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Friday, June 15, 2012

162

Second Favorites, Gold Stars, and Sex Not Had

1. I’m in a long-term, and very serious, relationship with the nicest, best guy in the world. I am a very sexual, and very queer, chick. I am totally in love with this dude; we talk about babies, our dreams, a house — the total hetero package. I do, however (and very sadly!) really … REALLY … miss sex with women. I knew I was bi/queer from a very young age, and made out with some girls and dated a lady semi-long-term, but don’t have a lot of experience (not that I have an insane amount with men either). When I met this guy about two years ago, I was in a place where I thought I might never date a man again … but I fell into this and now it’s something wonderful. It caught me slightly off guard! Now, in my mid-20s, I wish I had more time to fuck around (literally and figuratively) with women.

I don’t know what to do with these feelings. As a queer women I am sensitive to the fact that we are typically (negatively) cast as not being able to make up our minds about what we prefer and all that. But I MISS IT! Some might say we should have an open relationship, but he’s not as sexual as I am, so it would just be for me, which doesn’t seem fair.

Him not being as sexual as I am isn't a dealbreaker for me — we have good sex, I love him, and I can imagine myself building a life with him — but I don’t know whether this is something that is as a result of our sex (so might improve), or just something I have to deal with (like in any relationship — imagining about all the fucks that could have been!), or some inherently fatal flaw. Help!

I know I've belabored this point in the past, perhaps to excess, so I'll make it brief here: long-term monogamy always requires some sacrifices in terms of potential sex partners, or as you put it, “fucks that could have been” (I'm totally stealing that phrase). If you want to be with one person for the rest of your life — and it sounds like you're seriously considering it with this guy — you have to be prepared to let go of all the FTCHB, or at least consign them to the realm of fantasy. It's not always easy, but if this is the relationship you want, the trade-off is totally worth it.

That said, there's an aspect of this issue I don't always get around to touching on, which is that long-term monogamy isn't necessarily your only option. I'm well aware that non-monogamy is not for everyone — it's definitely not for me — but it sounds like you've already toyed with the idea of opening up your relationship, and didn't exactly reject it out of hand. The only reason you've given for ruling it out is that it “wouldn't be fair,” since your man isn't interested in getting any on the side, but there are a lot of different definitions of fair. If “fair” in your relationship means “we have the exact same number of orgasms per week,” okay, yeah, it probably wouldn't be fair. If it means “we're both having the number of orgasms we want,” non-monogamy might be more fair than the way things are right now — and allow you to scratch that persistent itch of lady-lovin' while you're at it.

Couples with disparate sex drives have to find ways of compromising. Maybe you figure out things he can do for you when you're in the mood but he's not; maybe you just strengthen your relationship with your vibrator (and your stash of good queer porn). But maybe you discover that, every so often, going out and getting sweaty with a girl while he hangs out on the couch watching The Walking Dead ends up being a perfect, satisfying evening for you both.

Just so we're clear, I am NOT giving you a license to cheat on your boyfriend if he doesn't put out. If you can't work out a way to sleep with women with the full knowledge and consent of your partner, you'll have to go un-girlsexed or break up. But before you commit to one of those alternatives, you might try bringing up the idea of an open relationship and seeing how he responds. He already knows that you like girls, and he knows your sex drive is higher than his, so hopefully the suggestion won't come as too much of a shock to him. Maybe he'll be into in and maybe he won't — again, non-monogamy is not for everyone, and being uninterested in sharing your partner is certainly not a personality flaw. But if it's something he agrees is worth exploring, you may be able to have your cake and eat pussy too.

2. Okay, A Queer Chick, there's a bit of convoluted back story on this one, so bear with me! I grew up in a small, conservative town where no one was openly gay. I half-heartedly had crushes on guys but never had an actual boyfriend (though my general high school awkwardness did not help matters). But then college happened! And I fell in love with my best (female) friend. When we started dating, there were some uncomfortable conversations with family and friends, but everything worked out. I figured out that I identify as bisexual or queer, though I'd never slept with a man and planned to be with my girlfriend forever, so it didn't seem to matter.

Until now! Because after nearly six years together, we broke up six months ago (it was reasonably amicable, so don't fret!). So I'm back on the dating scene after a long absence. I've been dating mostly women, but haven't really clicked with any of them. And then I met this dude, and things are going well enough to make me realize that it's not IF we're going to sleep together, it's when. And I'm really excited about that! But that brings me to my question. We met on a dating site, where I've identified as bi, though I'm technically a gold-star lesbian at this point. Before we sleep together, do I need to make it clear that I've never had sex with a man? My ex and I played with lots of toys, so physically it won't be a problem, but I just don't know what to expect! (Like blow jobs! Also birth control!) And if I'm awkward about things that straight women would find normal, I want to be able to talk to him about that. But how do I start that conversation? Help!

Sleeping with someone new, after six years with the same partner, is always going to have a little bit of scary mixed in with the exciting. It's always going to be a challenge to adjust to a new person's particular idiosyncratic way of getting it on, to become familiar with each other's desires, to figure out whether that sound means “slower” or “faster,” to find a Wonder Woman costume that fits them perfectly. And when the new partner is of a gender you've never done naked stuff with before, it can be that much more daunting — which is why you should tell your dudefriend where you're coming from.

You're not required to disclose that you've never sexed a boy before, of course, but I think it will help you feel more comfortable. If you're up in your head the whole time, thinking “Oh my God did I just do something totally weird, I bet that was weird, I bet now he can tell that he's the first guy I've slept with, he probably thinks I'm so clueless,” you are not going to be having a lot of fun. And even if your guy can't tell that you're in uncharted territory, he will be able to tell you're not having fun, which will lead to him not having much fun either. If you're not trying to hide your hetero inexperience, you'll be less embarrassed to speak up when you're not sure about something or need him to slow down, which is likely to end in sexier times for both of you.

Don't worry too much about whether you're doing dude-sex the “right” way; this is not a test that you can fail. There is no specific way that all straight people have sex, and if your guy tells you there is, he is a terrible guy and you should rid yourself of him immediately. Just be honest, have fun, and use a condom — things are going to be great.

3. Here's my thing: I'm an introverted 23-year-old demisexual lady who thinks she might be bi. For context (I'm not sure whether this matters, but hey), I've been in a few relationships with dudes. None of them have been super serious, and despite getting intimate with a few, I've never had full-on intercourse for various reasons, one of them being I've veeeeery rarely felt like I wanted it. Then again, I've never had a crush on a particular girl, mostly because I've never had close relationships with queer chicks, and I don't fall for people who aren't into the vageen (lucky me, right? I'm such an INTJ). It's just hard to tell when no one turns you on until you get to know them well, and being an introvert, getting to know someone takes a long time. I guess my question is, how can I be sure? I'd be up for trying to date girls, but even then I probably wouldn't want to have any type of sex for a loooong while, and only if I really get to know and care for said girl. And it feels like I'd be leading her on if I essentially carried out a sexless long-term relationship that might suddenly end if I finally decided "oh hey I'm not sexually attracted to girls after all!" That would be a horrible thing to do to someone. Right? So what do I do? Help me, A Queer Chick, you're my only hope!

I know from the comments that my columns have made a few readers reach for the dictionary in search of the definition of “cisgender” or “homoromantic” or “lady-boner,” so I feel it's only fair to tell y'all that I just had to look up “demisexual.” It turns out that, although demisexuality is generally considered under the wider umbrella of asexuality, a demisexual person doesn't necessarily have a lower libido than a sexual person. It's just that she only gets lady-boners when she has an intimate emotional connection with her partner. So she might want to get it on with a close friend, or someone she's been dating for a while, but she can watch whole episodes of The L Word without ever picturing Shane naked. Except that picturing Shane naked is the only reason anyone has ever watched The L Word, so probably she would just find something more productive to do with her evening.

So how do you figure out whether you're into girls, when it takes you so long to figure out whether you're into anyone? Well, you have dated guys, so you've probably got some version of The Talk rehearsed already — you know, that thing you say somewhere around the second or third date, along the lines of “I think you're great and I'd like to go out and get to know you better, but you should be aware that sex won't happen unless and until we really connect emotionally.” If you meet a woman you think is cool and interesting, someone whom you might hypothetically want to see naked someday, you can give her The Talk and see if she's still interested in pursuing things. Eventually, someone will be.

If you go out for a while and the connection you want just isn't there — well, that happens to everyone, all the time. There is no more noble or respectable reason for dumping someone than “I've realized you're not right for me,” even though being on the receiving end of it hurts like hell. Each time you start a new relationship, you're basically doing a science experiment: will what I feel now (interest, affection, boners) turn into something sustainable over the long term (love, fidelity, joint checking)? Or will it fizzle out? And most of the time, it fizzles out — until the time when it doesn't.

Ask some cute chick out for coffee and see where it leads you. Maybe you'll discover that your bi-curiosity was fleeting and easily satisfied; maybe you'll find the great love of your life. Either way, there's no more risk in trying than there is in any relationship, which is to say the risk of heartbreak, bitterness, hurting someone you care for deeply, STDs, becoming your mother, and losing custody of your dog. So really, what do you have to lose?

