I started dating someone new, but haven't talked to my girlfriend about it

I recently (today) started dating someone but I've been dating my gf for 9 months how do I discuss polyamory with her?

You need to discuss polyamory with your current partner BEFORE getting into a new dating relationship! This is not a situation where you just inform your partner that you’re now dating someone else. This is a situation where you need all parties to be fully consenting to the new polyamorous arrangement. Dating someone without first “discussing” it with your partner is called cheating.

You need to move quickly to resolve this. Let your new partner know that your other partner was not informed and on board, and that you need to fix that. Tell your girlfriend what’s going on. You need to provide her with all the information: that you started dating someone new, realized that’s not how polyamory works, and now need to let her know the situation.

However she chooses to act on the information you provide her is up to her. It’s entirely possible that your girlfriend will feel blindsided, hurt, and betrayed by how quickly and secretly this moved. That’s totally reasonable, and you’ll need to graciously accept the consequences of your choices. Avoiding talking about those choices will not protect you from those consequences.

Is it okay to have boundaries around partners' behavior at my workplace?

Is it mean for me to have the same standards for all of my partners when they visit me at work? I'm a private person in general and I don't don't act coupley with any of them when they come in. My boyfriend is more openly affectionate than I am and he was upset about me not receiving his flirting well. I tried to explain that I'm reserved with all of my partners, and that my job/professionalism are important to me, but he just got more upset and now he keeps saying he won't discuss it with me.

That is absolutely not “mean.” It’s completely reasonable to have boundaries around PDA or other behaviors at work. I think people visiting their partners at work should absolutely respect their partners’ wishes about how to behave. You don’t need to agree, or understand, or like it. Everyone’s work culture is different and everyone’s preferences around how they’re perceived at work are different. That’s not really something up for discussion or compromise.

Your boyfriend is being unreasonable on two levels: one, whining about his preferences not taking priority while at your job, and two, refusing to talk about it with you now. That’s not a mature way to deal with conflict or emotions. You are not being mean, he is being petulant and selfish. Don’t give in to this tantrum and concede that he should be able to trample your boundaries around work, don’t wheedle and cajole to try and get him to talk to you, don’t validate his perspective by getting drawn into an argument about having to prove or convince him that he should behave the way you need him to behave at your workplace.

What's a better word for someone with whom you have a respectful, consensual, healthy relationship that's primarily sexual in nature?

More of a vocab question. I'm in an open polyamorous relationship where I have a polyam romantic partner and a friend-with-benefits. Do you know of any more concise terms for these different kinds of partners? It doesn't feel right to me to use hierarchical terms since this is a non-hierarchical relationship and I'm not actually dating my FWB, and all of the other terms I know of are demeaning and specifically associated with cheating.

It’s both frustrating and freeing that certain types of relationships don’t have an existing label or “box” that society has provided us to slot it neatly into. In the kink scene, a lot of people use “play partner” to refer to someone they have sex or other bdsm play with. Just like if someone said “my business partner,” you’d understand that the main thing they do together is collaborate on business, and that what they enjoy and respect about each other is how their skills and interests in business converge. So you can totally call them your “[whatever word works here] partner” as a way of clarifying that word. I’ve also heard a lot of non-monogamous people reclaiming the term “paramour.”

You could also completely make up a new term, one that feels right, and not-demeaning, and works for the two of you. What does this person want to be called? How do they experience your relationship? Also, think about the purpose of this word. Is it more important to have a word to use between each other, or something you can use to refer to the relationship when talking to other people? If it’s more to capture the reality of how you relate to each other, you can get really creative and intimate about it. But if you want a convenient way to conversationally mention this relationship, it’s okay to use “friend” or “my guy” or something kind of vague.

I'm realizing that I don't want to be in a polyamorous relationship...what now?

I’m starting to feel like I don’t want my partner to date their boyfriend anymore. He isn’t a bad person, in fact he’s wonderful, but I feel like I just am not comfortable and Can Not be comfortable in a polyam relationship. How do I talk about this to them? I feel horrible about this.

All we do in our lives is collect information, and our primary obligation is to act responsibly on that information. When you start dating someone, the goal is not to keep dating them indefinitely, but to learn about whether you want to continue dating them. And when you start trying out polyamory, the goal is not to ‘make it work and stay in this relationship arrangement at all costs,’ but to determine whether polyamory is working for you. And if it’s not, the wise and responsible thing to do is to end that arrangement.

Try and shift the framing, remembering that you can only control you, not other people. It’s not that you don’t want your partner to date their boyfriend, but that you don’t want to date someone who’s also dating someone else. You’re not telling them what they can and can’t do, but what you can and can’t do.

