A friend of mine is judgmental about my three parent household

I have a friend that chose to be a single mother but judges me for choosing to have children with three parents. "I would do that if children weren't involved" is how she puts it.

People sure are out there, thinking things, some of which are wrong. Often they say things we wish they wouldn’t. Sometimes they even do things that are unwise! It can be maddening when someone else’s perspective seems illogical or hypocritical. But it’s not within our power to change, usually.

If this friend is being judgmental of you, you don’t have to be her friend anymore. Or you can say “you’ve made your thoughts on my family clear; I’m not interested in changing to accommodate you, so let’s agree to disagree and drop this subject permanently.” If she can’t handle that boundary, well, you have a lot of information about what kind of friend she is. It hurts when people close to us are judgmental, and I don’t mean to dismiss that pain - but the only thing you can control is how much exposure to her judgment you allow for yourself.

If she is threatening your family - saying she’ll call CPS, or make a report to the kids’ school, or something - speak with a family law attorney and take the steps you need to protect your family. Otherwise, it’s best to leave her to live her life, as ignorantly or judgmentally as she wants.

My long distance partner is visiting soon, and I want to plan a sort of "triad proposal"

I am married & have a long distance partner. In April they are coming to visit & i am planning this big romantic gesture of writing them love letters & making us all matching necklaces & asking them to come together so we can be one big happy family, I want them to be friends & be my men & have both their babies & but I am also giving them the opportunity to decline by having them meet me (us) somewhere for dinner. If they don't show up I'll know they aren't choosing this for themselves. I'm wondering if it seems passive aggressive to do it this way? I just don't want them to think so & I also don't want them to be put on the spot in public and answer in a way they don't mean to.

Oh my goodness, do not do this! This is not the kind of decision that should be made based on one grand gesture. You are asking something pretty big, and it is going to take multiple, ongoing, serious, honest conversations.

When you say you want them to “come together” and be “one big happy family,” what do you really mean? You can’t just decide two people into a relationship. What do you mean by “come together” and by “one family”? Remember that words like “family” and even “happy” mean different things to different people. You three will all really need to be on the same page.

If your long distance partner chooses to move out to where you live, what does that commitment entail? Are you and your husband 100% gung-ho on giving up your “couples privilege” and no longer centering that relationship? No one should move across a long distance and uproot their life without assurance that they are not on insecure ground. You may think of them as romantic and emotional equals, but does your husband feel like your marriage takes precedence?

More practically, where would he live? Is it smarter for him to get a single place near you two, and see what that’s like, before committing to moving in? Is that financially feasible? If he wants to move in, how is that would to work? Where will everyone sleep? You are already talking about co-parenting, but you need to know a lot about people before you raise kids together. Going from long-distance to living near each other is a big change, let alone living together.

You cannot leave any of this to the unspoken assumptions like “if they don’t show up, I’ll know.” That is not how life works, not how people works, not how relationships work. This isn’t a binary yes/no question. This needs to be talked out, not left up to a movie-ending style dinner proposal. You need to be super clear about what you want and figure out if that aligns with what they want. This is not a one-time question, or even a single conversation. It’s an ongoing process of reframing your relationship, giving language to feelings and desires and concerns, and taking in information as you go.

There is a time and a place for grand gestures! Once this all gets worked out, whatever you three decide, you can definitely commemorate that shift in the relationship(s) with special gifts or doing something special together. Writing letters to express how you feel is a good idea! But using them to ask this kind of question is never wise. You need to give them space to ask you questions, to get things clarified, to share their feelings and concerns, and to try things out or go slowly - and none of that can be done with this kind of plan.

I'm dating someone who has other relationships, and it really upsets me

I met this amazing guy who just seems so perfect, I've never met anyone like him before. He has intimate and sexual relationships with other women and it makes me feel extremely uncomfortable. I've told him this and he says that I am special to him but he’s not going to stop the other relationships with other people. I really don't know what to do, I like him so much but every time I know he’s with another girl I get very upset and jealous. I hate that this is a problem but I don't know how to go about solving it without losing him. All my friends think Im crazy even considering him if it hurts me this much but I really don’t want to lose what we have. Please advise me on what I should do!

You say this guy “seems so perfect,” but he’s not perfect for you. A major part of his relationship terms make you “extremely uncomfortable.” You say you don’t want to “lose what we have,” but what you have is a relationship that makes you feel “upset and jealous.” You should not date this person, because it sounds like he’s polyamorous and you aren’t compatible with a polyamorous person. It is not a “loss,” it is you realizing that this arrangement is not working for you. He might be a great guy, but he’s not someone it’s healthy for you to date.

People joke about me "collecting" partners, and I worry that this reflects a real problem

Sometimes people joke about me "collecting partners like Pokemon," and even though I laugh and joke along with them, sometimes I worry that this habit might become a problem. How many people is too many to date? Am I neglecting my other partners every time I form a new relationship? Do I really have enough time and energy to spend with everyone? Am I in denial? At the present, I have 3 boyfriends and am trying to woo someone I met recently.

I can’t answer those questions, because I don’t know you or your relationships. But they sound like questions worth investigating, for sure!

