I don't mind my partner having sex with other people, but now that we live together, it's hard on me to hear it

Me and my partner have been in a happy open relationship for over 2 years. During this time we have both had other intimate relationships with other people and with other people together. Around 6 months ago we agreed to be primary partners and moved in together (separate rooms). I have no issue with my partner having sex/relationships with other people, however I never realized before we moved in together how difficult this would be to be around first hand. I'm having major difficulty dealing with listening to him having sex in the next room as it makes me feel insecure and upset. I understand that he needs the freedom to have his dates in his own room but I’m really struggling knowing what is happening in the next room and being able to hear. It’s not an option to move out. How can I process this so I am able to give my partner the freedom that he needs like he is able to give to me?

If the issue is really having to be around it and hearing it and generally being actively aware of it, the solution is relatively simple - some noise canceling headphones, or asking for him to give you a heads up about planned dates so you can hang out somewhere else. It might be time to find a local cafe you enjoy hanging out at, or some close friends who are okay with you setting up on their couch some evenings. You can also talk with him about this, let him know that it makes you feel insecure and upset, and ask if he can maybe come up with some compromises, like trying to have dates at his partners’ place whenever possible, or monitoring the noise level.

But if you think that, even while you were out of earshot or snuggled up with noise-canceling headphones, you’d still feel uncomfortable knowing that he was somewhere having sex with someone, then that’s a tougher situation to resolve. You say that you have been happily in an open relationship for over 2 years, though, and that you don’t feel bothered by your partner’s other relationships and sex, so hopefully, taking steps to protect yourself from this specific squick-trigger will help.

My boyfriend is okay with me dating other men, but it doesn't feel right to me

My boyfriend has never ever told he doesn't want me to date other men, but I genuinely feel selfish for wanting another guy when I have such a wonderful one. When I've expressed this to him he always tells me he just wants me to be happy. And the only girl I've dated since we've been together was just casual, but I don't think my feelings will stay casual for this second guy.

I think there are two issues here: one is that things with your boyfriend aren’t spelled out enough, and there’s a lot of anxiety in ambiguity. “I just want you to be happy” is not enough communication - you need to know what your boyfriend’s boundaries and desires are for this relationship arrangement, what his best- and worst-case scenarios are, etc. This is a situation where “the absence of a no” is not the same as a “yes” and it sounds like you would be on much more secure footing if you had some more specific signoff from your boyfriend than “whatever you want.” So ask him!

Second, it sounds like you have a lot of internalized shame and worry about what “sex with a man” is and means. That’s normal - our culture teaches us from birth that male sexuality is wrapped up in ideas about purity (you should only be with one man or else you’re wrong, sinful, dirty, etc.) and ownership (it somehow violates inherent male property rights if you have sex with more than one) and things like that. Fortunately, you can often overcome those feelings by pulling them out into the light, articulating and examining them. I discuss that here!

My partner forbids me from any sort of intimacy with my other partners because she gets panic attacks

I have been dating this married couple for 7 months now. My girlfriend suffers from ptsd and has frequent panic attacks. She had a panic attack over us and physical touch, which was okay and we stopped. She had a panic attack over me and our mans intimacy. Again it was okay and we stopped. But now it seems that she doesn't want either of them to be intimate with me. She says that I could either leave or find a fourth to be intimate with. I don't know what to do.

This is a really tricky situation. When you’re dealing with trauma and panic attacks, it can be hard to balance between sensitivity and care for the person who is suffering, while still honoring your own needs and boundaries. It sounds like you’ve been bending over backwards to accommodate your partner, but what is being done to make sure you are getting what you need and want? What work is she doing to manage her own health?

Let me be clear: having symptoms of a mental illness is not in and of itself manipulative - but it is possible for someone to use them as a cudgel to make unreasonable demand. It is easy to believe that whoever has the strongest or most intensely expressed feelings should always take priority, but that is a fallacy. “Because I had a panic attack” is not an immediate, inarguable conversation-ender that obligates everyone to do what someone wants. Everyone deserves to be heard and respected, including you.

Your girlfriend has a right to relationships that are not abusive, coercive, or dismissive of her pain. But she is not entitled to a world where everyone acquiesces to everything she asks. Panic attacks are horrible, but they’re also entirely survivable, and there is a big difference between “feeling unsafe” and “being unsafe.” Your girlfriend has a right to safety. She does not have a right to a world free from discomfort. She needs to be willing to work with herself and with her partners on managing her anxiety - and this means a lot more than simply ordering the cessation of anything that triggers a panic attack.

It is okay for you to tell your girlfriend that you’re no longer able to be in this relationship exclusively on terms that she sets, which she can change at any time. Give her space to explain what, specifically, is triggering these panic attacks and how those underlying feelings can be addressed rather than tiptoed around. You can ask her what she would need in order to work towards being okay with you having intimacy with these other people. If she is only willing to date you under these terms, you’ll need to decide whether it’s time to accept her invitation to leave.

