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#328: When something’s none of your beeswax, make it none of your beeswax!

Joel from Eternal Sunshine with the memory-wiping colander on his head.

“Sal, put this colander on your head.” “Why?” “So you can block out the time we all ‘confronted’ you about who you should date.” “Will that work?” “No. Do it anyway.”

Hello Captain!

I’m just going to get right down to it. 

So I have a close-knit group of friends, including my best friend who we’ll call Annie, and a guy who we’ll call Sal. They’re two of the most important people in my life. Recently, Annie was having issues with her boyfriend who we’ll call Elliot. She wasn’t as comfortable in the relationship as him, she felt pressured to stay with him, etc. During the main part of the drama, she told me that she was having confusing feelings to Sal. And our sort-of-roommate Ellie overheard and said that she was too and so was another friend Betty. 

They all went to confront him, deciding that his rampant flirting was at fault and I joined them because I sort of felt responsible for the confrontation because I had suggested to Annie that she should maybe talk to him and try to figure things out. 

ANYWAY 

He admitted that he liked Annie and Betty but would never do anything to mess with Annie’s relationship and apologized for making things weird and said he’d stop. Betty told him that she appreciated his attention, but she saw him more as a brother and would like to stay friends. We left and that was that. After a little bit, Annie and her boyfriend work on their issues and she finally breaks up with him. She tells me she still has feelings for Sal and might like to see how that would work out after some time. 

Shortly after this, Betty and Sal announce they’re dating. I am confused, but I generally am so I sort of try to ignore it. After a week or so and a lot of discussion, Annie starts dating him too and Sal identifies himself as Poly. 

I’m concerned, but I know it’s not really any of my business so I’m trying to stay out of it and not worry about something I can’t do anything about. 

The problem is Ellie. 

She feels mega-uber-betrayed that Betty and Sal are dating(she doesn’t know that Annie is too) and she sort of flipped out and raged at me about it, then decided to cut the two of them out of her life. I was just wondering if you had any advice on what I could say to her to make her stop bringing it up to me? It’s been about 3 months and as I said before Sal is one of my closest friends and I’m not entirely sure why she feels so mad at Betty for dating him?(Her and Sal had a long conversation after the confrontation where he apologized for any confusing feelings and told her that he didn’t see her that way, and he was sorry but he saw her as a friend, so on and so forth).

But she won’t stop complaining to me about it and I’m rapidly losing patience and I feel like a bad friend but I just want to tell her she’s being stupid and to let it go. And furthermore, I’m actually worried about if and when she finds out that Annie is technically also dating him because if she said something bad about Annie I would probably rip her a new one but she’s my friend and I don’t want to do that. 

I don’t know if this made any sense, but do you have any advice? 

Thanks,

~ It’s not my beeswax, and it’s not yours.

Whoa. There are too many names in this story. But I will try to help you resign from the Joint Chiefs of Who Your Friends Are Fucking.

Step 1: Build a TARDIS, borrow some Retcon from the Torchwood crew, or perfect that procedure from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and undo the part where you all went to confront Sal about how he was “causing” the feelings your friends were having for him and made the course of everyone’ s sex and dating life some kind of group decision.

Still from Buck Rogers: Planet of the Amazon Women. Some government official shows off a shirtless Buck to potential buyers.

Did we enter dude-shortage dystopian future when I wasn’t looking? No. Did you guys kind of reenact this scene from Buck Rogers in your house? Only you can answer that.

I mean, it’s not completely crazy for Ellie to think that this was something that would be decided as a group partially because y’all tried to decide it as a group. But pantsfeelings are inherently unfair, and there was never going to be a solution that would satisfy everyone. This is not that Buck Rogers episode /MRA fantasy where men are kidnapped by sexy women for their seed. There are other dudes in the world!

Step 2: Because Step 1 is impossible, use a single one-size-fits-all mantra:

I don’t know. It’s none of my business. You should ask ________ directly about that.

Use it for everyone. About everything related to who is putting their kissing parts where. Then change the subject.

If the subject won’t stay changed, say “I’ve been trying to change the subject for a reason. I don’t want to discuss this. My friends’ sex lives are not my business, and we’ve discussed this already too much for my comfort level. So we should end the conversation now.” Leave the room/chat window/phone call if necessary. Boundaries!

Step 3: If someone makes a big dramatic gesture, like deciding never to talk to other friends again, say “Whoah, that would make me really sad. But do whatever you feel like you have to do.

