Polyamory Advice is going on a brief hiatus

Hi friends,

Some big, fast-moving changes are happening with my family, and I need to take a week or two off from the blog. Apologies for the lapse!

<3

Zinnia

Help, your FAQ doesn't work on mobile!

I'm sorry if my ask went against your rules, I'm on mobile and cant see your faq

Hi, I'm on mobile so I can't see your FAQ... I still have a question though..

Can I have link to FAQ? I'm on mobile

Friends, I hear often that people on mobile can’t see the FAQ, but that’s not true. My “ask” button on mobile lists the FAQ url, which works in a mobile browser. It won’t work in the tumblr mobile app, but it will work in a mobile browser. Please stop telling me this - all you need to do is open your mobile browser and go to www.polyadvice.tumblr.com/faq per the ask page’s instructions.

You could also search my blog for “faq” and find plenty of links to it there. You can also find all my blog’s content on askpolyamory.com, including the FAQ and a question submission form, which is entirely mobile-friendly. (I pay out of pocket for that!)

I understand that it takes one extra step, but I spend hours per week on this entirely free blog; y’all can do .5% of the work for me. Sending me an extra message telling me that you “can’t” follow the question submission instructions when it is absolutely possible is getting old. I don’t know of any mobile devices that run the tumblr app and don’t run a mobile browser.

I'm dating two guys, and want to make it serious with both of them, but am not sure how to have that conversation

I've been - openly, but they don't know each other - seeing two different guys, for about the same amount of time but not really seriously on either side. I want them to hopefully turn into actual relationships I'm just not sure how to bring about the conversation of "I want to be serious with you, but also him at the same time" and am scared that will send them both running. Any advice?

The great thing, and the terrifying thing, about relationships is that there is no set of magic words you can say to ensure someone else responds well. You should definitely have that conversation, and then if one or both guys goes running, well, that’s just what happened. You can’t prevent or control that. Hiding your feelings/desires from a partner for fear of scaring them off is miserable, and not something I ever recommend.

You’ve got to just come out and say “hey, we’ve been seeing each other for a while now, and I really like you! I’m interested in talking about how we see this relationship moving forward, how committed we feel, and what we both want! And that should include the fact that I’m also having the same feelings about, and conversations with, Orzaggo.” And then you two can talk about how he feels about non-monogamy, and about dating you, and about feelings, and all those super sticky but worthwhile conversational topics!

And if he runs, well, that’s information you have - that he isn’t someone who wants to date you as all of who you are, which is someone capable and desirous of dating multiple people. You would have found that out eventually; delaying this risky conversation doesn’t reduce the risk, it actually just raises the stakes. Best of luck!

My boyfriend is interested in a friend of his, and wants to try polyamory, but to me it all seems like cheating

My bf and one of his close friends have developed feels for each other. The friend is poly and knows that my bf and I identify as mono but flirted with him anyway. One night while they hung out and drank, they had a close call where they almost kissed. They now both realize that a sexual connection/tension has developed between them. My bf recently brought up trying poly, but I can't help but feel like he's using it as a fail safe and to not be accountable for cheating if it happens. Any advice?

The thing about polyamory is that it is not a “fail safe to not be accountable for cheating” - it’s a different way to think about relationships, feelings, and sex. If you two were polyamorous, and he kissed or had sex with this friend, it would not be cheating. He would still be accountable for his choices and their consequences, but “cheating” would not be the issue. Yes, it sounds like his newfound interest in polyamory is a desire to be with this other person without losing you - but you get to decide whether you are okay with that. Your boyfriend is essentially trying to keep things above board - letting you know that he wants to pursue a relationship with this person, but that he wants to do it with your knowledge and consent.

It sounds like you consider yourself monogamous and are not interested in dating someone who is romantically or sexually involved with someone else, and that you would consider it cheating regardless. In that case, you should not be polyamorous with this person (or anyone else). He can ask, and you can say no. He can then respond to that with his own choices. Polyamory is not a secret loophole where he can trick you into being okay with cheating; it’s a relationship framework that you can choose not to be part of.

If it’s important to your boyfriend to try polyamory, or to try a relationship with this person, he may choose to leave the relationship. You’ll give him information - that you only want a monogamous relationship - and he’ll have to act on that information. And he’ll give you information - that he wants to be in a relationship that allows him to be with other people - and you’ll have to act on that information.

What do polyamorous people find attractive?

What do poly people find attractive? I ask because I regularly get asked out by people who tell me that they are polyamorous. I am curious why so many poly people approach me.

For the most part, polyam people find the same things attractive as mono people. We like people who are interesting, charming, and genuine - and it helps to be good looking. So, congrats on being generally attractive! In specific, polyam people are going to be more likely to be drawn to someone who is a clear communicator, demonstrates healthy self-knowledge, and is skilled at drawing appropriate boundaries.

