Recently I had a friend whose poly unfriend me. We had a few misunderstanding this year, resolved the first and let the second linger, which is partially on me, I suppose. I guess it isn’t surprising they unfriended me, because I was thinking about unfriending them as well. And it’s sad when things like this happen, because good memories flood back to you. Of times you’ve dorikly told them that it’s cold and so maybe we should hold hands (apparently “hey, I think you’re cute and I wanna hold your hand” is too difficult to say for me).
When I was considering unfriending them, it was a passing thought. I didn’t act on it because I needed more time to think it out. This was (and is) a pretty fucking rad person who I admire and think is really hecking cute. Should I just cut ties with a person like this without saying something? I felt I should at least say something like, “Hey, I feel like things are kind of falling apart between us. Maybe we should just split ways amicably?” but I never followed through.
After I discovered I wasn’t friends with them anymore, I decided to go on an unfriending spree of my own and unfriend over 60 people. Mostly people I don’t really talk to, people who don’t talk to me, people who aren’t active on Facebook, or people who don’t offer me much value Usually a combination of any of these.
Maybe this was an excessive reaction, or at least looks like it.
In reality, I had been planning to do it for a while. And I think part of me wanted to feel like I had some amount of control over who is in my life or not. Not that I should have control in any real way, that’s possessive and not who I want to be. But it’s also vaguely shitty to keep losing 1 or 2 people every so often and not know what’s going on.
If you couldn’t tell, I deal with anxiety and it infects a lot of my life. Losing my former poly friend was like a gut punch. I moved on from it pretty fast, but in the moment it almost took my breath away. I thought they might do it, but I had no idea it would actually happen and I was left with a sense of unease. It also made me think that maybe they’d convince other friends of mine, people I’m closer to, that they should also unfriend me and that really scared me for a little bit.
I wanted to talk about this not to put the spotlight on anyone but to talk about a broader phenomenon: Staying close with your friends. I feel like it’s important to have open and honest dialogue. Letting things linger and fester isn’t good for any sort of relationship and this applies to friendships as much (if not more) than romantic relationships. Not that I’m innocent of this, mind you.
The reason why I’ve used “poly” is that my beliefs in polyamory (the belief in multiple romantic relationships that are consensual) often intermingle with my ideas of friendship.
Consider the following crushes/friends:
- There’s a non-binary person in Oklahoma who I adore. I’d love to cuddle this person, hold their hand and tell them how great they are. But we’re also non-romantic and not in any sort of relationship. I absolutely 200% have romantic feelings but it’s (explicitly) not requited. But that doesn’t stop us from expressing emotional and physical affection online and (maybe sometime soon!) in person.
- There’s a former friendmancy (also see here) person of mine who lived in Vermont. They were a wonderfully sweet person who was passionate about their beliefs and very knowledgeable. We’d hold hands, cuddle, I’d even tell them I loved them and they would say the same to me. But we didn’t kiss, we didn’t have sex and I’m still not sure we had a “relationship”.
- There’s an amazing woman in California who I’ve been in love with for a long time. And amazingly she’s told me that she loves me too. From there it gets slightly confusing about what’s what, but I know she wants to cuddle and be physically and emotionally affectionate and that’s good enough for me. We probably wouldn’t have sex but then, I’m demisexual, so it’s fine.
- One of my roommates is one of my best friends and we also used to date. We had sex (though it wasn’t that great for me, for complicated reasons completely unrelated to them), we kissed and after(?) we broke up(?) we told each other we love the other. We still kiss, hold hands, cuddle and tell each other we love the other. Are we in a relationship? Heck if I know!
- Lastly, there’s this person, and I won’t even say where they live ’cause I think that’s giving away too much, but they mean more to me than anyone has in a long time. It’s tough to summarize how much or even why but they’re really special and wonderful, is the important thing. I’ve briefly cuddled with this person and they’ve told me I’m cute and we chatted on and off for months and months straight before we finally met up. We’re not romantically attached and this person likely isn’t romantically attracted to me (which is fine) but we still have (or at least had) a really affectionate friendship.
I could keep going, of course.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love my friends dearly. I’m a big believer in romance, affection, hugging, cuddling, hand-holding, complimenting and all of the other parts of amory. But I think my point has been made: Whatever “poly” looks like to me is super complicated and it’s partially intentional at this point, honestly. I used to really begrudge (to a minor degree) and even fear the blurring of friendships and relationships.
