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Why can I be intimate with my FWB, but not with my boyfriend?

I am in an open (some might call it “polyamorous”) relationship. This doesn’t mean I go around mounting strangers willy-nilly, but I do have a primary relationship and will sometimes develop one or two secondary relationships as well.

My (primary) boyfriend and I have been together for two and a half years. We cohabitate, communicate beautifully, and are absolutely one another’s best friend. I find him wildly attractive, and every day I am awed by his kindness, patience, selflessness, and good humor. While that sounds perfect, there is one little problem. When we have sex, I can’t stand incorporating any “intimate” behaviors such as kissing, caressing, or looking into one another’s eyes.

For a long time I suspected that maybe I was just into more aggressive sex. Nothing wrong with that, right? Some girls just like to feel a bit more . . . ”man-handled” in the sack. That is until six months ago, when I began seeing someone else (for ease of conversation, let’s call him FWB).

The relationship with FWB is strictly casual. Of course, we genuinely like each other and get along fine, but neither of us is interested in actually dating. The sex, though . . . it’s the best I’ve ever had. But beyond the multiple orgasms, we do something I’ve never been able to do before: show affection. When we’re in bed together, FWB is constantly kissing me and telling me how often he thinks of me and having sex with me in a much more romantic way. I’ve come to love it, and though I never wanted to develop serious feelings for FWB, I feel like my brain chemistry has been thrown for a loop.

All of this would be a good thing (“You’re learning to enjoy intimacy!” “You’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable!”) if it weren’t for the fact that when my boyfriend tries to be tender during sex, it makes my skin crawl. I don’t know why that is, and it breaks my heart that I can’t be as close to him as he’d like me to be. Because of the nature of our relationship, my boyfriend knows I hook up with FWB, and he is fine with that. What he doesn’t know, however, is how different my encounters with FWB are, and how I’m able to show FWB a side of myself I’ve never been able to show to him.

What’s wrong with me? How can sex feel so psychically and emotionally close with a causal hook-up, but not with my long-term boyfriend, for whom I care so deeply? I don’t need judgment about my choice of lifestyle, just thoughts about what might be going on with my head and how I should handle it.


