Is it okay to feel differently about all my partners?

I'm in a 4 way relationship (two straight relationships that became one). I have a relationship with all 3 other people, but I feel like I have more feelings for my 'original' boyfriend. Is that right? Should my feelings for everyone be equal? Is it okay for me to work on certain relationships more than others? Sorry if this seems obvious or something, this is one of my first poly relationships.

It is very normal to feel differently about different people! Let each relationship be what it wants to be, and remember that you probably felt less strongly about your boyfriend when you had recently gotten together. Don’t try and “force it” or make your feelings be “equal,” that never works.

Be aware of ways that you might be being unfair to your other partners, though. Don’t flake on plans you make because you’d rather be with someone else, be careful of “taking sides” and other areas where you might be disregarding or ignoring someone else’s feelings. Don’t offer or promise more than you’re able and willing to give, and let things be what they are.

My partner is the one with the problem, but isn't the one asking for advice

I'm in a V with a man and his wife, and while my metamour (the wife) has gotten through many of her issues surrounding abandonment and jealousy and really welcomed me into their relationship, my partner has started feeling jealous about her seeing another man. He wants logically for them to be together and explore their feelings like he and I have, but he's struggling with feeling jealous when he sees them together. Do you have any advice for him on how to manage that?

It doesn’t matter what advice I’d have for him, because he’s not asking me for advice. You can’t manage his feelings for him, and you can’t seek advice for him. I don’t give unsolicited advice, and I don’t advise you to try and act as a go-between to try and give it to him.

It’s not a healthy relationship dynamic that you are doing this work on his behalf. Please do some thinking about the expectations in your relationship and reconsider how much you are doing to manage and mitigate his feelings. If you’ve taken it upon yourself without signals from him that he wants you to, then drop it. If he’s asked you, implicitly or explicitly, to do this work, start refusing.

My long distance boyfriend's wife won't let us meet in person, and I'm unhappy in this arrangement

I love my boyfriend to the ends of the earth and the idea of breaking up absolutely shatters my heart, but I genuinely don't know how long I can keep this up. My boyfriend, Harbell, lives 2000 miles away with his wife, Bonavra. Her boyfriend also lives out of state. Me and Harbell have been together over a year and never met in person because Bonavra isn't comfortable with it. We both knew we were poly when we got together so it wasn't a big deal when I started looking for physical affection with a closer partner. I realized very quickly that Harbell took care of my emotional needs completely in a way that made me feel like I didn't need/want another partner and stopped pursuing them. Now with no physical affection I'm getting very impatient with Bonavra, and it makes me feel bad because I do want to respect her boundaries but this is starting to feel more draining than freeing. I really really do not want to end things with Harbell.

You say that you do not want to end things with Harbell, but then explain that the relationship feels “more draining than freeing” and that you “don’t know how long [you] can keep this up.” That doesn’t sound like a relationship worth holding onto. It isn’t making you happy. What you don’t want to lose is something you don’t actually have - a healthy, happy, fulfilling relationship with Harbell. You don’t want to lose the possibility of it, but it’s not smart to stay in a bad situation out of hope that it might get better someday.

You’ve never met him in person. You don’t like the terms of the relationship. He isn’t willing to take risks or do work in his marriage to move toward the possibility of seeing you in person. I think you ought to cut your losses and start pursuing relationships with people who can actually be present for you in all the ways you want them to be. Your heart will not, in fact, be shattered if you end things with Harbell. You will feel hurt and upset, but your heart will continue to pump blood and you will live. I know you really don’t want to end things, but sometimes, we have to do things we don’t want to do. Sometimes, things are hard and unfair and miserable. You can’t just refuse to endure unhappiness. That’s not an option.

You are already in an unhappy situation - the difference is that this one is just going to be unpleasant indefinitely. If you break up, things will hurt, but you’ll start the clock on the healing process. You’ll be giving yourself a head start on feeling better. If you stay in this relationship, you’ll just keep feeling like this until you eventually have to end things, and then you’ll have to make it through the sadness of a breakup anyway, but also after the sadness of an unfulfilling relationship. But if you’re really not ready to end things, consider moving at least some of your eggs into a different basket. Start seeing other people and really see for yourself whether anyone else is capable of being fun and affectionate and present in a way that makes you happy. Take Harbell off that pedestal and open yourself up to letting someone else be there for you emotionally as well as physically.