It’s also much more likely for you to encounter polyam people who want to date you if you run in circles where a lot of us tend to hang out and seek new partners. Any other type of “alternative lifestyle,” from the Pagan/Wiccan community to the kink/BDSM crowd, is going to attract a larger than average slice of polyam folk. We’re also more out and open in big coastal cities or liberal arts colleges, so if you live in one of those, you’re more likely to be approached by polyamorous people.

Honestly, unless you’re accidentally wearing polyam pride colors/symbols, or wandering into polyam meetups, it’s probably just that you’re a generally attractive person who happens to regularly encounter polyam people! If this bothers you, you could try putting it out there in your extended social circles that you’re happily mono and don’t want to be approached for polyam dating, and keep some rehearsed lines in your back pocket: “Sorry, but I don’t date polyamorously - so it won’t work out.” “

I want to date a friend of mine who is polyam, but am afraid of bringing it up with her

I am very close friends with a poly triad and I want to pursue one of them (though I would happily be with all of them). Is it better to check in with her other partners who I also love and want to make sure they would be comfortable with me pursuing her before I talk to her about it? Or should I talk to her first, or just talk to them as a group? My main fear is ruining our friendship or making them feel weird. The power dynamic scares me b/c their friendship is really important to me.

You should always talk directly to the person who you’re having feelings about, whether it’s attraction, conflict, confusion, boundary issues, whatever. Asking other people sends the message that you think she needs their ‘permission,’ which isn’t a healthy framing of any relationship, and it risks causing extra drama because of all the cross-communication and triangulation. Talk to her! She has the best perspective on what she wants, how her current relationships are framed, etc.

Only you can decide whether it’s worth bringing it up. A lot of people think that expressing romantic feelings might “ruin a friendship,” but if she’s mature and a good friend, she’ll be able to say “thanks for having the courage to bring that up, but I don’t want to be anything more than friends,” and you two can move on as friends. I think the fear of “friendship ruining” by expressing feelings is generally overblown, and a friendship that would be “ruined” by that is probably not on solid ground to begin with. The fact is that you do want something to change about your relationship with her, and the only way to have any chance at getting what you want is to try.

You have just as much agency and control in this situation as she does. You can choose when, how, and whether to express yourself. And you can choose how to respond to whatever she says. I know that this friendship is important to you, but framing it as “she has all the power to give, or withhold, what I want” is dangerous and inaccurate. You two are friends - she cares for you, she sees you as an equal - so trust her, and trust yourself, to be able to talk through this without fearing that she will attempt to manipulate you based on how much you value her friendship. If you think this fear is founded; if she has a history of holding her friendship over people’s heads to control them, then this isn’t a healthy friendship in the first place.

What are some of Zinnia's opinions?

Hello! I see tons of asks about advise and now I'm actually wondering what are some of your opinions about the whole community? I'd like to know more about the lovely creator of this amazing blog❤️ :)

This reads to me like “please, sir, could I have some discourse?” but I, like most humans, adore being asked for my opinion, especially if it comes with some flattery, so here ya go, some Zinnia Opinions, RIP my inbox:

I think more, if not all, of us should be in therapy! I think working on our own issues and patterns is critical for healthy relationships, whether you’re polyamorous or monogamous. I think we as a culture should be fighting for more accessible mental healthcare, and one of the best things we can do for our people is help them find therapy that is helpful and affordable for them.

I miss the word '‘poly.” I fully understand why we are making a shift to polyam, and I would never put my linguistic comfort over someone else’s very real cultural hurts and needs, but I find “polyam” clunky and it makes me sad that we are facing this namespace collision right now.

I think “ground rules” and “boundaries” are incredibly misunderstood and mis-used in polyamory. I’ve almost never seen “ground rules” work out well - they’re often arbitrary, lead to unnecessary ‘betrayals,’ and let people hide behind them to avoid actually interrogating their true feelings and needs. And people need to realize that “setting a boundary” does not obligate everyone to do what you say or else they’re toxic abusers.

I think we need to do a better job with our language. I’ve written about this before, and I stand by it. I especially think we need to be very careful about words like “abuse” and “trauma,” because they really do mean things beyond ‘made me feel bad.’ I strongly recommend Sarah Schulman’s book Conflict is not Abuse as an in-depth discussion of this and think it belongs on any standard polyam reading list.

I don’t think polyamory is a better, more enlightened or truer way to be in relationship. I disagree with Dan Savage and the Sex At Dawn crowd that all humans are ‘naturally’ non-monogamous and therefore polyamory or monogamy are just personal choices anyone can make freely. Some people are better served by monogamous relationships, and polyam people need to stop evangelizing polyamory as a one-size-fits-all solution to existing problems.

That said, I think monogamy culture is pretty destructive. When practiced with intentionality and as meets the needs of the individuals in the relationship, monogamy can be plenty healthy! But I have seen so much abuse in the name of monogamy, of possessiveness, of jealousy; damage done out of fear of cheating; repression and rejection and violence - we need to better understand and interrogate the social, political, economic, religious, and sexual power structures that drive our assumptions around monogamy.