I started dating two people, and all my close friends are being bullies about it

What do I do if none of my close friends agree about me being with two people, and start turning into bullies?

It can be really hard when you come out as polyamorous and people in your life decide to be cruel or ignorant about it. I’ve never really understood why people think they have the space or the right to “agree” or “disagree” with another person’s relationship. But some people are gimongous jerks about this.

If your close friends are being hurtful, it’s okay to prioritize your own comfort and take space from them. Try finding other people, online or in your area, who can support you right now. A polyamory-oriented forum, discord, or subreddit might be a good place to try. It hurts to lose close friends because they won’t accept you for who you are, but it’s better to free yourself from that nastiness and start working to build a community of supportive, loving people. Start with your partners, who clearly care about you!

You can try to explain to them that they’re being unfair and ignorant, but only do that if you have the energy to engage in a painful conversation, and if you think you’ll be okay even if they aren’t understanding. You can’t control other people’s opinions, and even if you’re the world’s most convincing advocate, that’s no guarantee that the'y’ll come around.

If you have to be around these people, come up with some one-liners that will shut down the conversation. It’s okay not to engage and just to go “grey rock” if they try to provoke you. “Thanks for your input” is a good one. You can also just say “that’s rude” or “I don’t want to discuss my relationship with you.” I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this - know that there’s a whole community of polyamorous folks and allies out here who have your back!

I'm dating someone online, and he wants a very one-sided open relationship

I’ve been dating this guy online for months. About 4 months in he told me that he’s cheated on all of his past girlfriends, and that he’s tempted by other people even though he doesn’t want to mess up our relationship. We talked about maybe opening up the relationship, but I told him I’d have to think about it. He said he wouldn’t break up with me if we didn’t, but he felt like he was going to fuck up eventually. We talked about it more later and I agreed... but I’m still not confident.

He said he wouldn’t fall for anyone else, but he wants a steady friend with benefits. And he wants to spend time with her, stay in calls and sometimes sleep in a call with her, like we do. Thing is, we hardly get a lot of time together, especially when he decides he suddenly wants to be alone. He even told me there would be times where he’d probably leave me when we’re hanging out so he could hang out with her. I told him I wasn’t interested in doing things with other people, but I might go meet and flirt with other people if he spends a lot of time with his new girl, because I’m gonna want attention. He immediately shut down and said he didn’t want to talk about it anymore and that I won’t have to do that because he’ll still give me attention. He always had a problem with jealousy, hating it when I even talk to new people and especially hating it if I ever talk about anything sexual because he doesn’t want other people to think about me that way, even though he straight up tells other girls sexual things he’d do, even before he opened the relationship.

We agreed he could have casual flings for now, and after we meet at the end of May, then he could try to find other girls. I guess I just wanted to ask, does this seem like something that could work? I feel like I’m just giving permission for him to cheat rather than having an actual healthy open relationship. I would most likely be monogamous if given the choice, but I don’t think I really have much choice here. Should I wait and see how it actually goes, or should I try to address things now?

It is rare that I get a letter with this many red flags. (And the letter was a lot longer before I edited it for length, so not all of the red flags are even present here). Friend, you need to RUN, not walk, away from this guy and this relationship! To answer your actual questions: this does NOT seem like something that could work, and you should NOT wait and see, and you should “address things now” by refusing to be treated like this and ending a relationship that’s on such cruel, unfair terms.

He is using emotional blackmail - essentially saying “I’m going to see other people regardless, so you can either give me permission to do so, or I’ll cheat on you.” That is not healthy, safe, or fair to you. He is acting like telling you up front that he’ll do something means that he isn’t accountable for the consequences later on. That’s called a threat. If I punch someone in the nose, that’s not okay, even if beforehand I said “just so you know, I have a history of punching people, and I’ll probably punch you too.”

Then after bullying you into agreeing to an open relationship, he tells you that he doesn’t want you to even get attention from other people? Not okay. His “jealousy” and “hating it” when you talk to new people are major red flags. You also talk in the edited sections about his habit of suddenly withdrawing his attention from you, either because of his “moods” or because he’s distracted with another person. This is a classic control tactic - using the withdrawal of his attention as a way to keep you hooked. A relationship where you feel that you “don’t have much choice” is not safe or healthy. These are all textbook methods for someone laying the ground for a suffocating, controlling, emotionally volatile, imbalanced, or even abusive relationship. Get out now.

My partner always comments sweet compliments on my metamour's social media, but not mine

I’m currently dating someone who’s polyamorous and it’s been going really well. However, I’ve noticed that they always comment compliments and such on one of their other partner’s selfies but not mine. I don’t mind them being affectionate with their other partner but I’d like to have the same attention. How do I ask them about it without sounding jealous or disrespectful?

