I've discovered, time and time again, that the lifestyle, no matter where you are located, is very small. People know each other, or at least know of each other, through mutual friends, friends of friends, playmates, pillow talk, gossip, and rumors. Besides the various websites, there has been an explosion of lifestyle events, parties, and “takeovers” in recent years, with more people willing to travel to attend them. That coupled with the advent of “secret” lifestyle groups on Facebook and the like, lend to more easily made connections, friendships, and the sharing of naked pictures with larger groups of like-minded people. The opportunities for meeting (and playing) have become easier than ever. Geography no longer is much of an issue or an impediment for lifestyle fun.
On the one hand, this is a great thing! What could be wrong with more fun and sexy LS friends all over the country? I recently found out the hard way.
After the shenanigans with PS befriending my ex boyfriend (see “Who's Gonna Clean Up This Mess?“), I was faced with the reality that no matter how much I tried to keep people and aspects of my life separate, when it comes to the lifestyle, the degrees of separation are few, and it is almost impossible to keep people from eventually meeting, and perhaps developing relationships if there are common interests, attraction, or friends in common. People who I didn't expect to know each other did, and some people seemed to know EVERYONE in the LS. As I began to realize this, all I could do was hope that there wasn't too much awkwardness or drama when (not if) my worlds collided. I'd luckily emerged relatively unscathed with PS, but I knew that would probably not be the last time I was faced with intertwining circles.
This recently came to fruition once again, in a much more difficult way. I'd been seeing my Out of State Interest (OSI) for about a month now. We texted daily, FaceTimed weekly, Faceb
ooked regularly (I got a kick out of his comments, “likes” and public acknowledgment of me) and we talked on the phone a few times a week. It was a very easygoing thing, no expectations were discussed, but we both seemed to show interest in the other and he seemed to give me the attention I needed. He even read my articles and listened to my radio show, which meant a lot to me.
I had questions, to be sure- I'm a girl, so “where is this going?” “how does he feel about me?” often loomed in the back of my mind, along with wondering what our parameters were as far as other partners, dating, flirting (sometimes I felt like he went a little overboard in the Facebook groups, but I didn’t feel like it was my place or right to say anything), etc. All in all, I was trying to enjoy the moment for what it was, not put too much pressure on the situation (it was long distance, anyway), and see what happened. It was definitely a hard task for “Ms. Overthinker,” but so far, it was going well enough.
We decided I would come for an extended weekend visit- this would give us a chance to hang out and spend more together outside of a party atmosphere and see how compatible we were. I booked a flight and was excited as the days approached.
However, my excitement slightly diminished when I found out that my ex-husband was going to be in the same state and city over the same weekend, attending a big LS party. Oh dear. This was not good.
Throughout our divorce, my ex-husband and I had remained pretty decent friends, and I was proud of that. I didn’t want us to be the typical divorced couple who couldn’t stand each other. There was occasional tension and awkwardness, sure, and I tried to make sure I didn't attend too many events where I knew he’d show up, just because I didn't want to put him or anyone else in an uncomfortable position. And as the months passed, I gravitated toward certain mutual friends, while he gravitated to others. All in all, we were both pretty happy to have such a cordial and friendly relationship.
Despite all of this, neither of us had ever mentioned dating, and I had been pretty careful to keep my romantic life out of his line of sight- I knew that would hurt him, as he still held onto hope that we would eventually reconcile. So this out of state weekend made me pretty nervous. Things could range from awkward to bad if my ex-husband and I crossed paths while I was with another guy. Of course, OSI mentioned attending the party, which I quickly said wouldn't be a good idea, explaining the situation. He was very understanding and agreeable, and we made other plans.
The weekend started off great. OSI and I had hot and steamy sex when I arrived, we hung out with some of his friends, ate a lot, had more hot sex, attended a vanilla (but fun) pool party, did a bit of nightclub hopping, and repeatedly fell asleep while cuddling and watching movies on his couch.
Then Sunday morning arrived. Apparently someone at the party Saturday night mentioned to my ex-husband that I was in town visiting OSI, and this sent him into a rage. He sent me a series of nasty texts and finally called me- hurt and angry. In addition to the shock of hearing that I was seeing someone (he asked if it were just a fling or if he was my boyfriend- and the answer, “something in between? I really don't know,” seemed to infuriate him), the fact that it was someone who was friends with his friends and acquaintances really bothered him.
“This really cuts too close to home,” he said. “I can't believe you picked someone to date who is friends with my friends.” I felt ashamed and terrible. Wasn't this similar to how I felt when PS befriended my ex-boyfriend?
In my defense, there was a major difference between my actions and those of PS- I didn't know who OSI knew or was friends with when I met him, so it was not done intentionally or maliciously. And my ex-husband had never met OSI, to my knowledge. But as OSI and I began talking more over the last several weeks, it became clear that he was a bit of a LS celebrity, and knew EVERYONE. I would expect that our circles would have crossed at some point. I'm actually surprised I hadn't met him sooner.