Let Harbell know that you’re feeling this way and ask if he’s able or willing to stand up to his wife and prioritize your relationship a bit more. Someone laying down a “boundary” does not automatically obligate everyone else to completely obey. This may be worth risking an uncomfortable conversation or a difficult argument or a point of contention between Harbell and Bonavra. But ultimately, if this is just how things are going to be indefinitely, I don’t think this is a relationship worth staying in much longer.

My partner and I want to have a threesome, and I'm both super excited and super nervous about the idea

So I am in a very loving and honest relationship with my amazing partner. Before we were together he joked about wanting to see me with be with another woman. At first in the start I was EXTREMELY insecure and the idea of it - never. Also trust issues due to shit past. But recently say last 3 months I’ve been thinking about inviting another woman to the bedroom - which I feel maybe at first I’ll be jealous due to my past but I’ll eventually end up loving it. He’s stated clearly it’s more for me - seeing my enjoyment and watching me devour someone else and get a little kinky…fair enough.

But I’m saying all that before either of us have even had a threesome. I’m now thinking about how much I’d love to have a girlfriend because I only see my partner on weekends due to him working away. The idea of a girlfriend is just more and more in my head. What should I do? How should I go about things disregarding my past because I really 99% reckon when push comes to shove I’ll be fine just the idea may freak me out. Also, thinking of a girlfriend more and more…is this normal? I don’t have ANYONE to ask. I’ve searched the net for something like this. Please help...

I think the first step is that both of you need to be a lot more honest with yourselves and each other. Your partner wants to have a threesome, and he wants the sexual enjoyment of seeing you with another woman. He needs to take ownership of the fact that this request is coming from him, not insist that it’s “more for you,” since you clearly aren’t totally comfortable with the idea.

You also need to disambiguate between having a threesome and having a girlfriend. Is this more of a sexual desire that you and your partner are exploring together? That has nothing to do with the fact that your partner isn’t around much and so you’d like to perhaps have a more available partner. What, specifically, are you wanting right now? Be clear with yourself. What is exciting? What is scary?

It is pretty understandable that you’d be thinking about this a lot, now that it’s come up. You’re working out whether you’d enjoy dating or having sex with a woman, and that’s naturally going to lead to daydreaming about the best case scenario, and thinking about your own hopes and desires. And it’s a good sign that the more you think about it, the more it feels like something you’d want.

But you need to remember that any woman you’d date or have sex with is a complete person, with thoughts and feelings and needs and desires. It is not fair to someone to force yourself to have sex with someone if you’re not comfortable with it, just expecting that you’ll get over it once things happen. Would you want to have sex with someone who felt that way about you? It’s also not fair to someone to date them just because your current partner isn’t around enough. What would you want out of the relationship besides “attention when my boyfriend isn’t around”? What do you have to offer her as a girlfriend?

My recommendation is to keep sitting with these thoughts and desires and don’t take any concrete steps toward a threesome just yet. With your partner, talk more about this - what you’d want, what you wouldn’t want, what your desires are, what your concerns are. Incorporate this fantasy into your current sex life, and consider reading erotica or watching porn together to talk about what you do and don’t enjoy.

Do self-work around your difficult past, and don’t just let it dictate your current reality. Jealousy and insecurity and fears shouldn’t be ignored or repressed, but they also don’t need to be acted on. Think about what you can do to prevent this from being a self-fulfilling prophecy and how you can manage those feelings with other strategies besides “force myself into a situation that doesn’t feel good but which I hope will feel good once I get started.”

Keep reading and learning about polyamory - you can start with my FAQ page for couples who want to “invite another woman to the bedroom,” as you put it. If you’re having trouble finding people to talk to about this, check the “Forums & Communities” section of my FAQ page here.