If the people making those jokes are close friends or partners, check in with them and ask whether there’s a legitimate concern or serious observation behind the humor. Stuff like that can sometimes mask something bigger, but just as often it can be a meaningless in-joke and playful teasing. And if it’s starting to bother you, you can ask that they stop saying that.

There is no hard and fast rule about “how many people is too many to date.” I must admit, your letter is a bit funny for me to try and answer, because I too have 3 boyfriends and just started a new relationship. For me, it doesn’t feel like too much, because all my partners get along, most of us have very similar lifestyles and schedules, and we have open lines of communication so that if someone feels neglected or left out, they can bring it up and get it resolved without extraneous conflict.

Think about how NRE makes you feel and act, and whether that’s something you feel good about. Take a look at your schedule and identify whether you feel like your time is well balanced. And ask your partners how they feel! Mention that people have made this comment, and ask if they feel objectified, collected, or neglected. Do they mind the new-relationship ebbs and flows in your attention? Some people like partners who are largely independent and prefer quality over quantity; some people prefer relationships to have a lot of time spent talking and hanging out. Your partners are all individual people with their own preferences, so if they have no complaints and everything seems to be working well, let go of this worry. If certain concerns or needs do come up in these conversations, start addressing them.

My wife and I were married and polyamorous for ten years - then she left me to be monogamous, broke up with him, asked me back, but wants to be mono with me

My wife and I have been practising poly for almost a decade. Then something changed - about 18 months ago, she started dating a guy who wasn't poly, but said he had no issues with it, he was just going to be monogamous with my wife. I wasn't seeing anyone else at the time, but about six months later I met a poly girl who wanted a Daddy. I enjoy fetish Daddy scenes, and this meant I had someone to see while my wife was with Mr. Monogamous, so all seemed well. Then my wife asked me to move out, and said it was over. It was sudden, and I was sad, and didn't understand exactly what was going on, but didn't particularly want to fight for something where I was unwanted. I got my own place, and got on with my life.

Then Mr. Monogamous dumped my wife and she asked me back. Then she asked me to dump my Baby Girl, which I didn't think was entirely fair, but I really wanted to be with my wife, whom I love, and it was once wonderful - before Mr. Monogamous. Now she's claiming she's triggered every time a DD/lg situation comes up, even in conversation, and she wants me to close off that part of me. She's having genuine panic attacks, but I don't understand why.

I'm starting to feel like I'm being played, and now I'm anxious all the time, too, and can't seem to work out what's going on. I'm not sure why I'm always the one to move, to change, to sacrifice and I'm just thinking...when does this go back to normal? My wife must be suffering from her breakup. Could I be a rebound? Can someone become un-poly? Could my wife have caught monogamy from being with a monogamous guy? He slut shamed her for being poly during the breakup.

You have a lot of questions here, and I think the one person best able to answer those questions would be your wife. It sounds like she’s been through a lot of emotional turmoil and confusion, and you’re right that something really has changed with her. But I can’t explain what happened, how, or why. It’s possible that Mr. Monogamous was manipulative or even abusive in a way that has affected her self-image or sense of security in relationships. She may have felt a certain joy in their monogamous relationship, short-lived as it was, that she is trying to re-create. It is possible that Mr. Monogamous encouraged her to develop a warped narrative about you and your relationships with other women that she is now seeing things through.

And, of course, I only have your side of the story. It’s possible that she was hurt by how willingly you left, and Mr. Monogamous framed things for her in such a way that you didn’t care enough to fight for her, that you were relieved to be freed up for Baby Girl. Perhaps he had nothing to do with it and she subconsciously wanted to see how hard you would fight for her. Perhaps she blames your relationship with Baby Girl for the initial breakup, and worries it will happen again if you stay with her. I have no idea where her strong feelings and new requests are coming from! But she probably has a better idea. Your best bet is to talk openly with her. Consider, if possible, seeing and kink and/or poly-informed therapist together. Especially if she’s now having panic attacks, she should be seeing someone about that regardless, that’s a serious issue.

I’d also recommend that you do more to stand up for yourself. Someone kicks you out of your marriage and your house, then wants you to bounce back once they’re done with their foray into monogamy, then starts making serious demands about changing the terms of your relationship. You don’t need to just accept all these changes and go with the flow. It’s okay to say no, that you won’t end things with your Baby Girl, and you and your wife need to figure out another way to handle this new phase of your relationship. You can also decide that you no longer want to be with someone who treats you like this, and find a way to graciously end this marriage.

I'm bisexual and polyamorous, but in a relationship with someone who is monogamous

I am a poly bisexual male. I was single when I met my wife. I swore off dating other women, but nothing has been said about men. I recently reconnected with one of my ex lovers (m) and I don’t know what to do about it. I can’t talk about it with my wife. Please help.

There is nothing healthy about loopholes or technicalities in relationships. If you “swore off dating other women,” it’s very likely your wife figured you meant that you won’t date other people. Even if she knows you’re bisexual (it’s not clear from your letter whether or not she does), we live in a hetero-centric culture and you and I both know that was her entirely understandable assumption, and it was implicit in your promise not to date other women.

