Dear Rhonda,

I have recently (3 months) become sexually involved with a guy in an open relationship at university, but it’s gotten to the point now where my love for him is uncanny. He and his girlfriend have been together for over a year and she is currently in a different country for a year out, however they both agreed to make the relationship ‘open’ before she left in September 2016.

The problem now is the fact that the guy that I keep having sex with has unintentionally (?) made me fall for him through treating me like his girlfriend. Now, I don’t know the ins and outs of their open relationship or the rules by which they both live, but I can sure as hell say the emotional connection between me and this guy is electric – you simply cannot fake that kind of emotion… right? Or am I just being optimistic?

We spend time together outside of the bedroom, we hang out in different locations, I’m good friends with all his friends, we laugh and joke together, have fabulous sexual and emotional chemistry and can talk to each other about everything and everything; he even trusts me to the point of feeling comfortable enough to cry in front of me. His friends say that he won’t break up with this girlfriend of his and at first I believed them. But seeing as he’s acting like he’s totally infatuated with me, my hope that they will break up soon gets stronger every day.

How can you tell whether somebody in an open relationship has feelings for you? If our relationship was purely physical, then I wouldn’t really have any doubts about the fact that he loves his girlfriend. But looking at me in that special way, complimenting me extremely sweet/cheesy lines 24/7 and the INCREDIBLE (like, damn) sex on top just all seems to point towards him developing feelings for me? I’m never optimistic about things but when it comes to love, I simply can’t help myself – especially when it comes down to this guy.

Thank you for listening,
An infatuated third wheel

Dear ITW,

You want to know how to tell if someone in an open relationship has feelings for you? The same way you do in any other relationship: ask them. Listen to their words, but also their actions.

It is possible to love more than one person

You say you doubt his feelings for his girlfriend because he treats you like a quasi-girlfriend, yet loving one person, feeling a connection with him or her, sharing sexual chemistry, does not preclude us loving someone else, having a connection or sharing sexual chemistry with them.

Throughout our lives, it is likely we will fall for many people. I can’t say what your lover is experiencing – only he can do that – but it is possible he has fallen for multiple people (you and his girlfriend) simultaneously.

Early days

It is also very early days for you and this guy. You have only been together a few months and are still in the beginning stages of limerence. It is very easy to get caught up in all that newness and infatuation, but it is too soon to say whether it will evolve and grow into something more.

I don’t know what terms he and his girlfriend agreed to, but this guy seems to treat you as a stand-in girlfriend. Naturally, you want to know what happens when his actual girlfriend returns. I imagine the uncertainty messes with your head and heart, but only he can decide if what he shares with you is something he wants to pursue (with or without his current girlfriend), and it might be too early for him to know, too. You need to allow time to discover what this is and whether it is something either of you wants longer-term.

Take responsibility. Set your boundaries. Choose how to act.

No one ‘makes you’ fall for him or her. If you have fallen in love, that is life. It is not another person’s fault. However if it was your lover’s ‘intention’ to imply a level of commitment he is not available to give, you might want to ask yourself if he is someone you actually want to commit to. He has a choice in this, but so do you.

While neither of you can help how you feel, you can help how you act. Remember, this situation is not just up to him. If playing quasi-girlfriend causes you emotional turmoil, take a step back. Set your boundaries. If your relationship has a use-by date, consider what you are prepared to offer in that time and stick to it. Be open and honest about how you feel, what you need from him, and what you want from this relationship. If he can’t stick to those boundaries, or offer a level of commitment you are comfortable with, you need to decide what you are willing to put yourself through and how much of yourself you can give. You knew going into this that he had a girlfriend, and for now you can only act as though that situation will continue.

I wish you luck,

Rhonda xx

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