My boyfriend does some things that make me uncomfortable, like dating much younger women and doing drugs with them

I'm a 21yo girl and I started dating a 27yo guy a few months ago. At first he seemed a little weirded out by our age gap, but we had so much in common and meshed so well that we decided it didn't matter. Fast forward two or three months, and he's dating an 18yo girl! What? I'm weirded out by it. I'm still unsure if polyamory is right for me. I like being in an open relationship, but I think I want a primary partner and the freedom to have hook ups & casual flings as opposed to multiple serious relationships. So that's definitely a part of it.
Is it any of my business who he's dating? I'm curious about polyamory (like maybe I'll meet another guy I want to date and decide I do want to have multiple relationships after all). But ugh every time I think about him with such a young girl I feel uncomfortable. He's also big into party drugs and it makes me uncomfortable thinking about a 27yo giving an 18yo drugs. But at the same time, I don't know the girl and maybe I'm judging him too much. I just don't know how to navigate this.

It is entirely reasonable to be uncomfortable about the fact that a 27 year old man is in a sexual-romantic relationship with an 18 year old woman who he is doing drugs with. Saying that he’s “weirded out” by the age gap but then deciding it doesn’t matter is a very common tactic that older people use to get a younger person’s guard down, so don’t give him too much credit for that.

If you’re already unsure about whether the relationship is right for you, and you’re uncomfortable with your partner’s behavior, and you’ve only been together a handful of months, it’s probably best to gracefully move on from the relationship.

My girlfriend has been cheating on me but is calling it polyamory

My girlfriend has been hiding the fact she engages in poly relationships. I've come to find out after 4 years of our relationship my girlfriend enjoys polyamorous relationships. This caught me off guard due to her always saying the exact opposite. I don't know how I should feel, especially when I feel like she has been dating someone behind my back.

No, no, no, no, nope. That’s not polyamory, it’s cheating. If your girlfriend was dating other people “behind your back” or engaging in relationships that you didn’t know about, that’s cheating. Full stop, end of sentence. I am sorry that she is mis-using the concept of polyamory to try and paper over the fact that she violated your trust and the terms of your relationship. It’s not that you “feel like” she was cheating, lying, and hiding things from you - that’s an observation of reality, not a feeling. You are justified in feeling hurt, angry, betrayed, violated, and whatever else is coming up for you. It is probably time to end this relationship. I am sorry.

My girlfriend says different things to me and her other partner about marriage - but I only know because I looked at her phone

My partner and I have been poly for fourish months and have been together for 5 years. I know you are never supposed to do this, but I went through my primary partner’s phone because I had this crazy feeling after she suddenly told me she didn’t know if she ever wanted to get married and that she didn’t have any real feels for the guy she’s been seeing. But now I’m going crazy because just yesterday they were texting that they love each other and would love to marry one day. I know I should’ve never even looked, and I wish I didn’t. But now I’m going nuts. And I don’t know what to do. And I know doing crazy stuff like that just fuels the fire, but I felt like she was hiding things during our own conversations and I couldn’t stand it. Please help.

Looking at the language you used in your letter, you used the word “crazy” three times to describe how you felt and behaved, said that you’re “going nuts,” that you “couldn’t stand it,” and that there is a “fire” being “fueled.” It sounds to me like you are experiencing some intense emotions that feel totally overwhelming. It can feel like you’re at the whims and mercy of your feelings, and that you have no choice but to act on them. I know what it’s like to have a desperate need to soothe your pain, but unlike a burn that you want to get under hot water asap, not immediately acting on the urges of a powerful feeling won’t harm you in the long run.

I would advise you to check in with yourself about whether this is a larger pattern with you, in your relationships and elsewhere. Consider seeing a therapist who specializes in helping people choose responses to their feelings, rather than reacting as if they are driven by those feelings. You can also find a lot of self-help or DIY books and workbooks on this subject. It feels so much better to be in control of your actions rather than feeling backed into a corner by overwhelming emotions, trust me.