Something interesting that non-monogamy does is make you really aware of the subtle little patterns that you may not have noticed or intentionally started to do. These patterns often just arise organically after specific shared experiences and become baked into a relationship. I have some partners where I constantly use cutesy pet names, and some partners where I really only call them by their names. None of us ever made an explicit decision or request around this, it just became part of one relationship’s energy and never came up in another one. I never intended it to single anyone out or signify a difference in feelings. If my partner said “hey, I noticed you always do cute nicknames with Imeldo, and never with me - what’s up with that?” then we would talk about whether they wanted me to start doing that with them.

My point being, there’s probably some reason that this is happening, but your partner may not be entirely aware of it. (They might be - it’s possible that their other partner explicitly asked them to do that!) But you’re well within your rights to bring it up, gently and cheerfully, and ask if they might be willing to do the same for you. It’s not jealous or disrespectful to ask your partner for something, or to check in about existing relationship dynamics. You can say something like “I really love seeing the sweet compliments you leave on Tarmei’s photos and it would totally make my day if you left the same!”

It is possible that they are closeted on social media, and are nervous about being seen posting lovey-dovey comments on someone who isn’t their Monogamy Culture Approved Partner, in which case, you can talk about how they can show their affection to you in another way that’s works for everyone. Part of polyamory is about realizing that no one is psychic, and trusting your partners to be able to hear you express your wishes, curiosities, and questions without reacting negatively.

I recently moved and have connected socially with a polycule where I'm interested in some of the people - how do I navigate this?

I moved recently and have been lucky enough to connect with an amazing group of people, many of whom are poly. As someone who identifies as a relationship anarchist, I am really interested in pursuing a variety of relationships with several of these amazing people, but I also don't want to cause drama or upset existing relationships. In the past, I've pursued relationships pretty independently and usually with people who didn't really know each other prior to me, and I'm not sure how to navigate coming into an existing group like this. Should I try to pick one relationship to pursue first? Should I just give it time?

I’d say give it time! It’s rarely a bad idea to just let things happen organically and go with the flow. Give yourself enough room to get a really good sense for the dynamics of this existing polycule. Be open to flirting and blossoming friendships, and allow for natural opportunities for this kind of intimacy to come up. Once you have a clearer sense of things, open those conversations! Be friendly and honest, letting people know you’d be interested in pursuing a different type of intimacy, and checking in with them about context, existing dynamics, etc.

It can be hard to find the right balance between “too aggressive” and “too passive” when it comes to pursuing people you’re interested in but connected with socially. My strategy is to follow other people’s leads, work up the courage to make a move but wait a bit longer than I want to, and make it safe and comfortable to have honest conversations about what people are wanting and feeling. Best of luck!

A friend of mine approached my partner after I mentioned that we were opening our relationship, but I don't like how things have played out

My partner and I spoke about opening up our marriage about 12 months ago. I discussed it with friends at length, even jokingly querying if one of my friends would be interested in my partner. Skip forward 8 months or so and my friend approached my partner and told them they'd like to get to know them better. My partner then 'asked' for my permission - I said yes both because I think they're good for each other but also because saying no at that point would have been very damaging to all three relationships. I am intellectually fully on board with the idea of them forming a close physical (and emotional) relationship but didn't realize the emotional toll of being cut out of the conversation. I feel like my friend should have checked with me if anything had changed in the intervening 8 months prior to approaching my partner. There have been other issues which have created mistrust and I'm sad at the effect this is having on both my friendship and my relationship. Can you please offer advice if possible to help me move past the trust issues and the hurt.

I really don’t want to make it sound like I’m saying that your feelings are bad or wrong - feelings are never bad or wrong, they just are. So keep in mind that I am not trying to scold or shame, just add perspective and help re-frame things. Your friend did everything right in this situation, in my opinion. I always advise people to go straight to the person they’re interested in first, and let them handle the conversation with their other partners. Asking for someone’s permission to date someone else can be objectifying and denies their agency, and it’s generally not a healthy setup for polyamory. Your friend went to your partner, and then your partner came to you to check in - everyone here did the right thing.

You had previously told your friend that the relationship was open, and even mentioned the possibility of your friend seeing your partner. So you weren’t “cut out” of the conversation - you were part of it, from the start. Your friend was acting on the most recent, accurate information that they had: that you two were open, and that you were okay with them dating your partner. 8 months feels like a long time in the context of personal relationships, and they could have done one last check-in with you, but it wasn’t necessarily ‘wrong’ of them to skip that. As far as they knew, that conversation had already happened, and they didn’t have any reason to believe that the landscape had changed since that conversation with you. Then, your partner came right to you to check in - so you were never really cut out of the conversation. I know it feels that way, but sometimes lining up feelings against reality can help put them in perspective.

So, try not to take this personally or feel that anyone here is trying to disrespect or push you out. It’s frustrating and disappointing that things didn’t go down in exactly the sequence and timeline that you’d prefer, but when other people are involved, we often have to be flexible around things like that. Think through what would have changed, practically, if your friend had come to you first - would you still have given your blessing? If so, it’s best to try and let this go. Let time be a balm, remind yourself that you weren’t actually hurt or wronged, and work to keep from ruminating or acting on these hurt feelings.