I know it’s painful and frustrating and disappointing. It’s definitely not an ideal situation. But it’s not your fault that you aren’t someone for whom a polyam relationship isn’t working. All anyone can ask of you is to be self aware and honest. Let your partner know how you’re feeling, and figure out what choices all of you need to make based on this information.

Should we wait until our relationship is "secure" before we explore polyamory?

Is it wrong to want to make sure my relationship with my primary partner is safe and secure before considering exploring polyamory? My partner is poly and I am willing to explore a poly dynamic but I would like to feel secure first. He has expressed he would rather just jump into our relationship being poly and work from there. Am I being unreasonable? I feel that if you transition to a non monogamous relationship, your relationship should be healthy and secure first?

The language here is way too vague, and I think you really need to figure out more of the specifics of what you want.

For one thing, feeling secure and being secure are not the same thing! It is possible that a person in a pretty secure relationship might feel insecure because of internal assumptions, fears, or baggage. While those feelings are real, they may not be an objective reflection of the relationship’s actual security. So if your goal is to feel secure, that may include some internal work as well as work on the relationship.

For another, there is no relationship measurement system that can tell you when a relationship is “healthy” or “secure” or “safe.” That goal is far too vague to ever determine whether it’s been met.

It’s important that you identify what concerns you have in your own relationship and how you want to work on them. Something like: “Right now, we have a pattern of not tolerating tension, and so when one of us is upset, we go cold on each other, stop talking, and get clipped and snippy. Involving other people in that dynamic would be unfair to them and probably exacerbate the issue if we end up triangulating through someone else. Let’s work on our conflict tolerance and communication skills and get this under control first.”

Or, “Right now, almost all of the domestic work, date planning, etc. falls on me, and I feel resentful and under-appreciated, which causes fights sometimes. It wouldn’t work for us to try and date anyone else - I worry you’d either lean too hard on me to manage the new complexity of our social life, or you’d be around even less to help out, or you’d suddenly be able and willing to plan things with your new partners, which would make me feel hurt and neglected. Lets get into a better balance of managing our lives together before we try out non-monogamy.”

I’d generally say that yes, when there are specific dynamics in a relationship that are “unhealthy” or “unsafe,” that is not an appropriate time to try out non-monogamy. It’s not fair to the other people who’d get involved, and it will exacerbate whatever unhealthy patterns exist. But if you decide that you can’t take that step until you’re at a point where you never ever feel insecure or unsafe, that might be too high a bar to clear.

What are Zinnia's hobbies?

As a reminder, I’m celebrating 1,000 posts by taking a break from polyamory related questions and taking questions about literally anything else. Submit your non-polyam questions here! You can blacklist the tag “1kcelebration” if you don’t want non-polyamory-related posts on your dash.

What are some hobbies you have? If you have a job, what’s your job?

I write professionally - but not really the fun kind of writing; I write how-to guides and documentation for a tech company. I also work part time at my church, and I am a therapeutic foster parent, which is both “not a job” and totally a job, in the sense that it takes way more than 40 hours a week and uses all my professional and organizational skills. (Foster parents do receive money, but it is not a “salary” for the work that we do, it is intended to cover the costs of meeting the child’s needs.)

As for hobbies, I’ve already talked about playing Pokemon Go and enjoying forum roleplaying and tabletop gaming. In that vein, I also like board games, and I’m huge into Keyforge lately. I also like “solo roleplaying” which is just a silly way of saying “fiction writing” - the writing I do for fun lately is mostly high-fantasy adventures with worlds and characters I’ve created. And I’m just a big internet nerd, so I spend a lot of time goofing around with my friends on tumblr, discord, slack, and other forums I’m part of.

I like crafting, and the main things I do are beadwork and resin pouring. I started learning resin pouring to make Keyforge pieces but also make jewelry. I do alcohol ink techniques as well as “inclusions” - like glitter, stones, dried flowers, etc. It’s an interesting hobby because there’s lots of trial and error and you have to wait 24 hours to see how something came out, so it’s been a serious learning curve for me and it’s made me much less of an anxious perfectionist, which is nice.

I spend at least 3 hours a day driving because being a foster parent means lots of shuttling to and from appointments and other things, so I’m a huge podcast aficionado. Some of my favorites are Reply All, The Nod, Dear Prudence (and other advice podcasts, for “industry research”), RedHanded, Lovett Or Leave It, and Pod Save America.