Step 4: I don’t think Ellie wants to cut everyone off as much as she wants to obsess at length about the unfairness of it all and indulge her crush for Sal. I could be wrong. But a good outcome for you is everyone stops gossiping about and trying to control each other’s love lives at you (you can’t control what they’ll do all the time with other people). So practice your best shrug and be a bad audience for this kind of thing. Suggest she put her energy into finding a more amenable dude, but that whatever she does, you can’t be her #1 confidant about this.

Script:Jesus, Ellie, I know he hurt your feelings, but attraction is subjective and unfair. Stop obsessing over this guy! You can’t pressure someone into dating you. I understand if you don’t want to be around him right now while you work out your feelings – that sounds great. DON’T BE AROUND HIM FOR A WHILE. But I can’t listen to this anymore.

Don’t tell her about Sal & Annie. Unless you want to listen to twenty more hours of analyzing and bitching about stuff that is none of your beeswax, that is.  It’s okay to get a little pissed off after 3 months of listening to this, and good friendships can stand a little bluntness. If Ellie can’t get the message, she’s the problem.

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Chicago filmmaker, teacher, and blogger.

62 comments on “#328: When something’s none of your beeswax, make it none of your beeswax!

  1. As somebody who also has a very close-knit group of friends who are all up in each other’s business all the time (I swear some of them are more invested in my love life than I am) and also can’t seem to stop accidentally making out or whatever, I sympathise with you, LW.

    I’ve also been somewhere like where I think Ellie is – she’s hurting and maybe feeling a little crazy by this point (it still hurts why is it still hurting THIS MAKES ME AWFUL) and that could be part of the reason she’s acting out this way. That doesn’t excuse her behaviour, though. If she needs somewhere to obsess and run through her feelings about the current state of the Friendpolitik then she needs to do it somewhere outside the friendship group. Don’t be afraid to tell her so.

  2. I am sympathetic to Ellie, probably because I went through something similar recently (minus the drama with other friends being involved) and it was horrible. We don’t know how long she knew Sal or the depths of her feelings before the big conversation, but this sort of rejection can be painful, and it’s especially hard when you have to watch the person date your friend.

    I agree that Ellie needs to stop ranting about it the the LW, but I would probably take a more sympathetic tone and just say something like: “I understand that this situation is painful for you, but Sal is my friend, and these conversations are making me uncomfortable. I think it would be best for you to take space and try to forget all about Sal, but if you still feel the need to vent, I need you to respect that I can’t be the person that you talk to about this. Maybe you could try working out your feelings in a journal.”

    When I counsel myself about my own heartbreak, I try to tell myself 1) It’s okay to feel hurt and sad, 2) But you need to 100% leave her alone.

    That’s how I see this. Ellie apparently feels terrible about the situation, and that’s unfortunate for her, but she needs to respect the LW’s boundary (once it is communicated) and deal with her feelings on her own. If she ignores this boundary, then some harsh tones and “I said, don’t talk to me about this” is called for, but I don’t think telling her to just get over Sal already is helpful.

  3. With ultraclose female friends, having similar pantsfeelings or pantsfeelingsmotifs or pantsfeelingsstoryarcs starts to feel more like friends bonding over a common experience than actual pantsfeelings. When you have an interaction with Mr. Pants, the first thing you want to do is tell your friend and laugh about it. It sounds like Ellie feels betrayed because the Sal thing had become (for her) more about her and Betty, and when a shared crush has become a sort of in-joke, one person actually dating the crush object is kind of like figuring out you’ve lost a race when you show up to your surprise pity party. And you’re like, “fuck, I thought we were just taking a walk together! Don’t give me this womp-womp bronze medal crap! Replace this sadness-cake with seething-resentment-cupcakes immediately!”

    • I love this description. It was fun when Sal was dating no one and was the object of flirtation, fantasy, and group confrontations. Now Ellie’s allies have gone over to the enemy…one by one.

      • And in a way, it’s easier to tell yourself love is not a race or a battle when you feel like you’ve put up a fair fight. So she can’t get out of the mindset of “my allies are going over to the enemy,” even though she likely knows better.

    • Upon second thought, this isn’t exclusive to female friends. That’s just where I’ve seen it in my own life, with a heaping side dish of gay. My gut reaction to this letter was “well, Ellie obviously wants to be with Beth.”

