Disclosing Deeper Feelings

You may feel like you always have to disclose when you develop feelings for someone, but this may not actually be the case.

I've been practising ENM for almost 2 years, I've had two open relationships, where I had one primary partner where we were open to casually dating other people. Since my last relationship ended, about 2 months ago, I decided to not intentionally look for a serious relationship for some time, I want to focus on myself, I'm in therapy and hoping to figure out what I want from relationships long-term. This is the first time I am practising ENM as a single person.
I decided to start using dating apps to meet new people, as I feel it's a good way to learn about myself through interacting with people, I was open to making friends or developing FWB relationships. I am a demisexual, so casual sex is not something that usually interests me. 
I met a man who's in a long-term ENM relationship, he has been with his partner for more than a decade and they've been open for almost half of that time. I haven't met his partner, but they seem to have a good relationship, from what he tells me. He explained that he is looking for FWB, as they are not polyamorous. On our first date I asked a few questions about his relationship in terms of what experience they have had, he said they started with swinging and now are exploring dating separately. 
I asked him if any of they have ever developed feelings for someone else (I was curious about this because this was the reason for the break-up on my first ENM relationship, where I developed feelings for someone else and my partner decided he could not deal with that and broke up).
He responded that has not happened yet, but they have good communication and would be able to discuss things openly. He said something that I've found interesting: "We are at a stage where we both accepted that we can lose each other, neither of us wants to be preventing the other from living something that would be better for them". 
We've been dating for 1.5 months, seeing each other once a week. I feel very comfortable with him. I think I am starting to develop feelings for him. He has expressed that he really likes me, we are both very excited to be together when we meet and he said that our connection already feels more emotional than what he has had with other people. 
I know I might be reading between the lines on things he has said, and I am not sure if is because I am hoping that this would become something that neither of us intended. For that reason, I am battling with myself on whether I should have a conversation about this with him to let him know that I think I am developing feelings and to ask how he feels and what that means for us and for his relationship.
I know it is not my responsibility to think about whether he should communicate this to his partner, but I am quite afraid that if I don't say anything and I continue to develop feelings, at some point he'll end the connection with me, as his established relationship doesn't 'allow' other emotional connections. 
Rationally speaking, I know I can't control my feelings and the outcome, but it feels that I am being somehow dishonest for knowing that I have feelings for him and not saying anything, I am also sad that this might lead to the end of the relationship and I don't want that. I am conflicted. 
I am trying my best to keep my mind in check and not fantasise about a scenario where he would change his relationship agreements to open space for a relationship with me, but secretly this is what I would want, and I feel bad as he was upfront from the beginning that this was not on the table. 
I don't think I need or want him to change anything about how our interaction has been, I am happy to continue developing our relationship how it has been, I don't feel the need to call him a 'partner', and I am happy with the amount of time we are spending together. For the most part, I would just like him to reassure me that even if he develops feelings for me, he would not need to stop seeing me. Is this too much to ask?

The first thing I would say is that you’re doing what I see people do very often in these types of situations — instead of attributing the boundaries placed around their relationship to their partner’s decision, they put the responsibility on either the metamour or this sort of nebulous indirect thing. You said in your letter that it’s “his relationship” which has placed the boundary of not developing feelings around you but actually that’s not true. He has decided as a fully grown adult, regardless of whether he feels “more emotional” about you than other FWBs, that “feelings” are not allowed.

It’s crucial that you accept that because this isn’t just about not acknowledging your developing feelings but it’s also about tricking yourself into believing that he has the intentions of changing his mind or he will maybe at some point but it’s just this pesky relationship that’s stopping him. And it’s possible that he also wants to feel this way, but I feel like not putting the responsibility where it actually lies is actually both unfair to his metamour but also doesn’t give you a realistic grasp of the situation.

Another thing that’s worth considering which I feel like a lot of people don’t really think about in FWB or “secondary” situations — or even in monogamy and having “crushes” on people — is, yes, you may have “feelings” but do those “feelings” need to be acted on? We have a sort of trend within our culture that pushes us to believe if we feel romantically about someone that this has to mean several things: that these feelings need to be “acted” on, that something is lacking if something “more” doesn’t develop. This is kind of connected to the relationship escalator concept as well.

