Dear Worrier Princess: On Polyamory Pickles and College Coming Out Conundrums
Queery #1: Last summer I (32, queer) met someone (26, baby dyke) at the farmers market near my house, she lives in a town 2 hours away near the farm she works at. We started hanging out as friends and realized we had giant crushes on each other. We saw each other on & off through the winter. Now it’s April, & we really like each other, and have had fun sex a couple of times. The thing is: she says she doesn’t want a relationship—she’s busy farming, working 60+ hrs/wk and can’t commit to being in touch or making time to visit me. She also says she’s still processing her last relationship (5 yrs! her first queer relash!) so she needs to figure some stuff out. I totally get it. However, her actions are different from her words: she stays in touch a BUNCH and when we are together, she says a lotta stuff that feels VERY girlfriendy to me.
We both have established that we love hanging out, we feel fun and comfortable, we care a lot about each other, and we learn a lot from each other. I feel a lotta love between us although we haven’t said ILY but rn it doesn’t feel like we need that. For me, I really like her, I love hanging out w her. At the same time, I DO want to be in a relationship, but I don’t think a monogamous long-distance relationship would work for me. If I’m going to date someone I have needs! and want to have a lot of sex!! And only seeing someone like every other week *at most* doesn't feel enough, and if we’re monogamous, maybe there’d be a lot of pressure on those times to have a good time.
She is not comfortable with polyamory, specifically with me having sex with other people in the same time period as with her. My question is about ethics, tact, care, and timing:: Should I break up with her now, knowing that inevitably I will be boning some local person? There is no one else in the picture right now but I would like to be dating people; I also really don’t want her to feel like a “placeholder,” you know? That would feel like a shitty dynamic. Or, should we continue to “love each other while we can”? We’ve tried being just friends before and it was sad, there’s like this string that keeps wrapping each other together. Should I keep hanging out with her until it gets to a point where I am seeing another local person and want to bone them too? I’m feeling stuck between a rock & a hard spot, & it feels like an ethical decision which i don’t have the answer for. I want to be responsible and not be a douchebag.
I did not expect to see the words “she lives in a town 2 hours away” followed by “long-distance relationship.” As a lesbian from the Midwest, I have driven two hours for really good beef jerky and that is NOT a double-entendre. Two hours is not long-distance in my book, but I digress. We’re talking about you, not me and my horndog travels.
You’re in a pickle—an organic, free-range pickle from the farmers market, but still a pickle. You want an open relationship. Your farm boo does not. You want to spend more time together, but she’s overwhelmed by a semi-recent heartbreak and intense farming schedule. Neither of you are willing to compromise. This is a situation I see all the time here at Dear Worrier Princess: two people recognize that fundamental aspects of relationship aren’t working, but they stay together because the relationship is familiar and has redeeming qualities like good sex, rapport, or mutual love and care.
To be honest, it sounds like your farm boo is someone who wants what she wants when she wants it. The following sentences set off some alarms for me: “she can’t commit to being in touch or making time to visit me” followed by “she stays in touch a BUNCH and when we are together, she says a lotta stuff that feels VERY girlfriendy.” This is a boundaries issue and it’s 100% something you should discuss with her. Say something like, “It’s confusing for me when you say our relationship is one way, but then you text me frequently and say things like [EXAMPLE 1] and [EXAMPLE 2].” Similarly, you keep deciding to be friends and sliding back into romance-territory. This doesn’t mean you’re fated to be together, it means you need better boundaries and a solid chunk of time without any contact. I’m also wondering, during these stretches when you’re supposed to be friends, who escalates things? Who sends the first sext? Might be something to think about.
Is it wrong to date someone you don’t want to be with forever? No. I think most relationships fall into this camp. As long as you’re mindful not create a placeholder dynamic (which I interpret to mean becoming a dismissive or callous partner), it’s fine to see an end on the horizon. However, it’s never as simple as, “we’ll just date until things naturally end.” Even in the best of circumstances, breakups are hard. What if you meet someone available and local, but you’re still raw from the breakup? What if you struggle to establish post-breakup boundaries with your farm boo and this causes tension in your new relationship?
My advice is to set a course towards friendship, though I also understand how difficult it can be to end a relationship without the solid impetus of a fight or someone new. Ask yourself: if I end this relationship now, will I regret not spending more time together? If I keep seeing her, will my feelings become stronger and make it more difficult to separate? Is the agony is worth the ecstasy? Only you can decide.