I also read a lot, though I don’t have much time to read “fun” fiction lately and mostly read books that inform my work at my church or as a foster parent, so books about trauma, community building, youth work, parenting, etc. The last fiction book I read was Where The Crawdads Sing which was amazing and I can’t recommend it enough.

I love to cook and once a week I host a bunch of my friends for dinner. Coming up with weekly variations on large-scale meals, meeting everyone’s dietary needs, and keeping it under my budget is a challenge, but one I really enjoy! I also have 2 pet lizards, and taking care of them is a hobby, I suppose. I like to create healthy, varied meals for them, and to set up their “enrichment tub” with things to explore, climb on, and find to eat.

Perhaps the most “unusual” hobby I have is American Girl Doll collecting and restoring! I loved American Girl as a kid, and realized as an adult I could finally indulge in that! AG dolls are very expensive brand-new, though, so I usually buy damaged ones for a much lower price, and learned how to fix up their limbs, hair, eyes, and vinyl skin. While I grew up with the AG books and love the characters, I always make my dolls into custom OCs (original characters) and write bios and stories for them. Then I take photos of them in various outfits and poses. Because my daily life involves addressing a lot of trauma and challenges, it’s nice to have an escape that’s pure innocence and fun.

Technically, writing this blog is also a hobby! I would love to be able to make it a source of income, and I do have a patreon, but for now it’s just a hobby.

Is it okay that people often de-prioritize non sexual or romantic relationships in favor of sexual or romantic ones?

As a reminder, I’m celebrating 1,000 posts by taking a break from polyamory related questions and taking questions about literally anything else. Submit your non-polyam questions here! You can blacklist the tag “1kcelebration” if you don’t want non-polyamory-related posts on your dash.

I'm curious about your opinion on people putting less effort into their friendships when they are in a relationship than they do when they aren't in one. Do you feel like it's just a thing that people do that we should accept or do you think we should be maintaining effort in our friendships no matter our relationship status? Are there circumstances where it seems ok to you and other circumstances where it doesn't?

(This was sent as a “question not about polyamory,” but it touches on a major cornerstone of my relationship anarchist philosophy, so it ended up being partly on-topic, which makes it off-topic for this week. Oh well!)

I do not think this is appropriate under any circumstances! This is why I’m a strong believer in relationship anarchy. Our culture has a lot of arbitrary and prescribed ‘boxes’ for relationships, which make no sense and are not healthy for people. I believe we would live much healthier lives if we lived in communities where all roles and all relationships are honored and recognized.

It is so odd to me that we are expected to think that “wanting to live with someone,” “wanting to be sexually intimate with someone,” “wanting to share large-scale life projects like making a home and raising children with someone,” and “feeling emotionally connected and intimate with someone” and “sharing hobbies and fun interests with someone” are all supposed to collapse into the same feeling, which we’re only supposed to have for one person! And that we’re supposed to prioritize this magical, all-encompassing relationship over all other ones! Our society is set up to privilege and prioritize romantic relationships - everything from adoption and child custody to health insurance to renting and buying property.

It’s nonsense. And it’s dangerous - the “nuclear family” model keeps people isolated, puts vulnerable people at a higher risk for abuse, and it isn’t how humans evolved to live. Conflating sexual interest with romantic interest with lifelong commitment creates patterns of misplaced loyalty, where people will protect a sexual-romantic relationship at all costs, even their own happiness, safety, or other relationships. It also does a disservice to deeply intimate relationships that are not sexual or romantic in nature. Making large scale life changes or commitments for a romantic partner? Totally normal. Doing the same for a close friend or sibling? Very confusing to people.

It also makes it harder for people to be healthy and intentional and self-aware about friendships. What if one is abusive? We don’t have language or support resources for abuse that isn’t in the context of a sexual-romantic relationship. What about when one ends or needs to end? We have language around “breakups,” but we don’t have healthy tools for talking about or grieving the loss of a different type of relationship.

Imagine a world where we were free to let relationships be what they want and need to be, without forcing them into unnecessary patterns. What if the person we like to have sex with isn’t the best person for us to raise kids with, so we co-parent with someone else? What if we feel a strong sense of commitment and love for someone, but don’t want a romantic relationship with them - but we can honor and recognize our deep love regardless? How wonderful would that be!

Does Zinnia play D&D?

As a reminder, I’m celebrating 1,000 posts by taking a break from polyamory related questions and taking questions about literally anything else. Submit your non-polyam questions here! You can blacklist the tag “1kcelebration” if you don’t want non-polyamory-related posts on your dash.

Have you ever played Dungeons & Dragons? What's your opinion of the game and subculture surrounding it? If you could be any fantasy character, what race and/or class would you choose?