To address this specific situation, I’d ask yourself what, exactly, you want. Is it to know the truth of her inner desires and intentions regarding marriage? That might not be possible - you can’t peer inside her mind, and she may not even know herself. Is it a more honest conversation about how this new polyamorous relationship is impacting your plans and hopes for the future? A re-orientation of boundaries and expectations around communication openness? Think through your goals and what you’d like to find out from her, then ask her those clear, specific questions.

Think about where these “crazy feelings” of mistrust are coming from. She told you how she felt about marriage, but something in you didn’t believe her. Why did you suspect that she was telling her other partner different things? What might be going on in you, or between you and your girlfriend, that’s bringing this up? Why is it important to you that she’s saying the same things to both of you? Is marriage an issue you foresee coming up soon, or is this more a “principle of the thing” that makes you worry about her overall honesty with you? Think through what, exactly, is making you feel so threatened and upset, so you can address that with her. Try to keep the conversation focused on the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the emotions and needs at play, rather than the details around who said what to whom and when.

My partner has been keeping things from me because of how I responded to previous conversations

New to polyamory. Have been in this V relationship for about 8 months. I’ve had my struggles and my fears still working on this but I am doing MUCH better. I know I put a lot of crap on my significant other over my insecurities, just like being very needy and pretty much letting the craziness out to him. It’s been good but now he’s keeping things from me and I figure it’s because of me but it hurts. What do I do?

My mother raised and trained a very smart dog breed for a while before I was born. Something she said often was: “never punish the behavior that you want.” For example, never call a dog over to scold it for something, or to kennel it if it hates the kennel. If you want to train the dog to come when called, never associate that behavior with something negative.

People are the same way, though of course we’re much more complicated. It sounds like in the past, when your significant other shared things with you, you reacted in a way that felt uncomfortable or unpleasant for him. So he learned that if he wanted to avoid that negative stimulus, he needed to avoid those kinds of conversations with you.

Now, that’s not to say that people are never allowed to have emotional reactions or negative responses to things people tell us, or that if we show fear or struggle to our partner, that they’re absolved of their obligation to be honest with us. But I say often in this column that honesty goes both ways, and when we want people to be honest with us, we need to make sure it’s safe and comfortable for that person to share. Even if what we hear is hurtful or difficult, we need to respond to the content of what’s being said, not punish the act of sharing hard truths.

I know his withdrawal hurts, but try not to take it personally or let it prod you into picking fights or pulling away. Recognize that he is making a totally reasonable choice based on the evidence and experience he’s gotten from you.

First, let him know that you are aware that your past behavior made it hard for him to be honest with you, and you understand his reticence now. Take accountability for your part in creating the situation you two are now in. Let him know that you do very much want him to keep sharing things with you, and ask what you can do to help get back to that place.

Then, once you’ve made this clear, drop it - don’t pester him to tell you things he’s not comfortable sharing. You have to let your actions speak louder than your words. You can insist that you’re better now, but you need to show him. Take small opportunities to demonstrate your security. Cultivate a conversational space where he can be honest and share things with you. Reward the behavior you want to see, and give things time.

My husband wants to reconnect as just friends with a metamour I think is toxic

My husband and I are new to polyamory. He recently broke up badly with a gf that I came to regard as toxic to him. I always 100% supported his relationship with her and had compersion and compassion for them. However, as their feelings for each other escalated, he began treating me cruelly and caused me pain repeatedly in some of his actions.

After each hurt like that, I made my needs known, I told him how each action/behavior made me feel, but he continued. I believe, based on what I was learning about his gf, that she was manipulating him for her own gain. Last week I discovered that he had begun to fabricate things he'd and places he'd been when he'd actually been with her. And then when I asked him about it, he lied. I finally got him to admit what he had done. I don't know why he was doing it and neither does he. I never put any restrictions on him and was always supportive.

When I found out he had moved to the level of lying to me, I did something I never, ever wanted to do in our new poly life: I told him I would leave our relationship if he kept seeing her. He broke it off. Then he said he wanted to be friends with her on a platonic level to prove to himself and to me that he can. He had been superficially friends with her for 15 years before they became romantically involved, but all those 15 years, they were physically attracted to each other.