I’m also not sure what you mean by “reconnected” with an ex lover. Does that just mean you two are talking again, and you’re thinking you might like to get back together? Or does it mean you connected sexually/romantically? If that’s the case, you’re cheating on your wife and you should definitely not do that.

You say you “can’t” talk about it with your wife, but honestly, that’s your only option. If you’re married to someone, you really ought to be able to talk about this kind of thing with her. It takes courage and humility and risk, but you gotta do it, friend. You have to let her know that you are bi, that you still have feelings for other men, and that you’d like to be able to pursue those.

She may respond with confusion, or anger, or betrayal. She may even want to leave the relationship immediately. You can’t control her response. But hopefully you two can talk this out in a healthier way. She may say that she’s absolutely not okay with that and only wants to be with someone entirely monogamous. In that case, you’ll need to decide whether you want to stay in a relationship on those terms, or whether you’ll need to leave.

If you decide not to talk to her, which I don’t recommend, you’re essentially choosing to just accept those terms indefinitely. If you’re so convinced she’ll react badly that you want to keep your bisexual, polyamorous desires secret, that will be a painful secret to keep, but you could do it. But that means you will need to manage your own impulses around this ex and any other people you’re attracted to - you absolutely can’t just go out and cheat on your wife. Either commit to the discipline and sacrifice of monogamy, or commit to the discipline and sacrifice of having tough conversations. That’s right - both options take discipline and sacrifice! Choosing to be undisciplined and selfish instead is not okay.

My partner and I want to open our relationship to women, but I also want to date a man

So I need help. I have a wonderful nesting partner that I love more than anything. We we're looking for our unicorn a female. But I really want to date other guys as well. I've been talking to a guy that I really like. Enough to date. But my primary partner doesn't want me dating guys. What should I do?

There’s a lot here. I’m going to encourage you to break down your language and look at what unspoken assumptions are being revealed by it.

“…that I love more than anything” Well, then why are you seeking another partner? I understand that this is a relatively standard way of expressing love and commitment in our monogamy-centric culture, but you may want to reconsider how you’re expressing this feeling in this context. If you’re experiencing your love as something that is not hierarchical or zero-sum, don’t express it as such.

“our unicorn” She is not “yours,” she is her own person, out there in the world, with a complete life that doesn’t involve waiting around to fit into your life. She is also not a “unicorn” - I know that this word is common in polyamorous communities and conversations, but it has a whole mess of connotations and significance. Consider shifting to think of what you want as a partner or a girlfriend, or just…a person, to date and connect with. Don’t think of people just in terms of the role you want them to play in your life.

“a female” This is a pet peeve of mine. “Female” should never be used as a noun to refer to human women or girls. Especially since later you use the term “guys” instead of “males.” Think about how your language may betray an objectification or dehumanization, even if you yourself are a woman, and consider interrogating that.

“my primary partner” First they were a “nesting partner,” now they are a “primary.” So I’m confused about how this search for a “unicorn” is going to work. If you start dating a woman, would your partner stay your “primary”? If you hope to date her together, do you plan to stay each other’s “primaries”? Do you intend to permanently and indefinitely center your existing relationship and treat a new partner as an add-on, dating you two as a unit, never equal? That’s not wise, healthy, or fair.

So, the first issue here is how you’re framing and understanding this search for a “unicorn,” who you think she will be, how you hope this relationship will work. Check here for more information about this.

Your actual question, which is about your partner not wanting you to date other guys, refers to what’s commonly called a “one penis policy” or a “one dick rule” in polyamory. It’s sexist, possessive, frequently transphobic, and generally unfair and unhealthy. It implies that your partner sees relationships between women as inherently less real and less threatening (which sets up major issues for your potential future unicorn, since he will see that relationship as always lesser), and it creates an imbalance where he’s allowed to date all genders he prefers (assuming he’s a straight man) but you’re not. OPPs rarely end well. Read more here.

You can try and talk him out of it, discussing and examining the assumptions behind it - here’s a place to start, and another - but that isn’t guaranteed to work. If he insists on this rule, you’ll need to decide whether you want to stay in a relationship with those parameters.

My partner and I are polyamorish, but not out to my family, and I don't know how to navigate certain conversations

I don't know how to respond to questions about monogamy when I'm still closeted to my family. I'm in a relationship with one person at the moment but we're polyamorish, and my partner and I communicate very well. But my family have asked what I'd do if he cheated and tell me that I shouldn't trust him when other women stay at his place. I don't know how to convince them without explaining the situation that I can trust him and that my definition of cheating isn't sleeping with someone else?

It may be the case that they suspect something is up with you two, and are trying to pry it out of you with these weird questions. You may want to consider, if it’s safe and you and your partner are on the same page, just coming out to your family and explaining everything at once instead of trying to navigate these individual interrogations.

But, you totally don’t have to. This is the kind of situation where polite vagueness, feigned confusion and a quick change of subject is key. If they ask you what you’d do if he cheated, you can say something like “oh, I don’t think about that much - but we are shopping for a new kitchen table, want to see what we’re looking at?” or “that’s a bridge I’ll cross if we come to it. How are things at work?”

