I still think about him a lot. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been sentimental; maybe it’s the loneliness whenever Husband and I aren’t together. Who knows? I miss him, and I often imagine what we could’ve had.
I’ll call him Joe. Husband and I met Joe in college. He was fun, funny, smart, diligent, ambitious and cute. He was into video games, D&D and biking. The three of us became fast friends, and I spent a lot of time hanging out with Joe, especially toward the end of my university career. We shared some program responsibilities that kept us out late at the same places, and we always had plenty to talk about.
When Monogamy Becomes Fluid
By that point, I was happily monogamous. Husband and I had learned our boundaries and agreed that sex with different partners was fine, and that our communication was too strong and healthy for us to ruin things with dishonesty. We even decided we were both on board with the idea of a threesome if the right person came along, although he admitted he wasn’t exactly sure what he’d do with a vagina. Still, he promised to make an effort if one somehow found its way into our bed. So, it wasn’t a huge deal when I told Husband I found Joe attractive; he confessed the same.
I’d seen the looks Joe gave certain other men, but I mostly convinced myself I was projecting my own desires. It wasn’t my place - even as Joe’s friend - to pressure him by bringing it up or forcing the issue. Maybe he was bi-curious. Maybe he was bisexual but didn’t have sufficient confidence or support to come out. Maybe he was gay rather than just bad at relationships with girls, but had his own reasons for remaining closeted. I didn’t know, but I’d have been a terrible friend if I’d pushed him on it.
Then Joe landed a part-time job alongside Husband. They got to hang out. I got to see them both whenever I stopped by. I also got to see Joe’s wistful looks and hidden glances, and I knew Husband and I had to have a talk, because Joe was unmistakably crushing on him. It didn’t help that Joe and I were at a conference soon after, hiding from all the noise in some remote hallway, and I caught myself thinking pretty hard about kissing him. I’m positive he could tell, too. What’s more, I’m sure he would’ve let me.
We didn’t know what to do, but it was obviously causing our friend some distress, so we finally decided I’d approach him. I’m pretty good at steering a conversation, and I wanted Joe to volunteer himself so we could openly discuss it. We wanted to reassure him because, in the course of our own uncertainty, we’d discovered something unexpected about ourselves: Both of us had a crush on Joe too.
I found myself in a strange, new place with a lot of questions. I thought I loved only my husband - that I could love only him. I thought I’d found the one person to whom I wanted to give all my love, and I was fine with that. Now, suddenly, I had to admit that I had feelings for someone else…at the same time. Not identical feelings, but still love. I was in love with Joe and my husband, and Husband was in love with me and Joe. All indications were becoming that Joe was likewise in love with both of us. It was unfamiliar and a little scary; I didn’t know what to do.
Then Joe spent the night after a party. It was either the bed or the floor, so he crashed with us. The distribution of space got a little hot. Sharing led to spooning, which led to cuddling, and before any of us really knew it, clothes started coming off. I don’t know which surprised Joe more: that I undressed him or that he let me. He kept asking us if we were really sure this was alright, like he couldn’t believe it, like the secret fantasies he had were all coming true. He was floored that I was fine with him topping Husband, and amazed when Husband didn’t mind me going down on him…though not as amazed as when Husband joined in.
It Didn't Turn Out as Expected
I think it was too much; we had a really good time, but Joe couldn’t make it fully past that barrier of “there’s no way this is happening.” We spent a lot of time trying to shore up Joe’s confidence and convince him that, yes, we really did want this and, yes, it was really alright, that we had feelings for him too. In the end, I don’t know if it was just too intense for him or if the idea of it was just … too big. Probably none of us was ready for the concept of polyamory; I had my own reservations about making our straight line a triangle, since triangles have historically bad reputations.
Joe grew distant after that. Coming from a fundamentalist background, he went back to that whenever he got too stressed, withdrawing more and more. He was always busy. It wasn’t long before he threw himself into a relationship with some woman we’d never met. He quit his job on short notice, moved out of his apartment, and quickly got married. I’m not even sure he graduated; I think he may have dropped out to go to seminary school.
Dealing with What Happened
Some of what Joe did during that period was crap, and he made decisions that hurt other people. We haven’t talked in several years, but I wonder if he blames me for what happened. Although I know his choices were his own, they were influenced by a lot of different factors: his upbringing, his mental and emotional situation at the time, and surely the sudden shift in our relationship. The timing wasn’t coincidental. Did he go out, get laid, and get married just prove to himself, or to someone else, that he was straight? Tragically, people do that. And if that was the case, was it our fault? Did we frighten him instead of demonstrating our support, our understanding - our love?
Do either of us still love him? I can’t speak for Husband, but … I still think about him a lot. I miss him, and even after all this time, I’m still deciding what that means for me. I’ll always love Husband, and I don’t know that I’ll ever love anyone else. Joe was unique because I think I loved him too. I think maybe I still do. I fantasize about what we could’ve had together, and that’s taught me love, like sex, can be fluid. It can have exceptions and special cases. It can be different from what you know, which is frightening and exhilarating.
We might’ve had something amazing if it had all clicked. Instead, we had an awkward threesome, some painful memories, and a lost friendship. I hate that. Whenever I think about Joe, it’ll always make me a little sad. If things had maybe been a bit different, we might’ve captured something truly special.
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