I am very worried about him doing this. I think it's a terrible idea and I've told him so. I've given him many reasons why I think it's dangerous territory, but he says he is still going to do it. Is it a good idea for him to re-establish a friendship with her?

No, I don’t think that sounds like a good idea. I don’t think his reasoning - “to prove that he can” - is sound, and I don’t think he’s being fair to you or honest with himself. But it ultimately doesn’t really matter what I think. It’s unlikely that your husband will change his mind based on the ref call of an anonymous internet person. You clearly think it’s a bad idea, and all you can control is yourself. You have to decide whether you’re willing to be in a relationship with someone who is doing these things - the lying, the inability to admit his true intentions, the refusal to honor your requests, etc. You can’t choose his actions, you can only choose your responses to them.

I'm dating a couple, but one of them gets violent, and I don't know what to do

I recently joined an existing polyamorous relationship where I live in the home. They have problems, but what concerns me most is that at least twice now he has come close to physically assaulting her when he loses his temper. My question is, she says even if he hits her it's not my place to step in to help her. She says I'm thinking monogamously when I say if we are partners I'm not just gonna watch as she is assaulted. What should I do? Should I just watch or should I step in to defend her?

You need to leave that relationship and that home immediately. Violent tempers like that are not safe. If you are at the point of trying to figure out what to do about the threat of physical assault, you are at the point of needing to leave. Right now. Here are my resources on leaving a bad relationship.

Because your question was how to help someone in danger of assault, you should call a local crisis line. Google your area and “domestic violence” and you can talk to someone who can point you toward resources.

This has absolutely nothing to do with monogamy or polyamory. Healthy polyamory does not include trying to protect partners from each other, not does it include “just watching” as someone is threatened or harmed. She is operating under an bizarre and warped belief that their self-identification as polyamorous means that she can’t receive help from a third party who isn’t okay with her being the victim of domestic violence. It’s entirely possible that he is the source of this belief and is mis-using “polyamory” to convince her to accept his abuse and to keep her from getting help.

Ultimately, you cannot “save her” on your own power. Planning to “step in” during an incident of domestic violence is not a good plan. You can provide her with resources. You can state clearly and pointedly that his behavior is unacceptable. You can enlist other supports. Then, you need to focus on keeping yourself safe. Please get out of there.

My wife and I got involved with her best friend sexually, but now I think I might want more

A couple months ago my wife (Barnella) and I met up with her best friend, Sloanette for drinks at a club. After a long night of drinking she out of nowhere comes to me and says we should take Sloanette home with us. I wasn't surprised considering she actually lived in our spare room for almost 3 years. What did surprise me was that when we got home Barnella told me she wanted to watch me have sex with Sloanette. After 3 hours of talking about it I finally got up the nerve and did what she asked. Now it had become an every Saturday thing for us. Which turns out to be amazing and has brought life back into the marriage. My problem now is that I am starting to have feelings for Sloanette. I still love my wife very much and nobody could ever replace her. So now I have no idea what to do. Please help!

This may not be as much of a problem as you think it is. Your wife clearly has strong feelings for Sloanette, as they’re best friends. She lived with you for three years and it sounds like the three of you have a lot of good energy together and enjoy each other’s company. You’ve been having sex with Sloanette for months now without your wife being “replaced.” Having frequent sex with someone makes it much likelier that you will “catch feelings” for them, and it’s possible your wife and/or Sloanette are having a similar experience.

First, think about what would actually change - you already like Sloanette and seem to enjoy hanging out with her as a friend and including her in your life, and you’re already having sex. That’s pretty close to a sexual-romantic relationship, but there is a gap. What’s in that gap, for you? What is new about these feelings that you’re developing? What are some new things you’d like to do with Sloanette that aren’t currently part of the relationship? Get some clarity within yourself so you can go into conversations equipped to be clear and honest.