But if there’s more here - if things had changed in those 8 months, or you think there’s more going on than you’ve described here, it’s worth talking to your partner about what happened. Whatever issues are causing mistrust, it’s okay to bring them up and address them. Focus on what can be done to make things work better in the future, rather than litigating the past. What could your partner and friend/new metamour do to help you feel more “in the loop”? What needs to be healed or worked on to address these existing trust issues? What could you do to be clearer with them about your position? What do they need from you to make sure they have the space and agency to work on their new relationship?

Remember that in all relationships, there are times where people are going to feel uncomfortable or not get everything they want - and that’s different than being harmed. Figure out how to identify where there’s discomfort that needs to be accepted vs. where there are boundaries that need to be drawn for actual health and safety of the relationships and individuals involved.

My partner is part of a DID system - does that make us polyam?

I have a boyfriend and he’s a system (he has DID) and so because of how many alters he has and because one of them is dating someone else we are in a polyamorous relationship, so is it ok with polyam people if I call myself polyam? I was also wondering if you had any tips as to how I can be a good partner because I kinda get jealous of having to share my boyfriend with other alters. I just want to be a good boyfriend.

Your first question is an easy one - yes, it is totally fine for you to identify as polyamorous! In general, the polyam community isn’t big on gatekeeping. As long as you’re not engaging in cheating or abuse and calling it polyamory, or otherwise hurting people and making us look bad, it’s a pretty big umbrella. You are welcome here! And if anyone makes you feel unwelcome, send them to me.

It’s important for the sake of DID representation to distinguish between your boyfriend and his alters and the body they share - if you and your boyfriend are monogamous, but his alters are dating other people, then you are navigating an interesting space, where parts of your relationship are monogamous and other parts are polyamorous. Emotionally and romantically, you and your partner may be monogamous - but you still deal with the logistical, scheduling challenges and physical/sexual safety concerns of your average polyamorous person. And that’s okay!

As for your second question, that’s a lot trickier! Jealousy is a tricky thing. So are trauma and mental illnesses. And so are relationships! Something to keep in mind is that when your boyfriend can’t be present to you - either because another alter is fronting, or because another alter wants to be physically somewhere (or with someone) else, or simply because your boyfriend needs to attend to the self-care and other work he needs to do to stay healthy as a system, he’s not doing it TO you or AT you. It’s not personal, and he’s not trying to take time away from you or signal that something else is more important than you.

Spend time learning about DID and dating within systems - there are a lot of resources out there, and I list some of them in this answer to a similar question. Remember that systems form as a survival mechanism during severe trauma, and try to cultivate gratitude for his alters, recognizing the important role they play in his and each other’s lives. (Gratitude is a great antidote to resentment.) Make sure you have hobbies, friendships, and other fulfilling things that you can invest time and energy in, so that when he can’t be present to you, you’re not stuck ruminating on jealousy and missing him.

And talk to your boyfriend about what he thinks makes a “good boyfriend” and what he needs from you! He may have opinions about identifying as polyamorous, and he may have a specific way he wants to think and talk about his body and his alters. Everyone is different! You two may be able to work out processes for scheduling and making sure you get the time and attention you need. He may have suggestions for communicating with his alters. If he’s working with a therapist, ask if he’d be okay letting you join a session or two to learn more about how to support him. Ultimately, he’s the best source for information on “what it means to be a good boyfriend to me” and “how I understand my relationships.”

Some general "getting started with polyamory" questions

My boyfriend and I have been in a committed relationship for over a year. We've both felt attraction towards others and were able to talk about it very openly and it all feels very safe. Recently, we kind of decided to open our relationship. It's all very new and we don't know much about polyamory, so we are looking for positive and diverse 'examples' of polyamorous relationships. Do you have tips on how to start our journey, and maybe movies with a realistic & positive portrayal of polyamory?

My FAQ page would be a great start - especially the main resources index & the polyam representation page!

I've been looking at your blog and I was wondering if I could get some advice? I believe that I am polyamorous and I have just started a poly relationship with two men. The one guy I have been in a relationship for 3 years now and the other just started. Everyone is good with it and is informed of the situation. I'm just not sure where to go from here? How do I maintain the relationship?

If everything is working well, just keep going in that direction! Keeping a happy, healthy polyamorous relationship takes the same maintenance skills as any other relationship: honest communication and mutual respect. Check the resources on my FAQ page for more.

I think I have a mutual crush on someone, but am having a hard time figuring out where he's at.

So I have a crush on a guy who I thought liked me back, but lately I've noticed that while he does encourage my feelings for him (cuddling and trying to get me to talk about how I feel) he never explicitly reciprocates, even when I try to get him to tell me if he likes me. I kinda feel like I'm being led on, but I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I don't know if he's misread my emotions or just doesn't express himself the same way I do. He dodges questions a lot.

It sounds like it’s just time to ask him directly. Sometimes it’s easier for people to discuss this kind of thing in person, other times it’s easier to have the conversation over text or email. It’s okay to mention the fact that he’s been ‘dodging’ your questions, and that you want to respect the fact that he may be interpreting and expressing things differently.

