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.

My partner and I are emotionally and sexually close with a third person - what do we call this?

So my boyfriend and I are in a very committed relationship with each other, but there's this girl were kind of in, like, an open relationship with? (We'll call her E.) My bf and I are intimate with E, but only when the three of us are together. We kiss, cuddle, etc. We all love each other A LOT, but E is free to date/be intimate with whoever she wants without us. We don't consider ourselves in a "serious relationship," but we're way more than friends. Is this polyam or just complicated?

P.S. I apologize deeply if I misused any terms, and I did not at all mean to imply that polyam relationships are less serious than monogamous ones, I was referring to our situation individually when I said "we don't consider ourselves in a 'serious relationship.'" Sorry if that came off wrong!

There are more options in the world than “polyam” or “just complicated.” Because it doesn’t sound like your situation is “complicated” at all! It sounds like you all know what you want and how to get it, and that you’ve found a relationship arrangement that works for all parties involved. I wouldn’t call that “complicated” at all!

It’s up to you whether you want to identify your relationship as polyamorous. Here’s my FAQ page on that. If identifying as polyamorous helps you find language and resources to keep things happy and healthy, great! If it doesn’t seem relevant or necessary, great! You might also consider checking out Relationship Anarchy, which is a way of thinking about relationships that makes lots of space for different types of emotions, arrangements, etc. without trying to force them into pre-existing formats and boxes, including “polyamorous!” I’d say this is a pretty great example of RA, personally - people who know how they connect sexually and emotionally, and who don’t assume that those connections mean they have to do everything else a certain way. But I don’t decide what and who you are, you do!

I also really loved the sweet little postscript. It’s rare that I get hurt or offended by a letter-writer’s language (with some notable exceptions); I usually try to gently steer people toward a linguistic re-framing for their sake, not mine. I think it’s clear that you’ve thought intentionally and honestly about the language you use around “commitment” and “serious relationship” and how that applies to your relationship, which is probably one reason it’s working so well for you three. It’s good to recognize that your application of certain terms and ideas doesn’t generalize to other people, and to be considerate with your language. You’re good, letter-writer; keep on keeping on!

My partner's metamour broke a boundary our poly network has, and now we've been exposed to an STI

One of my metamours broke a huge boundary in his relationship to my partner. In addition, he potentially exposed our entire poly circle to HSV. Both my metamour and the person who was HSV positive knew about this boundary but claim "we just weren't thinking/too in the moment." My partner forgave him, but I'm still really angry. One of my other partners talked to him and he lied about it. I don't know how to talk to my partner about it. He’s being tested soon and so am I. What do I do???

It’s up to you to decide what are dealbreakers and what are not dealbreakers, but things to be taken very seriously.

It’s perfectly okay to say that, as part of the terms of your relationships, you only have sex with people who use condoms for all penetrative sex, or you only have sex with people who get STI testing every 3 months and require that of their partners, or whatever specific rules and terms you have. If someone violates those terms, it is within your rights to end or change the terms of the relationship.

It feels stickier since the problem behavior came from a partner of your partner, and not your partner - you can’t exactly “break up” with a metamour the way you an break up with a partner. But you can re-frame your boundary as I don’t have sex with anyone who has sex with anyone else who doesn’t follow these boundaries. This could mean leaving your partner if they’re willing to allow other people to violate those boundaries; or putting a hold on sex with your partner even if you don’t end the relationship. This is not a threat or ultimatum - “leave them or I’ll leave you” - it’s just you holding your own boundaries.

If it’s not a dealbreaker, but instead it’s “something serious and worth addressing but not a relationship-ender,” you need to talk with your partner about how this made you feel, what you need going forward, and what your partner considers to be their boundaries and dealbreakers. Mistakes and accidents do happen, and polyamorous dating does come with some level of risk. But you’re not required to just sweep this under the rug and move on - there is some space between “drop the issue” and “end the relationship,” where you can work out a plan and clarify your boundaries.

Best of luck with your upcoming test; scares like this are incredibly stressful, but it’s good that the parties involved owned up to it and were honest enough with you and your partner so that you can get tested. That, at least, is a good sign.

How much work is this blog, and how can readers support it?

Hi! It amazes me that you post such fantastic, well-thought-out, and nonjudgemental advice/responses every single weekday. How much time do you spend on a blog this big? Are there ways I can support you doing this work? How fast does the ask backlog accumulate?

Aw, shucks! I get lovely fanmail sometimes but rarely do I get letters that are both fanmail and questions I can answer. Thank you so, so much!

Each Ask Polyamory entry takes me anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour. I also spend a lot of time sifting through the letters I get, identifying which ones are good candidates for the blog, and managing my eternally overflowing inbox. And there’s general maintenance to make sure the website & tumblr cross-posting & comment section are working well. So I’d estimate that the blog takes around 5ish hours of work per week.

I don’t like to be late or skip a day, so I usually queue up a bunch of posts at a time, which means I do a solid chunk of work in one day and let that carry me through the week. I like to have a queue of ~2 weeks at any given time, but sometimes it runs low or gets up to 4 weeks’ worth, depending on what my life works like. I work one full-time job, one part-time job, and am a single parent, so I try to give myself enough of a buffer that the chaos of my life doesn’t impact my readers!