Ooh, I have such Feelings about D&D. Starting around age nine, I got really into online forum roleplaying, which was a lot like D&D minus any of the stats, numbers, etc. I was huge into this hobby and by the time I was in middle school I would spend hours and hours on the family computer writing these elaborate characters and stories.

My parents hated this, and were always on me to “get out of the house” and “make friends,” two things I found quite difficult to do. There was, however, a board game and tabletop roleplaying store within walking distance of my house, and I very much wanted to be allowed to go hang out there and play Dungeons & Dragons. I was also a huge fan of the comic Something*Positive, which includes a lot of D&D stuff. Unfortunately for both me and my parents, my mom believed in the absurd urban legend that D&D made kids kill themselves. (Hilariously, this bizarre fear mongering stemmed from Evangelical Christianity, a community and an ideology my mom hated with a passion - but she somehow caught wind of their nonsense, stripped of the context that would have led her to reject it, and she fully believed that letting me play D&D would have been dangerous.)

I still have some resentment about this, because kid-me would have absolutely loved D&D, and would have been amazing at it. I have a knack for character improv and worldbuilding, and I would have likely “found my community.” I was a sad and lonely kid, and it would have been amazing for me. I also would have gotten into it when my brain was more malleable and I was better able to internalize the complicated structure and rules of the game. I’d be absolutely kick-ass at it as an adult now that the milieu is very pro-D&D. But, alas, I was dealt different cards.

As an adult, I decided to finally get into it. I’ve played Pathfinder, D&D, and VTM systems. I love the narrative and character and worldbuilding parts, but I still can’t get a good grip on all the fiddly bits. I frequently end up with complete ‘weenie’ characters because I don’t care enough to actually make use of the skills and powers I could have. I find combat in D&D excruciatingly boring and I’m not interested in maximizing my ability to do anything combat related. I like the idea of magic but playing a spellcasting character overwhelms me with all the crap to keep track of. I spend far more time writing out an elaborate backstory and personality for my character than fussing about the character sheet. This is probably because of the forum roleplaying I cut my teeth on, and because I don’t have years of practice or a nostalgic connection to the actual D&D system. Playing with hardcore or experienced D&D players is usually frustrating for me and for them.

But I still love everything else - the maps, the characters, the dice, the mini figurines, the art. I actually like DMing more than being a PC, because I get to make up towns and shops and stories and NPCs, and I can decline to fuss about things I don’t find interesting. I’ve been slowly working on my own tabletop RP system with its own world, its own character creation and its own magic system. The goals are to be narrative-driven, heavy on character and light on combat, and to give the players incentive to explore the world and flexibility to be creative with their magic. I’m lucky enough to have a partner who’s also interested in game design, so it’s been a fun project to do with him.

I do have to state for the record that I still love and adore forum RPing, though the community/culture of the hobby has gone through some changes in the last few years that are leaving me feeling a bit Eternal-September-ed. I also strongly recommend simpler, “one-page” style RPGs like Lasers and Feelings and related ‘hacks’ thereof. These sorts of games have a much lower barrier to entry and can be amazing for people who might otherwise feel overwhelmed or left out by more complex systems (like the youth I work with!) I have written some pre-made ‘modules’ and ‘kits’ for L&F and really love running games with it. Tabletop roleplaying can be amazingly powerful as a therapeutic tool. It’s being used to help young people develop confidence and social skills, it’s popular in prisons, it’s just awesome.

As for the “subculture surrounding” the game, I feel kind of the same way a lot of us ‘older nerds’ feel seeing this renaissance. It’s awesome seeing this cool, fun thing get more respect and recognition, but it’s also bittersweet to see something that had always been for “outsiders” suddenly be taken up by people who have never been on the outside. I got bullied mercilessly for loving high fantasy books and movies by the same types of people who go nuts for Game of Thrones these days, and this feels a bit similar. There’s an “in crowd” for D&D now, with the famous podcasters and all that, and while I don’t begrudge anyone their entertainment or success, it feels complicated for me personally, especially since part of me feels robbed of an early “in.” But, it does mean lots of Etsy sellers and other folks making super cool custom dice, minifigs, and other cool stuff, so that’s neat. In all, I’d say that although I might have some complicated personal feelings about D&D and its culture, in general, it’s pretty great.