You could also get a bit more aggro and say “I find it pretty awkward to discuss issues of sexual fidelity in my relationship with my family, but trust me, I feel pretty confident in Charmoor’s and my relationship. Can we talk about something else?” or ask them point-blank “Why do you bring that up? Do you have a question or concern about me?”

Ultimately, though, the issue of “I don’t know how to convince them” is a common one in families. There are no magic words we can say to convince people to understand something, and with families that is so much stickier. We all have an aunt who’s convinced her dog has a gender identity, or a cousin who’s in an MLM, or a grandfather who can’t stop asking us when we’re going to law school, and sometimes we just have to let people be out there in the world, unconvinced of entirely reasonable things despite our best efforts.

I'm dating a handful of people, and I want two of them to form a triad with me

I have four partners all of which are separate from each other meaning no group dates or anything but they know about each other. one is genderfluid like me, one is a cis man, one is a trans man, and one is a trans woman. they're all fine with me being polyam but they're all monogamous except the cis man. I find myself wanting to be with the cis man and the trans man in a "triad" I think it's called, I want the three of us to have a beautiful relationship. I don't know how to bring it up.

It’s pretty impossible to just “want” other people into a relationship. People don’t develop emotional, sexual, or romantic attraction to each other on command. It doesn’t work like that!

Your best bet is to start out by just introducing them to each other in a low-stakes, low-pressure way. Having your partners be comfortable and friendly with each other is a much easier ask than wanting them to date each other. Of course, there’s no guarantee that they will like each other. Sometimes people just don’t click, and that’s okay - you may really want them to, but they can’t force it and they’re not obligated to. Sometimes, civility and politeness without genuine friendship is all we can ask of metamours.

But there are things you can do to help make it more likely that they will get along. I discuss this here (and link other answers in the same vein).

I like someone, but language he's used in past interactions with me makes me uncomfortable

This question isn't specifically about polyamory, but my friend and I are both polyam. The thing is, I like him, and he likes me, but sometimes I'm uncomfortable with him expressing that he likes me because he is a lot more aggressively sexual than I am, and I get turned off by the types of words he has used to describe me in the past (like hot/sexy). I talked to him about it and he stopped, but it still feels awkward to me. How can I work past this and form a healthy relationship with him?

It’s such a ‘green flag’ that he stopped using those words when you told him how it made you feel! This person has demonstrated to you that he is safe - that when you express a feeling or a need, he takes it seriously and acts on it. That’s pretty cool. It’s not his fault for using those words before he knew that they made you uncomfortable, since it’s a pretty fair assumption that many people like being told that they are hot or sexy, especially if you two were already flirting or expressing attraction. He is starting to show you that you can trust him in the future to respect your boundaries.

That said, if that doesn’t convince your gut feelings, that’s okay. Not all feelings can be rationalized or re-framed away. If something deep inside you is saying “it’s not possible yet to ‘work past’ this,” you need to listen to that. You’ve had some experiences of this person calling you “hot” or “sexy,” so now when he shows you affection or expresses attraction to you, somewhere in the back of your mind, you remember that he sees you that way, and thinks those words apply to you. If that feels too painful to you, if that makes any of his attentions too uncomfortable, that’s okay. It’s frustrating and disappointing that you may not be able to “form a healthy relationship with him,” but sometimes our emotions can’t be overcome that simply.

You may also need to think about where this serious discomfort is coming from, especially since it’s preventing you from moving forward with relationships that you seem to otherwise want. Are there trauma memories associated with those words? Are there sexualized or gendered hurts in your past, or in your current life, that make them harder to get past? What else in your experiences and your sense of self is impacting this? Has your relationship with your body, your sexuality, or men been damaged by specific ideas or experiences? It may be worth working with a therapist, not with the goal of “become okay with being called hot/sexy” but with the goal of processing and healing these hurts so you can get to a more comfortable, confident place.

Is this desire of mine, to date an existing couple, polyamorous?

Hi so I have a question and I hope I'm not coming across as rude but is poly like two people in a relationship going off and finding separate people to be with or like the couple trying to find someone they both like together? Idk lately I've been think a lot about relationships and I think i would really like to be with two people who are already a couple? And it's not just a sex fling either for me I think I'm just interested in loving two people? It's hard to explain.

“Two people in a relationship going off and finding separate people to be with” is the most common form of polyamory, and is called V-shaped polyamory. That is the kind of polyamory I practice. Most people find it simpler and more sustainable. Sometimes, people in the V might all date each other, but the coupled relationships can remain distinct, or not, according to the desires and intentionality of the people involved.

“The couple trying to find someone they both like together” may be referring to ‘unicorn hunting,’ which can be done well, but almost never is. It brings up issues of ‘couple’s privilege’ and is not often sustainable or healthy. You can read more about that here. When three people all date in one interrelated relationship, it’s called a ‘triad.’ When multiple people are in a closed relationship with each other, this is called ‘polyfidelity.’ You can learn more about the different types of polyamory and different terms you’ll encounter on my FAQ page here.

