I’m Poly, Crushing, and Nervous…

There is this girl in one of my courses this semester at university, and I have crushed on her since I met her. But I can’t bring myself to build a close friendship, I’m worried I’ll be weird.

We both LOVE critically engaging in literature (it’s a literature course we’re in), and she inspires me to write more as she runs an audio podcast.

I don’t even know if she’s poly, she knows I have a boyfriend. How do I convey that I’m AVAILABLE?

Dear Worried I’ll Be Weird:

I think you’ve touched on feelings a lot of us have had at various times, boiling down to two questions: “How soon do I tell someone I’m poly?” and “Am I willing to take a risk of being weird and facing rejection?”

Neither has a definitive answer, as they both depend on the individual asking the questions.

If I’m considering a relationship with a new person, my being poly comes out pretty quickly, but I could see not wanting to ‘out’ myself too suddenly as poly (or weird!) to a classmate. So, I might see if I could bring up social mores in conversation, say by critically engaging in relevant literature from our assignments, or leading casual discussion off on a tangent to see where this person might be on the social spectrum, and how receptive they might be to the scenario I have in mind. If oblique techniques don’t work, then I’d try to steer the conversation in a direction where I can reveal the poly part of who I am, and see what reaction I get, before I actually propose what I’d ultimately like to happen.

If my being poly and already in a relationship isn’t going to work for them, I’d rather know sooner than later. Time is my highest love language, so I don’t like to waste mine pursuing something that’s just not going to happen as I imagined, which is why my philosophy is to come out as a polyamorous person sooner rather than later.

What if a poly relationship with this person isn’t possible? Would you still like them? Would you still want to be friends? Would you still want to spend time with them? The answers to these questions give a clearer picture to you of what is at stake. If I really like someone and I cannot have the poly relationship I want, then I try to figure out between us what we can have. I’d rather take the risk and understand I might get pretty hurt in the process, than play it safe and always wonder what might have been. Whatever path you take, it’s likely to be very growthful – which is a good thing! Over to you, Leon.

Thanks Lee! Is “growthful” even a word?

Worried, it sounds like this person might be someone you are crushing on not just because they’re attractive or potentially compatible with you, but because they inspire you through their literary interests and accomplishments. If they didn’t run a podcast or encourage your writing, would you still be attracted to them? Would you want to be ‘just friends’? Or wouldn’t you desire a connection with them at all? Understanding the needs and wants underlying your feelings is usually the first step towards knowing how to deal with them.

As far as the relationship you could work towards – that’s pretty easy. Virtually all awesome relationships of all kinds have a meaningful friendship at their core, and my guess is if attraction weren’t an issue you’d want to be friends anyway. I’d suggest letting your first priority be letting that friendship develop, meaning you’re going to have to let her see the authentic you, weirdness and all. As a certifiably weird child who now – finally – embraces his weirdness as an adult, I can reassure you that those quirky personality traits you’re so nervous to share, whatever they are, will wind up being endearing to people who will like the real you.

It does become a little tricky when you are attracted to your friends, especially if you want more than they do in any way (which could refer to physical intimacy but also attention or time or anything else). It’s also unfair to lead someone on if you know for sure you want something that they don’t or won’t, so before too long it’s likely you’ll have to come clean about your “more than friends” interest.

Lee offers some good indirect ideas on how to figure out whether interest might be mutual, and I would lean towards a tactfully direct approach, but I’m also a fan of creativity. Especially since you’ve got a third party involved via your boyfriend (have you asked/considered whether he’d be on board with your ideas?), I like the idea of him being your wingman if you’re too nervous to do it yourself. It might be an idea to introduce them at a social event (added bonus: you can see how well they get along before taking the next step), and as you step away to use the restroom or take a call he could casually drop into their conversation, “I can see why she has a crush on you.” That will definitely start the conversation if nothing else has. And if any two of you turn out to be interested in setting up a three-way flirtation, you could be the one to proposition the third, “you know, we both think you’re super attractive…”