Here's the problem, though… I realize that whoever I date will likely be someone in the LS, or at least LS friendly and open minded. The pool for single guys like that is small, and it's even smaller when you factor in the types of guys that I like and would consider dating. So it stands to reason, whoever I date will know someone who knows someone who knows someone. There's no avoiding it. Unless I take myself out of the scene altogether when it comes to dating, situations like this will occur- and even on the flip side, if my ex-husband, or PS, or OSI start dating others, they will probably date a LS girl, and I will probably know who she is (and will end up seeing them out together at a party or something). Heck, given OSI's celebrity status, that is a very likely scenario. I don't know if I'm just the flavor of the month with him, but that's for another article.
Regardless, I understood and empathized with how my ex-husband felt. I know I'd feel at least a small twinge if I found out he (or anyone I'd dated) was seeing someone in the circle, even if it was an extended circle and I didn't know them personally. Geographic boundaries provided no safety net here- even being out of state, the circles still overlapped.
I don't know what the solution is, or if there is even one. I don't think I was supposed to necessarily tiptoe around dating for the sake of his feelings, and I didn't owe it to him to announce that I was dating and who, but I didn't want to be an insensitive jerk, either. What I should have done was just told him upfront that I was planning on being in the city with OSI and dealt with his emotional response on the front end rather than the back end. The result may have been the same, but at least he wouldn't have been shocked and embarrassed. It was a poor decision on my part, that came from a place of cowardice (as well as fear of hurting his feelings) and I regretted making it.
I can't be the only one whose circles have overlapped uncomfortably. Even if it isn't this scenario, I'm sure people have had issues and falling outs with friends and play partners in the LS, and seen them afterwards with friends or friends of friends. How is that resolved? I suppose that all I can do is hope that we can all handle things with as much maturity, respect, and sensitivity as possible. I just hope my circles don't continue to intertwine too much.
I can’t help but think of something Dan Savage has said on his show a few times. He points out that this “my friends can never date by ex’s” thing is so straight people. Gay people (Savage says) figure out very quickly that their world is just too small to think that way. Obviously this is true (perhaps more true) in the LS.
Another good read – although I do wonder how if your OSI reads and listens to your media how it hasn’t come up yet. Perhaps it has now after some of these posts?
But it does point to how – as much as it’s so much easier (I find) to be straight forward and help everyone be on the same page a lot of the time in open relationships, although less so in more informal or casual lifestyle relationships – you still need to approach things the same way as you would more traditional relationships. Friends and exes are no exception of course.
I’d already mentioned on your previous blog post about how my night was soured after a poor experience with meeting a girlfriend at a play party. That was in part my own fault for setting an expectation on the night of course, but she also hadn’t said anything to me that she’d be bringing a date (just that she’d be coming with friends). But that’s fine anyway, I don’t expect I’m the only person in one of my girlfriend’s lives – especially one who’s far more active in the lifestyle than me!
Where it went wrong was she wasn’t willing to communicate at all even when face to face. We’d been very hot and heavy in previous dates but something was always in the way of sex. She was probably the most compatible kisser with me I’ve ever had (she’d said I was great in that department too) and we had some great talks on the lifestyle world so I thought any chance we’d have to get together would be a fun experience even if it didn’t lead to anything physical. But any time I talked to her that night, she was dismissive and didn’t even want to look at me.
I didn’t even know how to approach it from there. Flirty, friendly or otherwise wasn’t getting any response, and she reacted the same whether I came by to talk to her when all her friends (including the guys) were around or if she was alone. So, I stupidly got a bit pissy and just left her alone rather than be straight up and ask – high school, I know.
Of course I should have just asked, I’ve been on enough dates as a guy in an open relationship that I should know well enough. I guess I just thought she should have wanted to see me as much as I wanted to see her.
And that was it really. I find her brushing me off, and then walk into the open play area to find her fucking the guy she brought (who was either the best friend of the guy her girlfriend brought and she had to take care of him all night – which she was upset about but still was willing to sleep with him – or her non-lifestyle boyfriend who she was introducing to that part of her life at the party and he was jealous), and then find her talking to my wife in the lobby as I catch up on my way out despite hardly talking to me all night. My wife heard the second version of the story where I heard the first version of the situation when I finally asked her a day or so after.
I could have just asked her at the start and saved myself even having to pursue her at all, but instead it ended in drama and ruining what would have otherwise been a fun party for my wife and I. Just as in your situation, both parties had a hand in it where a simple communication could have made life much easier, and then the reactions when things were happening did nothing to help the situation. You have it in two parts, where letting your ex know might have helped make the weekend drama free, and also you might have some questions for your OSI to make sure you’re level setting and no one gets hurt (namely yourself!).
I know I’ll be better at that in future, and hopefully you get that clarity in your life by being more forward about things as you need to. It’s not always easy to do – even for experienced lifestylers.