As for the backlog, it’s hard to say. I cannot, and do not, answer every letter that comes in (see my explanation here.) I don’t think any advice columnist does! But for letters that I do answer, it usually takes 1-3 weeks for an answer to be published. I occasionally bump things around in the queue if a letter seems more time-sensitive, but I try not to set that expectation.

The best way for readers to support me is by reading the blog, sharing it, and linking it wherever people are needing a resource on polyamory! If you’re sending me a question, the best way to help me out is to use the search & FAQ to make sure it hasn’t already been answered, then send it over in a clear and concise way. And, if anyone is able & willing to financially support me, I have a Patreon, where supporters can get stickers & extra content that isn’t posted on the blog!

I want to be in a polyamorous relationship

I’m jealous of a poly relationship. I wish I was a part of it.

I’m not 100% clear from your wording whether there’s a specific polyamorous relationship you want to be part of, or whether you just want to be in a polyamorous relationship.

If there are people in your life who you want to be in a relationship with, it’s okay to pursue that! Flirt with them, invite them out, identify what you have in common. Ask them out!

If they make (or have made) it clear that you’re not interested, it might be healthy for you to take some distance from a situation that makes you feel jealous or left out. Hang out with them less, find other friendships and hobbies to invest in, unfollow them on social media.

If you’re interested in dating polyamorously even if you don’t get to date specific people, check out my page on finding polyamorous people to date!


My partner wants to get back with her ex, which I believe puts her at risk of getting hurt

One of my girlfriend's exes popped back up in her life and wants to date her. Exclusively. If that's what she wants I'd never stop her, but he's an addict that rides the sobriety line constantly. This factor has hurt her in the past and I don't want her to go through that pain again. Should I tell her I don't feel comfortable with her dating him because of his past? Or am I being controlling?

If he wants to date her “exclusively,” then she’d have to leave you for him, in which case, none of this would be your circus nor your monkeys. Of course you would “never stop her,” because it is impossible to stop someone from dating someone else, and it’s inappropriate to try.

It is not controlling to give advice, to remind her that he has hurt her in the past, and to encourage her to really think through what she wants and what choices are most likely to get here there. You can tell her that because you care about her, you’d recommend against this; that if you were her, you wouldn’t do it, etc. But people are going to make the decisions that they are going to make, and it’s ultimately not within your control, no matter how right, or persuasive, you are.

If I’ve misread your use of the term “exclusively” and the situation you’re being pitched is one in which she dates both of you, it’s within your rights to say “I’m not comfortable dating someone who is dating this guy,” in which case it would be on you to leave the relationship. You’re not threatening to leave her if she dates him, you’re not forcing her to choose - you’re making the best choice for you based on the situation you find yourself in.

My partner's friends are telling her that being polyamorous with me sets her up for hurt and abandonment

I’m married to a man and poly with a woman as well. We just started dating and she said she told her best friends about me and my lifestyle and they freaked! They told her she is going to get hurt and that she should find someone else. I don’t know what to do without having support from the closest people in her life and I don’t want to be seen as a flight risk just because they don’t understand commitment and polyamory. I have no idea how to meet these people eventually without feeling hurt.

This is not actually an actionable problem for you right now. Some people you don’t know, but who know someone you’re close to, are being ignorant. There’s nothing you can do, or should try to do, about that.

Be there for your partner - she’s dealing with the pain of being judged and rejected by her friends. If she asks, help provide her with resources about coming out as polyamorous, or ways she can explain to her friends that what she’s doing is healthy and consensual. But if she doesn’t ask, leave the topic alone. Don’t try to argue with her friends through her.

She may be believing these people, and worrying about the security of your relationship with her. Do what you can to reassure her, through words and actions, that you are safe and committed. Answer her questions when they come up. Don’t get defensive or act like it’s her obligation to either change her friends’ minds, or shut out their opinions completely. Be open, reassuring, and loving.

There is a chance that if these people are adamant enough or close enough to her to be convincing, she could get freaked out and wants to take some distance or leave the relationship, that will be frustrating and painful for you, but even though she’s acting on wrong information that other people are telling her, it’s her choice to make.

Don’t worry so much yet about meeting these friends of hers who you know don’t approve of your place in her life. It doesn’t sound like she’s pushing for that, or like you’re all about to go on a cruise together. If you’re at a social gathering with them, be charming and sweet while keeping enough polite distance to protect your own feelings.

I want to date someone else. My boyfriend seems okay with it, but won't say much.

Me and my boyfriend have been together for about 6 years, we've talked about having another person in our relationship (always with a she pronoun). Today I brought up a guy that wanted to take me on a date, and asked him if he was okay with it, all I got was a "well if you want to". I do want to see this new guy but don't want to upset my partner either. What do you think I should do?

It sounds like it’s just you who would be dating this new guy. That means that the third person is not “in your relationship.” There is a new relationship that would form. This is generally called V-shaped or “Vee” polyamory. It’s important to have the right language for what you’re feeling and doing, because that can help you frame it in an accurate way, approach it without assumptions or misunderstandings, and point you to helpful resources.

Polyamory requires open and honest communication. “Well, if you want to” does not qualify. You need to talk to your boyfriend about his best-case and worst-case scenario, as well as yours. What do you want out of this? How do you feel? How does he feel? What might change between you two? What are dealbreakers for each of you? What questions do both of you have?

If he’s not willing or able to have this kind of conversation, then he’s probably not someone able to be in a healthy polyamorous or open relationship.