Can I accidently lead someone to do something unethical?

LouisaQuestions, Relationship Fluidity & BeyondLeave a Comment

You asked...

I met a women around my age yesterday evening, and had a great time playing cards, drinking at a bar and conversing with her. This is the first romantic crush on a cis-woman I have had, and would definitely describe us as mutually romantically flirting. She asked if I wanted to be walked home, to hug, for a FB add and requested I message her.

But since I've seen her FB status as 'in a relationship', with 'female' as her gender and 'male' as her interested in gender. So, should I avoid friendships with monogamous people completely in case I feel romantically attracted to them?! That would be extreme aversion... but if I do feel romantically interested in someone like her, with whom I want to pursue a relationship, is it okay to try forging a friendship with them, and in time ask them about their sexuality and relationship views?

I really fear accidentally leading a person to doing something unethical, but as a bi-romantic I also have the capacity to experience a crush to any new people I meet. I know non-sexual same sex relationships get undervalued, but if I intentionally or accidentally become romantically/ emotionally involved with her, that would be cheating, right? I imagine in the future forming friendships/relationships that are romantic from my perspective, platonic from theirs, considering how attraction seems to work for me... rather than 'best friends'/queer-platonic relationships/passionate friendships, which I understand as all platonic-platonic pairings. If this style of relationship was with a person in a 'monogamous' relationship, would they be cheating?

I answered...

Let's try and simplify what seems to be several conflated issues for you. Firstly, there is a difference between how you feel and what you do as a consequence of your feelings.

Both what you do and how you feel are 'manageable' by you. But what you do is far easier to manage (although not always easy) than managing how you feel. And yet your emotions are also manageable in a circuitous route, but will take deeper understanding of yourself and the examination of why you feel what you feel will most probably be a lifelong work. So, let's concentrate on managing what you do--your actions--right now, especially as I understand from your previous correspondence that you're twenty two years old... and fairly young to be coping with the complex business of managing your unconsciously driven emotions.

Ethics are both personal and cultural. If you want your ethics to include not getting involved in a relationship where your partner is cheating on someone else, then this is a principle you choose to set and try to abide by.
Regarding managing your actions as a response to your emotions, I'm going to surmise what I read between the lines (and it is up to you whether it resonates with you):

  • You do not trust yourself to be able to act appropriately/You are not able to act appropriately in certain situations, like for instance, when you fall for someone

Why have I concluded this? Well, a person who is able to manage their actions would not 'accidentally' become romantically involved with someone. You can choose to get romantically involved with someone. Or not... regardless of how you feel.

Yet there are many reasons why people cannot manage their actions and this has more to do with awareness, the impulse control mechanism and their own formative environments as opposed to a desire to 'do the right thing.' You can want to be ethical, strive towards being ethical and still behave unethically. It's called being human! Note that there is no moral judgement around this. Ethics are learned and practise over the course of time; some people learn them early on, some later and some not at all. I have learned them, practised them and even at forty years old, still occasionally act unethically out of impulse and/or ignorance. Yet this is not an excuse not to try (as you are doing!)... so kudos to you. Ethics are both personal and cultural. If you want your ethics to include not getting involved in a relationship where your partner is cheating on someone else, then this is a principle you choose to set and try to abide by. As you are only 22, it comes as little surprise that your relationship ethics are less developed than might be considered gold standard.

My second conclusion is that you have little idea of what healthy boundaries look like. I surmise this partly as a function of your age and partly because you ask whether it is 'okay' to try and forge a friendship with someone and then ask them about their sexual inclination and relationship views. It is okay (and if you knew about boundaries you would know that). Trying to make friends is okay. Asking about sexual inclination is also okay. Direct communication in general is okay. What is not okay, is expecting a certain outcome from your friendship or indeed expecting her to answer your questions. You have the right to ask, she has the right to not give you an answer. And you must learn to respect that. You might choose to ask yourself whether you would be okay being this woman's friend, if she says 'no' to anything other than friendship. If not, then your path is much clearer.

Here's a few boundary principles to take away with you. As an adult interacting with another adult,

  • You are responsible for your actions. You are not responsible for anyone else's.
  • You are responsible for defining your ethics. You are not responsible for defining anyone else's.
  • You are responsible for your self-care. You are not responsible for anyone else's.
  • You are responsible for what you do. You are not responsible for what anyone else does.

You can of course support others, give opinions (hopefully and usually solicited) and try to stop abusive behaviours in others. But you are not responsible for others.

Notwithstanding the above, I also note that you are from/live in the UK where cultural norms will play a part in what is considered an acceptable intimacy in communication. She might not consider that it is okay to ask about her sexual inclination after such a brief period of knowing each other. And there's not much you can do about that. Yet her asking for a hug is also unlike normative Brit behaviour! So you will save yourself a myriad of time and anxiety if you actually ask the question instead of making assumptions from your interpretation of her behaviour. And the way in which she responds will tell you not only whether there is a possibility of a romantic relationship with her, but also how compatible your communication styles are which might indicate the potential longevity of any relationship. As one of my poly-peers says,

Success in polyamory depends on the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have -Kitty Chambliss

I prefer to extend that pretty great maxim to 'success in any relationship... '

As to the labels peppered all over your query, don't get bogged down in them. There are plenty of them and they are cool to learn, but might also only pigeon hole you into an identity which doesn't serve you in the long run. Identities are fluid and personal things... but one discovery of a label which helped me deal with my intense non-sexual feelings towards friends was romantic friendship. Common in Shakespeare's day, unfortunately less respected nowadays.

Finally as to whether someone is cheating or not... that's an easy one. It depends on what they've agreed with their partner as to whether an action or emotion is considered a betrayal. And the only way you can find out, is to ask.

Good Luck.

PS. Here are some links which might be helpful: