Dating a Quasi-Boss, Becoming Lesbian Othello, and Taking the Road Less Confusing

by Lindsay Miller

A Queer Chick

I’ve got myself in knots about my friend. Since we met she had always been the paradigm of the best and most fun. Back then it was harder to get close to her. I was more tame and unavailable. There was also always some chemistry. I don’t know how much it matters that I’ve really only dated dudes long-term. This has never hindered my identifying as queer, but has obviously limited my expression of that part of myself. Somehow these things are maybe connected.

Over the years we’ve grown up a little and grown closer despite living far apart. We are among one another’s closest friends. Except that the chemistry thing has kind of exploded (i.e extremely good sex went down). When this first happened I was exiting a long term thing. We were both mixed up and vulnerable and it was fraught but great and necessary. Whatever ambiguity was there we owned together.

When I visited her recently (in a less fraught but still heartachey state) she’d just started seeing someone. Unexclusively but already in couple mode. I knew it and figured I’d be alright. We’d sleep together and then I’d feel crappy around this new girl. I probably would have felt so regardless, since escapes into the arms of even a completely platonic partner in crime is traditionally less freeing with a new lover in the picture, right? Maybe it would have been better if I’d connected better with this new person — I tried really hard. I swear. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t buy it. Sensing them kissing behind my back felt real bad. She’s never been romantic with me. Some kind of boundary, I guess. That suddenly bummed me out hard. So lot of “why not me?” thoughts came rushing up in me like an idiot.

Over days we talked, got naked, got mad, got alright, affirmed our love and friendship. I went home and things have mostly gone on as usual. Platonic, funny, bright. I still feel messed up though. I know this probably has a lot to do with being truly alone for the first time in a long time, but my brain keeps pointing towards this person I love, who I’ve loved for a long time, who lives far away. I know that doesn’t mean we have to be together (in my brain, I mean). I know it will hopefully pass. That I need to just not think about this so much. But it’s hard. I feel myself involuntarily thinking things like “guess I’ll have to wait a few years for this new thing to run its course,” and feel like an asshole and a bad friend, and wonder whether I’ve had some kind of creepy sexual ulterior motive throughout our friendship. Do I even know how to have platonic friendships? I think of other close friends with whom things have also been blurred. But then I think, this person has always been the main person. What is wrong with me? (Its not just in my head; our friends goad this on as well. For whatever that is worth.) I guess I don’t know what I was expecting or I want here or even if its worth answering that question. We live far apart. We want to be friends. I just want her to be happy. I just want to be a good self and a good friend. How do I put this out of my head or just chill the fuck out?

Well, for one thing, I definitely think you should stop having sex with her. Don’t sleep with people you’re in love with who are dating other people — it’s bit of a mouthful, but otherwise it would be the new official Ask a Queer Chick motto. There’s an imbalance of affection here, a difference in kind if not in degree, which almost always leads to a discrepancy in what you mean by having sex with each other. And right now, since you’re not even entirely sure what you want, much less how to square that with what she wants, you need to take the Road Less Confusing. Next time you visit her, see if you can make it through your trip without ending up in bed (or couch or shower or pillow fort) together — just as a fun little exercise.

Other than that, the answer to “how do I get over someone who doesn’t love me the way I love them?” is pretty much the same as it’s ever been. Give it time — more time than you think it should take, more time than you’d like it to take. Wanting someone you can’t have is the kind of pain that lasts until it doesn’t anymore, and there’s no good way to predict when that will be. But don’t feed the pain. Don’t spend hours wallowing and looking at pictures of her with her new girlfriend on Facebook, or writing verbose diary entries about why you’re the one she should be with. Listen to some sad music if you must, but then go out and do something fun. Meet people who live near you. Maybe make out with a few of them. See if you can find someone who takes your mind off your friend. But mostly, enjoy your new singlehood and freedom. Try new things. Try on new versions of yourself, and see which one fits best.

And if at all possible, give yourself some space from this girl. I know you’re in separate cities, but you need emotional space as well as physical so that you’re not just constantly ripping scabs off your heart. Spend less time texting her and more time going for walks, practicing the ukulele, or perfecting your gluten-free pancake recipe. I don’t mean you can’t ever speak to her again; I mean that you need to set boundaries that will let you live with the fact that she doesn’t want to be with you That Way. If all you’re doing is waiting around for the day she breaks up with her girlfriend, it’s going to fuck with your friendship and your life. You’re not creepy or a bad friend for wanting more, but since you can’t have what you want, take a few steps back from the situation and focus on goals you can actually work toward and achieve. Otherwise, your disappointment could fester into resentment and you might end up losing her for real.

