In a previous post I mentioned that there had been a lot of stuff going on in my life that led me to stop posting here for a very long time. Since then I’ve been working on the posts explaining what exactly happened. I would write, then put it off to work on other pieces, but I couldn’t really focus fully on those other pieces and kept getting drawn back to this one. So it’s taken a few weeks to write and it’s a long one that I’ll break up into different sections.
If you’re familiar with my blog then you’ve probably read my post on my secret relationship with Max, which I wrote in the fall of 2013. Taking those first steps towards admitting that Max and I had a relationship with each other was a difficult task for me, but it felt nice to open up and share with my friends and the world. A few people were surprised, but most thought it was great that we had finally admitted to being in a relationship that they already saw. It felt right to have taken that leap of faith.
We decided that one of the things we would do was create “Omnax Day”, a sort of monthly date night where we would spend time just the two of us so that no matter what else was going on in our lives, we would always have a time at which we could enjoy the bond we shared. Things settled into place, with us having our Omnax Day, spending time with all our friends individually and together, focusing on the things that interested each of us and giving each other the support that two bros give one another.
Fall became winter, and Max starting hanging out with Aster, a girl he had met one night when we had gone out dancing. At first it seemed like one of his typical sexcapades, but as the new year began it became clear that there was more there. I tried to talk to Max about it, but in his typical fashion all he would say was, “I’m interested in her—and not just sexually.” Well, considering how important Max is to me, I wanted to meet Aster. Not to give my stamp of approval, but to get to know this new person in his life, the same way we all want to get to know people who are important to the people who are important to us.
But Max was hesitant to let us meet. Some of the fears I mentioned in the post about my relationship with Max regarding how he treats me when there is a girl in the picture showed their ugly heads, and it started to cause some stress between us. We had planned to spend a week in Berlin in the beginning of February, but suddenly I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go. Despite my reservations I decided I wouldn’t skip the trip, and in the end we had a great time together. We spent time talking about what was going on, Max explaining that he really liked Aster and me reiterating I was happy for him and my desire to get to know her. And so he agreed that we should all hang out together so she and I could get to know each other.
The first time Aster and I met was Valentine’s Day 2014. It was a fun night out, and the three of us spent time chatting and dancing. At the end of the night they took off for her place, and I headed home, happy to have finally gotten a chance to meet Aster.
But over the next couple of months we didn’t see each other at all. Max apparently didn’t feel comfortable with me and her hanging out, and from the way he told it, it seemed to be primarily the result of her insecurities. He said they needed a chance to work things out, and I didn’t push him on hanging out. I did, however, at least want to clear up what was going on between us.
I wasn’t interested in being the ersatz girlfriend for the times when Max wasn’t interested in someone with an actual vagina. He was my best friend, my bro, family, and I wanted to make sure we were on the same page. So sometime that March I wrote him an email explaining how I felt. Unsurprisingly, it took forever to get a response. In total we both wrote something like three emails each, and that conversation literally took months. It was frustrating, to say the least, all the more so because we were still hanging out as if there weren’t serious things that needed to be sorted out. While I wished that the conversation could have gone faster, I also knew that a) he struggles to communicate and b) he was also involved with Aster. So I suspended my need for a quick resolution for the sake of compromise and waited it out.
One of the things that came up in this drawn-out email exchange was something I’ve mentioned in other posts, namely that the sexual component isn’t an important factor to me in terms of a long-term relationship, and that I could potentially see us staying in a really intimate relationship. When he finally responded, he said that he felt the same way. But I wanted to make sure everything was crystal clear, so I asked him if he meant that in terms of us knowing each other when we’re old and decrepit, or in terms of us going through all the various life phases together, of working, raising children, retiring, etc. His response: he wanted to go through all the life phases together. In this regard it seemed like we were on the same page.
