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I’m suddenly having crushy, OMG I WANT TO JUMP YOUR BONES, feelings for a friend and I don’t know what to do. I think she’s attracted to me too, but I’m not 100% sure. She has a boyfriend, she’s bi, they’re in an open relationship. I guess I don’t know how I feel about non-monogamy. I do know I’m jealous of her boyfriend, but I shouldn’t be. I’m worried if I do or say anything about this it will ruin our friendship. I think that’s the main concern? Ugh, help.
I was just barely able to drag myself away from refreshing my crush’s Facebook page long enough to read your letter, so I know the feeling. Crushes can drive you up the wall, in both good and bad ways, and not only are you dealing with that, you also have to confront the idea that maybe-kinda-sorta you’re interested in getting involved in an open relationship, without really knowing much about them.
The good news first: you have the advantage of already knowing that your friend is in an open relationship. There aren’t many things more frustrating than a huge crush on a friend in a monogamous relationship. Because your friend is in an open relationship, you have the opportunity to talk to her about your feelings, and even if she doesn’t reciprocate it’s less likely to make your relationship weird moving forward. But although her relationship structure makes that part more simple, it brings up a few other difficulties.
Open relationships are complex, but they sound a lot scarier than they are (or at least, than they have to be). It’s not clear to me what kind of open relationship your friend is in, and it’s probably not very clear to you either, unless you have asked her a bunch of questions already. You’ll want to ask your friend more about non-monogamy and how it works in her relationship specifically. Are they polyamorous? Are they open? Are they just open to her dating other women? Can they have sex with other people, but not date? Can they date other people, but not have sex? Maybe they just make out with strangers at parties sometimes? Are they only dating together? How do they define “polyamorous,” “open,” “dating”?
Non-monogamous relationships fall along a wide spectrum. “Monogamish” generally refers to a mostly monogamous couple that has fun with another person (or people!) on occasion. “Swinging” is similar but has more of a community around it. “Open” relationships are generally non-monogamous but in a strictly sexual or friends-with-benefits way. “Polyamory” focuses on romantic or otherwise emotional intimacy while generally (but not always) including sexual relationships. “Relationship anarchy” focuses on the idea that relationships can become whatever is best for the people involved, and can include whatever elements the relationship wants to focus on. Every definition varies — no matter what label your friend uses, ask her to explain what it means.
Ethical non-monogamy is hard work. I personally find it extremely rewarding, but it’s not for everyone. It’s not better or worse than monogamy, but it can be better or worse for individual people. Non-monogamy can bring out the worst of your insecurities, fears, jealousy, and dysfunctions, and you have to be ready to face them and work on them. It’s worth working through those in any type of relationship, but it’s more essential in open relationships.
Usually, the best thing to do when you’re not sure about a relationship with another person is to talk to that person (or those people). But in this case, what you need to do first is figure out what you actually want.
Before you tell your crush that she’s your crush, you need to figure out how you feel about non-monogamy. You’ll want to be extra careful that you’re not secretly hoping that you’ll steal her from her boyfriend. You’ll have to think about your relationship with her in the context of her having other romantic relationships, both with her boyfriend now and maybe with others later, and how that will affect your emotions and time together. If you think you would be comfortable in a non-monogamous relationship, then you need to figure out what kind of relationship you would want. (Books like More Than Two, The Ethical Slut, and Opening Up can help you think through this more.) Would you want to be friends with benefits or girlfriends or somewhere in between?
One last thing to think through before you talk to your friend is your jealousy. Your emotions are perfectly valid, and people in polyamorous and open relationships feel jealousy all the time. But instead of giving in to the gut reaction of jealousy, you need to figure out what actually caused it. Do you want to be in his place? Do you feel like he’s competition for her affection? Are you worried that a relationship with a man is more serious to her than a relationship with a woman? Ae you worried that he’ll take priority because they’ve been together longer? There’s many reasons for the jealousy, and you’ll want to look deep and figure out what exactly you’ll have to face in order to have a happy relationship.
Only after you figure these things out can you start to explore whether your friend has feelings too, and what to do about it. She’ll appreciate that you’ve thought through things first, and it’ll make it easier to start the discussion. Find some time to hang out with her one-on-one, and tell her that you’ve been feeling butterflies, and you hope that she feels the same. I’m crossing my fingers for you!