  4. Okay, my cynical take is … unless Ellie’s poly too, she’s better off without him unless she would be happy being part of this group thing (which I am sorely tempted to call his harem – are any of the women dating elsewhere?). But yeah, it’s not something LW can or should try to do or say anything about.

    • I’m cynical *and* poly, and I think “harem” has some really uncool connotations that would be a radical reading of the text. Nothing suggests that A. or B. [are being coerced or] don’t know about *each other* — it’s only E. who may not know about all the partnerings she’s not part of. Regardless of what’s better for E., she didn’t get past the velvet rope. (Nobody’s fault; q.v. recent Capt.A posts re: people are allowed to not like/be into you.) None of this means the dude-under-discussion has done anything wrong.

      (That was me, as the poly female in a “V” with two currently monogamous menfolks, bristling reflexively. I think I am over it now, thx!)

      • Apologies for the bristle-causing! Yes, I know ‘harem’ has unpleasant connotations, which are largely why I used it. I wasn’t seeing the two women as coerced or not knowing about each other (which latter wouldn’t apply to a harem anyway); but it came across to me as a power imbalance (one man getting the attention of several women) or possible sexual opportunism being paraded as polyamory. My reflexive bristle, in fact! :)

        • “or possible sexual opportunism being paraded as polyamory” — yep, I can’t pretend I’ve never seen THAT one before. And he does seem to see his “rampant flirting” as something to apologize for…

  5. I don’t think the situation is as much about heartbreak as it is about a group of friends who are really intertwined. I get the feeling that everyone knows about what’s going on with everyone else and Has Something Of Import To Say About It. Which comes from a good place but tends to get things twisted.

    And now three of them are in a triad and one is angry and alienated. I. . .I think this is going to get messier as time goes on. And I worry if stuff goes on with you, LW, if they will they all descend upon you via tribunal and start trying to get into your business? Or will they express concern over stuff in your life but somehow turn it into other issues they’re dealing with?

    Annie has a private conversation with you, confiding to you about the stuff she’s going through with her then-BF, and Ellie, a “sort of” roommate overhears it. Um. Then she and Betty decide to confront Sal. UM. Now Sal’s dating Annie and Betty (ha! no potential for drama there!) and Ellie’s angry and cutting out Betty and Sal (and probably Annie once she hears about it). UM UM UM. There’s a lot of dramz in them thar hills.

    I know these are close friends, and I am sure they are good people. But they seem to be bringing out bad things in each other. Maybe you need to step back from the whirlwind of dramz until they give each other some space. Right now, I’m not seeing much in the way of boundaries or personal space or privacy.

    • Yeah, I really agree with this. I used to have a friend group like that. Friends for ever, totally up in each other’s business, complete with infighting and  in-fucking and unrequited love and secrets and dramas. That same atmosphere where x’s reaction to y’s and z’s relationship, as reported by n, is a big deal. It reaches a  point where you need to take a break… Nothing official, no scorched earth, just give yourself some space and clear air.

      The people from that old drama-ridden group are still amongst my best friends, 20 years after we met as kids and 10 years after the group drama peaked. That happened because we forged separate lives (including romantic relationships with “outsiders”), and built new friendships for our adult lives, with more boundaries but deep trust and loyalty. But we had to give ourselves that break to get there.

       LW, I totally get that you care a lot about your dear friends and the whole group thing really genuinely feels like it affects you. But the whole vibe of your letter made me think you really need a break from this.

  6. You don’t need to feel bad for telling Ellie to drop it with you, either. Sometimes when we feel powerless and frustrated we channel that into complaining/talking/analyzing when we really just need to accept. Combine that with our tendencies to get into behavior patterns with people and you find yourself with a relationship with this friend that is all about the Salwhining. Which isn’t really good for her emotionally or good for your friendship.

  7. Yikes, but, I was almost in a similar situation, sort of? Two friends of mine were the bestest roommates ever….until one of them hooked up with(and ended up marrying and having a baby with) the tall single available guy in our gamer group.
    Then the one who didn’t get the guy was talking about how they had both been interested, but, had AGREED not to go after the guy, and the ex roommate owed her money, and wasn’t a good employee, and was lazy and played too many video games instead of doing adult life living stuff……
    There was a lot of STUFF, and I didn’t want to hear any of it. So….
    “Wow, I had no idea…..what movies were you looking at seeing/how is it going at work/do you have any new restaurants in the new neighborhood that you want to try?”
    Non committal statement + immediate change of subject to some other interest of hers that she hopefully wants to talk about = I am still friends with all three somehow.
    Things have calmed down. The two ex roommates don’t talk about each other at all anymore and have lives and other things going on. No, they aren’t friends with each other anymore, but, the world didn’t end for anyone.

  8. This is awesome advice, and I suspect you’ll end up appreciating having some practice with the script in Step 2 with Ellie…because I think you may end up having to use it with some of your other friends in the future.

    I’m sure all your pals are great people, but it sounds like Sal’s identification as poly might be new and isn’t necessarily shared by Annie and Betty. Add in a track record of people not being able to ask for what they want in a clear way, and I think there may be some further shakeups.

    If I were the LW, I’d do what I could to set boundaries on gossip. I’d also make an effort to spend some time with friends besides those named in the letter and who aren’t very connected to the situation. Some of these people are roommates as well as friends, and I’m guessing she’ll be a little more patient with things if she can spend some time with folks who are worried about completely different things.

  9. This happened almost exactly when I started dating my now-husband! I was living with 2 ladies who had expressed various levels of interest in him at some point in the past, (though now-husband was unaware of this and no poly situation cropped up). One friend behaved incredibly inappropriately when she found out, and continued to be weird around us. The other friend didn’t exactly win any gold stars either, and she indulged the first friends crappy behavior a little too long, but she did end up getting over it and the three of us (me, husband and cool friend) stayed close.

    Uncool friend moved out a few months later and I’ve only seen her a couple times since. Cool friend and I realized that after uncool friend left, that our quality of life was way better. She had been toxic in ways we had learned to work around and cool friend, husband and I remain close.

    LW, don’t indulge your friend’s bad behavior. If she wants to extricate herself from the group/situation, accept it as for the best.

  10. I agree with witchinghour and also think this: when you have a close-knit 5-person group and two (or three) of the group get ‘closer’, someone’s bound to feel ‘left out’, and that’s gotta hurt. How does Ellie deal with it? She tries to bond extra closely with the other left-overs. And what do you have to extra-bond over? The fact that you’re leftovers. Not appealing to LW if s/he’s not feeling like leftovers, I imagine.

    So, if LW wants to be a really a good friend to someone in this mode, LW might consider helping someone like Ellie get over it by reaffirming their friendship while minimizing the other uber-relationship. Something like: “Yeah, that’s for them to work out. In the meantime, you and I are going to be just fine. You tell me something that excited you today, and then I will.” Message is same (I don’t want to talk about it), but message is also included that reaffirms that Ellie still belongs (she remains important to the group).

    • Me and one of my best friends play this game called “you know what I love.” It looks something like this:

      “You know what I love?”
      “What?”
      “When you’re in a really small airplane and it reminds you that you’re flying through the SKY.”
      “Cool. You know what I love?”
      “What?”
      “Fruit cobbler where the cobbler is really hot and the ice cream is really cold.”
      “Oh, yeah! You know what I love?” …. etc.

      It’s a great way to put yourself in a positive mood, but it also takes a surprising amount of creativity.

  11. At what point should the LW say to Ellie, “Look, Sal is poly so the fact that he’s dating Betty (and Annie) isn’t necessarily a barrier to him dating you too. If you really want him, ask him out already!”?

    • Uh, that time is never, because it’s none of the LW’s business who Sal dates and being poly doesn’t mean you want to date EVERYONE. He’s aware of Ellie’s feelings from the FEELINGSSUMMIT, so it sounds like he could get that done if he wanted to.

      • I dunno. Personally, a FEELINGSSUMMIT would be the last reason in the world I would ever ask someone out. I don’t think Ellie should take this any further, but maybe she should be told to just take all this drama to the people she really wants to talk to, if she really has a problem, if she really can’t just let it go.

        And maybe she should also learn to just ask people out directly, instead of teaming up with her closest friends to approach them all, “Mr. Libido don’ LIKE it when he don’t get in on the ACTION, Sally-boy, so why don’t you and us take a little drive down to the pier, and by little drive I mean three-hour conversation and by pier I mean really inappropriate subject matter.”

        I feel like this isn’t just bad behavior towards her friend/LW. Given the incestuous closeness of this circle, it sounds like she’s using her friend as a vehicle. I’m sure all of this gets back to Sal et al.

        • Oh, if you can’t tell from the Buck Rogers photo, I think the FEELINGSUMMIT was a terrible idea. But if Sal wanted to be with Ellie, he knows how to get in touch.