It’s time to get really clear: “I’m interested in you sexually and romantically. I’d like us to try dating, which would be different from our current friendship in [explain your specific desires]. Do you feel the same way?”

If he says yes, then great! Move the conversation toward what each of you want, need, and expect in terms of this new intimacy. If he says no, then you can explain that there are certain types of affection you’d prefer to back off on so you don’t feel led on, and be specific.

If he gives you any answer besides a clear yes or no, it’s okay to push a little bit. You can say “This ambiguity makes me feel confused and led on - you may not mean to or be aware, but you’re not really answering my question. Would you like to have a sexual/romantic relationship with me - which includes [specific feelings and behaviors]?

At that point, any further vagueness should be construed as a “no,” and you have the right to take whatever social and emotional distance you need to avoid being led on or confused.

I'm looking for rental housing for my polycule, but it's hard to get taken seriously

I’m part of a smol polycule that’s looking at moving in together. I’m mostly in charge of the search, and I’ve checked all the legal things, but I’m struggling to express the situation to letting agents and we’re often getting dismissed as 4 friends or 2 couples, rather than one household. Any advice?

It’s unclear to me whether “getting dismissed” means that the letting agents aren’t actually considering you as renters, or whether they’re just being rude and not recognizing the reality of your relationship.

In either case, it might be smart to go a big strategically closeted and present yourselves as 2 couples - this is a relatively common arrangement for renters and it shouldn’t entirely preclude you from finding a place. It hurts to have to fake it and be treated like someone you’re not, but this is a temporary situation - you just have to charm one landlord for long enough to get that lease, and then the whole charade is over.

However, I have also been in a similar situation and it can be harder to find a rental when you aren’t “one household” (landlords tend to think that’s a more stable configuration). What I did in this situation was to put together a little one page “renter’s resume” for each person or each ‘couple’ - formatted like a job-searching resume, listing previous places we’ve lived, contact info for former landlords, plus impressive stuff about us like our careers, the fact that we don’t have pets, etc. Basically, you want to make yourselves look like Super Upstanding Members of Society as much as possible. Bring those, plus a filled-out copy of a standard rental application and copies of whatever documents landlords in your area often ask for (pay statements, etc.) in a tidy package to each viewing.

It can take a bit more time and effort to find a rental as “2 couples” or “4 friends” - again, landlords do like to rent to “single households” as much as possible. I was once in a situation of looking for a place for 5 unrelated single young adults in the country’s toughest rental market, and I know how much it sucks! What I did was set up accounts on every rental listing website and track specific tags or check for new listings every morning. Then I made a spreadsheet of listings that worked out based on price, location, amenities, etc. I had a standard greeting/interest email I kept a draft of, then pasted it in with specific details when I reached out to agents via those listings. (If you can, find a phone number or agent email - sending messages through the rental listing websites is like shouting into a void.) I used the spreadsheet to keep track of who I’d called and emailed, and when. Essentially, I just treated it like a work project.

Put it out there to your support network that you’re looking, and check Facebook (and other websites) for groups local to your area where people list available housing - making a personal connection can often work out better than cold-contacting agents. Some areas even have LGBTQ+ friendly rental listing groups or pages, which might be a good place to look.

Remember that you only have to find one place! I probably reached out to 50 listings. I’d say about 25 never got back to me, and of the remaining 25, about 15 dismissed me off the bat for not being a single household. That left 10 places to go tour. 5 of them kind of sucked, 3 of them we didn’t get approved for, but then 2 of them we did get approved for, and we moved in to a really lovely place! It took tons of work but it was totally worth it for a few years in a great house that met our needs. Finding a rental just sucks, period. Try not to get discouraged or take it personally. Best of luck!

I recently started seeing someone, and we're talking about the future, but she's about to leave for a year

Started seeing a friend unexpectedly, 1000 miles away. She had her 1st real romantic/sexual experience with me. My wife & I are trying for a baby, and my gf is stoked to co-parent, but wants to go overseas a year. I'm crazy for her. Is 5 months too early for a 'commitment ring'? Wife & I were engaged a month in but I’d known her for 8 years.

I tend to be a very aggressive control freak in all aspects of my life, and I especially like to try and control the future. But while I’m great to go camping with, all the planning, prepping, scheduling, worrying, and fussing won’t work to make a relationship with another person go a certain way. I use a specific metaphor to help me be more chilled out about relationships, loosely cribbed from Taoist philosophy:

Imagine you’re floating in a river. The river has a flow to it, and you could allow yourself to float along with the river. Within that, you have choices - whether to swim alongside the current, or just float; whether to hold onto floating branches or stay free; whether to hang out in the deep center or closer to the shallows. You can control your choices while you’re in the river, but you can’t control the flow of the river.