I wish we had better pride colors and/or full ownership of the infinity heart. I love symbols! I would love to be able to wear my polyam pride on my sleeve, but tons of mono people use the infinity heart to just mean “endless love,” which makes it a pretty diluted symbol, and the pride colors are not great.

I think more polyam families should become foster parents. I think more people should, honestly; but being polyam gives you an advantage in that you have more adults to help out, and most of us have already done a lot of self-work around healthy emotional management and communication styles, which is critical for foster parents. It’s not always easy to get certified as an “unconventional” family, but it is doable, and we should be doing it!

My polyamory is queer. Not all polyamory is queer, but I truly believe that polyamory can be queer, when it is a ‘queering’ of the dominant monogamous culture, a re-understanding of relationships, an individual reclamation and rejection of culturally imposed assumptions, and love as “praxis” that challenges economic, political, and sexual systems of dominance.

Polyam people need to make a lot more space for relationship anarchy in the conversation. Related to my opinion that not all polyamory is queer, but polyamory can be a queering of relationships. It’s sad to me that so many people think polyamory is only about sexual-romantic relationships, and often looks in practice a lot like monogamy culture just with more people, where the sexual-romantic relationships are prioritized in terms of values, commitment, finances, etc. Polyamory can be an invitation to re-understand relationships in a whole new way. Who say that the people we have great sex with have to be the people we live with have to be the people we co-parent with? Let’s make our own way, friends.

I think “best case scenario” daydreaming is an under-utilized tool in polyamorous relationships. Thinking through what you really want, having words for the feelings you want to have, understanding what you want your day to day life to look like - this is so helpful! We should all have a clear picture of where we’re headed, what our goals are, and what our deal-makers and deal-breakers are. I don’t know why so few people are able to really articulate what they want out of their relationships - grab a journal, or a questionnaire, or a boring work meeting, and dig in!

I think people should make my life easier when writing in to this blog. People should check my FAQ, not send me thousand-word letters that don’t include a clear question, and not do these other things. I also think it would be super swell if people contributed to my Patreon!

There we go; some of my most strongly held opinions about polyamory. I have many other opinions, like:

  • People should stop assigning moral value to food and eating habits and drop the food-negative fear-of-calories nonsense; diet culture is absolute bullshit, and the concern-trolling about fat bodies is cruel, disingenuous, and needs to die.

  • Caffeine is an addictive drug and we are way too relaxed about young children becoming dependent on it to the detriment of their sleep health.

  • Being critical or ironic about something does not make you smarter, more mature, or better than someone who earnestly enjoys it.

  • Genetic connections do not a ‘family’ make, and no one is obligated to stay connected to someone who isn’t healthy for them just because they are ‘related.' And if you are deeply connected to someone whose connection to you isn’t recognized by monogamy-culture - like a kid who isn’t genetically related, or a life partner you aren’t romantic-sexual with, that’s great! Ignore the haters.

  • Movie theatre popcorn is always better than anything you can make at home, and is always worth the $7 it costs at the theatre. Drinks and candy, you should smuggle in.

  • If someone isn’t drinking, people should leave that alone and not harass, pester, or tease them about it.

  • Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” music video is not cultural appropriation, because she brings in people who are skilled in those dances to perform them well, and the point of the video is that she can’t do what they do and is just being herself alongside performers she is sharing her stage with. Cultural appropriate is a real issue in pop music (and everywhere else) but I think that video is absolutely not an example of it and don’t understand why it’s constantly used as one.

  • Alcohol is a lot more dangerous and addictive than marijuana and the reasons it’s legal and socially acceptable are racist and classist and are not based in reality.

  • Tumblr and Instagram should do more (that is, literally anything) to fight pro-eating-disorder content on their platforms.

  • No one should feed me food with tomatoes in it, ever, ever, ever! (And I don’t want to hear about how I haven’t had a “real, good” tomato - those ones taste worse because they taste more like tomatoes!)

I'm married, and was dating someone else - I ended things with him, but now I'm pregnant with his baby

My husband & I have been together for 7 years & last year I let him know that I was interested in trying out polyamory. I started a long distance relationship with another man who was also poly & checked in with my husband before any new decisions were made. Over months my partner decided he wanted to try committing to just me & broke up with his primary. He couldn't commit fully though, there were lies & cheating so I ended it. Then found out I am pregnant with his baby. Any advice?

Everything gets much more high-stakes when there is a pregnancy involved. The first thing you need to do is figure out what you want to do about the pregnancy. I recommend visiting with your doctor or heading to a Planned Parenthood to talk about your options, what you need to do to take care of your health, etc.