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lovingcatwhisperer lovingcatwhisperer 4 years
If I was in your bf's shoes and I found out or you gave me an std - I WOULD DISASSOCIATE MYSELF FROM YOU...PERMANENTLY !!! And we all sit here witnessing why you have no conscience...both sexes get a bad rap for this situation!!!
Girly-in-pink Girly-in-pink 5 years
I cant understand the situation you are in, one man may be the one that gives you the best sex in the world and make you feel like you are the most beautiful person as well. With FWB may be the one that does things that your bf cant even attempt to do. Well I can kind of relate, I was in a relationship for years with this guy and when we had sex it just made me upset and it just wasn't that soul jerking sex that is only in the movies. But upon meeting another man he was the man that made my soul cry out for sex so I can totally understand. I just think maybe you should leave your bf alone because i bet you are thinking of the FBW while you are with the bf. Just wait things out and be honest with your self.
GregS GregS 5 years
I don't know why I keep coming back to this post, but here I am again. On cheating. I don't like cheaters (myself included when I did it). For you commentors saying that the OP is cheating on her bf. Exactly how is she cheating? Didn't she say, "Because of the nature of our relationship, my boyfriend knows I hook up with FWB, and he is fine with that. " That's not cheating. There could be any number of reasons why the bf is OK with her "dating" FWB from actually enjoying that she's receiving her sexual gratification from another source (yeah, it happens), to knowing that it makes the OP happy, so he's happy. There can still be a good relationship here with the bf and a FWB in the picture as well. The one thing that will surely kill the relationship is if communications falters, and you're not totally honest with yourself and your bf.
trinitycc trinitycc 5 years
I read this a few times before responding because there's a lot going on. It sounds like you and your bf have been together more than 2 years because the relationship you describe sound like an old married couple who stay together because too much time has passed to start over and it's just easier. The skin crawling part sounds like you've put him in a place of a "relative" that you love and live with, but not a sexual partner/husband/spouse. I know love can take different forms, but the love you have with your fwb is the type of love that draws you closer to the person. The time you spend with him makes you happy so you want to be closer to him. I can understand you not wanting to hurt your (primary) bf; he's your "family" and has done nothing to hurt you. It may sound crazy, but I would only be really concerned if you started to fall for a 3rd guy! ;) Joking aside, ask yourself how casual your feelings are now for your fwb. Have you two moved to an exclusive fwb relationship? I'm getting confused now. This sounds like the woman under Confession-Booth wanting a polygamous relationship. Good luck!
BiWife BiWife 5 years
I have to roll my eyes at comments like Atraditionalst. Not every open relationship has the same terms. Polyamoury/polygamy is not all hick, extremists living on a compound in the desert. Nor is it always a free-love, screw whomever you like. If you don't grasp the concept, don't bother offering advice, as it only goes to show the level of ignorance on your part. How does that saying go? "Better to keep your mouth closed & be assumed to be an idiot, than open your mouth & prove it. For SearchingSoul and others who don't get the lack of jealousy: I know my hubby loves me *because* he doesn't try to contain me in a monogamous relationship. I know he loves me because he trusts me. He knows I value him & vice versa. It's *because* of the mutual agreement to openness in our relationship that ours has worked so well for so long and not *in spite* of it.
Venus1 Venus1 5 years
I don't think we should be judgemental here because that is not what the poster is seeking. I agree with the above posts the point of polyamory to have different relationships with different people that vary in their dynamic? The reason why some people choose to have more than one partner is to appreciate the differences. I think this is normal not a fault.
HollyJRockNRoll HollyJRockNRoll 5 years
I agree with Jazzytummy
GregS GregS 5 years
I'll go out on a limb here, but there could actually be nothing wrong here. OP could be receiving all of her emotional support, love and affection from her bf, and the sexual/physical aspects satisfied elsewhere. One could presume that he's doing the same or similar. OP says communications is open and humming right along. So long as it works for both of them, I see no problems. Just understand that there's a difference between loving someone, and being IN love with someone. You can love FWB's essentially for what they bring to the - um - bed, but be in love with your boyfirend of 2+ years for all of the other necessary things a relationship brings. I don't think this is a common relationship type, and I think it's rife with dangers, but it can be workable.
postmodernsleaze postmodernsleaze 5 years
I don't undertand open relationships in the slightest, so I can't give good advice, but I think a few comments here make some really good points. atraditionalist has a great point... what is your "primary" supposed to have over your other lovers? It sounds like the FWB might be a better choice for a primary relationship if he's the one you can connect to on a deeper, more emotional level. I also like Helen Danger's suggestion that you just try to be more open/emotional/vulnerable with your primary boyfriend. And if that doesn't work, then he might just not be the right guy to have as your primary relationship. And then, I think Pistil has a good point, as well-- isn't the point of polyamory to have different relationships with different people that vary in their dynamic?
atraditionalist atraditionalist 5 years
open relationships dont work because you cant just turn off and on your feelings. I agree that its weird that your bf is not jealous of you having sex with other men. Why even have a "primary" What does a primary entail over a secondary when a primary gets no affection or intimacy? You're into your FWB. hopefully he's into you
Pistil Pistil 5 years
I think I agree with jazzytummy. I don't see the issue here. Isn't it to be expected that your different relationships are going to be different? Better in some ways, different in others. I thought that was the point of polyamoury?
searching-soul searching-soul 5 years
To add: Like Jazzy Tummy said maybe deep down there is apart of you that feels your boyfriend does not really care, that's why he is cool with you sexing other guys. Maybe there is some resentment and you don't want to be lovey dovey with him.C'mon your a woman and I'm sure there is a part of you that wants to know you can make your guy a little jealous and he would challenge another guy for you. That tends to be missing in an open relationship so you keep the intimacy/emotional attachment at bay with your boyfriend.That way, your not devastated if things do not work out.
searching-soul searching-soul 5 years
I do agree that you are developing feelings for your FWB and your relationship with your boyfriend may be going through a stagnant or stale phase. I'm not here to judge you so my advice is if you love your boyfriend and want to revive your relationship this particular FWB is threatening to your primary relationship. If you want to keep the status quo of your primary relationship you need to find someone who evokes less emotion or whatever, in you. Do what it takes to refresh and add excitement to the relationship with your boyfriend. Also reflect if you are really happy with you boyfriend, because maybe you are not and the FWB situation is just bringing that to your attention. If you do want to save your relationship this specific FWB has to go, because your feelings will continue to grow stronger. If you are done with your guy then keep on seeing this person. That's why I and many others tend to think that in the long run, open relationships do not work. As human beings we tend to be emotional and oftentimes jealous creatures. You can't just shut that off, even if you want to. What's to stop you from falling in love with this new guy? Because you tell yourself not to? Just some food for thought.