4. Hi! My problem is kind of strange. I'm a man with a ladyfriend who I consider to be my soulmate. We've connected from the day we met and have been with each other for years through the best and the worst. The problem is, I'm a gay man and she's a lesbian. I have a fiance and she's in a long-term relationship. There's no sexual or romantic attraction between the two of us. It's just that, as much as we love our respective partners (and we adore each other's, too!), there's an understanding that the most important relationship in our lives will always be the one that we have. It makes me feel as though I'm emotionally cheating on my partner, somehow, and I don't know if I'm right to feel that way, or if I'm making this into a bigger deal than it has to be. Our partners have never expressed any unease at how close we are, but I still feel guilty, and I know she does, too. Can you help me sort this out?

Do your partners actually know how close you are? I mean, have you straight-up told them “I love you, you're great, I want to sex you up on the regular for the rest of my life, but my best friend will always be my number one priority”? Because I think most people assume that if you have a lifelong romantic partner, that person is first in your heart. If your fiance and her girlfriend are among the folks making that assumption, they may be painfully disillusioned when they realize that your friendship will always take precedent over them.

A friend of mine came up with a very simple rule that I believe should be followed by everyone forever, which is: if you lie to your partner about it, it is cheating. That's it. No exceptions, no gray areas. Whether it's a year-long affair or a slightly-too-flirty text message, if you feel the need to hide it from your partner, you are cheating on them. And a lie of omission counts as a lie. So if your fiance is not aware of the extent of your commitment to your BFF — if he thinks you love him the most, when he's actually only your second favorite — then you're right, you are cheating on him emotionally, and it is something you need to fix. I am tempted to give you a little bit of leeway here, to say “I guess it's okay if...” but then I'm picturing how I would feel if my partner were sending emails to advice columnists saying “the most important relationship in [her] life” was with someone other than me, and I decidedly do not guess it's okay.

That said, if your partner knows what he's signing up for, if you have been honest with him about the extent of your emotional entanglement with your lesbian bestie, and he is cool with it, then rock on with your bad self. Not everybody believes that your romantic partner needs to be your highest priority in life; maybe your gentleman, like you, has a dear friend he would die for, or maybe he's intensely married to his career, or for whatever other reason he is fine with being important but not important-est. The corollary to “if you lie, it's cheating” is “if your partner is fine with it, it's not cheating.” Again, this is true with no exceptions, no matter what it is. So if your dude knows about and approves of your intense, all-consuming friendship, then you are morally in the clear. Congratulations on your engagement! Have a wonderful and happy life together! Don't play the Hokey Pokey at your reception!

Previously: Late Starts and the Umfriend.

Lindsay Miller is also on Twitter. Do you have a question for her? (300-word max, please.)

Photo by Anna Sedneva, via Shutterstock



162 Comments / Post A Comment

Susanna

"A friend of mine came up with a very simple rule that I believe should be followed by everyone forever, which is: if you lie to your partner about it, it is cheating."

Just... highlighting that.

Scandyhoovian

@Susanna YES. As soon as I got there, I was like 'This is the most important thing ever.'

Genghis Khat

@Susanna That's simpler than the one I made up the other weekend: "Don't do anything you wouldn't be comfortable with your partner seeing a video of."

Apocalypstick

@Genghis Khat I wouldn't be comfortable with my partner seeing a video of my bathroom routine, but it's still going to happen.

Oh, squiggles

Agreed! This rule, and it's counter "if your partner is fine with it, it's not cheating.” should be written in stone somewhere.

Genghis Khat

@Apocalypstick LOL fair enough, but you know what I mean, I think.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@Susanna Ah, but what does this mean? I'm sort of a black-and-white gal, so I'm reading this thinking, "Shit, I've got to tell my lady about all the texts I received today and emails from friends...Because she doesn't know about them and I don't regularly tell her EVERYTHING." Is that omission?

maiasaura

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose I feel like lying by omission is when you omit something /because/ you don't want your partner to know, not just because telling every single thing would take up your entire life. Like, if she asked, and you'd be comfortable telling her all about it, then you're good.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@maiasaura Perfect. That's how I've been operating.

ladypilot

@Susanna wow, i guess i am the only one here who is totally not comfortable with this all or nothing stance. does that make me a bad person?

stavros

This looks really good.@m

whateverlolawants

Demisexuality! You learn something new every day.

#4 was interesting. Does anyone else out there wonder about making their partner their #1-no-matter-what? I've wondered about that my whole life, starting with the whole biblical thing about leaving behind your family and being one with your spouse, forsaking all others (I think that's biblical, anyway... or maybe just cultural?) I've never ranked anyone or had to, but I simply can't imagine life without my sister. I've never had to choose my boyfriend, parents, or friends above her, so maybe it's a moot point. No one in my life tends to pit themselves against other people in my life, thankfully. And I don't want to freak myself out thinking I'm not committed to my boyfriend and needlessly pit anyone against each other. It's just a weird thought.

dham

@whateverlolawants Yeah, I feel like #4 is a bit more complicated than a question of simple honesty. Before telling my partner that my friend was a higher priority to me, I would spend a long time thinking through why I felt the pressure to determine a hierarchy within my close relationships. It seems to me like a commitment to lifelong monogamy in the form of marriage is evidence enough that you have prioritized someone. And I would think of it this way: if you do things right, years later, when you're inevitably having a hard time in your marriage/partnership, having that incredibly close best friend to help you through it is going to strengthen your relationship, not hurt it.

backatthelab

@whateverlolawants It's a bizarre notion that presumes you can't achieve that same level or type of intimacy with another person in your life besides your romantic partner, which is an unsettling and isolatating thought to say the least...

redheaded&crazy

@dham Yeah I find it a tough question too! I don't know if there's a hierarchy. I'm not in a serious relationship right now so maybe if I was it would be easier for me to think this one through. My closest friends are really important to me as well.

Like, what situations would even come up where you have to prioritize one person over the other? I'm sure there are situations but, if my best friend was having a personal crisis, I would make that a priority for my time/emotional commitment whatever. If my partner was having a personal crisis, that would be my priority. But then what if both of them are having a crisis at the same time... I dunno! I'm just rambling on here.

Jaya

@whateverlolawants Yeah, I think there are very few situations in which this hierarchy would come up. I am in a long-term relationship and I consider my partner my priority, but I also would dump him in a second if he ever tried to make me choose him over my friends, who I also have very deep and important relationships with. However, there is something comforting about knowing that we are each other's biggest priority. I think the problem arises when it's one sided. If this guy is his fiance's biggest priority, but it's not reciprocated, it sounds like a recipe for trouble.

whateverlolawants

@backatthelab @dham You guys said what's floating around my mind better than I could. All-consuming, inflexible hierarchies are not necessary (at least for most people most of the time.) Why force them?

And I read an article recently talking about platonic friendships and how they're not culturally exalted, but they're often the most enduring and sustaining relationships a person ever has. In the same vein, I'm close to my parents and super-bffs with my sister. I'm HAPPY about that and also happy that I have great friends and a boyfriend. All of these things work together to make my life good.

whateverlolawants

@redheaded&crazie @jaya Exactly! Other than the rare moments when two or more people are having separate crises or huge events, it's just not an issue. And when someone tries to make you choose, that's often a red flag about them.

Genghis Khat

@redheaded&crazie I'm imagining a situation where best friend has to take a job in another city and spouse wants to stay in present city. If best friend is the priority, letter writer moves. That is probably something the spouse should know about before making letter writer their number one.

Linette

@whateverlolawants I think hierarchies like this sometimes arise without intending them, though. I have an uncomfortable thing right now where I have several very close friends, people I've committed to in a way that is pretty akin to the way people think of committing to a spouse, and my boyfriend isn't currently on that level of intimacy.

I have every hope that we'll achieve that level of intimacy, or I wouldn't be with him, but it is a very strange question of who is the highest priority at any given moment. Most romantic partners assume they're the most important when you're in an official committed relationship, regardless of how close you may be to other people. And a lot of people don't have friends who are that close, so the whole concept of friends being this important is foreign to them, and they feel (justifiably, I think) that they're just not important enough to you if they rank below your friends.

As other people have said, it's not like it's likely you're seriously going to be in a situation where they're both about to die and YOU CAN SAVE ONLY ONE. It's not that dire, but it does come up in more subtle ways. Like this: a friend needs support in a big way (marital problems or kid problems or something huge) just as he and I are about to go out to a fancy dinner or event.

If I were about to go out to dinner with a friend and he needed me, he'd expect me to drop everything. And I would.

If I were about to go out to dinner with him and my mother or father needed me, he would be fine with me dropping the dinner to help them.

But if I were about to go out to dinner with him and my friend needs me, he thinks . . . well, it's your friend. Can't you call her later? Is it an emergency? No? Then why do you need to talk to her right now? She just wants to talk, right? How about after our date?

And I understand why he thinks that way, and I can't exactly expect him to understand a dynamic he's never experienced or witnessed before, but it's very frustrating to have that problem. It's not a question of who's-most-important, but it's very difficult to explain to a significant other the depth of your commitment to these people who are not your romantic partners, but ARE your life partners.

insouciantlover

@whateverlolawants The only time that I've ever thought about this was in my last relationship. My then bf told me, shortly after we moved in together, that his best friend Joe was the most important person in his life and would always be the most important life. He was #1 on speed dial and I would always be, at best, #2. I wasn't jealous of Joe as a result, but I felt unnecessarily rebuffed.