Then we got around to talking about what that would look like, and his main concern was that we would never find a woman who would go for being in a relationship with two guys. I told him that while it’s true that not every woman would go for something like that, there are definitely plenty of women out there to whom such a relationship would appeal. To me, the more important hurdle was whether or not he and I were interested in something like that; the rest would fall into place when it happened.
While these email exchanges were going on, Max was also having similar conversations with Aster, and in turned out that part of the reason he took so long to write back to me was because he needed to feel her out first. In one of their conversations she told him that she had been involved in a three-way relationship once before with a man and a woman, but it hadn’t worked out so well in the end. Apparently, this was part of the reason why he would later tell me he thought finding a woman who would have a relationship with two men would be difficult.
And throughout all of this, Max still kept Aster and me from hanging out. At this point it’s May – three months after she and I first met – and I once again commented that it would be nice to get to know this person who was becoming increasingly important to him. She had expressed the same desire about me, so she and I finally made plans to meet up one evening.
It ended up being a really fun evening with her. We talked about our lives, got to know each other a little better, and laughed a whole lot. We both thought it was funny that we had both been some what nervous beforehand, but we left the meeting looking forward to hanging out again. We decided we should find time when all three of us could hang out and talk.
I guess in some ways this freaked Max out. He still hadn’t finished our email conversation, and here we were planning on having a conversation with all three of us. What’s more, it was apparent in his last email that he wasn’t putting the same amount of thought into it. It seemed rushed, like he wanted to write something, anything, prior to our meeting. He said the best option would probably be the sort of arrangement where I was part of the family but not directly in the relationship because Aster wouldn’t go for it. It seemed odd that the email was so rushed, but if that was how he felt, that was fine.
And then came our meeting, on the 13th of June—a Friday, which amused me to no end. I’m not superstitious, but maybe that was one of those times when being superstitious would have actually paid off.
We started off just chatting about whatever, but eventually we turned to the topic of where things were heading. One of the big issues for Aster – something she had talked to me about at our meeting and to Max prior to the three of us meeting – was why Max and I weren’t having sex. Both of us reiterated that it was because that wasn’t what we were looking for with each other. This would eventually become a huge issue.
She also talked about her experience with her previous three-way relationship, about how it was based on love between all three individuals (she would later change tack and claim it had only been based on sex). She said that she was open to a three-way relationship, which surprised me since Max had told me the opposite. And so the conversation turned to the three of us trying it out. In retrospect this was a big mistake; I mean, I hardly knew her, and though I was attracted to her and thought there was a connection, I’m not usually the sort of person to get into a relationship with someone whom I’ve only really hung out with a couple of times. But it seemed that we were all open to the idea, and so we decided to give it a go.
At first things went well. We knew that we would all need time to get to know each other and see what kind of dynamic emerged, but Aster suggested that we at least greet each other the same way – with a kiss on the lips – so that outwardly it was clear that we were in this thing together. Max and I had only kissed on very few occasions, but I don’t see a kiss as inherently sexual or romantic, so I was OK with incorporating this into our relationship. And so the three-way relationship started.
The three of us would cuddle on the couch while watching films or hang out, we would meet up and spend time together out and about in the city, and we also spent time in the various two-person constellations. But things went sour pretty quickly.
One of the things that seemed important was that we were sexually exclusive. If you’ve been reading my blog you know that I am the antithesis of a monogamist. But against my better judgment I decided that for the time being I wouldn’t sleep with anyone outside of the relationship as a show of good faith. However, Max couldn’t quite get over the possessiveness of being the only person sleeping with Aster, despite she and I expressing a sexual interest in one another. And he and I weren’t looking to have sex with one another. Which left me in a state of abstinence. The Mormons would have been proud, but it was difficult for me.
We would have conversations about why sexual monogamy was important and about what other barometers we could use to gage loyalty. Both seemed to understand what I meant by “unfaithful but not disloyal”. But when I discussed it with Aster she would say that while she understood, Max didn’t seem OK with it, and she had a predilection for the typical male/female roles in a relationship. For his part, Max would say things like, “you and I don’t have a problem with having sex with other people, but Aster isn’t like us.” I found it odd that he himself was OK with having sex with other people but wasn’t OK with Aster doing it, and I found it antiquated that she would simply “let the man decide.”
