Being ‘just friends’ with lovers

I am still in love with a woman I went to college with.  Erin. I have not seen her in around 5 years, maybe 6.  We dated for 2 years in college, and it was with her, and another, that I discovered polyamory.  After some time of being apart from her and my feelings not dissipating, I knew I could never just be friends.  I loved her a way that made just being platonic impossible without great tension and frustration.  It’s easier that I’m not around her, because being in her presence was intoxicating.

I had to be her lover because that’s how I love her.

Some other exes since then I am friends with.  I still love them, but it is different.  I still am attracted to them, I would like to be with them sexually if it were desirable for both of us and it would not deleteriously affect other people, but I am capable of being friends with them, being aound them, without it being unbearable. The way I love them survived not being their lover, even if I would prefer it.  Although with at least one more, Jacque, that preference is close to overwhelming when I’m around her.  I suppose there is a continuum here.

But there are just some people that, for reasons of body chemistry, pheromones, or whatever that make it simply impossible to just be friends with them.  Being around such people is intoxicating and frustrating if you are not currently their lover.  I’ve only experienced this a few times in my life, and one of those times is now.

Just recently I wrote about New Relationship Energy.  This girl…she has an affect on me that is just out of this world.  I didn’t think it would be possible to have so much sexual tension, so raw and powerful.  I have never wanted anyone the way I want her when I’m around her.  To not be her lover is unbearable.  It is just too much.  The way I lust for her is akin to great art; to not be her lover is akin to Beethoven not composing music, a great chef not loving food, or a fat kid not to love cake (anyone else just love that lyric, or do you not get the reference?).  The attraction is simply unbelievable.

And we have never had sex.  We both want it, but for her a relationship is necessary for that to happen.  It’s much more conservative of a position than I am used to, but I just can’t help the way I feel.  When you love someone you just love them, balls to bones.

Now, it’s true that when I first met her the attraction was overwhelming and obvious to everyone–and two-way.  At first it was purely physical.  But as I got to know her, I saw more layers.  She’s intelligent, curious, dedicated, and just lovely in so many ways.  She’s also frustrating in many others, but I love how she makes me feel.  I have recently started to fall in love with her.  I have never told her this (she does not really read this blog, I don’t think, buit if she does then the cat is out….).

I asked her, just recently, to be my girlfriend.  Ginny is all for it, as she likes her too.  At first, it looked like it was inevitable, and a few days went by with the question hanging in the air.  The tension was building, I just couldn’t take it.  She needed time, I needed her, and she needed to think about it.  It is the polyamory, mostly, that is holding her back, although she and Ginny get along very well.

But then two days ago she said the answer was no.  Why? She was not convinced that I cared about her more than physically, and she was scared that if she allowed the relationship to form I would just lose interest.  I only feel this way because I want her so badly (I do), and that once I have it I’ll lose interest.  There is more to it than that, but it is complicated, and the details are not the point.

The point is that I have been telling her that I want more than just the sex, and that if she didn’t want to be in a relationship with me, I would still want to be close with her, to be friends. I really care about her.  But the point is not that I’d be willing to just be friends, it’s whether that is possible.  I could not just be friends with someone I feel this way about, could I?  Does it not betray how I genuinely feel?  I want to be her lover because that’s how I love her.

Yes, I’m willing to just be friends, but the fact is that it would be torture.  The passion I have for her is overwhelming, and this comes across as a bad thing because as a man I am obviously just after the sex, right?  A man who can’t just be your friend does not really care, right? No, I don’t think that’s always true.  Sometimes the attraction is just too intense.  To repress it, ignore it, or otherwise pretend it does not exist is inauthentic, in bad faith, and simply a lie.

I love this girl.  My sexual passion for her is not a sign that I don’t care about her or that I only care about one thing; it is part of how I love her.  I hope she will see that, eventually, because being around her is both intoxicating and frustrating.  I want so much just to love her as she is comfortable to be loved, but when the attraction is this powerful, it is difficult.

Sexual chemistry like this only comes along rarely.  I want to savor every drop and continue to get to know her, to love her, in many ways.  Love is a multi-layered cake, and the icing on top is hot, passionate, intense sex.