If you are interested in dating two people who are already a couple, that makes you a “unicorn,” which, as the term implies, is pretty rare. You will absolutely have a “buyer’s market” in the dating pool - there are a LOT of couples looking for a “third” to date. You will need to be really careful about finding people who are seeking a triad in a healthy and appropriate way. I strongly recommend that you read through the stuff on my unicorn FAQ page linked above, and be on the lookout for red flags and dealbreakers. But wanting to be part of a polyamorous triad is not wrong, or bad, in itself; and you may very well find a lovely couple to join! Remember that once you start dating them, the three of you become one triad; it should never be [you] dating [them] as two units. (Unless that’s specifically something you want, in which case, you still need to be careful about making sure your individuality is respected and your needs are met!)

I want to try polyamory, but worry my depression is a barrier

I would like to explore a polyamorous relationship, however my biggest problem, besides my current partner being monogamous, is that I have depression. I'm not sure that I can be as emotionally available as might be needed in such a relationship as I already have trouble being more than just a husk half the time. I know this is more of a depression problem but if you have any advice I'd like to hear it, thanks.

It sounds like you know that a major issue is your depression - so you sort of have your work cut out for you, in the sense that the solution is treating your depression. If you’re not already seeing a therapist, start! If you are, start talking to them about this issue. Let the know that you feel like “just a husk,” and that you’re worried this is impacting your ability to be in healthy, fulfilling relationships. Ask about other treatments and therapies you can try. Depression can be tough to treat, but it is treatable, with some people finding relief from everything from lifestyle changes to CBT/DBT to TMS or ECT, and everything in between. Check my mental health resources for a starter!

In the meantime, you can continue polyamory-related self work, like reading about polyamory, working on identifying your own relationship needs and goals and desires, and building on your communication with your current partner.

I am pregnant and I know the people I'm dating will react poorly

I’m in a poly triad with a couple and I just found out I’m pregnant. I was told I was unable to have children and I was on birth control just in case. They made it clear to me that they didn’t want to have children with me, but also that abortion and adoption wouldn’t be an option. I don’t know what to do or how to tell them, and I’m terrified of their reaction. Things have been rocky for a while now and I’m wondering if I should just break up with them before they find out. I’m so lost.

First off, let me say that is such a painful, isolating place to be, and I am so sorry that you’re finding yourself there. Second, it is absolute nonsense that “they made it clear…that abortion and adoption wouldn’t be an option.” It’s your body and your pregnancy, they don’t get to determine what your “options” are. If you want to terminate the pregnancy, you can totally do that. If you want to carry the pregnancy to term and place the child for adoption, you can totally do that. Please check in with your local Planned Parenthood to talk about your options.

When you say that you are “terrified of their reaction,” I want to try and clarify whether you feel like you would be genuinely unsafe, or whether you are dreading an emotionally painful situation. If you fear that they would become physically violent, damage your property, threaten your livelihood, or otherwise be dangerous, please consider what steps you can take to keep yourself safe. Is there someone in your life you can stay with, or ask to be present when you collect your things or share the news? Is this a situation where police involvement would be appropriate? (Sometimes, police can help with issues around theft, stalking, violence, and unlawful eviction. Other times, they can escalate a situation further.)

If the “terror” you are feeling is more emotional - a worry that they will be emotionally unsafe, and attempt to guilt or manipulate you into unhealthy choices, or attempt to cause you psychological pain - then this is less of an emergency but still worth addressing. Letting them know in writing, or bringing a trusted friend into the conversation, or having it in a neutral and public place can help. Setting up an appointment with a therapist, preferably one who helps pregnant people think through their options and relationship implications, can really help. Remember to hold on to who you are and what your truth is; anything they say, anything they accuse you of, or insult you with, is just something they are choosing to say, it’s not something you need to absorb, believe, or engage with. Some people react unpleasantly to things they don’t like; that unpleasantness is not necessarily a threat to your safety and it can’t always be avoided.

It is within your rights to leave them without telling them about the pregnancy, but that’s also a complicated choice. If you worry that they might become dangerous if they do find out, you need to take steps to protect yourself. If you plan to carry the pregnancy to term and you decide to parent the child, know that if you ever require assistance from the state, they can force contact with the biological father by attempting to collect child support, and the biological father may legally seek visitation. If you decide to place the child for adoption, the biological father must be notified of adoption plans. Carrying the pregnancy to term may force you into more contact with this man, so if he is a genuine threat to your safety, livelihood or property, you’ll want to speak with a lawyer and perhaps other professionals about how you can protect yourself. Planned Parenthood will be able to help you find these resources; if you have health insurance or work for a larger company, they often have employee resources that can connect you to legal, financial, and medical professionals.

You deserve support throughout this situation, so please reach out to friends and loved ones who can provide helpful perspectives and back you up in this. The two people you are dating don’t sound like people you should keep dating, regardless, but you’ll need to think through whether your situation is one of “these people are dangerous and abusive and my priority should be protecting myself and minimizing contact” or rather one of “these people are emotionally challenging and my priority should be finding ways to manage this situation in a mature way while respecting my needs and truth.” Check my resources here.

Is cheating possible in a polyamorous relationship?

Is cheating only a thing monogamous people experience or does it happen in polyamory too? Does it mostly depend on if any boundaries are set or like the dynamic of the relationship?

Cheating can happen in any relationship, if you define cheating as “violating the established terms of the relationship.” You are correct that the more “boundaries” that are set, the higher the likelihood of “cheating” becomes. If someone decides that their partner is allowed to have sex with other people and that’s not cheating, but if they “catch feelings” or use specific words or have sex without getting permission first or do a specific sex act, then that counts as cheating, then they’re certainly at risk of being cheated on in that context.

Polyamory changes the definition and boundaries of “cheating,” for sure. Simply having a sexual-romantic relationship with someone else doesn’t necessarily meet the threshold for cheating, which can really simplify things. But every polyamorous individual might feel threatened by different things, so it’s important to be clear and honest about what you would consider “cheating.” One thing polyamory forces us to do is actually name and claim our individual needs - monogamy lets you rest on a lot of cultural assumptions about what is and isn’t ‘allowed’ within the bounds of a relationship. (It is possible to do this intentional work in a monogamous relationship, but more optional.)

Also, for a lot of polyamorous people, “cheating” is a useless concept, but “dealbreakers” and “violations” are more meaningful. There are certainly behaviors my partners could engage in that would lead me to immediately end the relationship and to consider them ‘unfaithful’ to me as a person and to our relationship: violence, lying, manipulation, cruelty, etc. All the connotations of ‘cheating’ - a violation of trust, a betrayal of the fundamental connection that forms the relationship, a requirement for immediate changes to the relationship - are definitely present, but it has nothing to do with a specific sexual-romantic behavior.

My partner goes to sex parties with his other partner, and it bothers me.

I never had a relationship before. Now I have a boyfriend for a year and we are on a non-monogamous relationship. He has another girlfriend. I don't get jealous very often, but they really like going to group sex parties. I never tried going to this kind of event, and I don't really feel like it, mostly because I think I am demisexual. But I always feel really bad when he talks about going to such parties. I tried talking about it with him, and he always asks what exactly bothers me about it. But I don't know how to answer. I just feel very bad and sad, and get mad with myself for feeling like that and not knowing WHY I feel this way.

I can’t figure out for you why this bothers you, but I can suggest some time alone to think about this, and journal about it if writing things down helps you. “Bad” and “sad” are pretty vague feelings - can you do more to identify how you feel? Left out? Confused? Disappointed? Jealous? Annoyed? The more precise words you can find, the more you’ll be able to understand and address those feelings.

On a personal note, I have a theory - I don’t know you, so I’m projecting and assuming a lot, but here goes. I am a horrible dancer, I don’t enjoy dancing, I have a learning disability that prevents me from understanding musical rhythm, I’m not very coordinated - I don’t dance. One of my partners is very musical and athletic, and he does like to dance. For a while, he was dating someone who was also a dancer. They’d go out dancing together, and through her he got connected to the dance community in our area and learned a lot and had a lot of cool experiences.

This bothered me a little bit! He was out there having experiences that I couldn’t share, with someone who offered him something I couldn’t. And it wasn’t exactly jealousy, because it wasn’t like I wanted to be out dancing with him. I certainly did not! I didn’t necessarily feel threatened by her, since we were very comfortably polyamorous and I didn’t think he’d leave me for her so he could pursue a 100% dance lifestyle or something. But I did feel…kinda bad…because feelings aren’t always simple and rational!

An important thing to note here is that thinking through it all didn’t turn off my icky feelings. Not all feelings can be completely rationalized away. What they did was help me choose how to respond or act on them. Not everything is totally comfortable. We are all capable of experiencing unpleasant feelings without dying. My boyfriend is not obligated to never ever do anything that causes me to have a feeling I don’t like. It may be that this just isn’t a thrillingly joyful thing for you, but just like going to work on Monday mornings, it’s something you can experience without it ruining your life.

So it’s possible that what bothers you about this is that it’s something you don’t see the appeal in, and can’t join in. It’s something he’s sharing with another person that you just can’t share with him. Shared experiences are the foundation of any relationship, so that can be a really tricky, difficult feeling. What I did with those feelings was mostly challenge and reframe them. What I like about polyamory is that my partners can seek out experiences that don’t require me; I would much rather him be out dancing with other people than pestering me to go dancing with him and being annoyed and resentful when my unwillingness robbed him of an experience. You would probably prefer him to go do these sex parties with someone else and then spend his time with you appreciating what you two do have in common, rather than being disappointed and bothering you about it. It also means that when I am into something that he isn’t, I’m free to pursue that experience with other people. It goes both ways, and I benefit from both!

It is possible that you just feel kinda icky about the whole thing in ways that you can’t entirely smooth over with self-work and re-framing. It is totally okay to ask your partner to keep the details of these parties to himself. If he wants to go out to a sex party with his other partner, he can let you know ahead of time that he has plans with them, and you can plan to spend the night doing something you enjoy. And when he gets back, he can find something to talk about besides the specifics of the party. He doesn’t have to hide or lie, but he could also be sensitive and discreet. That’s a completely reasonable balance for a couple to strike. You don’t have to set forth an entire psychosocial treatise on why it bothers you for your partner to agree to this, and if he demands that you explain or prove it completely, he’s not being healthy or fair.