As time went on other issues cropped up, and then he was mean to me when I gained weight, so dumping him was inevitable. I'm now with someone for whom I know I'm #1 in his life (and his fucking speed dial) and we're partners in life. I just don't think that ex bf was ever ready to commit to being life partners with someone, based on his need to let me know that I would only be #2 at best.

whateverlolawants

@jeevessaid Ah, you have fleshed out the more subtle ways this does arise, and I've seen versions of this play out in my own life. One example is that my boyfriend doesn't like one of my good female friends. The reasons are complicated, but I've decided to just try to keep them apart and see her about as much as I did before. It just means my boyfriend doesn't get invited to as many events. I still see him about the same amount. I made it clear, though, that since I don't talk about her much with him, I don't want to hear about his feelings on her. It's annoying but it works. I do worry about some situation arising that would put that conflict in the forefront again, though. So to correct myself, not every single person in my life perfectly fits into place without me having to jiggle the edges around. Right now the seas are calm... let's hope that continues.

mysterygirl

@whateverlolawants : I totally respect and agree with what most everyone is saying about not creating relationship hierarchies, etc., and I've never been the kind of person to drop girl friends or family when I'm in an established relationship, or to expect my partner to do that, either. I think that a good relationship gives both partners space to grow, both together and as individuals, and they shouldn't feel like their partner has to fulfill their every need so as to render their other relationships superfluous.

BUT. If my partner considered another woman to be his "soulmate," even if there were no sexual component to their relationship, assuming he didn't consider me to be one, too... I'd want to know so that I could get out of there. Frankly, if you're capable of connecting with someone in "soulmate" fashion, even just as friends, and you know how special it is to have that kind of strong, enduring connection, I'm not sure why you'd tie yourself to life for someone you don't feel that way about. I wouldn't want that for either one of the people in that relationship.

carolita

@redheaded&crazie there is a protocol to best friends, after all. Everyone knows a best friend can outlast a marriage. There's just ways of being and adapting to the changes to a friendship that a marriage can bring. I think that's all that needed to be said.

smidge

@carolita Totally. I think there is also something in the idea of protecting the sanctity of your long-term, committed relationship. It would bother me a lot if, instead of staying to resolve a conflict, my significant other ran off to talk to his bff about it before working things out with me.

stonefruit

@insouciantlover I actually had a friend who liked to make it very clear that I was not her best friend/top priority. Which was always a little weird to me, because ... I wasn't trying to be her best friend? or top priority? so why do you keep telling me this? It was definitely a sign to me that our friendship was not destined to last, though.

carolita

@smidge to each his own! :) I know it's become an ideal to make your lover your best friend and only confidant, but not everyone can have this, or at least not all the time; particularly not people who date people in their 40's, 50's and 60s, etc. -- they have relationships that are older than you are sometimes. I really have no problem with it. If my BF wanted to consult with his best friend before working things out with me, I'd consider it a favor done by his best friend if he sent him back feeling better and ready to work things out with me. Sometimes a person from the same sex or who has known your partner forever can do more for them than you can. Is that so hard to accept? Isn't it more important that the one you love has what he needs, within reason? I'm not saying I'd go as far as to live with someone who wasn't sexually monogamous (referring to another LW above), but I'm definitely more emotionally non-monogamous! :) Maybe it's because I'm very busy and want my own time to myself. I've truly had enough of worrying about what my BF's do or say when they're not confiding in me or depending on me. I'm for delegating anything within reason.

smidge

@carolita Yeah, that makes sense. I guess I would be more worried if it was him talking to his best friend and then coming back and pretending everything is fine. But I think you're right, and I also think our culture likes to pretend that you can find absolutely everything you need in one person--which, probably not. :-)

Elleohelle

Relationship hierarchies are something that I've spend a LOT of time thinking about as someone who has dated people, but never had a Boyfriend. Many people I know and people I have spoken with on the topic are of the mind that your significant other should be The Number One Most Important Person in your Life. But then, are all single people supposed to just accept that they aren't the most important in anyone's life? Obviously this will probably not be the case forever, but what if it is? I guess this is only tangentially related, but it's something that I've wondered about for awhile.

carolita

@Elleohelle Of course that's the big problem. And that's why I refuse to go with the "my BF is the number one most important person in my life." Actually, that would be me. :) And there's nothing wrong with that. My BF knew that before we moved in together. It keeps him in line, what's more. When he thought HE was the one, he was a big pain in the butt. It certainly took some doing to snap him out of it -- guys so think they're going to be the center of your universe, to the point of being afraid of it when it's not even necessary. Haha. No, life should not be about seeking your mother replacement, ie, the One Who Thinks You're More Important Than Anyone Else in the World. That's a luxury for infants. I'm a grown woman, I don't need this anymore, is how I see it. It's wonderful to be loved, really really lovely and comforting and sweet and delicious. I know I'm not the most important person in the world to anyone but myself, and I'm just peachy with that.

harebell

@jeevessaid This is really true and well put. I think, though, that these types of things also change organically in one's life, since even really close friendships ebb and flow, relationships can end, and/or you can go through such a major life experience with an s.o./spouse that they are transformed into the most important person, etc. The direction things will change is not necessarily predetermined at all (life is unpredictable), but one thing does seem certain, determined, and unavoidable: some sort of change.

carolita

@harebell and naturally, a true best friend or a true love doesn't ask one to choose between them and the other. If my best friend were to do that, I'd know he weren't really my best friend. Same with my BF. I mean, if I HAD to choose because I were in a death camp or something and one of them was going to be killed or escape according to my decision (god forbid!), I'd have to choose based on other people's needs rather than my own (like who has more dependents, who has the secret code that will save the world, etc etc), but that's all fiction. I hope! :)

Which leads me to wonder about the LW concerned -- after all, why should this even be an issue? Maybe he's getting cold feet and looking for problems? Maybe he's actually not as in love with his fiancee as he thinks? This is all just a tempest in a teapot, really.

sevanetta

@carolita I love your take on it Carolita! I always say that I want to be a :high: priority in my partner's and closest friends' lives. It's completely unrealistic to expect to be no. 1 every minute of the day. I mean don't we have to go to work? and sometimes you need alone time?

Other experiences that have influenced how I think on this:

- when my best friend (female) got a boyfriend, some of our other friends warned her new man that I was no. 1 in her life and would always come first. This irritated the hell out of me and worried me, because I was like uh no... it is not a competition and I do not want to come between you guys!

- now I am in a relationship again, I feel like my partner is also my best friend, but he is cool with me having my girl best friend as well (the bestie relationship is conducted mainly by text as we live in different states).

- I also have another very close friend who is a guy, and our friendship is conducted mostly by messaging/text/skype, because we live in different countries. again it's fine with my partner.

I have dropped everything at different times for all three, because all three are really important to me. but maybe it's different because only one of these are in person all the time? hmm.

carolita

@sevanetta Yeah, I've been lucky in my past boyfriends, in that I usually got them to make friends with each other once we split up. My best friend is a guy, but he lives in France, but I imagine I could've got my current boyfriend and him to be great buddies if they lived in the same country. Then my boyfriend would simply have become part of the family. Right now, I guess I'd have to say that my boyfriend is my (active) best friend, though I still call my old friend my BF. He's got the title, but the BF has the actual job for now. It's nice knowing he's out there, though. All my girl best friends have moved, and lost touch decades ago due to all the moving around the world. We're also late bloomers, so we're kind of preoccupied with our work, more than with being BFFs, if you know what I mean. We see each other at book clubs, and occasionally make a special effort to see each other on our own, which I call "girl time" when I tell my boyfriend he's not included. He totally gets it. I'm in a period of my life where I don't go out much at all, unless it's with him, or to the book club, or to the softball game, and the occasional family thing. Who has the time in NYC? I figure in my 50's (which are nigh), I'll have more time to socialize, but now it's time to work work work, and I'm really loving it.

Which is why sometimes I wonder about some of these LW's! I mean, who has the time for all this cheating? I can barely handle one relationship as it is! I'd need a secretary to arrange it for me. :)

redheaded&crazy

AQC actually always gives the bombest advice.

Re: #3 I just want to recount an exciting(for me and nobody else) and somewhat related (kind of) anecdote which is that i was trying to do that thing where you casually date a few people. but then i started to get more attached to one of the people and I was like "ahhhhh how do i deal with this ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" (even though i had made it clear all around that i was not committing to exclusively dating any of them - but then i just didn't feel right going out on non-exclusive dates with guys who i could tell were starting to feel it more than i was when i was getting more involved with only one in particular)

and I also didn't want to do the thing I was ranting about the other week like "oh my god i'm soooo sorry i hope i didn't lead you on blahhhh blah blah" cuz it's just like, ego-soothing for yourself or some bullshit.

so I just said yo, i don't think it's fair for me to continue making plans with you because i'm getting more involved with somebody else. and both of the guys were like "no its okay you were very straightforward, thank you for being honest, very much appreciated, blah blah blah"

in conclusion: being up front from the beginning is Good! And it makes everything easier down the line! Like the eventual possible anticipated conflict doesn't have to be a big deal.

yeah. yeah!

SarahP

@redheaded&crazie Just so y'all hear it on the other end, too: someone did that once to me (explained it'd been going really well with the other lady, so, sorry SarahP, but goodbye), and it was not a big deal. I am pretty sensitive/prone to crying, and yet my reaction to that was "Oh, okay, that's cool, good for you!"

Up-front communication makes things easier!

meetapossum

@SarahP "I am pretty sensitive/prone to crying" Yet another indicator that SarahP is me.

profelaurenneni

@redheaded&crazie I was recently in a casual thing with a guy, and he did not tell me until he had become seriously emotionally invested in the other girl. And I was super pissed, not that he'd found someone to be serious with, but that he waited until there was lurrve. I felt like I deserved to hear about her at "really excited about this chick" rather than "head over heels for this chick."