I don’t know what I’ll do if she wants to just be friends.  This chemistry is two-way, and while I admire her control over her desires, I wonder if she misses the beauty of this attraction we have.  Sex, after all, is beautiful.

So, here’s to being sex-positive, and to finding great lovers.

Here’s to a lovely girl requiting my love for her in all the ways that lovers love.

10 thoughts on “Being ‘just friends’ with lovers

  1. Shaun, to quote Spock, “you really need to govern your passions, they will be your undoing.” You should realize that it isn’t always about you. This girl is telling you something about herself and you aren’t listening. she is telling you that in the past men have only wanted her as a sexual conquest and that she fears you are one of them. She might even be correct. People desire what we can’t or don’t have. Once we have the object of desire, our desire lessens. This may not be your intention, but it is biological and psychological.

    One thing to consider is that the more energy you spend on this new girl, the less energy you are spending with Ginny. You really need to be aware of this of you may lose them both. With that said, you may want to continue to persue this new girl, but try to understand where she is comming from. This ay mean not having sex with her for awhile. To quote Yoda, “control, you must learn controooool.”

  2. Heya Staks. Your name is familiar to me, and since you invoked mine, I felt like I should say something.

    First of all, you’re damn right about the patience-control-governance thing. We all have to walk a line between expressing our thoughts and our desires freely, and curbing our expression in order to negotiate relationships with others. Shaun, as I’m sure you know better than I do, likes to walk pretty close to the full-expression side, and I enjoy that about him… but it is going to cost him a relationship from time to time.

    Don’t worry about me, though. If he gets into “danger of losing me” territory, he’ll have plenty of warning.

    To the original post: I absolutely agree that there are some relationships that can’t be comfortable platonic friendships, just as there are many deep friendships that could never be satisfying romantic relationships. Sexual attraction is real, and not something that can be dismissed or manufactured at will. Valuing someone for everything they have to offer doesn’t mean you can fit them into any convenient role in your life. Sometimes it has to be a specific role, or none at all.

  3. I find myself in the peculiar position of agreeing with Staks.

    You are not at least a little upset Ginny that Shaun has written several posts about his infatuation with this girl and none explicitly about you?

    I mean seriously he’s ACTUALLY trying to claim that him not having sex with her is like Beethoven not composing music!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    We’ve gotten nothing so ‘poetic’ about you Ginny.


  4. I add that there is nothing nothing inherently virtuous about accepting that your man is in love with another woman.

    It may be the case that you so love Shaun that you want all his wishes to be granted.

    You may also both like Shaun so much and enjoy the freedom to explore other partners that you don’t care he is infatuated with someone else.

    But its also possible you may not feel the bond of love as strongly as monogamously oriented women do.

    Or you may be insecure, lots of women settle for men below their station because they are insecure; then rationalize it.

    Shaun has written about how he wants his girlfriends to sleep with and fall in love with other men. we’ll see how it works out. Has anyone been there to date?

    So Shaun, how many of your GFs had sex with (and did so with your consent) other men while you where still their boyfriend?

    This is a polyamory blog so I think its OK to ask these kinds of questions

  5. Far be it to disagree with my crazy stalker, but Tomkinson doesn’t speak for me. If Ginny is happy with the situation than that’s great. Not all women ascribe to monogamy. I don’t think his means that she must not love as deeply. That’s a bunch of crap. We have to remember that monogamy came about for two reasons, one was evolutionary since the woman and potential child needed protecting and the second was monetarily, since men were the breadwinners. These traditional roles are changing and so it is natural that our relationship roles will be changing too.

    The concern is that we might have emotions based on the evolutionary model which usually do get in the way of such multi-partner relationships. But if those emotions don’t get in the way and everyone is happy, then go forward.

  6. Since I’ve posted here more frequently than you Staks I could say you are stalking me but since internet interlocution is never stalking that would be silly.

    I don’t think it follows that she must “love less deeply” either. If I could have I would have rephrased all of my comments above for both tact and clarity. They come across more scattershot and blunt than I intended.

    However I don’t understand polyamory as a viable life-style unless something like that were true. I’ve been in “friends with benefits” situations were I cared about and liked women that I had sexual relationships with but did not really care if something more serious developed between them and other men.