You also need to talk to your husband about what he wants to do. Some people, like me, are strongly of the belief that genetics do not a family make, so it could be that he is excited and wants to raise the child - or he could feel more ambivalent. It is unfair to bring a child into a situation where one of the people responsible for co-parenting is struggling with the facts of the child’s existence, so this is critical to work out if you plan to have and parent the baby. You should also talk to the father of the baby, even though you two are no longer together - there are various ways this co-parenting relationship could go, and you need to figure out what’s best for everyone involved. Consider seeing a therapist who specializes in co-parenting and “unconventionall” families.

I have no idea what your values and preferences are around pregnancy and abortion, but know that you do have options, and that they are your choices. There are two other people involved who are likely going to have strong feelings about the pregnancy, and they are entitled to those strong feelings, and it is healthy for you to consider and discuss them - but, ultimately, it’s your pregnancy. If someone wants you to abort, and you don’t want to, they cannot force you, and you should take distance from anyone pressuring you. If someone wants you to keep the baby, and you want to abort, that is your call.

There are a lot of ways this could shake out; here are just a handful that could happen:

  • Your husband could decide he isn’t up to this, but you want to raise the baby, so you become a single mom

  • Your husband could decide he does want to raise the baby, and you two become parents, with minimal involvement from biological father

  • The biological father could decide he wants to be involved, so you work out a multi-parent arrangement that doesn’t require you to be in a romantic relationship

  • You could decide you don’t want to raise the baby but the biological father does, so he takes full custody after the birth

  • You could decide to place the baby for adoption

  • You could choose to terminate the pregnancy

Ultimately, only you can work out what’s going to be best for you, your relationships, and the child. There are professionals who can help you think through those options, so again I strongly recommend visiting a Planned Parenthood, talking to your doctor, or seeing a therapist who specializes in this type of issue. Best of luck!

I'm married and polyam, but everyone I try to date gets too "weirded out"

I’m poly and have been for the past 3 years. My husband and I got married before I knew that’s what I wanted but no matter what I do, people I date keep dumping me because they say they’re too weirded out by it and the fact that I’m married is too much. I know there’s nothing I can do to change anyone’s mindsets or views on monogamy/non monogamy but what can I do to protect myself from taking this all to heart? I’m tired of getting dumped and hearing “you’re amazing but this is too weird.”

My two pieces of advice for you are: One, think about whether there’s a way you’re acting or talking that is setting off alarm bells for other people. Do you prioritize your marriage over everything? Stick to rigid “ground rules” that limit how you can connect with other people? Talk about your husband constantly? You may be able to mitigate some of the feeling of “weirdness” by making some adjustments in those areas.

Two, start actively seeking out people who are polyamorous and already understand non monogamy. You’re going to run into a lot of confusion and stigma if you are trying to meet people in the majority-monogamous parts of the population. Check out online dating, local polyam meetups, and my FAQ page on finding polyamorous people to date.

I'm in a polyamorous relationship, crushing on someone else, and feeling lots of guilt and confusion

I (M-18) have two bi-monogamous (F-18) partners and wish to add a third (F-18) who is a straight-monogamist. She (F3), is aware of what poly is and knows that I am poly but not that I have romantic feeling for her. No, I'm not just getting more and more partners to boast and use them as trophies but still do have a want for her. For 2 different reasons, I am feeling guilty about it and have resorted to comedy in order to partially cope. The first is simply that I am relatively new to polyamory and up until recently wasn't aware it was possible. The second is an irrational fear that either I am physically stronger or am more experienced with relationships or both that if I make some grand mistake and end up in court that there will no possible way to defend myself due to a couple of other factors. Due to this guilt, I have come to grinding halt and am completely unsure of how to continue. Being new to poly, neither of my partners know what to do. Side note that I should make is that out of the 4 of us only the last girl (F3) does not depression and or anxiety.

If she is monogamous, then I’m not sure how it would work for you to date her while you’re dating two other women. It’s possible to have a crush on someone and not date or pursue them, and it sounds like that’s your situation. You can “have a want” for someone and not “get” them. That’s part of being a person and interacting with other people, who all have their own agency and desires. If it’s causing you pain to be around this person who you “want” but can’t “have,” it’s okay to take a step back from that friendship and spend less time around her.

There is nothing “to do” about this, really - wanting to date someone is not something that absolutely must be acted on and this is not a problem that demands a solution. Sometimes we like people who don’t want to date us, or can’t date us, or are otherwise incompatible! Liking them does not make us bad people and we should not feel bad about it. Try to let that go. Continue cultivating the two relationships you are in, and don’t let this unrequited crush convince you that you are somehow stuck.

This “guilt” that comes from a fear that you will “make a grand mistake” is a serious problem and you need to with with a professional on this. If you genuinely fear that you are a risk for assaulting women who you’re “physically stronger” than, you should stop being around women immediately and start working with a therapist who specializes in helping men with this kind of warped view of women, sex, and power; or with managing impulses; or with healing trauma, or whatever is leading you to worry that this is a behavior you’re going to engage in. If this is more of an intrusive thought based on anxiety, then you need to work with a therapist who specializes in that kind of problem. I know that a lot of men are worried about being falsely accused and “ending up in court,” but know that false accusations are incredibly rare, and the best way to not get accused of assault is to not assault someone.