So, yes. Upfront and open communication!

redheaded&crazy

also re #4 what do people think about the whole my partner is my best friend thing?

I dunno, I feel like they are separate roles for me. And my best friend(s) are very important to me. But I don't think on the same emotional level/with the same emotional connection that I would want to be at with my partner.

maybe partying will help

@redheaded&crazie

I know who I would choose, but I also never, ever, ever, ever want to have to make that choice. One of the things I am most grateful for is that both my gent and my best friend are the most drama-free people on Earth.

redheaded&crazy

@maybe partying will help I'm trying to wrap my mind around the whole concept of hierarchies of emotional commitment and when that would be an issue and who to "choose" and my brain is getting all confused about it. i think i'm overthinking it

maybe partying will help

@redheaded&crazie

I think US society at least privileges romantic (usually heterosexual) relationships above friendship or other relationships, especially those between women. Like, you are expected to shift all your Commitment Strength to your romantic partner. Not something I am keen on. I have enough love to go around, yo.

entangled

@redheaded&crazie that's the first thing I thought of here. When I was planning my wedding, I spent a lot of time on a wedding discussion board. It was my no means 100% hetero chicks, but most of the people were women marrying men who were fairly traditional about it. One of the topics that came up a lot was the whole "husband as best friend" thing. While there are a lot of women who felt that way, there were plenty who felt like their husband was their life partner but nowhere near as close of a friend as their best girlfriend.

I feel like our culture around sexuality is maybe making LW #4's problem more complicated. It really boils down to "is your partner OK with having a different person be your best friend" and "who are you going to do your best to be with physically and geographically for the rest of your life" but society has all this weirdness around male/female friendships so maybe there's a perceived pushback on a certain level.

meetapossum

@redheaded&crazie I agree. I have a very different kind of relationship with my best friend than any of my partners. My best friend is also a (straight) dude, though, so I guess I could see it causing problems.

I don't know, it's confusing! It's like, my boyfriend can be my best friend, too, but it's a different kind of best friend. Also, what happens if you and your partner break up and you lose your main source of emotional support?

apples and oranges

@redheaded&crazie This is something I've been thinking about a lot, as somehow it seems that suddenly all my closest friends are in very serious relationships. And I simultaneously am so happy for them and understand that this is special and important, but also resent that they pick their boys over me more often than not. (Not like gun-to-your-head-favorite-person choice, but who they spend their time with and seem to prioritize.)

I wouldn't want to feel like once I had a serious relationship, my friendships become less important. And while I want to love someone enough to prioritize them and love them enough to make choices around them and try to build my life with theirs... I also don't want to have to do that. Plus I've always seen it as, friends are forever. Relationships don't necessarily last forever. Don't you need friends to help you when relationships go bad or just go through a rough patch? Don't you ever just need a BREAK from another person?

Or maybe my feelings are much less complex and really, I'm just pissed that my friends are flaking because they have boyfriends. WHO CAN TELL.

Scandyhoovian

@redheaded&crazie For me "my partner is my best friend" is true but also does not make "my grad school roommate is my best friend" statement untrue, either. I feel like it's two different kinds of "best friends"? I've got the one I'm going to marry and the one who is going to stand next to me while I do it and both of them are my best friends. That's what feels right to me.

meetapossum

@Scandyhoovian Yes! I know the term "best" indicates one, but why not have more? One of my friends refers to several of us as his "best" friend, and it's all true! We all interact and connect on different levels because, you know, people are different.

RNL
RNL

@redheaded&crazie I think it has a lot to do with how you structure your life, how you factor people into the big decisions you make, and what kind sacrifices you are willing to make. For instance, my best friend, who is deeply important to me (and with whom I used to joke about raising children with) moved away to be with her partner. It is, of course, fine, and I'm very happy for her, but our life together has changed. It does mean that she "chose" her romantic partner over me as a primary life partner.

I also did that. Her romantic partner was willing to drop everything, let her move in, and care for her and support her financially for two years when she was sick. I was not, at least in part because I was living with my boyfriend at the time, and doing so would have put a huge strain on him and our relationship, and he needed me, my time and emotional energy, and our home. So I prioritized my romantic relationship over my friend.

Linette

@redheaded&crazie There's also kind of the issue of the word "friend", which is sort of a catch-all for a hell of a lot of different levels of intimacy. I've got friends whom I like lots, love to spend time with, and who know pretty much all of my dirty history. They're good friends. I love them. Would happily drive to their house to deliver chicken soup and NyQuil.

But then there are friends whose happiness and wellbeing are deeply important to you. You don't just know their history, you know how that history has affected them way down in their souls, and you know what kind of person they want to be and what they hope for, and you are a part of making that happen. Very much like what I'd want in a romantic partner. Pretty much the only difference is that you don't want to have sex with this person, but every single other part of being in a healthy lifelong committed relationship is there.

And those are both "friends." This is confusing, especially when you're trying to explain to other people why you really do need to be there for this friend's birthday. Most people think friends only require yeamuch commitment, and if you can't show up for a birthday, that's unfortunate, but not the end of the world. If you couldn't show up for your spouse's birthday, though, they'd sympathize and say how horrible and try to help you figure out how to make it up to them.

That's the disconnect, I think. We need a word that means 'people-to-whom-I-am-as-committed-as-I-would-be/am-to-a-partner-but-am-not-actually-boinking.'

PatatasBravas

@redheaded&crazie This.. is kind of a weird question, for me? Being trained in Western science, I mean, I am very familiar with the ~way to true knowledge~ being a path of narrowing down, of defining and limiting and pruning. Like, Western culture emphasizes isolating an individual particle from another, and then you can know what it is. And this of course is what my whole life has been steeped in, so it's easy to see why a question about WHO. WOULD. I. CHOOSE. arising. Because that's how I was taught to learn and know: by holding myself 'objective' and using that objectivity to observe and choose.

But I don't think that the Western cultural approach to learning and knowledge is helpful, for me, in this realm, so I reject it and reject any premise of my objectivity in answering those kinds of questions. I learn who is most important to me not by isolating and defining properties of that person, but by seeing them work in concert and in context with the rest of my life. So people are most important to me when they mesh best with myself and with the other people I already love. The people are in flux, of course, with moves and jobs and families and whatever. But the ability to blend, and the romantic partner's choice not to ask me to choose made it very clear to me that they are one of the most important peeps around.

(Does that make sense? IT GOT MAD DEEP, YO, I'm sorry, I couldn't turn that train around, and needed to type it out)

wee_ramekin

@jeevessaid Friend + Partner= Friendner?

Linette

@wee_ramekin A partend? It's like apartheid, but with less atrocity. One hopes.

alannaofdoom

@kangerine Ohhhhhhh I hear ya, lady. (Man? I guess I will round up to "person.") I hear ya, person!

gtrachel

@jeevessaid YEAMUCH. Is now officially a word.

insouciantlover

@redheaded&crazie I think even just the best friend thing is kinda odd. I have wonderful friends who fulfill different things for me. Some of them I call to process every little life event, much the way I communicate with my boyfriend, and others are still incredibly dear to me but we don't connect as much.

I mean, if I had a heirarchy based on how much of myself I intimately communicate to others, my therapist would be my best friend. And, well, I'm not ready to be that sitcom yet.

Megasus

@redheaded&crazie Ummm, I think for me it depends on the person and their relationship. Like, if it was my sister and it wasn't about something stupid, I would (and have) sided with her. Like, I will side with whoever I think is right, even if it's against my partner, but I won't necessarily say this is always the best course to take.

effystonem

@kangerine No totally, I am in the same situation...a lot of my friends are either already in super-long-term relationships or are starting to, and I feel like I can't say anything because people will think I am "jealous" but I genuinely am not! (I am in a really long phase of man-hating ha, so I am perfectly content to be single right now.) When I am dating someone, yes, I am committed to them and spend lots of time with them, but I also do NOT disappear or even really decrease my "hanging with friends" time, so it makes me annoyed when my friends who are dating do that. I just don't know why some people feel the need to make their whole life about ONE PERSON.

EternalFootwoman

@redheaded&crazie I have done A LOT of thinking about this in recent years. My personal theory is that pert of the reason the divorce rate is so high is that we expect our partners to be our best friend. Think of how many people say, "I'm so lucky to be marrying my best friend!" And cool if that's true, but I feel like In Olden Days, people had friends and they had spouses, but it wasn't necessarily expected that the two intersect the way they do today. Men went on golf outings and bowling nights and women had bridge clubs and PTA. And while there are certainly many problems with that setup, I don't think your partner should be all-inclusive either. I don't think you need to marry someone who is into every single thing you're into--that's what your friends should be for. And I don't think it's a problem if you have close friends other than your partner--it's probably healthier.

