Man and a woman standing in front of a couch holding drinks and laughing

Just the Tip is a sex and relationship column hosted by queer non-monogamous kinkster Jera Brown. Here you will find interviews with sexuality researchers and educators as well as smart and compassionate responses to anonymous questions. If you would like to be interviewed or have a sex or love question you’d like Jera to answer, email or DM Jera on Twitter @thejerabrown.

How bad is it that I recently (re)started sleeping with “cousin” adopted (not legally)? And we have a 16 year age difference, but we’re both consensual adults. Is it weird to have romantic relationship feelings for him?

Since you’re not blood relatives and you’re both consenting adults, there’s nothing outright morally wrong with the situation, but there are significant consequences to consider.

How does the family feel about the situation and how important is their opinion to both of you? Would a bad breakup between you two significantly damage either of your needed support networks?

Because he’s chosen family, this isn’t a situation that is likely to just be casual and fizzle out … the longer it goes on, the more likely it will be to cause tension if things do go south. Therefore, this isn’t a moral conundrum as much as it is a question of what you can live with. Can you both live with the results?

If you were just sleeping together, I’d be more inclined to strongly warn you that a fling is probably not worth the family drama. But you mentioned romantic feelings — the possibility of a real relationship changes things. You also mentioned you started re-sleeping with this person. Maybe you’re drawn to each other in a way that’s difficult to give up.

Let’s talk about the age difference for a minute. Yeah, sixteen years is a lot if you’re at two different stages of life or maturity levels. I think typically when you’re dating someone you have time to figure these things out. But with higher stakes, it’s probably a good idea to seriously consider these things early on.

Do you both want the same things out of a long-term relationship or even out of a life partner? Do you truly respect each other and trust each other’s opinions? 

If you just need reassurance you’re not a bad person, then you’re not a bad person. You just fell for someone. And he was probably adopted into your family for a reason.

But now it’s time to be clear-headed about the consequences of pursuing each other and the likelihood that you’re a good match. Have some hard conversations together about what you want long-term and be honest with yourself about whether he’s someone you’re willing to risk family tension over. If he is, then own your decision and be ready to give the relationship your all.

So I seriously screwed up…..I just moved to a new city and was living with a friend I had known from my hometown. It ended on bad terms and me and one of his roommates got another place together. We had started sleeping together before we moved. He was seriously just a rebound, but he started to get attached so I slowly started backing away. Well, his brother moved in and honestly he is not someone you would want to date but is the most interesting person I have ever met. And I have met a lot of people. We were drinking and ended up sleeping together. We had an instant connection and now the guy I got the new place with is pissed. I can’t help it. I enjoy hanging out with his brother so much. I don’t know what to do?!?!? 

What stood out most in your query was the phrase “I can’t help it.” What exactly can’t you help?

I see a pattern: acting first and then dealing with the outcome. And I’m wondering if you’ve learned how to truly pause before acting on your desires and how much effort you’re putting into self-reflection.

Yes, it’s hard to make logical decisions once you’ve been drinking. But there are usually moments where you can start to sense something is building, and you can pause, go to the bathroom or take a walk, and consider what you should do. 

And then come back and be direct with the other person. “I think I’m attracted to you, but it would really mess with my living situation.” Voicing your concerns and talking them through can help you gain some control.

And similarly, after you slept with him, how much consideration have you put into what you want from this person and why you’re drawn to him? What’s confusing to me (and maybe to you, as well) is that he’s not someone you’d want to date, but you enjoy hanging out with him so much and he’s the most interesting person you’ve ever met … So what are you looking for from him? Have you figured it out for yourself? Have you talked it through with him?

You need the same honesty and candor with your roommate. People can tell if you’re tiptoeing around telling them things. It hurts worse and doesn’t solve anything. Don’t lie; don’t make excuses. You can tell someone you don’t want to date them, but you still care about them. You might be able to salvage your roommate relationship and friendship that way. (But it was his brother and there are going to be deep feelings there.)

Regardless of what happens in this situation, it’s going to serve you well to work on developing impulse control and self-reflection. I’d suggest trying different things that can help slow down and consider your actions and see what works best. Try journaling, try meditation, try having an accountability partner. 

As you work on these things, consider when guilt is useful and when it’s not. Saying “I can’t help it” is a defense mechanism against judgment (from others and probably from yourself, as well.) Feeling guilty is useful when it helps you to own up to your mistakes and do better next time. Feeling guilty is not useful when it leads to debilitating self-shame.

If I were you, I’d replace “I can’t help it” with some other more useful sayings. “I messed up. I own this. But I forgive myself, and I’m still ok.”

Disclaimer: As always, there’s no perfect solution to any relationship issue and you may benefit from the help of a neutral, trained professional. Jera is not a licensed mental health professional, just a writer living as authentically as they can.

Featured photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Jera writes about sexuality, spirituality, and social justice. They are the author of Just the Tip, a queer-friendly, sex-positive, relationship advice column and the editor of Sacred and Subversive,...