As far as just feeling “guilt” around being polyamorous in general, the best way to manage that is to learn more about polyamory and develop your own polyamorous identity and philosophy. Instead of “using humor to cope,” don’t joke away or dismiss your feelings. Own them. Acknowledge them. Don’t exaggerate for effect, don’t downplay them, don’t deflect or distract. Be honest about what you’re feeling and give yourself and your partners the change to think about address what’s going on. I’d suggest that the three of you read some blogs or books about polyamory together and discuss them! Be open with each other, talk about your fears, your desires, your best and worse case scenarios.

And since all three of you are dealing with diagnosed mental illnesses, you all need to be working with therapeutic professionals to manage them. A diagnosis isn’t permission to go “well things are just going to be harder and more complicated because there’s this Other Thing in the room.” It’s a tool you’re supposed to use to find ways to feel better. Learning you have strep throat is just the first step in a process toward finding the right treatments to feel better; it’s not the end of the line and a sentence to spend the rest of your life going “welp I have an infection in my throat so certain things are more painful for me.” Mental illness diagnoses are the same way! See my Mental Health Resources page.

A polyamorous person has been flirting with me, but I don't really know what that means

So there's this girl that I thought was flirting with me and she asked for my snapchat. She kept mentioning partners so I asked her what she meant by that and she said she was in a poly relationship with a man and woman who she loves with all her heart. I'm totally fine with all this, but I have no real experience with polyamory. If she is already dating (and kind of living with) 2 people, what does that mean for me? I'm not working this very well, but any advice you could give would be great!

I don’t know - but you know who does? Her! She knows what her relationships are like, and what she’s looking for in a new partner. Your best bet is to ask her: I’m interested in you, but what would it mean for me? What do you want, and what don’t you want, from a new partner? If you started dating someone new right now, what would that look like for you, and for them? What boundaries do you have around dating people? What are your current relationships like? How did they start?

It’s possible that both of her “love with all my heart” partners started out as flirting on Snapchat, and she’s interested in dating someone to see if things move toward becoming significant, committed partners. It’s also possible that she feels “at capacity” for that kind of relationship and wants something more permanently casual. It’s possible that she rejects the binary I just set up and has a completely different best-case set of desires! Express your interest and open up that conversation. If there’s one thing we polyam folks love, it’s open communication. Best of luck!

I had a bad experience with polyamory, and am not sure if I want to try it again

My ex girlfriend was poly but didn’t communicate to me about her other partners and saw my discomfort and continued anyways. She would purposefully do this to hurt me and broke my heart. It really hurt me and I am scared to date anyone else who is poly. What should I do? I don’t want to be rude to poly people but I feel like my ex girlfriend kind of ruined the idea of me dating someone who identifies as poly. Can I get some advice please?

It’s totally okay for you to decide that, because you got burned by past experiences, you just don’t feel like dating polyamorously is right for you right now. You are not being “rude” to polyamorous people by not wanting to date us! You tried it, it didn’t work out for you, and you can act on the information you gathered. You are not obligated to be open to doing something that feels scary or just isn’t something you want to do! I give you full permission to not want another polyamorous relationship - there are plenty of monogamous people out there and you might be happier with one of them.

It’s also okay if you think you’d like to try polyamorous dating again, but with someone who isn’t going to be hurtful and bad at it. (Lots of people have horrible monogamous partners and are willing to date monogamously again with someone who’s better at it! You can decide that you don’t want your ex to have the “power” to “ruin” an entire area of relational experience for you.) Be gentle with yourself and start small! Hang out with polyamorous people without dating them, and just get a sense for what a healthy polyamorous relationship looks like. Read about healthy, functional polyamory, and think about what your “best case scenario” might look like. Be honest with potential partners about your ‘once bitten, twice shy’ situation and ask them to go slow and be gentle.

You don’t have to rush into being ready for another polyamorous relationship, or even another relationship period! Give yourself time to heal from that very painful relationship. Consider being open to a monogamous or polyamorous relationship, go at your own pace, relax, and let the right person come into your life. Keep trying things and be honest with yourself about what does and doesn’t work for you. If you’re struggling with a lot of difficult feelings after how your ex hurt you, talk to a therapist to get your feet back under you. Best of luck!

My partner sometimes dates much younger people, and I'm not sure how I feel about that

My partner and I generally tend to be attracted to the same types of people, but sometimes when I find out how young someone is I'll start to feel nervous about my partner continuing to spend time with them. I know he doesn't have any sort of predatory or otherwise ill intentions, but we are almost 25, and I'm worried that someone else might get the wrong idea about seeing us hanging around an 18/19 year old who's still in high school. Is this a valid concern, or am I over thinking it?

It is a valid concern. I am of the belief that partners should generally be at “relatable” stages of life. If someone is in high school and living with their parents, and someone else has their own place and a full-time job, there is a power difference and a life experience gap that can very easily become problematic. The younger person may become dependent on the older partner for certain freedoms or may rely on the older partner to define what is normal in relationships. That’s dangerous. And one wonders what the partners talk about or do together when they have such different daily lives and priorities.

There are always going to be exceptions, and I’m sure I’ll hear about plenty of them after publishing this. There is nothing necessarily predatory about a 19 year old in their last few months of high school, with a job and a lot of independence, dating a 24 year old who just left college and is in a similar stage of early adulthood. Since the dating pool for polyamorous people can be smaller than average, it’s common to expand your ‘accepted’ age ranges a bit beyond what your average monogamous person might. But there is no “list of acceptable reasons for people with this kind of age gap to date,” and if it’s making you feel concerned, you should listen to your gut.

In general, if you’re not a high schooler, you should not be dating someone in high school. I share your concerns and agree that you and your partner should be seeking out people whose lives are more aligned with yours in terms of priorities, independence, and daily experience.

I told a good friend I've been considering trying polyamory, and they were nasty about it

Ok, so recently I’ve been considering trying polyamory, and told someone who I thought was a good friend but apparently because I’m interested in dating both a guy and a girl, (because I don’t want to ignore/erase anything about my bisexuality) I’m a slut. Don’t know whether to continue this friendship or end things. Help!

First, I have to point out that there are plenty of monogamous bisexuals, and they are not ignoring or erasing anything about their bisexuality by being with one partner. For some people, polyamory is part of their bisexuality or vice versa; and it sounds like that’s your experience - but be careful not to imply that monogamy “cancels out” bisexuality or that bisexuality necessitates non-monogamy. You want to be free to date people of multiple genders, and that’s a completely reasonable reason to be polyamorous, but it’s not an inherent property of bisexuality.

To answer your actual question: only you can decide whether this is a friendship you want to try and preserve. It’s a frustrating fact of life that people we’re close sometimes do and say things that hurt us. Sometimes the healthiest thing for us is to take space from that relationship to honor our own safety. Sometimes the healthiest thing is to try and take a communicative, restorative position and attempt to heal and resolve the issue.

If you want to end the friendship, that’s totally your right; you’re not obligated to stay close to someone who calls you names or shames your identity and choices. If you want to try and talk things out with this friend, let them know that you don’t appreciate being called a slut, and that you’re not asking them to be polyamorous yourself, but to be understanding and accepting of you. You can explain that you shared these thoughts with them because you hoped they would be safe and helpful, and then let them know what they can do, specifically, to be safe and helpful in the future.

You can also make space for their questions, confusion, or discomfort - just saying something ignorant doesn’t make someone an irredeemable bigot, so do your best not to be shaming or accusatory. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t want to be intentionally cruel, and are willing to try and understand if given another opportunity and a gentle nudge in the right direction. Be open and willing to explain how you feel and the truth of your bisexuality and non-monogamy, and be patient, since no one is going to get everything right all the time.

My partner has never dated a woman, or dated polyamorously, before - and she says stuff that makes me feel ashamed

I’m (F) in a polyamorous relationship with my husband and recently started dating a girl. She has never dated a woman before let alone one with a husband and she is very obviously struggling with this. Her friends aren’t supportive, she generally thinks all the wrong things about polyamory and what that means for her and I’m struggling to not feel shameful from her comments and feelings about it. She hasn’t broken it off with me but the shame is building inside me and I don’t know what to do!

Generally, if someone is in a relationship with someone who is acting and speaking in a way that makes them feel shame, my advice is to leave the relationship. It’s not your responsibility to try and educate someone out of ignorance if that ignorance is causing you personal pain.

That said, just because it isn’t your responsibility doesn’t mean you can’t decide to do it, if it sounds like something you’re willing to take on. Be open and clear with her: “Bethilda, when you say things like ‘you’ll never truly be all mine,’ it implies that you’re thinking of relationships in a possessive model, and that bothers me. I worry you feel like Dirkfell ‘owns’ me and you’re trying to ‘have’ some of me by taking me away from him. That’s a common way to think about relationships, but it’s now how I see myself and my relationships, and it’s not the best framing for what you and I, or Dirkfell and I, have together."

Then, follow it up by suggesting a re-framing. Don’t argue with how she feels, just explain your perspective and how that might help with some of the assumptions that are leading her to say and think those things. Try not to sound accusatory - “you’re wrong and you shouldn’t say these things because they make me feel bad” - frame it like you’re on her side and want to help her understand things in a clearer way, which could alleviate some of her confusion or fears. Consider pointing her to some resources - don’t just overwhelm her with links, send her one blog post that you think helps, or buy her one copy of a book and offer to read and discuss it with her.

Ultimately, though, being someone’s first same-sex partner, and/or someone’s first polyamorous partner, can be emotionally exhausting, as you help them untangle a lot of internalized shame, fear, confusion, and misunderstandings. Give yourself space, surround yourself with positivity, and be willing to set boundaries: “I know your friends are saying hurtful things to you, but it’s also painful for me when you repeat that judgmental stuff about our relationship back to me. I’m happy to answer your questions and support you, but I can’t just listen to you vent about someone else’s bigotry, because being exposed to bigotry sucks.”

some FAQ-answerable questions

I would really like to learn more about polyamory, do you have any go to resources for me?

Yes.

How will I know if I'm poly if I've never been in a polyam relationship? How will I know if that will ultimately make me happy, to have multiple partners, or if I can be happy being mono?

You can’t tell the future. All you can be self-aware, introspective, informed, and willing to act on the best information you have at the time. More here.

can you just dm me?

No.

Hello I sent an ask in a month ago and I haven’t seen you answer the question on here, of course I understand that you probably don’t/maybe cannot answer every single question you get. Is there any topic of question that you don’t answer or cannot give advice on?

Here are the reasons a question may go unanswered.

sorry if this is a topic that comes up often but i have been recently questioning if i am poly or not and i dont really know alot about it but from the research ive done it seems kind of interesting and it seems like something i would want to try. do you have any tips or helpful resources

Yes.

We have been in an open relationship since we got together but now want to add another woman. We’re not sure how to go about this really, not that we’re really “hunting” as far as just talking about it at this point. It’s been an on and off topic for us for over a year and we are ready to commit to it. Any advice on how newbies should begin their search?

Here ya go!

My wife is in crisis, and citing a newfound desire for polyamory as part of it

My wife has depression and I’ve noticed she’s been feeling extra down lately so I sat her down to talk about it and she told me she’s polyamorous and has developed feelings for her friend at work. I have known her since we were kids and she has NEVER ever mentioned anything about this in that entire time. She also followed up with “I don’t want to have kids or to buy a house with you.” And I told her polyamory isn’t for me and I’m not willing to compromise on having children, but that I’m willing to give her some time to think about things and make sure we both know what we want etc. Then she started rubbing it in if she would talk to her coworker and saying hurtful things. And then she tried to kill herself so I had to take her to the hospital. And then she suddenly was like “I’m not poly, I never had feelings for her. I was just trying to push you away because I was depressed and wanted to kill myself hope you can forgive me also let’s have a baby.” My head is spinning. I’m so confused. I love her so much and only want what is best for her but she also just broke my heart. I don’t know what to do to take care of her or what to believe right now. It almost feels like she’s either afraid of the change this would bring her life or maybe she’s just being a jerk and using polyamory as a scapegoat. I don’t know I’m having trouble seeing this clearly.

This is not a situation where the core issue is polyamory, it’s a situation where the core issues are safety and mental health. Your wife is clearly in a very disordered pattern of thought and behavior - from the suicide attempt to the bizarre back-and-forth with you. It sounds like she is dealing with a lot of fear, pain, and confusion about her present life and the possibilities for her future. This is not something you can resolve on your own or with the help of an internet advice blog.

Start working with professionals immediately - she absolutely needs to be working with a therapist after her suicide attempt, and you should work with your own therapist, and the two of you should also see a couples therapist. I know it sounds expensive and time-consuming to see three separate professionals, but it will be much more disastrous to skip that healing work and go into parenthood or property ownership with these issues unresolved. Talk to the hospital where she was after her attempt; they often have outpatient programs, social workers, or other resources that can help the two of you access mental health care. You can also check out support groups and other resources for loved ones of suicide attempt survivors or other people in crisis.

Whatever you do, do not make any large scale commitments like opening the relationship, buying a house, or having a baby! Don’t worry so much about figuring out exactly what the right call is for the future or exactly what her true intentions and motives were. Drop the issues of parenthood, home ownership, polyamory, etc. Focus instead on getting your feet back under you, listen to the professionals in your life, and remember that she herself might not have a clear understanding of why she’s doing and saying these things. Mental illness and suicidal ideations are incredibly complex and difficult; it’s not that she is “just being a jerk” - though it’s important for you to honor when her behavior was hurtful to you and unacceptable.

Take time and space and focus on healing. Be willing to acknowledge your own needs and boundaries - you’ve been hurt a lot, and it is not healthy or productive for you to try and repress your own feelings because hers are louder or more acute. It might turn out that this is the beginning of the end of your relationship, and it’s okay to reach that conclusion based on the information in front of you. It may be that you two need to take some space from each other, or that she needs to make some serious life changes to facilitate her recovery. I am so sorry that you and your wife are going through this; you have my support and best wishes.

