For over a month now I have been seeing a girl in an open relationship. It was probably wrong for me to get emotionally attached to this girl knowing that she is already with someone, but it happened. I feel as though I love her and she has shared that she also is falling for me and her interest is growing. The facts as they stand are that she is in a committed two-year relationship, and for the past year has been in an open relationship. Intellectually I understand the likelihood of us being together is slim to none. Although I am unsure how to progress, she is aware of the way I feel but has also said she won’t be leaving this guy any time soon because her relationship has been so long. I keep clinging on to what she has told me about her feelings for me, but I don’t think they are as strong as my feelings for her. Is this worth progressing, or am I caught up in something that is eventually going to let me down? I’ve told friends bits and pieces of what’s been going on and the only advice I have gotten was to either leave her or to not let myself get hurt. I’m scared that if I do stop seeing her I would have missed out on being with a great girl and someone who I believe I am in love with. How would you recommend I proceed or if I should even do so at all?
— Guy with a glass heart
Dear Guy with a Glass Heart,
You went in with the intention of not falling in love, or least, of not attaching, but as often happens, your feelings changed. Now it sounds like you are in a bit of a bind, though I am not sure you need to be.
As I read your story, a couple of things stood out. You see, there are open relationships and then there are open relationships, and the rules for each depend on the parties involved and what works for them.
For instance, have you discussed the possibility of a polyamorous relationship? Could you become not just a lover, but also a boyfriend, or does her primary relationship only permit casual lovers, rather than secondary (or subsequent) partners?
Secondly, I wondered why it is important for you that she leaves her primary partner. In the event you remain her lover (but not her primary partner), does this invalidate her relationship with you, and if so, how?
Her current primary partner allows her to see other people, which means even if she leaves him and chooses you as her primary partner, she may still want other lovers and/or partners. Would that be an issue for you? How do you feel about non-monogamy? Is this something you would want to pursue for yourself at some point?
I can’t tell you whether she will leave her partner or whether the time you spend with her is worth the pain you feel knowing she is with him first and foremost. However, I can suggest you really try to understand where your pain is coming from, and whether you would want to pursue a relationship with her knowing how that relationship is likely to look (would you want to be where her boyfriend is right now?)
If you don’t want to share the relationship you have with her now or in the future, I suggest you cut your losses. If you are prepared to share yours and her relationship with others, it might be worth asking whether an ‘upgrade’ to something polyamourous is possible, and then decide whether it is worth sticking it out.
Only you know whether the pain is worth it, but don’t hold out for something that may never happen. Be upfront. Ask her what is possible so you know where you stand, and then decide what it is worth to you and what you are prepared to live with.
Best of luck,