My partner and I had a threesome, I felt horrible about it, and now I don't like being around his other partner

My boyfriend has another girlfriend. They are together for 1 year longer than me and him. I met her really early in our relationship, and I am mostly ok with her. But he really wants us to be close friends. And she wants it too. But I feel like I just... can't? I don't feel like we are even friends and you can't really make a friendship happen by force. We had sex, the three of us, and I had a very serious mental breakdown afterwards. I felt used and violated, jealous and guilty. They did not force me to do this, but I did it against my will because I wanted to please him. I wanted it to work with her. But now I am afraid of getting near her again. How do you make a relationship work if you can't be friends with your partner's partner?

There are two things going on here; I’ll address the easier one first.

Of course it’s fine if you don’t particularly want to be close with your partner’s partner! It’s okay for your boyfriend and his girlfriend to have a fantasy preference for everyone to be a cozy, friendly little polycule - but you aren’t obligated to meet those expectations. My partners sometimes date people I don’t really click with, and that’s totally fine. We just don’t hang out all three of us. If they are around, I’m polite, but I don’t need to spend all night at their hip, chatting it up like bffs. It’s disappointing when things don’t work out perfectly, but it’s also entirely survivable and fine. If your boyfriend keeps pressuring you to get closer to her, it’s okay to shrug that off and say “nothing against Merolda, I have no personal problems with her, but I’m just not interested in spending tons of time with her or trying to become close friends.” Then gently ask him to drop the issue.

The bigger issue here is why you don’t like being around her. It sounds like the threesome you had was pretty troubling for you, and you may even be having a trauma response to something your mind experienced as a sexual encounter “against your will.” It’s not her fault that being around her makes you feel afraid, but it’s also not fair to you to keep living with this fear. Please be honest with your boyfriend that you have a lot of painful and uncomfortable feelings around the threesome. They’re not his fault, but he can help you work through them. Take time to process that experience with yourself. What do you need in order to heal? What self-work do you need to do to prevent yourself from going along with the pressure of something like that again? Is there something your boyfriend needs to change to help you feel less pressured and more safe in this relationship? Don’t do this work with the goal of getting to be okay around her to make everyone happy - do this because you deserve healing, and because you can protect your future self from future problems like this.

I came out as polyamorous. Then my partner did too. I'm not okay with that.

I came out as polyamorous in 2017, but I had known I'm polyam for awhile without knowing the term for it. My partner of 3 yrs now wants to see if they're polyam even though they've never felt like they are, and they only said this after they conveyed to me that they had a problem with me seeing someone else. What I'm saying is that it doesn't seem genuine to me and seems more like a way to get back at me. I'm really uncomfortable with them trying to figure out if they're polyam, & idk what to do.

If your relationship is in a state that you believe your partner would be dishonest with you in order to “get back at you,” you should leave the relationship. Seriously. That is just not a healthy dynamic. At all. If I took a partner out to eat, and he hated the food, and then next week he insisted on going to a restaurant he knew I’d dislike, I would leave that person. Not over the restaurant, but over the pettiness and the manipulation.

But it’s possible that your partner isn’t the type who does underhanded things to “get back at you.” It’s possible that you’ve misread the situation entirely, and the way it “seems” to you is a reflection of your own fears and confusion, and not an observation of the reality. Most people don’t undertake entire explorations of identity and potentially new relationships as an underhanded way - it’s actually a lot of work to make your behaviors all about other people and to live with such ulterior motives.

It’s a lot more likely that your partner has been introduced to the concept of polyamory and is growing more curious. It’s not clear whether you’re actively practicing polyamory, or just ‘came out’ with the polyamorous identification; but it is clear that your partner said at the time that they didn’t want you dating someone else. Either way, your partner may think that exploring polyamory themselves is a way to strengthen or protect the relationship. They may be trying it out, seeing how okay they’d feel, testing it out. This may be their way of supporting you, of trying to help themselves feel less threatened by your polyamory by demonstrating to themselves that they can be polyamorous too and still like you and want to be with you.

Best thing you can do is ask them. Mention that they seemed not-okay with polyamory as a concept when you brought it up 2 years ago, and ask them what changed. You may be surprised! A lot has changed since 2017. Your partner may have been doing internal self-work to get to a new place. Or, your partner may feel that the relationship is threatened and that they needed to reassure you of their okay-ness with polyamory. There’s probably something going on for them that goes beyond ‘getting back at you.’ Give them a chance to talk that out, and to let go of the assumptions you’re making from a place of hurt.

And ask yourself where that hurt and discomfort is coming from. Why are you uncomfortable with them exploring polyamory? Didn’t you do exactly that? Wouldn’t their explorations make it more likely that you two can have a polyamorous relationship? What’s the downside? Is it that you don’t want them to date someone else? Why not? Is it that you were the one with the ‘special’ identity, and now they’re exploring polyamory too, and you’re no longer the sole voice on that topic? Part of being polyamorous is examining our own internal assumptions and confusions. You’ve jumped to a lot of conclusions about your partner’s motives because of something going on with you, not them.

