Q: I’ve read your column for awhile and know you often write about polyamory and what monogamous people can learn from non-monogamous relationships. I know we’re supposed to talk openly about attractions and feelings, but I’m in a situation where that can only hurt things. I’m a married man, and I love my wife, but I have a crush on my best friend’s wife.
Here’s the situation: My wife and I have been together for almost 10 years, and we have two kids. We have the usual marriage stuff, but for the most part we’re both happy and our sex life is good. She’s very attractive, smart, and fun and I don’t want to do anything to risk losing her. Meanwhile, I’ve known my best friend for over 15 years, and he and I also work together. Two years ago, he met this woman online and they dated long-distance until she moved from the west coast recently, when they got married.
I was smitten immediately. She’s beautiful and funny and we share a lot of the same interests. We both play tennis, something that neither my wife nor my best friend enjoys. We talk about getting together to play, but I always find a reason not to, because it feels oddly close to cheating. I’m so attracted to her but deathly afraid of ruining any of our relationships. None of us are swingers or remotely comfortable with opening up our marriages, so I feel like there are no options for even talking through it. What can I do to make these feelings go away?
Yikes on several bikes! That DOES sound complicated.
Let me start by validating that this is a tough one. It’s admirable that you’re concerned with the potential fallout of following your desires and it’s very wise to contemplate beyond the scope of your own marriage.
Many have imperiled not only their own relationships in the pursuit of passion, but completely ignored the dramatic impacts of infidelity on the rest of the family or social network.
In any household, community or close-knit group of friends, a change in one person is going to have ripple effects on the others. That’s true whether the change is negative or positive. In this case, the situation poses challenges not only for your friend’s marriage but also your connection with him and your work together.
That’s not to say we need to live for others or stifle ourselves for the sake of maintaining stability. It just means that your crush is more complicated than a standard question of opening up a previously closed unit.
As far as your crush goes: it makes absolute sense that you would be enamored by this woman. You and your friend likely share a lot of similar tastes and preferences and anyone who would be attractive to one of you would probably intrigue the other.
She’s also brand new to your life, so her presence comes with the sensation of novelty, something you may not have had for a while. Additionally, she’s likely on her best behavior as a recent import, trying to make a good impression with her new husband’s friends. You haven’t had enough time to learn her annoying quirks, frustrating habits, or the unreasonable, un-curated parts of her.
So: my first bit of advice would be to just hang the fuck on. Maybe one day all four of you will find yourselves at an Airbnb in the Adirondacks, drinking wine, smoking weed, and getting more…. intimately acquainted. Perhaps at some point down the line, all of you will realize you ARE open to something a little nuanced in your relationship.
But it’s also possible that you won’t. Non-monogamy isn’t for everyone – and you know better than I do if you’d be able to handle it. Maybe a year from now the luster will wane and you’ll realize that she’s a perfectly good friend – a hot one at that – and you’ll thank the stars that you didn’t make it a whole THING.
One way to manage the feelings in the meantime is to talk this through with someone trusted and not directly involved: maybe a close family member, a friend from a different city, or a therapist. Work out what parts of this crush are actual chemistry and what are your projections. Continue to think through the positive and negative implications of openly acknowledging this attraction: to your wife, your friend and to the collective social group.
You can also spend this time cultivating the relationship with your wife. It’s entirely unfair to expect her to be the only light in the sky, but the bounty of a marriage is based directly on what we invest into it.
Be the best version of a partner that you can be to this woman whom you love, and you might be surprised if that doesn’t start yielding rewards that eclipse the allure of fresh meat.
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