shreerose shreerose 5 years
I agree with GTCB.
likethedirection likethedirection 5 years
Great comment from Helen Danger. I agree completely.
GTCB GTCB 5 years
So yeah, your relationship is not working out 100% with your BF. This happens to everyone. You two should break up and move on with your lives.
lickety-split lickety-split 5 years
Chemistry is either there; or it's not. This is what I'm talking about when I post about needing to want to rip your partners clothes off/not being able to wait another minute to be with your partner. If you marry/settle down with someone you don't feel that way about you have a problem. Because when you feel that way about someone (and you will, eventually), it's a very strong pull. Remember: nature doesn't care if you like the same tv programs or sports teams. Nature wants you to procreate/keep the species. This situation is what happens when you try and force/settle for a relationship when the strong physical attraction isn't there.
jazzytummy jazzytummy 5 years
With all due respect to the other posters, I don't think your situation is that complicated. Even though you may love him, you sound bored with your relationship with your boyfriend. I think you feel guilty that you don't feel connected to him sexually because he is such a good friend, so you brush off having sex with others as just physical to make yourself feel better. You are failing at this miserably. You yourself said your "brain chemistries are thrown for a loop" with your FWB. Translated: you are developing feelings for your FWB and you feel guilty about it. Something deep is missing in your relationship with your BF, and you have to face that. You said your BF is fine with your FWB...tell me, is he screwing other women too? If so, are you "fine" with it? To me, if you are really happy being "polyamorous", you wouldn't be writing. Your bf sounds more like a good friend than a lover and for some people these kind of open relationships work, but it clearly isn't for you. You say in one sentence that you are "wildly attracted" to your boyfriend, then in the next that he makes your skin crawl. I think you are not being honest with yourself, personally. To each his own about "open" relationships, but I personally would hate it if my boyfriend was ok with me being with other men. It would make me feel like he really doesn't care. But that's just me.
Jemini Jemini 5 years
Well written Joe and Biwife. The emotional openness seems to be new to you as well. FWB has opened in you a whole new can of worms that no one has and that is a freedom in itself. That freedom to be able to "let go" is what makes the sex amazing! On the other hand, when you have become "used" to a certain way in a relationship, as you have with your BF, it is difficult to change and although you give eachother freedoms in other ways, you may not have it with eachother. But it can be changed! This would require WANT on your part. If you feel it is just not there for you, you will have to ask yourself if you really feel you and your BF's relationship is what you want. We can have that feeling of "stuck" because you don't want to cause pain, your guilt or maybe you can't see yourself without him emotionally. Let me add, feeling stuck does not help you in the "letting yourself go" (sexually speaking) process. I do believe that in life we meet different people who fill different needs in our lives. The person you connect with emotionally may not be the same person you connect with physically, as in your case. If you want to make both work, sit down and be honest with BF. That will begin your process of FREEDOM!
JoeTyndall JoeTyndall 5 years
OP, I agree with Biwife in that a lot of this has to do with the little irritations that build up as the years go by. With this other person, things are still new and fresh. The other thing is emotional needs. It could be that you and your FWB are satisfying each other's emotional needs better than you and your bf are. What exactly do you need from other person emotionally? How about your FWB, what does he need? Whatever it is, it seems you and your FWB have figured it out better than you and your bf have. I would add that I believe that such a good balance can be learned between your bf and you. The trick is to sit down, talk it out, and find out how both of you are not satisfying each other emotionally. I see it as a balance between the two -- the irritations plus satisfying emotional needs. Take a look at your bf and your FWB, and see where the balance is working better.
BiWife BiWife 5 years
As someone who actually has experience in this situation (unlike anyone else who's posted), I know exactly what you're going through. HelenDanger is partly right, as the "casual hookup's" can be easier to find connection with at times than your longterm partner. However, in my experience, there was usually something about my longterm partner that I was subconsciously resentful/bitter about that was preventing that ease in intimacy - rather than it being about seeing these secondary relationships as disposable people. It's really easy to have great sex with someone when you aren't subconsciously thinking about how he forgot the pay the phone bill on time the last 2 months, his obnoxious poker buddies, and how he's been stingy on the foreplay lately, blah, blah, blah. Secondary relationships don't always have the same level of commitment & tenure as a primary relationship, so there's less bs to get under your skin and get in the way of connecting on various levels. Look at the differences between the two people & see if you can pinpoint what about him puts you at ease. It could be that you feel the sexual intimacy with your primary is somewhat forced & therefore fake (which would make any girl's skin crawl). And be careful not to try and force/fake anything yourself while trying to work on the problem as it'll only exacerbate the issue. There are other types of intimacy, as well, so you may feel more comfortable relating to your primary relationship through another kind of intimacy. Sometimes these insights from secondary relationships highlight problems we didn't know were there and act as a double-blessing by strengthening all our relationships. :) Feel free to pm me if you want to talk more
Helen-Danger Helen-Danger 5 years
Intimacy issues are not the result of how you choose to partner up, they're the cause. If you know you can get rid of a guy, you can be yourself. Just like you could tell dark secrets to the person sitting next to you on a plane if you thought it were about to crash. No risk there, just connection. Keep working on it. Try being vulnerable with your boyfriend in little ways that have nothing to do with sex. You CAN do it. It just feels really weird. Expose your heart more. It's possible you're very sad and it hurts to show that when you look deep into his eyes. If you got rejected while being vulnerable, it wouldn't be your fault. If your boyfriend isn't a safe place for you to try to open up, maybe he's not the right guy. Admiring him is not the same as loving him.
Rory1225 Rory1225 5 years
Maybe it is easier to be intimate with your FWB because you are not emotionally attached. You know that there is no risk of him hurting you. But with your boyfriend you run the risk of heartbreak, and that is why you pull back. I can't say I really relate to the situation personally, but sometimes if you really like someone you worry more about their opinion and might change your behavior.

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