I had a partner who loved to blur these lines, they did it early and often. At first this caught me off guard and worried me, it actually triggered my anxiety a little. At the time I felt like you needed to have clear lines between friendships and romance. If you didn’t…well…well it’d just be total anarchy, right?
Well, spoiler alert: Anarchy is fucking great.
And in any case, the blurring of romance and friendship happens all of the damn time in our personal and collective lives. It’s almost impossible to not blur these categories to some extent. I have multiple friends who I am very affectionate with, who I’ll send sporadic monthly messages telling them how much I appreciate/love/like/adore them, whatever makes them feel comfortable.
I love sharing that appreciation and even if the appreciation falls into the romantic category, as long as it’s okay with them, it’s usually fine by me. I’m a highly romantic person and a low-sexual person. Which is actually partially why I’ve stopped disentangling my romantic and non-romantic relationships so much.
I used to be able to distinguish from the fact that I’d really only engage in sex with romantic partners. But since discovering (for a multitude of complicated reasons, c.f. sensory issues, trauma, preferring cuddling) that I’m not a huge fan of sex and, after my last major partner, I’ve complicated almost every friendship or romantic relationship since and so I’ve slowly let that go.
I couldn’t even tell you what me and one of my roommates are doing. All I could tell you is that I love them, that their important to me and if they ever moved somewhere else, I’d be sorely tempted to move there with them.
Accidental life partner is a term a friend and I coined a few years ago when we started living together (non-romantically, though we joked about it) and it definitely applies to my roommate.
Let’s review some former friends/friendmances:
- After them being non-communicative/barely communicative over a period of months (and me trying to initiate conversation with them about our relationship) I made the terribly painful decision to end both my romantic and friendship level ties with a person. This ended up affecting multiple friendships down the line, which was unfortunate.
- After a mutually abusive relationship of at least a year and a half, my partner ended their relationship with me. We’re not friends, we don’t talk and I don’t ever want to see or talk to this person, honestly. Still, a part of me loves them and wishes them nothing but the best.
- A previous partner of mine who I broke up with after cheating on me has since cuddled with me and we’ve broken up our friendships twice and are now trying to be friends again.
- My first partner and I are still best friends, though I only talk to them once in a blue moon and see them a few times a year. I still love them.
- A partner who I had online broke up with me out of the blue when they were under a lot of stress and had health issues going on. I was also going through a rough break up (different relationship) and not being a good partner to them, honestly. Because of this, they blocked me (though have since unblocked me, I found out recently) and have never spoken to me again. I’ve felt tempted to apologize and try to reconnect, but have faltered.
I posted that list just to compare and contrast. And also to be honest with myself and with y’all that I’ve never been (and never will be) a perfect partner. I’ve learned a lot of shit in these past few years about what it means to be accountable, be open and honest with folks and try to keep my shit together.
I think I’ve gotten better because my relationships have been broken up more amicably or before they get abusive recently. And the only relationship I have left is probably one of the most wholesome and good ones I’ve had in a while. I still feel like something is missing. Maybe it’s the official-ness we used to have or the fact that I feel like we can’t kiss on the lips anymore, I don’t know.
Maybe it’s because they’re what I call a “passive cuddler” and I’m much more of an active person when it comes to cuddling. I’m really hyper and excited to be cuddling and I’ve got a lot of energy about it. This person doesn’t and that’s OK but it’s definitely a thing I’ve commented on and noticed before.
At this point it may not come as a shock to you, but I don’t have some big advice on staying partners with your friends. Or, to be more accurate, to maintain these romantic friendships. I feel like many of them are comets in a way and while star showers and the like are beautiful to watch, they don’t go on forever.
There are at least a handful of people who I’m not sure about for whatever reason. Either because I’ve communicated with them and they haven’t responded in a while or I just haven’t taken the time or energy (for whatever reason) to even start the conversation about feelings, or maybe I just feel like it’s not worth it.
Ultimately, I find that keeping romantic friendships and friendships more broadly (romance isn’t everything!) is what keeps a good poly (or monogamous) relationship alive and healthy: open and honest communication.
That’s a popular phrase nowadays (unintentional rhyme) but it’s still a fundamental value I feel is imperative to any relationship working. Of course, sometimes it’s just not worth maintaining the relationship, and that’s OK too. Clearly the friend who I mentioned at the start of this didn’t feel like it was worth their time to communicate their needs and our conflict and that’s completely fair.
Nobody owes you shit and, honestly, it’s best to just let this stuff go.
You know, like writing a blog post about it?
Smooth moves, as always.
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