    • Never. The poly really is irrelevant here: not just because Sal could approach Ellie on his own if he wanted, but because she really doesn’t seem like someone who would be comfortable in a poly situation.

    • No.

      The big issue here is finding out a way to get uninvolved as easily and nicely as possible, not become more involved and hope everything stays nice. Unsolicited advice just puts you into the mix of an already too complicated situation.

    • No. Never. If this is an actual poly relationship (rather than casual dating which, guess what kids, you can actually do too), she would need to have permission from all parties. If one party agrees without asking the others, said party is a dick and don’t advise your friends to date dicks (or inexperienced/unaware; I’m just mean about people who do this). Never give advice about poly relationships unless you’ve actually been in a poly relationship and be understanding that the construction of each individual poly relationship is generally complex

  12. Also, you have a very good reason, should she ever confront you as to why you didn’t reveal Annie’s relationship with Sal – how badly she took the relationship with Betty, and how much you had to bear the brunt of that.

    • Or just, “It’s none of our business; they’re going to do what they’re going to do. They don’t require our endorsement, and I’m not going to try to make it my business by gossiping about it, when there are a lot more interesting things to give my attention to.”

  13. The LW, of course, should assert her right to stay out of it if zie doesn’t want to be part of the drama. I agree with that part of the advice.

    I’m going to dissent from the judgment about the PANTSSUMMIT and the Joint Chiefs. While I think MYOB is pretty much a universally accepted Good Thing To Do, I don’t see any part of the story where anyone specifically asked people to butt out. It’s a “close-knit group of friends,” including people-with-poly-pantsfeelings, and they seem to like to talk about it. I get where that makes things more complex, but not NECESSARILY privacy-invading or a problem in and of itself.

    In point of fact, if this is a group that’s polyfriendly and wants to STAY a group of friends, talking a lot about it is probably a Very Good Thing To Do. When I was poly, the talking often took up more person-hours than the fucking. There can be too much of even a Very Good Thing, of course, but there can also be too little.

    • I love your description of the thorough talking about how relationships should work and group dynamics in poly-friendly spaces. To poly people = a feature! To people like me = a bug. Definitely a bug. :)

      • Well, a necessity: like changing the oil or wiping one’s butt. I doubt that many people would find butt-wiping a particularly enticing feature, but things can get messy otherwise.

      • On the poly talking things to death thing….for me it’s simply a reflection of being off the charts that most of society lays out for you. In a monogamous relationship you can assume certain things(sometimes you are wrong anyway, but, that’s a different story). When you are poly, checking in that everyone is still on the same page is safer, because there is less of a societal road map.
        Sometimes the check in is just that short:
        “Hey, is it ok with you if M and I do this thing on this night?”
        “Yes, that’s fine. Have fun!”

        • Well, and I’m in an open relationship with someone where even if the relationship were closed, I think there’d be lots of checking in, because we both have our damage from past relationships that we’re learning to get past and/or work around, and talking helps us keep from stomping on each other’s tender parts. (And yes, there’s even more checking in because the relationship is open. So, the fact that that’s a feature for me and not a bug is a sure sign that I’m poly? *grin* )

    • OK, as a poly person myself, I cannot let this go. I agree that people in poly situations should talk about their feelings with all parties present. That is a good thing.

      It looks very much like Betty, Sal, Annie, Ellie, and whoever else are talking to the people they want to about the relationships they want to have. Getting involved when not invited is still an intrusion, even by poly people/standards.

      I have personally dumped women I was dating because they tried to get involved with my other romantic relationships. It is not cute. It is not helpful. In short, if I wanted to talk to you about something, I would. If I wanted to talk to a group of people, I would gather those people in the same room and talk to them all at once. Everything else is butting in regardless of intention.

    • I should add that I am poly, but I’m not into big group feeling summits either. That would be very unpleasant for me. And for me, having a tightly knit social circle means that I am LESS likely to talk to people about mutual friends (or about my lovers who are their friends, or about people I wish were my lovers and who are their friends). It’s simpler to talk directly to the person I have an issue with. Or, if I need a sounding board, I find somebody who’s not close to the person I need to talk about. If I felt that my crush had led me on and then rejected me, I’d vent my hurt to somebody who would say “There, there, honey. You’re amazing and he’s missing out.” And then I’d get on with accepting that nobody’s obligated to fall in love with me, not even if they’re an outrageous flirt.