If I could be any fantasy character, I would be a Halfling Druid. Even before I got into D&D, I was a huge Lord of the Rings fan, and I’ve always known I was meant to be a Hobbit. I’m a homebody who loves cozy spaces, good food, running around barefoot, and chillin with my friends near a creek, maybe hitting that pipeweed. I love animals and nature and it would be awesome to have an animal companion, be able to communicate with them, or shift into an animal shape that would let me scamper, swim, or fly. I can’t imagine a more perfect life for me.

Does Zinnia like Pokèmon?

As a reminder, I’m celebrating 1,000 posts by taking a break from polyamory related questions and taking questions about literally anything else. Submit your non-polyam questions here! You can blacklist the tag “1kcelebration” if you don’t want non-polyamory-related posts on your dash.

Do you like Pokémon? Do you have a favorite Pokémon?

I do like Pokemon! I was in elementary school when it got big, and a kid in my class gave me a Diglett card. I started collecting the cards and had a huge collection, all in a binder with the sleeve holders and everything. It might still be somewhere at my parents’ house. I never played the card game - I didn’t have anyone to play it with - and I never played any of the video games, either, because I didn’t have a Gameboy or anything. But I watched the anime and loved the characters. We also had the Pokemon board game, which I remember being super fun - it had all these little disks for the different Pokemon that set into the board.

My brother liked Pokemon too, and it was something we really bonded over. I had a poster in my room with the original 150 Pokemon, and my brother and I had them completely memorized - name, number, and evolutions. It drove my mom nuts that we were “using space in our brains” that could have memorized the states and capitals, or something. I remember my dad taking us to see the Pokemon Movie when it came out in theatres, and getting the holographic Mew card, and just how big of a deal it all was.

My favorite Pokemon was always Squirtle, because he is just so super cute. I sometimes get called “fake” or “basic” because my favorite is a starter, but I never knew he was a starter; my only exposure to Pokemon was the cards and the tv show. I just love his perfect little face. I had a toy vinyl Squirtle that was so devastatingly cute, and my brother and I frequently fought over it. I don’t know where that went, but I have a bunch of cute Squirtle stuff today. Squirtle is still my favorite even though there are a zillion more Pokemon. I also liked Ponyta/Rapidash, Vuplix/Ninetales, and Dratini/Dragonair. I also had a pet hamster named Zapdos. Of the newer expansions, I like Pichu, Slakoth, Sentret/Furret, all the babies, Swinub, Buizel, Shellos, and Turtwig. So, basically, the cute ones.

These days I am super into Pokemon Go (level 39 and counting, Pokedex at 438). I still have never played any of the other games or the card game.

We want to open our relationship, but one partner is worried about his dating prospects

Note: To celebrate hitting 1,000 posts about polyamory, I’m taking a break next week and answering any and all questions on other topics. You can submit your non-polyam-related questions (advice and otherwise) all this week!

Any advice for a couple exploring a re-open relationship, but the male party doesn't know how to find any femme/female partners and doesn't believe it's possible?

It’s entirely possible, otherwise there wouldn’t be any “male parties” in polyamorous relationships with “femme/female partners,” and there certainly are such people out there in the world, existing and dating each other and proving their own possibility. Read around about other people’s polyamorous success stories - the “happy” tag on the r/polyamory subreddit is a good start.

If he’s worried about his own personal prospects, he can also rest assured that many male parties worry about their chances with women, and such anxieties are not often accurate. The best way to assuage those fears is to just get out there in some polyam-friendly dating pools and be his best, most genuine self. The same advice applies to him as to every person trying to date: be a safe, healthy, and fun person.

The thing is, though, that it is never guaranteed that entering the dating pool instantly means someone falling, literally or figuratively, into your lap. He needs to be patient and accept that delays or setbacks are not referendums on his overall desirability - it can take months or longer for even the most awesome people to find compatible partners. If these type of thoughts - feeling convinced that he is undesirable or that his desires will never be possible - are part of a larger pattern or are coming from a place of serious insecurity or negative self-esteem, I strongly recommend some therapy focused on that.

His anxieties should not be a barrier to “the couple” exploring an open relationship - the other “party” should not be held back until their partner is completely assured that he will definitely find someone to date immediately upon seeking one, because those anxieties are not rational, nor are they his partner’s fault or responsibility. The best way to prove these concerns wrong is to get out there and try, and start realizing that this “it’s not possible” mindset is rigid and false, and that the reality is more complex and flexible. He may find that there are polyamorous women interested in him. He may find that his partner finds someone before he does, or that he takes some time and effort to find a partner, and that these circumstances are entirely survivable.

My life is chaotic and uncertain - should I end my LDR?

Note: To celebrate hitting 1,000 posts about polyamory, I’m taking a break next week and answering any and all questions on other topics. You can submit your non-polyam-related questions (advice and otherwise) all this week!