And if, after all this, it really does seem like your partner is acting out of spite or vengeance or something, leave them immediately. But I’d bet half this blog’s ad revenue* that there’s something else going on.

*which is nothing, by the way. But I do have a Patreon.

I'm not sure whether certain feelings and desires mean I'm polyamorous, or just

How can I tell the difference between wanting a poly relationship or falling out of love with someone while falling in love with another person but not wanting to let the first one go? I want to be 100% sure if I do decided to every try polyamory and I would honestly love your advice.

It’s relatively common for people in monogamous relationships to use a new relationship as a way or a reason to leave a current relationship. (Taylor Swift documented this phenomenon the 2018 sociological study “Getaway Car.”) This, while common, is neither healthy nor wise. So you’re smart to be wary of that impulse in your own life.

Unfortunately, something that’s also not healthy or wise is waiting to be “100% sure” before you make any decision. Very few things in life come with 100% certainty, and usually things that have to do with love and human relationships have a lot of uncertainty. You can never truly predict how something will work out; you will never know for sure whether something is the right call. I like to believe that this is largely because in most situations there is no objective 'right call; your life and your universe will align around whatever choice you make and things will proceed from that point.

Check my page on figuring out whether you are polyamorous, and do a lot of daydreaming and thinking about your best-case-scenario and worst-case-scenario. What do you think, and hope, it would be like to date both people? What thoughts and feelings come up when you ask yourself whether you’re falling out of love with your current partner? What does “falling in love” or “falling out of love” mean to you?

Remember also that even if you were 100% sure that you wanted to polyamorously date both people, that wouldn’t guarantee that you could. You’d still need buy-in from two other people. If your current partner wasn’t okay with you polyamorously dating both people, would you stay in that relationship? If the other person didn’t want to date you, would you still be interested in polyamory in general, or are you mostly just wanting to date this other person?

My partner is interested in polyamory, but I am not - what does that mean for our future?

My partner mentioned potentially being polygamous but I don't feel comfortable with any third person. I want to support them but I'm too possessive to share. I haven't really told them how I feel about this yet though. How do I properly tell them and would that ruin the relationship? Is it necessary for a long term relationship to have multiple partners? Or is it more something they wouldn't mind either way? I'm uneducated and scared help.

First off, you’re going to have more luck with the term “polyamorous” than “polygamous” when it comes to Google searches and reaching out for support.

I have no idea whether telling your partner this information would “ruin the relationship,” because I’m not psychic and I don’t know your partner. If they want to be in a relationship where polyamory is at least an option on the table or where their partner is willing to entertain the possibility, and you tell them that it’s absolutely not, then they might act on that information and leave the relationship. You didn’t “ruin” anything, you just worked with your partner to figure out whether continuing the relationship is going to be the best call. If they were just vaguely curious about it, and happy to drop the issue permanently after hearing that you are not at all interested, then that’s another story. I can’t predict that with any accuracy.

Of course having multiple partners is not necessary for a long term relationship in general; lots of people have happy, healthy, long-term monogamous relationships. I’m sure you know a few! But the issue isn’t whether it’s necessary for everyone; the question is whether it’s necessary for your partner. If you are a person who can only see themselves in a long-term relationship with someone who would never consider polyamory, and your partner feels differently, this specific relationship might not be sustainable long-term. But that’s okay! That’s why relationships start out as short, so you can figure out whether you want to keep them going! You and your partner are doing everything right, by identifying your thoughts and feelings, then being honest with yourselves. The next step is to be honest with each other, then act on that honest information, not withhold it for fear of what it might mean.

I want to break up with my partner, but we live together and he has nowhere else to live

I’m a monogamous person who entered a polyamorous relationship thinking, mistakenly, I was polyamorous. My partner and I ended up moving in together. Now, I am miserable, and in constant crisis. I don’t want to be in this relationship or stay roommates after a breakup- but I am the sole breadwinner and asking him to leave would mean he would be homeless (he is disabled). I feel like I should find a mutual friend who would take him in before breaking up, is that ethical or heartless?

I am strongly of the opinion that if your partner is enough of an adult with personal agency to date, they are enough of an adult with personal agency to break up with. It is not your responsibility to find someone to “take him in” before breaking up. He’s not entitled to a relationship that comes with a live-in carer or financier. You should let him know that you want to break up and stop living together, and give him a reasonable amount of time to find his own living arrangements (that might be 30 days, 3 months, whatever is reasonable in your area and his life.)

But you need to hold to that timeline. Make it very clear that it is a hard deadline and non-negotiable. If you need help holding this boundary, enlist the help of a neutral third-party. If he chooses to bury his head in the sand and refuse to look for new roommates or explore other options, it’s not your job to do that for him. Many of us have situations that require us to find new living arrangements on a specific timeline, and most of us manage. If you want to help him with that, not out of a sense of ethical obligation but as a friend who cares about him, feel free; but it’s ultimately his responsibility, not yours. If he really is at risk of becoming homeless, he can connect with local services that help disabled adults or reach out to whoever he lived with before moving in with you.

You may also want to speak with a local lawyer about tenancy law in the area - hopefully it won’t come to that, but it’s good to know everyone’s rules and rights about asking someone to leave your home.