      Sometimes, if an issue affects multiple people, group discussions make sense. For myself, I’ve not yet had the need to have group discussions about feelings.

  14. I know Sal is a very important person in your life, but I agree with whomever brought up sexual opportunism before. You mention that he starts dating two women, and THEN he identifies himself as poly. Um…I’m not saying that can’t happen, but this prompts some major side-eye from me. Do either Bettie or Annie have other relationships? Do you THINK, knowing him so well for so long, that he would be totally cool with it if they did?

    If your answer is not an immediate yes, or even a probably, then you might want to think twice about giving Sal the benefit of the doubt in this mess.

    None of that makes it YOUR BUSINESS, mind you…but in a perfect world it might inform your future understanding of your friendship with Sal and how he sees himself in relation to other people (or just certain types of other people).

    • Is there some kind of poly ceremony where you formally announce your polyness and then you’re allowed to explore it without judgment from your friends? (I’m sure there is on Beta Colony, and there would be special earrings and stuff!) Is there some kind of poly rule that you can’t make things up on the fly?

      If he’s not a member of the Most Holy and Sacred Officially Poly Synod, and is just a guy who is successfully dating two chicks, would that be bad or a reason for the LW to “rethink” her relationship with a close friend? Is it her job to audit her friends’ romantic relationships and make sure they are progressing in a truly poly way?

      In what way are his feelings about whether Betty and Annie have additional partners or any of the parameters of their relationships the LW’s business?

      Even if the LW is giving the whole thing the side-eye, if everything is consensual and the people involved are happy, or even if they’re just muddling through and things are not perfect, is she obligated in some way to speak up as an advocate for True Polyness?

      If Sal flirts a lot and three women in the same friend circle decide they have feelings for them, is that something Sal caused? Is he now responsible for managing all of their feelings forever? I agree that asking “You flirt a lot, so it’s hard to read your intentions – are you trying to make something happen here, or is it just for fun?” is a good question…if you’re interested in making something happen there (otherwise, just assume it’s for fun, and ask him to knock it off if you don’t like it).

      You know what would cover all of these questions pretty effortlessly? “Whoa, that’s none of my business. You should go talk to _____________ about that” with a side of “Are you happy? Good. Then I’m happy for you.” The point is for the LW to get OUT of the middle of all of this stuff, not jump in further as a referee.

      • You are so good. I had the same reaction — and a negative response to the word “mess.” It doesn’t seem like it is a mess for the three people who are actually involved.

        • Trying to control how your friends run their relationships is DEFINITELY where madness lies….even if they are making different choices than you would make! Especially in that case, actually.

        • It (which includes LW’s relationship with Ellie) is a mess for the LW though, obviously, albeit one that LW is wisely trying to avoid…

      • I’m sorry that my comment was obviously unclear…sometimes reading back on a mobile device is too piece-meal for me to get the kind of impression of the whole that someone else might.

        So snark aside, allow me to reiterate what I did specifically say: “None of that makes it YOUR BUSINESS.” And now I’ll rephrase it more clearly: “the relationship matters between other people are NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, in this case or any other.” And i definitely didn’t mean to suggest that Sal was responsible for anyone else’s feelings.

        But LW has her(?) own relationship with Sal, and that’s very much her business. And going forward, I thought it might be worth considering that, despite their relationships being none of LW’s business, LW is still perfectly within her(? again, sorry, hard to scroll back for confirmation on a phone) rights to feel some way about the new things zie’s learned about this very important person.

        And I’m sorry if that seems like a suggestion out of the blue, but I personally got the impression from parts of this letter that LW is making a conscious effort NOT to feel any particular way about this new information. Sal IS responsible for his behavior, and if LW is getting the impression that Sal is behaving in an emotionally reckless manner, then LW shouldn’t go out of their way to avoid letting that feeling affect their friendship with Sal.

        It was the LW, after all, who phrased it as a post hoc declaration, and who mentioned being concerned about that part.

        So hopefully I made more sense here. Staying out of business which is not yours does not require granting someone additional leeway in YOUR personal estimation.

      • Of course we make things up on the fly; that’s one of the reasons for all that relationship geeking that is a feature for some of us, and decidedly a bug for other people.

        Yes, at this point I have figured out a lot of how I, personally, do relationships, and what I want, and what i can offer my partners. But that’s not because I’m some kind of Certified Poly Expert: it’s because I’ve had time for chunks of trial and error, and conversations with both partners and friends I am not involved with. Having been involved with the same people for a while doesn’t make me a superior human being, but it means that I don’t have to tell someone new “this is how I feel about X, Y, Z, does that work for you?”

