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Torn Between Two Lovers

They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the relationship fence, but what happens when you're straddling that fence? One reader asks our panel of relationship experts about choosing between a girlfriend and a crush.
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Dear 4-Way,

I’m in a serious relationship with another woman and have been for about six months. I recently met someone through a coworker who has become a good friend. We’ve met for coffee, brunch, walks, and the occasional drink, so I’ve really gotten to know her. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that I want to go to her first with any big news, happy or sad, rather than my girlfriend. I find myself thinking about her throughout the day. I’ve even thought about what it would feel like to kiss her. I love my girlfriend and know that I can get these feelings under control. I’d really like to still be friends with this woman, but I feel like I’m somehow cheating on my girlfriend. What should I do? —KB, Atlanta, Georgia

The Gay Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer

You’re not alone. This can get messy—quickly. First a few reminders: your girlfriend is not your everything. If she is, you’ve got problems. We need other friends in our lives and I want to make sure you know that. However, your girlfriend should be someone with whom you want to share your ups and downs with. And if you don’t, you have to ask yourself why she isn’t.

KB, what is it you like about how this new, good friend reacts when you share your thoughts with her? Is she a good listener? Is she super supportive? Now compare what she does to how your girlfriend reacts when you share things with her. What’s the attraction here? Is this something that you can find with your girlfriend? Also, ask yourself, what is it that makes you want to stay with your current girlfriend? Make a list of all her great qualities.

From your email, it sounds like you have a little crush going on. If you don’t at least talk to your current girlfriend about how you need to her to listen to you and support you, you may be in danger of taking things to the next level with this new woman—if indeed she’s available for that. Don’t go there until you’ve really thought about each woman and what qualities they bring out in you.

Also, don’t forget the newness factor. Sometimes it’s easier for us to be more vulnerable in a relationship when we have less to lose. Are you ready to walk through the tougher times that come with a long-term relationship? And please don’t forget, just because you’re great friends with someone does not mean she’d be a great girlfriend.

Have friends in addition to your girlfriend. No one can—or should—be your everything. After careful consideration, you may want to trade in your current girlfriend for this newer model or you may want to stay with your current model. Only you can decide which is the better fit.

The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy

This other woman has shown you that something’s missing in your relationship with your girlfriend. It’s not so much about controlling your feelings as it is about figuring out why you have them.

Is your girlfriend not so supportive and that’s why you want to tell this other woman things first? Or are you just not that into your girlfriend anymore?

You have to make a choice: stay with your girlfriend and break it off with your new friend or break up with your girlfriend and pursue things with this other woman. Trying to do both is driving you crazy enough to write us and it’s not working. It may or may not be this woman or it may just be that you need something else.

The good thing either way is, if you stay with your girlfriend, you know the kind of priority you need to give her in your life. You know she’s the one you want to tell everything to first. So make sure you work on that. And if you choose to leave her, you have to be okay with the risk that this other woman may not work out as your girlfriend, either.

Regardless, your actions of late are a wake-up alarm. When one is fulfilled in a relationship, she doesn’t take brunches, walks, drinks, etc. with someone other than her girlfriend. Not to say you can’t do some of those things with others, but doing ALL of them with someone else while you’re in a serious relationship doesn’t seem right.

This other woman is taking up valuable time and space in your brain. Don’t hit the snooze button on this. Wake up and make your decision—regardless of what side of the bed you get up on.

The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown

Once you’ve been in a relationship for a while, things can get routine. The excitement of the beginning phase is gone, you know all your partner’s stories and jokes, things in the physical department may start to settle down and become less ravage-each-other-ten-times-a-day and more of a once-on-Monday-Wednesday-Friday kind of thing. An attractive and interesting new person comes along and suddenly, you start feeling the addictive crush rush again. Guess what? That’s totally normal. This woman won’t be the last crush you have on someone else while you’re in a relationship; I can promise you that. Unless you lock yourself in a dark basement for the rest of your life, you’re going to come in contact with attractive, witty, funny women and from time to time, you’ll probably find yourself wondering, “What if?” What matters is how you deal with the “what if” when it happens.

You don’t mention anything about the state of your relationship with your girlfriend. Are you going through a rocky time right now? Not talking? Not having sex? Or is everything just status quo? Take a good, hard look at the relationship and think about all the things you like about her and also any fundamental hurdles that you can’t get over. (But for God’s sake, don’t commit them to paper like Ross did on Friends. Just let it marinate in your brain.) Around the six month-mark is when a lot of couples realize their relationship may not have staying power. Could that be what’s happening here? You can still care about people who aren’t the best fit for you; in fact, sometimes the people with nothing objectionable other than that are the hardest people to let go.

The bottom line is that you can’t have both. Think hard about which woman you’d miss the most if you let one go and let that guide your decision.

The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox

Three little words for you, KB: proceed with caution. Based on your description, you definitely have feelings for this person whether you realize it or not. You say you wonder what it would be like to kiss her. Do you wonder that about all the other women in your life, too? No? Then you have a crush!

So, what to do about that? Think about yourself; think about your girlfriend. Then think about yourself again. What do you want? Answer that and see what direction you’re headed. If you answer it with “I want to stay with my girlfriend,” then you need to distance yourself from this other woman. If she asks why you’re drifting, just tell her that you feel like you want to get closer to your girlfriend these days and you’re focusing your energy on her. But, if you want to get closer to the other woman, then let yourself go down that path. Above all, put you first. The rest will happen naturally. 

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