This would be actually what I would have asked your FWB when he mentioned that “feelings” were not allowed. Because what is behind that boundary is the assumption that if “feelings” are present then the parties who have those “feelings” must act upon them and the FWB relationship must “progress” into something that it’s not. But does it have to? Are we not just making a massive assumption about that? Is part of the “suffering” we sometimes experience having crushes on people is the assumption that the relationship *must* “progress” into something?

So ask yourself, assuming all things were identical in your relationship with your FWB in terms of the physicality… would you still be okay? Are part of the feelings you’re developing actually including other expectations? Are you not just developing feelings but developing a desire to, for example, spend more time with him than you have now, meet his family, live with him, etc.? Could you remain satisfied at your current level of physical interaction with him regardless of how you “feel”?

Honestly, if the answer is yes and if you don’t feel like, even if you feel more emotionally connected with him (which I would argue is normal of any kind of relationship as you spend more and more time with each other and isn’t necessarily always avoidable), you need to change up how your relationship is — do you honestly need to confess that you feel your connection is more emotionally deeper?

The reason I ask this is because I think we also get hung up on “honesty” in all kinds of romantic relationships. And while, yes, it is important to be honest with our partners, not every single emotion or feeling we have necessarily needs to be shared with everybody at every point. We understand this when it comes to other relationships. If we have a child and the child is being super annoying, we don’t have to be honest about that. It’s not dishonest to hold your tongue and say, “Wow you’re being very annoying.”

And the same goes for other relationships. If you have a friend and they’re going through a breakup and honestly you find their reactions slightly annoying or you keep giving them advice and they keep ignoring it… well, do you *have* to say, “Hey mate, you’re being very annoying right now.” It all depends on your expectations in that situation. No relationship is perfect 100% of the time and we all make certain allowances for the people we’re in any kind of relationship with. The reason we often don’t say “hey you’re being annoying” is not just because it could hurt people’s feelings but also because generally you wouldn’t need to say something unless you wanted something to change.

So when it comes to feeling more emotionally connected with your FWB, the issue is not the emotions, it’s the expectation of what those emotions mean. Communicating that you feel more emotionally connected to him may not be just being “honest” about your feelings but instead communicating something about how you may want your relationship to change — which is exactly why you’re “reading between the lines” of his confession that he feels more emotional about you.

Stop reading between lines there and ask yourself what you actually want from this situation. Is your desire to be “honest” with him truly about feeling like there is a problem with you not saying how you feel or do you want to be honest because you want the relationship to change. I would argue that the more time you spend with any human being, the closer you will feel with them over time. But we don’t feel the need to announce to someone that we feel closer to them usually unless we want the relationship to change. If you don’t want the relationship to change, then maybe confessing your heart isn’t necessary.

What I’d consider doing is figuring out what you want for yourself. Do you want the relationship to change? If you do, then you may be headed down a path of incompatibility, regardless of how he may feel about you in comparison to other FWBs because — not his relationship, but HE — has decided that he is only going to develop a progressing relationship with one person and that’s his decision. If you find yourself wanting more, it may be better to walk away now instead of trying to hope he will change his mind.

But if you don’t need anything about your relationship to change, maybe you need to re-assess with him what this boundary “means” to him and his partner. Is it that they truly don’t want other people to have feelings (which seems a little ridiculous to expect) or is it that they just don’t want the nature of their relationship to change. It may be possible to let him know that you have a close emotional connection with him — and that is both normal and understandable as you spend time together — but that doesn’t mean you have expectations about your relationship changing from it’s current state, so there is no need for them to worry.

Or, you may decide to keep your feelings to yourself because really… they’re your feelings and no one else is entitled to be informed about them. I don’t feel like, especially if there is some paranoia on your FWB’s side, there is a lack of ethics in keeping your feelings to yourself so long as you aren’t lying to yourself about what you actually expect or want from this relationship. If you can honestly say that you’d be happy for things to stay the same way but you just feel emotionally more close to him than you expected, you may not need to “confess” that in the same way you don’t need to tell a friend you’ve developed that you feel closer to them than you did 2 months ago after your friendship has grown.

So overall, assess your feelings and wants, figure out the nature behind this boundary, really grapple with the fact that it’s HIS boundary, not his “relationship’s boundary”, and figure out what the best step forward is for you and your feelings. Don’t stay in a relationship you know will eventually end up hurting you if you can avoid it. As satisfying as it may be now, if it ends up being not what you want, then it may be best to walk away now.

I hope this helps and good luck!

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