Should someone be in a relationship if they are young and still in a transitional point in their life? I am 20 years old and unfortunately, with work and school- I feel like my life is a little too busy to continue my LDR but I am too scared of breaking things off with this person. Fear mostly manifesting out of hurting them.

I think it’s terribly paternalistic to end things with someone who wants to continue dating you “for their sake.” If your partner is okay with the level of attention and affection you’re currently giving them, then take them at their word that the relationship is working. Trust them enough to speak up if they are being hurt, and don’t take away something they want to keep because you think it might not be good for them later on.

But if you want to end the relationship for your own reasons - if you feel frustrated or drained or spread-thin by being in an LDR right now, if you aren’t getting what you want out of the relationship, if it’s a source of anxiety or feels like another chore on a long list of obligations - then that’s a perfectly fine reason to end a relationship. If you want to break things off, definitely do that. But if things are going pretty well but you just have a sense that you ought to consider yourself a “person too busy” to be in a relationship, you can let go of that.

It’s nearly impossible to say that there are broad circumstances under which “someone” should or should not be in a relationship. For some people, a young and transitional life is just not a healthy foundation for a romantic relationship; for others, it’s just fine. You don’t need a general pronouncement on what hypothetical people in your situation should do, you just need to figure out what’s best for you as an individual.

Talk to your partner! Ask them if they feel frustrated or let down by the circumstances of the relationship. Be honest about the fact that you can’t offer any more right now, and you want to make sure they’re okay with that. And be honest with yourself about where this fear is coming from and where your desire of ending things is coming from.

I'm dating polyamorously for the first time, and it doesn't feel good

I am new to this. I am seeing a few different people who are also have multiple love interests. However my problem comes when I know that one of them is flirting with someone besides me, sharing a sexy photo or a flirty conversation, it makes me feel a pain like loss in my heart, an empty gaping hole that hurts when they do that. What can I do to get over that? I really want to be ok with others finding love with someone besides me, but right now it’s hard.

Usually, if a person is in a relationship (or any other type of situation) that makes them feel “pain like loss” and “an empty gaping hole that hurts,” my advice is to stop being in that situation as soon as you can. Polyamory isn’t for everyone, and you are not obligated to force yourself into arrangements that cause you pain. When it comes to relationships, if it doesn’t feel good, if it’s not fun, don’t do it.

If you truly believe that these feelings are “internalized monogamy culture” and that you both can and should root them out, start by reading some resources on my FAQ page and learning about how polyamorous people conceptualize things like love and jealousy. And talk to your partners about it, with an eye toward brainstorming ways they can make things easier on you, like not flirting or sexting around you, sending you their favorite resources on polyamory, and talking through their philosophy of how they practice ethical non-monogamy.

But there is no “polyamorous conversion therapy,” nor should there be, and if you would be happier and more fulfilled in a monogamous relationship, please seek that instead!

I want to date my boyfriend's friend, but he doesn't want me to

Note: To celebrate hitting 1,000 posts about polyamory, I’m taking a break next week and answering any and all questions on other topics. You can submit your non-polyam-related questions (advice and otherwise) all this week!

I have been with my partner for about four months and me and a friend of his are completely infatuated with each other. My partner doesn't want me to have anything other than platonic relationships with his friends but I have no problem if he wanted to date mine. How do I navigate this? He feels completely inferior to this friend and is very insecure about it. But there is a lot of sexual tension between me and his friend because we both want more but we can't do anything about it.

Your partner has been very clear about his preferences: that he does not want you to date his friends. It does not sound like you’ll be able to convince him out of this position, and I don’t recommend that you try. You know the terms of your relationship, which is not to date his friends. Your choice is whether to stay in a relationship on those terms.

You need to decide whether pursuing something with this friend of his is worth blowing up what you have with your current boyfriend. Everything else is a red herring - it doesn’t matter whether you’d be okay with him dating your friends, and it doesn’t really matter why he has this boundary. You can’t change his perspective, you can only decide how to act on the information that you have, which is that you have feelings for someone but pursuing those feelings would be incompatible with the terms of your current relationship.

Are my extra precautions around pregnancy and STIs reasonable?

I’m pregnant and one of my partners is looking for new connections. I am absolutely terrified of contracting herpes during pregnancy as an initial infection can cross the placenta and cause stillbirth. Would it be unfair for me to tell my partner that I will not be physically intimate with him during my pregnancy if he chooses to be intimate with a partner who is HSV positive? I know that herpes is common and a lot of the stigma is unnecessary, but I’m not willing to risk my baby’s safety.