Sometimes you love people who you can’t be with. It is really hard. It is really painful. But it passes, eventually. You have to remind yourself that she isn’t the only person you’ll ever love, or the last one who will break your heart. You may have to grieve, the same way you would over a breakup. But you’ll get through it, and your friendship will recover, and you’ll find your way to someplace more fulfilling and joyful and awesome than you can even imagine right now.

I’ve been dating this great girl for a while now, and everything is perfect, except the constant intrusion of her ex. Some background: They were together for years. They share all the same friends. Their break-up was bitter — her ex cheated on her for a long time and wasn’t there for her at a crucial period. She managed to get out, and begin to repair her life. Then I came on the scene. We fell in love fast, and a week after we had moved in together, they realized they still had feelings for each other. My heart was pretty broken, but I decided to ride it out, and give them space to figure it out. My girlfriend was able to move on, so we continued our relationship. A year later, in a different town, it hits me hard. Her ex is trying to get in contact all the time, and they’re talking about trying to rebuild their friendship. We had some very weird hangouts as a group, which resulted in a bunch of texts from her ex saying she missed the way things used to be between them. They snapchat, skype and text very intermittently.

I trust my girlfriend, but this is driving me crazy. Her ex keeps appearing in all these little ways, and my feelings of jealousy aren’t getting better. I have bad dreams about it all the time. One one level, I understand. It’s my girlfriend’s bridge, and she needs to build it. I’ve never had problems with people’s friendships with their ex’s before. I’m still friends with most of mine. But this situation is turning me into a crazy person. My girlfriend is losing patience with my reaction to this, and wants to stop talking about it and move on from that time. I want to move on from that time. I’ve talked to her, I’ve talked to friends, I’ve talked to myself. But no matter how much I talk, how much deep breathing I do or calming pictures of dolphins I look at, I can’t get over it. I can’t ask my girlfriend not to see her. I can’t afford a therapist (seriously — I can’t afford a therapist) and I can’t stop feeling angry, and resentful. Please help — I’m turning into a passive aggressive, lesbian Othello.

You want to move on. Your girlfriend wants to move on. But your girlfriend’s ex doesn’t want to move on — so you can’t, either, unless you move on without her.

I don’t find it at all unreasonable that you’re worried about your girlfriend’s feelings for her ex, given that she already put your relationship on hold because of them once. What you’re dealing with is not out-of-nowhere, irrational anxiety — for which I would tell you to find a therapist who charges on a sliding scale, because they exist — but a reasonable response to an anxiety-producing situation. Your girlfriend is asking you to proceed on faith and assume that what happened before won’t happen again, but it’s no wonder that you’re having trouble doing so when her ex is still in the picture and hoping history will repeat itself.

I have to wonder why your girlfriend wants to rebuild a friendship with this woman who’s continuing to send “I miss you” texts after she’s made it clear — one assumes — that she’s happy with you and not interested in revisiting their romance. That’s some questionable treatment of boundaries. It’s intrusive, it’s disrespectful, and frankly it would turn even the best of us into passive-aggressive lesbian Othello. I don’t agree that you can’t ask your girlfriend not to see this girl. In your situation, that’s exactly what I would do, at least until the ex agrees to respect your relationship and cut it out with the let’s-get-back-together texts. But it doesn’t sound like your girlfriend is likely to comply with such a request — because she’s decided that you’re the one with the problem here.

I’m hella skeptical of a girlfriend who thinks the answer to your reasonable insecurities is “you should stop talking about it already.” It doesn’t sound like she’s taking your feelings or your concerns seriously — at least not seriously enough to set and enforce boundaries with her ex. Your girlfriend isn’t willing to give up her friendship with her ex; you can’t just will yourself to get over it. There’s no compromise here except the one where you suffer in silence, waiting vainly for the calming dolphin photos to kick in. It’s okay to decide that this situation just isn’t going to work for you. The best possible solution might be the one where you start over with someone you have an easier time trusting.

I’m happily, monogamously married to a man. I’ve identified as bisexual, gay, and then, for ten years, straight; recently I decided, whoops, I’m not straight after all. (Given my history, I’m going with “fluid.”)

My husband has been supportive of both my history and this recent update. Just one issue: he seems uncomfortable with me being out.