Then, talk to Barnella about this! Let her know that starting something sexual with Sloanette has led to a desire for something more sexual-romantic. Ask her how she feels about this current arrangement where the three of you have some kind of sexual connection, and whether she’d be interested in a different kind of connection between the three of you. After that, discuss things with Sloanette. Make space for open, creative, thoughtful conversation about how everyone is feeling. You may find that not much needs to change functionally, but once you share your feelings, everyone shifts a little bit. Or, maybe new boundaries need to be drawn and new arrangements need to be made. Be flexible and gentle with yourself and each other, and follow what feels healthy and fun.

I'm dating a couple and it's not going well, but the husband really doesn't want me to leave

I've been dating a couple for about 9 months now, about three months in, the wife decides to break up but the husband does not want to let me go. Two weeks later she apologizes and we get back together, but then she started getting doubts about wanting this for her life. We have been working on it and trying to make it better but it is still rocky and she believes she is possibly just monogamous. They are due to go for IVF soon but I am not sure the wife wants me to be a part of the family. I love them both and the husband wants me in his life (I have even tried to break up, but he begs me to stay) but I can see this turning out bad for me. Kind of like once the kid is born I will be irrelevant. I don't know what to do.

You already know what to do, because you tried to do it at least once before. You know this is a bad situation for you; otherwise you wouldn’t have tried to end things. You describe things as “rocky” and say you “can see this turning out bad” for you. You know.

IVF is difficult and stressful, and you’re probably right that things are not going to get better once that starts. You don’t need anyone else’s permission or agreement to break up. Let the husband know that this is just not an arrangement that you want to be part of. He can beg, he can cry, he can argue - but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re ending things.

I'm 16, polyamorous, and worried I'll never find the kind of relationship that I want.

Hi, I’m 16 and have thought/known that I am poly for a year or two. I’m not really sure how to feel about it. I know that a triad/throuple is most appealing to me, I’m just scared that I won’t find anyone who would want me or that kind of relationship. I feel very defeated and unsure. Any advice on being more confident in my polyamory?

This is not actually a polyamory issue, but a “being sixteen” issue. I can assure you that most 16 year olds who are monogamous still worry about never finding someone who wants to be monogamous with them. It is hard to feel confident in yourself and your dating future at sixteen, no matter what.

Trust that nearly everyone who, as a teen, feared that they would never have the kind of romantic relationship they longed for, ultimately ended up finding their way there. Including me! For now, focus on parts of yourself that you can feel confident in without other people’s involvement: hobbies, talents, and the things that make you awesome. Take pride in your polyamorous identity on its own. Try to be patient. Seek out friends and communities that build you up and remember that you are fully worthy and lovable no matter what.

I'd like to ask someone out, but I'm worried she'll say yes and not mean it

My girlfriend and I recently decided to be in an open relationship. I've never been the jealous type, and she uses dating for socialization. I'm thinking of asking my best friend/high school sweetheart if she'd like to join our relationship. I know I want a future with these people, and we've even already all talked about eventual coparenting, but she's always been possessive, and I'm worried she'll end up suffering in silence.

If you trust this person enough to want to date her, live with her, and raise kids with her, you ought to trust her enough to be honest with you. If you think that she’s the kind of person who would misrepresent her feelings and pretend to be okay with something she isn’t, do not date her. That’s a serious form of dishonesty and you don’t deserve to be put in a position where you’re constantly trying to second-guess and mind-read someone else.

But ask yourself - where is this concern coming from? Does she have a history of being dishonest with you about her needs, desires, and feelings? Have you seen this pattern in her other friendships or relationships? Or are you just projecting your own worries? It’s generally best not to try and do someone else’s thinking and feeling for them. Why not just expect that, if you ask her something, she’ll give you a straight answer? If she doesn’t want to date you and your girlfriend, one hopes that she would just say so. “I’m worried that if I ask someone to do something, they won’t want to do it, but they’ll say yes anyway” is putting multiple carts before multiple horses.

So my answer is this: if there is a genuine, evidence-based reason that you think she wouldn’t give you an honest answer, don’t bother asking the question. Don’t pursue a relationship with someone you can’t trust in that way. It’s not about protecting her from unhappiness that she won’t protect herself from - it’s about protecting you and your girlfriend from a partner who doesn’t have the skills to be in a healthy relationship.