No, that sounds entirely reasonable. Everyone gets to decide what their own risk tolerance is. Pregnancy is a specific health concern that requires extra precautions. You are not being unfair or stigmatizing, and if your partner insinuates that you are, or tries to argue you out of this perfectly understandable boundary, they’re the one with the problem.

I can express my feelings one-on-one, but not when multiple partners are with me

Usually I'm really good at communicating my needs to my boyfriend, but whenever we have another partner over its really difficult for me to talk about any discomfort I'm feeling or even any emotions at all. I struggle to talk to either of them about how we're all feeling unless it's one on one, and I'm scared it seems like I'm hiding something when I just want to talk to one of them. How do I develop the confidence to communicate with both partners at once?

Without knowing more details, I’m going to have to give a few different answers.

It’s totally okay if you prefer to express your feelings one on one, and you let your partners know that. “It’s not that I’m trying to hide things from Fountayne, and rest assured I’m going to tell him the same things when we talk - but I struggle to have larger conversations.” It’s okay to know your personal communication style and take care of your own needs in that way.

I think that the polyamorous community places so much emphasis on “communication” and “honesty” that we forget to note that it’s not necessary to voice every feeling or every instance of discomfort immediately to everyone in the vicinity. Not everything needs to be brought up when you have other partners over! You can wait until later and say “it really bothered me when you snapped at me like that.” But some things are important to speak up about in the moment, so things don’t go downhill towards festerville - “I really don’t want to play board games, and I thought the plan for tonight was to watch a movie and cuddle together. Can we stick to the original plan?”

So it has a lot to do with the feelings and discomfort that you’re struggling to express. Ask yourself whether it needs to be voiced right then, or whether you can safely indulge your own desire to wait until there are fewer people around. Is there something you need changed or done right away, or is it just that you feel some vague pressure to speak up? I think it’s less about forcing yourself to always voice your feelings regardless of who’s around, but learning to identify what kinds of discomfort ought to be shared immediately, with everyone, and which ones can wait for a one-on-one moment.

Think about why you struggle with this. Do you worry that your partners will “gang up” on you? Do you feel that it’s “unfair” or “inappropriate” to “ruin” other people’s hangout time with your feelings? Are there patterns from your past that might be informing this? Is there something you can ask your partners for help with? Let them know that talking to them together feels vulnerable for you, and see if they can help assuage that anxiety. Consider having tough conversations by email rather than sitting and facing each other, which can sometimes feel overwhelming.

Can polyamorous people get married?

Would there be any way for a poly group to get married with one another?

Legally, no, there is no way for more than 2 people to be legally married in America. There is, however, nothing preventing you from having a big ceremonial party, referring to each other as your spouses, or living together.

Some polyamorous families have formed LLCs or used other creative workarounds to handle issues around finances, property ownership, health insurance, child custody, etc. Check the resources here and here, and consult with a poly-friendly lawyer in your area.

I'm attracted to my metamour - now what?

My wife and I have been married for almost nine years. She has always been sexually attracted to women as well. She has been in a relationship with another woman for almost a year. I am sexually attracted to her girlfriend but their relationship has been separate from our own. My wife sleeps with me and sleeps with her but we have never slept with each other. Should I talk about having a more open relationship with my wife and her girlfriend or should I keep my feelings to myself? Anyone have any advice?

It couldn’t hurt! Often, people end up clicking really well with their metamours, for obvious reasons. Clearly, you two have a lot in common. My recommendation would be to mention it to your wife, casually and playfully: “I’ve started to think Megianta is really cute too - think that could ever work?”

She’ll hopefully give you a lot of information. “Oh, nah, she only likes women" or “I don’t know, that might feel weird to me” or “Really? Tell me more!” or “That’s so funny, she’s into you, too - wanna talk about how that would work?” Open up the conversation and see where things go from there.

My long distance partner and I had a conflict, and now he won't answer or read my messages