Ellie

This was an interesting question for me and I enjoyed reading these comments. I do have a best friend and it's pretty much like we're related - our families are super close friends, they are our "default" people for holidays, in high school we did/our parents still do live three blocks apart. We've known each other for 16 years. I would absolutely drop everything and run to her if she were in a crisis. She's in a serious relationship and I was for some time recently too. Consequently her boyfriend is her "life partner" and stuff, not me, in the way where you make decisions about where to live and what to do taking into consideration someone else's plans. Honestly, I would probably prioritize her over someone I was dating in some kind of make-or-break situation, because she's like family - but I wouldn't move to a different city for her (we live in different cities now). But family is kind of the same way. You will always be in that person's life, because you're related by blood, so sometimes more immediate concerns like whether or not you live in the same place are less important, because you'll always be connected, whereas people you're dating, who aren't "family," unless you get married, will require more effort/visible commitment to stay that attached to? I don't know, it was just my going-away-for-the-summer party at work and I'm drunk and possibly incoherent! I guess that, in conclusion, I think of a "best friend" as being much more like family, and the situation the letter-writer describes is something different than what I'd think of based on my relationship with my best friend.

roughe

@jeevessaid lololol

charmcity

@redheaded&crazie I know -- they just seem separate to me. Like, when would I need to tell my partner that I love my mom more? Or vice versa? I feel like the LW maybe feels like he needs to have a big, dramatic announcement and maybe some sort of playoff bracket. That just seems unnecessary to me. But I also hate talking about Feelings, so.

harebell

@maybe partying will help Totally agree.

And yet. It gets complicated. My feelings about this changed when I went from having two categories in my head for romantic relationships ("person I am dating" vs. "person I love who is my boyfriend") to having a third category: "person who *is* my nuclear family beyond anyone else in the world." I'm not quite sure how this shift happened, or all the precise things that were necessary, but I definitely prioritize him in very different ways than I did when I was simply in love and considered him my boyfriend/partner. It's not a shift that can be mapped directly on to marriage, because I definitely know some married people for whom this shift has occurred and others for whom it hasn't. And I don't think the shift necessarily *should* occur -- it depends on lots of different life circumstances -- but when it does, for whatever reason, then it's very profound.
Words failing me at this, but hopefully you'll know what I mean.

Springtime for Voldemort

@redheaded&crazie Me, personally, I'd rather have my not-romantic/sexual best friend be my partner, and then both of us have dates/sex on the side.

Sassafrass

@jeevessaid Platonic Life Mate. A term a friend and I came up with for each other years ago, when discussing the desire to just know someone would always be there. She's married now, and we live in different places but our commitment remains the same. And I'm honored to have several other friends who I also consider fill that role. Made the mistake in college of ditching friends for my boyfriend at the time. I wound up very lonely. Now I'd say if/when I'm dating someone I like as much as my friends, then they're a winner.

OhMarie

@redheaded&crazie I think it all depends on the person/people involved. My husband is totally my best friend, by a huge margin, but of course we both also have other friends and parents and are super close to our sisters.

Maybe this is just me, but does anyone else think this is more common in couples who met when they were young? I feel like my friends who met their partners when they were both grown-ass adults with their own lives are less likely to have this "partner is my best friend" thing. I've been with my husband since I was 17, so we have this whole history most people have with their best friends (first time we got drunk, etc).

Anyway, I think it's fascinating and obviously there's no one right way to do it.

sevanetta

@redheaded&crazie my best friend is my best friend, my boyfriend is also my best friend. I'm cool with having two best friends. I feel super lucky.

bananagram

@redheaded&crazie SO I am all-pro separating the two. I had a best guy friend who I loved and was awesome, and I had my boyfriend who I loved and was awesome. And then boyfriend and I broke up and best friend and I had feelings for each other. presto change-o, best friend ----> boyfriend.

we both have other super close friends though. you CAN have it all. etc.

dk
dk

Can we PLEASE retire the "gold-star lesbian" label? It's not only unnecessary (you seriously need to point out the simple fact that there's never been a flesh penis inside your body?), but it's so offensive to every other lesbian out there. Woo hoo, you've never fucked a dude, you get a gold star! The rest of you are total fakers.

redheaded&crazy

@dk just the kind of thing a lowly silver-star would say!

maillard

@dk Seriously. Use of that terminology is a pretty good indicator that the person is the kind of judgmental lesbian that I hate.

dk
dk

@redheaded&crazie It's okay, I actually ended up with a dude so I failed the queers completely. You may take all my stars away (sad trombone).

Inkling

@dk
"flesh penis"

D:

skyslang

@dk I don't know. My lesbian friends use it in a very joking way. "I'm a gold star! ha ha." "I'm not. This one time in college...Wah-wahhhhhh" Everybody laughs. I didn't know people used it in a judging way! That's so weird to me.

Oh, squiggles

@dk Duuuude. That is what gold star means? I agree that sounds way judgey.

dk
dk

@skyslang Two of my friends use it in a sincere attempt to make a point or differentiate their sexual history from the rest of us. It drives me insane and I point it out every time, but I don't think they get it. It's obnoxious. I haven't identified as a lesbian for a couple of years now, but I STILL GET VERY RILED UP ABOUT IT. Clearly I'm still an angsty queer.

whizz_dumb

@dk This is a whole other topic, but it's kind-of the inverse annoyance I recently encountered: this gay dude I was hanging with voiced this brilliantly original opinion, "I don't think guys can be bi, like if they want to hook up with another guy, they're going to go all the way homo eventually." I calmly disagreed like, "You think so? Nawwww" because of the setting and present company, but inside I was like SHUT UP YOU CAN'T REALLY BELIEVE THAT. Is it wishful thinking, like he wants all bi dudes on his team or something?

EternalFootwoman

@dk I know! I'm so glad you were a self-assured, out-and-proud lesbian when you were twelve, but some of us weren't and you're not really endearing yourself to me by implying that you're somehow more pure than I am.

frigwiggin

I know, earlier on in my relationship, my boyfriend was kind of offended when (and I don't remember how this came up) I said that he wasn't more important to me than my family was. I swear it didn't just come out of the blue, but we had a conversation about it and it was true! It's still true! Boyfriend is one thing, family is another, I can't pick one or the other. And there was occasionally some problems between him and my best friend around that time, each of them wanting to be the #1 priority, but she's dead now, so that's that! (And I have other best friends but they don't live nearby so it's not the same kind of thing.)

frigwiggin

@frigwiggin Was some problems? Get it together, girl! Shikari!

Ellie

@frigwiggin "Boyfriend is one thing, family is another, I can't pick one or the other" is basically what I was trying to say in many more words, above! Right on.

i make lists

@frigwiggin My boyfriend is still offended that I said he wasn't more important to me than my sleep schedule!

Actual conversation at 2am:
BF: You love sleep more than me!
Me: ...Yes.

Bitterblue

@i make lists ...Well, yes! Of course! Go without sleep for long enough, and you die! And no matter how much you love someone, if they'd left you, most of us would survive it. Sleep, not so much. I love sleep more than food. Maybe not as much as air, but it's a close one.

skyslang

LW4: I really don't understand this "number one" priority thing? Why assign numbers? What does that even mean?
If a psycho was holding them both captive and you had to choose which one he would kill, you'd choose...?
You're never going to have to choose! Psychos only kidnap the two people you love and make you decide on One Life to Live and that was cancelled. Sadly.
Listen, you love your friend. You love your spouse. Nobody is asking you which you love more. Besides, love is an emotion, not beans in a jar to count.
You're LUCKY to have this much love in your life. Celebrate it!

redheaded&crazy

@skyslang yessss this is what i was trying to figure out! like when the prioritizing thing would come up. Maybe LW 4 is Batman?

paddlepickle

@skyslang I think the #1 and #2 thing is silly, BUT there are still some real issues that could arise from this sort of situation. I'm in a similar one with my best friend (cept he's gay and I'm straight). It' s not that he would always have MORE priority than a partner, but the fact that he has as much priority could definitely be in an issue in our relationships. Because it's basically like having two partners- I consider my best friend when I make major life decisions, and I don't plan to stop doing that when I find a partner. It's made some of my past boyfriends feel weird, but hasn't been a major issue thus far. Ideally, I want us each to find partners and all live together and jointly raise kids, and spend a lifetime explaining to teachers that our children have a mom and three dads.

But the fact that the fiance might not be aware of this is odd. It's been an issue in my relationships because it's obvious that my best friend is on the level of a partner, and we talk about it. I don't know how it wouldn't come up when you're about to get married to someone.

anachronistique

@redheaded&crazie "I'm sorry, Dick, but Kate Kane will always come first."

OH MY GOD.

Linette

@skyslang Not-life-or-death-situation-in-which-this-might-come-up:

You are godmother to your friend's children (or godfather, or fairy godfather, or whatever). You live with your partner near your friend and your friend's kids. Your partner gets a job in another city. He asks you to move with him.

You do not want to leave the relationship with your friend or relinquish the time with her kids. He doesn't get why this should be so important. He knows it's hard to leave your friend, but you'll talk all the time and visit and why can't you support me in this big life decision?

Like that.

maybe partying will help

@anachronistique

Please marry me.

SternMathPrincess

@jeevessaid Or, you get a job in another city. In this situation, I would ask/expect my husband to move with me. I would never ask/expect my best friend to move with me. Does that mean I prioritize my husband over my best friend? Probably.

carolita

@SternMathPrincess I'd say it means you have more respect for you best friend's needs and wishes than for your husband's... I mean, you "expect" him to up and move? I'm at least self-knowing enough to know that yeah, if I need to move for my livelihood, that takes priority over my BF, no matter how much I love him. I'm not going down with anyone's ship for love. I've tried that already -- moving for my BF, changing lifestyles for my BF, whatever, -- and it may lead to interesting experiences in the best of cases, but it's not something I'd do again unless there was something in it for me and my own livelihood.

Linette

@SternMathPrincess Right, exactly. It doesn't have to be someone shaming you into choosing who you love most, or anything like that. There are some practical situations where your emotions are going to clash with what everyone thinks your emotions should be, and that's no fun, and it's pretty hard to find anyone that will sympathize, because it's not exactly common. Though I'd love it if it were more common. Big chosen families for all.