I’m still figuring out what I want for *myself*. I’m a private person, and before this identity shift, I didn’t really talk to people about my attractions and fantasies (about men or women). However, it feels a little different now, because people are assuming something incorrect about my identity — that I’m straight. I don’t want to make an announcement or share what would otherwise feel like TMI, but I also don’t think I want to be closeted, at least to my friends and maybe also at work. My husband seems uneasy about this, though, and doesn’t understand why I would want to share this with people (maybe in part because he’s from a less individualistic — and also less accepting — culture).

So, two questions:

1) Can you give me words to explain why this might be important to me? I struggle to articulate why it might bother me for people to see me as “married to a guy and straight, though formerly not straight,” as opposed to “married to a guy and not straight.” Why should it matter? I’ve tried explaining the assumptions/identity thing, but that didn’t resonate.

2) Suppose my husband never quite gets it. What do I do then? I don’t want to do something that makes him deeply uncomfortable, but this also seems like a pretty big thing on which to let someone else (even someone very important) essentially have the final say. Help please.

I can’t tell you how to explain your desire to be out so that your husband will understand it; presumably you know your husband better than I do, and you have so far had little success. I can explain why it’s important to me — because I’m not ashamed of myself or my orientation, but hiding it makes me feel like it’s something to be ashamed of — but there’s no guarantee that my feelings or experience will translate for him. What I can tell you, and you can pass along to your dude, is this: He doesn’t need to understand why being out matters to you. He just needs to understand that it does.

No matter how strong the foundations of your marriage, no matter how deeply you connect or how well you understand each other, there will always be aspects of your partner’s psyche that are fundamentally disparate from your own, thoughts and feelings with which you will never be able to sympathize no matter how hard you try. If you truly care about each other, however, you honor and respect these feelings even when you are unable to share them. I will never know why my partner adores Love, Actually so much, but I will watch it every December from now until my tits are down to the floor, because the happiness of the person I love is more important than my own feeble mortal comprehension.

Even if your husband can’t understand the pressure and discomfort that come with being a closeted queer person, he should be able to respect the fact that you’re unhappy, and therefore something needs to change. I wish you had explained a little more about why he’s not down with you being out. Is he on some level uncomfortable with your orientation, or afraid that you coming out will be step 1 in the process of leaving him for a woman? It’s possible that reassuring him of your continued love and fidelity will make him feel better about your orientation being public knowledge.

Ultimately, though, the person who’s most affected by whether or not you’re in the closet is you, so the decision to come out has to be yours. Let your husband know before you put the information out there, and be willing to discuss how it makes him feel and what you can do to assuage his concerns, but be firm. If you want to be out, you get to be out — he doesn’t have veto power here.

So, I think I’m in love with my quasi-boss. I’ve had feelings for her for what feels like forever, and after a long time of pining and believing that I was experiencing hopelessly unrequited feelings, we made out while drunk together quite some time ago. We didn’t really acknowledge it afterwards, but it definitely still feels like theres unresolved tension there, and we still get along great. To complicate things further, this would hypothetically be my first actual relationship with a girl. However, she is in a serious long term relationship (albeit I think an open one) with a guy. I’m not super experienced in the realm of serious relationships, so I’m honestly not sure how monogamous I am/need to be to maintain my sanity. Half my friends tell me to just ask her out, and the other half tell me to move on. Is there any room for hope/success for me or is this doomed to end badly no matter what?

I’m gonna go with “doomed to end badly” for 400, Alex. I don’t know exactly what “quasi-boss” is, but I’m strongly opposed to dating anyone you even slightly work for. There are exceptions, but mostly it’s a quick and easy 15-minute recipe for disaster, using ingredients you already have in your pantry.

See, you can enter into a relationship with your boss on totally equal footing, both enamored and mutually consenting to shared sexy times, but when one person has power over the other in the workplace, it’s much harder to leave a relationship on equal footing. What if you want to break up, and she doesn’t, and she takes it out on your performance review? What if you forget a date night, and the next day she forgets to answer several important work emails? I’m sure the object of your affections would never intentionally use her professional leverage to manipulate you romantically, but that power imbalance will always be present — and it will become more apparent immediately if things start to go wrong.

Also, she’s dating someone else, and you think they have an open relationship but you don’t know for sure, which means you don’t know her well enough to be planning your impending girlfriendhood, no matter how awesome your drunken makeout sesh was. What you have here is infatuation, and it is great for the quick, intense high, but not so awesome in the long term. Let her go and look for a nice girl who a) doesn’t have a boyfriend and b) doesn’t have the ability to fire you. Good luck!

Previously: Coming Out at Work, An Introductory Queer Library, and Being “Queer Enough”

Lindsay King-Miller is also on Twitter, and you can peruse the AAQC archive here. Do you have a question for her?