    • Would you feel the same way if the word “poly” weren’t in the mix? If they said, “we’re dating, but it’s not exclusive, oh and also he’s also dating this other person”? That seems to be the upshot of the situation. It seems like some of the discomfort on the thread is coming from an idea of the One True Poly Way where Everyone Is Equally Poly.

      • I like this perspective. It’s possible to date more than one person, especially in the early stages, with a “let’s see where this goes” attitude without being an emotionally irresponsible person. Personally I would keep it out of the same brunching circle, but it’s not my life!

        • Now I’m imagining them at brunch. Sal is sitting between Betty and Annie. LW is between Ellie and Betty as a buffer, but Ellie is staring daggers anyway. Sal is holding hands with both Betty and Annie under the table. HOW WILL HE EAT HIS FOOD? Oh, now he’s bending forward and picking it up with his teeth.

          LW, obviously this can never work.

      • …no, because I doubt that would necessarily alleviate LW’s stated concern about the situation. My impression (could be wrong) was that LW was a bit unhappy with the whole kit and caboodle but did not feel entitled to think any differently of the people involved, for fear of seeming judgmental of categories of behavior, rather than the specific behavior od specific people with whom zie has specific personal relationships.

        But I recognize that I was super-glib in the way I glossed over poly without acknowledging that it’s part of a wide range within the greater spectrum of types of relationships. So…I regret involving that aspect in my original comment. Hopefully I’ve provided enough clarification by now that I can be understood, even if the foot is not totally out of my mouth.

    • “You mention that he starts dating two women, and THEN he identifies himself as poly. Um…I’m not saying that can’t happen…”

      See also: she fell in love with a woman and THEN identified as bi or lesbian… Sometimes you just don’t know it’s home until you get there. When the societal defaults are straight and monogamous, pretty much no-one has to “come out” as those things, but if they don’t fit, they somehow have to come out OF them.

      • Sure…

        I think my last comment above (like, RIGHT above) makes my point much more clearly, however, than the one to which you replied! Separates it from this very concern, in fact. It’s not about the question of Sal’s orientations. It’s about how LW seems to feel about the situation but also seems hesitant to admit, possibly for fear of seeming “uncool” in some way.

        Or, to be more personal about it, maybe s/he’s afraid that if s/he misstates the feeling a bit, s/he will be perceived as commenting negatively on polyamory, rather than on the unsettling feeling that this is emotionally reckless friend-cest.

        I tend to speak too glibly. Perhaps LW, on the other hand, is the kind to hold their tongue too long…

  15. I agree that, ultimately, this isn’t the LWs business and she has every right to extricate herself from the entanglement. I just wonder, though … is this Ellie’s way of hoping that LW is on Team Ellie?

    If so, the Captain has written a whole lot about how to be on someone’s Team Them. Thinking about it from that standpoint may help LW with some other scripts and a way of being a good Team Them member.

  16. Whoa. There are too many names in this story.

    HAHAHAHAH! That was totally where I ended up about a third of the way through and just threw my hands up in the air and waved ‘em like I just don’t care.

  17. Dude, I don’t think Sal’s identification as poly has anything to do with him dating two girls. It sounds like casual dating. As long as both chicks are fine with it, whatever. As someone who usually swings monogamous demisexual (I’m complicated), even I can date multiple people at once and be happy in that situation. If they aren’t fine with it, that’s another kettle of fish to fry that has nothing to do with the presented letter.

  18. I was an Ellie for one now-mortifying week in college. Friend and I were giggle-crushing hardcore on this uberhunky exchange student with a delicious accent. Then he asked her out and of course she said yes. I was jealous, felt betrayed, thought all sorts of ugly thought, which I shared with a mutual friend. He listed patiently for a week, then said “Okay, you’re hurt. Got it. But what do you want to happen now? Do you want to break them up? Because your best friend is dating a great dude who seems to be really into her, and they look really happy. So do you want to be the jerk who ruins that?” Um, no. So I knocked it off. Five years later I stood in their wedding! And bravely took my lumps during the toasts & roasts…

    So, LW, I get it. Ellie might be having a hard time seeing a way out of her jealousy spiral of self-pity. I am eternally grateful to my friend who was super blunt and told me to knock it off. Firm boundaries can be good for you AND for her.

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