Obviously this caused stress because they both knew that I was horny as fuck, but we just weren’t at a point where Aster and I could have sex without it causing problems with Max. Both of them said I should have sex outside the relationship, but I insisted that if sexual faithfulness was the means by which we were determining each person’s dedication to the relationship, then it didn’t feel right for me to go out and bone other people. To me, it was more important that we all agree on a different barometer of loyalty first. Eventually I got to a point where it didn’t stress me so much – and by extension where I didn’t cause them corresponding stress – but that wasn’t the only issue.
Characteristic of his behavior in a relationship, Max had a hard time opening up and constantly told me he had to deal with Aster first, that her concerns had priority. When I would try to deal with things between the three of us – which made sense to me since we were in a three-way relationship – he would push me off. This didn’t happen all the time, but it happened often enough that I had the impression that how I felt didn’t matter.
He also struggled with showing all the guys in out circle of friends that we were in a relationship. So often he would skip the kiss greeting in front of them, and while I had some understanding for this since I also had a hard time kissing dudes in front of cis guys, over time that coupled with being made to feel like my feelings didn’t matter took its toll. Add to that the fact that we would make plans and then he would change them without telling me because Aster didn’t like certain people or riding bikes or whatever—it just didn’t create a good environment. This all became the topic of conversation when he and I went on a two-week holiday just the two of us, which came on the heels of him and her going on holiday just the two of them.
The first week of our holiday sucked. I didn’t feel like I was being heard, and he kept saying that he had to get to know Aster’s side first. I would say that I understood because I also needed to get to know her, but that I didn’t understand why that meant my feelings were deemed essentially irrelevant, or why we couldn’t also do it between the three of us since we were supposed to be in a three-way relationship. We had spent that week in southern Austria and were heading to Munich for a weekend before going camping for a week. On the drive up to Munich I told him that I was going to get a hotel for the first night so I could take some time to think.
I checked into the hotel and then took off for a really long walk through Munich. I didn’t want to cause problems because of my insecurities, and I needed to assess how much was in my head and how much was something that I really should be concerned about. I also didn’t want to push too hard when I knew full well that Max struggles with emotions in general.
I decided that I wanted to head up to Erlangen, a city not too far from Munich where I had lived as a child. It had been almost 30 years since I had lived there, and I figured if I was this close, I should drive up and see it. Having moved around so much throughout my life, it was the first time that I would go back to a place I had lived before I was even in kindergarten. I toyed with the idea of going by myself, but then I decided that if a relationship is about sharing who we are with the people in the relationship, I should take Max with me. The next day I spent most of the day walking around the city before eventually meeting up with Max. He said he thought it was a thoughtful gesture on my part and would be honored to share my trip down memory lane and discuss at length everything I had thought about on my walks, and so the following day we took off for Erlangen.
We didn’t arrive until evening, so it was getting dark by the time we found the building in which my old apartment was located. I was flooded with memories, but we said we would come back the next morning when the sun was up. We went back to our hotel and had a really intimate evening talking. He acknowledged that he had been holding back from me unfairly and understood why it had hurt, but couldn’t explain why it only happened when a girl was in the picture. I mentioned that it was hurtful that we were trying this relationship but he still referred to me as his flatmate. He said that he didn’t see me as his boyfriend, but he did see me as his partner. And this resonated with me because I also didn’t see him as my boyfriend and also felt that partner was a lot more suitable to what we were since it didn’t carry the romantic baggage that boyfriend or girlfriend does.