I’m a married cis woman who is exploring poly relationships. My primary partner is amazing and loving and we have a fantastic relationship. About eight months ago, I started a long distance relationship with a guy. We talk online, have some phone sex and meet up when we can. We have a sexual relationship of course but it’s also emotional. Enter the issue: he has a roommate who from the beginning wanted to be my good friend. I’m not usually comfortable with this but I let my guard down. She knows our situation and I’ve known him as long as she has. Recently she admitted she had feelings for him and made it seem like I was the only person who knew. In the meantime, she was telling me that he really cared for me so much and wish he could be with me. I told him that she had a little crush on him and he closed up completely. I felt badly for telling him and blamed myself for being a bad poly practitioner. About a week later, she blurts out that they have been having sex for weeks. I had no idea! He had never shown any kind of interest in her at all. I was incredibly angry because I had always been very honest about my intentions, and I felt like I had been gaslighted, made to feel guilty when they both clearly already knew what was going on. I left him a message and told him that I never expected monogamy from him clearly but that I expected honesty. What were they going to do when I visit again?! I haven’t spoken to either of them for almost a month but I’ve tried to get in touch with him because I feel like he owes me closure, an explanation, an apology, just something and he hasn’t even read my messages. He’s a tough personality, someone who closes himself off a lot and I knew that getting into this with him but I can’t move on.

You need to try and let this go. You may want “closure, an explanation, an apology” - but he clearly isn’t able or willing to give that to you. I know you feel like he owes it to you, but you can’t make your healing contingent on someone else’s choices. He has made it very clear that he is not going to re-engage with you, his lack of response is a response.

There is a lot of denial in your letter. You speak in the present tense, saying that you “talk online” and “have a sexual relationship,” etc. You do not. You used to talk online. You had a sexual relationship. When you haven’t spoken for a month, and he refuses to answer any of your attempts to reach out, that’s a breakup. You two are no longer together. This relationship is over. None of the story you told as “the issue” is the actual problem - the problem is not his roommate, or his dishonesty, or anything like that - the problem that you were dating a guy who cut you off after a conflict and is no longer speaking to you.

You say that you “can’t move on,” but you need to figure out how to move on without him giving you “closure.” Ask yourself, what would it take for you to move forward from this and accept that this relationship is fully over? Therapy, journaling, time, self-care, time with friends, whatever it takes. Treat this like a breakup and start grieving the end of the relationship. Moving on gets easier with time, so let yourself start that clock NOW instead of wasting time trying to change his behavior or denying the reality of the breakup.

I think I might be polyamorous, but am worried about being a unicorn hunter

I think I'm polyamorous? I'm just so confused. About a year ago, I had two crushes on these two guys. I jokingly was like "ha what if I dated both" and the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I would dream about being in a triad with them, and the thought made me really happy. I also did the same when I got a crush on these two girls. And I did research, and now I'm even more confused bc unicorn hunters are a thing and now I'm scared that I am one??? What the heck??

Let me assure you that “unicorn hunting” is a behavior, not something someone just is, inherently, against their will. If you’re not in a couple pursuing a single bi woman to serve your sexual interests without considering much about hers, you’re not a unicorn hunter. Simply wanting to be in a polyamorous triad is not immoral or unethical in any way. Desire is not inherently predatory. It’s okay. You’re okay.

There are lots of people out there who are polyamorous and interested in triad-style dating! As long as you’re not trampling boundaries or making unreasonable demands in an attempt to date them, you’re all good. Keep reading about polyamory - you can start with my FAQ - and be gentle with yourself.

My partners let everyone think it's just them in a monogamous couple, and it bothers me

I’m in a serious relationship with two people ( I should say all three of us are dating each other). They were dating for a few years before, and I’ve been dating them for a few years now. Any time they come out as having a partner, they always come out as dating each other and it’s never me. I understand if they don’t want to come out as poly/having two partners, but it sucks that I’m always the one that has to be the secret partner, the one who has to keep to themselves in public. We’ll be out together and they can act like a couple in front of coworkers and family while I’m like a third wheel. It makes me feel so bad about myself, like I’m not equal in the relationship or feeling more like a side piece. I know if I said anything they’d probably just tell me “that’s just how it has to be.” Am I silly for feeling bad about this? Or is this unhealthy? I don’t want to break up because I love them but I’m tired of being the dirty secret. This is my first poly relationship so I’m not sure if this is normal, but I know it doesn’t feel good.

Your critical error here is assuming that they’d say “that’s just how it has to be” before you even try bringing it up with them. You’re not psychic - you can’t read their minds or see the future. Talk about this! Mention that you feel bad having to keep your place in the relationship so secret, and see if they have any thoughts, feelings, or ideas that you didn’t expect. It’s possible that they never really thought about it, or assumed you were okay with it, or even that you prefer things this way.

If they do say that this is how things have to be, and aren’t willing to talk about whether, where, and when it would be safe to come out as polyamorous and ask their friends, family, or coworkers to accept you as their coequal partner, you have to decide whether staying in an arrangement that “doesn’t feel good” and makes you feel like a “dirty secret” is worth it to you. But that is a bridge you definitely don’t need to cross until you know it exists!