I’ve been best friends with a lesbian for about two years now (good enough for her to tell me not to move away when I didn’t think I had an option). I’m extremely attracted to her and the more time I spend with her the more I am, but I’m not attracted to her sexually. I’ve never thought about her like that, and when my now long time ex joked about asking her for a threesome it made me uncomfortable. Now we’ve both been hanging out with a straight or bi chick and she flirts with us both, and It’s obvious my bf is into her, but I’m confused by all my emotions right now. I used to just use “relationships” to denote who I was sleeping with, now I consider relationships to just be relationships and I value mine with my bf more than any sexual relationships. I feel really cliche and stereotypical since I’m a straight guy. Where should I even begin? The past year has made a lot of changes to my life and everything seems so new to me.

A lot of people who talk to me about poly identity and practices start out thinking it’s all about sexual behaviors - that fundamentally, being polyamorous means you’re “allowed” to engage in a specific set of behaviors with more than one person. But for me, and for many poly folks, it’s about a lot more. Some of us are also relationship anarchists, which is related to polyamory but not the same thing. I suspect you may find a lot of kindred souls among us relationship anarchists.

Relationship anarchy as a worldview recognizes that sex doesn’t define relationships along a pre-set hierarchy. There are people in my life that I love with a deep and abiding passion, who I think about when I hear a love song, who I would go to the ends of the earth for, who I want as long-term collaborators in this big project called life. But I’m not sexually attracted to all of them. There are other people who I definitely like having sex with, whose bodies and sexual preferences work great with mine, but I certainly am not interested in spending my life with them. And there is so much grey area - I have a different relationship with every friend and partner in my life, with different boundaries of sexuality, intimacy, and commitment. Some friends I’d love to live with but not necessarily raise kids with. Other friends I flirt and cuddle with but don’t intend to make the relationship sexual. And so on.

Most of today’s social messages about family and relationships tell us that these feelings all come lumped together, and that we can (or should) only feel them for one person at a time. But you know that’s not true. You know that you can feel this commitment, this intimacy, this affection, that you’re told as a “straight guy” to associate with a sexual-romantic “girlfriend,” for someone you’re not sexually involved with. You also know that this doesn’t prevent you from loving other people, or feeling sexual attraction elsewhere. You know all this, but maybe you don’t have a mental place to put it. In today’s society, it’s hard to find words for this reality, and nearly impossible to find love songs or stories that represent it.

You bring up the concept of cliches and stereotypes, and refer to your identity as a straight male. Try to let go of some of that. You don’t have to be everything society tells you that you are. Your relationships don’t have to fit neatly into the Cosmo-magazine, romantic-comedy, Puritanism-and-family-values structures. You can inhabit your own reality fully and without need for external validation. Whether you do or don’t have sex with a person doesn’t dictate or define anything else about that relationship. I encourage you to read up on relationship anarchy, and to keep building relationships that are healthy and fulfilling for you, no matter what they look like.