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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

I love two women - how do I stop lying to them?

Hello,
I hope you guys could give me some insight. I'll try and make this as short and sweet as I can. Honestly, I am tired of talking about it and thinking about it.

Here is my story - I'm a 35-year-old straight male and have been single and dating for a couple of years. I met my current girlfriend two years ago; we dated for over a year and it took me that long for me to even admit I was her boyfriend. Some of the reasons were "Is she the one?" "Am I really that in love?" I just didn't feel that "in love" head-over-heels feeling so I took things super-slow, always questioning. I love her, she's amazing, I care so much about her and I can't see myself not knowing her. We are super-connected, I know that.

A year ago I met another woman through a friend. Right away we hit it off as friends, but obviously it got deeper as the months went by, another special connection, until months later we slept together. I felt horrible, but I continued to see both, feeling it was wrong. I don't want to be that guy, I try to be honest, I try not to hurt anyone but it seems I was hurting everyone, including myself. The lies, the deceit, all that was just killing me.

In December I told the first one I needed a break and it broke her heart and it broke mine. I wanted to say it for so long but I didn't have to courage to do it. So for the last three months I continued to see the other but it didn't feel right because it all felt like lies. I still had the first one on break, she was still on my mind, and I couldn't be there fully with the second even though I wanted to. So obviously we would argue, I would tell her I can't commit right now, and I just feel like I'm ruining two relationships, two amazing women that came into my life, all because I can't decide.

I love both, I never even thought about polyamory until I read something about it this weekend, and it was the first thing that actually resonated with me. I've never gone to therapy, but some friends suggested I go, but it doesn't work. I just love two people and don't know what to do, so I'm reaching out and trying to get some feedback, a different feedback that I haven't received yet.

Thank you so much!
Torn Between Two Women


Dear Torn,
Many years ago, an ex-lover nicknamed me "Poly Yoda" and I'm gonna use a Yoda-ism here - "Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try."

You say you don't want to be "that guy" who lies and cheats and deceives people. I've got bad news for you my friend - you are being THAT GUY. You are the most THAT GUY who has ever written into this blog. And the only reason I'm even bothering to give you advice is that you seem to be remorseful about it.

The feedback that you'll get here that you might not get anywhere else is, maybe you don't have to choose. Do you envision having both women in your life in an open and honest way? If you had been honest from the start, I would say it would have been a possibility. But since you've chosen to be dishonest with them for months, perhaps years now, it's going to be a difficult proposition - made even more difficult since you indicate that at least one of your girlfriends is looking for a commitment that I assume to mean monogamy.

If you really want a long-term solution, you're going to have to commit — to being honest. Brutally honest. Step one is you need to come clean with both women, tell each of them the whole story, and beg for forgiveness. I'm talking hands-and-knees, flowers, chocolates, etc. I'd fully expect one or both of them to never want to see you again because of the trust that you've violated. This is fair payment due for the hurt you've caused (and will continue to cause) to them.

If you get past step one, the next step would be to propose an open relationship that includes both of them. Ask each of them how they envision your presence in their lives making them happy. Think about how you will feel if one or both of them start dating other people. Make a commitment that both of them will get your attention the way they are used to having it, even when everyone knows there are other people in the mix. It will be a bumpy ride, but if you make it this far, I'd be encouraged that there's some really deep love here.

Finally, don't knock therapy until you've tried it. If you don't want to do individual therapy, consider couples therapy or get out and join some poly groups and make some friends who can support you in real life. There are more and more people exploring poly and we can all learn from each others' mistakes. 

Leon, what's your advice?


Whoa, Nelly! That's a whole lot of harsh for a guy who's clearly looking for a happy ending for everyone, and since he's coming over from vanilla world and he's done what he thinks is "the right thing" (because this is inexplicably how they DO things over there), I'm willing to cut him some slack. 

I don't think this is a bad situation at all; in fact I think this is a potentially great situation for everyone, because I personally believe in both happy endings and the healing power of love. And because I'm an irrepressible optimist, here's my take: Yes, you screwed up by cheating. But life doesn't come with a relationship manual, and you apparently did what you thought was right. And you've sort of accidentally wound up in a potentially great launching pad into growing open and honest polyamorous relationships with both your partners simultaneously. 

The catch is, to make this work they both need to be on the same page as you. The key for you would likely be how you approach each: build trust by being honest, share what you've learned, listen to their needs, then determine whether and how you can each get what you want (not just you!). 

If I were you, I'd express to each separately that you've done some soul searching, and you've realized a few truths about yourself. First, that you love them and want to grow a relationship with them. Second, that you're also in love with another person (your ex- or the person you've been dating since you broke up) - and explain how confused it's made you. (At this point, I don't think it's relevant to fess up over the cheating if it's not already been discussed, since you've been openly dating the "other woman" since the breakup and that would open a whole new can of worms.) Third, you have been talking to people with more experience in this area, and you think you have a potential solution you'd like to discuss and have them consider. 

Invite them to watch the Polyamory TED Talk with you and explain that this polyamory thing makes a lot of sense to you. Ask under what circumstances they'd consider exploring this with you? What would they need in order to feel safe exploring together? Then do it again with the other. If you do this right, and if they care about you the way you care about them, there's a very good chance you'll have a very good chance. 

 There are a ton of differences between behavior, communication, and expectations in poly relationships compared to the way people relate in default world. This could be a great opportunity for all three of you to potentially find happiness - and at the very least, you'll learn some very important lessons for your future relationships. Like another (albeit less green) wise man once said, "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger."