn’t want to leave Tim, and therefore the two of you need to take some time away from each other and you need to move on.
- She admits she has feelings for you, and does want to leave Tim, in which case you should do your best over the next few weeks to make progress towards that plan.
- She says she has no feelings for you (in which case she is lying) or doesn’t wanna be in a same-sex relationship. Then the two of you need to take some time away from each other and you need to move on.
- She admits she has feelings for you and wants to try an open or poly relationship with you and Tim in a way that appeals to you, in which case the three of you need to sit down together, tell Tim how you feel, and iron out the arrangement going forward.
- She admits she has feelings for you and wants to try an open or poly relationship with you and Tim in a way that doesn’t appeal to you, in which case the two of you need to take some time away from each other and you need to move on.
Just to be clear — zero of these potential conclusions involve you attending or participating in her wedding, let alone contributing to the care of her hypothetical offspring. (ETA: Except #4, maybe!)
I said I’ve been in similar situations before, and honestly, sometimes it worked out for me and sometimes it didn’t. I know people who have been in similar situations and sometimes it worked out for them and sometimes it didn’t. If she does decide that marrying Tim isn’t a good idea and wants to break it off, please know that the process of her doing so will be ugly and messy at times, and will require superhuman patience and understanding, as well as total transparency between the two of you. Be honest about your insecurities and set up ways to subdue them — like a quick way to check in with you via text if she’s spending the day talking about her feelings with Tim, so that you’re not lying on your bed agonizing about what they could be discussing, NAKED. You’ll also need to respect the long and serious relationship she had with Tim.
It sounds like so far your relationship has been built on a foundation of things you both feel but never talk about, so this’ll require a big transformation in how you communicate. Remember when I said people will push you as far as you let them? This is when you have to say, I respect that he is making certain demands of you, and I don’t need you to shift 100% of your attention away from him and onto me, but I need space to make a few demands and deserve some of your attention, too. I have needs too. She should do her best to meet them.
Also know that if Belinda was capable of having this kind of relationship with you while engaged to Tim — the kind where she tells you she prefers sleeping with you, that their sex is unsatisfying, and she relishes alone time with you — that she was clearly not ready to marry him in the first place and shouldn’t have done so, even if you and her had never met. There was a man I knew who got the strength to leave his unhappy dysfunctional marriage because of our conversations about it, and although my subsequent relationship with him only lasted for a few months, he still is grateful that I helped him leave her and has said so, and he’s currently married to someone else and has started a family. Please make sure that if she leaves him, that she is not leaving him for you, that you’re just the catalyst that made her leave someone she shouldn’t have been with in the first place.
I do hope that if this doesn’t work out in your favor, which unfortunately is likely, that you will still emerge knowing that you deserve to be your Number One’s Number One, and that you deserve a healthy relationship that doesn’t require swallowing your feelings, your pride, or her wedding cake.