SternMathPrincess

@carolita I'm not saying I'd leave him if he didn't want to move to a new city with me. But we've both moved for each other's careers during the course of our relationship after much mutual discussion and it's worked out well so far (we've also both been lucky/smart/whatever enough to find excellent jobs in our chosen career paths in the new cities). Where I would never even ask my best friend to move with me! Again, it's an example of a non-holding-a-gun-to-my-head situation that illustrates how someone might prioritize people in their lives.

carolita

@SternMathPrincess I know a guy who wouldn't move because his best friend lived in NYC (though he didn't have a GF at the time, it was just a possibility that he might move for work). I thought that was really cool. I think a best friend is part of one's life, one's network and support system. It's perfectly natural to consider them non-negociable. And also, if my best friend were to ask me if I'd consider moving along with him/her, I'd probably give it serious consideration. That's not to say I'd do it automatically, not any more than I'd do it automatically for a BF/Husband. That's to say that I think BF/Husbands are not forever, and must work with one's needs in life. I'm a big believer in the "put the oxygen mask on before helping others" credo. If I'm not happy, my partner's not going to be happy either.

carolita

@SternMathPrincess I also think it's obvious from my answers that I have both moved for BF's and moved away from best friends out of necessity. My best friend lives in France. I miss him a lot, but I needed to be here, and he needed to be there. I don't regret moving a bit. Maybe when you've had to move a lot in life, and give up relationships, you're a little more willing to let go of people to get what you need from life. That also means I'm more understanding of people who do let go and move on. I mean, really, how many marriages last forever? None that I know of (or admire for their integrity). Why not accept the necessity of moving as the end of a relationship, if it comes to that? Why not just say, Hey it was great, goodbye, keep in touch? If my BF told me tomorrow that he wanted to move out and live in California, I'd be very sad, and grieve a bit, but I'd let go. (Because I would NEVER move to California for anyone. Jeez. Can't stand the place.)

steve

@jeevessaid
As godmother you should be making, not receiving, offers that cannot be refused. Once that incongruity is pointed out to the partner he should readily accept you staying put.

SternMathPrincess

@carolita I'm totally not saying that everyone should/could/does mimic my prioritization, just that people clearly DO have "hierarchies" of people they love that can become important in realistic situations - who you "pick" is secondary to the core question at the top of the thread. My experiences were given merely as an illustrative example. And one's personal feelings and experiences regarding marriages, friendships, etc. are kind of irrelevant to the question of whether such hierarchies exist and whether they need to exist.

anachronistique

@maybe partying will help Why, maybe partying will help! This is all so - so sudden!

H.E. Ladypants

@SternMathPrincess But I feel like Carolita's sort of right, too. I feel that a healthy discussion of whether or not to follow a job to a new city would include discussion of how that would impact other current relationships- especially if close relationships with other people's children are concerned. People find reasons not move all the time due to the proximity of friends and family. There is a reason those decisions are so complicated. I would say a partner who doesn't respect that, that doesn't at least feature heavily in the conversation is probably not a very good partner.

carolita

@SternMathPrincess All I'm saying it that we create our own hierarchies within our own relationships. I'm not telling people to be like me, I'm just saying there's other ways to be. The only one who has to accept my way about it is my BF, unless he decides he doesn't like me the way I am, and seeks whatever he may think is otherwise acceptable in these matters somewhere else. He's welcome to do that, too, which is not to say I wouldn't be sad if he did that. But I don't think he minds, though there's always something to wish for in any relationship. I like to have something to wish for, actually. There's simply not just One Accepted Way of being married or intimate or best friends with each other. There are no hierarchies in one relationship that aren't contradicted somewhere else.

SternMathPrincess

@carolita Oh, I agree. I'm certainly not trying to be normative with respect to people's life choices. But the original response was to the statement "I really don't understand this "number one" priority thing? Why assign numbers? What does that even mean? If a psycho was holding them both captive and you had to choose which one he would kill, you'd choose...? You're never going to have to choose!"

And sometimes you do have to choose! Even if you don't have to pick one to die, you still might have to make a choice. Not everyone makes the same choices. But these hierarchies DO exist in people's lives, HOWEVER they structure them (as you put it, "we create our own hierarchies in our own relationships"), and that was my only point.

sevanetta

@carolita the other thing about moving a lot in life is, you learn that some people are really good at long-distance friendship, and some are not. the former friendships last!

jumping in on this thread too.. I sort of find this conversation is missing a point. When you marry someone, or set up with them long term, the basic template of relationship or marriage is that you live in the same house in the same place. A best friend doesn't have to live with you or commit to raising kids or sharing finances. So that's why it's more likely you move with your partner - the relationship and ties you have with your best friend can be conducted on the internet or phone, but it's much harder to do that with a partner.

And I made this decision too. I moved interstate last year, and I did it partly because most of my friends had settled down where I was living, and it became clear to me: My friends love me, but our relationship is not one where we will buy a house together, have kids and make a commitment to each other. They're supportive and wonderful, but since I was single, if I wanted those other things, I would have to find a boyfriend, and I really wanted a boyfriend! So I moved interstate on my own and now I've met someone lovely and now I see where it goes from here. But I still text my best friend every day :)

Erin Thompson

LW#2 - he will probably be really, really excited to be your first dude. It's the whole Chasing Amy thing.

carolita

Maybe you have to be 47 and dating a guy who's been around the block a couple of times and who has grown kids, not to mention friends he's had since before I was born, but I have no problem living with the idea that he has relationships with people that would take priority over his relationship with mine. What is the big whoop? I do not need to feel like the Queen of the Universe here. I know he loves me, I love him, and that's all I need to know. For goodness sakes, lighten up. The only person who should ever give you that kind of status is your mother, and that, only until you've moved out of the house, if that. (I'm for until you're responsible for yourself).

LW4 has the right to value his friendship -- lovers and husbands/wives come and go, but friends usually outlast all of them.

insouciantlover

@carolita I think the big whoop is that some of us do need to feel like the Queen of the Universe. I accept my own need to be cherished above everyone else in my significant other's life, and I accept that others don't feel this need. I anticipate procreation will change that, but until then, well, that's how I feel about it.

ETA: except cats. Cats get first priority because they demand it.

carolita

@insouciantlover well, I've found that needing to be the center of anyone's universe to that point is just a recipe for disappointment, since they can never prove it enough once you get started. I'm a happier person being the center of my own universe. The way I see it, if my BF wants to be a part of that, he's welcome. I couldn't be with anyone who expected me to make them my first priority over my friends or livelihood. I'd think that was ridiculous. Dating me is not for the faint of heart, I guess. I like my men emotionally hardy and autonomous while in love with me.

skyslang

@carolita Right on, Carolita! Well said. I'm 41. Age might have something to do with this.

insouciantlover

@skyslang It might, you're right. I spent many years being the center of my own universe, and now I'm at this age (32) where I want to settle down and maybe pop out a crotch critter, and I need to really feel like someone is committed to me and to our life together in order to make that leap.

It's not a matter of not being autonomous or independent - I think I came off kinda princessy in my first comment, which I'm not - it's a matter of needing to trust that someone is going to stick with me through something that I find, frankly, terrifying in how vulnerable it will make me.

carolita

@insouciantlover people try to be there for you, they even promise it in front of the world and sign a paper, but they don't always make it. (Also, people get killed in plane accidents, or kidnapped in third world countries, etc etc -- nothing's guaranteed.) That's something to remember. You really have to understand that humans are not reliable, and that you always have to be ready to do it on your own. It'll make you a better partner, for that matter. Good luck with the critter popping! You can do it!

skyslang

@carolita Carolita! I just have to say that I love all your responses, here and above. I can't give you enough thumbs up. You're putting into words many things I've been feeling lately.

carolita

@skyslang personally, I call it "growing up." Which isn't to say those who haven't done so yet aren't having a wonderful time and shouldn't enjoy it while they can. There just comes a point for some of us (those of us who haven't been with the same person for the last 20 years, say), that we understand it's quite nice NOT to love that exact way, too. There are lots of kinds of love. Why does everyone need to have the same Love? It's like keeping up with iPhones! Love hasn't been the same over the millenia, after all. But most measure their love against whatever version of it is currently idealized. I'm for hacking the code to suit oneself. My best friend would say that "people must invent their own language, their own way of loving." I always thought he was right, and did that, myself. Maybe that's why he's my best friend.

carolita

@skyslang phew, I'm glad. Sometimes I get bad/defensive reactions to stuff I say along these lines. I have a friend who once said, "Oh, so you think you can do better than me and everyone else since time began?" I mean, if you're not happy, and not getting what you need, then maybe it's good to look around and see if everyone else is getting what they need through the way they're doing things. And if they're not, maybe try something different. That's all I did.

Passion Fruit

@skyslang Yes, same! Carolita, I love your perspective. It's usually different from mine, but it provides a good balance to my own feelings.

tea tray in the sky.