Nevertheless, I didn’t think we should use the term. Neither of us were at a point where we would call Aster partner, and if he and her being boyfriend and girlfriend while I was just the flatmate put me on unequal footing, then he and I referring to each other as partner while she was just the girlfriend would put her on unequal footing, and I didn’t think that was right either. I can’t remember what we ended up deciding, but it probably doesn’t matter since he still ended up just calling me his flatmate once we got back to Vienna.
We talked about a lot of other things that night as well. About how us getting to know each other, while not romantic, still had some elements that were similar to a courtship. About how this relationship was the longest one either of us had had and how funny it was that neither of us would classify it as a romantic relationship. About how much we both appreciated having someone we could talk to about everything, even if we both struggled with it to different degrees. About how he understood how, those things being so, why it hurt me when he pulled away because of his own fears and insecurities. It was a good talk and it cleared the air.
The next day we went back to my childhood stomping grounds and had a look around before heading off to the campsite where we were spending the next week. That week was also good; we did a lot of talking, and at one point Max talked about how I was his Adventure Buddy on this crazy thing called life, how Aster was also a great Adventure Buddy to complement what we had. We also talked about the possibility of the two of us having sex, since it was a topic Aster had confronted both of us with on several occasions.
Aster really couldn’t come to terms with the fact that Max and I weren’t having sex. Many times she had told me she feared that he would one day say that he wasn’t interested in her and wanted to have sex with me. I thought that was preposterous and told her so, but she just wouldn’t let it go. It was also a constant topic of conversation between her and Max, and from him she got the same response. Yet she still wouldn’t relent. So he and I talked about trying things out slowly, about him overcoming his fears of what others would think if he had sex with a dude. We also talked about why he couldn’t deal with me and her having sex, and there too we decided to take things slowly rather than continuing to leave it off the table.
Our last night there we decided to go into town because they were having a summer festival. He had spent a lot of time in the town during his time as a camp counselor, so we hit all the spots he used to go with all the other counselors. There were a couple things that stood out in my mind that evening.
The first came while we were dancing on a plaza. Pharrell’s Happy was blasting on the speakers, and I was dancing hard and free because it fit my mood perfectly. A girl in the crowd was digging my vibe and so we danced together, not grinding, really just dancing around with each other. At some point she went right and I went left, and at that point I glanced over at Max, who was gazing at me with that same hungry look I had seen on his face so many times—a look that I had only seen on his face when he was looking at girls he wanted to fuck. It threw me off because I wasn’t used to having that look directed at me, and it made me uncomfortable. But I brushed it off and went back to dancing with the girl. The song ended and she went off with her friends, and he and I danced for a while before heading off to a bar.
And then came the second thing. We were at the bar for a while, and eventually decided it was time to go home. In the bar we had met another girl who was all about Max. When we left, she came with us. And trouble arose when we were looking for a taxi. She really wanted him to go home with her, and he really wanted to go with her. But according to the rules of our three-way relationship this wasn’t allowed, and I knew it would hurt Aster. So I tried to get him to say goodbye and head back to our campsite. It took me some time, but eventually I was able to convince him to leave it. She jumped into a taxi alone, and he and I took the next one.
We returned to Vienna from holiday, and the next day Max spent the night at Aster’s because she wanted to talk to him. I didn’t think anything of it because at this point we both would spend the night at her place individually when she didn’t come over to our place. But early the next morning he came home and crawled into bed with me. He was clearly upset, so I asked him what was up. He said that Aster had once again confronted him about me and him not having sex. He let out his frustration, at some point angrily saying we just need to get this over with so she finally gets it. This scared me. He and I had talked about taking things slowly and staying relaxed. But this was coming from a place of anger and frustration, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. I was cool with a relaxed setting, but this sent an icy chill down my spine. I did my best to calm him down, and later he left for work and I opened my laptop to translate. That night when I spent the night at her place I talked to her about it and my concern deepened. But I didn’t worry about it too much because I didn’t think anything would happen anytime soon, that we’d have time to make sure we were all approaching it from a relaxed perspective.
I was so wrong.
Stay tuned for part two of the story!