But if there isn’t a genuine, evidence-based reason, don’t do her the disservice of assuming that her answers won’t be correct. Trust her as an adult with agency that if she says she’s into something, she’s into it. That if she stops enjoying something, she’ll say so. That she can identify and articulate her own needs and desires. And then go from there. If you’re right that she’s “possessive” and would “suffer” in a polyamorous arrangement, she’ll probably just decline when you ask her out, and then none of this is an issue.

I dated polyamorously, then shifted to monogamy - but I'm worried people who know me are misjudging polyamory as a result

I recently realized that, personally, I would be much happier in a monogamous relationship than a polyamorous one. I was previously dating two individuals, both of whom knew about the other and were friendly. I realized, though, that when I saw monogamous couples together, I felt like that was something I wanted more than what I currently had; it was totally a personal thing. I ended up breaking it off with one of the two, and we still remain fantastic friends. When I told my friends what went down, a few of them reacted in a way that didn't make me feel good at all. They seemed to have been expecting me to pick one eventually all along, and they had even guessed WHICH one I would choose. I'm frustrated because I feel like I'm now their official living proof that polyamory can't work. I don't feel that way at all though! It was entirely a personal decision, and I still support other polyamorous relationships in all forms. How do I avoid being this living stereotype?

The frustrating thing about sharing this world with other humans is that we can’t control what’s going on inside their heads. We can’t change someone else’s feelings, perceptions, opinions, or choices. And sometimes that is just maddening! I’ve been there, for sure.

I thank you, on behalf of the entire “polyamorous community,” for being sensitive to the way certain stereotypes and narratives can be harmful, and that you don’t want to perpetuate certain attitudes within your social circles. But you’re also obligated to do what’s best for yourself, remembering that it is never the job of one individual to represent an entire group.

When your friends say stuff like “polyamory can’t ever work,” just tell them what you told me: “Oh, no, I certainly don’t think that’s the conclusion to draw from this! For me, trying polyamory was a way to learn about myself and my personal needs and desires in relationships. In fact, it worked out great for me and Aziraphale and Crowley - it gave us the space to figure out the best way for us to be in relationship with each other! Permanency isn’t the same as success - just because I didn’t stay in a polyamorous relationship doesn’t mean that it was a negative experience. And this is just how things worked out for me! Lots of people are in healthy, long-term polyamorous arrangements, and it definitely is working for them!”

At that point, you’ve said all you can. If your friends keep pushing or bringing it up, you can gently shut down the conversation by saying “I don’t feel comfortable when you draw large scale conclusions about other people based on my experiences. Let’s talk about something else.” And if they don’t bring it up, don’t worry about what they may be internally thinking about polyamory - you’re not responsible for ensuring that everyone’s opinions are totally nice and accurate.

I recently started dating someone who is asexual, and am not sure how to navigate things going forward

I recently started dating someone I've been friends with for years and have often imagined spending my life with. She's asexual, and I am not and I don't know how to tactfully bring up the idea that I'd be interested in a poly dynamic where I could pursue that stuff with other people but she'd still be my primary. We both know and are okay with friends who are poly but I have no clue how she feels about being involved in a poly dynamic.

The thing about dating someone is that you’ve made a commitment to them. Part of that commitment includes being honest with them, and trusting them to receive important information that you share. Your partner’s asexuality and your sexuality are important parts of your relationship that need to be discussed! If you’re dating, you ought to be able to talk about things like desires and expectations around sex and physical affection.

I wouldn’t open things by asking about polyamory - but definitely have a conversation about your relationship, and what it means for her to be ace dating someone who isn’t, and what she wants and needs from the relationship. Talk about what your hopes are for this new relationship. Be clear. Define your terms - explain what you mean by “dating” and “pursue” and “that stuff” and “primary” and “a poly dynamic.” Give space for both of you to make sure you’re speaking the same language.

The best way to find out how she feels is to ask!