If you decide you don’t want to go where the river is taking you, you can grab hold of a rock and stay in one place. But the river is going to keep flowing around you and pulling at you. You can try to swim backwards against the current. But the river is never going to give in and take you the other direction. The river is reality, flowing all around you, taking its own way, and your energy is much better spent finding ways to participate in what the river is doing - to “go with the flow,” as it were - than to ignore or resist the river.

That’s what relationships, especially in the early stages, are like. You have to let them go with their own flow. You can’t pre-emptively ensure that certain things happen or gird the future against certain outcomes. It sounds like in this situation, there’s a lot of “flow” that you need to float along with. It’s possible that while she’s experiencing her travels, and you’re dealing with a newborn, things will naturally fizzle out while everyone focuses on their imminent priorities. It’s possible that things deepen between you two and after her year abroad, the three of you decide to move in together and see how that goes. It’s possible that she remains a long-distance connection, with intimacy and commitment but less of an intention to share daily life.

You have to kind of trust that if everyone acts in good faith, whatever happens is what needed to happen. It will cause a lot of pain to try and force things along a specific path or cling to a future that hasn’t manifested yet. The best thing to do is keep things really open, both in terms of “open to different possible futures” and “open and honest communication.” Ask her if she would appreciate a piece of jewelry she can wear during the long distance relationship to symbolize your connection, and leave space for her to be unsure or uncomfortable. And remember that the presence of that item doesn’t guarantee a certain outcome. Everyone here is in a transition state, and there’s a lot of uncertainty - try to respond to that with open acceptance and curiosity rather than a focused plan to nail things down.

I love my partners in different ways - is that okay?

Can you love your partners in different ways? For one person, I feel red, it's deep, intense, passionate. For the other, I feel pink, it's giddy, sweet, delightful. I don't feel as though one is lesser than the other. I'm not dating either one of these individuals but I am "involved" with both them, (and completely open and honest about it with both parties). I'm in love with both of these people and I don't know if this means I'm poly or if I'm in some gross love triangle. How do I know?

If everyone is happy and healthy, then there is nothing “gross” about this. If everyone involved is okay with the arrangement, if everyone is getting all of what they need and most of what they want, then you’re fine. That’s how you’ll know - by checking in and making sure things are okay, and keeping those lines of communication open. That’s it! I know it feels kind of tautological, but if it’s working, it’s working. There’s no standard of healthy relationships you have to measure yours against to make sure.

And to answer your other question - of course people love their partners in different ways! That’s incredibly common and normal and just a part of human experience not limited to polyamory or sexual/romantic love. Take friendships, for instance! There are some people I can just sit on my couch with and chat for hours; there are some people who are the life of the party and keep me cracking up but are less likely to have that cozy intimate evening with me; there are some people who are insightful or funny in group chats but probably won’t ever be my bff. And that’s okay! All relationships are different and it’s wonderful that you have some language and metaphors to help you honor and cultivate them on their own terms. Here is a lovely video readaloud of a book called Love You The Purplest that uses similar imagery to talk about a mother’s different loves for her two sons.

The only time it would be an issue is if one of your partners feels left out or slighted by the differences. If you’re always planning exciting new adventures with one person, or leaving cutesy romantic notes around for one person, but the other person doesn’t inspire that kind of energy in you, the person who isn’t getting that kind of affection may not be okay with that arrangement. Or, they may be totally fine with it, because you two relate to each other in different ways that work for you two! Don’t make assumptions or fall into vague anxiety - some people really don’t care about cutesy notes, and you don’t have to have completely identical relationships with everyone in your life. Just check in and make sure everyone’s happy and healthy, and then keep doing you!

If I'm not "in love" with multiple people, is that still polyamory?

I know it may sound like a silly question,but do you have to be IN LOVE with more people at the same time to be polyamorous or you can be even if you just LIKE more people at the same time and feel that there is space for them in your heart?

Of course! If you are romantically or sexually interested in multiple people, or see the potential for that kind of relationship with multiple people, that falls squarely under the “polyamorous” umbrella. Just like all other relationship orientations, polyamory allows for the whole spectrum of crushes, flings, flirting, early dating, etc. If a monogamous straight woman has a crush on a guy, or thinks she might like to date him, or is casually dating him but not in love yet - she’s still straight and monogamous! Her straightness and monogamy encompass all of those feelings about men, not just “love.”

Often, polyamorous people use language like “love” because it does a better job of “validating” our relationships to a wider society. Making polyamory about “love” reassures people that our relationships are non-threatening and pro-social. It’s similar to the way that early gay marriage advocates focused on “just like you” images of lifetime commitment, desire for homeownership and parenthood, etc. It’s gross and unfair that some people have to fake a status-quo-upholding facade to be respected, but it’s a very common pattern with people whose relationships face scrutiny and judgment.

But by framing polyamory as about “love,” we do ourselves a disservice by neglecting to include the whole reality of our experiences. Love and life partnership are part of polyamory, sure, but there’s also dating, and sex, and plenty of other stuff! We should make sure to recognize and honor all of this within ourselves and our community, even if sometimes we have to sanitize the image or perform a fairytale version for the external world.