@insouciantlover "Pop out a crotch critter", oh my god.

roadtrips

@carolita AH YES THANK YOU! I just recently ended a 4 year relationship because I realized that one of the things that was absolutely killing my soul was the fact that my partner expected me to forgo all of the other loves in my life for him. The concept of hacking the code rings so true to me. I stepped out of that relationship and realized how many different loves I had - and that romantic love can be flexible and change with time and doesn't have to be mutually exclusive. I had squished down all of my other loves when I was with my ex and now I can let them all interact with each other. More love!

carolita

@carolita Yes, I mean, it's not like we have to rub our partners' noses in our past loves, but they really do have to accept that there have been others, there ARE other people who have a place in your heart, and they're not the only person in the world. Frankly, I learned this attitude from older men I've dated, and I think it was a lesson well-learned. I mean, you date a guy who's been married and/or had kids with someone they loved before he met you, how can you possibly think you're the center of the universe without thinking he's been an idiot and that nothing before you was valid? Right? Ah, vanity. It's so good to let go of it. Me and my BF have a little game we play, where we spot oddballs and say, "hey, there's your next boy/girlfriend!" (usually we abbreviate it to YNG and YNB for discretion)

roadtrips

@carolita Yeah, I think a lot of it is about letting go of possessiveness, which is easier said than done. But how liberating when you realize that even though it hurts like hell to lose someone, or to have your relationship change in a way you don't want it to, it's not the end of the world. And in fact, it opens you up for new experiences and new loves. The one and only idea is so ingrained in us and it's really scary to think of going it alone - of having your romantic relationships be fluid. At the moment, I'm navigating falling for someone and then realizing that our relationship isn't meant to be "forever" or even "right now" - that it's OK for it to be a lovely moment in my life that dips in and out. Thanks for reminding me of this!

carolita

@roadtrips it takes practice! You'll do fine, I can tell. :)

mystique

@carolita hey, I've loved a lot of what you said on this thread. But I'm not sure I understand how you can be "ready to [become a parent] on your own" when you are partnered. Maybe you can have buffers in place, but I'm not sure how you can prepare to be a single parent when you have another human being around.

Also, I love what you say about Love. I think most people get the kind of Love they expect -- if they expect to be with someone forever, they can do that. If they expect to be with someone with a certain kind of love, even if that love can't last forever because people change, they can do that too.

carolita

@mystique i just mean that often one starts out as a couple with a child and ends up as a single mom, or single dad. When I say "ready" I don't mean ready as in knowing how to do it before it's necessary. I just mean, know that it can happen, and don't be one of those partners that lets the other one do everything to the point that when they're gone, you're helpless and don't know how to do anything on your own. Or it can happen that you grow too dependent emotionally on someone, and are lost without them. I've seen that happen. What good is that to a kid? We're supposed to teach a kid how to manage in the world, and teaching them total dependence on a partner isn't the way. I'd want to be like that Kalil Gibran saying about the pillars of the temple standing apart here: (http://www.katsandogz.com/onmarriage.html), which I've always thought was a brilliant poem.

sevanetta

@carolita I love what you've been saying in this thread as well Carolita. I'm 30 and after a few years being single (now in a new relationship) and examining relationships from when I was younger, I came to the conclusion that I wanted someone who could look after themselves and didn't expect me to be their everything in their life, because I can look after myself no matter what, and I don't expect anyone in my life to be all things to me. And I'm looking at a long-term commitment and kids with my partner too. You just can't guarantee anyone will be with you or capable forever - you just make what you have today be the best it can be.

Sometimes I think people in long term relationships forget that they are mainly in the relationship due to being lucky. but that's just my perspective.

carolita

@sevanetta hey, I'm a big believer in luck. I was totally prepared to be alone into my 50's, based on the empirical evidence of my past and my current circumstances, but now I'm living with a guy since three years. Never lived with a guy before, so surprise, surprise. Don't know how long it'll last, but I'm liking it!

Queen of Pickles

@carolita "Emotionally hardy and autonomous while in love with me" - you just summed up why my last relationship was pretty much the awesomest in many ways.

("Was"? Shhhh)

lalaura

LW #1, I've known a number of couples in open het marriages like AQC is suggesting you look into. One spouse has a higher libido and/or other desires their partner's not into, so that spouse has more outside-the-marriage sexytimes. The lower-libido spouse is just less motivated, so while they're theoretically open to other partners, it rarely happens.

This really is a thing and really can work.

One thing that often helps is if you hang around a bunch of queer/poly folks, the lower-libido spouse will usually get propositioned eventually, or be otherwise made aware they could have some side action if they wanted. This can be nice because it takes the potential ego damage out, and really makes the different number of partners an issue of desire/interest.

Another thing that can help is if the lower-libido spouse has a specific passion that they need time and space for. If they're writing their novel/staging SCA battles/performing in operas while you're out on dates, then they can feel more like they're making a positive choice, and less rejected or jealous.

"Fair" is about meeting everyone's needs whatever they are. It's not about everyone having the same needs.

laurel

@lalaura What you said. Also, LW is in her 20s. Lots of ladies experience an increase in libido as they get older so a monogamous hetero commitment made now may be harder for a queer lady to keep in the coming (heh) decades. I say keep options open and talk about it lots because things can chaaange.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

Re LW#4, I totally loved this piece about Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, and I kind of think the whole thing is kind of not a big deal? It's sort of a contemporary thing that marriage and marriage-type relationships necessarily constitute the partners' primary source of emotional intimacy? People haven't always lived that way? But maybe it's a good thing to have this primacy, maybe at least from a feminist perspective? Imma go sit in a corner and think about this!

KatieWK

Hi LW4. You’re in love with your best friend. Your incompatible sexual orientations do not change this fact, and what’s sad is they might have obscured it from both of you.

There’s nothing wrong with being super-close to your best friend, or even close or closer to them than to your primary partner in some respects. I actually think it’s healthy. But you wouldn’t feel the need to frame your friendship/relationship in this competitive, rank-order way (and write in to AQC/tell the world!) if things were functioning smoothly in both relationships. Go back and read what you just wrote: you are waxing romantic about how you and your bff would DIE for each other, etc. etc. Plenty of people have friendships and marriages and relationships in which those feelings exist, but the only people who crow about them are those blinded by infatuation.

I should add, there’s nothing wrong with being in love (or even temporary infatuation) with your best friend, either. But you’re asking for permission from an outside observer to have these emotions when you really should be doing some deep searching for answers within yourself. You haven’t done anything wrong, per se; that guilt you feel is the voice in your head saying, “Don’t ignore this. Process these feelings and figure your shit out.”

Just speaking from personal experience: find a way to instill some boundaries before one or both relationships suffer permanent damage.

KatieWK

@KatieWK Well, I sound like a doom-and-gloom know-it-all. Sorry for the Cassandra freak-out. Just wanted to put my perspective out there before everyone else is all, “But making your significant other your Most Important Person is so heteronormative, y’all!” I mean yeah, it is, but that’s irrelevant to whether or not this person is balancing his two most important relationships in an honest, sustainable, mutually satisfying way.

Ellie

@KatieWK No, I agree, I think the letter writer actually is in love with his best friend. I don't think it would seem like any kind of problem if this weren't so. It would just seem like, "Awesome, I have a great best friend and a great partner."

H.E. Ladypants

@KatieWK I think this is a wise distinction to be pointing out.

carolita

@Ellie who isn't in love with their best friend? Golly, I remember being in love with my best friends back in HS. It was so sweet. I didn't want to sleep with them, tho. I just thought they were amazing and wonderful and had to have them in my life. It's natural. That's why it's called "best friend," isn't it? I see my old best friend from JHS now and then, and it's really like seeing someone who was a part of me, even though our lives have diverged drastically over the years, and we don't talk all the time anymore because we grew out of our relationship and moved on at some point. That "click" is still there.

KatieWK

@carolita Oh yeah, right there with you. I guess it’s less the love aspect and more the infatuation aspect that caught my attention in the letter. It’s absolutely wonderful to feel that spark of connection with friends (especially if you have a long-term partner and don’t get to experience that spark in a romantic context very often anymore). But in my experience, unchecked infatuation often gives rise to negative emotions and behaviors that hurt all parties involved: jealousy, insecurity, codependency, shutting others out emotionally, etc. The very fact that the letter writer feels the need to tell the world who’s #1 in his book says to me he’s already on that path.

roughe

there being a term for "a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone" is kind of making me cringe. also, using the term demisexual.

wee_ramekin

@roughe I dunno, brosephine, I kind of like it. I mean, I think that if you don't fit into whatever categories society has constructed at the time, when you run into a word that encompasses what you feel, it gives you such a sense of grounding. That's what I feel about the word "queer"; like, I don't even have to think about what it means any more, because for me, it describes my sexual orientation exactly. Finally, something feels comfortable.

...Now, if we could only come up with a word for "experiences a lady-boner when looking at attractive folks, but srsly does not want teh sex unless there is some sort of emotion there", then I'd be covered!

Tragically Ludicrous

@roughe it does kind of reek of "I only care about Real Emotion unlike the rest of you shallow slutty slutty slut sluts."

wee_ramekin

@Tragically Ludicrous Naahhhhh mang! I don't see it that way at all! I think people are just wired for sex in different ways. Like, some folks can totally pass Go and head for Sexytimes with naught but a visual of sexy forearms, some need All The Emotional Connection, and some folks fall in between those two poles. I'm really not catching any whiff of condescension.

redheaded&crazy

@wee_ramekin yeah i think i would describe myself as a semidemisexual

wee_ramekin

@redheaded&crazie YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. gingernutball, let's call ourselves "semidemis" and MAKE IT A THING!

Springtime for Voldemort

@wee_ramekin @redheaded&crazie Semidemis unite!!!