    But I would never say I loved any of those women. When Shaun says he is still “in love with Erin” I don’t understand what he means. If he is truly in love with her why did he leave her? Does he simply mean he loves her like a close friend and maybe still finds her attractive? If she left him and he’s still not over it after 6 years then there is something wrong with him.

    Shaun does a good job writing clear and interesting pieces on atheism and philosophy. His polyamory writing (perhaps due to the nature of its effect on him or perhaps its complete disconnect with anything I can relate to) is confusing and a little ridiculous.

  7. I have never been in a polyamorous situation. I have never had a threesome or been in multiple friends with benefits situations at the same time. So I have no dogs in this fight (to use Mel Gibson’s expression). But I do have a few friends who have been in those situations. I have also been in love more than once in my life and i know that it is different each time. Drawing on those experiences I can understand how someone can love deeply more than one person at the same time. It really just comes down to timing. As long as everyone involved are consenting adults I don’t have a problem. But there are situations that come up more frequently in a polyamorous relationship than in a monogamous relationship. We have to work at relationships and the more people involved means more work one has to put into it.

  8. Wow, all this attention!

    To answer the first question Tomkinson asked, “am I not the least bit upset that Shaun has written more about his infatuation with this other girl than about me?”

    Well, I’m human, which means that I love reading stuff about me, especially flattering stuff, and especially especially flattering stuff written by a cute boy. If he’d written the kind of stuff about me that he’s written about her, would I be feeling all warm and fuzzy and fluttery? You betcha.

    Does the fact that he hasn’t written that way about me upset me? No. Ten years ago, it probably would have. In fact, from a comparable experience I had back then, I can say it definitely would have. In my late teens, I had this vision of taking up my lover’s entire emotional landscape: I would be his consuming passion, his steadfast partner, the one person he trusted, desired, relied on, and hoped for.

    I’ve grown up since then. I’ve seen the way I love different people, how unique my love for each of them is, how essential and irreplaceable each of them are in my life… and at the same time how inadequate even the best of them is to “complete” me in the way some romantics use the phrase. Seeing this in my own relationships, it’s not hard to project it outward. I can’t be everything to anyone; I would never want to try.

    Even the monogamous need more than one relationship in their lives. Close friends, family, intellectual peers… if you’re not sharing vital, irreplaceable bonds with at least a few different people, your life is impoverished. Me, I like sex and I like romance, and I like the freedom to share that particular kind of connection with more than one person.

    I (of course) don’t think for a minute that the bonds of love I feel are less strong than those of the monogamously inclined. They are probably somewhat different in quality. I do believe that people are wired differently in this respect, and that for some people (perhaps for you, Tomkinson) to try to love multiple people would tarnish the quality of the love you have to offer. But I know that that is not true of me; on the contrary, for me to try to romantically love only one person would mean creating a relationship that was largely fantasy. I’ve done quite a bit of that in my life, and it’s not something I want to go back to.

    I know that Shaun loves me, and I know how he loves me. I am deeply happy in the bond we have. And before you draw too many conclusions about what kind of bond that is, keep in mind: part of the reason he wrote those two posts about her is that he can’t say these things to her directly. He doesn’t have the same need to blog about his feelings for me; if he wants to express himself, he goes straight to the object (which would be me). So don’t go feeling sorry for me because I don’t get as much public attention.

    Finally, you’ve recognized the following: “It may be the case that you so love Shaun that you want all his wishes to be granted.”


    “You may also both like Shaun so much and enjoy the freedom to explore other partners that you don’t care he is infatuated with someone else.”

    Also true. Although “don’t care” says too much and too little at the same time.

    The fact is that his infatuation for this other woman brings joys into my life apart from his happiness and the freedom it gives me to pursue other interests. I’ve written enough here as it is, so I’m not going to dig into that right now. It’s hard to explain, even to myself, so it’d merit a blog post or two all of its own. Maybe I’ll write one sometime. But she is not competition for me. His love for her enriches my life. How can that be, you ask? Well, look at the post we’re all responding to. Isn’t it beautiful? That’s a particular manifestation of beauty that wouldn’t have appeared in the world without his love for her. There are others that I have been privileged to witness, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

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