I have a crush on someone, but am not sure we're compatible in certain ways

I kind of have a mutual crush on this other guy, but I wouldn't feel comfortable dating him because our relationship is so different from what I have with my other partners. They're all submissive (me being a top is a thing I've just recently come to accept and identify with) and this guy is very dominant and aggressive. I enjoy rough-housing and getting thrown around by him, and I enjoy his softer touches and hugs, but I want to resist the temptation to kiss him. What is this?

It is possible to be romantically compatible with someone, but not sexually compatible - and vice versa. Our culture likes to tell us that certain feelings, like physical attraction, sexual desire, and romantic intimacy, should all collapse into the same thing. But that doesn’t capture the true complexity of human interaction!

If you want, you can keep things at a “flirty friendship,” if that’s what works best for you two! But you could also consider whether you’re holding yourself back for reasons that aren’t totally solid. You say you wouldn’t feel comfortable dating him because the dynamic between you two is so different than you’re used to. But then you go on to say that you do enjoy that dynamic! If you feel tempted to kiss him, there is something there that you want, and you don’t have to resist it just because a relationship with him might be a new experience or challenge existing assumptions about your identity.

If I were you, I’d talk to him about all this! Tell him what you enjoy about being with him, and what makes you nervous. You two could try getting more physically intimate with the caveat that you won’t try anything that feels too submissive or dominant on either person’s part. You could let yourself kiss him and see where that goes!

If he’s interested, he might be a good sounding board to talk about your developing identity as a top, and what might feel confusing or threatening in that context. Remember that just because you enjoy this person’s dominant energies doesn’t mean your “toppiness” isn’t real - lots of people are “switches,” and/or you could be drawn to him because his dominant ‘style’ is one you’d like to emulate. I’d recommend The Topping Book as a way to keep understanding that part of your identity and sexuality.

But if you really don’t feel comfortable trying any of that, it’s okay to let this be an impossible crush; or some attraction to someone that you don’t actually want to follow through on. That’s okay, and totally normal! Lots of people feel things that we don’t necessarily want to act on, or fantasize about things we would balk at making real. Keep working toward understanding your own desires, and building a foundation of security in your identity!

I'm in a polyamorous situation, but it's not comfortable for me - should I stay?

Should I be in a poly relationship if I'm personally not too comfortable with it? I'm a lesbian woman, and my partner is lesbian/homoflexible and has a boyfriend. I'm still fairly new to relationships and my last serious one was abusive and with a male. I feel bad but sometimes it makes me feel a little weird. I don't know how much longer I can hold up seeming okay with it. Is there something I can do to not feel like this?

In general, I never advise people to stay in any situation that makes them feel “not too comfortable,” “bad,” “a little weird,” and like they “don’t know how much longer [they] can hold up seeming okay.” Whether that’s a job, a class, a sweater, a housing situation, a relationship, a space mission - if those are the conditions you’re living under, you need to start taking steps to get out of them.

When it comes to “something you can do to not feel like this,” the answer is pretty complicated. On the one hand, there is sometimes some self-work or therapy a person can do to work on feeling secure, identifying their needs, healing from past trauma, and things like that. On the other hand, there is no “polyamorous conversion therapy” (nor should there be!!!) and no person is ever obligated to try and change or contort themselves into being comfortable in a situation that is not good for them.

Usually on this blog I try to recommend self-work and re-framing if I think it’s appropriate, but in this case, I don’t think you should try and force yourself to ignore or suppress your discomfort. I do think you deserve therapy and healing, because abuse can really wound a person and the presence of men in relationships proximal to you shouldn’t feel so unsafe - but this relationship is probably not a healthy one for you right now. And the goal of that healing should be so you can live a happier life; not to make sure everyone else can have everything they want.

My ex boyfriend wants to get back together but only on his very specific terms

So my ex boyfriend identifies as poly. I don't. He said we could be together if we opened up the relationship but I would like to do couples therapy so our relationship can feel more secure & stable before opening it up since I am insecure. He just let me know he would "flip out" if I had another male partner. He says he wouldn't be able to handle it. So he doesn't think this would work. Am I doing something wrong?

You are not doing something wrong. You say he’s your ex-boyfriend and my advice to you is to keep things that way!

For one, exes are generally exes for a reason. For another, he’s told you that he will only get back together with you under certain relationship conditions that don’t align with your identity and make you feel insecure. For a third, he’s trying to establish a “one penis policy” (or “one dick rule”), and those are gross and bad for everyone involved. For a fourth, he’s already threatened to “flip out” and said “wouldn’t be able to handle” an open relationship where you can date as freely as he can.

Let me repeat: YOU ARE NOT DOING ANYTHING WRONG. This guy is trying to manipulate you by making you think you’re somehow in the wrong for not wanting to be in a relationship with him. Even though he has explicitly admitted that he “doesn’t think this would work.” He is not entitled to a relationship with you, under his own terms or under any terms! You are not obligated to try and twist yourself into a concession pretzel so he can get what he wants from you! Leave him firmly in the “ex” category, lose his number, and find someone who can actually have a healthy, fulfilling relationship with you.