Bitterblue

@Tragically Ludicrous As another semi-demi (this must become a thing, we need a petition) it's not that At All. For me, it's about being terrified of the vulnerability inherent in sex, and only being able to allow that kind of closeness and intimacy with someone I trust. I also requires a connection on multiple layers -- mental, ideological -- in order to be attracted to them and subsequently aroused enough to fuck them. It's not so much about LOVE as it is about the interplay between trust and attraction. Trust me, it seems a LOT easier not to be this way -- I have lots of wistful thoughts about slutting it up -- but it's not something I chose, it's how I'm wired.

dr. annabel lies

@roughe I'd never heard of the term before today but it makes a lot of sense to me and I identify strongly with the descriptions given. It's not a choice - I haven't ever looked at ANY attractive stranger or guy in a bar and wanted to have sex with them. It just doesn't even cross my mind. I'm under the impression that this is fairly unusual and that most people walk around checking out or having at least occasional sexy thoughts about people they encounter. I'm not terrified of vulnerability in sex, just oblivious. If I know and like and respect you, though, sure I want to.

sevanetta

@dr. annabel lies I like the term, as a semi-demi myself it's not pretentious, I just feel like ooohhh I get it :)

DeathPenguin

@roughe My mind is blown because I never heard the word demisexual until today and that is what I am. 100% But before, I just thought something was wrong with me.

I don't think you should read so much judgment into it. I've caught nothing but flack for being this way. I've been called frigid, told I have intimacy issues, told I'm immature - society doesn't actually approve of people who experience no sexual attraction until they're well into a relationship.

Queen of Pickles

@roughe
I only know one demisexual, and she's miserable. She isn't attracted to someone unless, basically, she is in love/infatuated with them. Unfortunately, so far nobody she's fallen in love with has loved her back. It's like she's trapped in a Gothic novel and can't get out. She wishes she wasn't built that way.

Trust me, she's not looking down on anyone else for being able to exercise their libido IRL with people they aren't in love with.

ms. alex

@wee_ramekin @redheaded&crazie semidemis! I hadn't heard of this before today, and it was all very twilight-zone-y to read about. I didn't realize this was a thing, I thought I was just weird for needing all the Feelings before wanting to get busy with someone.

paddlepickle

@roughe Personally, I think sexuality is crazy complicated and the more words we can invent to better communicate about it, the better.

fondue with cheddar

"...you may be able to have your cake and eat pussy too." :D

karrrren

i guess i may be the only one (the only one commenting anyway) who feels this way, but i don't like that relationship rule at all. i think there are lots of sane, even kind reasons why you may not tell your partner about something. i've told partners things in the spirit of full disclosure before, and often it did nobody any good.

anyway, doesn't that sort of miss the point of trust? if you trust your partner, you know that you may not know everything in their head or heart and everything they ever did or are doing, but you trust that you know that they'll tell you the things they really should.

then again, i've been single for ages so perhaps i'm just way out of practice.

Verity

On the conversation about whether your partner is the most important person in your life - I'd say my boyfriend is, but sometimes than worries me. I have just never really had a friendship that's been that close (I am bad at making friends), and I've grown more apart from my siblings as I've got older. I love my boyfriend, and he is my best friend, but I worry that he's my favourite person partly because I just don't have other relationships that are nearly as close.

Uumellmahaye

@Verity I really identify with you on this, having moved to new place, met THE GUY but not so many friends. Now friend making seems even more elusive than it normally is :-/ Truth is, my best friendships were formed for me when I was single and lonely and had an easy excuse like school/waitressing/parties that seemed to happen effortlessly and with no anxiety. Now (as an independent professional) it just seems really out of my way to go and make a friend (I just want my old friends to move where I am now). Point is, I never really understood the hierarchy, let alone distinction between friends and partners, and just how difficult the whole process is to feed and maintain until I moved away from everything and everyone I knew in my late 20s. And now I'm supposed to be an ADULT?! sigh.

Blushingflwr

That's exactly the advice I would have given to LW1.
For LW4: I don't think your romantic partner always has to be number 1, but I think it fluctuates. Close friendships are important, and I would never begrudge my partner his other relationships. But that's because I know that if I REALLY needed him, he'd drop whatever he was doing for me. And respectively, if he and I were together and someone really needed him, I'd expect and encourage him to go to them (and, in fact, when we were at dinner and a good friend really needed me, the Gentleman Friend drove me to said friends house and then went off to play video games with his brothers). I don't think your partner needs to always be person number 1. Somewhere in the top 10, yes, but not always number 1.
Also (and I'm an only child, so I may be waaaay off base here): if you had a sibling who you were super-close to, would you consider that "emotionally cheating?"

whateverlolawants

@Blushing Flower@twitter
Siblings: My sister is my super-bff, and I'm just lucky that her needs have never competed with my boyfriend's. That would be a stressful moment. I don't feel like I am "emotionally cheating", though. It is something I think about occasionally, as I discussed in a thread above.

Passion Fruit

"If you go out for a while and the connection you want just isn't there — well, that happens to everyone, all the time. There is no more noble or respectable reason for dumping someone than “I've realized you're not right for me,” even though being on the receiving end of it hurts like hell. Each time you start a new relationship, you're basically doing a science experiment: will what I feel now (interest, affection, boners) turn into something sustainable over the long term (love, fidelity, joint checking)? Or will it fizzle out? And most of the time, it fizzles out — until the time when it doesn't.

Ask some cute chick out for coffee and see where it leads you. Maybe you'll discover that your bi-curiosity was fleeting and easily satisfied; maybe you'll find the great love of your life. Either way, there's no more risk in trying than there is in any relationship, which is to say the risk of heartbreak, bitterness, hurting someone you care for deeply, STDs, becoming your mother, and losing custody of your dog. So really, what do you have to lose?"

THIS should be the forward for an intro book to love, sex, and romance! (And this book should be written by AQC!)

I was so scared of being emotionally vulnerable in relationships, I thought there was something wrong with me/some way to avoid it. But now I realize that EMOTIONAL VULNERABILITY IS THE WHOLE POINT OF RELATIONSHIPS. Duh.

mkat

As a queer chick in a hetero relationship of 3 years, we make it work with a mutually beneficial method that definitely is not for everyone: threesomes. We both get to scratch the lady-loving itch with a new lady and we have had a blast that has cemented our relationship. Disclaimer! We really trust each other and discussed it a lot before ever embarking on the threesome train. I would not recommend it without a very intimate and non-jealous relationship.

sevanetta

You know, I really expected there to be more Shane-from-The-L-Word commentary. I guess it's just me and AQC then? :crickets chirp:

wee_ramekin

@sevanetta Nooooooooooooo! Not alone!

CONFESH: I have a portrait of Shane tattooed on the insides of both eyelids.*

(*CONFESH: That's not actually true, but I'm not opposed to the idea. Although in all honesty, I'd probably prefer Tasha & Her Cheekbones™.)

unicornfighter

#1 and #3 are basically my dilemma right now. In a great relationship with a dude with a lot of long-term potential, while also starting to feel like my girlcrushes in high school and college were maybe more than I originally thought. My situation's just different because I'm active in the BDSM scene, so we've negotiated that I can have sexyfuntime with ladies...we just haven't gotten to the "I maybe wanna date them" part yet.

And of course I'm terrified of *actually* pursuing sexyfuntime with ladies because I like emotional connection and I don't like oral. UGH CAN'T I JUST MAKE OUT WITH CUTE QUEER WOMEN AND HOLD THEIR HANDS AND GIVE THEM FLOWERS WITHOUT SO MUCH PRESSURE JESUS.

Carrie Ann

I'm super late on this column, but to LW4, I wanted to say that I fully believe that soulmate type relationships can and do exist outside of the marriage/partner bond. And I see no reason to de-prioritize them, unless an actual crisis occurs that forces you to "choose" or "take a side." However, I would avoid the "romanticization" of this non-romantic relationship, because it could hold you back from FULLY investing in your romantic relationship. What you don't want is to think, well, Friend is my soulmate, and Fiance can't take that place, because that keeps Fiance unfairly at a distance. They can both take top billing in your life, as can any future children, or your parents, or whatever, on and on. I've seen a couple of examples of non-romantic soulmate type relationships, and how they are navigated by partners.

First, two of my best friends married guys who have twin sisters. Since the beginning of their relationships, each of my friends has had to navigate the boundaries of the twin relationship. Each has felt like the #2 most important woman in their now-husbands' lives at some point, and each has felt like that relationship was off-limits to them.

In both cases, the guys are the more responsible, stable twins, while their sisters are financially unstable and have a lot of drama in their personal lives. That did actually lead to some instances where the guys had to "choose" their wives/themselves over their twins (financially, for example). But if you asked them to say which person they LOVED more, they probably wouldn't be able to say. I think that twins with a close relationship would seriously bristle at the idea that they should have to put a stake in the ground establishing that their partner is now #1 no matter what.

In addition to the twins relationship dynamic, I have a dear friend who is gay who had a straight, male best friend for almost ten years (sadly, my friend's BFF died suddenly 18 months ago). Their bond was exactly that of twins, or a married couple, or any other "soul mate" type bond. They called each other non-sexual life mates, and shared everything (tattoos, a bank account, even health benefits for a time). In that time, neither of them dated anyone whom they prioritized over each other. But I often wondered how it might play out someday if one of them DID end up in a forever-type relationship. I wondered how their potential future partners might feel about their relationship and how they would adjust to having other people take priority. I guessed that they probably wouldn't stay with someone who didn't realize that they were sort of a package deal.

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