I'm in a triad, and my girlfriend always prefers my boyfriend for emotional support

I’m in a triad relationship. Whenever my girlfriend feels irritated, sad, or any negative way, she always goes to our boyfriend to find her sense of calmness. I know it sounds bad...but I wish I were able to help her like he does for her. I end up feeling like a useless girlfriend because when she’s like that, I say something to try and calm her down and she immediately just asks if our boyfriend is free to text her so that he can do his calming down magic.

Have you talked to her about this? During a moment when things are calmer, bring it up gently. You can say something like “I’ve noticed that when you want to be calmed down or cheered up, you always go to Samueth. Is there something I can do to make you feel more comfortable coming to me? When you’re not feeling good, what are things that help you? I want to be able to be there for you, and I want to let you know that it’s okay to lean on me or ask for help.”

You could also suggest that your triad talk about love languages or enneagram types or a similar system that can give language to how you three experience feelings, relationships, and needs. Think also about whether there is something you and your girlfriend can do to build more trust or intimacy in general, like spending more one on one time together talking about your hopes, experiences, and feelings.

It’s also possible that, for this specific person, your boyfriend’s comforting style is just more her speed. All people are different, and it doesn’t say anything negative about you that she often prefers his way of addressing her emotions. It doesn’t mean you’re bad, or inadequate, it just means that the idiosyncrasies of her low moods mesh better with the idiosyncrasies of his responses. Try not to take it so personally, and find ways where you two do mesh well.

My boyfriend's insecurity about our polyamorous relationship is leading him into poor choices

My boyfriend and I have been in a monogamous relationship for 8 years. We have recently opened to polyamory (I was the one who initiated this) and I’m in a new but stable relationship with a close friend and he has a newer relationship with a girl he really likes. Everything goes okay, except his partner often cancels dates. I try to schedule my dates around him, and he seems sad if I stay at my partners house while he’s home alone. The other night, he went to a strip club and spent a lot of money (though he admitted it was a poor decision) because he was feeling upset. What can I do to help him healthily cope?

You cannot control your boyfriend’s choices! If he is not coping in a healthy way, that doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong or that it’s your job to make sure he doesn’t act on his feelings in an irresponsible way.

You’re already doing what you can by planning your dates when he has other plans, and if those plans get canceled, there’s nothing you can or must do. If you give him the heads up when you’ll be out of the apartment so he can prepare other distractions, you’ve done your part.

You can point him to resources on healthy polyamory, you can offer to help him set up online dating profiles, you can encourage and support him in other hobbies and friendships, but you cannot manage his feelings or make his choices for him. Ask him what he wants from you to help him, but don’t agree to anything unfair or unreasonable. (Often people think that if a partner expresses a need or a desire or a strong feeling, they’re obligated to do whatever the partner asks - but that’s not true. It should be a dialogue, not a list of demands.)

Make sure your finances are safe from his impulsive, emotion-driven choices, and if he’s running down funds that your shared household needs, talk to him about what limits you can set to protect yourself.

There's an age gap in my relationship, but it's not causing any of the problems Zinnia often cites - is it a problem anyway?

I am 19 and with a married couple about 10-15 years older. They are at a different life stage and have different responsibilities than I do as a college student. Your posts make me think the age gap might mean I should step back, but they have always been respectful of my own priorities and never put me in a position to handle expectations I am logistically or mentally unsuited for. They have no real power over me as I am not dependent on them for any of my resources. Should I rethink this?

The thing about humans is that we’re all unique and complex! There are almost zero hard and fast rules that can be applied in a blanket fashion to everyone. It’s not that age gaps are always or inherently Bad News, but that they call for Serious Caution.

And it sounds like you are exercising that caution! You seem aware of the potential dangers and like you’re in this relationship in a self-controlled and clear-eyed way. I wouldn’t say that you need to rethink this, but definitely keep on thinking it. Know your needs and boundaries and keep a running dialogue with yourself to check in on whether anything is changing or slipping.

If something is fun and happy and safe, then go for it! Hold yourself and them accountable, continue articulating what you do and don’t want, and enjoy dating that older couple.