I've been "taking it slow" with someone, and just realized we might not have the same communication expectations

So I've had a crush for a while, we're both poly and aware of each others feelings and are taking it slow not official yet. My issue is that they got a partner a week ago and didn't tell me about it. I know I'm probably not entitled to know this, but is it bad that I'm upset about it? I mean we can have other partners but I thought it was like, idk, just a good thing to bring it up? Like they know I've been in a long term relationship for almost three years.

This is a perfect opportunity to have a conversation with your crush about expectations and clarity! It sounds like you assumed that you two were intimate enough that it was reasonable to expect that they would bring up something like dating a new person - but you got evidence that they’re not operating on the same set of assumptions. Neither of you did anything wrong, you’re just in an ambiguous situation and that’s caused a mismatch of expectations.

But now you have something to bring up to them to actively reduce that ambiguity and clarify those expectations. You can say something like “I’m so happy for you to be in a new relationship - but I have to admit I was kind of surprised to hear about it, because you never mentioned that you were heading in that direction with someone else! It’s not that I think you’re obligated to tell me everything, and I’m not angry - but we’ve been talking about our feelings for each other, and even though we’re “taking it slow,” I thought we were in a place of working out what a relationship might look like - and I guess I just assumed that conversations about other relationships would be part of that! I’m realizing now that I can’t just assume we’re on the same page, so I’d like to talk to you about your expectations, and how you define this thing we’re doing together.”

It’s not an accusation; you’re not saying they did anything wrong or asking for an apology. You’re just realizing there’s something that has gone un-addressed and probably should be addressed! It’s like, if I’m going on a trip, I always pack a bathing suit because I figure most hotels have pools, and if there is an opportunity to go swimming, I want to be able to swim! But say I’m planning travel with a friend, and I don’t think to tell them “Oh yeah, I try to include swimming in any vacation if possible.” And they come over and see me packing for the trip, and they see a swimsuit, and they say “Hold on, do I need a swimsuit for this trip? Are we only considering hotels with pools? Are we trying to include a beach day in the itinerary? Should I also bring a towel and sunscreen?” These are all valid questions and probably something to discuss before a trip - but it’s not a huge moral failing that I didn’t bring it up; they just noticed my swimsuit and it occurred to us to clarify what page everyone is on regarding this aspect of the trip.

What's the best communications tech for polyamorous people?

Hello! What messaging app do you use to keep in contact with your loves? Right now we're just sending texts and it's not efficient! Please and thanks!

That’s going to really depend on the specific needs of the people using it! For me, the critical aspects of a messaging app are that it 1.) transfers seamlessly from computer to mobile 2.) can be open at work without looking immediately suspect and 3.) allows for one on one and group chats. Also, given that the personality traits I’m attracted to tend to come clustered with a certain type of absent-mindedness, I really like when an app gives me “read” notifications (and I insist that my partners keep them turned on for me.) So for a while, Google Hangouts was my go-to, and it continues to be my primary messaging app for one-on-one chats with my people.

Then, I created a Slack for my entire social crew, which I absolutely love for all its features. You can customize notifications, make multiple channels, create threads in-chat, and put gifs. All my partners as well as all my friends are there, so that’s become a primary way for us all to talk. I know a lot of people use Discord in similar ways; but since my workplace uses Slack and not Discord, it’s less anxiety-inducing to have a personal Slack open at work. (Also, Discord doesn’t allow threads, which is a feature I really like.)

Since Google Hangouts is connected to my Google account and since I have my Google Hangouts and my Slack open on my work computer (and all other devices), I don’t have ‘private’ conversations in those apps, so when my partners and I want to talk about something more adult, we use Signal, which I only have on my phone, isn’t connected to any other accounts and devices, and is tucked away deep in a hidden folder (I work with kids). I also use Kik for similar reasons. (It’s annoying that I can’t use them on a laptop, since typing on mobile tires my fingers out much faster, but such is the life I lead.)

But that’s just me! It’s most important to find the system that works for you and your partners. When you say that texting is “not efficient,” I’m not entirely sure what you mean - you’ll need to identify what kind of “efficiency” features you’d like, and then find an app that meets those needs. If the issue is that “planning who’s getting together when” is being overwhelmed by social chatter, you might want something with threading. If the issue is that everyone is in a separate text and it takes a lot of work to cross-check and distribute what everyone is saying, you’ll want something that’s better for group comms. If the issue is that one of your partners never checks their texts and has a zillion unread notifications, you’ll want something with more customizable notifications. And so on.

It’s aggravating that in this modern world, we can’t just talk to each other across platforms; and that we need to figure out whether to use Facebook Messenger vs Google Hangouts vs SMS vs Kik vs Signal vs Slack vs Discord - but once you find a system that works for your crew, it’s pretty awesome.