Queery #2: Last semester (my first semester of college) I was pretty into this girl I thought was straight or at least very closeted. Almost immediately after returning to school after winter break we both got very drunk and ended up hooking up that night. Since then we've continued to see each other and the relationship seems to be getting more and more serious; however, only as long as we are in very private spaces. The only people who know about it are my friends and her friends all seem to believe that I am tragically in love with her, a straight girl. I have never been in any sort of serious relationship, I only first hooked up with a girl last semester but I've been out and open about my sexuality with those close to me for the past three years. I've tried to initiate conversations with her about this, which is hard as she freezes up with any sort of difficult topic that requires talking about ones emotions. We've gotten a little better at these conversations lately and it seems like she also wants a more serious relationship and wants to be able to be more public about it. In the past few weeks she has told one of the people she is living with as well as a close friend but it still seems like we're stuck in this strange place. I don't want to pressure her to do anything she feels very uncomfortable doing and I also recognize that feeling like I am, in a way, going back into the closet to be there with her is unhealthy for me. How do I keep my frustration for our current situation from clouding the good parts, if that's possible? Lately this is about all I think about or want to talk about and I find myself often getting stuck on these negative aspects. How can I best support her without damaging my own wellbeing?
While reading this queery, I realized that my first semester of college was TEN YEARS AGO. My mom drove me to Staples to buy an ethernet cable because my my dorm didn’t have wifi—that’s how we lived in 2009. I can confirm, in extreme retrospect, that your first year of college is overwhelming. It’s no small thing to leave home for the first time, make new friends, and balance coursework/relationships/a job. And then, on top of all that, your girlfriend is smacked with her own queerness and everything it entails. It’s a lot!
It doesn’t help that “coming out" is one of those those terms like “hooking up” or “middle class”—we pretend it’s this definite thing, when it actually means something different to everyone. As a femme lesbian, I come out to new people when it feels safe and pertinent. My butch friends, on the other hand, rarely get to come out on their own terms. Some people take years to come out, others make a snap decision and tell the world via Facebook. I have friends who are openly gay in the United States, but are closeted to their parents and extended families in their countries-of-origin. Sometimes I get DMs from women who say Instagram is their only queer outlet because marriage and other life circumstances make coming out impossible. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I meet a lot of young people who grew up in affirming homes and were exposed to queer adults and culture at an early age. All this to say that I totally agree with you: you can’t pressure your girlfriend to come out before she’s ready. I applaud you for recognizing that her life and decisions are hers and hers alone.
None of this changes the fact that your relationship makes you feel Bad. When you’ve escaped the deep closet, dating someone who’s struggling with self-acceptance can dredge up all sorts of insecurities and painful memories. It feels shitty to be someone’s secret; it implies that your sexuality is shameful and wrong. Like, have you ever had a friend who body-shamed themselves constantly and said stuff like “I’m so fat and disgusting”? Even though their comments aren’t directed at you, you come away feeling self-conscious and weird. Shame is contagious like that.
All relationships require compromise, but how do you know when you’re compromising too much? What do you owe yourself and what do you owe your partner? I ask myself these questions all the time. Kind of recently, I dated someone who habitually snapped at me. Like one time, we were walking dogs in a snowstorm and I joked that I could kick snow over the poop and it would be the perfect crime. They were full-on like, “THAT WILL CONTAMINATE OUR WATER SUPPLY.” It stung. Despite all this, I liked them a lot. I was in extreme cuffing mode and really, really wanted to be in a relationship. We talked it over and I left the conversation feeling hopeful. They acknowledged their outbursts and apologized, but the snapping kept happening to varying degrees. I could still feel the worst part of our relationship wearing me down. I kept second-guessing myself: “am I annoying? Am I difficult to spend time with? Is everything I say stupid and destructive to Wisconsin waterways?”
I turned to a friend for advice. L, who recently ended a complicated and bittersweet relationship, had the perfect response. I’m going to leave you with the text she sent me: “It’s your choice to stay in an imperfect relationship. Just make sure you’re staying because y’all are communicating openly and making the necessary changes. Stay cause you have a plan and solid reasons to believe things will get better, NOT cause you’re afraid of hurting her or afraid of being alone.”
dear worrier princess answers your qs about love and strife in relationships in this complex and modern queer world.
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All illustrations for this column are done by Sid Champagne. Sid is a freelance illustrator based in Baltimore by way of the Gulf Coast. You can find them on Twitter @sid_champagne, or Instagram (more cat pics) @sidchampagne