I'm dating polyamorously, but my parents are threatening to torch our relationship if I visit my partner

I'm in a long-distance relationship with a polyamorous married man. I've known him for years and he's my best friend, and we've been dating for almost six months now, and we're both incredible happy with each other and his wife is happy for us. When I told my parents about it, I knew they wouldn't understand, but I wasn't prepared for how much they would personally offended by it. They tell me it's wrong, that I'm setting myself up to be hurt, and that I should listen to them if I respect them. Despite being a good daughter who's never gotten into trouble and is doing well in college, my father says he would be ashamed of me for my relationship- and that hurts incredibly deeply to hear from him. No matter how I try to explain how polyamory works to them, they always say that it's not right "for me" because I'm "their daughter." My problem is that I'm 20 years old and still living with my parents while I'm in college, and I desperately want to visit my boyfriend who lives 3 hours away (using my own money)-- but my parents tell me that if I visit him knowing how much they disapprove, that I will be severely damaging our relationship and that there will be consequences. What do you think I should do?

I’m so sorry that you’re in this situation - that’s so painful and isolating.

I am perhaps on the extreme side of things when it comes to this type of conflict, so I will try to be both honest about my own position while empathizing with yours. I firmly believe that we as individuals have the right, and in fact the obligation to ourselves, to reject any nonsense from our families that threatens our well-being. You should live your full and honest truth, do what is happy and healthy for you, and if other people are upset about it, they are free to be upset about it. Sharing DNA with someone doesn’t mean that you need to care what they think more than you’d care about anyone else; nor that you’re beholden to whatever assumptions and expectations they have.

Your boyfriend is someone you chose to be in your life, someone who meets you where you are, and makes you feel happy and understood. Your parents are people who you did not choose, and who are being manipulative and hurtful. Based on that, I’d say prioritize your relationship with your boyfriend. If I were you, I’d go see my partner, and let the chips fall where they may. I would also start taking steps to make it financially feasible to move out from under the roof of people who are going to be so ignorant and hurtful.

If you don’t feel ready to take steps that would cause such friction with your parents (even though the conflict is their choice; not yours), talk to your boyfriend about this. See how he feels about waiting until you feel more emotionally able to stand up to your parents and do what you want. Let him know what he can do to support you during this painful individuation. Consider seeing a therapist to talk about how you might start the process of grieving the relationship you wish you could have with your family, but might not be able to if you are going to be a healthy, fulfilled, independent adult. Build relationships at college with people you can lean on. Best of luck - this is a difficult period to go through.

One of my triad partners is keeping her feelings from our third partner - and we're all planning to move in together

I’m in a closed MFF triad. My partners raise 2 children together; I have none. Together we have been looking into getting our own place currently we stay with family. Our partner decided well realized she doesn’t want to be in a closed triad, feels trapped and wants to be able to date other men which we both know our boyfriend wouldn’t support. She’s suggested it and he’s turned it down. She’s also decided she doesn’t want to tell him until after we move. He knows none of it she told her best friend and I. Not sure what to do? I don’t want to betray her by telling him but can’t make her. So I have no clue what to do being “in the middle.”

You’re not “in the middle,” because this is immediately affecting you and whether you will have a stable living situation in the future. Moving is incredibly stressful, and having to end leases, find roommates, split belongings, etc. is messy and difficult. You have a right to act to protect yourself from future problems with your housing.

You can let her know that you think this needs to be discussed before the move, for the sake of everyone involved. Tell her that you’re worried about what will happen if this comes up after everyone moves in together and you don’t feel okay making that move knowing that this shoe is set to drop. You can let her know that you’ll need to tell your partner why you’re backing out of the move until this is resolved, and she can choose whether to tell him first herself, or let the chips fall where they may.

This is not about you betraying her; this is about you protecting your future self from horrible housing drama, which is, in my opinion, one of the worst kinds of drama. If this wasn’t directly affecting you, my advice would be different; but since she plans to keep this to herself until after everyone moves in together, you are well within your rights to put the brakes on that move until this gets worked out.

I've been using alcohol to manage my feelings around polyamory

I normally get drunk to cope with my boyfriend calling/video chatting his fiancé and I don’t know how I’m gonna cope when he tries to move her into our house.

You should never ever stay in a situation that is so emotionally painful that you turn to alcohol (or other numbing behaviors) to get through it. Something serious needs to change, immediately.

Please talk to your boyfriend about how you’re feeling. If there’s something specifically that you two can work on to help you manage whatever feelings are coming up, find and start that. But it just might not be healthy for you to continue dating someone who also has a fiancé. It will be better for you in the long run to leave a relationship that is driving you to “get drunk to cope.”

Please also see a therapist for help with your use of alcohol to self-soothe. There is nothing wrong with drinking, but using it as a coping strategy is dangerous both physically and psychologically. You deserve help finding better ways to get through painful feelings, and to stand up for yourself in situations that hurt rather than trying to drink yourself through them.